Roland Dürre
Sunday August 13th, 2017

My First “Coming Out“

Today as a: “Sunday Column “!

It is really about time to break with patterns and taboos. Consequently, I will now start doing so. Also in the IF Blog. I will start small and very softly… But as time goes by, things may develop.

Here is who I am: a male mammal. Of the species “human”. Humans are descendants of humanoids who, earlier, developed from some apes. They call them “primates” – as opposed to the wise and beautiful elephants, cows and pigs, which is incomprehensible for me.

Male mammals have genitals. The same is true for me. A male sexual organ has many disadvantages. One of the probably more harmless ones is the question: ”how to cover it? “.

Selfie under difficult conditions – but definitely without knickers!

Consequently, “homo sapiens’” created underpants. And they founded the underwear industry that really makes good money with underpants. Clothes became a moral issue (“this is how you have to dress” or “this is absolutely impossible”). Among other things, there is a moral code that says that you (especially men) cannot run around without underpants.

Except – underpants are uncomfortable. To be sure, trousers are even more uncomfortable. And if you do not wear underpants, they might actually hurt. Just think of Lederhosen. Incidentally, they can even hurt if you wear underpants.

For the male humans, a special obligation to wear underpants has been established. Women wore skirts. So it was easier for them to go “without knickers”. What is impossible for men is considered “erotically bold” for women.

So what I did is wear underpants for more than 50 years and change them on a daily basis if possible.

Roughly ten years ago, I discovered a full-body dress for men in India. Perhaps they call it Caftan. I bought two of them (one green and one blue) and used them instead of a bathrobe, especially in summer. And I quickly realized that you need not wear underpants under such a Caftan. All of a sudden, I discovered a totally new feeling of well-being. Now everything is so free – and centralized.

Hans Söllner at the Erding Sinnflut-Festival, 2004, still wearing trousers.
GNU Free Documentation License, from Wikipedia.

Since I am a coward, I rarely wear my Caftan in public without underpants underneath. One of the reasons is that – naively – I used to believe I am the only man who likes running around without underpants.

Well, this is how we men are. Because we always think we are the centre of the universe and nobody else ever had the same idea as we. But that is not how it is.

Then came the Bayern-Sound Festival, which I attended. And Söllner Hans played there. He wore a skirt. And he assured us that he was “absolutely underpants-free”.

Hans had more good arguments for wearing a skirt and no underpants. He also said he wanted to make it easy for those “who could screw him”. And that the number of them was rapidly increasing.

I feel similarly. For me, too, the number of those who “can screw me” increases all the time. Especially if they forget that they, too, have been born as mammals and not as system agents. And if they really push themselves to the front and think they are true heroes. Then they can really …

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday April 13th, 2017

IT-Treff – Nostalgia 1999 – It was Awesome!

Among the IF Blog documents, you can find a very special article. For a long time, it was hidden at the very bottom.

It is a satire on New Economy – a theatre play titled:

“Can we be saved?“

Norbert Weinberger and yours truly wrote it. The idea originated when we were on a flight from Munich via Zurich to New-Delhi with Swiss Air.

Swiss Air was a compromise that had taken long to agree upon. My friend and partner Norbert always flew Lufthansa Business Class as a matter of principle. And, just as true to my principles, I always flew Economy. Since we wanted to fly together, we compromised on Swiss air Business Class, because at the time the price was almost exactly halfway in between.

Incidentally, the reason for our flight was the official opening of our joint subsidiary company “AMPERSAND limited“. The trees grew into the heavens at the time.

The Business Class of the Swiss Air plane to New Delhi was completely empty. In those days, Swiss Air was still an independent airline and suffering from losses – but that did not matter to the friendly crew. The service was excellent, we were really mollycoddled. During the entire flight, charming stewardesses served us champagne. That was also one of the factors that made us bold. Consequently, we developed the rough concept for our theatre piece while flying.

Together with friends of ours who were also entrepreneurs, we had the first performance on June, 29th, 1999 with an audience of considerably more than 500 at IT-Treff 99 in the over-crowded Munich Schlachthof. It was great fun and the audience were enthusiastic. For us – the cast – it was mania. And additionally, it was a great outlook towards what happened around the turn of the millennium.

How did the IT Treff come about? In the mid-1990s, it was not always quite so easy for IT enterprises in Germany. The general feeling was not too good. Consequently, a few courageous IT entrepreneurs wanted to do something to improve the mood.

Their names were: Muschka Utpadel-Domdey, Alfred Bauer, Hans Nagel, Dr. Christian Roth, Markus Winkler and yours truly.

Our idea was: let us celebrate against the crisis. So we initiated the IT-Treff and invited the entire Munich IT scene. And alas – they all came.

Stars with names like Gerhard Polt and Django Asül performed for us and extended their programs to include IT-specific topics. The Bavarian Government was always on board – I remember well how Secretary of State Hans Spitzner gave us very special welcome addresses. There was always hot music – we even produced our own CD in the Schlachthof with the George Greene Hotline Band. In fact, to this day I enjoy listening to it.

And the entire IT sector danced. That was in the years 1996, 1997 and 1998. We had our last IT-Treff in 1999 – and we (the organization team) made our own cabaret IT-Treff Satire (1734) “Can we be Saved?“ – for you to read and imitate.

Since is it such a nice piece and was such a huge success, I offer a bonus for small and big theatres if they play it. You can call it a “negative performance fee” (royalty), which means you do not have to pay 10% of the turnover, but instead get something back. It is short and very much to the point – the prelude can also be used for other occasions besides celebrations.


Here is the IT Treff 1999 flyer from the outside

And from the inside

(Translated by Evelyn)

Roland Dürre
Tuesday December 6th, 2016

Soon, I will be electing a Federal Chancellor …

Not true, because basically, I only vote for a party …

Hier mit Klaus Hofeditz bei der Strategie Klausur 2016 von in Berlin.

Yours truly with Klaus Hofeditz during the strategy meeting 2016 at the Berlin

… who then, along with others, will decide about the Federal Chancellors. And maybe then the top candidate of the party that got most of the votes will also become Federal Chancellor. But that is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

For next year’s federal elections, there is a shimmer of hope for my super-ego  #Dumusstwählen. Because my super ego says I, as a person who believes in democracy, have to vote. Yet my conscience forbids me to give my vote to any of the “normal” parties. Consequently, I have a dilemma.

