16 November 2014

Leadership, Value. and the Toughest SOB computer game


Quick TL;DR - this is not about blowing up spaceships. Its about management theory but in a game about blowing up spaceships. As with all my blog posts it rambles along, with my thoughts and insights told in the form of a story of my life experiences. If your after a quick fix of someone shooting some space ships I recommend you instead look at this:




Now that I've cleared out the ADHD junkies, lets begin:


Attention Economics



I've been an Apple customer almost since Apple existed. I think my total Apple product ownership went: Apple II europlus,  Mac 512, Mac Plus, Mac SE, Mac IIfx, yes a fucking NEWTON, MacBook, MacMini, iPod Mini, iPhone 3, MacBook Pro, iPhone 4s, iPad, iPhone 5s. Starting at age 10 and I'm now 41yrs old. All purchased new, pretty much on release date.

I think this classifies me as at least more than just a casual Apple customer.

I have owned probably just over double that amount of Wintel Computers in the same time, and at least as many Nokia phones as iPhones. So also not inexperienced in other technologies.

Of my total screen hours in front of a computer not work related, I would say only 1/3 of those hours were with an Apple product - excluding web surfing an iPhone (bastards created a whole category of screen time while in a lift with no one attractive or looking around at a work function and seeing everyone was boring or the effort in pretending to suck up to some random person in authority just not quite make the plus side of a cost benefit analysis against to the opportunity cost of not looking at 4chan screenshots on reddit).

Google I love. I will not use any other search engine. I have quit a high paying job in part because IT forced us to use Bing.

Open source: getting rid of walls, integration with open standards are beautiful things. Nearly 20 years in IT Architecture. leading the charge in SOA adoption back when that was a scary new thing, getting THE worlds largest finance company to adopt LAMP as a standard despite being presented with potential for dismissal if I insisted - yeah I've also got some chops in Open Source.

Android v. iPhone ? My view on this is a little different. Whilst my Mac ownership stats are impressive, never owned an Android, and every single rabid pro-Android user I run into calls me a MacFag, oh and I do adore and love the cult of Mac - but its not in my mind at least about one over the other.

It came to me yesterday when thinking about corporate culture and cultural fit. Had been working through what is it about my current (soon to be not current) employer that I found just made it not possible for me to want to make a difference.

Ultimately it is about why. This is the driving force, the lever of capturing my attention, commitment, dedication to an abstract thing  and then what it does and the products or services it offers.



Why Why Matters

Over Apples history, there was a time I lost belief. I lost trust in their why. Why they do things. It coincided of course with Jobs absence from leadership.

But my Google love is the same. There is a common thread. And google doesnt have the same cult of personality. I cannot even name a personality driving the things I love about Google.

And then I see this pattern in other things.When I first joined Infosys, it was cool. The story was interesting, some guys built a company in India with the total startup capital that I would piss against a wall on a friday night. Defined new ways of doing work.Innovated. They had an immense amount of obstacles - racism in their markets, lack of trust in their ability to deliver, systemic government corruption at home and just emerging from a socialist nearly communist economic system.

They preached hard work and meritocracy. In Bangalore I challenged one of the founders of Infosys on this.

Me: "As you would know, its easy to say you support meritocracy. Can you give me an example of where you made a hard choice to stand with this principle at significant cost to the company?"

He gave a brilliant answer. Standing in front of our group of about 8 people, he pointed out the window to all the buildings. Then told his little story.

All the land we have these buildings on, we had applied for it from the local government. Running a large commercial business was even more difficult in India then. We had one government department left to give their approval. The head of that department told us he could approve the land use, but his son would really like to work for us. We told him that his son, like everyone else is very welcome to apply to work for us, but we can only take him if he has the right qualifications and passes the tests and interviews.

The land use application was of course then rejected. They felt the whole company was on the line, that they would end up possibly failing as a result of taking this stand. But they stood by it. Knew the stakes, accepted the cost and stuck to their guns.

More senior government officials / ministers then looked into of course, and came to the conclusion that this business was of strategic importance to India and got the rejection overruled. But for a time the future of now one of the worlds largest IT companies hung in the balance over meritocracy vs. cronyism.

