diff options
authorLars Wirzenius <>2018-06-09 19:18:27 +0300
committerLars Wirzenius <>2018-07-28 20:15:31 +0300
commitf2c84a5826fd0731cafa8814b4b96d2404fdaa30 (patch)
parent0dc287c2e8da66550ba22f69a8472bce423e3a40 (diff)
Add: chapter on ambush meeting
1 files changed, 501 insertions, 0 deletions
diff --git a/ambush.mdwn b/ambush.mdwn
new file mode 100644
index 0000000..6ae2655
--- /dev/null
+++ b/ambush.mdwn
@@ -0,0 +1,501 @@
+# Ambush meeting
+"Hmmm." Anna is at her desktop computer and stares at one its 30"
+screens for several minutes. When the screen starts to dim to indicate
+that the screen saver is about to take over, she taps the control key
+to stop it, then Alt-TABs to the IRC window. "everyone, we've some
+news from SH, seems they've been sold and Lasse is being replaced, we
+should ponder and discuss this". She presses Enter to send the
+message, then continues to type. "I'll bounce the mail I just got from
+Sam, please ack you got it, and I'll poke anyone who didn't, since
+this is important. Let's meet in the kitchen in half an hour to
+discuss. I'll order pizza for everyone."
+The Team starts saying "got it, reading now", one by one. Good,
+everyone's awake and she doesn't need to rouse anyone from hack mode.
+She orders pizza from their usual place, the usual selection, with
+drinks. After about half an hour the delivery arrives, and she carries
+it to the kitchen. Everyone else starts gathering there.
+Nina grabs a slice. "So, we read the email. On the surface it doesn't
+seem like it should affect us. Does it?" She opens a large bottle of
+soda, with a loud hiss, and pours some into a cup.
+"You're right. On the surface it doesn't affect us directly or
+immediately." Robin takes a couple of slice on her plate. "But who
+knows what the real effects are. So far the SmartHome upper management
+has not convinced me of being wise, and now anything might happen."
+Andy isn't eating, having had a curry lunch elsewhere earlier. "I'm in
+a Matrix room with some of the SmartHome devs, and they're gossiping.
+They don't really know what's going to happen either, which is really
+great for morale and everyone couldn't be happier if they got a
+thousand bitcoin dumped on them."
+Bert chuckles. "Careful there, mate, you sarcasm is showing."
+"He's not wrong, though." Robin is shovelling pizza into her mouth and
+speaks between bits. "This is sure to inject a lot of uncertainty and
+that's not good for productivity."
+Andy shrugs. "Scuttlebutt has it that Lasse is going to be kicked out,
+and they're hiring a replacement from the outside. Not officially
+announced, however."
+Anna picks up her phone, and fiddles for it a bit. "I've another
+message from Sam. Andy's right, Lasse's out, and the new guy is
+starting today. His name is Antero, some kind of management
+consultant. Antero wants to have an all-hands meeting in about three
+weeks, so he can be briefed on the project. Exact time and place and
+agenda to be decided later on. I suggest we're going to participate,
+we don't really have a choice."
+There's nodding and mumbled agreement around the room, and more pizza
+is taken out of the pizza boxes. Another large bottle of soda is
+opened with a hiss.
+Three weeks pass.
+"Sam, thanks for confirming the date for the all-hands. It's Thursday,
+and the meeting is on Tuesday, is there an agenda yet?" Anna is on the
+phone, not visibly agitated.
+"Sorry, we've not had an agenda either. I'll poke around and see if we
+can't get one soon."
+"Thanks. Meetings without a clear agenda do tend to be useless."
+That afternoon the agenda arrives by email. Anna vents on internal
+IRC. "I just got the agenda for Tuesday. Forwarded it. Not happy, but
+it's what we have."
+"Fails to have a goal for the meeting, or to say what each participant
+should do at the meeting, if anything. Or to spell our names right.
+Great start, Antero." Robin does not like badly run meetings and is
+feeling uncharitable. "I count a total of 17 typos in a screenful of
+text, and that's ignoring bad grammar, logical inconsistencies, and
+other errors. This is standard fare for management consultants, but
+I'm not having a great feeling about this."
+The Team and all the SmartHome developers, and some new people are all
+gathered in the large meeting room at SmartHome offices.