But there is hope: Serdar Somuncu will be a candidate for “die PARTEI”. I looked for information that might tell me if he is a valid alternative. And that gave me the idea of running for the Federal Chancellor candidacy myself.

After all, if I become a candidate, then I will definitely know whom to give my vote. Let me be cynical: it is not all that difficult to become Federal Chancellor. It is probably easier than it has ever been before. After all, Trump, too, managed to become president. And populism is something I am quite good at. Better than some might believe.

But then, at my age (66), I do not at all feel like burdening myself with all the things that a candidacy would involve. And the almost senile candidates, all of whom pretend to be young (not just in the US election campaigns) are really something I abhor.


There will not be a Federal Chancellor Roland Dürre. But perhaps Serdar Somuncu? At least, he likes Woody Allen and Bert Brecht. That means he cannot be all that bad, doesn’t it? Nor do I mind him being Turkish. I rather like people with other cultural backgrounds.

Most likely, he is better qualified for Federal Chancellor than I. After all, I have too much “morbid joy when perverse systems die”.

Roland Dürre
Wednesday July 27th, 2016

Project PEACE. Meeting in Ulm.

We met directly beneath the venerable Ulm Cathedral. There were six of us: all mature men, meeting early on a sunny afternoon in order to work towards peace. Unfortunately, there was no woman amongst us, but then: maybe there will be in the future.

Here is an attempt at writing the minutes of the first meeting.

Das Ulmer Münster 1887

The Ulm Cathedral in 1887

July, 19th, on a nice summer afternoon in front of the coffee house beneath the Ulm Cathedral. Parties meeting:
Daniel, Eberhard, Guido, Jolly, Roland, Wolf.

After a round of introductions where everyone said what motivated him personally, we started developing and discussing first ideas on how we would like to and actually could approach the problem.

Idea of active involvement

We want to reach many persons and encourage them to openly work for peace. For us, this is more important than missionary work towards convincing non-peaceful persons.

We want to use the network-based media.

Based on the works of Wolf, we want to make a certain amount of interaction possible. We want the contributions of people to influence each other and yet we want them to have their own individual value. Participation is open and has a low access threshold. Yet the participation should be more than just a simple “like” or similar phrase.

Weiße Taube auf blauem Grund, eine Variante der Friedenstaube: Seit den 1980er Jahren verbreitetes Symbol der westeuropäischen, vor allem der deutschen Friedensbewegung, entworfen im Kontext des Widerstands gegen den NATO-Doppelbeschluss.Applying the snow-ball principle, we want to reach VERY many people. Our final goal would be to, perhaps, some day, have created the critical mass that can change society.

Our idea is based on views and convictions each of us finally put into short words once more:

I want peace through neutrality and respect for all living creatures.
Hatred and enemy images should disappear.

I have no enemies. Humans have no enemies. We create our own enemy images.

Appreciation. Peace has a value.

Peace is a precious commodity, no more enemy images!
More empathy!

An open society is a pre-requirement for peace.
Awake peacefully, let peace grow.

Next steps:

Find more like-minded persons -> this process has already started.
Fill ideas with actual behavioural patterns.
Design a logo.
Work on a manifesto – see a few fragments below.

Manifesto Fragments

Peace is valuable and needs no justification.

Peace is based on appreciation and respect.

Only those who appreciate their own self can appreciate others.

The peaceful solution of a conflict is always the better solution.

Humans have no enemies, they only have enemy images.

You can overcome enemy images.

einfach so - #lass_deine_waffen_fallen WNH 2016 - Wolf Nkole Helzle Social Media Art

Just like that – #throw_away_your_arms WNH 2016 – Wolf Nkole Helzle Social Media Art


Join us! Let us break the “pattern of war”!

(Translated by EG)

Since we want to make the “project PEACE” absolutely transparent, I am simply publishing the Ulm minutes. Thank you Eberhard for the nice summary.

My appreciation for the powerful in our society is dwindling. The population no longer understands how they act and, what is more, how they govern us. After all, it seems like they react more than they act. And how they reign over us and control us.

What is the reason for the growing dissatisfaction with what our politicians, managers and representatives of associations do? Mind you, it happens regardless of all of us basically being good-natured and being quite prepared to overlook the weaknesses and incompetence of our compatriots.

Let me try to explain the phenomenon.


Here are a few characteristics of human nature.

Some people impress me. They are successful and still humble and humane. They create new things, radiate joy and courage, act and make a difference on a daily basis.

Here are a few ideas of mine – again, they are model-like and I know full well that there is no black-and-white. Some characteristics make humans happy and successful.

  • Experience

    Numerous things belong in that category: 
Experiences from living with a partner. The experience of having you own children. The willingness to exchange the enmity you harbour against yourself and others against joy. The readiness to also embrace extreme situations, as well as to personally take pains, even until you reach a border. The experience of good and poor cooperation in teams. Practicing authentic communication. Gaining and working towards principles in life, such as the ability to be happy and the readiness to accept love. Knowing that you always should first be prepared to give, rather than take. Inner contentment that you can only reach if a necessary amount of physical exercise is reached. Connecting with nature.
    My playful comment on this concept, which I actually mean quite seriously, is that humans need to be “kept species-appropriate”. However, it seems that the heads of our society cannot manage to do this at all.
  • Education
    Today, I define education mostly as the conscious tackling with questions of humanity and society, because everything else can directly or indirectly be found on the internet. If you want a “good education”, you need to be lucky enough to meet the right teachers. It can be individual persons or teams. You need to learn from masters who help you to ask the right questions and to unveil your own prejudices. You need to learn how to be a critical listener and how to quickly discover rhetorical tools. And then you need to practice, practice, practice. All through your life.
    I sadly miss all these things in the heads of our society.
  • Autonomy

    First and foremost, autonomy is the willingness and capability to take responsibility for your own life. 
Looking at the lives of (not only) our “powerful”, I discover that these often seemingly so successful persons, in particular, often live a “second hand” life. External manipulation creates their needs. What they want, what might be good or bad, is controlled from the outside. Artificial reactions beat sadness or joy about things that happen in real life. For instance, it is easier to cry when watching “Love Story” in the cinema than when you bury a friend. They no longer understand that consumption is not the path towards “happiness”. Empathy is replaced by an intellectual, ethic-rational definition that tells you when and how you might show your emotions. And they believe in endless growth. …
  • Freedom
    They exchanged their freedom for being famous and having a career. They are no longer the masters and mistresses of their own lives. They can no longer do what they really would like to do and, even if asked to, cannot do what their individual needs demand.

