Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Knowledge Portfolio Risk Management

Considering the time spent learning new technology as an investment is not new. It's been common for years. In The Pragmatic Programmer (Hunt/Thomas), the metaphor is extended to include:
  • regular, habitual investment
  • diversification
  • risk management
  • valuation
  • rebalancing
TheHackerCIO wants to focus today on risk-management.

Having worked on Wall Street, I can assure the gentle reader that serious Financial Investors don't operate on "gut-feel" when it comes to risk-management. Banks are required to model their risk (typically measures of "Value at Risk," or VaR) and limit trading and total portfolio exposure based on that quantity.

But there is no way for us as technologists to numerically measure the risk of our portfolio. It would be helpful if there were such a methodology.

Consider that as we invest in our "knowledge portfolio," we're not generally putting our financial capital at risk (most of us don't invest heavily in training programs). At least that is not the bulk of the problem. We are putting something even more valuable at risk! Our time. And our time is really our life. We're investing part of our life in the technology we study, learn, and play around with. And a life is a far worse thing to mis-invest or waste, than almost anything.

Or, to riff on the well-known commercial: if a mind is a terrible thing to waste -- and who would disagree -- then, one can waste it both by not employing it at all, or by employing it on things which provide no return, or little return, for the effort.

With that point established, it's worth noting that quantitative approaches to risk management in finance portfolios is a relatively new phenomenon. That it has been mandated universally for financial institutions is indicative of its success: what is measured can be monitored and controlled. So it bears consideration whether there are any steps we can similarly take to establish quantitative measures of technology portfolio risk management.

This is new-trail material here, so I don't know that I can offer anything earth-shaking. But let's give it try, in accordance with the al fresco approach of blogging, and see where it leads us. ;-)

How could we measure our knowledge portfolio risk exposure?

Posing it as an explicit question helps focus our energies in the right direction.

First, we would need to have our portfolio expressed in a written form -- not as a nebulous, woozy metaphor. This brings us back to our technology journals, doesn't it? Ideally, a journal should be dedicated to our "Knowledge Portfolio." Here is one possible approach:


  • an inventory of technology skills as they exist at present.
  • estimates of the time invested learning each item.
  • estimates of the time spent using each item.
  • estimates of the time saved by using each item [e.g., how long would the application have taken to write without using the Grails framework?]  
    • Time-saved = time-it-would-have-taken-without-the-technology - (time-spent-learning + time-spent-using) 
  • calculations of the return-on-investment = time-saved/time-spent
  • assessments of levels of risk for each item: 1-10, where 1 is very conservative and 10 is cutting-edge.
  • calculation of amount of time-investment in each risk-level. 
  • calculation of total portfolio risk: TimeAtRisk, or TaR? Which could be defined as the risk-adjusted expected return-on-investment of time-spent on each item in the portfolio. 

New Investment Assessment and Planning:

  • a list of potential new technologies to invest time in.
  • an assessment of the learning-curve associated with each item. The steeper the learning-curve, the higher the risk for the investment. Perhaps a 1-10 scale from conservative to cutting-edge. 
  • Determination of amount of time to regularly invest on a weekly basis.
  • Calculation of the expected time-return, risk-adjusted, for each possible investment item.
This is all just so much speculative fun. But it would be an interesting project to actually attempt to work it out. After all, we as developers, all know how many "slips 'twickst the cup and the lip" there are when working out a new approach to anything. Still, I think the overall idea is useful and it might even be possible to gain some better insight and control by attempting to quantify it. It certainly couldn't hurt. I'd say that the discipline of reviewing time-spent weekly on learning new technologies, and ensuring that a regular investment was made each and every week -- that alone would be worth a fortune, for most. 

It also occurs to me that a set of metrics -- even subjectively reported as evaluations -- would be immensely helpful in looking at new technologies. A web-site, for instance, which categorized and measured a variety of criteria helpful in estimating the slope of the learning curve would be a wonderful resource. 

Of course you could really get fancy and do Monte-Carlo simulations of the valuations, and feed those into a model, the way the Financial Institutions do, but it seems a reasonable first step to just attempt to quantify the actual results we achieve from the time we study. 

