September 30, 2003

Here You Go Stefan...

For someone who chose his first year Uni courses based on how many essays he wouldn't have to write, I'm doing quite a bit of writing these days...

None of these nowhere (now here): 8 Reasons you should blog even if no one reads it! are why I started blogging, but touch on some of the reasons why I've taken to it, I think. So my no. 9 is "as an extended bookmark list cum notebook." A title and a URL just weren't enough to remind me why I'd bookmarked something, six months down the line, and blogs make adding a brief note about things is so easy.

(Via Steven Vore)

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Name Your Milestones

In this interview with the guys behind Hydra they explain how naming their milestones helped motivate them:

"As the project matured, submitting to the Apple Design Awards became an important goal, providing us with a fixed deadline for release. On our way to that deadline we did some sort of micro-milestoning. Every week we set up a set of action items for a specific milestone that was reviewed in an end-of-the-week meeting that also set the objectives for the next week. Internal milestones were named after cities on the way from Munich, where we are based, to Cupertino. This turned out to be a very productive and motivating process."

Nice idea. Hydra looks like a cool app, I've been thinking about collaborative editors for a while now. Pity I don't have a Mac...

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September 29, 2003

Long time no gigs

Last night, Andy and I went to see the Elbow gig at the Junction. It was a sell-out, something we didn't discover until we rocked up at 6pm to get some tickets. Luckily we got chatting to a lass in the queue and she had two spare tickets - thanks Vicky!

Tickets sorted, we popped into town to get some food, which meant that we missed the first support act, and arrived in the middle of the second support act, Longview's set.

I should pay more attention to who the support acts are - if I'd known Longview were playing I'd have survived on something from the "cafe" in the Junction. They were excellent, and their music was what I enjoyed most during the evening - I think that's the final little nudge I needed to get their album (despite now having a copy of "When You Sleep" from the FREE album sampler they gave out - nice touch).

Elbow played a superb set too, the live feel enhanced by singer Guy Garvey's witty bantering with the crowd. I was a bit disappointed that, after making a few references to the late Robert Palmer, they didn't cover "Addicted To Love" ;-) Their music is a little too chilled for my tastes, they need a singalong number with a good hook to propel me from nice-to-have-the-odd-track-picked-up-from-compilations to buying the album.

Still a great night out, and a reminder that I need to do this more often.

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Unpopular, or just over-hyped?

Pitchfork: Castoffs and Cutouts: The Top 50 Most Common Used CDs

I thought I was going to get away without owning any of the most-discarded-albums, but then I got to the top ten, and found Belly: Star, Radiohead: Pablo Honey, Breeders: Last Splash, and Lemonheads: Come on Feel the Lemonheads. Don't people know that it's sacrilige to get rid of any music!

At least Arrested Development: 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... is at no. 11. Maybe I can explain this to the DJ at Fat Poppadaddies to get him to stop playing Mr. Wendel...

(Via Sleeve Notes)

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September 26, 2003

Achieving a healthy, wholesome life

Thanks to this 1950s guide to "Keeping Fit - A Health Exhibit For Men And Boys".

"The sex instinct in a boy or man makes him want to act, dare, possess, strive. When controlled and directed, it gives ENERGY, ENDURANCE, FITNESS"

And all this time I was trying to get energy, endurance and fitness by playing football and rowing. If only I'd known...

(Via Troubled Diva [even if he is a wuss and blows his Sambuca out before drinking it] ;-)

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September 25, 2003

Motivate the highest performers

From Joel On Software comes a link to this fascinating article about managing software engineers.

The main theorem is that good software engineers are many times more productive than even average engineers, and so the best approach is to motivate your good engineers and try to convert the average engineers into good engineers. Sounds like common sense in that previous sentence, but the natural tendency is to focus on the poorer performing engineers and "ignore" the better performers because they "aren't a problem".

Now that I've finished reading the article... I'm undecided as to how much I agree with the philosophy. A lot of it is geared towards getting engineers to work really long hours (or seems to be at least).

A long hour culture doesn't have to be oppressive - at STNC there was a good social atmosphere amongst the staff, so the long hours thing was (mostly ;-) fun. But then, we were generally young, and didn't know many people outside of the office, so we tended to hang out together regardless of whether we were in the office or out of it, so longer hours didn't mean neglecting other interests. I don't think that would work now that most of my friends aren't from in the office, especially in the summer when I'm playing sport at 6pm most evenings.

That said, I do feel that we achieved more at STNC than where I am now, but that could easily be through a lack of technical leadership, and/or my lack of commitment and ownership because I've not been here since it was half-a-dozen people.

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September 20, 2003

Is it still Friday afternoon?

Neil's obviously bored atm... hot on the heels of this gallery of lovingly modified cars comes this hilarious illustration of how techies differ from real people


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September 19, 2003

Not too difficult... I usually cycle to work anyhow - Monday will be European Car Free Day, I wonder if that'll make the cycle routes any busier? Here's hoping :-)

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September 17, 2003


In my trawling back through the most interesting musings on the latest addition to my blogroll - anti-mega I find a new term - electrosmog.