Especially the powerful functionaries, politicians and business managers are subject to an enormous control from the outside. As a general rule, they have become slaves of their own system. Their lives are controlled by an excessive calendar and an accompanying team of humans who tell them what to do for months in advance.

This is how I perceive the powerful of our world when I meet them in our country or watch them in the media. They are always in a hurry, always stressed out, always artificial, with many beautiful words but without ever making a commitment. To me, they look like representatives of another world or, even worse, zombies of a system that by now has become perverted.

Where are they now, the authentic personalities in top positions who are authentic and focused and who actually find peace inside themselves? I mean those who have no need to constantly proof their value by, basically, just saying what everybody wants to hear and then permanently having to ingratiate themselves?

The Selection Criteria on your Way to Power

The answer is that the characteristics I demand in such a personality diametrically oppose the selection criteria on the way to power. Because if you wish to become rich and powerful, all the factors I described before do not count. In fact, they are quite a hindrance and will make sure you will be a failure in this world. Even at school, all you need to do is behave. When growing up, you have to submit to a huge indoctrination that dominates our socialization. Doubts and ideas of your own will be punished. If you have better knowledge, said knowledge will have to be sacrificed in favour of climbing the ladder of success. Those who are not prepared to subordinate their own beliefs in favour of the patterns generated by the belief in the big lies of late capitalism will drown in the poker game of power. And then the traffic lights of the Germany AG will show the RED light for them.

The only way to accumulate power and wealth (which, basically, is the same thing) is if you strictly accept the dogmata and drugs of the “America-European values” and act as strictly in the frame set for these activities. You have to learn and become fluent in knowing how to use the rather absurd rules of the “shareholder value” to your own advantage. And you have to subjugate yourself completely under the perverse metrics of business and politics.

If, on top of all this, you also know the right people in the Germany AG or if you were born into the party oligarchy, then your career and money affairs will soon blossom.

So how can we change this world?

As I see it, actively planning anything based on ratio will not help at all. Evolution is called upon and it will solve the problem. The main reason why it will work is that the old die out. And I notice especially with young people that they think differently. Luckily, more and more of them no longer believe the rubbish we tell them. Instead, they discover themselves.

This is how evolution will soon create great surprises. The “digital transportation” might well be a driver. It will definitely be “a part of the solution”. But that, too, is something evolution is not really interested in.

Folégandros, June, 3rd, 2016, My ideas while eating my breakfast.
After yesterday’s long hike through the Greek sun.
(Translated by EG)

CLOU/HIT at InterFace Connection

How Wolf and I eventually ended up doing it ourselves.

During the Berlin PM Camp, I related the stories of four projects from my vintage time. They were all very important to me. And I told you here  that I was going to describe them all in the IF blog.

if-logoProjekt 4

Now comes the story of my fourth project:

Even before 1983, I was fed up with working for others. At the time, I was still a Softlab employee. This is where I learned to extend my one-sided competence – with the exception of a little SNA (IBM), it was mostly Siemens technology – and learn more IBM technologies. In particular, however, I was able to learn about the different systems of the “intermediate data technology”.

I am talking machines which, dependent on their storage unit, consisted of two to three parts and had the size of Bosch refrigerators. That means they were a lot smaller and also a lot simpler than mainframe. At the time, those were especially fashionable. Consequently, there was an enormous amount of European and non-European competition with differing and often very proprietorial technology. Kienzle and Nixdorf were also among those aspiring MDT enterprises. And in those days, even in a city like Munich, the same software was developed synchronously in different enterprises for different technologies.

I am sure that Softlab was one of the most innovative German “software houses”. They, too, had a proprietorial system, the famous PET-Maestro. For me, this was the first system without the permanent frustration of data loss, because the Pet-Maestro already worked in symbols – and every symbol was immediately transferred to the hard drive. Consequently, you had a current warm start with every reset – and nothing was lost! It was such a relief to finally no longer have to fear data loss at all time when working, for example, with EDT or EDOR.

On other fronts, I also learned a lot of new things at Softlab. This is particularly true for the business sector: how to formulate an offer so that it contains the least possible risk, how to talk with the VB-s of the big enterprises (Bull, ICL, IBM, Nixdorf, Siemens – even at that time, nothing was going without the big ones), or how to write studies.

This is how I became a paper tiger (totally unrelated to paper tiger, the famous Chinese theatre movement). And in those days, it was (still) true that you got better pay per hour as a paper tiger than as a programmer. Thus equipped, I wanted to do it myself. Yet I did not dare to start all alone. So I went in search of a partner. I looked for and identified persons in my vicinity who I found nice and competent. And who perhaps also wanted to found a company. There were quite a few. But again and again, nothing came of it.

Until Wolf (Geldmacher) came. Wolf was considerably younger than I. Technologically, he was super. And our view of things was similar. Meaning that our values, expectations, interests and needs complemented each other. I was more the old style programmer – and Wolf had the knowledge about everything that was modern and new in IT. Also, Wolf knew absolutely no compromises when it came to quality. And if anybody had common sense, then it was Wolf. And I guess those are the most important factors: competence, common sense, quality awareness. Then you only need to be a nice guy…

Consequently, we founded the short version of InterFace Connection. We inherited the InterFace from Peter Schnupp, the “Connection” was our own contribution. That is what we wanted to be together with our employees: a “connection” that sticks together and later shares its success. We founded the enterprise in 1983 and started business on April, 1st, 1984.

But then, the enterprise is not the project I want to talk about. The project was about developing a product. And there were two reasons why Wolf and I wanted to have a product: firstly, we were convinced that a product would be something to be proud of. It creates an identity. Secondly, a product is easier to scale than a service.

Besides, in our eyes, the then well-established concept of “body leasing” did not have a future. Basically, we still believed in the law and as founders, it was pretty obvious to us that the common form of body leasing was exactly what, according to the AÜG, was simply illegal.