Any takers?

I Remain,



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Killing the Vampirestats & Adsensewatchdog

A while back, I blogged about the pond-scum who were big "readers" of this blog. They've been eclipsed by the increased readership, but a colleague pointed me to an excellent blogging website that showed how to eliminate the problem altogether.

All you need to do is put the pond-scum into a little javascript script that redirects them elsewhere, and they need never pollute your statistics again. After adding in this little script, just below the <head> of your template html:

<script type='text/javascript'> 
     var block = [&#39;;, 
        &#39;; ];
      for (var b = block.length; b--;) 
        if (document.referrer.match(block[b]))
          window.location = &quot;;;
I got no hits this entire week! And, the monthly and all-time stats are also frozen at the level they were at when I added the script. So, eventually, they will clear out.

Anyone starting a blog should add this in right away. And to read more details about it go to the site where I learned the trick.

I Remain,


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Comment Away, My Friends!

A reader asked me why commenting was not possible here.

The short answer was "Isn't it?" That's not really an answer; that's a question.

Feedback is essential for anything. And for TheHackerCIO, blog-readers are the end-user. So please let me know if there are problems! I thought it was my lack of familiarity with Google+ and that my readers likewise were not on G+ which had kept the commenting down.

But after the query, I poked around a bit deep in the bowels of the settings, and discovered that disabling the Google+ commenting led to a much easier comment link at the bottom of each posting.

So, thanks to that Biotech-Startup cross-reader who made me aware of the issue! (It wasn't even an IT-techie!)

And ... let's get interactive.

Let's call this unofficially, an RFC.

Laughing, I Remain,


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is The Sorting Hat!!!

TheHackerCIO's blog is his Sorting Hat.

It separates the diamonds from the dunghill.

Those who appreciate his professional values and reality-focused, brutally-honest approach will adhere to him. Those who don't appreciate him, or don't appreciate his questioning,  such as some unknown members of a certain forum for CTOs in the Los Angeles area, learn from this blog that they should have no truck with him. Because the questioning will never cease. Questioning is fundamental.

Question early; question often; question everything; question assumptions, especially! Because an active intelligence demands it. I should rather question too much, and learn TMI, than timidly fear to raise my voice. I've been accused of many things, but timidity has never been one of them.

There is nothing better in the world than having your own sorting hat for it! So, I love my blog! It's already sorted out a number of people with whom I had mistakenly associated. And now, that mistake has been eliminated. Thank you, O Mighty blog!

Not only a sorting hat, but my blog is now functioning as a resume, of sorts!  I'm sure you've heard of using Github as a resume. And in fact, TheHackerCIO needs to put some code samples out there for that very purpose. This year. But this blog fulfills a similar function: possibly even better. It chronicles my professional life. In another year, a reader will be able to see the range and reach, the breadth and depth of issues and problems with which TheHackerCIO has dealt.

It's almost in need of a jingle, similar to that of the Wall Street Journal, whose motto is "The Daily Diary of the American Dream." Mine ought to be, "The daily professional journal of an exceptional senior technology executive, who is in love with his work." Just doesn't seem catchy, though.

I Remain,


Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Am The Audience

"Who do you write the blog for," Someone asked me today. The answer is simple, yet incredibly liberating. Plus, it's an answer everyone should copy. I write the blog for my own personal consumption.

I am the audience.

If anyone else enjoys it, that's gravy. It's all part of "my work, done my way." But this comes from something deeper and more fundamental. Let's start over with that, and progress forward. It's about:
  • "My thought, done my way."
and then:
  • "My work, done my way."
and then, naturally, the consequence is:
  • "My writing, done my way."

If you think about it, there really isn't a reasonable alternative. You can't think someone else's thoughts. You are the only one doing your work. And the same goes for your writing. Anything else is absurd. Like trying to digest the meal someone else ate. It just "ain't gonna work." So why try?

I've written before about the liberating power of not caring. When you don't care about the consequences of speaking the truth, it lifts a great weight from your spirit!

