# Wednesday, 03 March 2010

In an op-ed piece in this month’s SD Times, I make the argument that software development productivity tools have evolved over the years to become more mainstream. I make the case that while some developers shun tools, in reality they take for granted the tools they are using today that were not available 10 years or so ago, or were not that mature. For example today we use some tools without even thinking such as: SCM, build management, standards enforcement, ORM and UI components. Tools today save a team a tremendous amount of time and are the missing link in the software development process.

You can get the March issue of SD Times on the newsstands today or read my article online here.

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posted on Wednesday, 03 March 2010 03:09:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, 02 March 2010

If you have been following me on Facebook, you know that last week I traveled to Vancouver, Canada, to watch the Winter Olympics. I love to take photos and videos and of course took a million photos and videos. The problem is that I apparently broke the law well over 100 times while I was up in Canada. These laws and their enforcement need to be updated.

Let’s start with a photo of Scott Stanfield and I being the ugly Americans wearing our Team USA jersey at a hockey game (USA crushed Norway 6-1!).  A friend’s wife took it for us using my personal camera. While I did not ask Scott if I can post it, having known me for 10 years, he knows that if you pose for a photo with me, it will be online-so permission is implied. Nothing wrong with this photo, right?

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According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), this is a borderline case. While it is ok to take the photo of ourselves at the venue, live action is going on in the background. Good news for us is that you can’t see it in the photo. I am safe, the IOC won’t send lawyers to shut this blog down.

Now take a look at this photo:

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Similar in nature to the one above of Scott and me, this photo is in the stands of a spectator. Sure this crazy cow-bell ringing Swiss dude did not give me his permission, but that is between him and me, not the IOC. (Trust me, he wants to be photographed!)

I posted this photo on a sports blog along with a small video of the same (to show the world how exciting and crazy Curling, yes curling is, and how rowdy the Swiss fans are with their cow bells!)

Not so fast according to the IOC. They sent me a nasty-gram legalese email and made me pull the photos and video down. You can see the ice in the lower right hand corner as well as the “articles of play” or the stones used by the curlers as well as one of the Olympic judges and logos. I am violating the IOC’s copyright right now, just posting it here again. (And YOU can go to jail just for looking at it!)

WTF?????

The old school copyright laws are out of date. There is a difference between me downloading movies and me taking a photo at a live sporting event. (Or any live event for that matter.) My views on the RIAA and MP3s are well known (they are pure evil), however, let’s take a minute to think about the copyright at the Olympics.

I understand that NBC and other broadcasters paid the IOC a lot of money for the exclusive rights to show the Olympics on TV. I also understand that without that money, the Olympics would be difficult to stage. If I recorded an entire event, or even a very important small part of an event (like the winning shot for the hockey Gold metal), I understand that that takes away from NBC’s exclusive coverage.

That said, that is not what I am doing. I was taking photos and videos of the atmosphere, the venue, the fans and surroundings. While at times I did get some live action in my frame, mostly it was stuff that the TV cameras did not care about. For example, most readers of this blog are technology savvy people who think that curling is a waste of time. I went to Canada believing the same thing. After attending curling, I was in awe of curling and its strategy, skill and the excitement of the plays coming down to the wire. I enjoyed it so much, I went to a second match!

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I was also blown away by the crowd. At the US-Swiss men’s game, the Swiss spectators were out of control. (Switzerland had a huge come from behind win on the last extra end shot.) It was like the 7th game of the World Series (or final match at the World Cup for you non-Americans) chanting over and over at the top of their lungs: Go Swiss!  Pounding the floor with their feet over and over. Boom boom boom! And the cow-bells. Oh the cow-bells! Singing the Swiss National Anthem after the match. Totally awesome! I captured the essence of this sheer excitement in the photo above. The IOC wants me to remove it.

