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Showing posts from 2012

Visit to Melbourne

Visited the beautiful city of Melbourne for the first time in December this year. This was mainly for business, but I managed to get some sightseeing in also. The primary purpose of my visit was to meet with REA Group's CIO - Nigel Dalton - and take a look around their Agile implementation. This was certainly a worthwhile expedition.

[Q: some trivia - I happened upon this device on the side of the road in Melbourne, what do you think it is used for (took me a little while to figure this one out)?]

If you're interested in Agile at all and you ever have the privilege of  attending an event at which Nigel is speaking (he's a fantastic speaker BTW), see if you can have him invite you for a tour of REA Group, or alternatively, his latest Agile initiative. Nigel is known affectionately I believe, as Australia's "Mr Agile" - I can see why now. I'm uncertain as to how free I am to discuss the ways that REA Group are applying Agile on my blog, however I can certain…

Transit of Venus

On the day that Venus was visible transiting the sun (June, 2012), I took an afternoon off work - and my son actually had the day off school - the idea being that we were going to go to the observatory on Auckland's Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), in the hope that we would be able to use one of their flash telescopes to view the event.

I wanted my son to be able to see the event especially. I clearly remember my dad waking me up at about 4:00am one fine night in 1986 to see Halley's comet. I wondered what the hell was going on - we were standing on the driveway of my grandparents home in Birkenhead looking at the sky with a pair of binoculars in our dressing gowns. I distinctly remember thinking that it was relatively warm for the dead of night.

Sure enough though, we eventually found the comet. I've done a quick comb of the web looking for images that somewhat resemble my memory - closest I can find is this one:


It was …

Consciousness and the Illusion of Control

Here are some thoughts that I had on the way to work this-morning.

Life as an explosionThe phenomena of life can be thought of as an explosion - physically, life is essentially a self-sustaining chemical reaction; evolution is a bloom of chemical diversity. Once the process is ignited, potentially starting from a single point - the reaction expands outwards, increasing exponentially with time, in volume and complexity.

[Tycho supernova remnant -]

Consciousness and the illusion of controlIn the same way that the various components and structures that can be observed as part of a "conventional" explosion have no control over themselves as individual elements of the larger process, it is difficult when thinking of life in this context, to believe that life should have any control over itself. Also, thinking in this context, the event and development of life is inherently and inextricably connected to every other part of itself.


Conflicting Business Requirements and Skateboarding

I am a skateboarder, and while out for a roll with my partner in crime (pictured drinking a fruit juice, below) today we came across this concrete block - which I believe represents a textbook study in conflicting business requirements, and is proof that the phenomena isn't limited to software engineering.

If you look closely, you'll see that the concrete block is equipped with a nice seat, and also, metal edging - what's that edging about? Well, the edging is specifically for the purpose of skateboarding - for example:

[This chap is doing a "nosegrind" - note the metal edging on that block...source:]

It's actually a fantastic idea, and one that has been used recently in other parts of Auckland and Wellington cities, I've noticed. Skateboarding is encouraged by doing this; which I think enriches the city's culture and enables creative/innovative use of features of the urban landscape,…

An Emotional Year of Scrum

At CallPlus we're coming up to having completed a year of software development using Scrum. It's been an emotional ride. All things considered, we're better for it in my opinion, and my impression is that that's the opinion of most people in the organisation. I did a talk at the Auckland APN (Agile Professional's Network) Meetup last night - for me, this marked the milestone nicely. Prior to the talk, a recommendation was made to me to run the talk using an "emotional chart" showing the development team's happiness level in relation to our Agile implementation, as a guide for the audience. I thought that was pretty neat concept and certainly worth a try - it was received well - here's the chart I put together:

I call it the "Agile-o-meter". It shows that the transition to being Agile is difficult and fraught with the possibility for things to go wrong. We certainly failed (fast/early?) on our first attempt. This chart is my interpretatio…

Agile Estimation

Is there something in the nature of the personality of the developer that causes them to feel the need to under-estimate their work? Is it the fact that developers enjoy their work so much, and are so anxious to be able to continue to be paid to do what they enjoy doing, that they more-often-than-not tend to see the world through rose-coloured lenses when it comes to estimation? Possibly it's both of these, also probably it's to do with the fact that software development is an exceedingly difficult and complex thing to whack an estimate on unless it's done in very small chunks.