But this is not the advice I was given in college. Nor is it found in the many books on writing. They tell you to carefully consider your audience. But when you use TheHackerCIO's approach, and your audience is your self, and if you know yourself, then it's never a problem to write for that audience! You will know what you like and what you don't.  And coupling that with not caring about the consequences means it doesn't matter if you lose audience from a particular opinion. I write for myself and for those who are going my same direction: to discover those of similar mind and values; to seek those who are --ultimately -- like myself! So I can't possibly fail. Even if only a handful follow my blog, I've discovered the segment I want as readers. And if no one reads it but me, it's the best of all possible audiences.

It's a most demanding audience, by the way. I have tough, rigorous standards.

Naturally, you have to count the cost of this policy. You may publish things that get you kicked out of Senior IT Executive Forums. Same thing with asking questions. If you don't consider the audience or care about consequences, you might be asked to leave some Meetup. Or even a job. But do you really want to be part of such a forum, meetup, or workplace, where you must gingerly consider everything you're going to say? Where you must concern yourself, not about reality, answers, and  truth; but about whether your question or level of understanding will offend someone? Again, do you want to put yourself in an environment where your state of knowledge must be hidden from others, as you pretend to have a knowledge you lack? If you do choose this, note that you have hindered yourself from ever attaining a better understanding! You can only do it on the sly, without revealing your actual state.

That's not a way I'd want to live.

And neither should you.

I Remain,


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Introducing a DevOps Blog

A new blog about DevOps has just started! And it comes from a regular reader here. Find the first posting here.

TheHackerCIO cannot endorse everything he's going to say before he says it. But he knows from brief discussions with the author, Marc Mercer, that it's very promising. Marc gives every indication that he is basically in sync with TheHackerCIO's approach, thoughts, and values.

I hope he regularly posts about DevOps, especially if his first posting is an indicator. He starts where one ought to start, that is, at the beginning, at the very definition of DevOps.

It's amazing how helpful it is to know what you're talking about. :-)

A lot of managers should follow that policy.

Just Sayin',



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Al Fresco Thought

Blogs of TheHackerCIO are done Al Fresco.

Painters -- and I'll seize this word-moment to recommend most highly Paul Graham's Hackers & Painters -- are both challenged and inspired by working on "Frescos," a medium that dries very quickly. Plaster is laid down first and immediately begins drying. Then the paint is applied to the plaster, so that the final product is a beautiful re-creation of some aspect of reality. But you gotta be quick. Otherwise the plaster will dry and you're screwed. I've put an example of a fresh, lively, Fresco of two girls at the lead of this posting.

A blog is a similar medium, in my opinion. It needs to be executed quickly, without over-thinking the topic of interest. It's almost like a core dump showing the current state of thinking about a particular aspect of technology. And if you're not quick enough, you're screwed.

And the great thing is you don't even need to know hexadecimal to read my blog!

Part of the reason why TheHackerCIO is so entertaining is that he works very rapidly, in an al fresco style, so that everything remains very fresh. No cliches here. No PC. But also, nothing is carefully, systematically thought out. It gets written quickly, another once over to ensure almost no typos, and out it goes to publication. That's my blog methodology.

For the carefully crafted, systematically worked out writing, you have to go to the essays.

But, as you know, those are still forthcoming .... and only subscribers will get access to them for the first year. After a year,  a selection of essays will become available on this link.

They will be awesome,  though!

I Remain,


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Cost of Costlessness

When setting up this blog, I used the supplied "Feedburner" subscription widget provided by Google.
This is a simple HMTL form component that allows a subscriber to get blog postings automatically in an email.

As it turns out, Google bought up Feedburner, and got rid of the staff and support. So the product as it stands, while it appears to work, has no support available. I attempted to find analytics about who subscribers were -- to no avail.

Finally, after scouring email list groups that had offered support in the past, it became apparent that another solution had to be found. So, as a previous blog posting noted, subscribers will no longer be getting any further email. The Feedburner was torn out and replaced by MailChimp.