It did not take us long to become quite convinced that, in those days, Unix was the best basis for future products. Also, we agreed without hesitation that, basically, everything you needed for using computers was still missing in Unix. And in particular, we saw that a text system was sadly missing. And that the first thing you would have to develop rather quickly on Unix with its new data displays (in raw or cooked mode) and especially with the language c was a comfortable typewriter.

Since we had a huge amount of respect for the production and successful marketing of a product, we started the development of the product in cooperation with InterFace Computer. It did not take long before we had a small success in the SINIX (the Siemens Unix) environment. Consequently, the development of the product was moved to us and the InterFace Computer was put in charge of the ports and the sales on the “remaining market”.

And in no time, we also had a two-digit number of team members, all of them very young. In general, they were students. They had to have programming competence and be nice. And they had to cope with the work, regardless of their double burden of studying and working. Nothing else mattered to us.

Since Wolf and I (along with a few young employed computer scientists with academic diplomas whom we got through aforementioned body leasing and whose hours cost between 150 and 120 DM) financed the entire development, the young persons were rather free to come and go as they pleased. The only control was our assistant Heidi (Kaindl). Heidi was quite in charge of all the young persons, taking good care that everybody actually worked. The only times Wolf and I met them was during meetings (soon after our foundation, women, too, were employed).

In those days, Wolf had the role of SCRUM-Master and more (even though the word SCRUM did not yet exist). He told the team about quality. And that, first and foremost, they produced quality not for our customers, not for our sales partners Siemens and not for the InterFace Connection. Instead, being honest programmers, they needed to produce quality in their own interest. And Wolf had rather high standards and was very strict. If someone was not able or willing to deliver quality, he or she had no future at the “Connection”. But Wolf also protected the team, for instance when I tried to limit resources. And he made sure that we invested were necessary.

My task was perhaps that of the Product Owner. At least in the beginning. When I had been a young boy, I had been forced to learn stenography and typing. I used to love stenography, because it is a beautiful way of writing. It does not hurt your hand, as normal writing does. But I hated the typewriter. And I knew exactly how a good editing machine would have to look. I had also written it down in the time of our foundation.

When things got more complicated and, for instance, CLOU with its “embedded sql“ was added to our repertory, I transferred the role of Product Owner to our customers. And that was one of my best decisions ever. Because the customers actually were able to tell us their ideas about an automated chip processing. They showed us how to continue on our way.

One of our rules was that all employees – with the exception of Heidi – were able to program. Heidi was our first and most important customer. As soon as the first HIT version was available, we confiscated “nroff-makros”, her “office vi”, and she had to use HIT – which, incidentally, she did not appreciate at all. After all, the vi solution had not been so bad. Later, however, she learned to love her HIT. Surprise, surprise! After all, she was one of those who built it!

All other colleagues on the HIT team had to work hands-on. In other words, all of them had to be able to program, find errors and, above all, co-work (team work).

We were very early users of tools that would be commonly used a lot later. But this was only true for tools that actually made sense, such as “lint” for the quality control of our code or “sccs” for the source code administration. I am pretty sure that, time and again, we were the first in Munich. We were also earlier than most of the others using a “tracker” and an automatic “built”. But we never used planning software. Just as we always took pains to avoid “bureaucrazy”.

So all of us involved in the project were programmers. And we actually always coordinated in the team who was going to develop what. The personalities of the people involved were very diverse. But then, we also had the magic programmer. It was not entirely in jest that we called him “God”. But the first rule was that we were a team. Everybody helped everybody. Our motto was: “one for all, all for one”. Nobody was ever left in a lurch. And whenever you did not know a way out, you asked your colleague. Pair-programming in the strict sense did not exist, because it went without saying that this was practiced quasi automatically. Consequently, there were always several persons who knew the sources of the others. It was like an overlapping system that worked well some way or other without many words.

Of course, we had a rather complicated system with an awful lot of modules, interfaces, tools, API-s in our development. In total, a huge number of lines of code was produced. There were modules for the virtualization of keyboards, terminals or printers. We had developed the first National Language Support. Later, it became part of the X-Open UNIX implementation. We had complicated modules and modules everybody feared, as well as boring modules. Once in a while, we also had to find errors in the compilers we used.

The team always decided among themselves who was going to take on which task. Everything was part of the project: our value bank, mostly constituting of OpenSource components for source code administration, for the Built and the partly automated test, for the ports to the many end systems the Unix world then offered. Even producing the customer newsletter HITNews, which at the time was printed four times a year and determining the structure of the courses were part of it. Everything was done together, everyone .gave his best.

Naturally, once in a while there were situations when perhaps someone was unable to cope. Because maybe he did not yet have enough experience or perhaps he had underestimated the task. But then a colleague would help. The right person was always available. And when it was really necessary, there was still “God”.

Of course, everybody had his own role in the team. Each of us was a project manager and as such responsible for the appointments he had made. Some had more, others less. Each of us was a quality manager. Some more so, others less. Of course, there was something like a first contact for our customers and our partners. It was always a mutual decision (“who is the best for this job?”), but he remained in the team as a programmer. But, basically, every developer answered the questions of his customers. After all, they simply came into our office. The central bell rang, and whoever was the first to answer the telephone was talking to the customer.

Naturally, some of the colleagues were more concerned with integration, planning, configuration and the built-theme, the manual, … But every one of them was always fully integrated into the team in terms of technology.

But everybody always went back to programming. And everybody was responsible for top quality. For instance because they built automatic test environments simply as a part of the project. The responsibility was totally shared.

With the success came the necessity to have teachers for our product HIT/CLOU. During the first few years, all the developers also taught the courses. This was true for teaching the end users, the special users, the systems engineers, the operators and the programmers. Even the central persons, like Friedrich Lehn, the “father” of CLOU, taught courses where beginners were instructed on how to program CLOU.

There were instances when the developers did not appreciate this. After all, developing is much more important, isn’t it? But the courses were quite popular (because, after all, the colleagues knew what they were talking about, which certainly counterbalances the occasional “didactical” weakness). But the great thing about it was that our colleagues always knew exactly what the customer wanted and needed! This is how the customers as a whole became the Product Owners.
Due to these inter-disciplinary tasks, our colleagues grew both in technological competence and personality at enormous speed – that is also true for sales competence. More often than not, it was unbelievable how young students became experts with a huge self-esteem after a few months.

