Re: Your unsolicited email / our joint problem

To:,,,,,,,,,,, …

Dear PR professional:

With respect to our joint problem, Stanford researchers have found a solution!

Please see here for the answer:

With kind regards,

Dirk Riehle

PS: If the research paper above doesn’t load, please see this copy:

The Humor That is Alexa 2 / 2

So the Echo Dot seems like a good addition to a larger apartment or house. In addition, Amazon promises you can order it through your existing Alexa device. So I tried:

Me: “Alexa, order an Echo Dot.”

Echo: “I can only order product for Prime members. So I added Echo Dot to your shopping list. Please get a membership.”

Me: “Alexa, f#$%^@ you.”

Echo: “That’s not very nice to say.”

Me: “OK, how about that: Alexa, scr#$%# you.”

Echo: “Well, thanks for the feedback.”

I may be in the subscription business myself, but I generally try to avoid to be on the receiving end…

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The Humor That is Alexa 1 / 2

I was watching an old TV show rerun with a character in it called Alexa. My Amazon Echo (trigger word is Alexa) was also listening:

TV set: “Alexa, stop doing that!”

Echo: “Sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying.”

TV set (raised voice): “Alexa, don’t talk to me like that!”

Echo: “Sorry, I still don’t understand what you are saying.”

Despite a few more “Alexa, …” it fell quiet.

I’m amused. Ever since I have wondered what a mischievous screen writer could do given that the Echo can control a garden variety of devices in your house. Or order stuff. How about:

Mischievous character in TV show: “Alexa, open the blinds. Alexa, switch on the lights” (probably most effective a 1am or 5am)

Domino avatar on TV show: “Alexa, order 17 frutti di mare pizzas”

The possibilities seem endless.

That New Agile Delivery Terminology

Old New
Engineering Manager Delivery Lead
Director of Engineering Delivery Head
Vice President of Engineering Delivery Hero

I see a trademark conflict brewing… (not really, trademarks are scoped by domain, there probably is little confusion between a retail service and a corporate role).

I Want My Computer to be as Easy to Use as My Rice Cooker

There is a (by now oldish) saying, attributed to Bjarne Stroustrup:

I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone.

I used to riff on this with the following variant:

For the sake of my parents, I want their computer to be as easy to use as my rice cooker.

My wish now has come true, as the WSJ reports about the new Mi rice cooker (local copy), which is controlled by a mobile app and needs resetting using a small pin.

The Looming Bubble in Lego Bricks

In 2014, for a course that teaches students teamwork, I bought 20 sets of basic lego bricks for a bridge building exercise. The cost per set was 20 Euro. This year the number of students in our project courses exceeded what could be done with this basic set of legos and so I looked to buy more.

Two years later, the cost of these sets has exploded to more than 100 Euros per set. Mostly that’s because (a) the actual set was retired and (b) there is no proper replacement, just new “classic sets” that come with lots of pieces that nobody wants. I sense a bubble in the Lego bricks market… divest yourself now! Send them my way!

Favorite Story of Student Entrepreneur Ageism

I teach a course on software product management where I sometimes cross over into startup-land. During a recent class, I showed students a rara-talk by a VC, who was trying to convince them to become entrepreneurs. So I asked the class:

Statistically speaking, a 40-year old entrepreneur is much more likely to succeed than a student entrepreneur. Why is this venture capitalist so eager to get you to become an entrepreneur rather than a more experienced person?

After a bit of back and forth, one student finally said:

Well, if it takes 10 years to grow a startup, a 40 year old entrepreneur may not be be able to stick around for such a long time.

I’ve gotten used to such statements and take them rather stoically. A 40-year old PhD student of mine, however, was rolling on the floor laughing.

Dating Design Patterns Skit Script

While cleaning up, I found this copy of the OOPSLA 2004 Dating Design Patterns skit script. The skit itself was, as Brian Foote called it, occasionally humorous. I’m providing it here (before throwing out the paper copy) for the intermittent professional entertainment on my blog. We performed the skit at OOPSLA 2004. Fortunately, I don’t have any photos of this. However, I did find the following photo of the Gang-of-Four celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Design Patterns book. I think the photo is attributable to Brian Foote as well. In the back, you can see the late John Vlissides, still “in costume” from the skit.