Saturday, May 19, 2007

Performance Architecture

I was reading this article from another guy named Steve Harris (not me). I think he makes some interesting points but I thought I would follow up. Optimizing architecture to me mostly means designing for flexibility and testability. It also means having a way to test ones app for performance and scale. I've seen a number of people write apps, put them in prod without ever performance testing them.

Write your app so that you can overlay the performance architecture after the fact. Have a way to EASILY validate your performance and you'll be ok. Optimizing code early (which he doesn't mention) is actually quite evil and almost always leads to badness.

Teams, starts with the people

What are the needed traits across a company to have the greatest chance of success? How much of each trait does each individual have to have? These are questions that everyone should ask themselves on both sides of the interview process and in ones everyday life.

My list is as follows (not in any order):
  • Passion/Pride/Work ethic
  • Knowledge/experience
  • Respect/Teamwork
  • Judgement
  • Intelligence
The list itself can vary though probably not as widely as how much one values each item on that list. The most important thing is to have the list and to use it as a framework for how you choose jobs, hire, value and motivate existing people, and at times part ways.

Since words tend to have very different meanings to different people despite the existence of dictionaries and wiki's I'm going to cover a bit what my list means to me.

Passion/Pride/Work Ethic

First let me start with what this doesn't mean. Passion and pride does not have anything to do with outward energy. One does not have to be "Rah Rah" to have passion and pride. Many of the people who I feel have had the most passion have actually been super quiet. Passion is about commitment to the task at hand and the greater goal. It's about going the extra mile to get things done well, on time, and sometimes in ways that nobody else thought of. It's about finding the things that need to get done that nobody noticed and being the person to do them while not dropping the things they are supposed to be doing :-).


Knowledge is what you "know" coming into a problem. Intelligence is what you can learn/how well one solves problems. In many cases knowledge is the least important of the five. For given positions one should always give some thought to how much specific knowledge is actually needed. I constantly see job postings with a long list of knowledge items and almost no indication of the other 4 items importance. IMHO If you can find people who excel in the other four areas, knowledge of a given specific task can be lower (though not zero. Working with people who have zero knowledge of their domain can be very expensive. It's less of an issue for large companies with time and money).


I focus on respect more than one might imagine. I worked with a guy who said he spends 75 percent of his time in an interview trying to figure out if the person will work well in the team. I think that's a good idea. It's not about whether the person is social or fun. It's about whether they present their ideas with an understanding that those around may have better ones. Do they listen to feedback, even from people they do not expect to have good ideas. Do they listen in general or do they just wait for their turn to talk. This is important stuff. Don't underestimate it.


This is another really important one. Their is a nice coverage of how important this is in the book "Producing Open Source Software.(A free version of this book exists)" Whether someone is your boss, your co-worker or your employee, you need to be able to trust their judgement more than anything else. If the people around you are smart but have bad judgement they will create excellent solutions to the wrong problems. If people are not smart and have bad judgement they will create poor solutions to the wrong problems. On the other side of the coin, if they are smart and have good judgement they will create great solutions to the right problems. Most importantly, if they are not smart (and on any given day all of us are not smart) but have excellent judgement they will still make good decisions about what to do, and most usefully, what not to do. While I find it really really hard to interview for, Judgement is huge!


Having some Intelligence is important. More important for some jobs than for others. When hiring, know how much intelligence (balanced against the others) is needed for the position/type of work. For some jobs, judgement and hard work with some intelligence is what is needed. Have questions in mind that will indicate whether a person is smart enough. Since intelligence is the easiest of the bunch to test for Don't Forget to Do it! To many people mistake liking someone, "talking the talk" or even looks for intelligence. Do the work, have your intelligence questions in mind when you interview someone.

The above are some high order bits. When I again get some time and motivation I want to cover team building from a balance perspective. Recognizing and filling ones personal and team gaps.

Ok, it's 2:30 am and I'm starting to question my judgement for being up so late. What's my point here? Think about what you want in employees coworkers and bosses. Sometimes even assign numbers to the core values you look for so you can compare people.

I read that we make up our mind about people we meet in seconds. Before they even speak in most cases and that those first impressions are VERY hard to overcome. So have the tools ready to make wise informed decisions and fight past human nature.