Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

September Web Roundup

Well time is flying by as usual and another month has been and gone! Just time for a quick roundup of what has really caught my attention on the web in the last 30 days…

Steve McConnell’s blog post Building a Fort: Lessons in Software Estimation seems to have received a lot of attention and rightly so. It makes for a very entertaining read as you learn about the trials and tribulations of his latest DIY project. Steve also manages to draw some useful conclusions regarding software estimation.

As someone who has a soft spot for PHP I was interested to see this article on Reg Developer saying that Derek Sivers has given up porting CD Baby from PHP to Ruby on Rails. Instead he has decided to re-write it in…er…PHP. Derek explains his reasons here. Most interesting to me is that he took what he learned from Rails and applied it using PHP which shows that it’s not always about what language you use, but how you use it. It is also interesting because it shows that there can be business justifications for re-writing code in the same language.

Over in the world of personal development/self improvement Tim Ferriss has written about the 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment. I generally try to maintain a positive attitude but know that it’s not always easy! If this technique works as well as he reports then I might just have to give it a go…

Finally, if you feel your team requires “more management” then maybe you can use this technique, demonstrated so well by everyone’s favourite pointy-haired manager over at dilbert.com.

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Periodisation for Success

I really enjoy climbing (at a low grade!) and occasionally write about what I get up to on my climbing blog. Earlier this year I read Performance Rockclimbing in order to pick up a few tips for improving my standard. The last chapter of the book talks about periodisation. I had never heard of this before but, in sports science, it is a commonly understood principle and one that I think can be useful in business too.

In climbing the key areas that you can develop to raise your game are strength, technique and endurance. The problem is that they are very difficult to improve at the same time. In fact, as you focus on technique, your strength and endurance are likely to worsen. Likewise working on your strength will actually make your technique a little poorer. What’s more, if you train hard for too long you are likely to burnout and suffer from physical injuries and reduced motivation.

All too often I see examples in business of people trying to develop multiple areas in tandem:

  • “We must grow our business, increase profit margins and improve customer satisfaction”
  • “Our software development needs to be faster with fewer defects and code needs to be more maintainable”
  • “We need to take fewer risks, innovate more and enter new markets”

These ill defined goals are not only poor motivators (as explained by Steve McConnell in Rapid Development) but also, in my experience, rarely change very much. Sometimes small improvements appear, sometimes they don‘t.

Enter periodisation… Continue reading

Taming Your Inbox

Not so long ago I was feeling weighed down by the shear bulk of my inbox: it contained over 1500 items. Many emails that required action were doubtless buried somewhere in a morass of trivial FYI messages but I had given up keeping track of them. Frankly I was relying on the fact that if anything was truly urgent someone would nag me about it eventually. All in all this was not a productive or professional way of working. However, judging by this BBC news report, I am not the only one who has struggled to keep my inbox under control.

In March this year I met someone on a training course who told me that he was practicing a “5 Item Inbox” technique. I believe he had read about having a “1 Item Inbox” in Getting Things Done but had found this was not realistic for him so had opted to allow himself a maximum inbox size of 5. I was sceptical but decided to give it a go. 6 months later I can confirm that it has worked wonders for me so here are the basic principles that I have found so useful: Continue reading

Accurate Estimates

The oxymoron of “accurate estimates” might be amusing if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people in software development are asked for them. Recently I really enjoyed reading Bruce P. Henry’s blog post titled Statistical Frustration because it underlines the fact that it is impossible to say exactly how long something will take with 100% certainty. Continue reading