Charles Gutjahr

Melbourne, Australia

Welcome to my website. It's a collection of my photos, writing, opinions, presentations from me, Charles Gutjahr. More about me...

Charles Gutjahr

Brunswick East
I cleared out (most of) this mystery plant that had taken over a corner of the courtyard. It was nice to have lazy greenery that I didn’t have to do anything for, but really I should be planting something that is not mysterious and potentially toxic.

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

The moon landings were oddly reassuring

I have enjoying reading and hearing the many stories that surfaced in the last month for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings.

In particular it is fascinating just how similar the Apollo program was to the chaos of modern technology projects. The moon landings were no superhuman feat, they were just a lot of people working very hard, making mistakes and fixing things as they go along. The first Saturn V rocket spent 17 days on the launchpad failing tests until bugs in its software were fixed. A contractor delivered lunar modules that didn't work. A radar that worked in testing sent junk data during the mission. Software errors occurred during the moon landing itself and mission control had to guess what to do without understanding what was going wrong.

I've seen many similar snafus in my career building much less dramatic business software. I find it oddly reassuring that NASA dealt with the same kind of problems, it's not just us!

Charles Gutjahr

Brunswick East, Victoria
Thanks for the gorgeous snowflake biscuit @deblieubakes! Most excellent gingerbread ❄️

Charles Gutjahr

Blog post

Online food deliveries

30 Jul 2019 — a 4 minute read on business

Read this ABC article about online food deliveries.

It sounds like the reason hardly anyone dines at New York Minute is the influx of online delivery services, right? I have a different theory: New York Minute burgers just aren't good enough.

I visited the New York Minute store referred to in that ABC article when it opened around three years ago. I would have been part of the 85% of customers who sat down to eat there. Then I stopped going there, not due to Deliveroo or Uber Eats, but because I just didn't like their burgers much. The disappearance of diners could just be that most people are like me: they gave it a chance but many decided not to come back. Once the initial influx of curious locals died down there were too few people left dining in?

Not that I want to denegrate Mr Crowther and his business; it does have some very tough competition. 100m from New York Minute's East Brunswick store is The B.East. The B.East does amazing burgers at a similar price, including the Filthy with a homemade fresh chilli sauce which is my favourite burger anywhere. The B.East is also more pleasant to actually visit and dine at. It has a lively and warm atmosphere, unlike New York Minute which I find too clinical and formulaic.

Directly across the road from New York Minute is Chicken on Lygon, which does classic Aussie burgers. You know the kind: just like from the fish & chip shop when you were growing up. They're not fancy but they're done right and the prices are better than New York Minute.

A little down the road is Ron's Handburger at The Alehouse Project. This is a great place to go for a properly excessive American-style burger; the beef is juicy and dripping with heaps of cheese and sauce. And to accompany that burger The Alehouse has one of the best lineups of beer in Melbourne! 12 taps of the most exciting craft beers and great staff to explain them for you.

Go for a bit of a walk and there are plenty of choice burger places: Juanita Peaches makes burgers some people swear by as the best in Melbourne (I prefer the B.East though), FAT Fried & Tasty does excellent chicken burgers, and no-one can match the history of Danny's Burgers — opened in 1945 and still flipping great burgers.

That all said — I reckon online food delivery services are doing damage to restaurants. You think the $5 delivery fee is all that Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and Menulog take? Nope. They take a big fee from the restaurant too, apparently up to 35%. That is a lot when the Australian Tax Offices says benchmark margins for restaurants are 8-15%... that fee could easily eat up all the profit of a restaurant.

No wonder hardly any restaurants in Brunswick are on Deliveroo or Uber Eats. A few months ago I bet someone that the majority of restaurants aren't on them. A few hours of inane research later I proved right: less than 20% of my local restaurants are on food delivery services:

Brunswick restaurants on food delivery services: EASI, Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Menulog

If these delivery services were good for restaurants wouldn't they be jumping at the chance to be on them? The tiny numbers suggest they are not.

I think a big problem is these fees are hidden. Have a look at the burger prices for New York Minute: they're the same for pickup or delivery. There is a delivery fee on top so a New York burger and chips costs $19.40 if you pick it up yourself, or $25.00 if you get it delivered by Uber Eats. Compare what the restaurant gets though: take out $5.00 delivery and $7.00 percentage fee (assuming 35%) and the restaurant gets $13.00 instead of $19.40.

Why do they put up with that cut? Maybe it's because they think customers would blame the restaurant for high prices. I suspect people don't realise the delivery services take so much.

Uber and Deliveroo are adamant their delivery staff are self-employed contractors not employees. Well if so then receipts should show how much we're paying the person who delivered the food:

  • One line showing what the restaurant was paid
  • One line showing what the delivery person was paid
  • One line showing what Uber or Deliveroo was paid

I bet that would go some way to fixing up the system. The problem is that Uber and Deliveroo may not want customers to realise how much they're taking...

Charles Gutjahr

okomomiyaki for lunch... balancing the healthy cabbage with lots of sauce

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

Do you work at a company where your pay depends on a performance review?

I think it's logical to pay staff more if they're performing well. But do such companies pay for better performance or just for better performance reviews? The problem is performance reviews are subject to office politics, subtle biases and sometimes even overt discrimination. If there was an objective way to measure performance then it would be reasonable to pay more for better performance... but I reckon neither badly-aligned KPIs nor capricious performance reviews are good enough measures.

So I reckon we should forget about paying for performance. Focus performance reviews on helping people perform better rather than calculating pay rises. Take the money out of the equation and leave more space for honest feedback and personal growth!

Charles Gutjahr

Brunswick East, Victoria
The front garden gets its annual preparation

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

Robots taking all the jobs

It is possible that in the future robots take all our jobs... but I don't think we will lack for jobs in the future. The problem is we may lack for ways to pay for the jobs we need done.

We already need more aged care workers, more child care workers, more mental health workers; demographics suggest the need will only increase in future. We should not let robots and technology be a scapegoat for us failing to properly value and fund the services we need.

This article "A different dystopia: July 2030" speculates about an outcome that isn't the usual "robots took our jobs" story. I like its reminder that the choices we and our governments make do matter, and a robot dystopia is not inevitable.

Charles Gutjahr

A short opinion

Misinterpreting data

There are couple of times in my career as a programmer where I've made a bad decision because I misinterpreted data — analytics, user research, production data samples, etc. Sometimes the data was just plain wrong; sometimes the data was accurate enough but I drew the wrong conclusion from it. I'm surely not the only person to interpret data incorrectly but the topic seems to be rarely discussed in our industry.

That's why I like this article "The time I tried to ruin Halo 2". It is a good reminder to always think critically about the data in front of you.

Charles Gutjahr

Congratulations to Holly & Luke! I only just noticed the holly for Holly’s wedding...