Sea of Troubles

Some Things I've Learned

At some point, I thought it a good idea to start writing down some of the lessons I’ve learnt, in a condensed form. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • First lesson: Subjectivity is a lesser sin than false rigor.
  • Second lesson: In the absence of recurring audit, the permissions attached to an object relax toward “allow all” over time.
  • Third lesson: Bureaucratic processes are the aggregate result of staff asserting that “if I had signed off on process x, failure y wouldn’t have happened.”
  • Fourth lesson: A report is an interface between two processes, not an end point.
  • Fifth lesson: Abstraction (particularly generality) is powerful and expensive; be careful not to design things so powerful that you price yourself out of building them.
  • Rule one: Never mess with an executive assistant or a barista; EAs wield tremendous power, and baristas get to you before you’re awake.

I can’t claim credit for, but frequently cite:

  • First rule of unix: It’s a permissions problem.