Feb 22, 2007

Want to "Save The World"?

It looks like you can now help "save the world" by doing your bit to follow the Kyoto protocol (regardless of wether your country has signed up or not). Each and every electrical devices consumes electricity and this contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Koyoto Potato is a way of tracking your idle time, and trading it with other people so that you can do your bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (or to trade your excess idle time with others).

I don't know if I'm explaining it too well, but have a look at the application and give it a go. Every little bit counts.

Feb 12, 2007

Homemade Game Movies

This is kind of sad, but fairly amusing. There's a list of 10 short movies based on famous video games, including classics like Double Dragon, Tekken, Grand Theft Auto & Zelda.

The Zelda one is really quite cool, especially when the "actor" does one of Links famous whirlwind sword moves (and when he's cutting bushes looking for rupees).

Check it out at the thinking blog.

Find A Wii Near You

You've just gone and got yourself a nice shiny new Wii (well done by the way) and you've got it connected to the internet (maybe even using the LAN adapter) and now you want to find someone nearby that you can play with/against.

What to do? What to do? Well, you could always go doorknocking in nearby streets, hang around at the local ebgames store and ask people to play as they enter or leave the store (though you might get into trouble with the law) or you could put an ad in the local newspaper claiming how lonely you are and that you just want some meet some new Mii's, but they're probably not the best options you could choose.

Then again, there's always MapWii. MapWii is a pretty cool little mashup that links people with Wii's together. You can register your location (as imprecisely as you like) and you'll turn up on their search page allowing you to be found by other people. It's pretty cool and quite useful. So, what are you waiting for - get to it!

Feb 9, 2007

Questions on Implementing Scrum

On a few occasions in the past I've been asked about some of the problems you can have in implementing scrum.  Something about having already made (and learned from) plenty of mistakes seems to make me qualified to give advice on what not to do, and to offer a few tips on approaches to take.

There are plenty of other resources online that can help people but trawling through mailing lists looking for the information you need but these things take time and most mailing list threads degenerate from their original subject, and newbie questions can sometimes raise the ire of others.  And then of course there's just no substitute for having a one-on-one conversation with someone else about the experiences they've had (i.e. having a mentor)

Paul, one of my former staff, left a while ago to join a large corporate in a team leader role.  It's a good opportunity and gives him the chance to stretch himself, which should be what anyone looks for in any job.  Unfortunately the organisation it still stuck using the traditional waterfall style SDLC and he has a real problem with his team members being unmotivated, uncaring and lethargic.

What to do? What to do? Well, it was obvious that the current way of doing things wasn't working so he needed to shake things up.  Having come from a scrum based environment where agile was working, and working reasonably well, he decided it might be worth a try. He's only just started the initial introduction of scrum with his team, and given their reactions I'd say he's got his work cut out for him.  Before he got started though, he decided it would be worth asking a few questions to see how things could be done.  Here's some (edited) parts of the conversation that you might find useful...

 

[Paul]: I am thinking of implementing AGILE within my team on a small scale, can this work with a development team of 4?  Also what tools could I use to track (that are free) their progress such as how many hours are left on a task level, comments etc.
I also want to provide the business after each project the differences between what we estimated for and the actual development so we can get an idea if we are over estimating or not.

[Richard]: Agile for a team of 4 will work fine.

The best tool for progress tracking is either a whiteboard (seriously!) or Excel - as you can hack a spreadsheet around to suit your needs pretty easily.  There’s other tools out there such as scrumworks from Danube but I wouldn’t get too excited about that sort of thing just yet as you need to get the team used to agile first.

I assume your tracking of actual vs estimates will be based off timesheets or some other time tracking system.  If so, try to make sure that the time tracking has a reference back to the sprint item you’re working on.  If not it can be a real pain to try and marry them back up.

 

[Paul]: Thanks for the info about the tools.    Reference to the timesheets vs estimates, we only track again project codes, not tasks which makes it harder to track so I will need another approach for tracking this.

[Richard]: You might want to try using a simple alternative then.  Maybe just another excel sheet that mimics the sprint backlog and where the team can stick in the actual time spent.  Don’t put it on the same sheet as the backlog though, as the backlog is for burn down and estimated time remaining, while the other is actual time spent.  2 very different things

 

[Paul]: Though my company cannot truly support SCRUM in the sense of requirements, priority etc (requirements are done independently to us) but be able to implement the same principle within my team.  We currently work in a Waterfall style approach (in general) and each team (being me or another team) are given requirements as a whole.  So what I want to do is to have many small sprints (lets say 2 weeks),so at the start of each sprint each developer (like we did) choose which requirement they want to do and they go away and do it.  At the end of the sprint, we go and do a demo of what they did and to show the business their progress.  Any feedback at stage would go into the next sprint.

