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Sacred Riots
Venkatesh Rao
A lightly edited version of a talk I did
for the DevOps group at Riot Games.

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

2
I am...
•
•
•
•

An aerospace engineer (PhD, control theory, U. Michigan, 2003)
10 years in academic research/startup/big ...
And you are…
Main Street
Tornado

HERE…
Early
Market
Chasm
Bowling Alley
Technology adoption lifecycle, Geoffrey Moore, De...
Congrats on the MOBA land grab...
Source: Venturebeat, July 2013
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

5
Organizational challenges

But can you defend your nexus?
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

6
by dealing with
inevitable change

While keeping the
sacred constant
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

7
inevitable
change
Organizational challenges
•
•
•
•

10/17/2013

Growing faster than culture can adapt
Paving cowpaths fas...
inevitable
change
Technology challenges
•
•
•
•
•

10/17/2013

NEW technical debt loci
Docker, CoreOS
Oculus VR
AR gaming ...
inevitable
change
Market challenges
•
•
•
•
•

Console and PC gaming both threatened by mobile
Narrow demographics/psychog...
sacred
constants?
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

11
So…DevOps, eh?

(among other things)

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

12
Jenkins

DRY
Agile
foundations
Lean
Workflows
High Frequency
Deployments
Minimize Recovery Time
Vs.
Maximize MTBF

Continu...
True North?

a sense of the sacred within an idea maze

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

14
You’re going to deploy some configuration
of people and processes to navigate this
idea maze.
What happens if they lack a ...
When there is no instinctive sense of
the sacred that a process protects, the
process itself becomes sacralized.

This is ...
When there is no process, powerful
INDIVIDUALS with secrets* are
sacralized

This is a CULT OF PERSONALITY
*Necessary in e...
True North is when this argument ends
quickly and usefully each time
People over Process

Process over People
(if these ar...
Wu Wei
The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self
The highest kindness is to give without a condition
The highes...
For smart people trapped in a cargo cult OR a cult
of personality, software engineering turns into a …

…“nexus of SUCK”*
...
Nexus of Suck

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

21
Bigger Nexus of Suck

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

22
Biggest Nexus of Suck

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

23
Are there REALLY 10 different conflicts here?

Let’s dig deeper.

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

24
Two negative
archetypes
Hidebound
Bureaucratic
Holier-than-thou
Naïve
Boring
Risk-averse
Predictable

Inconsistent
Unrelia...
“The fox knows many things, the
hedgehog knows one big thing.”
-- Archilocus

The philosophy primer: http://bit.ly/Ysr7ja
...
See Hedgehogs as

Hedgehogs

Foxes

See Foxes as

Consistent
Conscientious
Fair
Selfless
Responsible
Trustworthy
Realistic...
WARNING!
NOT a 1:1 mapping between
fox/hedgehog and dev/ops
See Steve Yegge on conservative versus liberal programmers…
ht...
Sacred stability

curling up and
resisting change

Profane riots

chaos for the
hell of it

complementary modes of
arreste...
Sacred Riots
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

30
“GTD doesn’t stop you falling off the wagon; it
makes it easier to get back on.” – David Allen
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Ra...
Candidate for the TAO of DevOps?

If you stay stuck for long
you’re doing it wrong

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

32
Where foxes get
terminally stuck,
hedgehogs get started

Foxes are most
comfortable finding
direction

Hedgehogs are most
...
Can foxes and hedgehogs operate
with a shared sense of the sacred?

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

34
Sacred

Adventure

Love
Hedgehog

Fox

Boredom

Betrayal

Profane
35
Adventure + Love + Boredom + Betrayal
=
NARRATIVE
DevOps is ultimately a series of stories big
and small about repeatedly ...
Example: Lord of the Rings
Increasing Dissonance

Ring Destroyed
Fellowship formed

Elves head West

Two Towers
Bilbo’s
bi...
Double Freytag Narrative Structure

Increasing Entropy

Separation Event
Cheap Trick

Valley

Evolved doctrine
“Moral of t...
Typical Software Project

Increasing Dissonance

Lead with Dev

Lead with Ops
LAUNCH!

Design Aha!

Calm build-out

Featur...
Atypical Software Project

Increasing Dissonance

Lead with Dev

Lead with Ops
LAUNCH!

Design Aha!

