Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Houston here. We're looking for somebody to blame for your problem, 13."

Fix the Problem, Not the Blame

It doesn't really matter whether the bug is your fault or someone else's—it is still your problem, and it still needs to be fixed.

--The Pragmatic Programmer

I highly doubt that was the response to Jim Lovell after the line, "Houston, we have a problem." However, in our world of software development it still seems to be the first reaction to any issue that comes up.

I know in projects past, I've been a huge offender of looking for, "It's not MY fault," rather than fixing the problem at hand. Todd even nicknamed me Blameosaurus on one project because I got so good at looking for the blame. So, I'm not exempt from my own post here.

I've been a consultant for one company or another for over ten years now, and we're constantly thrown into burning buildings to get something working. There are a plethora of issues on day 1, and all too often those of us on the team spend too much time bitching about the issues and not enough time rolling up our sleeves to get things squared away. So, day 2 rolls around and we're in the same boat, and the same problem still exists.

That said, sometimes there is a right time to track somebody down that created a problem. Don't do it as a way to shame them, but rather for more clarification. Who knows what the situation as like at the time they made the error, and maybe it's a good time to help somebody learn something new.

I feel I'm still an offender of whipping out the blame thrower a bit too often, but I'm making a conscious effort to quit and move on with the solution.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some April Kanban Talks

I'm happy to have been selected to two conferences in the region to share an hour or so of Kanban, and my experiences with it.

The first will be at Central Ohio Day of .Net on April 18th in Wilmington. This is a great little conference that combines the forces of the dev communities of Dayton, Cincy, and Columbus for a day of geeking out. In addition to the great sessions they have lined up, there will also be Open Spaces. If you've got time on a Saturday in the spring, this is a great gathering at a great price...free!

The following Saturday, April 25th, I'm going to trek north and present at the Kalamazoo X conference. This is the first year for this conference, and it looks really interesting. It's focus is on the non-tech side of development, so there will be lots of dev process, design, and user interaction type talks. All the stuff we need to know without opening up our favorite IDE. As an added bonus, this place is in Kalamazoo for a required stop.

That will keep a couple Saturday afternoons busy in April for me. Now, if a certain local hockey team can keep the Saturday evenings busy...

Friday, March 6, 2009

COALMG Kanban Talk Follow-up

I would like to thank everybody that attended my Kanban talk at COALMG on March 5th. There were some great questions, a good discussion, and judging by the tweets on Twitter afterward, it got some wheels turning. I'm glad the talk got some of you thinking about things you can look into.

As promised to Jeff, here are my slides: A Little Lean With Kanban.

The disclaimer on the slides: They meant to support the presentation (I have totally bought into the Presentation Zen approach to presenting), so on their own they don't say much. However, my notes to each slide are there, and that should provide some value. Also, even though I used pptPlex for the presentation, if you don't have that they'll still work fine in Power Point.

Also, I love feedback. That was the first time I gave that presentation in that form, and welcome any suggestions you may have. I already got a few from Comrade, James, and Amanda over post-talk beers that will be folded in to the next iteration.

And all you guys named Jeff that bailed on the post-talk beers...for shame!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Weekend with pptPlex

Some time last fall I believe, Jeff introduced me to pptPlex from Microsoft Office Labs. It does some pretty neat tricks with your slide deck. To me it appeared to be Deep Zoom for Power Point. (And let's be honest, anything to spice up Power Point is a good thing.)

So, I've got a new presentation to put together, and thought now would be a good time to give pptPlex a try. I wasn't disappointed, it does make moving through your presentation more fun. To get it to work there are a couple special slide types it uses, and a different way to launch the deck, and that's about it.

The first special slide is the section divider slide. It has a title and some grayed out text on it. You drag it into the deck at the point you want a section to start, add the title, and done. That section will exist until pptPlex finds another section divider slide. This groups your slides by however you'd like, and applies the title from the section divider slide to that group.

