Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tour approaching

We are just over one month away from the world's biggest cycling race and unbelievably, we still don't know who won the last one. In fact, the saga has gone on long enough for the defendant to release a book about it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Artistic compensation

Second Life reminded me of a thesis that I heard about many years ago, focussing on artistic recognition. I haven't actually read the paper, but I recall the elevator pitch.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Artificial Life

Recently I have been noticing media reports about goings on within a thing called Second Life. After a dozen or so, I figured it was time to investigate. Well, I am intrigued, and online world that isn't about killing dragons and casting spells that seems to have a large support base (I suspect that free entry might have something to do with it). My local government funded media outlet has recently purchased an island . The whole premise seems to have a very artistic/creative slant to it, promising life performances or lectures. I can't see myself joining anytime soon, but it is a concept worth observing. The whole thing reminds me of the book Idoru.

It makes you wonder where this stuff will end up. Will we one day work inside a virtual world? A lot of us deal with people via email or phone only anyway, never seeing the person in the flesh. Education too could benefit - that expert who lives on the other side of the world can now hold global lectures from the comfort of their own home. There would be a darker side too, with cults and criminal organisations using a virtual world to circumvent traditional communication channels.

Yes, something well worth watching.

GTD has stuck

It is several months since I started the GTD way and think I can say it has stuck. I still carry my lists with me and refer to them regularly. Even if a slip a little, I come back - its never a chore to go back to the lists; every time I think its all in my head a look at my lists tells me not to get cocky. It works because its simple, like most effective systems.

Even a major event coming up has a big piece of butcher's paper in the kitchen covered in 'next actions' on it. My partner is not quite getting GTD-ified, but she likes the list-in-visible-spot concept. She can point to it and remind me: "these are your responsibility. :)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just what is Agile Testing?

I seem to notice that I like posing questions in the title of my entries... Anyway, I am currently trying to unravel what exactly Agile testing is. In fact the question could be: how do testers fit into an Agile project? A short Google search tells me that this is still a hot topic, and that there is division over it (an essay from testing.com, Agile Testing, what is it?). I can't help feeling that there is still a silo mentality where each group (development and testing) is going away on their own and deciding what their roles in an Agile project is - which kind of goes against the manifesto.

I have recently witnessed three Agile projects where the testers sat in the same room as the developers but yet both groups built their own set of automated functional tests. This seems crazy to me, but I am willing to accept that I am the odd one out here.

What are people doing elsewhere on projects? Have people been successful in integrating teams as Brian Marick describes, or have you just assumed that the twain shall never meet and focused on getting the developers to produce better code (and functional tests) on their own?

In closing, I do like Brian's categorisation of testing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Striving for Better, achieving Good Enough

You could consider me an Agile practitioner. I have worked with processes one might call Agile, with a definite slant towards Extreme Programming. What does that mean? Superficially that means employing certain practices: Short iterations, pair programming, etc. It means not doing all requirements analysis before development starts, and so on.

On reflection, one of the main aspects that I have taken on board is the philosophy of continual improvement. I don't use the word philosophy lightly. As a practitioner of a profession, I seek to improve my methods and learn through this endeavour. This is where my intrinsic nature and Agile thinking align well. My most enjoyable part of a project is the retrospectives: frank, open discussion about how the team can improve itself.

Sure, nine times out of ten a well staffed project team will deliver as required, without the need for much advanced thinking. So why look beyond what we already know? Or, why fix what isn't broken? It is interesting to ponder the Moon landing in the context of these questions - there would have been millions of reasons not to do it. My feelings are that you develop as an individual (or a team) by striving to be better than you currently are; challenging the current assumptions and operations. Identifying areas of improvement and applying analytical process to making the next step; in particular, this means overcoming our natural tendency to aim for 'good enough'.

The usual outcome of aiming for 'good enough' is not as good as we had hoped. By defining an easily achievable level and never increasing it, we allow lapses to occur, the end result being below the set level. It is a natural outcome of becoming too comfortable. Only by continually striving for better can we truly achieve good enough.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Two months on

I have been using GTD now for over two months and it is worth making a few observations. Having lists for all my tasks is really useful and I am likely to continue to use this system for quite a while. It is quite mentally liberating to have my to-dos outside my head. The contextual names (i.e @Work) are really effective, even if most times I have to scan three or four. I am still persisting with a low-tech approach, with my lists being a set of index cards with a bulldog clip.

The tickler file I struggle with a little. I can see its value and I will add things to it, but remembering to check it every morning is tough, especially when I am on holidays. Also, it doesn't help that the nature of my work means that I already have two other calendars to check. That said, missing appointments is my biggest concern and I blame a lack of a unified calendar system - my phone software can't sync with Lotus Notes at all and has some difficulty with outlook. Also, there seems to be no online, standards based calendar solutions out there; it would be good to simply forward all my Notes and Outlook invites to say my Yahoo address and have everything captured there.

On a more subtle note, the temptation to write down tasks which cannot be completed never goes away. What this means is that the lists can be more like Inboxes, for example: "fix shoes". Now, I am not a shoe repairer so I cannot complete this task. The correct task should have been something like "Take work shoes to Bob's shoe repair". This goes back to processing an Inbox item, doing the thinking up front and then devising concrete actions from there.

My inbox is quite small for things other than email, so I often just process them straight to the lists without a holding area. This does get me into trouble when I am away from my lists and an Inbox item arrives. I would ideally like to use my phone's voice recordings for this but they don't work satisfactorily. Also, I scan my Projects list erratically, I do not have a scheduled time to do this, but it is still helpful nonetheless.