Calm build-out

Featu...
Simplified View
Release!
Expand
Feature Set, increase
entropy

Version n

Refactor, lower
entropy, pay off
technical debt
...
Sturgeon’s Law

99%

1%
Entropy

Real projects will likely follow some sort
of bathtub curve in the best case

Sacred phase

Milking phase

Put pr...
(yeah, basically this, upside down…)
Main Street
Tornado

Early
Market
Chasm
Bowling Alley
Technology adoption lifecycle, ...
The Hero’s Journey REQUIRES
Both Fox and Hedgehog tendencies

Fox = fall off the wagon/go on adventure
Hedgehog = return w...
Definition: QUALITY
repeatedly rediscovering the sacred amidst
seemingly profane change

10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

46
inevitable change

sacred constants
10/17/2013

Venkatesh G. Rao

47
Consultant: someone who steals your
watch and offers to tell you the time

Acknowledgements
A lot of people who prefer not...
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Sacred Riots

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An edited version of a talk I did for the DevOps community at Riot Games.

Published in: Technology, Business
  • Utterly brilliant, as always. Love the idea of '..repeatedly discovering the sacred amidst seemingly profane change'...that's what happens across all of life!

    One nitpick, on slide 37, the second rising edge is labelled as 'Neo vs Smith Battle', which I guess is misplaced in a LOTR themed illustration.
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Sacred Riots