I loved this shit. From the start it was a global company that started in India. This got my inspiration fired like nothing else. Despite being the whitest white boy who loves his steak, yep I'm on board here to make a difference.




Now a change occured in Infosys around the GFC. Compared to the other Indian outsourcing they always had a bit of an edge being forwarded thinking, more than giving you what you ask for giving you what you actually need/want. The company was founded on innovation, and even though the majority of their revenue was cost reduction plays for global companies, they always kept that burning.

GFC changed this. Cost focus. I saw a round of redundancies in Australia. Amongst the first in the companies history. Of course it made sense. Their revenue base in the US was contracting massively. Cuts had to be made everywhere.

I left. Joined a bank and ran a team in Australia and India. Treated the Indian team exactly like the Australian team, including same job titles and career progression. Prior to me taking leadership, there was very layered and tightly controlled communications within the team. NO communication from the Indian team was permitted to the Australian team without review and approval by the Indian team leader. I don't just hate that shit, I will die/sacrifice my job and financial security to stamp out controlling the free flow of ideas, questions and learning within a team purely because someone wants to build political capital under guise of quality control. I knew exactly what that must feel like to the team members over there, how demoralizing and crippling to their productivity, creativity, and sense of value in their work and as a person.

When in Bangalore talking to my Indian team, I was both brutally honest about their jobs "your here because your cheap" but also used the Infosys story and then our own team story, how we were building them into being more than just cheap. Their job was to step up and become the future centre of operations, the knowledge of how this part of the bank runs would become theirs as soon as they are ready. This meant more work, more promotions, more management, even leadership. Yes one day my job will probably be done by one of you.

Now before you feel all bad about exploitation of workers from other countries, I don't know about you but I don't have a cleaner, cook, nanny and driver. These young men and women did. Learnt this long ago. A lot of Indians I worked with in Infosys were far wealthier in $USD than I will ever be.

So while I was at the Bank, the Infosys thread of this story went schizophrenic. A faction on the board wanted innovation and growth through new services. Management Consulting was seen as a strategic play for this. At the same time the dominant faction wanted more than ever to go down the "more for less" route - work staff harder, for less pay in as dumb and simple work as they could get. Indian white collar burger flippers. Vegetarian burgers of course.

The dominant faction then won. All its dreams came true, but only just after they had purchased a global management consulting firm. A new CEO, heavily networked and a dominant cost minimization culture and get rid of anything that sounds dangerously interesting.



The corner started to turn when the CEO's son was appointed to a senior leadership position. So many could not believe that everything the company stood for was so systematically being destroyed. I was told a story of outright rebellion where the son started to criticize some senior people in how a project was being handled and he was abruptly told "we know why we are here, but no one really knows why it is that you are here". This is what kills growth in companies. Competitors take that growth, then invest those profits and then take your core, and your leadership is left going "It doesn't make sense, we were leaders". No. The guys before you were leaders, you just played politics.

I love this story, because it is the stark counterpoint to the hope and inspiration of what I look for. It is a necessity to have an accurate understanding of what hell is when your trying to find heaven. A great many people helped create hell, and many of the decisions leading to it were of necessity or fear of what might be coming. To know where that leads, invaluable - otherwise you will only be asking yourself "yeah but how bad could it be really?"

Infosys got better btw. A new CEO is in play, and he is damn cool. I'm not there now, but hearing lots of good stories, and they are firmly back to a focus on innovation while keep the core business profitable and driving cost effectiveness for customers. I think this is fantastic.


Internet Spaceship Management Consulting

Now as a few people reading may know, I spend about 20-30% of my waking hours plugged into a virtual reality simulator called Eve. Eve is interesting because it is all about human behavior, and more importantly has a razor focus on humans making choices with real economic consequence.

In this simulation, people group together. Why? Well for a number of reasons, and rarely for a single one. Mostly they want things to be interesting.

In this people fight. Fights are interesting, so a lot of management effort of these people goes into securing fights. Fights also consume resources though, so an economic backbone is needed for people to acquiring the resources to fight more. They also like a sense of identity. The stronger sense of identity, the more powerful a culture evolves and that attracts people, resources, and well... fights.