+"Welcome, everyone. I am Antero Virtanen. I'm the new CEO of
+SmartHome. I suggest we start this meeting with introductions. I'll
+go first, and then we go around the room, and everyone can say their
+name and very briefly what they do. But do keep it brief, there's a
+lot of us here."
+He opens his laptop, and starts connecting it to the video wall in the
+meeting room. After a minute, he gives up, and another new face gets
+up and takes over.
+"While Paul gets my laptop to work, I'll start. My background is a
+management consultant, and I don't really know much about the
+technology this company uses." Antero giggles briefly.
+"I started at SmartHome three weeks ago and have been getting up to
+speed on things. Today is all about me getting up to speed with the
+technology side of the company, and getting all of you working well
+Robin and Anna look at each other. Both raise their eyebrows a little,
+then turn back to look at Antero.
+"I would also like to introduce Paul, who seems to have gotten my
+laptop connected. He's the new chief of IT and technology. We go back
+a long way with Paul. I brought him with me to SmartHome. Some of you
+remember Martina. Paul replaces her."
+Paul waves. "Hi, I'm Paul Piper. I do computer things for Antero. This
+is now my third company where I work for him. I tend to prefer Macs,
+and we'll have to discuss if the plethora of Windows and Linux
+machines I see around the room is the best way to organise things. But
+that's not on topic for today."
+Robin and Anna share another eyebrow moment. This time, the rest of
+the Team joins in. They've heard this before, someone wanting to
+mandate what developers run on their development machines. It's never
+a good sign.
+The round of introductions start. Everyone is clearly doing their
+best to be brief. The Team members stand up when it's their turn,
+briefly say who they are, and sit down again.
+Antero rubs his hands together. "Good, good, that went well. Let's get
+started for real. First order of business, who would like to explain
+what the SmartHome product really is?"
+Sam stands up, walks to the podium with his laptop, detaches Antero's,
+connects his own, and starts a presentation. While the slides are
+clearly re-used from company marketing material, it's also clear he's
+prepared the presentation for the meeting.
+Another eyebrow moment for the Team, boosted by small shrugs.
+"Thank you, Sam." Antero rubs his hands together again. "Now, I
+understand we have hired a company to help us improve our products for
+a new generation. I believe that's you guys, Anna. I'd like to
+understand what that's all about. Could you walk all of us through
+Anna gives Robin a glace, and stands up. "Robin would be better for
+going through the technical stuff than I am, but I'll give a brief
+overview. I've not prepared a presentation, since one wasn't indicated
+in the agenda, so this will be brief and ad libbed."
+"Don't worry, Anna. This is not an audit or any kind of attack on you
+and your people." Antero keeps rubbing his hands together.
+"Very well. What we in the Team have is a customisable software
+platform for building the kinds of IoT systems that SmartHome's
+products are. We've provided it to other customers, too. It's kind of
+generic, but requires some customisation for each hardware platform,
+which we've done for SmartHome. Our platform makes it simpler to write
+reliable distributed IoT applications. We're currently---"
+Antero has stopped rubbing, and interrupts in a gentle tone. "But
+SmartHome already had working products. Why do we need your platform?"
+Anna looks at him for a moment, entirely motionless and
+expressionless. Without taking her eyes off Antero, or moving, she
+speaks slowly. "You may want to ask that of Sam, or the others who
+came to us. He can tell you in exactly what shape SmartHome products
+are and why you need to fix them in order not to go bankrupt."
+Sam clears his throat. "Anna is correct. We approached them to help us
+update our entire product line. Our current product line is in
+trouble. We have serious problems with security, for example, and are
+taking a lot of heat about it in the market."
+Antero sighs. "Very well. Let's continue. I've asked various
+engineers, SmartHome engineers that is, to prepare a presentation on
+the Teams' new platform. I understand there's some concerns about
+stability. Anders, if you wouldn't mind?"
+Anders stands up, smiling tightly. He brings his laptop to the end of
+the conference table, attaches it to the projector, and waits for his
+first slide to show up. The title is "Issues with the Team platform."
+The Team members shift position in their chairs. Their faces are
+carefully expressionless. They don't say anything.
