links for 2009-02-12

  • "I developed and have been using a Story Card Matrix estimation process for a number of years to estimate story cards for each release. As a result our estimation sessions are much shorter and we have greater confidence in the accuracy of the estimated story cards. This is not meant to be a replacement for the Agile Planning Poker process. It is designed to compliment Planning Poker and speeds up your estimation sessions because the developers have all the information they need directly in front of them. That said however, I've found in more than two projects using the Story Card Matrix estimation that estimates are as accurate as we need them to be and we don't need to use Planning Poker which makes the process even faster."
  • "As I was setting up another new project in a tool I use, I reviewed the default template used for the story cards. Although I always only use parts of it depending on the project, I think it's good to review all of it each time to consider what the needs of the new project are, rather then be unthinking somewhat and stick with "what works" in a general sense. The template follows:…."
  • "The Internet may have been developed in the U.S., but the country now ranks 15th in the world for broadband penetration. For those who do have access to broadband, the average speed is a crawl, moving bits at a speed roughly one-tenth that of top-ranked Japan. This means a movie that can be downloaded in a couple of seconds in Japan takes half an hour in the U.S. The BMW 7 series comes equipped with Internet access in Germany, but not in the U.S.

    "So those of us otherwise wary of how wisely the stimulus package will be spent were happy to suspend disbelief when Congress invited ideas on how to upgrade broadband. Maybe there are shovel-ready programs to bring broadband to communities that private providers have not yet reached, and to upgrade the speed of accessing the Web. These goals sound like the digital-era version of Eisenhower's interstate highway projects, this time bringing Americans as consumers and businesspeople closer together on a faster information highway."

  • Steve Outing: "The core concept behind Kachingle: Just as online users currently pay an Internet provider $30 or more a month for their computers to access the Internet, and perhaps a monthly fee for all the music they want from a service like Rhapsody, they'll also pay a monthly fee for all the news and blog content on the Web. Only the last fee is voluntary, and it will be up to publishers to educate the public on the importance of paying for content online. (National Public Radio has been doing this for itself for decades. Now commercial news publishers and bloggers need to do it to benefit all of them, not just one entity.)

    "The next important point to grasp about the Kachingle model is that it allows individuals to financially support the online content providers that they like best. So if a newspaper wants to get paid for its content when a Web site visitor clicks through to one of its articles, it should ask that the visitor support the site via Kachingle."

  • "Ask yourself: What daily discipline(s) would make this goal a done deal? The answer to that question will tell you what habit(s) to install. If you can condition and maintain those habits, you’ll very likely achieve your goal. It’s only a matter of time."
  • Good resource for guitar basics
  • Oooooh, open-source manuals for open-source software! I like!

    "FLOSS Manuals make free software more accessible by providing clear documentation that accurately explains their purpose and use. Each manual explains what the software does and what it doesn't do, what the interface looks like, how to install it, how to set the most basic configuration necessary, and how to use its main functions. To ensure the information remains useful and up to date the manuals are regularly developed to add more advanced uses, and to document changes and new versions of the software."

  • I just pre-ordered my Kindle 2, and this is a pretty good rundown of the pros/cons to expect…
  • Hmmmm, whadya think this site is gonna turn into?

    "On Tuesday, February 10th, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will outline a comprehensive plan to restore stability to our financial system. In the address, Secretary Geithner will discuss the Obama Administration’s strategy to strengthen our economy by getting credit flowing again to families and businesses, while imposing new measures and conditions to strengthen accountability, oversight and transparency in how taxpayer dollars are spent. And Secretary Geithner will explain how the financial stability plan will be critical in supporting an effective and lasting economic recovery."

links for 2009-02-10

My She’s Geeky Tweets, Part 1: Agile Methodologies

For me the session on Agile Methodologies led my Desi McAdam of Hashrocket was one of the highlights of January’s She’s Geeky unconference. It was one of those occasions when I felt several disparate pieces of context clicking into place and starting to make sense.

NOTE: This is part of a series based on my live tweets from At last weekend’s She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA.

Series index

My immediate need for understanding more about Agile development is that I’m helping to organize the new Reynolds Journalism Inst. News Collaboratory. The point of this effort, as Jason Kristufek recently wrote, is to be a “do tank,” not a think tank, for experimenting with new options for the news business.

That’s why we’re trying to engage in this community people with diverse types of “do” experience — technologists, librarians, entrepreneurs, financiers, advertising and marketing pros, etc. And, yes, journalists too. The point is to actually get people working together to try stuff and share the results, not just to talk about stuff.

The question then becomes: How do you get people to decide on which problems to solve or experiments to try, parse those out into doable chunks, move their efforts forward, and assess results? Rather than try to do this all on the fly, I thought it might be useful to borrow some ideas and practices from Agile development.

For context, here’s the Agile Manifesto, as well as an excerptWikipedia’s current article on Agile:

“Agile methodologies generally promote a project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices that allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.”