With it's well defined toolkit tailored for just these type  of complex problems, Agile has built a reputation for kicking arse and taking names when it comes to software estimation; at least, it has in my experience. Let me count the ways (that Agile breaks it down):

- Epics
- User stories
- Tasks
- Story points
- Planning poker
- Sprints
- Acceptance criteria

...and the list goes on. Many of t…

Our planet does not need to be saved...

Every species that humanity pushes over the line into extinction is a lost opportunity to learn; billions of years of evolutionary process went into optimising the behaviour and form of that creature, the only way we can learn about that particular tendril of the evolutionary tree following extinction is to study remnants, echoes, fossils. It is important for the survival and optimal development of our species to only let this happen if absolutely necessary – but not to prevent it at all costs.

As far as we know, Homo sapien sapien are the only species on earth who have ever reached a point of such complexity in the evolutionary process where we could intentionally and realistically, start to propagate the life that has developed on our planet to-date, across space and onto other worlds. We could do that today. We may have done it already, unwittingly – there could be colonies of terrestrial bacteria developing and evolving on Mars, Titan, perhaps even the Earth’s moon, as I write.

Programmers who "care" vs $2-shop software.

There is something to be said for the experienced coder who is capable of producing low quality software at a fantastic rate. As a programmer who cares about software, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that software must always be thoroughly tested and beautifully architected, appropriately apply design patterns, separation of concerns, and all the rest of it.

Whereas sometimes, a business needs a rough-and-ready, potentially high maintenance solution, until such time as either a venture stabilizes or, alternatively, crumbles away.

[EDIT 20121030: in New Zealand, we have a chain of shops called "The $2 Shop" (, which sell very cheap stuff that doesn't last very long but is good if you're in a hurry]

The work of a $2-shop programmer is often ruthlessly ridiculed by programmers who "care" (that is, programmers who are accustomed to applying a quality/craftsmanship oriented approach to their work). The $2-shop programme…

Eclipse/Android error: "Multiple dex files define [...]"

Wow, I am really going nuts blogging this-evening - 2nd post in less than an hour. 

Anyway this is a particularly nasty error that I keep running into with Eclipse/Android when starting the emulator after I have not run it for a little while. Since I run the risk of permanently forgetting the solution to the problem every time I walk away from my Android project (and thus having to spend a painful hour-or-so digging up the procedure again), I will blog it here, for my benefit, and for the benefit of anyone who may also suffer the same problem.

The gist is that when you start the emulator in debug mode (that is, you hit the button in the following image), you get the following error message come out on the console and a nasty popup telling you nothing more than there is an error with your program and you need to fix it:

[2012-04-06 23:20:57 - Dex Loader] Unable to execute dex: Multiple dex files define Lcom/google/gson/ExclusionStrategy;
[2012-04-06 23:20:57 - SimpleList] Conversion to Dal…

Family Scrum Board

First Sprint started today, ends Sunday evening.
Some tape.A printer and Word.exe.A marker.Some knowledge of Scrum/Agile.
Let's see how this works out...

References: Etc...

Agile NZ Conference - April 2nd/3rd

I'm doing a talk at the Agile NZ conference in Wellington in a week's time - come along if you're in the area, it's bound to be useful if you have any interest whatsoever in the Agile movement.

My talk will focus on the Scrum implementation that we've recently done at CallPlus - here's the blurb:

This presentation takes the audience on a journey; it recreates, as much as possible, a feel for the situation at each phase of CallPlus’ Scrum implementation experience. The intention is for the audience to come away feeling enlightened and empowered. It will mostly focus on the Team and the “human” experience of impementing Scrum.
1. Inception When did we start thinking that Scrum could be a good fit for CallPlus? What was it about Scrum that appealed?Winning the support of the business – how did we win the support of key stakeholders, and how did we accommodate hesitation and uncertainty among business leadership?Analysis of our failed first attempt at compiling a Pro…