+"I've been part of the group at SmartHome helping get the Team's new
+platform into place. I must say I'm not convinced of their
+professionalism or competence. The platform is slow and riddled with
+bugs, which I think are due to the excessive complexity of the
+He changes slides. The new slide is titled "Known bugs" and lists, in
+a small font, a very large number of issues, with scary titles. "I'm
+sure bugs can be fixed. Creating and fixing bugs is what software
+developers are all about, after all. Heh Heh."
+The Team looks at Anna, who looks back, concentrating on Nina, and
+shakes her head minutely.
+Anders continues. "I'm more worried about performance. I did some
+benchmarks, and the devices can barely handle a few thousand HTTP
+requests per second now. With our production version, we can handle at
+least ten times that."
+Antero nods. "That seems like a big problem."
+"Yeah. At the same time I agree that we do need to fix our products. I
+did a quick proof of concept replacement, which I think we could use
+as a base of a new platform that we develop in-house. It's only a few
+hundred lines of PHP. For speed, I've dropped some of the things the
+Team does in the name of security, which I don't think we actually
+Antero nods. "No point in paying in performance for things we don't
+need. What have you dropped?"
+Anders smirks quickly. "I don't think we need HTTPS, plain old HTTP is
+much faster and nobody's really going to eavesdrop inside a home
+anyway. Also, plain HTTP basic authentication is fine, we don't need
+the elaborate OAuth2 signed JWT token nonsense that the Team is fond
+of. All the crypto requires CPU cycles we can't afford."
+Antero nods again. "That seems sensible. Anna, would you like to
+comment?" Anders sniggers quietly.
+Anna is silent and motionless, but it's clear she's suppressing strong
+emotions. After a few seconds, she looks at Robin, who nods. "I'm
+afraid I don't want to comment. This is now a hostile situation.
+You've ambushed us, and expect us to defend ourselves against an
+attack. We're not prepared to work with a client that does this. Our
+contract has a clause for this eventuality, and it means we terminate
+our involvement in the project as of this moment. We'll be sending you
+our final invoice soon."
+Anna stands up. The rest of the Team stands up. "We're leaving now.
+Have a good day."
+In unison, the Team step away from the table and march towards the
+exit. The room is quiet. Anders looks triumphant, Antero looks
+surprised, but neither moves or says anything.
+The Team is gathered in their own kitchen. They are subdued. Bert is
+the first to speak. "Well, that was fun. What do we now?"
+Andy's head snaps toward Bert. "What do you think? We lost our only
+client, we panic and go bankrupt."
+Nina grunts. "Maybe we can find something else, quickly enough."
+Robin sighs deeply, and holds her mug in both hands, but says
+nothing. Anna knocks her knuckles on the table. "OK, everyone. I would
+like to tell us all to be calm, but we're clearly upset, and we should
+vent. So for a while everyone can say what they want, and be as nasty
+as they want, but not to each other. Only towards our former client."
+Andy nods. "I'm the one with the most fragile personal financial
+situation here. The one with a mortgage and family to support. Just
+observing. I can't take personal risks for long. If the Team can't pay
+my salary, I'm going to have to find other employment. I can't afford
+to miss a single month, I'm afraid."
+Bert shakes his head. "I hear you, although I'm able to be more
+flexible myself. RUDE WORD this is not fun. I wonder if we should've
+been more humble and not cut our ties to SmartHome."
+Robin lifts her head. "I don't think it's about humility. It's about
+having a working relationship with a client that doesn't hurt us,
+emotionally, physically, or financially. What Antero did killed that."
+Everyone nods. Bert nods, too. "Yeah, I guess. I just fear what will
+happen to us now."
+Robin nods. "We'll have to find other income. But make no mistake, if
+we'd caved under, things would have gotten worse. I've seen that
+happen enough times. Giving in to bullies only gets you beat up."
+The room goes quiet. Anna clears her throat. "I agree with Robin. Does
+anyone want to say anything else?" She waits for a moment. "Very well.
+If you think of something to say later, don't hesitate to say it. This
+isn't over. I suggest we finish the work day now, and come back to the
+office tomorrow, and start beating the bushes to see if we can't find
+a new client quickly."
+There's nods and murmurs of agreement. Everyone gets up quietly, puts
+their mugs away, and starts leaving.