Without ever saying it out loud, we on our team understood even at that time that it is all about making all the persons in the team and in the enterprise look biggger instead of smaller. And to make them be part of everything and share everything. We knew that we often had to have really steep goals, often even bold goals. Otherwise, we would never have managed our product. But we also knew, especially in this situation, the importance of living a strong error tolerance.

The colleague in the team or the customer must never ever be the enemy or adversary. Instead, the only enemies were the challenge or the detrimental circumstances.

Wolf and I were the “management”. But we were more like visitors in our enterprise. After eight to ten hours with customers every day, we came back to our employees at home in the office for recreation. They were all our friends, it felt good to be near them. And they showed us all the great things they had, again, created. We gave our feedback and then disappeared to our next day of consultancy.

And whenever a nice result was achieved, we all celebrated. It was the best time of my life. We learned so much. We also learned that thinking normal and conservatively is often nonsense. For instance, I always wanted to deliver to our customers on time. And I had to learn that this is utter nonsense.

Because if you want to create something really innovative, you will learn again and again that deadlines do not make any sense at all. It simply will not work. If a deadline can absolutely not be met, then all that matters is a functioning communication and looking for a solution that satisfies the customer. Because when they are all in one boat and want to be a success together, then there is always a solution – and we found out that it can always be done.

I already hear your objection: 
Well, it might work for a small project. But what about a huge project?

To be sure, we were perhaps less than 50 persons. But the very same projects had failed with more than one huge concern. They had often used five times as many persons as we or even more. Expensive, experienced and highly qualified ones. But it did not work.

I believe it can be done in the same way if you have a huge or even a very huge project if many such great teams are linked and cooperate with good-will.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday October 26th, 2015

“Change Management“

Zeitgenössische Ganesha-Statue

Contemporary Ganesha Statue

Also one of those modern anti-words. In a nutshell, it means the struggle against the concept or principle:

“This is how we always did it!“

Because you assume that, in order to “improve” something, you have to change it. Yet you do not want to leave change to the evolutionary process or to “the masses”. Since there is no trust that employees or the citizens really know how to do “change” (basically, citizens and employees are mostly considered more stupid than they actually are), you suppress “grass-root movements”. Instead, you want change “from the top”, forced by managers and controlled or somehow manipulated.

This idea makes me shudder. Because in my understanding, the term manager more and more refers to an at least slightly insane priest who thinks he has supernatural powers and can make miracles happen through witchcraft.

The miracle expected by “Change Management” is innovation. Even though nobody really knows what innovation is and how it is done. It goes without saying that the magician and his witchcraft, too, will not work. If, by accident (or through other influences) something actually happens, then the magician, naturally, willingly takes the credit and the “cash”.

I often was frustrated because of the “this is how we always did it”. Regardless, I never saw it totally negative. After all, it contains some kind of conservative warning that reminds you of the fact that innovation will always have a negative destruction in its wake, even if said destruction is creative. Consequently, the often criticized sentence admonishes us to also see and answer for the consequences, regardless of the cry for necessary change. If you see the positive side of it, you get the appeal to see a challenge with all its consequences.

A short time ago, I remembered some other sentences I also often get to hear, for instance:

“Where would we end up if everybody did this?“

“What does he think he is doing …?“

More often than not, these sentences are uttered without much reflection. I sadly miss any positive connotation. Even more, I discover a “moral” judgement. I also heard this sentence quite a few times in my own enterprise, for instance when young employees spontaneously integrated rules that were quite questionable. The first reaction of the administrative department whose job it was to see to it that everybody sticks by the rules was doubt. Of course, mostly they did not first answer the important question: “WHY was all this done?“

Even though, basically, nobody can say why in the “social systems” created by people rules and regulations always exponentially multiply and develop lives of their own as a matter of course. Until they control the system. I like calling this effect “bureaucrazy”.

And when “bureacrazy” has us by the neck it is really high time to “break with patterns”. Even if it takes a lot of courage and you might actually get frightened. But still, it is important that, whenever we #break_with_patterns, we can answer the question: WHY!

A short time after his inauguration, our former Federal President, Mr. Roman Herzog allegedly said that the first thing one should do is abolish all laws with uneven numbers. And then look and see which laws you actually miss. You could easily re-introduce them. And then you should do the same thing with the laws that have even numbers.

Some way or other, that is also a good metaphor for #breaking_with_rules.

(Translated by EG)

About the picture:
I took the picture from a Wikipedia article on Ganesha. It is a work in its own right by onoikobangali.

Roland Dürre
Thursday October 8th, 2015

Vintage Project Management #1 – My First Project

Das war erst viel später und da war es schon vorbei. Das erste Projekt war noch in Koppstr. (Nahe Hofmannstr.)

What you see on this picture did not yet exist – it only came when my project was over. My first project was realized in the Koppstr. (Hofmannstr.)

During the Berlin PM Camp, I told the stories of four projects from vintage times that were very important for me. And I also announced here that I was going to publish all four of them in the IF Blog.

So here I am now, beginning with the first small project:

Project #1

The first project of my life was but a small one. It was scheduled to last six weeks and it was my first professional activity in data processing.

In those days, I was a student of informatics starting for the second time. The first time had been in 1969, when I started studying mathematics and minored in informatics at Technische Hochschule München (THM). The only alternatives for the minor subject would have been physics – which I did not like – and business. However, I was a little sceptical, because I had been attending and graduating from the Jacob Fugger “Business Grammar School” in Augsburg. And at that school, accounting, which I was quite good at, had been an A-level subject. On the other hand, the knowledge taught in business and economics seemed a little questionable to me – which, incidentally, is even more true today. Consequently, the only thing to minor in left was informatics – and that sounded really exciting, too. Professor F.L. Bauer actually succeeded in whetting my appetite in the fall of 1969.

And then, on April, 1st, 1970, dark powers and a mixture of ill luck and ill advice forced me to serve in the Federal Army. That was not at all an April’s Fool Jest, which meant that I had to spend 18 months in rather questionable surroundings as a conscript.

