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A conversation with the A.I.

By: Chris Greacen - 03/21/2024
Everyone is SO VERY focused on AI these days. Everyone expectd this to change our world in a big big way at any moment. People describe this in grand terms believing that this is truly 'unprecedented', but it's happened a couple times before. It already happened in our lifetime in fact.

You can't underestimate the impact that the internet brought to the business world. The change was explosive, radical even. The transformation brought new forms of organizations, new ways of running a business, new ways of connecting with customers. Many household names disappeared because of change brought through modems and cat5 (hello Blockbuster!).

Will A.I. bring the same kind of change? If you drink the kool-aid, it surely will. I see a lot of similarities in some of the shiny-objects that captured a lot of attention in the early dot-boom days of the web. Most were flash-in-pan experiences - got a lot of eyeballs, but offered no lasting value.

I see a little bit of that flash in what these Large Language Models and chat interfaces bring. Somewhat believable answers to questions on almost any topic are, well somewhat believable.

Here's an example:

asking the ai to summarize a web page Me: Can you summarize the story on this web page? https://www.netscrap.com/netscrap_detail.cfm?scrap_id=1 (note: this is my favorite 'scrap' article that's on netscrap.com)

A.I.: The story on the web page is an excerpt from "Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II" by Seymour Reit (Signet, 1980). It describes a German decoy airfield built in occupied Holland during World War II. The airfield was constructed with meticulous care, made almost entirely of wood, including wooden hangars, oil tanks, gun emplacements, trucks, and aircraft. The Germans took so long to build the decoy that Allied photo experts had ample time to observe and report it. When the decoy was finally completed, a lone RAF plane crossed the Channel, came in low, circled the field once, and dropped a large wooden bomb on the wooden airfield.

asking the ai whether there's anything funny in that story.

Me: Is there anything humorous in that story?

A.I.: The story you provided does not seem to contain any humorous elements. It is a historical account of a German decoy airfield built during World War II, which was eventually destroyed by a single RAF plane dropping a wooden bomb on the wooden airfield. The story focuses on the details of the decoy and its eventual demise, rather than incorporating humor or comedic elements.

asking the ai a second time whether there's anything funny in there.

Me: Are you sure there's nothing funny in that story?

A.I.: I apologize for the confusion in my previous response. Upon re-reading the story, I found a humorous element in the account of the German decoy airfield during World War II. The humor lies in the fact that the Germans spent a great deal of time and effort constructing the decoy airfield, only for a single RAF plane to destroy it with a wooden bomb. The irony of using a wooden bomb to destroy a wooden airfield adds a touch of humor to the story.

Starting to think that the ai is the joke.

Me: When you say "destroy" in your answer, what specifically was destroyed?

A.I.: In the story of the German decoy airfield during World War II, the following elements were destroyed by the RAF plane dropping a wooden bomb:

  1. Wooden hangars: The decoy airfield was constructed with meticulous care, and the wooden hangars were part of the deception.
  2. Wooden oil tanks: These were also part of the decoy, designed to look like real oil tanks from a distance.
  3. Wooden gun emplacements: These were included in the decoy to make it appear as if the airfield was well-defended.
  4. Wooden trucks and aircraft: These were additional elements of the decoy, intended to make the airfield appear operational and attract enemy attention.
The RAF plane's wooden bomb destroyed the wooden decoy airfield, effectively neutralizing the Germans' efforts to deceive the Allies.

And so, there you have it. These things aren't really tuned to the kind of nuance that makes jokes like the one I shared work. They're impressively verbal, but lacking something important. Everyone close to the tech assures me that it's just a matter of time till stand-up comedian no longer a viable career path.

Till then I'll keep looking for better tasting kool-aid.

Marty Cagan on empowered product development teams

By: Chris Greacen - 03/18/2024
I had a chance to hear Marty Cagan speak at Dan Olsen's Lean Product Meetup hosted at the Intuit office down in Silicon Valley. Marty has just published a new book titled Transformed which helps to lay out rationale and a pathway for organizations to move from a feature factory to operating more as an 'empowered product team'.

