Archive for February, 2006

Branding is for cows

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Ron Jeffries writes on Integrating Agile Methods :

“I could go on. I see much commonality among the Agile methods, and I think there would be more were there not so much advantage — or perceived advantage — to having a brand of one’s own. It would also be helpful if a few of us egomaniacs populating the upper tiers of the Agile thought space were able to follow our own dictates and communicate effectively with each other. ”

Branding Iron, 1979. CREDIT: Fleischhauer, Carl, photographer. I believe branding is overrated. Branding makes me think of what cowboys do with cows – mark them with a hot iron to show which farm owns them. I prefer not to see my clients as cows, and I do not believe people want to be owned by a methodology farm either…
Here’s what Merriam Webster said when I searched for branding:

“One entry found for brand.

Main Entry: 2brand
Function: transitive verb
1 : to mark with a brand
2 : to mark with disapproval : STIGMATIZE
3 : to impress indelibly <brand the lesson on his mind>
- brand·er noun”

Dutch also has the word branding. It means washing, as in waves washing the shore… As far as impact of branding for consultants goes – shores have the tendency to move slowly, even here in Holland where shores tend to wash away sometimes.

(I’m deliberately ignoring the communication remark in Ron’s quote. I’m puzzling on that, I hope you are too).

Continuous Integration and Testing (un)Conference

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Continuous Integration and Testing Conference April 7-8, 2006 – Chicago, IL, USA. I won’t be able to attend, but this open space event might be worth your while. I don’t know the organisers, but they seem to know themselves pretty well ;-) :

Jeffrey and Paul have been planning the conference for more than 9 months and feel that just doing it is better than languishing in analysis paralysis. Early April was targetted as a good time.”

I hope next year Jeffrey and Paul will call it an unconference. At the agile open last year we had some participants who had missed the fact there was no conference program. On the other hand, most of the CITCON site is about open space and the open space rules
Through Lasse’s weblog – CITCON in Chicago

» Around the MashupCamp fire

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

» Around the MashupCamp fire | Between the Lines |

Hadn’t heard about this before, it’s happening now apparently. Mashup camp. Made me think of mashups (two music tracks combined, a fast and easy way to create remixes these days). Apparently it is about combining API’s (of the web 2.0 kind) in various ways.

It’s always nice to see the now familiar open space rules posted on a flipover, and seeing the photo of Ward Cunningham, I’m curious if he’s going to come up with something as simple and fascinating as the Wiki again. The session title “Tools for Ah-has: Things that help you make and share ideas” sounds tempting…

photo by Cirne

XFN – XHTML Friends Network

Monday, February 20th, 2006

XFN – XHTML Friends Network

self-organizing way of social networking, a directed graph instead of bi-directional. Unlike linked-in, openBC and others, completely decentralized.

Look back, early and often

Monday, February 20th, 2006

I found this retrospective mug on the website of the German firm it-agile. As the accompanying text says (rough translation):
“the retrospectives mug encourages you to have a mini retrospective during the coffee- or tea-break. The mug poses those nasty little questions we prefer to avoid during our daily work, over and over again:

  • Why am I stuck?
  • How does it work? Why?
  • Does the work I’m doing now bring the project forward?
  • Should I inform someone about problems…?”

For a bigger look back, Keith Ray collected links to Pascal van Cauwenberghe‘s things I didn’t learn series.

Passion works here

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

La vida robot How four underdogs from the mean streets of Phoenix took on the best from M.I.T. in the national underwater bot championship. inspired me. It shows how college kids built an underwater robot with passion, ingenuity, the courage to ask for help and an 800 dollar budget.

What Juergen Ahting writes here is connected:

So the next time a manager tells us e.g. “Yes we should do that, but we haven’t got the right people / enough resources / … to succeed.” we should test him by asking “And what are you going to do about that?”.

In my experience, with a big budget it is hard to get things done. The team is overstaffed, and the incentive to set priorities is low. When I hear someone complaing about lack of budget, I am happy – I see an opportunity to do what matters most.

