- z2004-04-12- Udell Margins Leeway
JonUdell on how paper MarGin-s provide LeeWay, and the need for software systems to offer the same flexibility. It strikes me that all of my recent experimentation - with XHTML microcontent, semantically-oriented CSS, and structured search - has a similar flavor. I've been looking for ways to scribble in the margins of the Web. Not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's, perhaps, the only feasible way forward.
- z2015-03-04- Bowkett Jeffries Scrum Argue
Sept'2014: Giles Bowkett on ScruM. Scrum, the Agile methodology allegedly favored by Google and Spotify, is a mess... Consider Story Points... If it had a name, this informal (Planning Poker) game would be called something like "the person with the highest status tells everybody else what the number is going to be.".. Planning Poker isn't the only aspect of Scrum which, in my experience, seems to consistently devolve into something less useful. Another core piece of Scrum is the Stand Up Meeting... I've twice seen the "15-minute standup" devolve into half-hour or hour-long meetings where everybody stands, except for management... At this second company, virtually everything landed in the parking lot, and it became normal for the 15-minute standup to be a 15-minute prelude to a much longer meeting... Scrum's ready devolution springs from major conceptual flaws... there's a fundamental cognitive dissonance between "sprints" and "sustainable development," because there is no such thing as a sustainable sprint... Another core idea of the Agile Manifesto, the allegedly defining document for Agile development methodologies: "working software is the primary measure of progress." Scrum disregards this idea in favor of a measure of progress called "VelocIty.".. Story points, meanwhile, are completely made-up numbers designed to capture off-the-cuff estimates of relative difficulty. Developers are explicitly encouraged to think of story points as non-binding numbers, yet velocity turns those non-binding estimates into a number they can be held accountable for... If you're tracking velocity, your best-case scenario will be that management realizes it means nothing... I don't think highly of Scrum, but the problem here goes deeper. The Agile Manifesto is flawed too. Consider this core principle of Agile development: "business people and developers must work together." Why are we supposed to think developers are not business people?.. The Agile Manifesto might also be to blame for the Scrum standup. It states that "the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation." In fairness to the manifesto's authors, it was written in 2001, and at that time git log did not yet exist. However, in light of today's toolset for distributed collaboration, it's another completely implausible assertion, and even back in 2001 you had to kind of pretend you'd never heard of Linux if you really wanted it to make sense. Well-written text very often trumps face-to-face communication... In addition to defying logic and available evidence, both these Agile Manifesto principles encourage a kind of babysitting mentality. I've never seen Scrum-like frameworks for transmuting the work of designers, marketers, or accountants into cartoonish oversimplifications like story points. People are happy to treat these workers as adults and trust them to do their jobs. I don't know why this same trust does not prevail in the culture of managing programmers.
And a follow-up. I'm hoping to find out more, later, about what it's like when you're on a Scrum team and it actually works. To be fair, not every Scrum experience I've had has been a nightmare of dysfunction; I just think the successes owe more to the teams involved than to the process... Of all the criticisms of my blog post that I saw, literally every single one overlooked what is, in my opinion, my most important criticism of Scrum: that its worst aspects stem from flaws in the Agile Manifesto itself... The Agile Manifesto existed because developers and consultants had begun to recognize that many ideas in tech management were unnecessary, inessential historical relics... In many industries, companies just do not need to have synchrony or co-location any longer (Distributed Team). This is an incredible development which will change the world forever. Do not expect the world of work to look the same in 20 years. It will not.
Feb20: Ron Jeffries responds. My first reaction, instead, was to point out that almost none of the things Giles complained about are actually part of Scrum. They are, of course, things that people trying to use Scrum sometimes do... But still, is it unfair to expect the tool to be used wisely? Well, maybe not unfair, but perhaps unrealistic... I’ll wager Giles’s team’s Product Owner didn’t have that as their prime responsibility. I’d even put a little down that they didn’t have a real Product Owner at all. Three bloody roles, Scrum has, and only three. If you can’t get that right, don’t call it Scrum, OK?... I no longer recommend velocity, which means that I also no longer recommend story estimation in points or other measures (No Estimates).
Mar04'2015: Bowkett addresses Scrum again, but not apparently responding to Jeffries. Water Fall used too much written communication, but Agile doesn't use enough. (He's a big fan of GitHub.)
Mar04'2015: Bowkett responds to Jeffries. Scrum's a fad in software management, and all such fads go away sooner or later. The most embarassing part of this fracas was that, while my older followers took it seriously, my younger followers thought the whole topic was a joke. Velocity is, in my own working life, less "going away" than "already gone for years.".. The first time or two that I saw Scrum techniques fail, my teams were using them informally. I thought, "maybe we should be using the formal, complete version, if we want it to work." The next time I saw Scrum techniques fail, we got official Scrum training, but the company was already being mismanaged, so I thought, "maybe it doesn't matter how full or correct our implementation is, if the people at the top are messing it up." The next time after that, management was better, and the implementation was legit, but we were using a cumbersome piece of software to manage the process. So I thought, "maybe Scrum would work if we weren't using this software." Eventually, somebody said to me, "hey, maybe ScruM just doesn't work," and it made more sense than any of these prior theories.
- z2012-09-19- Agile Enterprise Culture Hacking
Eric Raymond examines the past and current connections between the HackEr culture and the Agile Software Development movement, coming from Agile Culture Con (see post from June by Venessa Miemis, plus background from Dan Mezick from May).