Here is an example where a law is meant to protect a party (the IOC) and my violation of that law in actually helping the “protected” party. My photos are free advertising for the IOC. In addition with my enthusiasm, I am helping spread the word about curling, how much fun the Olympics were in person, and bring more attention to the Olympics in general. Someone who was not interested in curling and the Olympics may decide to go to the Olympics in 2012 or watch it on TV because of my blog post and photo. Or someone may google Olympic Curling and be brought to an Olympic site and possibly buy something or watch a video, a video that was sponsored and brought in revenue to the IOC. More to the point, the collection of photos by the thousands of spectators on flickr, Facebook, and blogs, etc, not just mine, will bring in even more to the IOC. The more people the violate the copyright, the more value for the IOC is created.

By violating the law, I am helping the IOC make money. If I follow the law, I am doing economic harm to the IOC in potential lost profits and free advertising. The system is clearly broken. The more photos on flickr, Facebook, and blogs, etc, the better off the IOC is. Copyright laws and their enforcement need to change, catch up with digital media and social networking.

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posted on Tuesday, 02 March 2010 04:38:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Friday, 26 February 2010

We had a great Agile seminar yesterday in Pune, India. You can download the seminar slides here.

A special thanks to Telerik, the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture and the team from e-Zest for planning such a successful event. Usually as the speaker I get all the glory, so here is the photo of me with the folks who made it happen, they deserve the glory:

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posted on Friday, 26 February 2010 03:37:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 22 February 2010

Telerik has released the latest beta of the OpenAccess Data Service Wizard. We now support Visual Studio 2010 RC! You can also choose to use WCF 4.0 as one of the services you can build. Based on your feedback we also added a new feature: the ability to automatically generate dependent entities.

Download it today and give us your feedback. Next stop is the full release as part of our 2010 Q1 release of OpenAccess. See the OpenAccess roadmap here.

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posted on Monday, 22 February 2010 22:13:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Sunday, 21 February 2010

I will be presenting a half day seminar on Agile Development, Tools and Teams on Wednesday at the MCCIA in Pune, India. The event is brought to you free by e-Zest, MCCIA, and Telerik.

The Program Details

One of the most popular Agile project management and development methods, Scrum is starting to be adopted at major corporations and on very large projects. After an introduction to the basics of Scrum like: project planning and estimation, the Scrum Master, team, product owner and burn down, and of course the daily Scrum, Stephen (a certified Scrum Master) shows many real world applications of the methodology drawn from his own experience as a Scrum Master. Negotiating with the business, estimation and team dynamics are all discussed as well as how to use Scrum in small organizations, large enterprise environments and consulting environments. Stephen will also discuss using Scrum with virtual teams and an off-shoring environment. We’ll then take a look at the tools we will use for Agile development, including planning poker, unit testing, and much more. There will be plenty of time for Question and Answer. This seminar is a jump start for a certified scrum master exam. 

To register: please email seminar@e-zest.net.

posted on Sunday, 21 February 2010 11:59:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Building an Interactive Media Player in Silverlight + A Quick Lap of What’s New In Silverlight 4

Subject:
Peter will be demoing a video player application he built to demonstrate the various ways that Silverlight interacts with the web, versus being a black box onto itself. We’ll talk about using markers in video files, talking to backend services, interacting between XAML, HTML, C#, & JavaScript within a web page. After the going through the video player, we’ll look at what’s coming down the pike in Silverlight 4.

Speaker:
Peter Laudati
Peter Laudati, the "JrzyShr Dev Guy," is a Developer Evangelist with Microsoft, based in the New York/New Jersey area. One of his roles is supporting and educating Microsoft customers working with the .NET development platform. Peter supports the community of .NET developers in the NY Metro area by speaking at user group events and Code Camps. Peter is also the co-host of the “Connected Show”, a new podcast covering Microsoft technology with a focus on interoperability. His blog can be found athttp://www.peterlaudati.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Jrzyshr.