Marty Cagan speaking at Lean Product Meetup

After Marty's presentation I asked him about the thing that's been bugging me - are we even making progress in this industry? Our work at Lab Zero has always been to try to bring empowered software product team practice to our clients. Somehow, this doesn't really seem to fit with much of the industry - most companies are happy to have people cranking out work in a more predictable fashion instead of seeking real value.

Marty talks about "the best" and "the rest" both in this answer and in several of his books- the best companies are some of the most valuable companies on earth right now. They have empowered product teams. The rest don't -- and their value shows it.

Scroll to 47:40 to find me:

Me: I have the microphone... thank you. I’m gonna ask a quick question here.

When things get tough in my business, my business partners and I go to YouTube and we put on one of your keynotes. And we watched you recently: 2018, talking about empowered teams, product management skills, product / engineering collaboration, discovery... it was a long time ago when you were bringing that up. Preaching to the choir here, at least in this case. I love the book, the way you’ve laid it out here.

I’m excited to try to bring that to what we’re doing but like it still seems like the exception and a rarity, where there are empowered teams that have the permission to do the right thing. And are we are we losing the fight? Are we fighting the right way? Can you talk about how we can drive more of the goodness into the world that we work in?

Marty Cagan: Yeah. By the way, you just summarize endless frustration for me.

I mean, look, 20 years I’ve been trying to get more people to work like “the best” and when we look at overall... I mean in the absolute sense, there’s way more people working like “the best”... but in a relative sense, it seems about the same percentage. Which is not very good. I mean, it’s somewhere -- it’s hard to know really -- somewhere like 10 to 20% I would put in that “best” category and 80 to 90 in “the rest” category. I don’t think that’s very good.

One of the things I discussed with Lenny (on his podcast the previous day) I probably shouldn’t have was, why the hell is that not the case? So essentially what you’re asking, and I have a theory, and it’s a difficult one to share -- I did share it with him and but and that is that it’s very frustrating. What motivated this was not… this was more recent than the book… if you have been following — I’ve had a lot of stuff talking about theater -- product management theater, transformation theater, product management

Me: LARPing it's a lot of LARPers in there live action roleplaying.

Marty Cagan: Yes, well, we're both being generous with what's going on but you know, how is that possible? And I what what kicked me -- really frustrated me was one of the biggest organizations in the US at least that trains product managers shared an article. I won't embarrass them publicly, but you know, takes two minutes to figure out... and it shared an article about how they define the product manager role. And I'm looking at this article and I can't believe they said this out loud. Because they don't most people you know, you hear him try to define a product manager they go to... bend over backwards to try to make it sound important. And try to make it sound more than a project manager. This company did not. It was 100%: communication, coordination, and you should know a little bit about engineering, a little bit about design. Like I cannot believe they said this out loud. And this is the primary group creating a certifying product manager. So I'm like we're screwed.

If that's what's going on, and I'm like, how does that happen? Well, my theory is, if you're a brand new product manager, and you join a job, you go to Google, you type something like you know, "how do I product manage" or something? Chances are you will end up with people teaching you from feature team world, or worse. That's just the odds. And by the way, generative AI will only increase the likelihood of this not going well if you think about how predictive text works. So those people they just get put on this path, and they think they're doing -- what they're supposed to be doing. And then their CEO says, I mean, there's one other thing that motivated me was a European CEO told me he had 200 product owners... and he said "the truth is I think if we got rid of all 200, nobody would care." That hurts, right? I mean, that's harsh. But you know, how can I disagree with him?

And "product owners" Have you met? You know, this is thankfully not much of an issue here. I hope none of you have a title on your LinkedIn profile "product owners" you do you should wake up and fix that like right away. That is not a job -- that's a role on a delivery process. That's not a job but unfortunately, these -- I don't know how many millions, maybe of people that have been certified as a product owner. Almost all of them have been certified by an Agile Coach that is never done product. Anybody think there's something wrong with this picture? So it just propagates!