I can't say enough good about MailChimp. But first, I will note that it's got at least one deficiency in comparison to Feedburner. Feedburner went out automatically. With MailChimp, TheHackerCIO has to send out a notice each time he posts.

But integrating all Social Media in a coordinated fashion is a much bigger nut to crack than mere blogging, so I put this down as a minor issue.

Mail Chimp is a Freemium model product that allows you to easily and simply create subscription lists, generate the "sign up" widget to plop in your HTML, then create a campaign, and finally track the response and analyze it. It's amazing. I'll post more when I see how it works.

For now, if you want to learn, you should sign up on the new and improved blog widget. Because by signing up there, I might send out a campaign to you which will not even hit this blog!!! Only the insiders, those luck few will get the inside scoop!

For instance, when I write some more extended essays ... which are already in the works ... these will be available to subscribers.

But on to higher level abstractions. The Cost of Costlessness.

Feedburner was costless. But that cost me support, didn't it? Costlessness isn't always cost-effective. I might even pay for premium services, but at least the potential to pay brings about some level of support.

It reminds me of some of the stories the old-timers tell. I always listen carefully to the old timers tell of their mainframe days and tape drives. I quiz them all I can. I even once used an emulator called Hercules, and did a full SysGen of an IBM Mainframe  MVS operating system, emulated, naturally, on my ThinkPad laptop.  Even though I'm generally a CTO, I love running with CIOs because of these stories. They are invaluable data points. They are a historical perspective on computer technology.

And one tale they always dwell on is that of the CA (Computer Associates), who gobbled up all the cool new products and fired off the support staff. They rendered them support-less commodity items. You could use them only so far, and then if you get stuck, you have to ditch it and build your own.

At least in the open source world, it seems much easier to rectify these problems. But Feedburner is a salutatory reminder that
"if you ain't payin', 
there ain't no number to call"

I Remain,


Friday, November 15, 2013

Blogging Notes

It's really sad to learn that spammers and other bottom-feeders are so prevalent. Even in the blogging world, you can't really go purely by your analytics to determine readership. For instance, the biggest two regular readers of this blog are unwanted. Basically spammers. adsense and vampirestats. Please don't look them up.

If you should blog, or just are generally interested, you might want to read further about them here:


If you have a blog and check to see where the traffic to your blog originates, you may notice traffic from websites called,,, and/or First off, don't click on them to find out why they are sending you traffic.

Neither Adsensewatchdog, nor any of these others have anything whatsoever to do with Google or Google AdSense and are essentially spam sites that use automated traffic to blogs to attract clicks to their own sites from blog owners such as you. Once you're at their site, at a minimum, you'll be fed ads. 

I Remain,


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thumbs Up From Early Feedback

My colleague with a newborn celebrated the little one's first month "birthday," which is something I never did with my children.  But, since this is a brainchild, I see no reason not to be overly doting and celebrate the first month of TheHackerCIO's blog!

As of 3:01pm, it's been a month!

Much has been accomplished already.

A reasonably varied sampling of content is now available: of interest to CIO types, entrepreneurs, startups, and hackers.

The overall flavor of TheHackerCIO is now well established.

It's time to think about promoting TheHackerCIO.

Unsurprisingly, the general interest postings are the most popular. In order from most to less:

  1. Never Hire the Greatest Scientist the World Has Ever Known
  2. Why Hackers Hate Headhunters and its followup posting: An "Attractive" Salary 
  3. The ever popular, and extraordinarily brief, Who is TheHackerCIO?
  4. My favorite: Why the CIO Must Also Be a Hacker, which further explains #3 above.

The first week of this blog's life virtually no-one knew about it. It was a question of providing writing samples. From the second week on, I notified those with whom I am "LinkedIn," and a few selected technical Meetup and Forums which I attend.

It is gratifying that I have received over  2114 Pageviews -- that's an average of over 70 pageviews/day. Interestingly, these come from Malta, France, the UK, China, Portugal, Canada, and Australia. I didn't expect that.

Early reviewers of my blog are giving me a "thumbs up."

