Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Greenfield guerrilla

The project has gone live. Previous mental fears were proven to be unfounded. Not only in one’s mind but in the minds of other project members. The so-called wobbly application has proven robust and reliant. It’s been running for 5 days (at the time of this writing) since the Tuesday of last week. Despite some initial bumps, the software proceeded along rather smoothly. The result has defied the many skeptics in the site, in the project team and even the stakeholders (or old guards). One did not expect such results in one’s consciousness but one just moved along driven by blind faith. In this situation, faith is a good help. Looking at the preparation, one cannot think of having missed anything, at least from one’s own scope or responsibility in the project scheme of things. There were shortcomings from other members one can dare say but now seemed trivial and minor after the successful launch. It’s the ‘unknown unknowns’ that one must be afraid of.

Thriving on faith and confidence requires courage and stubbornness. The result is magically when one is proven right. It is the ability to hold down one’s doubts and fears and just move forward. Once the deed is done, it’s all pure magic, when one’s inner anxiety dissolves in the wondrous feeling of success and sweetness. One had not experienced this kind of high except in that wonderful project back in Asia long ago. There were just too many skeptics whose doubts were cleverly or politely hidden with false pronouncements of support and hope. But at the back of their minds, an anticipation of disaster; perhaps some overlooked aspect or some forgotten detail that will result in an explosion. A week later, everything is still fine and the skeptics’ attitudes turning into grudging respect but still carefully hidden. It’s the expected result after all.

So it’s on to the next battle field. Actually the main challenge is no longer the software but people ware. To train old veterans and change ancient traditions with new ways. Replacing an application used for nearly 15 to 20 years is not an easy feat. Nostalgia and loyalty to the old system results after long years of working that way. So change is like a revolution, when the technology guerrillas come and uproot old machines and cables, ushering the new. What is the new then? It’s the CLOUD where the application resides in some ethereal space that exists in some far away location. The guerrillas are the emissaries of this new dominion. The war of adaptation and change is fought onsite; when one changes old mindsets in subtle psychological warfare, develop new ways of working, creating workarounds when constraints exist, creating new patterns of thought.  

The guerilla leader is the main actor in the battle. Solving day to day problem; calling comrades (or best described as mercenaries), fixing cable issues, server problems or application shortcomings. Telecommunication is a logistical necessity. Connecting into the grid is paramount; to access intranet chat features, connect to servers, cell phones, land lines and WiFi clusters. These are weapons of the modern guerilla; fighting wherever the revolution is promoted but linked to the grid. The revolution of the CLOUD – sweeping away the old ways like Mao’s communists in China. But the guerrillas are learning too; to adapt themselves to a ‘green field’ environment; something not done before. But despite the skeptics, the central committee has allowed the guerrillas to proceed; like the Politburo authorizing the Red Guards to advance with their havoc.

At the end of the day, it’s a cultural revolution - changing old ways by adapting to the new. There’s a newness emerging everywhere (even in the Middle East). One watches movies over the Internet, read books in electronic tablets, listen to pod casts for the early morning news. It’s a magical existence; a lifestyle inconceivable in the past - brought alive by new technology. Is this the future? Driven by the need for the latest magic, powered by an ever increasing reliance on energy whether oil, nuclear, solar, wind or geothermal. Japan’s recent nuclear problems beget by earthquake and tsunamis are momentary setbacks in the march to nuclear energy. The mental baggage has to be swept away and a new change enforced into one’s lives. A green field environment fraught with risk and danger but it’s the only way forward.

Last night, one watched 2 movies in NetFlix. The highly touted Singaporean film ‘Perth’ – a good movie but marred by excessive violence and brutality. Having lived in Singapore for seven years, one did not see such overt violence though one detects recently a covert anger seething beneath the surface. The anger is due to the rapidly changing economic situation plus the influx of foreigners who take away jobs from the local born. Hence, a subverted desire for more entitlements from a rich paternalistic government. The second film was ‘MILF’ - a lurid and silly movie about college students seeking carnal knowledge from their elders. The magic is not watching these movies but the ability to access movies from the Internet. Perhaps the medium is the message instead of the message itself – an adage criticized by writers like James Gleick in his recent book ‘The Information’.

Yesterday afternoon, I drove home from the site which was located in the countryside. I have been going to the site for the past five days, leaving home early in the morning at about 6 am. It was a pleasant drive back to the city after the go live success. I was listening to Jonathan Franzen’s book ‘Freedom’ in the car’s CD player. I went to the gym, biked for 40 minutes, had a dry sauna, showered and went to the library. I returned books, magazines, DVDs/CDs, and borrowed more. Initially I did not want to borrow anymore because I still had a lot of unread library materials. But it’s like an addiction – an addiction for information; for the new thing. Perhaps an addiction for magic (or is it entertainment?). One’s brain split open by newness; to be at the fore front in a green field environment. To satisfy the need to be a modern guerrilla, riding the wave of the new and subverting the old.

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