Monthly Archives: May 2014

Review: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is really the story of why and how IEX was created. Humans made bad decisions. So, to protect people from other people, we moved the operation of the stock market to being run by computers. The natural consequence was for people to game the system with computer code. Rather than stay vigilant against new exploitations, we just redefined fair. The team behind IEX created it to eliminate these problems and establish a fair place for trading to occur.

About halfway through the book, I watched a commercial where an investment company touted their guaranteed one second trades. To the average person, this probably sounds amazing. The thing is that companies like this operate in milliseconds (1/1,000) and nanoseconds (1/1,000,000). Plus, they operate Dark Pools where the trade is obfuscated from independent review. Your trade could get executed where it benefits them and not you.

The overarching theme is that complexity and obfuscation created an environment where bad things can happen. As a technologist in education, I fight against this every day. We desire simplicity. Yet every change and especially those we execute without a good understanding of the business case creates complexity which will result in a failure. When no one fully understands how all the components work together, it exists to fail. Funnily enough, my team, the database administrators (really application administrators) sit at the intersection of the analysts, vendors, operating system admins, storage admins, network admins, and others. So this is familiar territory.

Zoran Perkov and Sergey Aleynikov are unsung heroes I am sure about whom I will spend more time reading.

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Organizational Breakdown

Had a conversation with a restaurant manager when he said he hates computers. His life has gone from 90% working with food to maybe 60%. Naturally he did not get into this kind of work to spend so much time dealing with computers.

GeorgiaVIEW Admin Retreat

At first I thought the issue was empowerment. A few decades ago, important people had assistants to do all their minutia. They did not write letters so much as quickly express what it should say, someone else wrote, and had it approved before going off to send it. Now, important people write an email themselves. Well, more so than they used to do. Technology has made minutia easier and changed assistant jobs into accomplishing more complex tasks.

As it turns out the issue was more organizational complexity. The manager’s accountant found a mistake and told him to talk to another department who sent him to third who sent him to a fourth. Each admitted the mistake should be fixed, but none could correct it.

Sound familiar? You might have encountered it dealing with customer support with a utility or government agency. The organization is so big and so complex individuals within it are not capable of knowing where to direct customers to have the problem solved. Only the most tenacious can force the difficult issues. When employees are empowered with autonomy to make decisions and solve problems, they make things move along and keep customers happy.

Still sad computers take the blame for people designing organizations.

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4 »