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12/13/04

  08:59:57 am, by   , 26 words  
Categories: Agile

Agile United

Looks like the Agile United conference website is finally up (probably for a while, but I just noticed). The call for papers is also out.

  08:10:41 am, by   , 54 words  
Categories: Agile

Rolling Rocks Downhill

Check out Clarke Ching's new book project Rolling Rocks Downhill. The purpose of the book is to help people – customers, managers, workers (and even their families) – who work on traditionally managed software development projects to find a better way.

Personally I enjoy a fictionalized look at my industry from time to time.

  07:54:45 am, by   , 350 words  
Categories: Agile

Free Book - Essential Skills for Agile Development

The Macau Productivity Center has released a PDF version of their book Essential Skills for Agile Development. It covers the basic development skills necessary for a programmer on an agile (XP specifically) team.

Chapters begin with short descriptions of the topic and then have many exercises focusing on code.For instance chapter 4 (on refactoring) has 5 pages of descriptive text and 34 pages of exercises and solutions. Because of the short chapter length only light coverage is given to each topic. However, the author states up front that he is using the 80/20 rule and that the reader will have to look elsewhere for a more detailed treatment.

Interesting to note that most of the reference are either to Object Mentor or the C2 wiki.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1. Removing duplicate code
Chapter 2. Turning comments into code
Chapter 3. Removing code smells
Chapter 4. Keeping code fit
Chapter 5. Take care to inherit
Chapter 6. Handling inappropriate references
Chapter 7. Separate database, user interface and domain logic
Chapter 8. Managing software projects with user stories
Chapter 9. OO design with CRC cards
Chapter 10. Acceptance test
Chapter 11. How to acceptance test a user interface
Chapter 12. Unit test
Chapter 13. Test driven development
Chapter 14. Team development with CVS
Chapter 15. Essential skills for communications
Chapter 16. Pair programming

The book layout is a little odd for one concentrating on agile development since it leaves many of the core topics to the end of the book (unit tests are in chapter 12).

This book was written in Macau (a Chinese Special Administrative Region in Guangdong province) and seems to have a assumption that the exercises will be done by the reader. I'm not sure that the Western reader will typically do the exercises. I'd like to see the book broken into the main text and a separate workbook or at least make the exercises shorter by focusing on 2-3 that really drive the point home. This could make the book around 150 pages rather than the daunting 427. Additionally the text is a little stilted probably because English is not the author's primary language.

Overall it is probably a pretty good use of time for the experienced agilist to skim the narrative portions of the book and maybe have new to agile developers read it.

12/10/04

  08:44:17 am, by   , 233 words  
Categories: General

Theory of Constraints and Movie Theaters

I went to see The Incredibles (great film by the way) the other day at a theater I hadn’t been in before and I was struck by the difference as soon as I walked in the door. You buy your tickets the normal way (or online), but the snack bar has been changed into a mini-supermarket/deli. The great feature about this change is I can pick up all the food I want without waiting in line (except popcorn and some deli items). You pay at a supermarket style checkout stand. This is great since now you don’t have to wait for the guy who needs to buy popcorn for the 6 kids he has with him (oh and by the way they ran out of popcorn and have to pop more) when I just want a soda.

This is a great application of the Theory of Constraints (ToC). ToC in its simplest form is examining a system for the largest constraint and then making that constraint go away. This exposes a new constraint and you keep repeating. I don’t claim to be an expert in TOC, but rather a beginning student. I do find it interesting that once you start thinking about systems this way your world view changes in a way that is similar to getting object orientation, test driven development, self managing teams, etc.

12/02/04

  07:54:06 pm, by   , 339 words  
Categories: General

Keeping Databases In-Synch With Your Source Control

Problem: Your development, test and production databases tend to accumulate cruft (aka. old stored procedures or schema) and you need a way to manage changes in a simple automated way.

Solution: I've had the great fortune to work with some excellent teams that have crafted elegant solutions to this problem. The following is a boiled down simple approach that provides a great way to tame database source control and upgrade issues.