And when, late in September 1971, I regained my freedom, I just started anew. Again in the first semester, again with the same combination of subjects, and again at the same college, which suddenly was called TUM (Technische Universität München).
But there was nothing new except the name. And I knew almost everything because in 1969 I had still been a rather diligent student who had listened attentively and learned with enthusiasm. Consequently, I was doing well and the Olympic Games of 1972 came along. Besides studying, I had a great job with good money at the German Railway (at the time still called Deutsche Bundesbahn) as a customer service person for guests from all over the world. And in some way or other, the entire world was mine for the asking …

In 1974, I finished my intermediate diploma successfully and again needed a little more money than I made as a TUM tutor (teaching Linear Algebra I and II and a programming course). I narrowly missed being eligible for BaföG and my parents – also working at the German Railway – said I could easily continue living at home in my room and commute to Munich like my father always did. But that was not what I wanted. Consequently, I was looking for a summer job – and, naturally, the favourite prospective employer was one of the leading high-tech and computer companies.

In those days, that was what Siemens was! Seen in retrospective, it is hard to believe what immense know-how was present in this company in a huge number of areas. They took me in at Siemens and so I was in the middle of the real high-tech world, first for six weeks in the summer of 1974 and then for the entire duration of my university education. I had direct access to computers, operating systems and programming languages – and I mean I was filled up with them to the brim, which was totally different from what they offered, for instance, at the so-called TUM.

And I got my first project at Siemens on my very first day! My (department) boss was Mr. Bieck. He was a hardware person and later became development head at one of the upcoming German computer manufacturers: Kienzle.

Kienzle was only one of the smaller Siemens competitors – but it was certainly remarkable to see what these enterprises – just like much larger enterprises, such as Nixdorf, or many smaller ones managed to accomplish in those days.

During my six weeks as a summer intern, I had total freedom – provided the actual task I had been assigned got finished. And they also told me that the problem I had been given might not be solvable at all. But that it would indeed be very much appreciated if I managed to solve it. It was actually the same I heard over the last few years from people about google: you give yourself unachievable goals, yet you get a nice tolerance for possible failure, which means you will be truly happy when eventually you actually manage to solve the problem.

The task was easy to formulate: 
The department wanted the highest possible Mersenne prime numbers. For a hardware prototype.

For non-mathematicians:
A number is a Mersenne prime number if it is a prime number derived from a power of two minus 1. In other words if (2 power n) – 1 or (2 power m) – 1, is a prime number.
That is my spontaneous definition.

Well – and my boss wanted as many n-s and m-s as possible. He was not interested in being shown how I did it – as long as I did it at all.

The background:
In those days, a lot of people were really active doing “research and development”. It was truly great. But it was not some R&D totally remote from practice. No: in almost all cases, your work would serve to promote actual applications and projects. That made it truly cool.

Practically applied R&D needs theoretical background. Business got that from the universities (in those days, there was still something you could get from them). And, naturally, Siemens AG also looked across the borders – particularly across the inter-state borders. Because the GDR universities were not so bad at all. And they gave us lots of great results.

For instance, there was a scientific work sitting on my desk – I think it had been written in Leipzig – in which someone had given the theoretical proof that it is possible to build an accidental generator from a ring connection with n binary switches.

And if you short-circuited the structure at the right place, the system would generate a maximum period of random numbers.

It would happen if and only if the number of used switches n is a Mersenne prime number. And if the short-circle is after the m-th switch – and if m is a Mersenne prime number. 
(please forgive my clumsy description, I was never much of a hardware person).

I never understood this work. Also those six weeks would probably be far too short. But then, this was totally irrelevant for my job. All I was supposed to do was deliver very high prime numbers of the type 2 power n -1. Even the prime numbers were unimportant. All that mattered were the m and the n.

For my software friends:
In the early 1970ies, it was totally utopian to build such a thing as random generator software. After all, the device was supposed to create the bit patterns rather quickly, because they were supposed to test the maximum flat modules for large-capacity computers. And those were rather fast gadgets, considering the times.

Also, Herr Bieck could not have cared less how I solved the problem – that meant it was up to me if I programmed something for the calculation or if I found the big Mersenne prime numbers somewhere else in the world. All options were open.

Consequently, I spent the next few days in various libraries (Siemens, StaBi, Unis – you have to remember that, in those days, the internet did not exist). And I quickly realized that there was no chance for me finding Mersenne prime numbers in this way, even if someone on this planet had already calculated them.

This is why I forced myself to come to a quick decision. I was going to forget the world around me and try it by myself – by just programming. I still had more than five weeks to go.

This was the first thing I learned about “project management”: 
Decide quickly, especially if it is a really hard decision and you basically know no way out.

Then I tried to do some traditional programming. I thought in terms of the decimal system, looking into integer and arithmetic calculation systems. And after two weeks, I noticed that I was never ever going to succeed with this strategy.

And this was the second thing I learned for future projects and for life: 
Whenever you do not know how to continue, you have to try new ways! Kiss old concepts and patterns good-bye, and do not hesitate!

So I decided to no longer look for huge numbers. Instead, I just saw a number as a field of bits. And all of a sudden, all those big numbers became small numbers. For instance, 2-to-the-power-of-256 was now a binary field with the length of 32 bytes. And you can calculate rather elegantly with bit fields each of which has the length of 32 bytes. All you have to do is some shifting. And suddenly, the huge number had lost all its scariness …

I told you this story for two reasons.

Firstly, because all of a sudden it became clear to me that, on top of deciding quickly and courageously, you also have to leave old mental concepts if you want to achieve something special. And I often suffered under this and under the typical “But this is how we always did it …”, because it blocked the way.

And because I am living proof that, more than 40 years ago, Siemens actually worked in the same way as they sometimes say Google does today. And that in those days they achieved really great things and that there was not much competition world-wide, perhaps IBM and Xerox or Hitachi. All the others were just in their initial phases.

In a short time, you will read my next Berlin #PMCampBER story on vintage project management. It is from a time when I had a contract as an employee – at the Siemens laboratory. That was in the late 1970ies. I will relate how Siemens did everything, and I mean really everything, to destroy its greatness.

It happened because they kissed their old virtues good-bye and introduced division of labour (Taylorism) in the creative areas such as product planning (Requirement Management) and quality management, specialized DV/IT teachers in their D-schools, manual copy editors and many more such roles.

And, above all, whenever there were things to decide, the questions they asked were: “What is the profit of this?” and “What is our advantage?”, instead of the question: “Why do we do this?” – as in former times.

