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SW engineering, engineering management and the business of software



2012 01 19

Deconstructing Humors: The DoubleSwerve

One of @jf’s favorite webcomics recently published a comic that will launch a thousand ships. At least one ship. As long as your definition of ship is a series of articles written by me.

http://nedroid.com/2012/01/deadly-weapons/

The comic linked above demonstrates a technique I call the DoubleSwerve™. At the most fundamental level, Humor can usually be broken down into two parts: the Pull and the Swerve. (You may have heard the older terms lead and punchline, but the snappy dressers have all switched.)

The Pull is where you immerse someone in the joke. Good jokes end up Pulling the listener in a certain direction.

Once the listener has established a direction, you’ve stopped pulling them, and they are going along of their own free will, the Swerve maybe unleashed. The intent is to diverge and introduce an different, unexpected thought. Like a wall of hamsters.

In panel 3, we are lucky enough to get the first Swerve. Most people at this point have been Pulled to where they expect the cliché followup, but the author brilliantly waits for the line break to Swerve.

In panel 4, we get the second serving of Swerve. Most people can only fit one joke in four panels. Tremendously efficient use of humor by Anthony Clark (@nedroid) ends up giving you 100% more guffaw per pixel.

Now let me show you the LeaveHangingSwerve™.

2012 01 28

It's Not You, It's Me

One one the lessons learned early on during my first stint in Technical Marketing™ was that your own people don’t listen to you. Engineers don’t want to build the product that you know would sell. Customers don’t want to buy the product you know they would love. Finance doesn’t want to pay for the components that help the engineers and provide customer value. Even the CEO makes unreasonable demands, like asking you to stop humping his leg.

At some point, while I was pondering how to make the engineers build the product that would succeed in the market, it occurred to me that the burden of proof was on me.

I had to be able to communicate to each vested interest why certain things needed doing or not doing. This added work on my plate, but usually I was asking for something which was from the other point of view non-obvious and/or non-trivial.

This applies to real life as well.

If you want a promotion/raise, the burden of proof is on you to prove to those capable of promoting/raising you that they are morons for not doing so. What can you make or provide that will demonstrate your value? If they continue to ignore you, why are you still there? If you have proved yourself at this point you should have other opportunities.

Stupid VC not investing in your startup? The burden of proof is on you is to understand the VC, their typical investment strategies, current mood and overall environment. The burden of proof is on you to solicit feedback, improve and tailor your pitch and standout from the hundreds of others they are slogging through.

YC turn you down? The burden of proof is on you to apply early and reapply if you don’t get in. Some simple familiarity with YC shows that they really like startups that help other startups. Do your homework on the types of applications that get interviews. Take the time to make a compelling video. Have a prototype and be able to show some traction. Sound really smart. (You can’t fake this. If you’re audience is smarter than you are, the only way to sound smart is to be smart. This takes years of practice or a magic pill I conveniently have for sale.) If you have none of these things, then you have failed to shoulder your share of the burden.

If your goals aren’t taking time and effort, it’s a good sign that you are underestimating and underachieving. Don’t get trapped by the illusion that your progress is gated by others.



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