July 30, 2007

Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and Maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6 -year-old boy cha rged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Tylenol, sun lotion or a Band-Aid to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

July 26, 2007

Personal updates

I just recognized that I forgot to mention, that my darling became employed at the same place as I did some weeks ago. And it's great to see how she surprised many people by how fast she got grip and dived into the topics. It's also very good that she has great colleagues around her area and likes her work so far. Only downside is that a few colleagues are currently not available which she depends on getting some of her stuff done and to gather know-how from.

And on the other side my "almost-sister-in-law" recently managed to finish another study and acquire her second title. Congrats, Mrs. MMag.a :)

Third thing is that the brother of mentioned sister-in-law (almost) and his wife now had the church-part of their marriage. Now you're a married couple not only by law but also in front of god :)

July 17, 2007

Hot summer

With 36°C outside it's really hard to keep up a smooth workflow....

July 9, 2007

The power of 'just do it'

When you're working in a large team it is the case that from time to time someone has an idea how to increase the effectivity or productivity by using a new technology or tool.

The common way of incorporating enhancements in general is to do a little bit of research on the topic, then present the results to a project leader or manager and after that decide to do more investigation or incorporate the thing into the project.

The downsides of this way are, that it can take quite some time and maybe the person responsible for the final decision does not have enough knowledge and overview of the whole process and environment to be able to make the right decisions.

But sometimes this whole trouble can be saved with the what I call "just do it"-approach. This means that one or several developers set up a new tool or process and "just use it" without asking their bosses or team leads before.

At my workplace there are several examples for this and many of them have proven to enhance our daily work for a great extend. For example, some developers just set up a CVS server and began using version controlled sourcecode. Bam! Development speed went up, because they could exchange their source faster and adapt to the source changes of others more easily. But then some conflicts and subtle changes of the code more often broke existing functionality. Another "just do it" solved the problem: automated test cases. At the same time the "just do it" of Extreme Programming also enhanced our productivity and output even if we didn't adopt all of its points and requirements (for example Pair Programming, which at that time was still a cornerstone of XP but seems not to be anymore today, nowadays it seems more to resemble Ping-Pong Programming). Also the introduction of Bugzilla sped up our development speed and aided documentation and traceability of changes and decisions.

In the new project two weeks ago I saw the need for a change of the communication practices. The team has grown to a size, where discussions and decisions cannot involve the whole team anymore without ending in trouble or boredom. But letting only a small group decide on the steps affecting the whole team holds the risk of ignoring the knowledge and experience of the rest of the team. So after a small dispute with some members of the team I decided for myself to set up a forum (namely phpBB3) to get around this problem and presented it to the team. It seems now, that the forum will get accepted as a communication platform where discussions can take place utilizing the know-how of the whole team while avoiding boring and unproductive meetings. We'll see how it will integrate but the chances are not that bad that this will be another "just do it" success story.

Something which is a requirement for such successes is, is the support from the applications in questions. If it takes days to set up a server or to integrate it into an existing environment (common logins/LDAP, mail, etc.) the tool almost rules itself out of the possible candidate list for "just do it"s. It is essential that it is possible to set up an application or server quickly and with as minimal configuration effort as possible. Also it must be possible to move an application from a personal or test-machine to a server if it proves to be that successful that the need for a more reliable environment arises. The application should support backup and restore of configuration options and the database contents.

I personally think, at our workplace the largest leaps in efficiency, productivity and reliability have had their seed in such "just do it" actions. Mostly the developers theirselves know best how to improve their work so why make it hard for them to change structures or procedures? Or even worse, force applications and tools on them which add no value to their work without asking them beforehand...