So with that context, here are my live tweets from this discussion (cleaned up a bit). Unless otherwise attributed, all points made here came from Desi McAdam…

  • Now in the Agile methodologies session, which I hope will help with RJI collaboratory.
  • There’s a difference between Agile development & utter chaos. But Agile can devolve into chaos.
  • Agile is a very rigid process. If you don’t stick to the process, things fall apart quickly.
  • Agile is an iterative process: earlier work gets outdated quickly. Cycles are smaller, iterative, to adapt to change as change happens.
  • Pair programming is more popular with females — more interactive, cooperative. Keeps you on track, out of rat holes.
  • In Agile, you have to be disciplined: Organizations and your pair partner must be disciplined. Very accountable.
  • Pair programming is a wonderful way to do knowledge transfer.
  • Pair programming improves code quality. If you’re coding and someone’s watching, you’re less likely to do something hacky.
  • Pair programming is more productive. People don’t generally like to interrupt working pairs. (Interesting!)
  • Agile also is about sustainable work pace: Don’t burn people out, get the most benefit from coders.
  • Some companies require some up-front planning, like wireframes or mockups, before throwing Agile development team on it. Do you have a good base?
  • Agile used in Spot.us development process. David Cohn came to us with wireframes. We started storycarding. Right off bat, we had to prioritize and think about what desired feature could go.
  • Storycard = definition of a chunk of work. Say what the business value is first. Get client to tell you, helps set priorities
  • Glitches with Agile: Lack of quality assurance (QA): Developers should be writing test code. Pivotal tracker (popular Agile project management tool) doesn’t address QA.
  • Rally, other tools do account for QA — but they’re bloated and slow and tedious to use. Simpler configurable tools needed.
  • Standup meetings: key part of Agile process. Can work in any organization. Very short meeting: everyone stands up, gives recent and current tasks, identifies obstacles.
  • Agile is hard to do in a distributed environment (workers not in same location). iChat, screen sharing helps. Good manager/developer communication is crucial.
  • Good Agile stories follow INVEST principles (from Extreme Programming, a related discipline): Independent (self-contained), Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable (you can guess how involved/big it might be), Small, Testable.
  • ME: I’m liking the story analogy of the Agile process. I think media people will be able to relate to that.
  • Negotiable = not defining the story in such rigid detail that it can’t be changed.
  • Desi recommends Liz Keogh as a great resource on thinking about Agile.
  • ME: The Agile session is incredibly valuable! Desi rocks!!! I needed exactly this info right now!
  • I’ll be sharing more thoughts on Agile later — but for now here are a couple of takeaways that struck me:

    Storycarding reminds me of journalistic news judgment. The process of breaking a project down into tasks that meet invest criteria reminds me how journalists and editors decide which news and information warrant development into a story. Both involve assessing a situation and needs, and matching it with criteria. Both appear to be more like art than than science or rote procedure.

    Applying Agile techniques to other fields (such as news and journalism) is itself an experiment that should be handled in clear storycard-like chunks. It may not work, and it certainly would be a culture shift. I think, for cultural reasons this is a strong reason to involve geeks, entrepreneurs, and others in this process — and to team them together with journalists to promote knowledge transfer.

    …More thoughts later. But for now, what do you think? Please comment below.

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    My She’s Geeky Tweets: Series Index

    Last weekend, I attended She’s Geeky at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. This unconference, organized by Kaliya Hamlin, is “for all women who are interested in technology” — although it touched on several other types of geekiness as well.

    I live-tweeted the sessions I attended, and here is the index to my tweetstreams from each session. I’ll be posting them over the next few days. The ones with live “my tweeks” links are ready to read. The rest, I’m still producing — although in the meantime I’m linking to existing notes posted to She’s Geeky site (where available).

    This order does not reflect the order in which the sessions I attended occurred. I’m just posting in an order that makes sense to me. Enjoy.

    …Of course, I couldn’t attend every session — but lots of other attendees took notes too, and plenty of folks tweeted this event using the hashtag ShesGeeky.

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    links for 2009-02-03

    • Book: "Nonzero, refers to the concept of the "non-zero-sum," which comes from game theory. Looking at human history–and for that matter the whole history of life on earth–through the lenses of game theory can change your view of life. At least, that is a premise of this book. What exactly is meant by "change your view of life"? That is a question with a book-length answer. But there is enough material on this website to give you the general idea."

    links for 2009-02-01

    • "The Distributed Agile Game is meant to be played by people who are interested in challenges experienced by members of distributed agile teams.

      "The game will be played by several small teams. Each team consists of analysts, developers, a customer, and a project manager. The team is subdivided into two parts; an on-site team, with developers, a customer, and analysts, and a remote team with only analysts and developers. The remote team must communicate with the customer and on-site team. The teams will be using a physical medium to construct the “application” according to the customer specifications.

      "The game will start out with the most basic of communication and no tool-sets progressing through several iterations. At the end of the last iteration the teams should have figured out more effective means of communications than what they were originally given emphasizing the most important factor to the success of distributed agile teams: communication."

    • Great article on how to handle failure. Recommended at She's Geeky conference
    • "When advertisers launched a campaign last September for the pain reliever Motrin, they hoped to attract the attention of mothers whose backs might be sore from wearing baby-carriers. The advertisements implied that while baby-carriers might be fashionable, hauling a child around could be painful.

      "Mothers were not amused. Soon after the ads were released, anti-Motrin campaigns appeared on Facebook and blogs. Outraged mums, furious at the suggestion that their babies were a hassle, posted rebuttal videos on YouTube. Through Twitter, the microblogging service, thousands of people attacked the company.

      "Motrin was caught off-guard. For days, no company representative replied. Critics accused the company of being not only insensitive but also unresponsive.

      "Eventually a marketing executive at McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that markets Motrin, e-mailed individual bloggers to apologise for the campaign. But the damage was done."