Humans vs Computers

I first learned about Gojko Adzic, who is the author of the book I’m soon going to review, when a friend told me about this presentation on YouTube ”GOTO 2014 – Adaptive Planning Beyond User Stories”. He is also the author behind other books, like ”Impact Mapping: Making a Big Impact with Software Products and Projects” & ”Fifty Quick Ideas to Improve Your User Stories”.

I let Gojko himself introduce you to this book, ”Humans vs Computers”:

”As a professional software developer, I’m much more guilty than the average person of driving civilisation towards a digital apocalypse. At the same time, I’ve been on the wrong end of a computer bug frequently enough to appreciate the pain that such a thing can create. This book is my attempt to raise awareness about some common and dangerous, but perfectly preventable, types of software blunders. I also want to help ordinary people fight back against digital monsters.”

Humans vs Computers - Cover


As you now may imagine, this book is full of anecdotes about software working bad 🙂 The stories are divided into the following sections:

  • Artificial but not intelligence
  • The surprising facts about our world
  • Algorithms as fast as food
  • Wild wild tech
  • The inverse monkey rule

As an example I can tell you about the first story presented in the book, called ”Licence to void”. This is about Robert Barbour from Los Angeles that wanted a new licence plate for his car. Barbour was fond of sailing and selected as his top two choices BOATING and SAILING. But the form he was using had three mandatory fields, so he had to give one more, and wrote ”NO PLATE”. A few months later a computer at the Department of Motor Vehicles interpreted literally something that humans would easily understand as a missing piece of data. Barbour’s first two choices were already taken, so the licence plate was issued for his third choice.

A plate saying ”NO PLATE” sounded quirky enough so Barbour kept it. The problems started a month later, when he started receiving notices for parking fines from all over California. When a illegally parked vehicle did not have a licence plate, the officers still had to to issue a ticket and the computer system needed a plate, so they wrote ”NO PLATE” 🙂


If you are in the software business this is a fun book to read. The last section ”The inverse monkey rule” also gives you advice on how to avoid the errors described in the book.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Silicon Valley

I guess you can call this blog post off topic, since it will not cover lean, agile or management directly. However a Scrum board is present in one of the episodes! I just wanted to deeply recommend the tv-series ”Silicon Valley” from HBO. One of the creators behind this comedy is Mike Judge (known for ”Beavis and Butt-Head”). I think it’s funny, some moments even hilarious!!!


(Screen dump from “Silicon Valley” intro, taken from HBO Nordic)


As you can probably image the story is about a start-up company that tries to make it big time in Silicon Valley. Richard is a computer programmer that has invented a super compressing algorithm and started a company around it called Pied Piper. He and his friends lives in Erlich Bachman’s incubator, but it is more of a man cave to be honest. Soon a battle begins between small Pied Piper and a worldwide billon dollar corporation called Hooli (guess what company that name is a travesty of).

The episodes has names like ”Minimum Viable Product” and ”Proof of Concept”, all geeky-familiar to us in the software industry. Season one is available on HBO, and season two opens next Sunday, April 12, 2015. My favorite moment from season one is ”Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency”, I can’t really tell you what it means, you have to watch for yourself! 🙂

Here is a trailer for season two.

If you want to take a break in your lean and agile endeavors, you should definitely check out ”Silicon Valley”! You can also follow the show on Twitter @SiliconHBO.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

The paradox of the middle manager

This is one of my favorite clips on YouTube! It’s a total massacre on middle managers, and being one myself I feel allowed to think this is hilarious. Unfortunately it’s only in Swedish, therefore I’ve provided a translation below, that you can use when watching the clip.

– I’m not only a journalist and body builder, but also an organization consultant. And I will now share with you an observation I’ve made that I have chosen to call ’the paradox of the middle manager’.

– When it goes well for a small company and the CEO can no longer cope, a middle manager is hired.

– This middle manager is communicating with the CEO, takes own initiatives, and lead the employees to great success.

– He or she is performing 100% work.

– The company is flourishing and another middle manager is hired.

– Yes, same thing with this fellow. Everything is smooth and effective.

– The only thing is that the two middle managers must have a short breakfast meeting every morning to inform each other on what they are doing.

– [Phone call] How long is a short meeting?

– [Answer from middle manager at SVT] It’s about a half hour.

– A third and a fourth middle manager is hired and everything is hunky dory. But now their short breakfast meeting takes approximately the time of an average meeting.

– [New phone call] How long is an average meeting?

– [Answer from middle manager at SVT] Hmm, I would say one and half hour.

– A fifth middle manager is hired. But now the problem starts.

– The breakfast meeting takes more and more time. Now it takes approximately 20% of each middle manager’s time.

– Five middle mangers times 20% of a full working day equals 100%, the same as a full-time.

– Hence, these five middle mangers are missing work corresponding to a full-time. And who shall do that work? A new middle manager of course! And he shall also attend all meetings, that now will be longer, and not only that, the meetings are to big for certain discussions.

– Now a new type of meeting is needed. The ”between middle managers”-meetings. Meetings where the middle mangers meets two and two.

– Each middle manger shall individually meet five colleagues. That is five meetings per person. Five short meetings times 30 minutes + an average meeting of 90 minutes means 4 hours. Half the working day is now spent on only informing each other!

– To cover up for this enormous loss in work time a new bunch of middle managers must be hired and when 12 are reached, all of the middle manager’s full work time are taken up by meetings with each other. They are completely self-sufficient just by talking. A closed echo system, like an island in the company.

– And it’s now that the middle managers feels that they are not doing a good job, and they can’t influence their work situation. And then they get burnt out.

– Now you must think that there is no company with this many managers.

– [New phone call] Do you have any extra important meetings at SVT?

– [Answer from middle manager at SVT] There is something called the hundred group.

– Is that a meeting with the hundred most important managers on SVT?

– Yes, you could say that, absolutely.