Author Image Peter Karman

Maker of lunches. Teller of stories. Singer of songs. Crafter of code. Kicker of darkness.

Managing projects

An associate asked me for advice about being a project manager. This is an excerpt of my email response.

Things I find most helpful in managing projects:

* Learn how to run a meeting.

* Be organized. Really. Most of PM work is being the one in the room who is organized. Use a calendar, a ticketing system to manage tasks and who is doing them. Take notes. Be the one other people count on to be organized, because most people aren’t.

* Learn how to manage up. The busiest people are often the ones with the most power, who also happen to be the ones as a PM you need to corral when decisions need to get made.

* Learn to manage your own anxiety. The PM must read the room, herd the cats, finesse the decision-making. The PM cares about the schedule and the resources available. That can make you stressed. Figure out how to let that go, in whatever way works best for you. A kind of involved detachment works for me.

* Learn to recognize who holds the Truth. As the PM, it’s likely you.

Elasticsearch development

Over the last few years I have done a lot of development against Elasticsearch, especially using the Ruby libraries. The Elasticsearch::DSL is very powerful, but anything beyond a simple query can take hours of debugging to get the syntax just right. I always learn the hard way that it is better to handcraft the JSON first to get the logic correct, and then translate it to the Ruby DSL code.

I don’t do it often enough to remember, so after my latest struggle with ES, I thought it useful to document.

The curl command is:

curl -X POST localhost:9200/myindex/_search \
-H 'Content-Type: application/json' -s \
-d '@q-test.json' | json_xs  | jq .hits.total

where q-test.json is a file with the DSL JSON.

Bart Campolo

[This is a letter I just sent to the New York Times magazine editor. They won’t print it, so I am posting it here.]

I was not surprised to read about Bart Campolo’s move to secular humanism, nor that the evangelical community “has barely noticed.” American evangelicalism has always been less about what you believe and more about how you believe. Evangelical theology functions more as a shibboleth than an orthodoxy.

Bart’s father knew this. I will always remember hearing Tony preach 25 years ago in my midwestern college chapel service. In the heat of his sermon he would say the word “shit” and observe immediately that we were more disturbed by hearing that word than by the poverty and hopelessness he was describing. Words signify which camp we belong to as much as anything.

Those of us who leave the religious traditions of our childhoods don’t so easily leave the psychological patterns those traditions imprint. The toilet paper sticks to your shoe even after the bathroom door swings shut. Noticing that about yourself, and freeing yourself from the endless repetition, is a lifetime’s work. I’m glad if Bart has found a certain relief in his new belief system. He still smells like an evangelical to me.

Analog

I’ve realized this many years ago, about my attraction to computer programming:

The world, which consists of analog phenomena infinite and unknowable, is reduced to the repeatable and the discrete.

via http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/programming-forgetting-new-hacker-ethic/

Problem is, the world cannot be mapped entirely to a technical model, nor should it be. My career-long ambivalence about digital technology hinges on that core belief.

Fresh coat of paint

After a decade of the same non-responsive layout for this site, I have paid off some technical debt to myself. The blog is now on WordPress with a clean mobile-friendly style. The server has been upgraded from CentOS 5 to CentOS 7. And thanks to the good folks at letsencrypt.org, every site hosted on this server has been updated to support SSL (HTTPS).