On Moving to New Zealand

November 9, 2016 – 6:38 pm
Hello, American friends!  President-Elect Trump has given his speech and begun to redact his campaign website of the obviously illegal and impossible campaign promises, and you look up from your keyboard through an election-defeat hangover and want to move to New Zealand. First of all, consider staying.  America’s problems won’t be solved if all the tolerant and progressive people leave. But that's not an easy choice for everyone.  If you don’t think you’ll be safe, or you're concerned about the effects on your children of growing up in the cloud of President Trump, you might be looking elsewhere. Allow me to suggest New Zealand. New Zealand has a fairly straightforward skilled migrant immigration scheme, where you get points for meeting certain criteria and if you clear a particular number of points then you can move here.  Some of those criteria are around education, language, and health, effectively biasing it against people who don’t speak English, those who aren’t highly-educated, as ...

“Outcome is a function of process”

October 30, 2016 – 10:21 am
I was just catching up on Tim Kong's excellent blog, when I read this great quote from Dan Carter: "One thing we talk about over and over with this current All Blacks side is about never focusing on the outcome. We view the outcome as a function of following our processes. That might sound a little dry to some, but looking back at every major loss we've had over the years, they mostly started with us thinking too far ahead of the game." I like that quote a lot.  There's a lot you can find in it: You can't do success.  Instead, you can only run, pass, tackle, communicate ... all of which can contribute to success. Even in a game with as many different plays, player matchups, imbalances, and opportunities as rugby, the winners are winners because they have s system that generates wins. The team's playbook must necessarily be flexible, because it will be used ...

Startups and failure

October 25, 2016 – 10:26 am
(Wynyard Group, an NZ tech high-growth company [or, perhaps, not-so-high growth] just entered voluntary administration. On Twitter, a friend was adamant bad luck had nothing to do with it. Instead of a tweetstorm, here's my response in a vintage retro format known as "a blog post") You can always look back at every failure and assign one or more causes, because SOMETHING always kills the startup.  And someone is always responsible for the fatal decisions. That’s “pilot error” for startups. But hindsight is far easier than foresight. Everybody does the best they can with the info and skills they have.  Everyone operates with imperfect knowledge and incomplete control. Everyone. Investors, board, executive, and rank and file all act with imperfect information. They don’t have a choice. The pattern-matching we hate in VCs is just a reaction to the fog of the market. “Maybe past performance will predict future success?” The hardest part of bringing something ...

Job Titles

October 4, 2016 – 10:18 am
Job titles don't matter, because it's the work that counts.  But job titles matter because they get you meetings with partners, interviews for next jobs, etc.  They send signals that can be useful so, conversely, life can be harder if you're sending the wrong signal. There's an implicit hierarchy in American job titles.  Kiwis have a different implicit hierarchy ("Managing Director", etc.) but this post is about the American hierarchy.  For the companies I work with, it is more important to signal to American companies than to signal to a Kiwi establishment.  The hierarchy is a rough norm: there is variation in it between companies, but the basic shape holds. It is: CEO CxO VP Director Manager an individual contributor who might be an "agent" or "operator" or so on. (Big companies will have Senior and Junior VP, Director, Manager gradations as well) There's one big trap in nomenclature here: "Manager" implies "has an area that they oversee" which may ...

Lesson: Moats and Flywheels

April 30, 2016 – 10:18 pm
It's bloody hard to build something new into the world.  Don't let anyone tell you it's easy: there's a lot of unfunded and unrecognised work that you have to do before you can get to the point where fame and/or fortune arrive.  And once you've finished the painful birth of your new service or product into the world, maybe even defining an entirely new product category or unserviced market segment, dozens of unimaginative parasites will appear from nowhere and try to eat your lunch. Hapara had this: we have a track record of beautiful firsts.  First Education solution for Google Apps, first device management for Chromebooks.  And, sure enough, as soon as we'd proven that Google Apps could be improved for educators, Google popped up and entered the space with Classroom.  Dozens of companies sprung up to help educators manage Chromebooks.  I like to think that the Hapara team do it better ...