Their initial problem, as Dan Mezick puts it, is that so far agile development hasn’t been scaling very well. Techniques like unit testing and TDD, design by story, pair programming, scrum, planning poker and the like have amply proven themselves at the small-group level (up to, say, a dozen developers). Properly applied they do boost the hell out of the effectiveness of product teams. But evidence that they can be scaled up effectively to much larger projects or coordinated Enter Prise-wide development is lacking... agile, trying to scale up from the bottom, collides with the top-down-imposed conventional corporate habits of death marches, rigid hierarchy, and Water Fall planning. And loses, because the imperatives behind all that sludge are wired too deep into the culture of most corporations to be displaced by mere productivity improvements, however dramatic.
They want to write a how-to manual. How to meme-hack your corporation so it’s not wasting most of its energy on authoritarian bullshit and territorial games, how to make it a place where more value is added and people are happier. Oh, and where agile techniques can be applied throughout.
The Core Protocols are very clarifying – that much is obvious to me even from limited exposure. One of the authors calls them “software for your head”, and they’re a building block that can be used with other kinds of software for your head, including ways to re-invent how we organize groups larger than will fit in a single meeting room.
Two of these got an airing at the conference. One, actually the less radical one, is a kind of organizational design (Organization Models) called Socio Cracy... Sociocratic double-linking is a clever pre-emptive strike against the effects of the SNAFU principle. The existence of a reporting chain separated from command authority at least removes much of the normal incentive for command chains to distort information passing between levels.
There’s still hierarchy in the system, though. The more radical path is to flatten the firm entirely – no bosses, no subordinates, not even sociocratic circles. And this is just what two of our presenters, from a firm ("tomato ingredient processor") called Morning Star, told us about. At Morning Star, they practice “Self Management” (Self Organizing). Your job isn’t defined by who you report to, but by your commitment agreements with your colleagues. In effect, everyone in the firm has horizontal contracts with other firm members. The business runs on a painstakingly-maintained process model and objective performance indicators. The contracts include performance targets, and your pay is tied to how you meet them. More details in the book Beyond Empowerment, which lightly fictionalizes the history of Morning Star and then presents supporting factual case studies... perhaps the most intereresting thing about Morning Star’s organization is that they’ve scaled it past the Dunbar Number.
In Dave Logan’s analysis, a firm – or an entire society – is best understood as a mosaic of interlocking tribes (Tribal Ism), each with its own Micro Culture. Logan distinguishes five CultUre types or stages: Stage 1 = “Life sucks”, Stage 2 = “My life sucks”, Stage 3 = “I’m great (and you’re not)!”, Stage 4 = “We’re great!”, and Stage 5 = “Life is great!”... Not every tribe knows what it wants. The shared desire and ValUe-s may be partly or wholly unconscious, and point to something larger than the tribe understands. The Prophet’s job is to reflect the tribe’s values back at it in such a way that it changes stage – wakes up and starts to function at a higher level.
See also Eric's comment further down about the power of naming things (Shared Vocabulary): One of the most powerful things a prophet can do is identify something his tribe unconsciously does, or strongly desires (or both), and give it a name. The name then becomes three things: a focus of all that pent-up emotional energy, an object of reflection, and a rallying cry... As I noted at the conference, a prophet in Dave Logan’s sense of the term gives people permission to be idealists – he allows them to opt in to a bigger, more beautiful myth than the one they’re living in.
Update: Venessa Miemis posted her notes, including about a session that involved working on a Mani Festo.
In a separate post, Eric Raymond tries to identify the Prophets of the early HackEr eras: Larry Wall; Jon Postel or Fred Baker; Oddly, I’m not sure I can identify a prophet in the early Unix tradition. It’s possible that whole crew was already at Stage 4 when Ken Thompson had his brainstorm – collaboration, playfulness and high creativity certainly seem to have been already well-established traits of the BellLabs CultUre when UNIX incubated.
- z2007-03-08- Kling Alternative Energy Politics
Arnold Kling isn't a fan of lots of methods of trying to increase the use of Alternative Energy.
Carbon Offset: AlGore is trying to say that by investing in alternative forms of energy, he is "offsetting" the heavy use of conventional electricity for his home. This is like saying that eating salad entitles a dieter to enjoy cake for dessert... Even subsidizing the planting of a forest may not work. Although the trees will absorb Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere, the planting itself may require the use of heavy earth-moving vehicles that emit pollution. Overall, adding forest in one spot may lead to a developer cutting down a forest in a nearby spot. (That's why they should use Energy Accounting.)
SubSidy for Alternative Energy: It may be true, as Greg Mankiw argues in his Pigou Club Manifesto, that higher taxes (SinTax) on bad energy are justified. Figuring out the optimum tax is a difficult challenge, even for the Pigou Club. However, once the correct tax is set, that by itself provides all the incentive that is needed to get people to switch to good energy. The tax on bad energy will raise the price that people are willing to pay for good energy. That higher price for good energy is all of the incentive that producers need to undertake the effort to provide more good energy.
Carbon Market: That market price will become a tax on firms that exceed their pollution entitlement and a subsidy to firms that decrease theirs. Once again, the economic logic supports a tax without a SubSidy... In contrast to the lack of public benefits from energy subsidies or cap-and-trade, the private benefits are enormous. The winners are politicians, lobbyists, and narrow producer interests. (Gaming The System)
Startup Growth Stages
#01 median IPO offering is $100M, but that's not just tech subset
#02 IPO-s in 2014
#03 BaseCamp numbers
My Intro Blurb:
This is the publicly-readable WikiLog Thinking Space of Bill Seitz (a Product Manager and CTO).
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