Politics then enters play. Which is where this meandering blog has been going. By necessity, leadership has to  be tightly held. There is things such as spies, thieves and people who shoot people that are supposedly friends. All acceptable in this game. People have destroyed years of work through betrayal of trust placed in them. This happens here all the time. Leadership has to be iron clad, locked down, tough and untrusting.

The cost of this, can often be hope and inspiration. Next generation leadership can be looked over, good ideas ignored because of these tough but necessary defensive mechanisms. Eve leadership can be hell.

Brave Newbies was a fairly recent phenomenon in eve, which I think exploited the arbitrage that exists between older established corporations and the hopes and aspirations of younger pilots. In turn the young pilots flocking to it, failing, then learning created an infectious culture that spread. More experienced pilots became attracted to this culture to break out from their corporate servitude  and now something new and significant exists.

But the pattern will repeat. We saw it happen with Fweddit - J4LP. They started like Brave Newbies, grew, massive appeal as new and open. Leadership changed a few times, a focus on retaining assets with token giving some "content" or interesting fights to the members. Leadership became opaque, limited in engagement but steadfastly locked on objectives not aligned with the underlying wants and needs. Yes they had polls and votes, but the members had already been voting by not logging in and /gquit - so you mostly only had the ones left that supported your world view. There was not a Steve Jobs, Google giving what they wanted before they knew they wanted it. It was instead a Windows 8 - oh they like that smart phone tablet shit, lets tack some crap on the UI over the top to make it look like we are relevant without changing anything that actually matters.


Cathedral and the Bazaar

OMFG seriously not this shit? Heh. This  is one of the earlier descriptions of the business models of Open Source vs. Closed IP software. Essentially the Cathedral was BOB. All the eliteness and power to the central governance and control, who ruled the universe. Goonswarm was the Bazaar - a whole bunch of new young pilots in rifters trying to find new and interesting ways in the universe. Except now Goonswarm is definitely, at least from the outside the Cathedral and it is united under the singular eternal, unchanging banner of Chairman Mittens.

The Bazaar is where innovation happens. Where new comes from. Where the asymmetric combination of needs, skill, and differentiated thought emerge to create new. It cannot happen in the Cathedral because everything in the Cathedral requires review and approval by the clergy and the political cost or reputational risk limits innovation to a very few areas that are either harmless or directly aligned to the few key strategic focuses.

So where is the Bazaar? Well I think Phoebe helps. There is now new opportunity for management entities to emerge in deep 0.0. This change is I think quite under appreciated for how big a force for reshaping the corporate landscape in eve it is. Its not only about rebalancing assets, ability to project force and control of space. Fundamentally it effects management styles that can be successful. People are going to have to learn the meaning of the word Keiretsu a lot more. New mechanisms for creating tactical to semi strategic coalitions that are disposeable will emerge.

Wormholes and Faction War are the other places driving the bazaar. Speed and ability to recruit balanced by trust remain the big challenges in this space. Womholes are about to get damn interesting. It will be beautiful and deadly. I really want to see what changes in management culture this generates.


Holy Providence

The greatest dream in New Eden, from a management perspective for me remains CVA and Providence. It is the ultimate Google. Apple. They have a dream. It is under constant threat from pretty much any group that wants some fights and has no regard for the beauty of their dream of a place in space ruled by self imposed law that all are free to operate so long as they do not fight other freely operating pilots. This means about 98% of eve is out to kill them should they have the spare time.

On the brink of destruction, and yet turning it around over YEARS of activity to regain what was lost and build upon it - this is just epic. Sheer act of strategic will. Management beauty, unlike rarely seen anywhere, even the real world.

A necessity of their Not Red Don't Shoot is of course holding a grudge. I often when discussing in militia chat about people who have AWOXED (shoot a friendly for fun or some bad mood or because they think they are awesome) have described myself as "holding a grudge like CVA". We do not forgive, do not forget. Except CVA can claim this before Anonymous, that's how long they have been bitter space monks for.

The grudge aspect is very important. It was how the Roman Empire was built in its early years. If you declared war with us, fought with us, if you dared lay a hand on a Roman senator, well you have eternal war that will only cease with your destruction and enslavement. No amount of gold, bribery or politics would save them. The first few nation states that killed an unarmed senator would laugh about it at the time, but later states that had heard of Romans and the complete extermination of states that killed a senator would wade into the decision to hurt one with a little more gravity and thought.