NZ Herald’s “News” Is Shit and Lazy

April 12, 2016 – 2:58 pm
tl;dr: Today's NZ Herald drove me to this analysis/rant.  I'm giving the damn thing up and will get my news from other sites, Radio New Zealand and NewsHub.  You should too. I can't imagine how disheartening it is to work as a journalist in New Zealand.  Almost as disheartening as it is to be a news consumer in New Zealand. The newspapers are shit.  I include Stuff, owned by Fairfax, in this as Stuff has become indistinguishable from the NZ Herald—they race to cover each other's stories and make sure nobody sees a different set of "news" when they visit the other's pages.  There are two rays of hope, though: Radio New Zealand and NewsHub.  I'd never have picked it, but TV3's NewsHub seems to cover more actual news than newspapers (or, perhaps, features Real News more prominently than Rugby Player In Celebrity Vajazzling Tragedy And What Does It Mean For Your House Prices stories). What do ...

On Villains

April 10, 2016 – 10:51 pm
[I posted this on a Slack recently, and would like to give it a longer life than Slack's 10,000 line scrollback. --Nat] Socially constructed roles like “douche-bro” and “rock star teacher” are generally strongly viewpoint dependent. The rhetoric of continuous improvement is part of self-help, get rich quick, professional development, factory management, military training, science, and more. What separates these is the outcome they’re working towards, and how we judge those outcomes. So sales bros high-fiving each other in startup land are heroes of their own story, which is about self-improvement and making the world better through optimised supply chains of just-in-time whatever; and at the same time their goals of corporate success and self-aggrandisement makes them villains of our stories where meaningful work is in service of others, where empathy and humility are treasured, and where personal profit is awkward and not to be pre-eminently sought. So if you want more ...

Art and Education and WTF is Engagement Anyway?

February 11, 2016 – 2:06 pm
This post is prompted by The engagement era - and the artist's place within it, written by Courtney Johnston (director of the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt).  She has been pondering the shifting fashions for 'collection' vs 'education' vs 'engagement' in museums and galleries, trying to make sense of the swirl of ambitions and activities around those words and shifting focus and behaviours in GLAM institutions.  She's an incredible thinker and a brilliant leader.  Subscribe to her blog. Go read her post.  ​Wow.  It is a wonderfully chewy piece of thinking. It triggered education thoughts.  Education is full of "WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING?" panic attacks.  The same shifts and conversations are visible: we're here to do our thing and teach ​we need to personalise what we do to each kid we need to put the kid in charge and create experiences that are opportunities to learn we are creating new citizens we impart functional knowledge for ...

The Best You Can Be

January 28, 2016 – 6:15 pm
I write a short daily series for O'Reilly Media, Four Short Links, which I've done for years.  I recently posted a link to someone's "10 Golden Rules for Becoming a Better Programmer" and said "what are your 10 rules for being better in your field? If you haven’t built a list, then you aren’t thinking hard enough about what you do." Dan Meyer cheekily tweeted "Money where your mouth is, Nat! What's your top ten list for becoming a better link farmer?". Here's what I've learned in my umpty-years.  I'm tempted to say "if only I'd know when I started ..." but the fun has been learning these things. ... Know what you're hoping to achieve by blogging.  This is "know what success is" or "begin with the end in mind" kind of advice, but it still holds.  Four Short Links started as a heartbeat for the O'Reilly Radar blog, so there'd be a post every day ...

Lesson: Presume Good Intentions

January 18, 2016 – 12:55 pm
Teamwork shares a lot of good practices with parenting.  This lesson was no exception ....  I realised fairly early on in my time as a parent that I had a tendency to fail, bigtime, by blasting my kids for something they hadn't done.  The pattern became evident: I see something, I conclude they are rogues and bad actors, I give them both barrels, then after the tears are mopped up it becomes clear that I didn't see what I thought I saw, or they were actually doing the right thing when they did it. The defence to this is pretty obvious: I learned to notice when I concluded that someone was a moron, and worked on asking instead of blasting.  "It looks like you ___ ... is that really what happened?" or "I see ___.  I'm afraid that ___.  What were your reasons for doing it?" or even simply "Are you ___ ...