(Re)Start Up

It’s all ways nice to visit an old school Red Hat office. The Waterford office is on a relatively scruffy business park on the outskirts of town, with some other tech companies , some non-tech companies (car repair shop) and rather bizarrely the Church of the Latter Day Saints. It’s not branded and there are plenty of FeedHenry mugs and since September 2014 (when Red Hat acquired FeedHenry) there has not been too much in the way of decorating. The branding is basically limited to a few notices including a couple of the toilets. There are also some nice Aeron style chairs probably bought some flush of investment. Cost effective start up offices in a town with a good Technical Institute nearby, where the guys who work there came from.

Maybe I’m nostalgic to the old Red Hat office in Guildford, which housed sales, engineers, support and training, from 2001 to about 2007. Too many people, small desks, the constant onsite present of the printer repairman, broken coffee machines and a queue for the toilet were a trip down memory lane. Luckily (as far as I know) the folks in Waterford haven’t been exposed to the unusual toilets habits of the Phantom Crapper, who’d aim the edge of the seat rather than the hole through the middle (a still unidentified assailant of the limits of geek sensibilities).

I’m glad that this culture hasn’t gone from Waterford, yet. Corporate styling, with motivational slogans and posters are all good, but there are trimmings of company identity rather than creators and purveyors of culture. It’s the strive for individual authenticity that creates a culture. In the way people code, eat, use their working hours and the way they dress as individuals. True theres some influence from peers, but its not driven by not from corporate direction top down. It’s tribal. As companies grow they refactor offices to separate the sandal and shorts wearing techies to different parts of the building from the financial, sales and operations functions. If possible to different buildings and if the opportunity arises, different cities. I’ll add that you do find the shorts and sandals in finance and operations but they are a much rarer breed.

The culture never really existed in the Baker Street office Red Hat has in London. It was never really a developer office, but one mainly used by sales people. To them the move to a new corporate office in the City cannot come quick enough and something Red Hat’s clients of the 2016 expect. The Red Hat office in Cork is in branded office up by the airport and is dominated by finance and operations teams, and is completely different from the Waterford environment. The office in Waterford brings enthusiasm and a techie mentality which is the core of what Red Hat, but to some extent has been lost at the sales fringes. Ironically enough it’s this mentality that some organisations are now craving and want to have in their own organisations. As well as recruiting good developers and getting some coaching from Red Hat on ‘doing’ software development, they maybe want to look at getting some cheap office space out on the edge of town, rather than at the corporate headquarters. Having a cafe on the business park that does curry and chips for lunch is essential, whereas a menu including salmon and quinoa salad wouldn’t quite feel right.

Whilst an environment itself cannot create culture, it can place the individual at ease and let them be authentic, in the same I cannot function wearing a shirt, maybe I’m more comfortable in an office where I have to sort through a cupboard of personal mugs in the hoping of finding one that won’t cause a storm on the office mailing list. Writing this as I’m crossing the Irish Sea back to Wales, I realise that I’m drawn to this type of environment and its surprising that the one or two offers I’ve had from smaller tech companies over the last 10 years haven’t persuaded by go back to sharing desks in an office above a laundrette. Bugger, I miss the smell, the vibe and the feeling of being directly involved in something special.

Train of Life

Watching him standing on the platform he looked distant with blank eyes and a distance that did not seem to convey anything. But even at the start of the day and the week and with 8 hours of travelling to come, there was an enthusiasm for the trip. Tiredness showed but in terms of thinking this improved the level of depth and opportunities for understanding. Unlike many others on the platform, he’s learnt to embrace the journey on the train as it gave him the opportunity to both read and write but most importantly the chance to think.

Finding a seat that is empty is his first job, but finding one where the neighbouring seat will also remain empty for the duration of the journey is more challenging. You find a seat and whilst its empty now, it has also been empty, might be empty in the future, or full. Thinking about the seat and its current state is something you think about and about the thinking bit, according to Descartes is the only thing you can be certain about. “I think therefore I am”. Thinking about the seat and if its empty is the only thing you can be certain about, as your senses might be playing a trick on you and the seat might not even be there, let alone empty. Kierkegaard challenges this assumption in that the immediacy, or more important lack of it, means that all though has some level of doubt (or doubleness) alluding to its state. The seat might be full or empty, it might be empty in the future or its been empty in the past. Any change of state may happen immediately before or after a thought has taken place, therefore leading to a question about not only what you are seeing but also what you are currently thinking.

You can also discern that the world is in a constant state of flux that it is changing and there is no single moment which can be described as a snapshot of thought.

The other challenge that he has is not only understanding the current state of the his seat but also the seat next to him, but with the need to influence the state of the chair without occupying it.

The Philosophy of a Westmalle Tripel

Whilst Aldous Huxley used mescal as means of attaining a higher state of understanding (as described in The Doors of Perception) for the more humble philosopher I can only recommend the more obtainable alternative. Westmalle Tripel has the benefits of high alcohol content, with a fine crisp, bitter taste that ensures that a heightened state of understanding is achieved without the side effects of numerous trips to the toilet or indigestion. At 9.6%, it has a lower alcoholic content than lets say wine, but without the social stigma of drinking a whole bottle.

Digestion on a Sunday afternoon, two 33cl bottles can be recommended, allows the consumer to delve into a study of the others people in the bar without being snobbish and with an ability to understand your own role and position. A warmth and increased sense of affection for those of with you is achieved, without the side effects you might get with mushrooms, as well as increased perception of who you are in the environment you are placed. Westmalle Tripel can be drunk with the yeast in or not as a good bar will give you the choice by allowing you to pour the 2nd half of the 33cl bottle yourself. Extensive testing has shown this results in no noticable difference in philosophical awareness.

Noticable effects include:

empathy and understanding for people in the immediate vicinity. This might be the people you come to the bar with or complete strangers. This includes observations on body movements, posture etc
a concious thought on whether you would want to be them, or not (or to be part of their group)
ability to speak freely and clearly on the key matters that may affect or trouble them.
Whilst some of this behaviour might be put down to general alcohol intoxication, with the correct dosage of Westmalle Tripel you can achieve a more balanced state where your self awareness is also increased. Whilst not common it is also possible for you to subjective view yourself sitting in the bar, and see how people see you. Whilst some experimentation has taken place whilst with friends (who can observe and watch you carefully) for a truer more authentic experience is possible whilst on your own. This allows for less distraction and more focus on the subject matter. It does have disadvantage of needing to get yourself home so somewhere in walking or cycling distance is recommended.

Setting up the site….

After 15 years working at Red Hat (and 10 years in academia) it seems I’ve done pretty well in keeping my authenticity. This blog has a number of purposes :

To help me get a deeper understanding of my work/life and why I do what I what do
To do some reading of the works of relevant philosophers
Write about some interesting issues relevant to my work and how these might be (re)used elsewhere. Thinks that work and things that don’t.
Like all blogs, time will tell if this is relevant and if I have the enthusiasm and energy to continue with it.