My small little corp is of course KOS to CVA, despite being founded to be loyal to them no matter what... a long story... but I admire that despite multiple attempts to reset standings they are all still nope or ignore me. Gotta admire that holding steadfast to ideals.


Future Eve Leadership

Disaggregation will increase due to combination of Phoebe and an uptick in living in Wormholes fulltime. More mid sized (rather than small) corps will be a sign of health for the eve playerbase.

Purpose, or why for corps will still be lacking. The rules of the sandbox I still think need some shifting to promote why over more baser tactical interests. Culture at present remains the dominant long term stickiness for corp membership, followed by relationships, and only after that gudfites. Short term - why people join a corp is pretty much the reverse order.

I'm still chewing around in my head what could give more meaning to longer term strategies for corps, but I do think it is appropriate for CCP to address this. Many corporations in eve have been around longer than companies listed on major stock exchanges and have as many man hours from appropriately skilled and qualified people put into their running as serious national businesses. More for this would really change the player dynamic and interest levels to add more roundedness to shooting, fighting, trading and socialising than just seeing increases in isk or LP. Again, I want to reiterate admiration for CVAs pursuit of a strategic agenda in spite of lack of an external reward.



At some point Eve has to solve the whole Maslows hierarchy of needs in an integrated manner, catered for in the sandbox. The game does perform better than all competitors around the economic functions which adds strength and weight to others. The community aspect is trumpeted as a strong point in eve, but I have to admit even though WOW was a lighter game you could build strong powerful communities there with more ease than in eve, even though in eve the value of the community was higher. Its different.



This means there is still a significant amount of arbitrage in the game between needs and what is offered. One way or another the market will solve this. At present the only corps / alliances really addressing the actualisation needs of rank and file members is the role play corps. And everyone knows role play is not going too strong in eve.

Gaming will step up. Because they are not just "games" anymore. They are culture, identity, and yes a spirituality. They are why people get up in the morning.

As per above diagram which I just drew right now in MS paint - not all gamers want to define themselves or find meaning in their lives from computer games. But the thing is, the number that do is increasing.

Using eve as the example, predefining a set of systems or structures for meaning wont be enough. Part of it is people creating their own reasons. But the game will need to evolve mechanisms for that to occur. In the same way Faction War exists. Minmatar and Amarr were actually going hammer and tongs at each other near providence before Faction war was created. It wasn't technically needed. But creating an abstracted framework to support it gave so much life into a once very dead area of space and created so much experiences and decisions for players.

The same is needed for long term strategy and identity for corporations - and maybe even players. Maybe there should be a reward structure for playing a character for 10 years and progressing towards a goal everyday. A reward that a character bought off the market cannot achieve in a few hours by spending some isk.

Token rewards like a special ship or some implants or more isk doesnt cut it. That's only market value. More. Some real thought needed here. But if done in an interesting way, just like the eve economy, it would be real difference in the market place for gaming.


12 November 2014

Patience & Prayer for Superior Lowsec Trolling

All quiet on the Matari front.

Last 2 weeks has been pretty gentle in the Minmatar, Amarr warfront. That of course has not stopped me losing about 2bn in ships... I just have a talent that way.

Yesterday whilst "working" from home I did perform a kill I am very proud of.

There was a warning callout on Militia channel basically a "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES THERE IS SNIPERS ON THE GULM-EGMAR GATE!!!!" although I exaggerate a little.

I had become very pissed off with the loss of my 300+m isk Navy Harb to a gate camp that I intentionally engaged. I'm used to different timezones rather than US prime during the week, so didnt expect they would batcall everyone within a 2 system radius. Anyways, I killed one t1 frigate. Op success. A matari soul saved.




So sitting in Amarr after, with the Jita scammers plying their trade (they are still Jita scammers even when in Amarr. Hi Bardam), I went fuggit. Lets build me another stratios.

2bn isk later (I also buy implants to suit each ship I fly, go hard or go home) on top of the already 1bn isk in implants, and I was good to go. So back to Arzad.

Then the hyper frantic warning about the dreaded sniper battlecruisers.

