Stories about Software


Value Prop Workshop: A “State Matrix Audit”

Alright, let’s try something new for this week’s reader question.  As regular readers know, I do a “you asked for it” column where I answer reader questions.  But lately, I’ve been getting a specific form of questions.

People ask for help with their free agent/moonlighting value propositions.  Sometimes, these requests even involve offering to pay me some sort of hourly consulting rate.

Well, since I don’t do B2C consulting, and since I do have a blog to write, I’ve decided to start using these requests as fodder for blog posts.  My hope is that some examples round out various posts that I do on the subject.

So here’s what I’ll do.  If you have nascent ideas on positioning and value propositions and want feedback, hit me up via email (erik at daedtech) or on Twitter or something.  Let me help with your positioning ideas.

I haven’t yet fully worked out the best format for this, obviously, but I figure we can iterate.

The Value Proposition

Alright, let’s get down to business.  Here’s the first idea for a value prop that a reader sent to me.

I sell State Matrix Audit to small dev teams.

My ideal client is a team that built an app which works most of the time. But the devs or the management want to be sure it is correct and has [high availability]. My contribution is to audit the tech stack and application code and provide a report – which sequences of failures would lead to error states (downtime, data loss, etc). Along with estimated recovery times, automation suggestions, stack tweaks, etc.

I have a great track record of doing just this as a salaried employee and am thinking about converting this into a consultancy company of one.

The request was some help in refining this value proposition.  So let’s dive into this.

There’s a Lot to Like Here

First of all, let me address the state of the current prospective value prop.  And, I think it’s a relatively strong one on its face.  There’s a lot to like here.

The first favorable thing is that this sits in the realm of road-mapping.  In a post I wrote some time back, I talk about four phases of problem solving.

  • Diagnosis of a problem.
  • Prescription of a therapy.
  • Application of the therapy.
  • Re-application/maintenance of the therapy.

The further left (up?) you move with this, the more you’re perceived as an expert.  This means higher rates, better treatment, more demand, and generally a better life.  One of the problems with miscellaneous app dev is that it tends to sit squarely in the third bucket (with the first two often given away for free and called “discovery.”)

We don’t have that problem here.  This is diagnosing and prescribing therapy.

There’s also a clear appeal to the people within the organization that hold the purse strings.  People in leadership have a definite interest in acquiring knowledge ahead of time when it comes to potential outages, errors, etc.  It also helps that you offer remediation.

This is the core of something good.

Read More


DaedTech Digest: Our Decision to Leaf-Peep

Each Friday (Thursday night, really), I publish a digest post.  And these posts are about the slow travel life.  For instance, last week, I talked about how we pick where to go.

Today, I’m going to diverge from the normal practice answering questions people ask me about slow travel.  Instead, I’m going to announce our next expedition.  We’ve made the decision to leaf peep.

Specifically, we’re going to be heading to Vermont for the entire month of October.  The last weekend of September, we’re going to pack up all of the boats, water-things, and general lake toys.  We’re going to store everything, and then we’re going to blast out of the area, heading for the very northern part of Vermont, near the Canadian border.

As I understand it, we’ve got an AirBNB that’s both remote and scenic.  This is the perfect location from which to take in the changing leaf colors of the season.  And we’ll probably do a couple of weekend excursions to locations like Boston and Montreal.

This is the perfect instance of what I was talking about last week.  Amanda and I just started talking about fall in northern New England kind of out of nowhere.  And then we pulled the trigger.

This, “screw it, let’s go to a place,” is the essence of what I love about the remote, slow travel life.


  • I’m in San Francisco (actually, San Mateo) this week, and had a style of dinner called Mongolian Hot Pot at the Little Sheep.  This is good stuff!
  • If you’re in the market for sunglasses, check out SunCloud.  I’m a convert.  Historically, I used to buy really expensive polarized glasses in the vein of Oakley or Rayban.  Sun Clouds are less expensive and every bit as effective, if not more so.

The Digest

As always, everyone, enjoy your weekend.


The Servant Leader and the Illusion of Corporate Empowerment

Last week, I answered a reader question about what scrum masters are worth, financially speaking.  This gave rise to another reader question that I’ll tackle this week, and it has to do with the idea of the so-called servant leader.

Now, I usually follow sort of a FIFO approach for reader questions.  But I’m making an exception here because several people asked me the same question in the immediate aftermath of that post.

What do you have against the term “servant leader,” anyway?

They asked that because I threw some shade at the term in last week’s post, using the words “loathe” and “detest” to describe my opinion of it.  So I suppose it’s fair for people to follow up asking what my deal is.  And I should probably respond.

Here be dragons, like this one, when you accept a counter offer.

The truth is, up until now, my revulsion had been mainly visceral and subconscious.  But the exercise of outlining this post has helped me put more thought out bullet points behind a better thesis.

First Things First: Servant Leader, The Accepted Definition

Before I go any further, let me briefly explain the term itself.  This section will be journalism, rather than op-ed, as I explain the term to anyone unfamiliar with it.

A servant leader is, tautologically, one who practices servant leadership.  And servant leadership was defined in an interesting essay back in 1970, I believe, by a gentleman named Robert Greenleaf.

