Monday, October 28, 2013

Does your practice of Scrum support the ideals of Scrum? A review of The People's Scrum.

The People's Scrum is an informative and thought provoking book. The book is a series of essays from Tobias Mayer's blogs. The essays force you to take a look at your practice of Scrum and compare it to the original goals of Scrum.
In many organizations, the practice of Scrum has become a prescriptive process layered with bureaucracy. It has become the antithesis of Scrum’s original purpose. Instead of setting a group of self-organizing, self-managing developers free to create great software, it has shackled them to a stiff rule laden process that is called "Scrum" but is not Scrum.
Read Tobias Mayer's essays and compare them to your practice of Scrum. Does your practice of Scrum support the ideals of Scrum or has it become a burdensome heavyweight process forced onto teams?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Scrum Shortcuts is filled with pearls of wisdom

Ilan Goldstein's Scrum Shortcuts is filled with pearls of wisdom that will provide great advice for every Scrum Master.
The book is divided into 10 chapters which contain a total of 30 shortcuts. The shortcuts cover the the entire range of a team's adoption and practice of Scrum. Goldstein says that his shortcuts represent "an approach rather than the approach to implementing Scrum."
I really like the fact that the shortcuts were written so they could be read and used in a stand alone fashion without depending on other shortcuts. Goldstein did a very good job of pointing out many of the pain points that a team will face while implementing Scrum and providing a possible way to deal with that issue.
As I read the book, I was able to identify with many of the topics discussed and I found Goldstein's suggestions insightful and helpful. I enjoyed reading the book and I recommend it to Scrum Masters wherever they may be in their Scrum journey.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Agile Note - October 12, 2013

It is not Scrum if you have Test Sprints.
"Test sprints occur when you have several sprints of coding followed by several sprints of testing and bug fixing. Another flavor of this anti-pattern, is where the developers work in one sprint and the testers work a sprint behind."
Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners Agile Tactics, Tools, & Tips by Ilan Goldstein

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Agile Note - October 9, 2013

Scrum fails without planning
"By trading the big picture for the ability to change things quickly, many teams lead their projects very much as if they were making their way along a dark tunnel – we don't know exactly where we'll go but small steps ensure we do not fall down. "
Impact Mapping: Making a big impact with software products and projects by Gojko Adzic

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thomas L. Friedman writes about Coursera the interactive online education company

In a New York Time blog post, Thomas L. Friedman wrote an interesting note about Coursera the interactive online education company. Coursera allows students from anywhere in the world take advantage of university lectures for free.

"Welcome to the college education revolution. Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary. The costs of getting a college degree have been rising faster than those of health care, so the need to provide low-cost, quality higher education is more acute than ever. At the same time, in a knowledge economy, getting a higher-education degree is more vital than ever. And thanks to the spread of high-speed wireless technology, high-speed Internet, smartphones, Facebook, the cloud and tablet computers, the world has gone from connected to hyperconnected in just seven years. Finally, a generation that has grown up on these technologies is increasingly comfortable learning and interacting with professors through online platforms.

The combination of all these factors gave birth to, which launched on April 18, with the backing of Silicon Valley venture funds, as my colleague John Markoff first reported.

Private companies, like Phoenix, have been offering online degrees for a fee for years. And schools like M.I.T. and Stanford have been offering lectures for free online. Coursera is the next step: building an interactive platform that will allow the best schools in the world to not only offer a wide range of free course lectures online, but also a system of testing, grading, student-to-student help and awarding certificates of completion of a course for under $100. (Sounds like a good deal. Tuition at the real-life Stanford is over $40,000 a year.) Coursera is starting with 40 courses online — from computing to the humanities — offered by professors from Stanford, Princeton, Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania."

You can read his entire post here:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Evernote 5 for iPad

I have been using Evernote for several months now. It is a wonderful app and the new version 5 makes it even better on the iPad. I use Evernote on the my Mac, on my iPhone and on my iPad.  I have Evernote connected to Zite, Instapaper, Penultimate and PostEver. There are many more apps that support Evernote on both iOS and OS X. Evernote has become the central place where I keep track of items I read on the web that I want to keep for future reference. I also store PDF documents in Evernote. So exactly what is Evernote and how can it help you? Evernote is an app that lets you store information and retrieve it from many  devices. Evernote has Free and Premium accounts. I have Premium account.

With Evernote you can:
Keep everything in sync
With Evernote, all of your Notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use.
Remember things you like
Save everything cool and exciting you see online and in the real world. Snap a photo, record some audio and save it.
Save favorite webpages
Save entire webpages to your Evernote account with our nifty web clipper browser extensions. You get the whole page: text, images and links.
Research better
Collect information from anywhere into a single place. From documents, to web pages, to files, to snapshots, everything is always at your fingertips.
Work with friends and colleagues
Share your Notes and collaborate on projects with friends, colleagues and classmates.
Plan your next trip
Keep all of your itineraries, confirmations, scanned travel documents, maps, and plans in Evernote, so you’ll have them when you need them.

Read the rest of this review on my blog at

Friday, October 19, 2012

Animator Andrew Gordon Describes Life at Pixar

Recently Creative Bloq interviewed Andrew Gordon on his 15 years at Pixar. Here are some quotes from the post:

"How has life changed at Pixar over the last 15 years?
'When I first started at Pixar, it was very small. But it was big in the sense of a computer graphics company. I went from Warner Bros, which is a giant company and felt very corporate, to Pixar ,which was kind of like this little family of people that basically started the industry in terms of what they invented, motion blur and rendering. 