The second special slide type is a canvas slide. This slide ends up being the canvas for the whole presentation. There are a few pre-made ones you can use, and also two custom options. Basically, the layout you choose determines how your slide groups are arranged on the canvas. I ended up using the advanced custom option, which wasn't too hard to lay out. Lots of typical dragging and dropping to get the layout like you want it. Took maybe 10 minutes to get my six sections all set up like I want.

Both the section and canvas slides appear on the new pptPlex portion of the ribbon. Also on that menu are the new options for launch that will start your presentation up in pptPlex mode rather than in traditional Power Point mode. The first of "From Overview" is the one that will start your presentation from the canvas, and is the one I think most people are going to use.

Now for the downsides I ran into...

First issue I came up with was that it didn't work with my presenter mouse. I've got the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000, and no dice with it doing anything in presenter mode. A little searching on the web turns up that pptPlex doesn't yet support that mouse. HOWEVER! It will support use with a Wii remote and an xbox controller. +1 to each for cool factor, but I'm trying to be practical here and still give a presentation.

My solution to this ended up being mapping the two side buttons on my mouse to the left and right keys on the keyboard. It's not the ideal solution, but it will cover 90% of what I'll need to handle during a presentation. There will be a couple of gotchas with this, but it should get the job done.

The second issue I came across was that once you've published your slides to the pptPlex output, you lose all your animations. I don't use animations a lot, but a couple places they would have come in very handy for effect. However, the pptPlex FAQ lays out that they just didn't have time to get that in for this release. (Yo, MS, add one more guy to the team and task him with mouse integration and animation!)

Overall, I'm digging the product. I think it'll help with a lot of my presentations, and I'll probably refactor any of my old ones to use it. The cool factor it brings makes the above two hurdles tolerable.

Besides, a sensor bar and a bluetooth card form my laptop will have me running a Wii controller in no time!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Goals for 2009

I got tagged by Jeffery back in January for this, and since there's nothing I should do today that I can't put off until tomorrow...

Professional Goals

  1. Speak 12 to 15 times: I spoke 12 times last year, covered three different states, and had a heck of a time. Why no big increase here? Because realistically speaking (pardon the pun), that was plenty with everything else that goes on with job and family.
  2. Present "Care About Your Craft" at least 5 times: I gave this one a couple times last year, and would like to give it more. It's a great talk that covers a lot of things developers can do outside of their syntax of choice to be better developers.
  3. Upgrade the MVC talk and samples: When I wrote my goals out at the beginning of the year, I put this one on here because I'm a little behind on my MVC. But this week, I started in on a project that was going to leverage it, and found out just how far behind I am. So, I'm already underway on achieving this goal.
  4. Create a new presentation: This one will be taken care of thanks to being invited to speak on Kanban at COALMG in March. (I've procrastinated this post long enough that one goal is reached! w00t!)
  5. Write a sample app in Ruby: I need to work on my Ruby some more.
  6. Contribute to an open source project: I need to do this, as well. Need to find the right one to contribute to, though. Maybe combine this with goal #5.
  7. Get the blog better organized: Had this one on the list for a while, but I keep putting it off. Should I install Grafitti? Should I just run with Blogger? I need a new design no matter what engine I use. Thankfully, I've got a few friends who are willing to help out on all points, should be fun.
  8. Write 35 blog posts: 3 posts a month should be doable. Though it's already February and I'm behind my pace.
  9. Read 12 books: A book a month...like above, I'm aleady behind. On my list, though, are to re-read the Pragmatic Programmer, finish Implementing Lean Software, and to get through Uncle Bob Martin's Clean Code.

Personal Goals

  1. Fix my office to be more usable: Wendy and I don't have the best layout to our home office, and we both need a little space of our own in there.
  2. Get better lighting in our basement: We have two choices for lights during movie watching - harsh flourescent lighting, or none at all.
  3. Budget our vacations better: We've got two trips planned already, and we tend to say, "Screw it! We're on vacation!" when we go to buy something while we're out seeing the world. (Usually Disney World.)
  4. Clean up our finances: I'm waiting for a year when this ISN'T on my list of goals.
  5. Lose weight: Like #4, I could use a year without this one on the list. Thankfully I'm starting '09 lighter than I was in '08, but could still drop a few more pounds.