This essay is categorically not about line management of knowledge workers in the enterprise, nor was it about the enterprise at all.  Instead, it was a journey through ethical, moral, and even metaphysical considerations contrasting Messianic (servant leader) leadership impulses with will-to-power (autocratic) leadership impulses.  Greenleaf does not explicitly mention God, but he touches on faith, parables, societal ethics, and even, without irony, concepts like telepathy.

Eventually, the corporate world discovered this and does what the corporate world does — adopted it as the inspiration for a management fad.  It interpreted the historical, Taylor-esque corporate pyramid as the autocratic force in the corporate world.  And it defined a new, Messianic analog in which management exists to empower, rather than boss around, the line level employees.

So fast forward to the present, and “servant leader” is an in-crowd signaling term that represents “manager as enabler” rather than “manager as dictator.”

Read More


DaedTech Digest: Picking Your Next Temporary Home

At one point of the week, I forgot what day it was.  Probably due to the US holiday last week.  But fear not.  I’ve recovered my equilibrium in time for yet another digest Friday.

Moving on from last week’s discussion of how we started slow traveling, let’s talk about perhaps the next logical subject.

How do you pick your destinations?

I wish I had a satisfying answer for this question.  I’d love to pro forma lifestyle blogger thing and lay out some complex evaluation matrix.  This would probably cross reference cost of living, seasonal trends, and a handful of other metrics that attempt to quantify happiness.  And then it would spit out, “yep, Charleston, South Carolina!”

But honestly, it doesn’t go like that at all for Amanda and me.

I’d compare our decision making process more to how we decide where to go for dinner.  There’s no conversation at all about it, and then, bam, out of nowhere “hey, do you feel like Thai food?”  When that impulse strikes, all the reasoned consideration in the world doesn’t deter you from gut feel.

So it goes with our slow travel ventures.  We’ll idly think of different places with a kind of “that might be interesting someday.”  Or, perhaps it’s destinations that would be really interesting right now, but won’t work logistically.  But there’s always one that sticks in the metaphorical craw, in a good way.

Like the Thai food, it’s out there, and you can’t send the idea back from whence it spontaneously emerged and embedded itself in your head.  It started out innocuously enough as “hey, I’ve never been to New Orleans” or “the leaves are really pretty in New England in the fall,” but it was destined for whim fulfillment.

And, that’s really it.  The only exception I can think of was a decision to spend time in Phoenix to see Cubs Spring training.  And that was because there was an obvious mission with an objective.


  • We had our wedding anniversary on Wednesday, and my wife got me this awesome present: a super durable leather wallet that’s nice to the touch.
  • Speaking of which, if you’re celebrating the leather anniversary with someone who doesn’t really like leather, you might be interested to know that leather roses are a thing.
  • A few weeks ago, I used NordVPN to get around a series of mlb.com blackout restrictions (boo!) and it was pretty seamless to setup and use.  That type of tool has come a long way.

The Digest

As it turns out, Hit Subscribe’s growth has left me in a position where I’m writing ever-fewer blog posts myself (at least publicly, I do also handle some ghostwriting for the business).  So this week, I’ve got nothing but podcast appearances.

As always, have a good weekend, everyone.


Should Scrum Masters Make More than Software Developers?

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a reader question.  Let’s fix that today by examining a question that is simple in the asking and complex in the answering.  Should scrum masters make as much or more money than software developers?

The actual question was a little more nuanced, and it came from the Developer Hegemony Facebook group.

The numbers on this chart show that scrum masters could make as much as some senior level developers in Los Angeles.  I’d be curious do you guys think this is a “market distortion” brought on by the fact that the “MBAs” need a way to manage the “propeller heads” or do you really feel the market is accurately reflecting the true value a scrum master can bring to a team?

So let’s dig in.  But first, let’s make sure that everyone reading is up to speed.

What Is a Scrum Master, Anyway?

If you’re in the software world, you’ve probably heard the term “Scrum Master” before.  But let’s level-set with a definition, because for a lot of you reading this might have a fuzzy definition.  Let’s go back to first principles and snag a definition from the Scrum guide:

The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.

The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

First of all, this is sort of ingenious and fascinating from a meta perspective.  Scrum is a wildly successful approach sold by consultants to organizations.  It’s so successful that it’s created a job whose primary purpose is marketing the product being sold to the company.  I say this because job one is, apparently, “promoting and supporting Scrum.”  This would be like Microsoft convincing a .NET shop to create a job whose primary purpose was extolling the virtues of Microsoft products.

Should I incorporate? The monopoly guy here thinks the answer is yes, and so do I.

The Scrum Master in Practice

But I digress.  Apart from process evangelism, and the unfortunate use of a term that I personally detest (“servant leader”), the Scrum Master does provide some serious potential value.  They serve as sort of internal referees for the team, officiating collaboration and keeping it on track.  But, perhaps most importantly, they defend the team from outside distractions.  And that matters.

Of course, someone in a role like this will also develop situational dynamics with the team.  They’ll develop a knack for goosing development along, keeping people happy, and finding other ways to pitch in.

So think of Scrum Master as being sort of a process-specific hybrid of dev manager and project manager, but (most likely) without direct reports.  If you wrap your head around that concept, you can see a person whose value to the team could fluctuate pretty wildly based on myriad factors.

Read More