Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations - Book Notes

Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations
by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim
Goodreads link

Software is eating the world - and has been, for quite a while. No matter the organization or industry, software has a huge impact on the organization’s ability to meet its goals. If that is the case, then delivering software better would help organizations meet their goals better.

So how do we deliver software better?

That’s the question posed by the authors of Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations. To find out, they conducted research, which they published in annual “State of DevOps” reports. You can read the full 2019 State of DevOps report here. The data for the 2014-2017 reports was then compiled into this book.

The authors find that the following behaviors positively positively impact software delivery, which in turn has “a measurable impact on an organization’s profitability, productivity, and market share”, as well as “on customer satisfaction, efficiency, and the ability to achieve organizational goals.”

Continuous Delivery

1. Use version control for all production artifacts

All production artifacts - that means not just code (which is the bare minimum), but also system and application configurations, and scripts for build automation.

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Daring Greatly - Book Notes

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
by Brené Brown
Goodreads link

New York City, circa 2013. It’s a cold and rainy day, and so I’m taking the subway home from work rather than biking. I live in Williamsburg and thus am inevitably shoved onto a packed L train. I stand face to face with a cute girl around my age, and she laughs at my jokes, and we strike up a short conversation.

My stop is coming up, and so, being single, I have a decision to make. Do I ask for her number? Here, on a crowded subway train where I would struggle to even get my phone out to save it? It seems like an unwise choice for a girl to give her number to a stranger she met on the subway just a few minutes earlier. The odds are not good.

What guy asks a girl for her number in a situation like that?

This guy.

Daring Greatly

The title of Brené Brown’s book comes from Teddy Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic speech, and specifically the notable Man in the Arena passage, which is so good I’ll reproduce it here in its entirety:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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Saigon to Danang By Motorcycle

Saigon to Danang By Motorcycle

I’ve wanted to ride a motorcycle around the world for a long time, and Vietnam became a prime target for that in my mind ever since the Top Gear Vietnam Special came out, in which Jeremy, Richard, and James ride cheap scooters across the country. And over two weeks this January, I finally got to do it!

I can tell you’re getting impatient, so here’s a sneak peek:

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Two Weeks in Laos

Two Weeks in Laos

Modern-day Laos traces its roots to the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, which was around from the 14th Century to the late 18th. The kingdom then broke up into three (Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Champasak). In 1893, these were united again as a French protectorate; Laos finally gained independence in 1953 as a constitutional monarchy. “Shortly after independence, a long civil war began, which saw the communist resistance, supported by the Soviet Union, fight against, first, the monarchy and then a number of military dictatorships, supported by the United States.” The communists won.

Today, Laos is still officially a one-party socialist republic, though a gradual and limited return to private enterprise began in 1988, and has continued. The economy is now growing rapidly, and on the ground one would not conclude that it is governed by Marxism-Leninism.

Laos Today

  • GDP per capita is $8,458 (PPP) - 118th in the world - growing at 6.9%
  • Human Development Index (HDI) is 0.604 - “medium” - 140th in the world
  • 65% buddhist

Sources: Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook

In addition to the Lao flag, all government buildings also sport the red hammer and sickle flag.

As in Cambodia, the US dollar is a de facto secondary currency here, though people here generally have a strong preference for the Lao Kip, where in Cambodia people preferred the dollar. I get charged a fee every time I take out cash, so I try to take out all I might need at a single time. When I took out about $200 USD, I got about 1,700,000 Lao Kip - a stack about an inch thick. When I paid cash for my first hotel, the guy at the front desk put the cash in his own wallet, which was about six inches thick - no joke. I told him that he looks like a rich man, and he laughed.

Luang Prabang

There are many monasteries in Luang Prabang, and each morning before Dawn, hundreds of monks pour out of them and into the streets to get alms for their only meal of the day.

Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang
Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang

The ceremony has a strange air now, though: it’s been overrun by tourists. Vendors set up sticky rice you can buy and plastic stools to sit on. Some tourists are ok, but others (and it seems to me that they are mostly the Chinese tourists) continue to talk very loudly among themselves through the process. So the monks just walk by with their bowls open and stop in front of these people, who give them rice, but the two groups don’t make eye contact or otherwise acknowledge each other. The whole process felt corrupted to me, in a way.

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