At the time of my first project, there were no such things as project managers. The first project manager you will find in the world as I perceived it will come with my third project management vintage story. That was in the early 1980ies.


Tuesday October 6th, 2015

My Friend, the Software Cheat …

Yesterday, I received mail from Hans Bonfigt. Hans is much appreciated by me for being an excellent software and IT man. He is quite famous for his stubbornness and drastic language. This morning, he wrote to me:

Dear Roland, I hope you are fine!

A short time ago, I wanted to reply to your recent forum comment on the VW affair and your assumption that it is probably a novelty for software being used to manipulate. During a longish train trip, I took down a few – unstructured, brainstorm-like – observances on my blackberry. The final result gave even me pause.

Even if I probably do some damage to myself and although it is still a little early for a life confession at 55: here is a guest article for your IF blog.


Hans Bonfigt

I, the Software Cheat.

betrugThe relevant part of my life can easily be summarized in one sentence: quite often, I successfully combined basic insights from scientists like Newton, Gauß, Boltzmann, Steiner, Euler and Shannon with the technological knowledge of my customers in order to generate programs that were supposed to help the experts towards working more efficiently.

This is how, with exactly said paradigm as a mental concept, I started developing software in 1980 – for calculating electronic motors, parable springs or lifting ranks, or for controlling temperature, passage, pressure and location.

As far as I was concerned, things might have continued endlessly in that way…

As early as in the 1970ies, my old man had made fun of the “academic proletariat” by pointing towards an FAZ cartoon: loser type wearing doctoral cap is holding the door open for decadent opera goers and the title is, “Dr. rer. pol. Rolf Wüllweber, dissertational thesis supervised by professor Steiner, ‘The socio-cultural meaning of the Loden coat with special focus on the late Weimar Republic seen in the light of modern insights on socio anistrophy and abstraction analysis‘. Maybe he should have listened to his professor Steiner when he said: “Wüllweber, all you can do with this dissertational thesis is become a doorman.“.

All of a sudden, everybody studied something and nobody had any use for those affected pseudo theorists. Those empty nuts could not be used for doing a good day’s work, consequently they made their clandestine ways through the companies in the departments documentation, “communication”, internal regulations (note by the lector: product planning) …

At Siemens, this species allegedly even invented a “greeting order”, telling people who had to greet whom first where, when and following which protocol determined by rank (next note by lector: I definitely knew the regulation about which rank was entitled to having curtains in their office …).

But then, something happened that was called “QM”: Quality Management.

Nobody wanted it and all enterprises I know willingly conclude that the quality of their products definitely got worse after they introduced quality management. Well. There are at least two ways for dealing with this kind of news:

For instance the Russians and Italians simply took their DIN/ISO badges and glued them onto their products – and that was it. The same happened to the UL and CE badges. In Germany, this is something you cannot do. Hundreds of thousands of morons who had never worked in their lives, were “trained” to become ‘quality managers‘. During the time that followed, they came up with the most abstruse of regulations, none of which had anything at all to do with what the final product was actually supposed to do. Yet all these regulations made the production more and more expensive, thus driving another nail into the coffin of the already existing location disadvantage Germany was suffering from.

No enterprise can suffer a technocrat without fantasy for more than five years (let us leave VW and Carl H. Hahn out of the equation for the time being). Consequently, the hot air merchants, following the principle ‘promoveatur ut amoveatur‘, moved on to become managing directors and – even worse – to sit in all sorts of norming committees as lobby-affine lackeys. This is how works like the “DIN EN 1570″ were generated. I personally had to spend quite some time professionally with this regulation. It is a lot too specific when it comes to details and far too wishy-washy when it comes to important criteria.

And this is where my personal sin originated:

Since the norm annoyed me enormously, I started to misinterpret it intentionally and make use of all the many gaps therein. Because both the European and world-wide competition could not have cared less about this great new Euro norm – yet the products of my customer were controlled following it. Before that time, I had been proud to have produced algorithms that actually were a model of reality – now I manipulated the model by using definition gaps.

And as I am writing this, it suddenly dawns on me that, in fact, creating a wishful image, rather than modelling reality, was something I started a lot earlier than I thought.

For instance, there was the carrier who was notoriously victimized by the police and the authorities: they kept sending control brigades who took a really close look at the trip recorder discs that had to follow strict archiving regulations. Any violation was detrimental both for the carrier firm and the driver – and the grapevine said: “if you want to keep your driver’s licence, you do not want to work for W.”.

Well, what can I say? My connections to KIENZLE were quite good, so I got myself a tachograph, modified it in such a way that it got a V.24 interface and designed a computer program that expected the time, driven kilometres, starting and destination points and then “faked” a disc that was in accordance with the StVO regulations.

We also developed other devices that significantly increased transport safety for the same industry: I am sure you, too, know someone who, at least once, almost or actually hit the car in front when the driver of said car abruptly hit the brakes on seeing a radar trap? Using our active RadarJammer, you could continue driving at the same speed as before, because it interfered with the then used “Multanova 6F“ and “Traffipax“ through phase interference.

When all those impossible “intrastate” messages became compulsory for many enterprises, we were the ones who wrote a module for the then used analysis software “CBS/IRIS“. It provided the statistics experts with pure random numbers. We were especially proud to have managed printing with laser printers on forms that had to be ordered – if I remember correctly – from Saarlouis. It had been desired to concentrate on following product groups, but that was not a must. Consequently, many of our customers sent us entire boxes full of forms addressed to the statistics authorities. However, no OCR system in the world would have been able to read all these different fonts and – naturally – the dark-grid background.

We also offer solutions for the “Elektronischer Gelangensnachweis“ and for the “reverse charging“ – turnover tax procedure, but since these are currently still used, I cannot write about them. So now, having reached the last third of my professional career, I have to accept to my own horror that one third of my “work” was directed at evading bureaucracy – to say it politely.

Of course, I have a motivation for all this cheating: for instance, if the UE finance ministers go on about those “criminal turnover tax carousels”, then why don’t you abolish the entire turnover tax? You could considerably reduce the burden of the enterprises and put taxation on those who in actual fact are exclusively the ones paying it: the famous “men on the street”. So what happens instead? The already complicated and complex turnover tax regulations, incidentally without legal foundation, are added to by more harassment, which again has a detrimental effect on the competitiveness of German enterprises.