On the other side on the on the side of light -- we have the most valuable companies in the world. Otherwise, I think we would have drowned out a long time ago. So it is bizarre. You're all -- we're all fortunate to be right here. In most of the world. I mean, it's shocking. It really is. So you just asked like a BIG question.

So- I think we're both losing sleep over this topic. There's a missing ingredient in making this fit and making this the obvious choice, the obvious better path. I have a lot of work to do - we all do.

BTW- I took this transcription from otter.ai which was one of the sponsors of the event. I made a couple edits in this for clarity. Go listen to the whole thing on otter.ai.

Mercedes 300d Time Travel

By: Chris Greacen - 11/15/2023
The Woods & Barclay guys shared a video recently of a pristine 300d specimen with about 1500 miles on the odometer that they found through its owner north of Montreal. Take a peek at this thing which is as shiny and new as the day it rolled off the line.

It's especially a treat to have someone so knowledgeable point out all of the details. I have to imagine that there are parts of that car that even an expert hasn't seen before - the crispness and texture of the dash. It's worth scrubbing through the video to see how deep they go on this vehicle.

There are so many of these old things on the road in the bay area, many running biodiesel or veggie oil. People like that these things are sturdy, long-lasting, and tough. It's easy to forget that these things were the top of the pyramid in luxury and engineering in their day.

The convo at the end of the video brings this into perspective - even though it's the same model, daily drivers are really a different breed from a showpiece like this one-of-a-kind vehicle. Most people can get what they need from a re-furbed vehicle with 250000 miles on it (or 350 in my case).

More Mercedes Love: Soup Classic Motoring

By: Chris Greacen - 10/22/2023
I've been really enjoying the videos that George Karellas have shared on his Soup Classic Motoring channel on YouTube. His lockdown restoration of a

Just watch one video and you'll get the gist -- cool music, mesmerizing narrative, clear steps for working on these things (the stop-motion disassembly is strikingly effective). How is he able to make the rebuilding of a front-end so interesting?

All of these strip-down, brush-down, repaint scenes scratch the cleaning fetish itch too. A fetish which I certainly lack -- BUT I have noticed that I'm cleaning the engine bay of my 300td more frequently.

The Irish sideshow at the end is especially magical. Watch this end-to-end if you can.

Parting thought, I think I might need to make a new 'category' for these W123 videos and photos as I think there will be more that show up on this blog.

Technical Debt Talk at Bay ALN Meetup

By: Chris Greacen - 10/19/2023
I recently wrote a post on Lab Zero's blog on the topic of recognizing sources of technical debt. This caught the attention of one of the organizers of the Bay ALN meetups and they invited me to present on the topic.

I put a brief talk together based on the outline of that blog post and delivered it the other night. I think I can embed a couple slides from the deck I used...

The presentation followed this path through the story.

  • Intro, caveats
  • Tech debt background
  • Recognizing trouble
  • Two common sources
  • Recognizing progress
  • The real casualty
  • Two questions for you

Give this a listen if you're curious about how this went or if you're interested in Technical Debt.

10/14/2023  —  FUN  — 

Mercedes 300td love

10/12/2023  —  MUSIC  — 

Doubleplus Alright at Tamarack 10/7 photos

10/05/2023  —  MUSIC  — 

Double Double Saturday 10/7

09/01/2023  —  TECH  — 

Wishing a good Labor Day weekend, calling out blog posts

08/28/2023  —  TECH  — 

Two Most Common Sources Of Technical Debt

03/08/2023  —  TECH  — 

Lies we tell ourselves: the 10xEngineer

02/13/2023  —  TECH  — 

Reflecting on the project that started it all

02/08/2023  —  TECH  — 

A vision for Lab Zero

01/02/2023  —  MUSIC  — 

Trip Down Memory Lane: Black Market Music

09/08/2022  —  MUSIC  — 

Outdoor Doodles

08/22/2022  —  FUN  — 

Austria Trip

10/05/2021  —  MUSIC  — 

New Day Undone

10/04/2021  —  MUSIC  — 

Blert album release: New Day Undone

03/09/2021  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day 2021: Mile On Ice

