Posts filed under ‘Random Musings’

The Pirate Ship as Organizational Model

Over on the CrashDev blog, Chris Devore has penned an article with stunning insight. His point in “The Pirate Ship as Organizational Model” is one that should be enjoyed and considered by my former boss Nathan, my dear friend Hooligan, his former boss Harry, and others who have felt the fun and excitement of a start-up turn to the dross and pain of corporate politics.

Devore is contemplating the perfect company to work for. He admits thinking it might be related to size, but

The Queen Anne’s Revenge by LegoFor me, the best possible circumstance is a company that’s somewhere on the spectrum from unformed idea to Pirate Ship. As soon as it passes from Pirate Ship to Going Concern, it stops being fun for me and I need to start over.

This, of course, got the attention of your humble editor, who is a student of historical pirates. What is the spectrum that includes pirate ships as an organizational model? Devore goes on to explain [emphasis mine]:

Since Pirate Ship is a technical term only to me, let me explain. An organization is healthy as long as its survival is sufficiently in doubt that each employee feels a primary responsibility to ensuring the survival of the firm, and a secondary (or lesser) concern for their own position within the hierarchy. The vitality of this “us against the world” mentality depends (to a greater or lesser extent) on the prospect of treasure somewhere on the horizon (i.e., it cannot be sustained in organizations where the prospect of treasure has dimmed to the point that jumping ship and taking a risk on a new captain and crew seem like a better bet). But it can if, despite remarkably long odds, a plurality of the crew believe that a rich prize might still be lurking beyond the next atoll. The scale at which this condition ceases to exist is conditioned equally by the nature of the opportunity being pursued and the quality of the leadership at the helm.

As soon as an organization reaches the point that its survival is no longer in doubt (or that the average participant no longer feels that his or her individual contribution is material to its survival), corruption begins to seep in.

Wow. Devore has exactly nailed some of my experiences in the high-tech world. The times that were the most intense, most fun and most rewarding were when everything was on the line. It was us against the world – we were in a Pirate Ship.

I like how Devore’s friend Donald DeSantis clarified this in his blog post:

Pirate ships combine an “us against the world” mentality with a hunt for treasure. This crucible of chaos and ambition somehow allows unstructured groups of mercenaries to complete complex tasks without killing one another (very often).

This is a key point. Highly motivated and highly talented are competitive. Once the big win on the horizon is captured and accounted for, the talent that thrives in that environment will be gone, or will start to engage in internal politics and mistreating others.

One key to happiness, then, is the awareness of internal attitudes.

29 May 2012 at 1:02AM Leave a comment

1972 Computer Merit Badge Requirements

The Scout Handbook in use when I joined was the eighth edition from 1972. I think this is the infamous “rat bite” book from the seventies. Not much was good in the seventies. I shared the requirements for the Computer Merit Badge with a excellent software engineer who holds a MS in Computer Science, and who also happens to be my wife. “That’s a lot for 1972!”, she said. She was impressed.

Here what a Scout had to do:

1. Do the following:

(a) Give a short history of computers. Describe the major parts of a computer system. Give four different uses of computers.

(b) Describe the differences between analog and digital computers. Tell the use of each.

(c) Explain some differences between special- and general-purpose machines.

2. Do the following:

(a) Tell what a program is, and how it is developed.

(b) Explain the difference between an assembler and a compiler. Tell where each might be used. Describe a source and an object program.

(c) Use a flowchart diagram to show the steps needed to set up a camp.

3. Do ONE of the following:

(a) Prepare flowcharts to find out the average attendance and dues paid at the last five troop meetings.

(b) Prepare flowcharts to work out a simple arithmetic problem. Explain to your counselor how this program could be stored in a computer. Tell how it could be used again.

4. Do the following:

(a) Name four input/output devices for computers. Explain the use of two of them in a system.

(b) Explain the Hollerith code. Show how your name and address would be punched on a card.

5. Tell the meaning of six of the following:
a. memory
b. bits
c. on-line
d. bytes
e. microsecond
f. address
g. channel
h. interrupt
i. register
j. console
k. central processing unit

6. Tell the meaning and use of 12 of the following:

a. business data processing
b. information retrieval
c. simulation
d. scientific processing
e. floating point
f. truncation
g. fixed point
h. accuracy
i. input
j. record
k. output
l. file
m. software
n. instruction
o. hardware
p. indexing
q. loop
r. subroutine
s. real time
t. time sharing
u. cybernetics

7. Visit a computer installation. Study how it works.

8. Explain what each of the following does:

a. design engineer, customer engineer, programmer, analyst, operator, salesman
b. Read two pieces of information about computers. Describe what you read.
c. Describe jobs in the computer field.

Could you earn this merit badge today?

Other events from 1972 include:

  • Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs invented the C programming language
  • Intel developed their first processor, the 4004.
  • Atari releases the first commercial video game, Pong 11/29/72
  • The compact disc is invented in the United States.
  • Cray Research Inc. is founded.

The 2006 version of the Computer Merit Badge requirements can be found on the US Scouting Service Project.

25 August 2010 at 8:22PM Leave a comment

Now THIS is cool (If you like techie gadgets!)

My eleven-year-old son saw this and said, “I want one!” All I could say is, “Me too!”

And a tip of the ol’ NotJobs fez to Patrick Madrid for the find!

The NotJobs Fez

14 October 2009 at 11:49PM Leave a comment

Memorial Day 2009

All gave some…
Some gave all.

