Archive for Software vendors

Atlassian Summit 2017 Livestream

I’ve concluded that, for a lot of tech company user conferences, the livestream is the best choice. You get the announcements and keynotes, some of the better sessions, but none of the expense and hassle. If you are a hardcore software developer or IT professional, then the conference is likely worthwhile since it provides an opportunity to connect to others in your field. For bloggers, marketing pros, analysts, and the rest of the ecosystem, the livestream does just fine. Livestreams were also a way to “attend” events that your company or schedule would not permit. Such is the case with Atlassian Summit 2017. The company I worked for (but no longer work for) would never have approved an expenditure like that.

Atlassian Summit 2017 was both familiar and unique. It followed the basic formula of most tech customer conferences. There were keynotes and breakout sessions and the livestream had both. The keynotes, the centerpiece of any livestream or conference, started with a lot of hoopla – dancers, loud EDM, that sort of thing. After the merriment, a co-founder or CEO (or both) come out to extol the virtues of the company culture and charitable giving. Has everyone noticed that every tech company now has a charitable foundation ala Salesforce? Clearly, it’s in vogue and tech companies love to parade out their good works out at conferences. Then we finish up with a speaker, most likely an author, “thinker”, or celebrity who struggles to connect what they do to the company’s products. Kevin Spacey did that masterfully a few years ago. I saw Scott Adams speak an IBM conference where he was funny but struggled to connect with the theme of the conference.

What was different about the Atlassian keynotes was how sloppy they seemed. The co-founders and co-CEOs, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar dressed like they were homeless people. Seriously, baseball caps and tousled hair as if they just woke up and said “Oh damn! I have to give a talk in 5 minutes! Better throw on some clothes. No time for a shower.” Just sloppy. Some of the presenters also seemed nervous or unrehearsed as if they were unprepared for the big stage. It may be that this was what Atlassian was going for, trying to project an image of informality and genuineness. Perhaps but to an enterprise IT professional I doubt this would inspire confidence in Atlassian’s products.

And that’s very unfortunate because the best part of Atlassian’s announcements would certainly appeal to the biggest enterprise customers. Data Center, for example, has expanded to include more Atlassian products and added more enterprise grade features. Cache replication and Rebalancing tools especially will allow for more stability in large installations. The new Identity Manager makes Atlassian products more palatable in security-minded organizations. The addition of Project level administration will also appeal to large enterprises where it is untenable for even a group of administrators to manage each project individually. Even something as simple as the new dependency report will be a help to project managers and release managers trying to manage big and complex projects of the type found in large enterprises.

In other words, the image that Atlassian has of itself and projects outward doesn’t sync with growing ability to service the largest of companies. That’s what made the Atlassian Summit 2017 so unique. These customer confabs are usually carefully scripted to project a brand that is especially palatable to the biggest customers. Atlassian obviously prefers to go its own way and be genuine. While I would love to see them drop the aging gamer look – really guys, it looks silly – for Atlassian, being themselves is more important than looking “enterprise ready.” While I think this will change over time but at this moment in time it’s who they are.

On a final note. A number of people saw my posts on Twitter as being negative toward Atlassian. This is ironic given that the theme of Keynote speaker Kim Scott was Radical Candor. When you consider the scope of Radical Candor, saying that the CEO should lose the baseball cap or show up on time for the Keynote is not particularly harsh. So, lighten up people. And lose the baseball cap on stage.

Google Should Not Have Fired Their Engineer over Sexist Memo

A pig.

Anyone who knows me personally knows my politics are generally liberal sprinkled with a strong respect for tradition. I also am willing to label myself a feminist in the traditional sense of the word – an advocate for the equality of women in all aspects of society. The reason I mention this is to provide context for my contention that Google was wrong to fire an employee for his wrongheaded remarks about women in tech. And also, to head off arguments that I am some right-wing, women bashing, pig.

Like many in the tech community, I have been following the story of Google engineer James Damore’s internal memo entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”. I was taken aback by two aspects of the memo: how well written it is and how weak the data is. In most cases, Mr. Damore does rely on stereotypes and not real data. That makes his arguments less than defensible. Firing him for those arguments though, is draconian. Google action also helps to prove Mr. Damore’s point about the intolerance of views that don’t meet with, what he perceives, as a left leaning bias. Let me put this another way – you don’t fire someone because you find their views odious. That’s not liberal. Liberals revel in freedom of thought and respectful public discourse. Mr. Damore sought out a dialog and, in this case, is more “liberal” than Google management.

Unfortunately, Google also missed a rare opportunity to discuss gender stereotypes and the biases they drive. That would have been a great service to Google, the tech industry, and society at large. It may have been a teachable moment not just for Mr. Damore but for everyone in tech who believe we are untouched by the hidden biases of the greater society. Here’s where the scientific literature may have helped. Mr. Damore’s fellow Googlers (Googlites? Googles? Whatever…) could have used reason to dispel his notions about gender, citing real scientific fact and respected data. He does not come across as an unreasonable person, just lacking in appropriate facts. Politely pointing out where the research doesn’t support his ascertains may have swayed him and any other readers who hold the same views.

Change almost never happens by silencing critics who act in a respectful manner and ask for dialog. It only provides a bigger soapbox from which to pronounce distorted views. Change happens when we learn from each other, something that Mr. Damore says he is open to. Removing him doesn’t remove his point of view. Googlers who share his views won’t suddenly abandon them. Instead they will see evidence that he is right and Google is biased against dissenting viewpoints.

Ultimately, Mr. Damore asked for a discussion. Wouldn’t that have been better approach? Legalities aside, removing someone from their livelihood is harsh. It is especially so when he was encouraged to share his views openly. By firing Mr. Damore, Google seems to prove his point that the company may be authoritarian, biased, and intolerant. It’s just too bad that Google missed an opportunity to prove him wrong – wrong about Google and wrong about women in tech.

I certainly don’t agree with Mr. Damore. My 33 years in the tech industry (which are likely a few more than his) have taught me that women engineers are every bit as capable as men. That more women are not in tech has more to do with a company culture that is not family friendly and managers with views such as Mr. Damore’s, than the ability of women to do the job. That doesn’t mean that he should be fired for having these views, even if they are antediluvian. Instead, respectful discourse would have accomplished so much more.