This is where civil disobedience becomes our first duty as citizens!

But there is also an opposite side of the coin. I want to illustrate it with a real-life example: it is next to impossible to build a certain type of spring with a tolerance of less than 15% – the inner friction is too high and even as you assemble it, the radius and thereby the springing rate will change. I cannot give you the type of spring I mean, because knowing it you would be able to conclude who it has been built for. Everybody knows that the norm is idiotic, the required precision is unnecessary and the assumed weight is totally unrealistic. Consequently, the quality control person of the customer will visit regularly for acceptance tests, criticise the part of the springs that are beyond the tolerance scope, take the bribe and disappear.

As I see it, the worst about it is that the bribe is ridiculously low, since it typically consists of one crate of the least expensive spirits available. I saw the crate myself but refrained from trying. Because: this acceptance lackey will also betray himself and his job for truly safety-relevant car components the characteristics of which really should be within the tolerance range in order to avoid serious accidents.

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur — there is really no other way to explain the VW “scandal”. Well, VW always cheated, and I mean in a very blunt way. I never dirtied my hands by doing anything for their products, because VW actually is an insult to the intelligence of all mature persons.

Let us remember the mid 1980ies. While BMW and Mercedes used reasonable exhaust gas treatment systems for their vehicles, for instance an air-mass controlled BOSCH Motronik with lambda regulation that produced a stoichiometric mixture in all active states, VW kept using the mechanic primitive injection with pressure plate and flow divider. The concern proudly announced: “We drive without a catalytic converter because that is what we believe in”. And for those customers who were obstinate enough to still want one, they had a full load enrichment switch everybody could see clearly on the control slot guide of the throttle valve.

As soon as the driver really asked his “Power-Through-Joy-Car” to show what it can do, the gas/air mixture was overly lubricated through full-load enrichment in order to prevent the primitive proletarian vehicles cost-optimized at the lowest possible embarrassment borderline from collapse due to overheating. Now, unburned fuel would end up in the catalytic converter, which has the effective surface of a soccer field. Now, as soon as the VW driver goes back to part-load, the oxygen can flow back to the catalytic converter which is now full of fuel. Due to its small specific heat, the ceramic substrate was not capable of discharging the energy of the strongly exothermic reaction, which means that the platinum layer evaporated.

After a few thousand kilometres, the VW catalytic converter was totally damaged – and everybody knew it! But that is only half of the story. Through targeted lobbying, not just by VW, they managed to abolish exhaust examinations for cars with catalytic converters – un unimaginable farce, but nobody noticed.

I could not believe my eyes when, in 1988, I saw a Volkswagen with a decent fuel-injection system in California. When I asked one of the VW employees, he told me: “Yes, of course, we know that our fuel injection is crap. Consequently, we reduce the power of our US models and take an injection system that actually works. Because in California, the cars have to undergo regular checks and if a catalytic converter is defunct, we have to replace it at our own cost “.

And now do not tell me you could not have known any of this, because almost everything I have been writing here was published in the daily newspapers. At the time, Lutz “Luigi“ Colani got carried away and was heard with the bonmot: “VW is a dungheap on top of which [Carl H.] Hahn is sitting“. Any intelligent person who wanted to know it knew: VW is the automobile pendant of Microsoft. For people without culture, brains, taste and the capacity to judge.

Basically, compared to the cheating I just wrote about, the current affair is ridiculous, isn’t it? They come up with a regulation that is far from practical and VW complies by doing something that is far from practical in their tests. That means they passed the tests, didn’t they? So what?

You can see the sad state of affairs when remembering that, nowadays, Audi is building “sound design” into their cars near the exhaust pipe. Besides taking up space and weighing something, they have no use whatsoever except to create a “full sound”. Because the typical AUD-iot will be satisfied with dummies.

Cheating on such idiots – well, I would have no scruples — mundus vult decipi. Secretly, I am still hoping that my manipulation would not have been discovered.

This article has been published verbatim for and in the name of Hans Bonfigt. And many thanks to Hans! – RMD

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday October 4th, 2015

I am not a hero.

After my Angry article, there is the question:
So what is my contribution?

Die Krypta des Freisinger Doms

Crypt of the Freising Cathedral

For me, philosophy is something like the science of living. I think of Seneca. A long time ago, he said to his students:

Philosophy teaches you to act, not to talk.

Consequently, the angry person, too, should see if his actions speak the same language as his words. And I must admit that I am not satisfied with the outcome of my self-analysis.

To be sure, I try to leave the social norms and patterns I so criticize. And, where possible, I also try to initiate change. But is that enough?

Far too often, I realize how I am trapped in my bourgeoisie. My trainers, among others, were my parents and my teachers. Numbers of system agents tried to form me according to what they thought I should become and tell me where to go and what to do. Morals and an extremely capitalist consumption-oriented society already influence me massively on a daily basis.

Regardless, I hope I am one of those persons who basically to not consider our “trained lives” unavoidable. At least, I always tried to flee the reins of the aforementioned animal tamers. And already I feel better. But what I do is not enough. To be sure, I no longer go places by car. But then, that is something you could almost call egoism. After all, I am now suddenly a lot more mobile and free than I ever was before. And through this change and (allegedly) these restrictions, my life has become a better life. That certainly helps when it comes to thinking new thoughts.

Looking upon my own generation, it truly gives me pause to see how many of my companions never knew anything other than being trapped in their emotional jails. I know people who, in their entire lives, obediently believed all nonsense that was ever dished out to them. They actually relinquished their autonomy in small portions for the sake of being comfortable.

Others never once in their lives, when at a point of bifurcation in their lives, followed the motto “love it, change it or leave it“ . As a consequence, they were made to feel smaller and smaller. Regardless, today they think they are the most important thing in the universe, live their status and drown in their anxiety. The constant fear of losing what they own makes them inhuman. They seem to have forgotten that they, too, are just mortal beings.

I am fed up with following the nonsense of this society. In the coming years, I want to do more. So I was looking for models. I already found one: Carl Amery. I find his life and work impressive. I think he was a true hero.
Unfortunately, I am not a hero. But who knows, perhaps in the future…

(Translated by EG)

I took the picture from Wikipedia. It is the illustration of the article on Carl Amery (real name: Christian Anton Mayer), originally by Richard Huber.