  1. 1. Sacred Riots Venkatesh Rao
  2. 2. A lightly edited version of a talk I did for the DevOps group at Riot Games. 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 2
  3. 3. I am... • • • • An aerospace engineer (PhD, control theory, U. Michigan, 2003) 10 years in academic research/startup/big company Since 2011 – independent researcher, consultant, writer Not a gamer! Last relevant experience, playing Myth in 1998 vgr@ribbonfarm.com Twitter: @vgr Blog: http://ribbonfarm.com Physical coordinates: Seattle Summoner Name: napdar Status: intimidated n00b 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 3
  4. 4. And you are… Main Street Tornado HERE… Early Market Chasm Bowling Alley Technology adoption lifecycle, Geoffrey Moore, Dealing with Darwin
  5. 5. Congrats on the MOBA land grab... Source: Venturebeat, July 2013 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 5
  6. 6. Organizational challenges But can you defend your nexus? 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 6
  7. 7. by dealing with inevitable change While keeping the sacred constant 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 7
  8. 8. inevitable change Organizational challenges • • • • 10/17/2013 Growing faster than culture can adapt Paving cowpaths faster than they are forming From one win to winning as a habit Cash to burn = bad habits form faster than good Venkatesh G. Rao 8
  9. 9. inevitable change Technology challenges • • • • • 10/17/2013 NEW technical debt loci Docker, CoreOS Oculus VR AR gaming on horizon LEAP controller… Venkatesh G. Rao 9
  10. 10. inevitable change Market challenges • • • • • Console and PC gaming both threatened by mobile Narrow demographics/psychographics risk (males 18-35) Blizzard, Valve etc. are not going to sit still Potential changing tastes Evolution in gaming aesthetics 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 10
  11. 11. sacred constants? 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 11
  12. 12. So…DevOps, eh? (among other things) 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 12
  13. 13. Jenkins DRY Agile foundations Lean Workflows High Frequency Deployments Minimize Recovery Time Vs. Maximize MTBF Continuous Integration Automated Acceptance Testing Chef Deployment Automation DevOps Idea Maze* Monitoring Workflows Nagios No cancerous stealth Trust-based autonomy 10/17/2013 Extreme team cohesiveness Highly open communications Venkatesh G. Rao Codified expectations Distributed Expertise Automated Rollbacks Containerization (Docker…) No obstructionism No-asshole rule Extreme Virtualization Cross-trained skillsets Rapid onboarding of new team members shu-ha-ri http://cdixon.org/2013/08/04/the-idea-maze/ 13
  14. 14. True North? a sense of the sacred within an idea maze 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 14
  15. 15. You’re going to deploy some configuration of people and processes to navigate this idea maze. What happens if they lack a sense of True North? 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 15
  16. 16. When there is no instinctive sense of the sacred that a process protects, the process itself becomes sacralized. This is a CARGO CULT 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 16
  17. 17. When there is no process, powerful INDIVIDUALS with secrets* are sacralized This is a CULT OF PERSONALITY *Necessary in early startup phase, see Thiel/Dixon definition of “secret”, toxic if it persists with growth 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 17
  18. 18. True North is when this argument ends quickly and usefully each time People over Process Process over People (if these arguments never happen, you have a bigger problem) 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 18
  19. 19. Wu Wei The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self The highest kindness is to give without a condition The highest justice is to see without a preference When Tao is lost one must learn the rules of virtue When virtue is lost, the rules of kindness When kindness is lost, the rules of justice When justice is lost, the rules of conduct -- Tao Te Ching, Verse 38, trans. Jonathan Star 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 19
  20. 20. For smart people trapped in a cargo cult OR a cult of personality, software engineering turns into a … …“nexus of SUCK”* 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 20
  21. 21. Nexus of Suck 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 21
  22. 22. Bigger Nexus of Suck 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 22
  23. 23. Biggest Nexus of Suck 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 23
  24. 24. Are there REALLY 10 different conflicts here? Let’s dig deeper. 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 24
  25. 25. Two negative archetypes Hidebound Bureaucratic Holier-than-thou Naïve Boring Risk-averse Predictable Inconsistent Unreliable Duplicitous Selfish Irresponsible Scheming Bullshitter Which do you dislike more? 25
  26. 26. “The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.” -- Archilocus The philosophy primer: http://bit.ly/Ysr7ja 26
  27. 27. See Hedgehogs as Hedgehogs Foxes See Foxes as Consistent Conscientious Fair Selfless Responsible Trustworthy Realistic Inconsistent Unreliable Duplicitous Selfish Irresponsible Scheming Bullshitter Hidebound Bureaucratic Holier-than-thou Naïve Boring Risk-averse Predictable Open-minded Resourceful Adaptable Worldly Interesting Adventurous Imaginative 27
  28. 28. WARNING! NOT a 1:1 mapping between fox/hedgehog and dev/ops See Steve Yegge on conservative versus liberal programmers… https://plus.google.com/110981030061712822816/posts/KaSKeg4vQtz 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 28
  29. 29. Sacred stability curling up and resisting change Profane riots chaos for the hell of it complementary modes of arrested development Attributions: Fox: Rob Lee Hedgehog: Lars Karlsson 29
  30. 30. Sacred Riots 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 30
  31. 31. “GTD doesn’t stop you falling off the wagon; it makes it easier to get back on.” – David Allen 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 31
  32. 32. Candidate for the TAO of DevOps? If you stay stuck for long you’re doing it wrong 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 32
  33. 33. Where foxes get terminally stuck, hedgehogs get started Foxes are most comfortable finding direction Hedgehogs are most comfortable developing momentum Where hedgehogs get terminally stuck, foxes get started
  34. 34. Can foxes and hedgehogs operate with a shared sense of the sacred? 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 34
  35. 35. Sacred Adventure Love Hedgehog Fox Boredom Betrayal Profane 35
  36. 36. Adventure + Love + Boredom + Betrayal = NARRATIVE DevOps is ultimately a series of stories big and small about repeatedly rediscovering the sacred amidst seemingly profane change 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 36
  37. 37. Example: Lord of the Rings Increasing Dissonance Ring Destroyed Fellowship formed Elves head West Two Towers Bilbo’s birthday Reasons why Frodo can’t stay in the Shire Gandalf v. Balrog Encounter with Ringwraiths 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao Frodo v. Spider 37
  38. 38. Double Freytag Narrative Structure Increasing Entropy Separation Event Cheap Trick Valley Evolved doctrine “Moral of the story” Liminal Passage 10/17/2013 Liminal Passage Venkatesh G. Rao 38
  39. 39. Typical Software Project Increasing Dissonance Lead with Dev Lead with Ops LAUNCH! Design Aha! Calm build-out Feature freeze Technical debt that cannot be paid off Project Kick-Off “I have this awesome idea for a new product!!!” 10/17/2013 Bugs level off Venkatesh G. Rao 39
  40. 40. Atypical Software Project Increasing Dissonance Lead with Dev Lead with Ops LAUNCH! Design Aha! Calm build-out Feature freeze Bugs level off Project Kick-Off Technical SURPLUS! 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 40
  41. 41. Simplified View Release! Expand Feature Set, increase entropy Version n Refactor, lower entropy, pay off technical debt Version n+1
  42. 42. Sturgeon’s Law 99% 1%
  43. 43. Entropy Real projects will likely follow some sort of bathtub curve in the best case Sacred phase Milking phase Put product out of its misery (and maybe the business itself as well) Time
  44. 44. (yeah, basically this, upside down…) Main Street Tornado Early Market Chasm Bowling Alley Technology adoption lifecycle, Geoffrey Moore, Dealing with Darwin
  45. 45. The Hero’s Journey REQUIRES Both Fox and Hedgehog tendencies Fox = fall off the wagon/go on adventure Hedgehog = return with deepened sense of the sacred 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 45
  46. 46. Definition: QUALITY repeatedly rediscovering the sacred amidst seemingly profane change 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 46
  47. 47. inevitable change sacred constants 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 47
  48. 48. Consultant: someone who steals your watch and offers to tell you the time Acknowledgements A lot of people who prefer not to be named. thank you 10/17/2013 Venkatesh G. Rao 48

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