Life perspective Technology

Twitter Money

Stumbled upon a funny chirp the other day; equating twitter fame with monopoly money. Chuckle. It’s true. Obviously, some would disagree quite strongly with that sentiment- probably the same ones with a lot of hotels on Eloff Street?

Anyhow, shortly after that, Pussy Riot made headlines. Erm, ok. I ignored that (who on earth are Pussy Riot anyway?) till I read about the Kremlin’s interpretation of “free-speech” and their utter disregard for the entire Twitter-protest. I mean, even celebrities were tweeting! Shucks. Pussy Riot was trending.. somewhere. People were getting upset. And tweeting! Surely that would have made Putin think twice?

Apparently not.

Then I came to a frightening conclusion after a little extrapolation of online cultural behaviour: we’re going to tweet our demise and be left with a world burning behind us while we wonder #wtf?

Egypt worked because people actually *did* something and used a medium to communicate and co-ordinate their actions. It doesn’t mean Facebook and Twitter became all powerful and capable of toppling governments. If you believe that, you’re probably sitting on a stack of Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cards and smuggly smiling to yourself.

No, Twitter is not powerful. Nor is Facebook or any other social medium. Fact is, you can organise a coup d’etat without any online social platform. Shock. Even more startling: you actually have to get off the network for a bit and *do* something in the real world to affect real change.

It’s much the same as a $1 re-tweet to help save children dying of hunger in Eritrea. How do you even know that’s *really* working? Or are you happy to just RT and put your conscience to sleep? What about closer to home: the homeless freezing their tails off but at least you look good by sparing them a thought online. As someone in my TL suggested: spare a blanket, not a thought! That would mean actually getting outside and doing something about it though…

Ok, enough of the holier-than-thouness. We’re all guilty of sitting cosy and looking good- trying to capitalize on events and circumstances and adding our thoughts. We’re good at being human. And as you will notice, most of the thoughts outlined here have purposely been chosen from those very same platforms- to illustrate a point. Conversations are great, but without action…

So going back to our little demise… Edmund Burke is quoted as saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. I say: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to keep busy tweeting about it”. Oh, and I would include women there as well as men.

Less virtual. More real.


OAuth, Magento, Cookies, Ubuntu and Time

After upgrading my VMWare host (and some Ubuntu updates at the same time) I started noticing some strange behaviour on my Magento platform in QA. I just couldn’t login with my regular test user account. After clearing cookies on the browser, Magento started redirecting me to it’s “Please enable cookies” page. Boom! Nothing else had changed between stopping work on Monday and then resuming work on Tuesday. Frustrated, I simply created a new account and carried on using the new test account. That soon bombed though; mid workflow…

Now as if that wasn’t mysterious enough, my Twitter OAuth integrations started falling over. I really thought it was Monday- but it was actually Thursday. Not less than 45 minutes ago, a work items which had passed QA and committed to the repo was now suddenly failing. At the same time, my Magento session expired and I couldn’t login again. Wait a minute…

Both the OAuth error message and the Magento error were pointing to clock-synch issues. Could it be? Short answer: yes.

Now NTP is set to run automatically on the Ubuntu machine, but that wasn’t cutting it somehow. So i stopped that daemon, run ntpdate manually, and walah! Zee problem vas gone. Turns out my server was 5 minutes behind schedule.

So somewhere between the host clock, the VMWare time synch mechanism, the Ubuntu (11.04) updates and the NTP daemon- i’m still losing time.. somehow. I haven’t tracked down the culprit specifically, but at least the cause correlates with the symptoms and the appropriate fix is related to and resolves the issue.

The hunt will continue once this current story is completed….