Date:
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time:
Reception 6:00 PM , Program 6:15 PM

Location: 
Microsoft , 1290 Avenue of the Americas (the AXA building - bet. 51st/52nd Sts.) , 6th floor

Directions:
B/D/F/V to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Ctr
1 to 50th St./Bway
N/R/W to 49th St./7th Ave.

posted on Wednesday, 17 February 2010 05:04:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 15 February 2010

The story of human achievement is almost always one of teamwork. While we celebrate individual accomplishments, like Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon, it is always the team that makes or breaks the effort. I have always been interested in why teams succeed; it is easy to figure out why teams fail. A lot of time we think that we need a team of “Ninjas” in order to succeed, or a superstar team leader. In reality we need neither the Ninja team nor rock star team leader. For better or worse, I have been leading teams for a long time and I maybe a decent team leader now, but I was not early in my career-I have made every mistake in the book! Upon reflection of my past successes and failures I recently turned my attention to the question of why do teams succeed?

The problem with answering that question is that each team is different and even if you measure one team over a period of time, chances are that they worked on different projects or with different users, so it is difficult to get reliable observations. To gain some reliable observations you would have to observe one team working on virtually the same project, with virtually the same users, over a short period of time.

The good news is that I did just that. About 10 years ago during the .COM boom, I was the team leader of a team that was working on a website. (Surprise, surprise back then!) We worked on two short iterations (we did not call them that since this was before “Agile”) that were very similar in scope and requirements and worked for the same users. One iteration failed completely (the second one) and one was a smashing success (the first one). What was the key difference between these iterations? Everything was the same, the users and the developers got along, all key members were engaged, all the requirements were clear. What was different?

During the first and more successful project , I was on the “disabled list”. My ankle and leg were hurt while rock climbing and I had to walk around with a silly cane. (My doctor wanted crutches, but I refused.) It hurt to walk, even to stand, so I tended to stay put in one place at a time. As luck would have it, this company was an aspiring .COM, so they had leased a ridiculous amount of office space since they were going to hire 500 more people overnight. (Remember those days?) Since it hurt to walk, I usually just camped out with the business users at a spare desk.

Sometimes I overheard something the users would say that would affect the system and just butt on in that conversation. Sometimes they wanted to bounce things off my head and since I was right next to them, we had a lot of ad hoc meetings. This produced a better quality of communication. Studies have shown that there are thousands of communication "points" delivered with facial expressions and verbal tones/speech patterns. This gets lost in email, documents, etc.

Besides the close proximity to the business users, the development team would be around a lot too. While email was popular back then, I believed (and still do) that in-person communication is better, so I would not reply often to emails (especially vacation requests), forcing my introverted developers to ask me things face to face. This lead to other mini-meetings with the users and developers; business users would also overhead a team member coming to me lobbying to cut or add a feature and butt into that conversation with their perspective.

When the second project started, I was almost healed, so I tended to hang out in the IT department more often. (I also started to walk around with a baseball bat instead of a cane, that that would frighten people who did not know me.) As I said before the second project was a big failure and we later figured out that my leg was the only variable that had changed. For the next project iteration, we made it a rule to have a technology person sitting with the business team. (The guy who suggested this won the first shift with the users.) The collaboration between the business team and the technical team was the deciding factor and I have stressed team collaboration ever since, and my career has been the better for it.

You may be thinking that this is impossible in today’s day and age with distributed teams and rapidly changing requirements. The company I co-founded a few years back, Corzen, employed this strategy, even though we had a distributed team with both remote employees and overseas contractors. At our Corzen headquarters in New York City, we had our seating arrangements in an “open” style where the business team and the technology teams all sat together at desks right on top of each other alongside the sales team. While it at times did suck (like when my girlfriend would call and everyone could overhear our conversation), it paid many dividends. When the salesperson obviously lost a sale because of a lack of a feature that you lobbied against, it is far more powerful to hear the play by play in real time than getting an angry email from him later on.

Corzen had remote employees as well as overseas contractors, and we collaborated and communicated well with them. Of course we could not have them sit with us in the “bullpen” as we called it, but we did involve them on very frequent calls and webinars with our business team. The business team would make all of their documents available on a share or Google documents and over-share information instead of under-share. During the design phases the team would always communicate well and keep that communication going almost daily. New team members were inserted all the time and would come up to speed very rapidly. Of course the technical team held daily scrums using Skype and reported both ways (to the tech team and the business team) what was going on. This process was so successful that it lead to a great deal of success and Corzen was acquired by a larger entity based in another country and it still operates this way.

