Breaking the Ice in Agile Retrospectives
I have found that one of the key things when kicking off a Retrospective is ensuring that everyone gets into the mood to contribute. Ice breakers are recommended for this and I have tried various techniques.
A good ice breaker can help ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to be heard. This is especially the case in a development team where a number of the members are probably more likely to prefer to stay mute or who are - perhaps - not so comfortable when it comes to social interaction and can, therefore, be easily drowned out by the more vocal members.
The Happiness Histogram is a tool I have found incredibly useful for this. Credit to Mike Lowery for blogging about this.
Each team member basically places a sticky note along a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 signifying complete dissatisfaction and 5 denoting elation! Like Mike, I use smileys on both ends of the scale and the beauty of this technique is that it hardly needs explaining. When the team member places the sticky note on the position that best describes how happy they feel (about whatever issue is the subject of the retro), they also get a chance to explain why they feel that way.
The team can then agree to either discuss whatever issues that come out ‘here and now’ or can choose to address them later.
Lastly, the histogram is a great tool for communicating to the business about any concerns that the team has and can be a useful way of reporting and giving feedback on any changes which affect the development team.
Chromebook Pixel quick review
I was lucky to be able to get my hands on a Google Chromebook Pixel laptop for a couple of days. I decided to use it as my primary computer for the duration of my having it. Here is what I discovered
Is there something better than plug and play?
I love the fact that the computer ‘knew’ me straightaway. As soon as I logged on with my Google account, all of m y details were pulled down and bookmarks synced in chrome browser, documents in Google Drive, and so on. Really impressive! If you are enmeshed in the Google ecosystem, it’s a matter of logging on and continuing from where you left off on your mobile, tablet, or PC.
Wow! The retina screen really does blow you away. I’ve been using a retina MacBook Pro for about 6 months and a few weeks ago I started to notice that whenever I stared at a non-retina screen for long, I developed a massive headache. No one believed me at work but when I went to see my opticians, it transpired that my glasses needed to be changed as my eyesight had got worse. What was really cool, though, was that the retina screen was so good, it obviated the need to get my eyes checked.
Now imagine a screen even better. The Chromebook’s screen really blows you away.
And you can touch it. Surprisingly, there were few fingerprints on the screen even after hours of use. Whenever I had to use my MacBook Pro, I kept reaching out to touch the screen. The era of the touchscreen desktop PC is definitely coming, no doubt. PC manufactures will do well, though, to ensure no interaction depends on touch only. Unless someone starts manufacturing bionic arms that won’t tire!
Don’t stop at just eyeballing one of these devices. You have to pick one up. I can easily see why (if the rumours are true) Google feel the need to open up physical stores where they can showcase their devices. Unlike the MacBook series (air and pro) that you feel drawn to thanks to the brilliant design genius that is Jonny Ive, the Chromebook needs the physical intimacy in order to seduce you.
The moment I picked it up, it just felt right in my hand. The weight and size just felt right.
I was slightly disappointed that Google did not opt for a mag-safe type power connector or that the finishing on the surface seemed to be a magnet for visible and ugly scratches.
This thing smokes!! I can only describe the experience of using the Chromebook in the same way as I would the experience of using an iPad. The Internet feels like its in the computer. Literally. The experience was orders of magnitude better when I got home and connected it to my Sky fibre broadband service. Our corporate wifi is a bit rubbish.
You can tell straightaway that the big plus (and also a huge minus, in my view) of the device - being kept within a browser only - meant the computer could just focus on doing one thing and doing it well.
I have a suspicion that Google’s decision to make the hardware so beefy was in part decided by the need to have a smooth touch experience.
I did have some big issues with the Chromebook
No decent apps
Like I mentioned earlier, if you are enmeshed in the Google ecosystem the Chromebook is a dream. If you’re not, it starts to get ugly. I don’t use Google Drive much. Most of the documents I save to the cloud are either in Dropbox or in iCloud. Needless to say there was no way to get at them in a meaningful way. I went into the Chrome webstore as I assumed that there would be a Dropbox app. I was wrong.
Next, I tried to find the Skype app. Any Skype app. The best I could get was IM+ a multi-messaging platform that would let me chat but not make a voice call. I needed to make a Skype call with some friends and I ended up having to ask them to use Google Hangout instead. That worked well, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the battery lasted through 3 hours of a google hangout with video.
There seems to be little support for the Chromebook from the apps that really matter. Google needs to change that. Quickly.