Electrosmog is the mixture of data waves circulating in the air, so may include WiFi, GSM/GPRS, DECT, etc., etc. Such a cool phrase I couldn't help but blog it, so apologies to Chris for this trackback to a posting of his a year ago :-)

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September 16, 2003

Why we plan

To put a stake in the ground. Pick a date, it might be defined by your customer, or as a useful date by the industry (you want to get it out to the public in time for Christmas), or just to set a point to aim at.

If you don't have a target, how will you know when you've achieved it? And it's a very good way of motivating you to get things done - "I've realised we haven't got much time to fit all this stuff in".

So then you take your first guess ('cos estimates aren't really very accurate when it comes to software, IME) and map things out roughly. You should split the project into a number of milestones, putting the most important things into the earlier milestones, and resisting the "we'll do that first 'cos it's easy" trap. If it's important and easy, then cool, but it's the important bit that's important :-)

The plan for the first milestone should be the most well defined, purely because that's what you're going to do first, so you best know how you're going to approach it. You'll re-plan towards the end of each milestone (and you may have to replan during a milestone) anyway, so you'll refine what the future milestones' plans look like then.

Then you track the plan. This is pretty much the only reason that you've done any planning!

Identifying where you're going wrong is a useful side-effect of the tracking, but the aim isn't to use the plan to beat developers up for not achieving what they said they'd achieve at the start. Let them use it to learn how to make better guesses, and I suppose you can use it as back-up evidence if someone isn't pulling their weight, but failure to meet some plucked-out-of-the-air figure isn't a true test of whether someone is pulling their weight.

The reason you track the plan is so you can notice as early as possible that you aren't going to make the end date (in theory it's possible that you'll notice you're going to finish early, but I think we usually try to fit too much in, rather than the other way round). You want to notice this so that you can take some action to keep the project on track. Now, this action will depend on what you're aims are.

If the functionality is set in stone, then your action will be to come up with better guesses for when you'll be finished, and communicate them to the interested parties.

It might also be possible that you can get some extra manpower to help address the slip. However, the tasks that you farm out to fresh blood need to be pretty self-contained, and you have to be able to parallelize them with what else is going on, and there needs to be time to get the new person up to speed with the project. All of which is harder than it would first appear, but that just means that it's even more important to realise you have to do it as soon as possible.

Usually, the end date is the important thing, so you need to work with the interested parties to decide which bits of functionality you're going to cut. This is why you loaded the important things to the start of the project - to keep to the milestone date you might push some of the work from this milestone into the next one, and that will cascade through to push something out of the project completely. This means that some less important stuff gets dropped from the final deliverable, but this is a good thing. The initial requirements will have included a bunch of things that weren't really requirements, they were just nice to haves, and being date-driven is a good way to flush some of that stuff out.

We plan so we can ship. Useful software, sooner.

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Cambridge Technopole Report

The Cambridge Technopole Report is a bi-annual report from an informal group of business support organisations from around Cambridge and provides a useful list of networking groups, development locations, and investors in the Cambridge area. Lots of useful links and information for entrepreneurs.

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The Pictorial Blog Explanation

Diamond Geezer has come up with a lovely diagram of how blogs fit into the grand scheme of things and points to a handy explanation of all terms bloggy.

So now all you non-geeks have no excuses really...

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More relevant than the Buffalo Guys

During some blog-surfing (for want of a better phrase) today I came across speaking as a parent, and it's quite an interesting read, even for a non-parent like myself.

And Robin (for he writes speakingasaparent) has just posted a link to Diamond Geezer's lament on searches and blogs and complains that he doesn't get hits from people searching for "a+site+about+how+to+raise+a+family+with+dignity+and+due+respect+for+the+environment”.

So I thought I'd help him out by searching for that very phrase, but unfortunately he doesn't feature in the top 100 (I got bored then, there's only so much I can achieve with insomnia ;-) despite being much more relevant than The Buffalo Guys who were number 100 (although when I just went to get their URL and tried the search again, they now aren't in the top 160... weird).

Maybe he can take some solace in the fact that they'll be wondering why their referral logs now include someone who searched for "a+site+about+how+to+raise+a+family+with+dignity+and+due+respect+for+the+environment” and decided to visit them.

My strangest search referrers so far? I think "2003 current new born baby email contacts in uk" is pretty out there, and the person interested in "adding another name on a mobile home title over the intenet" (sic) was, I'm pretty sure, sadly disappointed.

Posted by Adrian at 02:02 AM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2003

He's behiiiiiind you!!!

I know, it's a bit early for panto, but I couldn't resist. I must remember to check out the links from more often or I might miss such gems as Stealth Disco.