[Richard]: Take little steps.  One suggestion though – don’t give the team the choice of what requirement to do.  Tell them the order of the requirements (you set the priorities) and get them to tell you how long it will take.  You can obviously do this sprint by sprint, but you might also want to consider getting a high level “run over the target” first.  That is, when the requirements first land on your desk get the whole team together and do a quick ballpark estimation of each item – it will give you a feel for wether the requirements are even possible in the timeframe the PM has given you.  If it is – great.  If not – you’ll have some negotiation to do.

What you should also do is track the velocity at which you are completing those initial estimates (don’t change them) so that as sprints progress you have a more accurate sense of when you’ll be done.

The demo is very important!  Make sure the PM, BA’s and the project owner (if possible) are all available to see the demo and have a hands on session.  The open communications will get you loved by all (even when sprints fail).

 

[Paul]: I was also thinking have a once a week (for now) on a Monday morning that my team gets together for 15 minutes and to discuss what we have done for last week and any issues they may have.

[Richard]: I’d strongly recommend daily.  Daily will help encourage teamwork – once a week will seem more like just another meeting and won’t do anything to build communication between people.

 

[Paul]: Once my team have got used to it, hopefully they can see how well we work together.

[Richard]: Hopefully :-)  If you remember what we did, we actually did a mini-sprint first up.  A 3-day experiment to prove we could do it, and to prove we could have something tested and demoable in that timeframe.  It might be worth trying a 1-week sprint or 2-day one first up.  Also, you should think about spending time explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of it all first.  If you want presentations or overviews you can borrow mine or use the resources from mountaingoat software (they’re quite good).

Be prepared for the first few sprints to be a bit awkward and to fail.  It takes time to get into a rhythm with this stuff.  You might also want to ask around and see if any one has worked in agile teams before.

 

[Paul]: All our project(s) are release on a three month cycle, for example, all development must be done by X date which is when we hand over to to the test team etc.  My first sprint is going to be next week (Monday) for 2 days and another 2 day sprint, then 5 days then 14 onwards (depending on project).  At end of each sprint (after the dummy run) I will get my team and the main BA in one room to perform a demonstration to them and get feedback.

[Richard]: That’s a good plan.  As long as the main BA fills the “product owner” role you should be fine, but you may need to talk it over with them first.

 

Paul has now commenced the initial sprints with his team and I'm curious to see what lessons he and his team will learn as they take this journey.

If you have questions you'd like to ask about Scrum and how to implement it the best way is ask people you know who've done it, ask in the newsgroups, or feel free to ask me.  I'm always open to talking to other people about this sort of stuff and I'd love to help you.

Feb 8, 2007

Ouch!

If you're from a colder climate or the northern hemisphere, then you may not be aware of the dangers of overexposure to the sun and the fact that over time you can develop skin cancers. According to the Australian Cancer Council, Australia has the highest rate of skin cancers in the world and over 1,400 people a year die as a result. Nice.

Culturally, these days if you don't "slip, slop, slap" then most people think you're a bit thin on grey cells, but when I was a kid there was almost no skin cancer awareness and I spent lots of time in the sun and regularly got badly sunburned.

Well, today I've payed a little more of the price of getting burnt in those early years and had another skin cancer removed (and another $280 removed from my wallet). I went to the specialist to check on a thing on my leg which looked suspicious only to be told it was a wart - bizarre! The doc froze it off anyway which is nice, 'cause I was overly conscious of it, but he then checked the rest of me out and found one in my hair (what little remains) and one on my back.

The one on my back got "scraped off" under a local anaesthetic and the one in my hair I need to use a cream for. It's the third time I've had skin cancers removed and I'm only 35. I guess I'll have a few more removed by the time I'm done; I'll just need to keep a close eye on things so that I don't end up a statistic or with horrible surgery. Searching on Flickr for "Skin Cancer" produces some rather horrific images.

Needless to say, Anne and I make sure our girls get covered up when they go in the sun, and these days I do my best to avoid it all together (I like to preserve my office tan!).

Feb 5, 2007

The "Wow" Starts Now

Well, the Vista release has been thoroughly uneventful, so the "Wow!" certainly didn't start there. On the other hand the WPF blog has a post about something that really makes me say "Wow!" and it's even Vista related.

There's an awesome WPF/E Vista mockup on the web, complete with Office 2007 applications and other cool stuff. Check out the screenshot below. I've tried it on both IE 7 on the PC and Firefox on the Mac and both work really well. I'm very impressed!