DevOps and the Invisibility of Success

Some of you may have heard that some new guy owns Twitter now. You may also have head that despite the dire hand-wringing by <insert people you don’t like>, Twitter is still running. Therefore, you might be tempted to conclude, all those engineers weren’t really necessary in the first place.

There are a lot of people working around us right now whose job it is to keep bad things from happening. I worked in a very small tech company once, and the boss was constantly trying to reduce the hours of our only IT person because clearly things were running just fine. When the people are doing really well at keeping bad things from happening, we forget we need them at all.

Twitter manages gazillions of data, and they propagate that information around the world in near-realtime. So many ones, so many zeroes. And right now, all those tweets are still flying around, and we’re willing to believe for a moment that Elon Musk is not simply an idiot baby of blood emeralds, but some kind of business smart guy. Twitter is still running! But that’s a tribute to the hard-working people who don’t work there anymore.

Elon has seen things running smoothly, and has not stopped to credit the people who are responsible for that. Quite the opposite, in fact; he has sent them packing. The plane is autopilot; it is a credit to the people who built the plane that it may go quite a while before slamming into a mountainside.

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NaNoWriMo so Far

I haven’t been very bloggy lately, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I am (sort of) pursuing NaNoWriMo again this year if for no other reason than habit; there were 110 people who “won” the first year I did NaNo, and that was twenty-one years ago. Most of those have not written 50,000 words every November since then. It is possible that some of them have, but there is a finite possibility that I have the single longest win streak in all of NaNoWriModom.

Were it not for that streak, I probably would not have bothered to fire up the word processor this time. But maybe that in itself is a sign that I need this one more than usual. I have to answer the question, “am I still a writer?”

I will eventually publish my November 1 output, as is traditional. It’s a cool hard science fiction setting, and the big story is a series of vignettes across a millennium or two. It’s pretty cool.

I wrote a draft of the first vignette, enjoyed it, saw problems with it, and… stopped. Lots of ideas, lots of themes to explore, interesting characters. Sounds pretty neat! But I’m not up to writing it right now. With more than half the month gone, and only a few thousand words so far, I realized I need to change stories. I decided to take an idea I had used before, a story called “The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy” — a romp that plays with silly fantasy tropes — and put it in space.

So I started to tackle “The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy — In Space!” and I quickly realized that I was writing Star Wars. That movie doesn’t revolve around an Important Thing so much, but all the Sci-fi hacks are there, ready to be played with. You have probably seen more than one Star Wars parody in your time on Earth. There’s a reason for that.

So, what the heck, let’s just run with it. This is less overtly a Star Wars parody than the others, but not by much. It follows the same story beats, but the characters are very different, and I think more fun. C-3PO is now a sex-bot, and R2 goes by G5MBRAB. It will not respond to any simplification (It’s not his fault people insist on communicating using vibrations in the air), so in dialog I can chew up words with, “Hey, Gee Five Em Bee Are Ay Bee, go get the hammer.” G5MBRAB swears like a sailor.

I have not figured out how to address the fact that in Star Wars, R2 completely forgets it can fly through the air and electrocute entire platoons of battle-bots, to land years later on a planet and be waddling along in an extremely inefficient way only to be zapped into unconsciousness by a little scavenger with glowing eyes. But it has to be in there.

A hitch I did not expect as I wrote the irreverent banter when Bixby goes to get some new bots: One group of sentient, articulate beings paying money to own other sentient, articulate beings. Sure, they’re only robots, created by the organics, but let’s face it: they are as much characters as any of the carbon-based life forms in the story.

In Star Wars, the ownership relationship is quickly forgotten — at least for two exceptional droids. But it’s still there for all the others.

G5MBRAB says at one point, “This story isn’t ready for that yet.”

It will still be a frivolous romp, playing with the absurdities of space opera, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t also shine a little light on the unspoken darkness that lives there as well. The real revolution may not be against the empire.

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