+"Hi. Shitty things today. Lunch?" Nina checks her phone after it's
+bleeped at her. She taps a response to Nick. "Food court at Forum in
+half an hour?"
+Nina and Nick get their portions of food and sit at a table. "That was
+s shitty thing my employer did to you." Nick looks at his plate.
+Nina shrugs. "There wasn't anything you could've done. It is what it
+is. We'll just have to find a new client and move on. But I'm done
+with work for today. Do you have time to sit and chat? I could do with
+a friendly ear."
+The two sit in the food court all afternoon. After they finish their
+food, they keep talking.
+Nick gets back to his employer's office, and Antero sees him in the
+corridor. "Nick, my office, stat." Antero is clearly upset, but keeps
+his voice low. Nick walks briskly to Antero's office.
+"A SmartHome employee saw you at the food court this afternoon. You
+seem to have very friendly with that young woman from the Team. What
+do you have to say for yourself?"
+Nick tilts his head. "Nothing? What's the problem?"
+Antero is standing, and makes fists of his hands, and leans them on
+his desk. "That's unacceptable. You're clearly fraternising with the
+enemy. You either break up with the girl, or you resign. I'm not
+having any of my employees collude with the enemy like that."
+Nick takes a step back. "Are you serious?"
+Antero leans forward, putting more weight on his fists. His volume is
+rising. "I'm deadly serious. You're fired. Leave at once."
+Nick takes another step back. "You can't fire me like that. It's not
+legal. That's why we have unions and legal protections for employees,
+to protects us from employers being arbitrary. If you want to fire me,
+put it in writing, and I'll take it to a lawyer. Otherwise I'm going
+to my cubicle and continue working."
+Antero takes a stapler from his desk, and looks like he's going to
+throw it. Nick leaves the office, and closes the door behind him.
+Antero puts the stapler back on his desk, and picks up his phone, and
+makes a call. "It's me. Are you up for some work? Tonight. Just you,
+it's only a small woman."
+Nina is walking home from the bus stop nearest to her home. It's been
+a long day. She's tired. Every step feels almost too heavy. She's
+going to just collapse into bed and be dead for the world until the
+morning. Her phone bleeps. It's a message from Nick, who tells what
+Antero did. Nina puts her phone away, and continues walking. She's no
+longer slouching, and there's an energetic vibe to her steps.
+She rounds a corner, and almost walks into a man. A very large,
+muscular man, who for some reason is wearing a purple ski mask. The
+man hits her in the stomach with his fist, then shoves her against the
+wall, roughly. Nina's head hits the wall, and she sees stars.
+"Stay away from Nick, you bitch. And his employer. If they see you
+again, I'll come back and hurt you."
+The main lifts Nina up and holds he against the wall. Nina's feet
+don't touch the ground.
+"Do you understand, bitch? You stay away. Say you understand."
+Nina is feeling nauseous. "You hurt me..."
+The man shakes Nina. "You stay away. Say you understand, or I'll hurt
+you more."
+"OK. I understand." Nina speaks quietly, sounding like a small girl on
+the verge of crying.
+The man throws her the side. She falls to the ground, and cries out in
+pain. The man leaves.
+Nina is at home, sitting on the floor, leaning towards a wall. She
+throws a rubber ball into the air, almost hitting the ceiling, and
+catches it. She repeats this, over and over again, with nearly no
+variation. After a while she puts the ball aside, picks up her phone,
+and taps a message to Nick. "Thanks for telling me. Best if we don't
+meet in public for a while. Going to have to process this. Your
+employer is now officially a RUDE WORD poophead." She taps "send" and
+puts the phone away again. She picks up the ball and starts throwing
+and catching it again.
+The room goes darker, as the sun sets. Nina gets up and goes rummage
+in her bedroom closet. She throws some clothing onto the bed: a pair
+of black cargo pants, black socks, a black t-shirt with no printing, a
+black army sweater, and some other things, all black. She goes into
+another room and rummages in a cupboard. She pulls out a black
+military style backpack, and puts a multi-tool, some cables, and a
+roll of duct tape into the backpack. She takes out a black, unmarked
+laptop, not her usual one, and checks that its' battery is fully
+charged. She puts it into the backpack.
+She goes into her living room, and starts a program on her desktop
+computer. Suddenly a somewhat loud discussion between two different
+people starts playing from her stereo. She opens her living room
+ventilation window.