I feel trapped
No, I AM trapped! Everything happens within a browser. For too long, we have been conditioned to treat the browser as j use another app on the PC. Not treat the browser as the PC itself. That’s a pretty big shift and I struggled to get my h end round to promote the browser to such a high position.
As a developer, the Chromebook is pretty much useless to me. I didn’t bother to look for an IDE in the Chrome webstore. Neither did I bother with photoshop or a tool like it. I also take photos and part of my workflow involves processing in Lightroom. Again, we’re shooting blanks.
If all you do revolves (or can be made to revolve) around or within a browser, then congratulations!! Google has found a potential customer for the Chromebook.
In a corporate environment…
It’s even less capable than an iPhone/iPad in terms of connecting to VPN networks, being able to communicate via Lync, etc. Because I was determined to try working with it, I opened up a tab with Outlook for web and attempted to use it for email. Two immediate downsides to this: outlook for web is really bad and no one should subject themselves to it. Ever. Second thing is that there’s no decent notification system yet in Chrome OS and there was no way to know that a new email had arrived. I ended up using my iPhone to detect new emails and then respond to the using Outlook for web.
Did I already mention the difficulty of working with documents not in Google Drive?
Developers are going to have to retool as they can no longer assume that desktop PCs can only be interacted with via a mouse pointer.
It’s too expensive. End of.
I don’t know why I would get a Chromebook if I already have an iPad. In many ways, I believe the iPad (and most other tablets) superior to the device because of the availability of apps. Decent apps.
Perhaps, Google is working frantically to remedy this. They better be.
Are you having trouble installing OpenKinect on your Mac OS X?
So I’m doing some work with the XBox kinect Sensor and just tried to install the OpenKinect library on my Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2) and the latest version of XCode (Version 4.6). I followed the instructions here: http://openkinect.org/wiki/Getting_Started#OS_X
When I try to use HomeBrew to install the libfreenect library, I get the error below:
brew install libfreenect==> Installing libfreenect dependency: libusb-freenect==> Downloading http://git.libusb.org/?p=libusb.git;a=snapshot;h=7da756e09fd97efad2b35b5cee0e2b2550aac2cb;sf=tgz;js=1Already downloaded: /Library/Caches/Homebrew/libusb-freenect-7da756e09fd97efad2b3.git;a=snapshot;h=7da756e09fd97efad2b35b5cee0e2b2550aac2cb;sf=tgz;js=1Warning: Cannot verify package integrityThe formula did not provide a download checksumFor your reference the SHA1 is: 0fa768a60d1840997454033b64756816d44ad913==> Downloading patches######################################################################## 100.0%==> Patchingpatching file libusb/libusbi.hpatching file libusb/os/darwin_usb.cpatching file libusb/os/darwin_usb.hpatch unexpectedly ends in middle of lineHunk #2 succeeded at 147 with fuzz 1.==> ./autogen.sh You should use the ‘AC_CONFIG_HEADERS’ macro instead./usr/local/Cellar/automake/1.13.1/share/aclocal-1.13/obsolete-err.m4:14: AM_CONFIG_HEADER is expanded from…configure.ac:25: the top levelautom4te: /usr/bin/m4 failed with exit status: 1aclocal: error: echo failed with exit status: 1
READ THIS: https://github.com/mxcl/homebrew/wiki/troubleshooting
Following their manual install process gives the same error. I was able to get round this by making a change in the libusb patch file.
On line 34 of configure.ac, change AM_CONFIG_HEADER to AC_CONFIG_HEADERS.
That did the trick!
Good luck with getting OpenKinect working on your Mac.
Magento is rubbish!
I never would have considered the possibility that a piece of software would scare me. But I have to admit that I am afraid of Magento.
I don’t want to go near it or even touch it with a barge pole! I’ve had a really torrid time upgrading and migrating a Magento instance to a new server and I am now convinced that it is NOT the solution for me.
I’m now looking for another shopping cart solution.
My very short review of the Samsung Galaxy Note
My colleague asked me to use the Samsung Galaxy Note as my primary phone for a couple of weeks and give him my review afterwards.
As an iPhone user (since 2007), I wondered how difficult it would be to adapt to the Android OS and, particularly, Samsung’s slant on things. I’ve got to say it has been incredibly difficult because I have to think about everything before I can interact with the device. I wouldn’t describe it as intuitive, but this might also be as a result of my having being indoctrinated into the iOS ‘way’.