So if I have to sum it all up and answer the question why do teams succeed, the answer is pretty easy: communication, collaboration, and being “in the flow” of the emerging process. I have always known this, but my experiences described above enabled me to re-discover it. The best teams can finish each other sentences. Successful projects that I worked on had high bandwidth communication and extremely small feedback cycles. Success projects communicate and work "the way humans" should work - more face to face, more verbal. They also didn't rely up documentation to collaborate/communicate need/specification. Users don’t have all the answers, the requirements and features need to be discovered jointly by having a technical team member embedded with the users, or tools that mimic the fluidity of being together. Toyota perfected this process twenty years ago; the agile movement that started ten years ago was a recognition of this, so we have the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work on projects. Embrace collaboration, communication, and work “the way humans” work (or mimic that fluidity if your team is remote) and you will have successful projects all the time.

 

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posted on Monday, 15 February 2010 14:46:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [4] Trackback
# Friday, 12 February 2010

As you all know by now, Google unveiled its latest attempt at social networking this week, called Google Buzz. The first reaction was that it was Twitter meets GMail and some folks joked and called it Glitter. Sure it got 9 million posts in the first two days, however, it is doomed to fail.

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Buzz is a response to Twitter and to some degree Facebook. In the past if news happened, you went to Google to see what was up. Nowadays, you go to Twitter first to get the real time news and see what people are saying. You only go to Google for what I call the encyclopedia search, like “who was in that movie?” or “what year was xyz” or “what is the name of that blah blah?” All real time stuff you go to Twitter, like “what is going on at the TED conference this weekend?” As the saying goes, Twitter starts arguments, Google ends them. Twitter and social networking (when you can ask your network a question instead of Googling it) are a threat to Google’s core business model: owning search and the ad revenue around it. Buzz is an attempt to mitigate that by creating the platform for people to go to for real time search and social networking.

The problem with Buzz is that it brings nothing new to the table, except maybe GMail integration, but if you use Facebook you can pretty much replicate that. We already are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, so who needs Buzz? Buzz is already too far behind and does not have any break out features, so it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Google is Google and will get some traction just because of its strong brand: just look at the PR around the Nexus One and Android, however, those are great products. Buzz is (at this stage) just a copy cat of what is already out there. I don’t see the platform growing into something better anytime soon either.

At Google, its founders still have a strong say in everything the company does. That is not a problem, look at how successful Google has been; look at Steve Jobs’ hold over Apple and that seems to be working out. But at Google, Larry and Sergey get a lot of things, however they don’t “get” social networking. Google has tried and failed with social networking and community in the past and most visibly ran Orkut into the ground and acquired YouTube since GoogleVideo failed. Google will need to bring in someone big from the social networking community to own Buzz. Since Google has deep pockets, I am sure they can. My advice to Google is to do this pronto and then rethink what Buzz will do.

Google should reposition Buzz to be a master consumer and publisher: the place you go to publish and consume all of your social media content. This way they will get all the eyeballs and then hence, all the ad revenue. What would be great is if Google Buzz talked to all the APIs of all the social networking sites and used OpenID and created one social networking portal for you. You can post your photos, blogs, status updates and consume content from all of your contacts (“friends”) on all the social media sites without having to sign up for them all (or join them all). I constantly get invites to fringe social networking sites from friends overseas and refuse to join some of them, but I am missing out on that content and connecting with those friends. Google Buzz can solve that problem, I can consume that content without joining.

Google will also have to work on a breakout feature to get all the people to visit Buzz, maybe an image search: I can upload my photo and then search across all the social networks for image recognition of myself. Throw on top of this portal some awesome search and categorization and filtering that made GMail so successful and you have a great platform. Then Google Buzz could be the only social networking site you had to visit.  Today I have to check my RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Gmail, and like 10 other sites I am a member of. Sure I have some email integration and RSS readers, but it is not a true one stop shop. Google Buzz can do that. If not, they are doomed to fail.

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posted on Friday, 12 February 2010 21:27:37 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback