Performance benchmarks

It is time for me to give back.

Dealing with performance benchmarks has occupied a fair share of my life from my early days in the computer world in the mid ’80s.

In the beginning it was mostly reading, with just a bit of writing, that today I would be ashamed of, in one of the early Italian BBS “newspaper” called “Corriere Telematico“.

At the time I could have never imagined that benchmarks would have a very large role in my career to the point that for about 8 years they even defined my job title.

Now, as I my transition into a new role is almost complete, it feels like the right time to write something about benchmarks that can help many people in the industry.

I recall reading in one of the paper magazines of my early days something along the lines of “benchmarks don’t lie, but liars do use benchmarks”. I believe it was on MCmicrocomputer but I can’t bet on this.

This bleak statement about benchmarks was true 30+ years ago and it’s still true now, but we should not throw the good away together with the bad: proper benchmarks were and still are useful tools for individuals and organizations alike.  It’s all about defining “proper” correctly in each context.

For a while, given the scarcity of published material on the subject, I was thinking of putting together a book, with the help of a friend of mine.

I fear I will not be able to put in all the time needed to complete it in a reasonable time frame and for this reason I decided to blog on the subject instead.

In the coming weeks (or months, I don’t know yet how this will work) I will share what I learned in many years as a source for anyone wanting to get closer to the holy grail of the “proper benchmark”.

I will be vendor and technology neutral, covering both the business and the technical sides.

Your feedback will be key in shaping how this will move forward.

In the next post I’ll share the target table of content of this series of posts.

Apologia della cattiveria by Teodoro Klitsche de la Grange

I could not resist purchasing and reading a book that was attempting to make the point that there it is something good about being bad.

With only 32 pages (plus the notes) it is a pamphlet more than an essay.

The first important point of the author is the split of the behavior as private citizen from the one as a public officer.
The importance of being good in our private live is recognized and then the author moves on explaining why being bad as a public officer sometimes is not only acceptable but badly needed.

Then the book shows several examples of “bad” behaviors from public officers that led to a lesser damage and examples of “good” behavior that led to major public damage.
If the state, and as a consequence the people with public roles, is unwilling to use some degree of violence there it is no point at all in having a state because the individuals that disagree with the government decisions can’t be forced into accepting them.

Bad guys, without quotes, are born every day: a state that can be “bad” is needed.

2014: eating @ Bar della Crocetta in Milano

I used to eat at Bar della Crocetta since I was in my highschool days and the place was managed for almost 30 years by the same crew.
It was the best sandwich place of the entire city without any doubt: rich, creative, balanced in the mix of tastes.
Just fantastic.
But two years ago the owners have sold it.

three days ago, as I arrived at the door with my wife, I immediately noticed that something had changed: cleaner place, more light, no more sausages in display, female waiters.
In theory all good changes, but I had a negative gut feeling.

The place was almost empty, but it was the day of the soccer world championship final so it was reasonable.

The list of sandwiches got axed: about 70% less choice than in the past.
Also the list of different types of sausages halved.
I went for a classical sandwich (cipollata) that I had dozens of times in the past with the previous owners while my wife got something new based on Praga ham.

Then we started to wait.
More waiting.
After 30 minutes (with 12 customers in total in the place) we finally got the sandwiches and delusion with them.

The taste of my sandwich was just a pale memory of the original one and using the same name is absolutely inappropriate
Cipollata refers to the fact that it is based on onions (cipolle in Italian) but the quantity was so little and the onions so sweet that their contribution to the overall taste was minor.
The melted cheeses were too hard and not well amalgamated.
The thickness of the sandwich interior was about 60% of the old one while price adjusted with inflation was constant. Ans this was the XL version.
My wife complained tha the ham was sliced so thin that is was almost ethereal in her mouth and about the overall lack of taste. This never happened with the old owner.

To summarize: maybe now it is a healthier place, but it is no longer a place worth visiting.
The Bar della Crocetta si dead and anyone that experienced the place in the past should avoid it to avoid getting the same delusion I had.

Incubo a cinque stelle by Roberto Dal Bosco

At the last national political elections in Italy a relatively new party got about 30% of the votes.
While it was not uncommon in Italy in the past to have a relevant percentage of “protest” votes it never went to such a high percentage.

The author digs into the details of what is the vision of this party and of the people who lead it.
While the content is interesting the book is too stretched and with many repetitions of the same concepts and quotes.
While each time they are in a different context, appropriate and well documented this still makes the reading at times boring.

I’m fairly sure that the same exact content could be delivered in 30% fewer pages with similar or better overall effect.
For this sole reason I’d not advocate this book: people’s time is precious and authors need to value it when writing.