CIO-types, Hackers, and Entrepreneurs  are all very positive. If, as the example I excerpted below, I have a "great blog," am worthy of promotion, answer the questions people want to ask, and have good reviews of books -- then I have accomplished exactly what I set out to do, and then some. Which doesn't surprise TheHackerCIO, at all.

Representative examples to support my claim ...

1. Ilya Pozin, Serial Entrepreneur, columnist for Forbes, & Inc. Magazine:

James -

Great blog! If you have an article that you post that you feel is a good fit for my followers, I'll be more than glad to promote it on LinkedIn and Twitter!


Ilya Pozin

Founder and CEO, Open Me (coming soon!)
Founder, Ciplex a web marketing agency
Columnist, Inc.Forbes, & LinkedIn

2. A Director of IT

Hi James,

I like your blog. You have a unique background so what you say cuts across many aspects of technology. You answer the questions I want to ask.


3. A Geeky Book Club Colleague:

 George ... <name snipped>  wrote:


Anyway, I thought the part about avoiding the 404 error with the 1x1 blank pixel was cool. Is this a 404 that actually appears on their screen?  I have never seen that.

Good review of the performance book (which I am skipping).

Cheers!   George 


Many thanks to my regular readers, and I intend to continue producing interesting postings for your reading pleasure. Because your reading pleasure is my writing pleasure!

I Remain,


Friday, September 20, 2013

4 to 6 Reasons Why Blogs Shouldn't List Reasons

I'm told that TheHackerCIO will get a higher click-through rate, and thus attract more readership if I put numbered lists in my Post title. TheHackerCIO has a pretty negative view of this, but since I'm an easygoing guy, and since it's Friday, or  "FunDay," I thought I would take a stab at it. So here are N reasons why blogs or articles with numbered lists of reasons are irrelevant. Notice that I'm not predetermining the number in advance of writing this. I'll fill in the value of N at the conclusion, and then substitute the value into the posting title. That's the scientist or engineer in me, doing that! Hang on now, here we go:

1. The numbers are arbitrary. Couldn't they come up with one more reason why the Cloud is good for your business? If the article was too long, couldn't they trim one? More than one? Aren't some of them really aspects of the same reason? Reasons are typically hierarchical and nested, with lots of interdependencies and cross-relationships which are not captured by linear numeric lists. In fact, this structure is destroyed by such a flattened list.

2. The focus is on distinguishing the reasons, not exploring them in depth. In consequence, you will get a shallow understanding from these kinds of articles. I can count on one hand the number of articles with numeric lists that have seriously aided my understanding of anything. In fact, I can count it on one finger. You can see the trend starting even here and now!

3. Using this technique is manipulative of your audience. You are playing on a peculiar aspect of psychology in order to manipulate them into clicking into your blog. I hate manipulative people. Why would I now want to become one. I've got better things to do, like Hacking.

4. It's a very unnatural, forced approach, tending to produce uniformity and conformity  rather than variety and freshness.  It amounts to forcing the content of my thought into someone's Procrustian "numeric lists" format, which will result in the same thing that Procrustes' bed did: lopping off variety and improper emphasis given to what should receive short-shrift. TheHackerCIO is anything but a conformist publication. And what you read here is far from the normal, or "consensus".

5. I can't come up with another one right now, and I need to get back to Hacking. I've got a scheduler problem with my Server which isn't kicking off my batch jobs. However, you can see the problem right here from within this very list. If I really need a "5", I can always break #4 into two:

  1. produces uniformity
  2. produces conformity 

or, I could break it out into 3 reasons, and have a list of 6, like this:

  1. forced, unnatural approach
  2. produces uniformity
  3. produces conformity 

which is just to prove my point #1: the numbers are arbitrary; and to corroborate #2, that the more I break these out, the less you see the interrelationships and the less time I spend on exploring them. So instead, just to keep things a bit quirky and unconventional, let's establish a range for N,  where N is number of reasons, as I defined it at the start of this article. Then the range for N is 4-6, and so we now have calculated our Posting Title for the day: "4 - 6 Reasons Why Blogs Shouldn't List Reasons".

Have a FunDay! Learn some new technology!

I Remain Faithfully,