Business programming

Tech And The Art of Ninja

There’s a lot of folk that like to call themselves ninjas out there- and it’s just plain wrong. Now unless you’re familiar with the Togakure-ryÅ« then you probably need to rethink your strategy a little…

Ok, so you don’t mean that you’re actually a -real- ninja, like, a real ass-kicking ninjutsu warrior with highly developed skills in espionage, combat and a multitude of other arts and skills. Fair enough. So what does ninja really mean then- that you’re supposed to be highly skilled? Well, here’s a funny twist: you cannot call yourself a ninja- not even a non ass-kicking-warrior one. Any title of excellence has to be bestowed upon you by one greater and more skilled than yourself. Formally. And usually, there’s a ritual of sorts involved. Sometimes, live animals are hurt.

Stop for a minute and think about every other title out there which conveys a sense of mastery: take the most common ones like professor or doctor even. These are titles earned after years of training and bestowed upon the learner by their guardians and masters- who themselves have acquired great learning over YEARS. A ninja, a real ninja, follows a similar path. The same goes for the word guru. By maintaining the traditions that these titles have been founded on, they ensure the longevity of a well-respected standard.

So calling yourself a ninja or a guru doesn’t make any sense. You’re just buying into your own hype and unfortunately, people who know even less than you, fall for it emotionally and romantically. Basically, you’re just conning everyone (most of all yourself). An even greater irony is that most esteemed masters seem to understand just how little they do know and shy away from the all-powerful titles in humility (enlightenment seems to have that effect).

So you’re a wizard (oops, there’s another title) with HTML or C++, maybe some Python- or… wait for it.. Twitter of all things. People who know less than you, will look up to you and respect your talent and skill. They might even go: “Wow. You’re such a jedi with INSERT_TECHNOLOGY_HERE!”

Awesome. Now if you believe that and start calling yourself a jedi, guru, ninja, prof because a bunch of people who know less than you actually think you are, then you have a serious dilemma. If you haven’t spotted the irony yet, let me make repeat: a worthy title is bestowed upon you by one greater than yourself- not by one lesser (and greater and lesser are purely relative terms with respect skill levels- not humanitarian judgments). That’s just plain backwards.

And no, not even if your peers think you’re a guru can you call yourself a guru. It simply doesn’t work that way. If you had to see a doctor about a terminal illness and enquired about her credentials and the reply you got was: “Well, all her friends thinks she knows quite a lot about health and medicine so they just call her The Doctor”. You can see where this is going, and where it came from. In early civilisations this is is exactly how it worked. But part of that entitlement included a wealth of supporting evidence.

So, now you might say: well, I have a collection of really good websites (or Tweets and followers) and everyone thinks I’m the bees knees, so why not call myself a ninja if everyone else thinks I am? *sigh*
Well, for starters, you probably cannot ride a horse…

Elevate your own standards and have a little respect for yourself and your own hard-won skills. If you want to be called a ninja- look for someone who is WAY better than yourself- is proven to be years ahead of you in skill- and then go and try impress the bajutsu out of them. So much so that they say: “Well done, padawan!”. Then one day they will turn around say: “The master has finally become the student” at which point you have arrived. Funny thing is, it doesn’t matter anymore and now that your skills exceed that of your master; he/she can probably no longer bestow the title on you since you are now “greater”. Checkmate.

And yes, I get that people use the terms as metaphors: “I’m looking for a ninja front-end web developer” => “I’m looking for a highly skilled front-end web developer”. Ok, so what’s wrong with the plain and obvious in the second statement? Why on earth would you choose “ninja” over “highly skilled”? Does it make you sound cool? Does it make you trend or get more search results? Are you bored with “highly skilled”?

And probably the biggest issue of all is that real ninjas and gurus are finding it harder and harder every day to find decent work and support their families since they need to spend all day trawling through completely unrelated spam.

Job Ad #3209 of 40,600,000 related to search for ‘ninja jobs’:
“Wanted: Ninja.”

“Yes, please!”

Job Ad #3209:
“Duties: Resolve CSS issues in IE6”

“WTF? Seriously?”

Ninja’s wife:
“Hey, honey! How’s the job-hunting going?”

“Well, I found someone I need to kill but it doesn’t pay…”