01/02/2021  —  TECH  — 

This damn site

12/07/2020  —  MUSIC  — 

New Blert Song: Escape

11/22/2020  —  MUSIC  — 

Bump Doodle on Instagram

09/09/2020  —  MUSIC  — 

New blert song: CTRL-Z

08/23/2020  —  MUSIC  — 

Blert - For Obvious Reasons

07/17/2020  —  MUSIC  — 

Doodles 2020

04/28/2020  —  TECH  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Build To Learn

04/21/2020  —  TECH  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Self-Healing Teams

04/05/2020  —  TECH  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Embrace Risk

04/05/2020  —  TECH  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Are You Agile?

04/04/2020  —  TECH  — 

Chris On The Bridge: What is Essential?

04/02/2020  —  TECH  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Trust From Home

01/22/2020  —  TECH  — 

Why is Agile Popular?

02/04/2019  —  TECH  — 

12 Signs Your Client Trusts You

12/07/2018  —  MUSIC  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 5: Other Shows

12/06/2018  —  MUSIC  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 4: Doodles (something New)

12/05/2018  —  MUSIC  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 3: Open mics and other gigs

12/04/2018  —  MUSIC  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 2: Song-A-Day 2018

12/03/2018  —  MUSIC  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 1: Doubleplus Alright

06/29/2016  —  FUN  — 

Missing 1963 Bing Log

05/10/2015  —  MUSIC  — 

Doubleplus-Alright

03/06/2015  —  MUSIC  — 

Om One

02/19/2015  —  MUSIC  — 

Music is all around us.

02/17/2015  —  MUSIC  — 

Leftovers from MP3 Compression

01/13/2015  —  FUN  — 

Favorite Friends Episode

10/29/2014  —  FUN  — 

A Wave

08/22/2014  —  FUN  — 

OMG Even More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (The Art Department)

08/21/2014  —  FUN  — 

Holy Crap Even More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (Peggy Olson)

08/20/2014  —  FUN  — 

Even More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (Ted Chaough, Pete Best)

08/19/2014  —  FUN  — 

More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (Don Draper, Jim Cutler)

08/18/2014  —  FUN  — 

Artwork Seen In Mad Men, Season 7

05/06/2014  —  FUN  — 

Chrissy Tomasco and the 2014 Overnight Walk

02/20/2014  —  MUSIC  — 

Observed: Scat/Rap Counterpoint

01/16/2014  —  FUN  — 

2013 Overheards and Observeds

12/27/2013  —  FUN  — 

A wave

10/22/2013  —  FUN  — 

A wave

09/25/2013  —  FUN  — 

Instagram Embed Test

09/25/2013  —  MUSIC  — 

Manatee gig 9/27/2013 at Hemlock Tavern!

06/25/2013  —  MUSIC  — 

Manatee gig 6/28/2013 at Thee Parkside!

06/05/2013  —  MUSIC  — 

Manatee gig 6/6/2013

06/04/2013  —  TECH  — 

CTA- the most important part of your page.

06/03/2013  —  TECH  — 

All web apps

05/06/2013  —  MUSIC  — 

Manatee KXLU session

03/28/2013  —  FUN  — 

Surfing on Easter Sunday

12/20/2012  —  FUN  — 

2012 Overheards and Observeds

02/29/2012  —  TECH  — 

Strata Conference

02/22/2012  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day In-Progress

06/29/2010  —  TECH  — 

And Boom!

02/25/2010  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day what a difference 25 days make

12/15/2009  —  TECH  — 

Rubicon Project Ad Network Sloughs-off Small Publishers

10/23/2009  —  FUN  — 

Shopping for Used Surfboards

10/19/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

HELL -- Your Soundtrack For Halloween

09/28/2009  —  FUN  — 

Story of a Surfboard: SF Green Ten-Footer

09/08/2009  —  FUN  — 

Story of a Surfboard: 1963 Bing

09/05/2009  —  FUN  — 

Dings With Stories

08/18/2009  —  FOOD  — 

Absurd Film/Foodie Moment

06/24/2009  —  TECH  — 

Allspaw talks at Velocity Conf.