I’m working with Nynke Fokma on some budgetless websites right now. It’s fun, useful and goes way faster than a fully funded CMS project I was on. We are working from passion instead of a budget.

So, next time a manager tells us “This project is fully funded”, we could test them by asking: “What would you do if you had one tenth of the budget?”

Five seconds to Fieldstone

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

I am reading Weinberg on writing – the fieldstone method. It’s a combination of tales from Jerry Weinberg’s long writing career and hands-on exercises.

I particularly resonated with the tale he tells in the beginning, about how writing classes in school almost killed his desire to write. It almost did that for me too. Working from an outline doesn’t work for me. I usually wrote my essays the night before, when I was angry enough to start writing. Afterwards my MSc thesis almost did it. I find it hard to write where my energy is not.
But apparently, something draws me towards writing of some sort, even though lately it’s been limited to blog entries, e-mails and instant messages.

I said “I’m reading”, in the first paragraph, because I got somewhat stuck on the first exercise, which is deceptively simple…
It is a test to measure the time it takes for you to start writing down a fieldstone.

I’m Sorry, did I break your concentration?

I thought,

how hard could it be. I’m in my office, I’ve got pens, paper, computer.

I failed this test. It took me longer than five seconds to start writing something down. The five second test showed me I had no index cards present, couldn’t find a pen and it took me much more than five seconds to open firefox, navigate to my wiki (there’s a bookmark in thet toolbar but I don’t see it, apparently), and find a suitable page or make a new one.

Clearly I wasn’t ready to start applying this method…

After this test, I’ve changed a couple of things in my environment. I made sure there was a fresh stack of index cards and some pens beside my bed (The title and introduction of this entry originated there). And I finally got around to make the gnome-blog applet on my computers’ desktop functional. I need something I could just post to, and worry about organizing it later. The wiki is great for writing articles-to-be and relating them, as well as for collecting systems-administration stuff I figured out eventually. Finding a new page in the wiki when I have an interesting link or something pops up is sometimes enough to break my concentration;
I noticed I miss a lot of the interesting links and stuff that come up during chat sessions.

I set up a textpattern instance, specially for collecting fieldstones, and the gnome-blog applet posts to it, and the fieldstone appears directly on the front page. That seems to work very well. The Blog button is always only one click away, since it is on the menu bar of my desktop. I don’t have to start a separate application, and it doesn’t take time to load.

screenshot of the gnome blog applet, hanging down from the menu bar
I took a first step. Make it easier to collect fieldstones. The next step would be doing something to organize the fieldstones after I’ve added them. I can search them already, which is good. Now I would like to have something to organize and relate them too.

If you have an interest in writing, want to try another style, or find your fun back doing it, I find Weinberg on Writing worth checking out.

Agile Open 2006

Friday, February 10th, 2006

Having enjoyed the first one a lot last year, we (Marc Evers, Vera Peeters, Pascal van Cauwenberghe, Nynke Fokma, Rob Westgeest and yours truly) decided to organise another Agile Open.

Agile Open is an unconference aka Peer Conference , where the sessions and programme are made by the pariticipants.

We scouted for another location, but ended up choosing the Elewijt Center in Mechelen again – there is something very comfortable about a well organised conference facility, where people know who you are. As I noticed last friday when we went there for a meeting. Nynke and I arrived a bit late, and before we could ask for directions we were greeted at the desk – “Ah, I was wondering if you were going to turn up today. Vera Is over there in the Lobby, next to the paintings”. I find the “Cheers factor” very important-

you wanna go where people know,

people are all the same-

you wanna go where everybody knows your name

I want a conference to have the Cheers factor (the SPA conference is where I found that first) . If the location has it already, that makes it even better.

So, I hope you wanna go to Agile Open. Space is limited to 40 people, so we can know each others’ names :-) . If so, I’ll see you at April 27 and 28 in Mechelen, Belgium.