In other ways, the Touch has been a delight to use. Browsing the web on a bigger screen is definitely more pleasurable. And Flipboard… it looks gorgeous on this screen! I’ve not yet installed the Kindle app but I have no doubts it will be just as great to read.
Not forgetting that this is meant to be a phone, the overriding effect the device has on me is to make me want to dig out my Jawbone 2. Otherwise it will be too embarrassing being seen yapping away on this phone. It is just too big!!
Update: After having spent another couple of days with this phone, I am convinced that there is a problem over at Samsung. The UI is so clunky, there’s so much stuff I don’t understand going on, like my tapping on the phone app and my call log being listed alongside text messages.
My journey with Android is over for now (and possibly for a long while) and the fault probably lies more with Samsung’s UI ‘enhancements’ than with the default Android itself. Oh well. Back to iPhone.
Update 2: I have now returned the phone to my colleague and I am so relieved! It’s been an even worse experience than I thought it would be and I hope this will not make it too difficult for me to pick up another Android phone in the future. Google really needs to have a word with Samsung.
I’ve just accidentally discovered a new feature of OS X Mountain Lion
Image via CrunchBase
If you double-tap the middle area of the Magic Mouse in a browser window, you get the same effect as double-tapping the iPhone screen when browsing - the section tapped gets magnified and centralised in the browser.
Update: it seems to only work on Safari and Preview (and possibly other Mac apps). But it’s still neat!
Apple’s new Maps app. Great but what about non-US users?
The news is out. Apple is abandoning Google’s maps back-end and instead using its own mapping technology, thanks to strategic acquisitions made over the past couple of years.
I’m not quite sure how to take this news. Google Maps works just fine for me and I’m curious to see what the Apple Maps will give in addition to what I already have with this, and also if Apple will let Google continue to provide their Maps as a download in the App store.
One of the features I use the most on my iPhone is the Google Maps traffic mode
As driving in London can be such a hassle. I find that I am able to plan my route better when I am able to check the traffic ahead of my getting to the usual bad spots on my way in to London.
I will be very cross if the (rumoured) iOS 6 Maps does not give this feature, or if they only give the feature for the American market - similar to how Siri has been seriously hobbled in the UK.
Yours truly speaking at SkillsMatter
I will be speaking about Search Based Applications and Enterprise Search at Sky.
I’ll update the blog after the speaking event.
Steve Jobs - departed but ever with us
This is for those friends of mine who believe that Apple (and by extension Steve Jobs) does not innovate.
I won’t waste another breath arguing that point with anyone. And that is a promise that I am making to myself. I will, instead, let all these people speak of what great things Mr Jobs has achieved in such a short period of time.
"The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."
"I am very, very sad to hear the news about Steve. He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it. His focus on the user experience above all else has always been an inspiration to me. He was very kind to reach out to me as I became CEO of Google and spend time offering his advice and knowledge even though he was not at all well. My thoughts are with his family and the whole Apple family."
Roger Ebert, Pulitzer-prize winning film critic
"I got one of the first Macs, and my relationship with computers fundamentally changed. In both of his incarnations at Apple, he was a visionary. He provided tools. His victories were based on imagination and courage."
"Steve Jobs has played a huge part in shaping my appreciation of technology. Ever since I enjoyed the privilege of owning my first Mac back in 1993, I have developed an emotional connection to its creator. Now, Steve, hurry along… your journey continues. You have left behind a legacy that will live on with mankind. Thank you for everything."
John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, and Ed Catmull, President, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios
"Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time."
"Steve was my hero growing up. He not only gave me a lot of personal advice and encouragement, he showed all of us how innovation can change lives.I will miss him dearly, as will the world."
"Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you."
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
"No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much."
President Barack Obama
"The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him."
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney
"Steve was such an ‘original,’ with a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that defined an era. Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started. With his passing the world has lost a rare original, Disney has lost a member of our family, and I have lost a great friend."
"I want to express my deepest condolences at the passing of Steve Jobs, one of the founders of our industry and a true visionary. My heart goes out to his family, everyone at Apple and everyone who has been touched by his work."
Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP
"Steve Jobs was an iconic entrepreneur and businessman whose impact on technology was felt beyond Silicon Valley. He will be remembered for the innovation he brought to market and the inspiration he brought to the world."
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City
"Tonight our City — a city that has always had such respect and admiration for creative genius — joins with people around the planet in remembering a great man and keeping Laurene and the rest of the Jobs family in our thoughts and prayers."