Development Tools of Choice: VS.Net 2003 Ent., VSS, Nant, SQL Server 2K

Steps:

1. Using VS.Net and VSS, create 2 database projects. One to contain all objects that can be recompiled without data-loss (Stored Procs, UDFs, Views, Triggers). The second database project to contain a database_release.sql file to contain your schema changes for each release (make sure they are repeatable eg. "if exists ....") Use these 2 projects to manage all you database changes from release to release. Be sure to clean up any re-named or deleted objects from VSS.

2. Create an Nant build file that does the following:

  • Allows you to call it with "dev", "test", or "prod"
  • Does a recursive get from VSS on the database projects
  • Applies an auto-revisioned version label to these projects in VSS
  • Stage these files to a well known network location to appropriate sub-directory eg. "dev\AppXDatabase_1.03.22.31"
  • Drops all re-runnable objects from the corresponding target database for dev, test or prod
  • Apply repeatable schema changes for release
  • Recursively apply all the re-runnable objects to the database

3. For each release you can wipe and build the release schema project as needed with new schema for the upcomming release.

Benefits of Approach: By doing this you get a versioned history of changes to your database. You also get versioned stage directories for dev, test and prod environments that have all the schema and re-runnable database objects at that point in time. These versioned stage directories correlate to a label in VSS. By automating the application of the schema and the dropping and recreating of the re-runnable objects your database will reflect your source control.

  08:52:09 am, by   , 51 words  
Categories: Management

6 Myths of Creativity

FastCompany has an article on the 6 myths of creativity.

  1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types
  2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator
  3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
  4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs
  5. Competition Beats Collaboration
  6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

Take a read and see if any of these organizational anit-patterns exist where you work.

  08:31:45 am, by   , 231 words  
Categories: General

Speeding Up Acrobat (Quickly)

From Scott Hanselman

Here's a great little free util that Omar has found. I used to move the plugin's manually to speed things up, but PDF Speedup makes me NOT DREAD opening a PDF anymore. BTW, does Acrobat 6 suck LOTS more than Acrobat 5? I HATE the new Find Dialog.
I have previously written about how darn slow Adobe Acrobat 6 is when launching. I don't understand why Acrobat is so darn annoying. Here are some things I don't care for:


* Don't create a “My eBooks“ folder in My Documents when I have nothing to put there.
* Don't load 500 plugins when none of them are necessary to view a PDF

* Don't place shortcuts for some lame Internet Printing thingy in my Start Menu (I loathe Start Menu Advertising)
* Do install a PDF IFilter so that indexing products like Lookout can index PDFs w/o installing it seperatley

* Don't load PDFs in IE because it is god awful slow
* Don't make copy and paste so freaking hard

* Don't ask me to install other Adobe software when I boot Acrobat
* Don't create an updater (6.0.2) that creates an additional entry in my add/remove programs



If you want to fix most of these things, PDF SpeedUp is a free application that should come bundled with Acrobat. It's a must have piece of software to make Acrobat behave (as much as you can anyway).
[shahine.com/omar/]

11/30/04

  08:02:40 am, by   , 252 words  
Categories: Management

The problem with annual performance reviews

Esther Derby has a great post on an alternative to the yearly performance review.

She also gives a great suggestion for dealing with what most employees want out of a review, money. I'm sure if it wasn't for the salary tie-in, employees would revolt at the notion of going though the typical annual review.

I wonder what would happen if salaries were treated like mortgages and you could choose a base salary plus a fixed annual increase, say 2% or an adjustable rate salary, say median salary + 5%.

Ken Auer of RoleModel Software told me once about the system he uses at his company. New hires can choose to have a market rate salary and minimal/no bonuses or a low salary and a proportionate percentage of revenue sharing. So a programmer could sign on for a $90,000/year salary with no bonuses or a $30,000/year salary + 10% of annual profits.

The only issue I have with either of these systems is that the rest of your life dictates which of these is acceptable, and some people will need to switch at some point. Allowing people to renegotiate their employment agreement would allow that, but doing it to often leads to people speculating on the business climate. I'm not sure if this is good or bad for the employee, but I can see it being an administrative and budgeting challenge for the employer.

Has anyone participated in a salary scheme such as these? How did it work and what did you like and dislike about it?

11/29/04

  01:09:53 pm, by   , 18 words  
Categories: General

Welcome to Consultants Guild blogs!

Welcome to the Consultants Guild blog.

For those unfamiliar with the Consultants Guild check out our home page.

11/03/04

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