+She goes back into the bedroom, and changes clothes. She puts on a
+black bomber jacket, and black baseball cap. She puts her keys into a
+jacket pocket. She dons the backpack, and leaves.
+Outside, she goes into a nearby park, and goes to where a forest
+starts. She looks around for a bit, and finds a rock the size of a gym
+ball. She wrestles it aside, revealing a small box with a combination
+lock. She opens the box, which seems to contain some USB drives, some
+cash, various credit card sized items, and what looks like a passport.
+She takes a USB drive and several credit cards that are all green with
+concentric rings as decoration, and puts her home keys into the box.
+She closes the box, locking it, and puts back. She wrestles the rock
+back into place, hiding the lock-box.
+She pulls her cap lower onto her eyes, and starts walking through the
+park, via a little-used path through the forest. Some distance away
+there are teenagers being noisy, and someone walking a barking dog,
+but she doesn't meet anyone. After a long walk she exits the park on
+the opposite side of her home. She's walked several kilometers, not
+her usual route when leaving home, and it's getting quite dark.
+She comes to a bus station. Soon a bus arrives, and she boards it. She
+shows the green credit card to the travel card reader to pay for the
+bus ride. She looks down on the floor, hiding her face from the
+driver. The bus is almost empty so she picks a seat near the exit
+After a while, she exits the bus, and walks another kilometer, to
+another bus stop. She boards the next bus, and uses another pre-paid,
+green travel card to pay for the trip. She changes buses a few more
+times, until she arrives, and starts walking. She's about two
+kilometers away from the SmartHome office.
+She arrives at the SmartHome office. The building is dark. It's
+clearly past the office hours, and nobody is staying late. The
+building is going to be locked, but Nina walks around it, in the
+forest surrounding the building. She leaves the forest and walks next
+to the side of the building, and sits on the ground, leaning against
+the wall, legs crossed. It's a side of the building that's not visible
+to the road that goes past the building. There's some artificial
+lighting, and possibly a security camera, but she's not doing anything
+visibly illegal. She takes out her laptop from the bag, opens it up on
+her knees and thighs.
+She stares at the screen, opens up a terminal window, types some
+commands, and reads the output. She's at this for a while, an hour.
+After she's done, she puts the laptop back in the bag, puts the bag in
+her bag, and leaves via the forest. She walks to another bus stop
+than the one she used to arrive, and uses yet another travel card. On
+her way back home, via a different route than when she left, she makes
+a stop at a mall. She takes her laptop and dismantles it, putting the
+pieces in the WEEE containers of several different electronics stores
+behind the mall.
+It is late morning. Antero comes to work, whistling as he enters the
+office building lobby. It's going to be a good day.
+Three uniformed police officers meet him. They're carrying a laptop,
+and a thick sheaf of papers. "Antero Virtanen?" He nods in assent.
+"How can I help you?"
+"You're under arrest on suspicion of corporate espionage and sabotage.
+Turn around, we'll be putting handcuffs on you. There's a car waiting
+outside to take you to the police station."
+"What? That's outrageous." Antero protests loudly, but turns around.
+He's handcuffed. "What proof do you have?"
+"We can discuss that at the station. Just come along quietly, please."
+Anna's phone makes a noise. She's at home, and is woken up by the
+phone. "Uh, Anna here?"
+"It's Sam. There's been a development. Big changes this morning."
+"What's up? It's too early for me. I didn't get to bed until late."
+"This will cheer you up, I think. Antero's been arrested, and I'm the
+acting CEO for the time being."
+"Arrested? What? Why? And what does this mean for the Team?"
+"Look, I was really unhappy at the stunt Antero and Anders pulled
+yesterday. It was an ambush, and I need you to believe it was as much
+a surprise to me as it was to you. Do you trust me enough to believe me
+on that? Please?"
+Anna coughs. "Ah, yeah, I guess."
+"Good, thanks. I'd like to undo everything that happened yesterday.
+I'd like to bring the Team back on the project. Can we pretend
+yesterday didn't happen?"
+Anna coughs some more. She takes a breath. "Look, you woke me up. I
+need to wake up and connect with my people and talk it over. Can I
+call back to you in an hour or two?"