I spent last Saturday with my kid’s scout unit helping put flags on the graves at Fort Logan National Cemetery. It was a reminder of those who have sacrificed for our country.

Two stories in the old Rocky Mountain News capture some of the details about those who gave all and are buried at Fort Logan:

Thanks to them for their service.

Wake for an Indian warrior

25 May 2009 at 1:20PM 1 comment

1987 Computer Salary Survey

After graduating from college, I set out on the job hunt. One of the companies interviewing me at the time was Source EDP Personnel Services. Source EDP provided IT consulting services, and billed themselves as “the world’s largest recruiting firm devoted exclusively to the computer profession”. As part of their offering, they shared their 1987 Computer Salary Survey and Career Planning Guide. After I got the another offer, I stuck the salary survey in a file, where it stayed until last week.

The first graphic image in the publication is of a stack of greenbar paper with large dollar signs in ASCII art.  But, even though the data is old, it can still offer a useful comparison to today’s technology salaries. We’ve come  a long way!

Here’s the meat of the survey for non-management positions:

I. Non-Management Annual Compensation ($000)
(salary according to length of time in the
15th Percentile Median 85th Percentile
Commercial Programmers & Programmer/Analysts
1 year – 2 years 18.5 22.5 26.5
2 years – 5 years 23.5 27.8 32.0
Over 5 years 28.0 33.0 39.0
Engineering/Scientific Programmers &
1 year – 2 years 19.6 25.0 28.5
2 years – 5 years 25.5 30.0 35.0
Over 5 years 31.0 38.0 46.0
Personal Computer/Microprocessor Programmers &
1 year – 2 years 18.0 22.0 27.0
2 years – 5 years 22.0 28.0 33.0
Over 5 years 28.4 35.0 42.0
Systems (Software) Programmers
1 year – 2 years 23.4 27.2 31.0
2 years – 5 years 27.7 33.0 37.5
5 years – 7 years 32.0 38.0 45.0
Over 7 years 36.0 42.0 50.0
Software Engineers
1 year – 2 years 22.0 27.0 30.1
2 years – 5 years 27.5 32. 37.0
5 years – 7 years 31.5 38.0 44.0
Over 7 years 37.2 44.5 53.1
Data Base Analysts/Data Management Specialists
1 year – 2 years 22.0 26.0 31.5
2 years – 5 years 26.0 35.0 42.0
5 years – 7 years 34.0 40.0 48.2
Over 7 years 37.2 44.5 53.1
Communications Analysts/Technical
1 year – 2 years 22.0 26.0 30.0
2 years – 5 years 28.9 37.0 47.0
Over 5 years 33.6 43.0 51.2
Information Center/Office Automation/Decision Support
1 year – 2 years 18.5 24.1 27.1
2 years – 5 years 23.5 30.0 36.0
5 years
29.5 37.5 45.0
EDP Auditors
1 year – 2 years 22.0 25.0 29.0
2 years – 5 years 26.5 31.0 37.3
5 years – 7 years 30.7 36.0 46.2
Over 7 years 35.0 42.0 51.0
Technical Writers & Editors
1 year – 2 years 17.5 1100 27.5
2 years – 5 years 23.0 28.0 33.0
5 years – 7 years 26.0 31.0 38.0
Over 7 years 27.0 34.0 41.0
Senior Analysts, Project Leaders & Consultants
2 years – 5 years 27.0 33.0 39.6
5 years – 7 years 32.5 37.7 44.5
Over 7 years 36.0 42.0 50.0
Computer Operators
1 year – 2 years 14.0 18.0 20.0
2 years – 5 years 17.0 21.0 25.0
Over 5 years 20.0 25.6 31.5

Source EDP was purchased by Romac International, and later became Kforce Technology Staffing. Kforce still offers a salary survey and career guide. Download the latest version in PDF format from here.

3 May 2009 at 11:18PM Leave a comment



2 March 2009 at 11:10PM Leave a comment

Back from the Pinewood Derby!

Wow! We survived our Pinewood Derby last Saturday, and all-in-all it went smoothly. 29 boys raced, and the final rankings were decided by less than .12 seconds.

I’m getting a lot of Google search hits on “pinewood+ derby”, which must frustrate folks looking for tips. To help these customers, here are a few of my favorite Pinewood Derby links:

Finally: You’re welcome to review the notes from Pack 216’s Pinewood design seminar.
My 2005 Design Clinic Presentation. [Powerpoint, pps=4,624KB] I suggest a “Save As…”

Click the Ferrari above for a great example of Pinewood Art.

Let me know if these are useful, or if you have others.

24 January 2008 at 3:00PM Leave a comment

Older Posts

My Core Ideas

1. "I can't tell you the best way to get a job - because there is no one best way. After 21 years of recruiting, I CAN share things I've seen candidates do to guarantee they DIDN'T get the job."

2. "Most companies don't realize how their recruiting process impacts their candidate pool, and their business. Attention to simple things will result in big improvements."

About the Author

Troy Bettinger, SPHR is a Denver Recruiter, Public Speaker, HR Metrics Analyst and Human Resources Leader who has been recruiting in corporate and municipal environments since 1991.

He specializes in the complete hiring process: defining, sourcing, recruiting, testing, interviewing, offering and orienting new hires. He's also well versed in strategic human resources, college recruiting, diversity recruiting, AAP, EEO, ATS integration, recruiting metrics, social media, recruiting leadership, training and employment branding.


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