All Consulting

What happens when a bartender doesn’t get the job, but files a lawsuit?


I stumbled on this interesting article, and thought I’d share it. Bartender doesn’t get job, but wins suit for consulting fees

Now some of you may have already made some prejudgements. But I ask that you hold your conclusions, and take a listen.

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Now let’s for a moment, distinguish big firm consultants, with independent consultants. I’m speaking about the latter, the freelancers of the world.

1. Time spent evaluating a consultant

If you’ve hired a consultant or freelancer before, you know you’ll spend time evaluating. You’ll talk about your business problem, and they’ll share how they can help. They may even start brainstorming with you. This alone can be valuable to a firm, as it can give them new ideas and new perspectives to dig into their problem.

Notice too, that while you are a fulltime employee, all that time on the phone, and at your desk, you are getting paid. While that freelancer, is *not* getting paid.

My point is not to complain here. Just merely to point out that there is a lot of work that happens before you are paying your consultant. Before they are even billing. Whether it is preparation, leveling up on knowledge, networking, business dinners, or prospecting.

So when you consider the cost of consulting, figure that there is 25-30% more time that they are *working* though it doesn’t show up on the invoice.

Related: A CTO must never do this

2. Straightforward or naive?

In the case of the bartender story, he did indeed spend time researching for the propsect. Whatever that may entail. There is a point where the consultant goes out on a limb. Some saavy is required to avoid misunderstandings, but ultimately both parties also need to be fair.

Although we all want to make an effort to be straightforward, despite what Fred Wilson says, parties are not always transparent. I would argue if you were too naive in this regard, you would not succeed in business.

Related: What mistakes did you make when starting as a consultant?

3. Avoid the legal route at all costs

Unlike the bartender, I personally would never choose legal arbitration. Is it ever really worth it? In the case of the bartender, he says $35/hr and 5.5 hours work, so $192.50. But how much time did he spend filing the suit? Paperwork, phone calls, emails, whatever. And then driving to the courthouse, cost of gas etc. No way this could come out cost-effective. To my mind many legal cases come down to ego. One party wanting to SHOW the other party they are wrong. Not worth it!

My feeling is always take the high road. Talk with them, and explain where you’re coming from. Also listen to them, and try to understand their perspective. There is always a middle ground that can be found.

Read: How to avoid legal problems in consulting

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All Data

Is banning facial recognition missing the point?


I thought I would step out of my usual shoes this month and talk about something besides cloud computing. People sometimes ask my opinion on technology, as I know a thing or two about it.

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What are your thoughts on facial recognition? Will banning it solve the problem?

If you are not already familiar with Bruce Schneier you should be. He has been the single smartest person talking about data collection for the past twenty years. He wrote Database Nation, Secrets and Lies, and Beyond Fear. His thinking is non-obvious, insightful, deep and almost always spot on.

Here’s what Bruce Schneier has to say about banning facial recognition.

1. There are many ways to skin a cat

If you want to prevent what facial recognition can do, ban it, right? Well, turns out there are many other ways to do the same thing. You can identify people by their heart beat (think fitbit or apple watch), the way they walk, and of course good old fashioned fingerprints. And we leave those everywhere. What else?

Every phone broadcasts it’s ID which is the MAC address of it’s network interface. And if you have cameras without facial recognition, they can still identify using Iris scanning. Yep really.

Read: How do i migrate my skills to the cloud

2. Surveillance as a norm

When we say we don’t want facial recognition, we mean among other things that we don’t want anonymous identifying of people. But it also means we don’t want the later collection and identifying of people either.

Imagine you have a shoebox full of old photos. Photos at a beach, at a wedding, at tourist sites. Now you scan those into your computer, and you can identify all the people in the background. What a strange world we’ve built.

As Schneier points out, the larger question is what surveillance is okay and what is not? We as a society need to design rules and laws to outline how these technologies can and should be used for good, and to prevent their misuse and harm to people.

Related: 5 things toxic to scalability

3. The darkness of data brokering

The further collection of data by these large entities like facebook & google is more frightening still. Not for the data itself, but for it remaining completely unregulated. Government is still very behind what is happening at these giant companies.

Google knows things about your wife & husband that you don’t know. Google knows what the CEO of your competitor company is thinking and doing. Google knows your weaknesses, how and when you break the law. It’s hard to really grasp the scope. Every part of our online lives touches one of these companies. Even if you don’t use their services, you email people who do, and therefore are still known by them.

The laws we’ve built for the last century to prevent these types of abuses are mostly irrelevant to modern internet data companies. And as unregulated entities, they remain adversarial to citizens. We remain the product, not the customer.

Related: Did Disney have to fail?

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All Cloud Computing CTO/CIO Devops

When should I use Ansible versus packer or Terraform?


I was having a conversation with a colleague recently. We wee discussing devops, and the topic of Ansible came up as I was advocating it as a great too to get things done.

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Here’s what he had to say…

— quote —
I’ve tried using ansible a few times and this is what I found with it.

It is great for what it does. It’s wonderful to be able to spin up a new app or web server automatically. However what I have found for my needs is …

It is easier to build a piece of furniture than it is to explain all the steps required for someone else to build it. Or in order to replicated the steps automatically.

With cloud servers, it’s enough, for me that I’ve built it once. When I need to spin up another, I simply clone the working copy.

— unquote —

My thoughts below.

1. When is Terraform good

Terraform is a coss-platform infrastructure building tool. If you need an IAM user or S3 bucket, Terraform can create it. Need an ec2 instance of a particular type, deployed with an autoscaling group TF is a great tool for that.

With Terraform you can capture in code, everything about your application stack, so that you can standup a complete copy in another region, that’s powerful!

Read: How can 1% of something equal nothing?

2. When is packer right?

Packer is another useful tool that Devops can use to automate. Like AWS own EC2 Image Builder, it allows you to create the images that you boot your instances off of. Think of them as docker images for the server itself.

For example there are lots of dependencies your application requires, and you’ll install with your package manager. And there are services you want to start. You *could* use an ansible playbook to get these going, but better to build a new image that contains all the software you need on the box.

Packer easily sits into your CI pipeline, so you can have new software deployed and ready anytime.

The principal difference is that a new AMI requires you to spinup a new server. You can’t take action on a running server with this tool.

Related: Is Fred Wilson right about dealing in an honest, direct and transparent way?

3. When does Ansible make sense?

In particular here’s what my response was about Ansible itself.

— quote —

Absolutely. It’s an interesting balance to strike.

Because of course packer or EC2 image builder are very powerful and fit neatly into a CI pipeline. That said there are things ansible is nicely suited for too.

For example I want to distribute public keys onto specific servers. I have a yml file with the keys. I have a new developer starting, I have him or her git checkout branch, edit keys.yml, commit, push changes, then make a pull request. When the new keys.yml file gets merged, an ansible playbook kicks off to distribute the new set of keys to the relavant servers.

— unquote —

If you want to take actions on running servers, like deploying keys or other ongoing tweaks, that is where Ansible really shines.

Related: What mistakes did you make when starting as a consultant?

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