Hmm..... havnt done this before.... but I sort of do something similar to people plexing larges.... wonder if I can take out a battlecruiser sniper in my Stratios.

Set destination Egmar. Lets go.

Arrive Gulm. No sign of any merciless sniping pirates. Ah must be on the Egmar side, and I would have to jump into their prepared sniping position. Oh well. Isk is there to be spent for the greater good of the advancement of Amarrian faith for the salvation of souls across New Eden. So I guess I had better get to doing some gods work.

Jump in to Egmar.

3 Nagas, 1 Oracle. Each 149-179km from the gate. But in different directions.
I take my time looking at them, checking ranges and approximate positions in space relative to the gate.

I align and cloak as damn fast as possible. No lock. Ok that went a little better than I thought it might.

I wait.

After about a minute they rotate tactical positions. Oracle Warps back and down, Nagas do some swapping. No one is in a position that another was in.

Oh this is interesting. They are being clevarr. 2 can play that game.

Now the big stress for me is there is a lot of alpha DPS here in play. 4 Battlecruisers armed with Battleship weapons. My Stratios has some tank, a few minmatar pilots can attest to that, but I have not tested it at this level before. I guess at least they are not close range neuting...

So I slow boat to the spot I mentally marked the Oracle as locating when I first arrived in system. Made an educated guess that was his preferred primary location. Slow crawl.... 150km... crawling... crawling.....

They all warp off.

Options. They leave to go do other things with their lives? They worried the stratios that cloaked was still insystem and had not been heard of since? They find someone else to blow up?

Decide they may do this as part of their safety rotations. So I keep slow boating to the same spot. And slow boating....

Naga. Naga. Oracle. Naga. Back on grid. And Oracle is right where I have been slow boating to.

I notice the Nagas are nearly 200km from this position. This is good.

Oracle aligns, and starts to slow boat towards the gate, very leisurely. Towards me.

Mwahahahah.

20km range.. do I uncloak? nah. Stay on target! Red-5 is da man.

12km. Ok easily within scram range of my faction dark blood scram once I can target.

Decloak.

Deploy Gekkos

Lock target. Nice and fast.

He is scrammed. Hit him with Blasters. Gekkos go in.

Boom.. Scoop Loot. Align. Out.

Not even locked by his buddies.

Not a word said by anyone in local.

http://battlemonk.eve-kill.net/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=25954533




Travelling back to Arzad, its a lot of jumps. I have a habit of checking out where the action is along the way. Big advantage of being in a brawler fit cloaky is you have a lot of fight options, and dont need to run from much.

Evati.

There are 2 macho pirates having a slanging match with each other in local. Something penis size and moms, ok im paraphrasing, talking about how each other is weak for not engaging.

Now pirates are a part of life in Low Sec, and more so in Faction War zones. To me of course they are a scourge that must be cleansed from the future holy lands of Amarr. No second thoughts about their destruction crosses my mind.

I scan around. Can only find a Cormorant on scan. He is at a small. Is he inside or out?

Warp to small. Close to gate but not too close. No sign of him outside, scan inside, he is there. Scan again he is not.

Hmmm....

Wait.

Corm arrives on gate. I start angling towards him. At 6km range Im ready to decloak.

Hawk arrives on grid. Its the other pirate. I wait.

They scram each other.

Ok nows a good time to engage.

Decloak.

"omg your so lame couldnt fight me on your own" cries the Hawk pilot in local.

Scram the cormorant. Deploy light drones. He is torn apart. Boooooom.

I think he was too busy shitting himself to respond to the Hawk pilot.

Scram the Hawk. He isnt aligned because he has been fighting.

Interestingly dual ASB Hawk can last a few seconds against a 1k dps Stratios. But in the end, you cant hold back divine judgement.




Well thats it. A day in the life of edeity. I think there was about 3 or 4 other fights, but nothing memorable.

HOLY CRAP EDEITY HOW CAN BE AS ASPERGERLY AN AWESOME EVE PLAYER AS YOU?

Its damn simple son. You need faith to power your lasers. Join an Amarrian faction war corp, pray every day, and beat the shit out of anyone in real life that tells you roleplay is for fags. Besides, fags are cool.

Also you can watch my horrible video again. Shut up. I liked making it.