Monday, June 30, 2008

Movie Review - Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom

Having sat through the new Indiana Jones movie we bought the original three on DVD. After struggling through the Temple of Doom my wife sum the situation up with:

"I won't be disappointed if I never see that movie again"


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PowerPoint - Pitching out

"The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within" is a fantastic essay that should be read by anyone using a computer. Do it now. Go on. Off with you.

"PowerPoint promotes a cognitive style that disrupts and trivialises evidence"

When I joined TW I was amazed at the number times the peeps (TWers and Clients) referred to PowerPoint. I was particularly surprised by the term "deck", I hadn't heard it before, maybe I had been living in a bunker.

The idea was to produce a deck for this or that and stick it in front of the right people and something would happen. This clashed with two notions of mine:
1 - having spent time in Scrum land PowerPoint is shunned and replaced with showing off working software or having huge bits of paper stuck on walls showing stuff
2 - the agile principle that the most efficient way to communicate is face-to-face

Reading Tufte's essay just made me dislike using PowerPoint that little bit more. The biggest kick was reading about organising tabular data. This opened some old wounds I had received from trying to present this kind of information in my dark and dull past, just as PowerPoint was starting to take over the world. The impact of having to summarise, and dissociate data is beautifully demonstrated demonstrated by Tufte.

PowerPoint is becoming (or has become) ubiquitus as a way to present and organise information. It is part of school curriculum for the students to present a few slides using this tool. As a parent (gotta love that) this is troubling as my kids will not be learning how to organise and present their thoughts, they will learn how to pitch. I guess I had better procure a few copies of the essay to hand over to the teachers.

Tufte refers to PowerPoint as a "Projector Operating System" this change in language changes the way you use PowerPoint. Taking away the idea that the application is about presenting information deals it a blow that it should not recover from.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Apple store in Sydney

People travelled across the world and then queued up to get into this place. Inconceivable.

It's a pretty shop, in a fitted out by Ikea kind of way. The toys are nice, but nothing worth queuing for - and there will be another in a few weeks when the iPhone comes to town.

Do people queue when Walmart opens?

I wonder how the guys at Next Byte feel?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sporting Team Analogies

After writing a sporting team analogy I read Peopleware and DeMarco and Lister don't like the analogy as it's all about competition. To be part of the team there is competition within the group to perform, and this will lead to disunity.

But what if the competition is to get into the team, and then you are treated as equals? Would this establish the a sense of eliteness that can help a team gel?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Learning - Maturity

Watching two games of netball last weekend I witnessed an example of team maturity.

The first game was children learning their favourite game. Two good teams, but both are still learning how to play the game. Both sides were "teams", people drawn together with a purpose and direction. They worked together to achieve a goal - no pun intended.

The second game was a professional game with highly skilled and trained athletes. These teams are made up of masters of the game, some of the best players in the world were on the court. The rules were the same as the first game and the outcome was just as close (one point) but the execution was different.

The first teams were strongly focused on what they needed to do in their role, where they could go on the court, where their matched opponent was, what ritual in the game was being performed. The children would stop suddenly at the sideline or the line of their zone. They knew if they were Centre there was another Centre to look for, when the ball left their zone they stopped as there was nothing more they could do. They exemplified a strong demarcation in their roles and actions, and this is part of learning about the game. Just like learning a new role, or new job.

The second teams were markedly different. Apart from the skill, the boundaries were constantly being pushed. The ball moved forward, across and back down the court with the one team working as an organism attempting to achieve their purpose. Individual marking was replaced with a zone, if one-on-one marking was required marking your exact opposing player was less relevant, what mattered was that opposition players were all marked. The lines of the court meant Jump! Stretch! as the players played the ball in the air, not touching down out of the court or offside until they had passed. The team worked within the rules but pushed each one.

What am I going on about?

A team that works within its rules and boundaries without pushing these can achieve their goal, but is an immature team or a team that is learning what it can do. A great team is the team that pushes their boundaries to achieve their goals. The focus shifts from individual effort first to team first.

Hardly profound

Frank Woodley is Possessed

Is Frank Woodley the funniest man in Australia? He's a lot easier to find than Rod Quantock so I think he might have to get my vote.

Possessed is a one man show about two people who are having trouble getting out of their current, unpleasent situation. The show had me laughing from the moment Frank came on stage. It has a mix of physical comedy, surealist stupidity,and general Frank Woodleyness - such as regularly breaking the 4th wall to talk directly to the audience, or comment on the show itself.

A great show and easily worth the price of entry.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Some highlights from Waltzing with Bears Part 4

We now know all about what, why and how for risk management so it's time to get down and dirty with How Much.

It's about value. This is great, I work for a bunch of people who start to go a little weird if they haven't said "Value" at least three times a day, and there's a good reason for this, apart from them being odd.

You make something, anything, for some value. You put effort in to get something out. The value of a software project needs to be clearly stated, and someone/some people need to be accountable for the delivery of this value. The other side is easy, there is always accountability for cost, schedule, scope, but what about the purpose of the work, who is accountable for that.

When benefit cannot be stated more precisely than "We gotta have it" then the cost specification should be "It's going to be expensive."

Explicitly stated value allows you to prioritise the work, essential if you are to deliver incrementally. Best of all it allows you to stop the work. When the value is lower than the cost to develop, don't do it. So easy, well so easy to write, is very hard to do. People don't like to spend the time to do this kind of work, it's hard and can be confronting. It's out of the ordinary "my business case said we'd get 300 new customers a month, that's value" but "which bit of this project will give you that? Surely some elements do more than others?"

2 points Tom and Tim make on why this is either not going to happen or be very hard
1 - it opens the door for an additional level of accountability
2 - there's no obvious pay back

I would say that one payback is that you can stop the development when what you spend is more than you will get back and if you don't explicitly state value how do you know what risks you can take?