Sir James Dyson, innovator and entrepreneur
"He was dubbed a megalomaniac, but Steve Jobs often gambled on young, largely inexperienced talent to take Apple forward; Jony Ive and his team prove that such faith was spot on."
"From the earliest days of Google, whenever Larry and I sought inspiration for vision and leadership, we needed to look no farther than Cupertino. Steve, your passion for excellence is felt by anyone who has ever touched an Apple product (including the macbook I am writing this on right now). And I have witnessed it in person the few times we have met. On behalf of all of us at Google and more broadly in technology, you will be missed very much. My condolences to family, friends, and colleagues at Apple."
Culled from Wired Magazine online.
The Emperor’s new clothes
I have asked myself many times over why there is such a dislike (hatred might be a bit too strong for this) for products made by Apple. They are typically labelled as hugely overpriced, feature light, underpowered and so on.
Admittedly, it is a small percentage - albeit very vocal - of people who hold these views and the majority of the population covet Apple products. I have no empirical data to support my latter claim but I dare say I was spot on.
These people go even further and openly deride people who buy and love Apple products as being stupid slaves of technology trendiness.
Why do these people dislike Apple products so much, and why do they pour so much derision (and sometimes even vitriol) on those people who do? It is almost rabid. I remember very clearly having a heated conversation 2 years ago with an acquaintance who claimed Windows phone 6.5 was better BY FAR than the iPhone. Where do you start the discussion with people like that? Very intelligent and highly educated people to boot. I almost feel as though we have all been hoodwinked by the success of Microsoft from years ago into believing that vertically integrated markets were doomed to failure, and that ‘leveraging’ was the only way to succeed in the technology world.
I blame the business schools for this as well. Educational programs that depend on case studies for teaching MBA students give very little room for creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’.
The huge success that is Apple today has befuddled analysts the world over. They do not understand why the company has been so successful nor do they understand why people love their products so much. This confusion extends to most technology pundits as well as their very intelligent audience. And yet, for those people who have followed Apple very closely for decades, it is not so much of a surprise. I, for one, am not surprised.
There is only so far ‘features’ can take you, only so much more memory and CPU that you can throw at your hardware… Many years ago, I used to help University lecturers buy their computers. I still remember very clearly how frustrated they got by not being able to understand the difference between Intel and AMD or between Centrino and Celerons, between Pentium III and Pentium IV, nor why they needed to know these things. An yet we techie people got it and were exasperated that we couldn’t get others to understand. We concluded that these people were just ‘thick’ and we treated them accordingly.
But Apple got these people the way the rest of the technology world didn’t. That is all they needed to do. That is the major difference between Apple and Microsoft or between Apple and HP, Dell (put any other commodity hardware supplier here). Apple believes more in the ‘experience’ of using technology and this shows in the ease of use they are constantly being applauded for. They will not shy from removing features or components that they believe are not integral to the functionality and experience they wish to provide their users. They will also remove components that are not absolutely required in order to save on manufacturing costs and therefore the final price of their products. This is another gripe of the Apple naysayers.
With this realisation, going back to the question of why there is so much derision towards Apple products makes me realise that there is another question to be asked: “what is the demographic of these people who hate Apple products so much?” apart from those who were told in their Churches that Steve Jobs was a bad man whom I am not even going to talk about here, most of the naysayers are techie people.
I think it is safe to say that there might be resentment towards Apple’s ‘dumbification’ of technology. And that might be at the root of the problem here. Apple gets those people who we concluded (and labelled) as thick and is able to communicate with them in a language they understand. Therefore effectively sidelining us.
That must really hurt.
But what if these people are right. What if Apple’s products were really a swindle? What if these people - like in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes - are the ones who truly get that Apple is fooling us all into buying their products? A compelling proposition, admittedly but contestable by a billboard I used to see of the French biro maker Bic when I was much younger :
"17 million customers cannot be wrong…"
There are a LOT of customers that claim Apple products are great to use. Apple consistently comes out on top in customer satisfaction surveys year after year, winning product design awards in the process. Surely this cannot be a case of mass hypnotism… Surely. Or is it?
Apple is now flirting with the position of being the most capitalised company in the world. And that is a scary prospect considering their iPad has not even really caught on yet. The post-PC world is just dawning and HP and IBM have bailed out. Microsoft is still in denial about what this portends and the other commodity hardware suppliers (OEM manufacturers) are quavering in their boots at the lack of direction from Redmond.