04/05/2009  —  FOOD  — 

Menu and Wines from Dinner at Cyrus

03/29/2009  —  TECH  — 

Twitter-Based Blog Syndication Flowchart

03/26/2009  —  TECH  — 

Twitter-Based Surf Report Flowchart

03/09/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

Top 10 things to do now that Song-A-Day is done:

03/02/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day 2009: DONE

02/23/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day Notes From The Studio

02/15/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day Week 2: Still truckin'

02/09/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day Week 1: Awesome

01/26/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Again: Song-A-Day

01/19/2009  —  TECH  — 

GoFish Becomes Betawave

01/17/2009  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-A-Day Shopping List

01/07/2009  —  FOOD  — 

Espresso. Pulled, Not Stirred

12/25/2008  —  FUN  — 

Merry Christmas!

12/19/2008  —  FUN  — 

FOTC Season II

12/15/2008  —  TECH  — 

Darwin's moth: a survey of behavioral targeting solutions

12/12/2008  —  TECH  — 

100k Pageviews For Free

12/06/2008  —  FUN  — 

Mad Scientist

12/05/2008  —  FUN  — 

The Magic of Surf

12/04/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

The Darjeeling LTD. Tunes

12/03/2008  —  FUN  — 

Blert, A Zeen

12/01/2008  —  TECH  — 

The End Is Near

10/31/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

A Great Pumpkin

10/09/2008  —  FOOD  — 

New Crop of Food TV

10/02/2008  —  FUN  — 

Time To Take A Stand

09/22/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

Seth Adds To His Music Store

09/18/2008  —  FUN  — 

Skate or die

09/03/2008  —  TECH  — 

A day on Chrome

08/21/2008  —  FUN  — 

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

08/20/2008  —  TECH  — 

Digsby will change the way you communicate online

07/29/2008  —  FUN  — 

No Effing Way

07/16/2008  —  TECH  — 

twitterfountain, fun stuff!

06/27/2008  —  TECH  — 

Post 1000

06/26/2008  —  FUN  — 

The horror of AOL

06/25/2008  —  FUN  — 

Fun with Wordle

06/16/2008  —  FOOD  — 

RIP tastespotting.com

06/13/2008  —  PHOTO  — 

twitpic, kinda cool...

06/12/2008  —  FUN  — 

Ryan & Chris score surfings hat trick.

06/05/2008  —  TECH  — 

Matt Freeman to GoFish

05/29/2008  —  FOOD  — 

Even More Shrimps...

05/28/2008  —  FUN  — 

Drunk Goldblum Meme

05/15/2008  —  FUN  — 

Linda Mar Extreeeem #2

05/14/2008  —  FUN  — 

Double Surf-Swap Happiness This Weekend.

05/08/2008  —  FOOD  — 

Super Foodie

05/07/2008  —  FUN  — 

Hello, my name is Stud

05/01/2008  —  FUN  — 

Geo Quiz

04/24/2008  —  FUN  — 

All-Time Favorite Commercial

04/21/2008  —  FOOD  — 

Foody Weekend

04/18/2008  —  FOOD  — 

April in Carneros

04/17/2008  —  TECH  — 

AdTech: Widgets and Gadgets

04/17/2008  —  FUN  — 

Greacens in the news again...

04/17/2008  —  FUN  — 

Effing greatest video effer.

04/16/2008  —  FUN  — 

All time favorite video

04/15/2008  —  TECH  — 

GFSearcher=Nutch

04/15/2008  —  FUN  — 

Robert Greacen Dies at 87

04/09/2008  —  FUN  — 

SF's fleaflicker works, crowds duped

04/09/2008  —  TECH  — 

bashWebTest Lives!

