Archive for May, 2011


More on Trust

I wanted to share this presentation by Rachel Davies (@rachelcdavies) on trust. Rachel did a presentation in November 2010 on building trust that is worth watching. You can find the presentation here. I also wrote about trust here, here, and here.

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Knowledge Management

Knowledge management has always interested me. It might be due to the fact that I have a pretty good memory instead of a perfect memory. I can usually recall the main facts of something but am often at a loss to remember where I learned it and what the supporting items were. I have always envied Odin his ravens, as it would be very nice to have my own fact collectors.

Within the company I work for, we have multiple systems to capturing information, and some of them actually help radiate that information out to others. We have a global site which is a combination content management system, wiki, and blog site. It is very difficult to find information on that site. We then have a global intranet which is used for mostly communicating with employees. It has photos of different offices, photo contests, and feel good stories about employees. Then, in North America, we have a SharePoint site. I don’t even try to find stuff on it, I carefully bookmark every URL I am given so I can get back to the information. And finally, many development groups are now maintaining their own wiki’s. All the development wikis that I know of are MediaWiki sites hosted in a virtual image.

Of all those options, I like the wiki best. There are several reasons I like the wiki:

  1. Atom / RSS feeds. I don’t have to search the wiki to see what content is new, I merely took 30 seconds to add the feed to my Outlook client.
  2. The content can be manipulated with the programming language of choice prior to entry. This is a big deal when you are translating large quantities of text from various sources.
  3. Simple text doesn’t intimidate anyone so everyone participates in adding and maintaining the information on the site.

Momentum is definitely building behind wide adoption of the wiki and perhaps one day SharePoint will be a distant memory.

That still doesn’t solve my personal interest in recording the items that I want to remember. I currently have two methods of tracking items, the old fashioned paper journal and an on-line site. I actually have two different journals, one for work which fades in and out of use, and a personal notes one that I started to record stuff that could be useful, or since January, become a blog post.

The on-line tool is free and is called SpringPad. SpringPad is great because it allows me to save off web sites with notes without having to write out long URL’s in my journal. I was hoping for a software tool that would allow me to consolidate the functions of journal and SpringPad into one. There is a tool that looks really interesting, DevonThink. Steven Johnson talks about how he uses DevonThink in his book “Where Good Ideas Come From” and I thought this sounded perfect, except it only runs on Apple computers. I don’t own an Apple computer, nor am I likely to purchase one for the sole purpose of running DevonThink. That is why I settled on SpringPad.

I recently bought an Android tablet, the Motorola Xoom, and I am hoping that in the next couple of years an app like DevonThink will become available for Android. In the mean time, I have to keep my handwriting neat (so I can read my notes), and keep storing web sites in SpringPad. I hate waiting.


The future of books

This post is inspired by a great blog posting by Martin Fowler who provides his perspective on the future of books as both an avid reader and an author.

I love reading and I love books. I have three rather large and almost full bookcases in my house, several magazine subscriptions, and a daily newspaper subscription. One of the most beautiful books I have is an early imprint of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence that was my grandfathers. And I am thinking about moving to an eReader of some sort. For a long time I didn’t think there was enough content available to justify an eReader, and I didn’t like the choices that were available. I think both those objections are now resolved.

Most of my time is spent on line these days. I follow dozens of people via Google reader, and check the tweets of a great many more. Through my ACM membership I have access to hundreds of books on Safari and Books24x7. I also like both the ease and speed of books delivered digitally. The price difference isn’t always significant so it is less of a factor in my consideration.

I do all this reading on a variety of platforms, desktop PC, tablet PC, and Blackberry. None of these platforms is ideal for curling up in comfy chair, or stretching out on the couch. The tablet PC has some of the features I want and it is over 5 pounds and the stylus interface is less than ideal. The tablet PC is also a work machine and therefore I don’t want to add personal content to it.

I have been procrastinating about getting an eReader of some sort as the choices were limited. First there was the Kindle and its cousins. Everyone I have met who has a Kindle absolutely love it and I am put off by the fact that it is ONLY an eReader. Then came the iPad which is loved by many, and I dislike paying a premium for proprietary hardware / software. Then there are tablets based on Google’s Android operating system. The initial tablets were using the 2.x version, or earlier, of Android which wasn’t really designed for tablets. Android 3.0 is designed for tablets and is now hitting the store shelves. And finally is the RIM Playbook. Time to go shopping.

I have already decided that the Kindle is out because it is single purpose and I can get the Kindle app for any of the other devices. This narrows my shopping list to the iPad, the Playbook, or one of the two Android 3.0 tablets, the Motorola Zoom, or the Acer Ionia tab A500. I am hoping that once the Acer is released next week, one of the local electronics stores will have all 4 items available to be played with. And as much as I would like to support a Canadian company like RIM, I am leaning towards an Android device. I haven’t used Android yet, and those I know with Android phones rave about it. Yes, the Playbook is suppose to run Android apps and emulation is often less than 100%.

I will let you know what I pick and how happy I am with the choice in a future posting.


Defect Backlog

Yesterday a couple of things happened that got me thinking about defect correction. One was a conversation in the hall with the director for another development group, and the other was an email sent by our business unit VP.

First the conversation in the hall. I stopped to chat with the other director as I like to do on a regular basis. During the conversation the question of whether the focus on defect correction was going to continue now that the sponsor of the initiative was moving on. My immediate response was “absolutely”.

Over the past several years, for the product team I lead, we focused on defect backlog reduction. Our work completed last summer when we reached the point where the outstanding bugs will likely remain unaddressed because they don’t impact our customers in any significant way. Why did we do this? Free time! Over the twenty years of development, bugs crept in and were not addressed. Correcting bugs was lower priority than adding new features. Of course, each new feature also added new defects that were not addressed. It got to the point where 60% (back of the napkin metrics) of our time was spent fighting the fires the defects were generating.

So what is life like now that the backlog is gone? Fantastic! We have a “zero new defects” policy which is enforced. If a defect is introduced it is corrected before the release goes out. If an “in the field” defect is reported we schedule its correction immediately. So what do we do most of our time doing now? We spend our time adding value to our products for our customers to enjoy. And the team is a whole lot happier not having to spend all their time on defects.

And the note from our business unit VP was one of congratulations to the product team. In the monthly report on defect backlog, our group has reduced our defect backlog by more than 40% in the last 6 months. That is awesome. The teams are really focused on eliminating defects and soon they will reap the benefits of the free time. And ultimately the customer wins because the product works, and the teams can focus on delivering more value.


Walking the Talk Follow up

This is a follow up to my post “Walking the Talk” as there was interest in what the team thought about making managers ScrumMasters. A quick Google will reveal opinions on both sides of the fence. Our company also recently had Lee Henson of Agile Dad give some training and he was strongly against managers as ScrumMasters. And the big question is “What did the teams think?”.

The team members had responses from “I don’t think it will work”, to “You must do everything in your power to make sure this doesn’t happen!”. So I think it is safe to say that the teams are pretty much convinced that managers as ScrumMasters is a bad idea. Personally, I think that with a team that is highly cohesive, that engages in good dialogue, and feels empowered, coupled with a manager not interested in command and control, it would work. Do I think we have the right teams and the right managers at this time, probably not.

I would love to hear from anybody who has experienced managers as ScrumMasters. Hopefully there have been good experiences out there.

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