Obesita’ e tasse. Perche’ serve l’educazione e non il fisco.

The title can be translated as “Obesity and taxation. Why it is necessary an education and not a taxation”
Massimiliano Trovato groups in this book for IBLLibri (the publishing entity of the Istituto Bruno Leoni) a series of contributes on the subject of the policies to solve the problem of a population that shows behaviors that put under pressure the public healthcare system.

The title references the policies against obesity as the core focus, but the book includes contributes that analyze also past and current policies aimed at stopping other personal behaviors (tobacco and alcohol consumption) that have a similar effect on the healthcare system but a longer history of policies aiming at stopping them.
In several cases the taxation had no measurable effect on the consumption of the undesired products and in some had negative effect not foreseen.

The authors of the contributes include: William Shughart II, Randall Holcombe, Gordon Tullock, Edward Glaeser, Richard Tiffin and Mattew Salois, Franco Sassi, Richard Williams and Katelyn Christ, Scott Drenkard, Alberto Alemanno and Ignacio Carreno.

Edward Glaeser essay on “Paternalism and psychology” deserves a special mention because the issue of the risks associated with use of soft paternalism are not limited to the specific subject of obesity and consumptions disincentives.
Soft paternalism is used more and more by the governments of the western world to shape the behavior of the population in all aspects of public and private life as it seems less invasive than hard paternalism, but it’s easily useable as a lock pick to ease the introduction of hard paternalism later down the road without facing a strong opposition.

I liked the entire book and recommend it.
Given the low quality of the cover is not a book that can witstand many reads: it’s one of the few cases when I’d suggest an electronic version instead of the printed one.

Alitalia. La privatizzazione infinita by Andrea Giuricin

Lately the media, at least in Italy, are full of news about a new crisis of Alitalia and the not-so-creative approach of the government to the problem of the (again) substantially bankrupt company.

This book was written after the very long process that transformed Alitalia, the main italian airline, from a state-owned company into a (supposedly) public one 2009.
It details all the political decisions that impacted an operation that was supposed to be made according to market rule and ended up to have very little free market in the actual decisions.

The book is missing the recent evolution of Alitalia due to the fact that was published in 2009, but provides all the elements needed to read the new wave of announcements of solutions for the problems of the company.
To read it today is a little depressing because the risks foreseen have become a reality and the inefficiencies appear to be still in place, both in the company vision and in the way the politic is attempting to fix the situation.

I fear that Alitalia’s problem will find a (temporary) solution like in the previous crisis: using money from the pockets of the citizens.

Doppio Misto by Raffaele La Capria

Some time ago I posted briefly about a book with the very same title.
While searching for it in my preferred online bookstore I happened to get La Capria’s book in the list of results and on the basis of the short excerpt available I decided to take it.

I could have used a better criteria to select a book.
I’ve found the book fairly boring, self-centered to the point of being irrelevant for the reader.
The only positive thing is that it a very light load for the brain and take little time to read.
Do yourself a favor and save your money or, if you own it already, save at least your time.

Doppio misto. Autobiografia di coppia non autorizzata by Claudio Bisio and Sandra Bonzi

It’s a light and easy book about the life of a wife and a normal, albeit famous in Italy, husband.
While the episodes appear often paradoxical and excessive it’s actually very close to the reality of a normal family.
At least of an italian one.

I’ve read loud to my wife several pages and she found them very amusing.
Book strongly recommended (if you speak Italian)

Vodafone procedures are unbeliveably slow but I finally have hope of getting back the original line quality

I’ve posted twice (here and here) about my problems after upgrading Vodafone’s ADSL to high-speed (nominal 20mbit, actual 15mbit) several months ago, on 17th september 2012.

On June 26th 2013, after 9 months of invoices including the extra cost of the service, Vodafone confirmed that the process was completed.
I hope that now I’ll be able to go back to the original speed and, with this downgrade, the original reliability.

Contro i papa’ by Antonio Polito

The book is focused on the subject of how the modern fathers relate to their children and how this is impacting the development of the kids.
The author describes the situation as the parent behaving like the union of the kids.

Instead of providing a strong and structured reasoning about the problem the author decided to provide to the readers a set of facts from the news that demonstrate the relevance of the phenomenon and the consequences.
Given the fact the Antonio Polito is a journalist and not a philosopher this approach makes sense.

It is possible to considered the book as a vertical case study of the wider problem that authors like Kenneth Minogue, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Roger Scruton (and others) raise about the modern approach to life and the consequences in the long-term.

The book can be appreciated in any case even without a theoretical background but this is not a guarantee that the message will be accepted by the reader ad I’ve learned after lending it.