03/24/2008  —  TECH  — 

Simple Rss Widgets

03/19/2008  —  TECH  — 

COPPA, friend or foe?

03/17/2008  —  FUN  — 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

03/05/2008  —  TECH  — 

Social Widgets

03/04/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 done...

02/28/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

Song-a-day almost done!

02/25/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

I can see the light!

02/19/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

Still playing catchup

02/18/2008  —  TECH  — 

GoFish, For Reals

02/14/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

More Lack of Engineering

02/13/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

Engineering... and lack of

02/10/2008  —  PHOTO  — 

Surfed, not rocked

02/09/2008  —  PHOTO  — 

Sifting through some stuffs on kodak

02/08/2008  —  TECH  — 

KodakGallery FINALLY integrates with the web

02/07/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Songs: Day 4,5,6:

02/05/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

James Blackshaw, wow

02/05/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: More To Come

02/05/2008  —  TECH  — 

QA Interviewing: The Phone Screen

02/04/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: If Yes, Then No

02/02/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Songs: Day 2: On The Other Side

02/01/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Songs: Day 1: Took To The Air

01/31/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

29 Songs Starts!

01/31/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

Jon Brion on Eli Somethingoranothers

01/30/2008  —  FOOD  — 

2005 Directors Cut Russian River Charonnay

01/29/2008  —  TECH  — 

GoFish spilled, again...

01/29/2008  —  TECH  — 

108 Votes for NetScrap.com

01/28/2008  —  FUN  — 

Break-ins at Lafayette BART Station

01/25/2008  —  TECH  — 

Seeqpod sued by Warner Music

01/25/2008  —  TECH  — 

js-kit comments on greacen.com

01/24/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

February 2008: Song-a-Day a.k.a 29 Songs

01/23/2008  —  FOOD  — 

Chasing the blue dragon: Blue Bottle Coffee Opens

01/23/2008  —  FUN  — 

The horror of the Hayward fault

01/21/2008  —  TECH  — 

34 million lattes on Howard St.

01/21/2008  —  FUN  — 

What's the Greacen?

01/18/2008  —  FUN  — 

CC, the Casual Carpool

01/15/2008  —  TECH  — 

Macworld today

01/13/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

OMG

01/13/2008  —  TECH  — 

Technorati? Well, ok.

01/13/2008  —  TECH  — 

Netscrap top queries

01/12/2008  —  FUN  — 

Mavericks today!

01/10/2008  —  MUSIC  — 

Tuesday night covers

01/10/2008  —  FUN  — 

Today, I am Sven

01/09/2008  —  TECH  — 

Gofish, spilled...

01/09/2008  —  TECH  — 

Caffe Trieste in SOMA is the place

01/08/2008  —  TECH  — 

Vizu Survey on Netscrap.com

01/07/2008  —  TECH  — 

Netscrap's birthday

01/01/2008  —  FUN  — 

Happy 08!

12/26/2007  —  FOOD  — 

A letter to Michael Cimarusti

12/26/2007  —  FOOD  — 

Zinfandel-palooza

12/25/2007  —  FUN  — 

Merry X-Mas!

12/16/2007  —  FOOD  — 

2005 Falcon Ridge Lodi Zinfandel

12/12/2007  —  TECH  — 

ruby, python, or php?

12/10/2007  —  TECH  — 

Zombie Technology

12/06/2007  —  TECH  — 

Hello World, From the phone

11/26/2007  —  FOOD  — 

Daniel Boulud on Mojo

09/23/2007  —  TECH  — 

Long time no blog.

09/10/2007  —  TECH  — 

Is it the weekend?

08/05/2007  —  FOOD  — 

Carneros loop

04/25/2006  —  TECH  — 

Whack-o-pedia

04/24/2006  —  TECH  — 

Startup moments

04/10/2006  —  FOOD  — 

Salento Primitivo

04/05/2006  —  FUN  — 

Sonoma Bikeride

04/02/2006  —  TECH  — 

Selenium: Neat!