I didn’t know too much about Steve but I knew that he ran Apple

'They were like the pioneers, so I was walking around seeing some of the people that I idolised in some ways. I would see Steve Jobs walking around the halls. I didn’t know too much about Steve but I knew that he ran Apple. John Lasseter would be doing walk throughs in your office - everything was very small and very, very tight knit. 

'As the years passed the company got bigger and bigger, going from, when I started, about 300 people to now roughly 1300 people. So it's less interactions with those people just in the way that if any company that grows and becomes successful. But it still has that same great feel as in the beginning; it’s just that it is divided up more. ' "

"...with 3D everything takes a lot more time. You have to build and rig the character then go through the whole process of testing the rig to make sure all the controls work, the textures, building the world, etc. It’s a lot more work upfront but once you have everything built you have a little bit more freedom to change and revise, so I like that aspect. But I also like, as an animator, the subtlety of acting that you can get and the very small minutia of what you are able to get in 3D animation. The polish level and the physicality and really feeling so much like you feel what that character is feeling. Something as simple as an eye dart or a blink, that could be the difference between a thought and another thought. In 2D animation you can do that but you have to be at an incredibly high level of your game. So, in some ways, 3D animation levels the playing field a bit because you’re not relying on your drawing skills as much, you’re thinking more about performance. "

You can read the rest of the Creative Bloq post here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unity's David Helgason talks about Rovio's use of Unity and also the Wii U and Unity

Dave Cook recently posted an interesting interview with Unity's CEO David Helgason. Unity is a great tool for small agile game studios. Here are some quotes from Dave's post:

"Rovio, which has always been an indie company that just turned big. I don’t know how many staff they had when they made Angry Birds, but now they use Unity for Bad Piggies, and I’m sure other games down the line."

"One thing is that Nintendo will take Unity tools that we give them, and bring it to their big ecosystem of studios. Nintendo has first-party, third-party and all of the other studios that they’ve worked with for years, and they know them well.

They trust them because they know how to make awesome games for Nintendo platforms. Historically, none of these companies were using Unity, and they have the same challenges as everybody else – cost effective development and all that stuff.

So Nintendo is bringing Unity to these studios so they can build with it. The second thing that will happen is that, we turn around with the same tools and technology we’re working on, and take them to our community, which is a different one."

You can read the rest of Dave's post here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Long-term focus and Agile

Zac Gery recently wrote a nice post on how Agile teams can maintain a long-term focus while progressing through their sprints which by design are focused on a short-term goal. Here is a quote from Zac's post:

Although Agile lays the foundation for long-term thinking, the framework and execution are left to the team. This is unfortunate but can be overcome. Agile's support of self-organizing teams allows for the proper implementation of a framework. It's important for teams to define guidelines for managing long-term planning, focus, and grooming. The following section outlines a few strategies...
Provide a quick status on long-term initiatives after each iteration.
Setup recurring "long-term focus" meetings to discuss product direction, technical considerations, company goals, and much more. These are separate from task oriented meetings such as grooming.
It's important to openly recognize and clarify short-term versus long-term solutions to areas such as problems, requirements, and conflicting priorities.
If possible, avoid cannibalizing long-term planning for the completion of an iteration. Make it a priority.
Provide an easy way for team members and stakeholders to contribute to the long-term direction.
Build in break levers for team members to red flag work that might have potential long-term effects.
Each team should assign one or two individuals such as a senior developer, team lead, or architect to help maintain the long-term focus. Including all teams members is not an effective use of the team's effort.
Group items into themes and keep them in a visible location for continuous reference.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Constant conversation is key to avoiding long-term pitfalls.

You can read the rest of the post here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How small should you make your user stories?

Making small stories is something that Agile teams often struggle with. There seems to be a natural tendency to write large overarching stories. My teams have a hard time deciding how to break the story into several smaller stories that are easier to code, test and accept in a short amount of time.

Mark Levison recently wrote a post on on story slicing:

"Story Slicing, How Small is Enough?

When Agile/Scrum Trainers teach about new teams about User Stories, we usually talk about Bill Wake’s INVEST criteria which includes Small:
Good stories tend to be small. Stories typically represent at most a few person-weeks worth of work. (Some teams restrict them to a few person-days of work.) Above this size, and it seems to be too hard to know what’s in the story’s scope. Saying, “it would take me more than month” often implicitly adds, “as I don’t understand what-all it would entail.” Smaller stories tend to get more accurate estimates.
This statement is a great start but it doesn’t explain why or give you much guidance about what to do.
Why Small Stories?
Why not just give the team large stories that span iterations. Why are always asking if you can slice those stories smaller? A number of reasons:
  • Small stories provide focus and a short horizon for the team. It’s easier to get lost in the details with a larger story.
  • When you still have development to test handoffs (i.e. before you start doing ATDD (Acceptance Test Driven Development), smaller stories enable more frequent handoffs and allow testers to work on smaller chunks of code.
  • Small stories give you the flexibility to reconfigure and adapt to new discoveries or changes. Perhaps the PO discovers that an existing story is now irrelevant; or while coding you discover a surprise. Small stories make it easier to adapt.
  • Small stories provide more feedback opportunities at all levels of the system and more opportunities for personal satisfaction; think of the small dopamine rush that happens every time you complete something! ..."
Read the rest of Mark's post at