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September 08, 2003

All you ever wanted to know about pubs

and how to behave in them

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An interesting report on SenSay,

An interesting report on SenSay, a 'Context-Aware' Cell Phone. Researchers have added a couple of microphones, a light sensor, and an accelerometer to a phone so that it can make some guesses about the user's current activity and amend its behaviour accordingly.

So, for example, the light sensor might detect whether it was in your pocket or not, and vibrate if it was or ring if it wasn't. Or the microphone might work out if you're in a conversation, and query the caller as to whether to interrupt you or not.

Actually, poking round the project website, I realised I'd found this when investigating this sort of thing last year, but wasn't blogging then. Now maybe I'll be able to find it in the future :-)

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September 06, 2003

Bank Holiday Weekend Biking In Wales

The pictures from our mountain-biking trip are now up on the website, and Malcolm's photos are online too. Be sure to check out the video of my failure to get across the stream without incident ;-)

We stayed at the Cringoed campsite just outside Llanbrynmair. Pretty decent site, with a ping-pong table and fresh eggs available.

On the Monday we headed over to Nant-Y-Arian to do the Continental trail. It's an excellent ride, a few really challenging sections of singletrack (at the end of the first Malcolm had a pretty impressive blowout, luckily Ian had a spare tyre!) and plenty of exciting descents (especially if you haven't got any front suspension :-)

Tuesday was supposed to be a bit less arduous, seeing as Ian was heading back that evening, so we chose something a bit shorter than the twenty miles we'd done the previous day and decided to do the Mach 2 ride from Machynlleth. Unfortunately, the signing for the trail wasn't as good as it could've been, so we ended up going wrong a number of times, which put about seven miles onto the ride, making it twenty-two miles by the time we got back into Machynlleth. I didn't think the route was as good as Nant-Y-Arian. A lot of the descents were on road, so they were fast, but over in no time and not very challenging, so it seemed like we spent all the time climbing long, steep, rough hills.

For the final day, Malcolm and I decided that as the bikes were under all the camping gear (and nothing to do with us being knackered after 40 miles up and down mountains) we'd go have a look at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The environmental message was a bit over the top in its bias at times, but there's a lot of interesting and useful information on all sorts of ways to reduce your impact on the environment. Lots of hands-on exhibits about wind, water, and solar power, composting and even natural building materials (stone is a non-renewable resource, so they try not to use it in their buildings). Interesting and thought-provoking stuff, and a nice end to a superb trip away.

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September 05, 2003

Nelly Bongo

It's Getting Bongo Rock in Here. I guess that's what could've happened if The Incredible Bongo Band had influenced R'n'B rather than Hip Hop ;-)

(Via Troubled Diva)

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September 04, 2003

A gift to the world from Great Britain

I almost posted a link to this defence of the BBC when I was pointed at it by Burnt Toast the other day. And similarly, I almost posted about the BBC opening up their archive to all.

So why post about it now? Well, after finding all these American speeches online, I wanted to redress the balance a little, and post a few British ones. The obvious choice would be some of Churchill's wartime speeches. But they aren't there. You can find transcripts, and the BBC has a few clips but not the full monty. This is a prime example of why we should be taking advantage of the BBC - we've paid for this resource, lets use it, and continue to improve it going into the future.

Who cares if it costs us something in taxes? Think of it as our altruistic donation to the improvement of the world, part of a global welfare state. We can show that we aren't just interested in profit and money, and that we believe in providing everyone with a wonderful and (largely) impartial news, education and entertainment resource.

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September 03, 2003

Martin Luther King, Jr.

American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. - "I Have a Dream"

Includes mp3 audio of entire speech.

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John F. Kennedy

Remarks in the rudolph wilde Platz, 6/26/63 speech by John F. Kennedy.

Even has an audio recording of it.

And also available on American Rhetoric in mp3 format.

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A few speeches on the way

I'm currently reading "Working the Room" by Nick Morgan, which seems to be a very good text on public speaking (I don't know if it is, seeing as I've not done any public speaking since starting it :-). Anyway, it refers to a few memorable speeches, such as JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner", or Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream", so I figured I'd look them out...

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What's your type?

From Halley's Comment comes a link to test to find your Myers-Briggs type, something I've heard is an interesting exercise.

I'm an ENTJ (Extroverted 22%, Intuitive 67%, Thinking 33%, Judging 33%), which makes me a field marshal and have a "natural tendency to marshal and direct", not too bad for someone wanting to run their own business I guess :-)

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Is that bench following me?

The Junction (an art and music venue in Cambridge) has announced a cool public art project. They've got seven proposals for a hi-tech art installation outside the Junction building, and (I think) are going to put it to public vote. The proposals include a huge mirrorball on the top of the roof, which the John Travolta in me thinks would be cool, and an electronic billboard populated with pics taken by Cambridge residents on their camera phones.

But the best idea is the "flock" of powered, singing bins and benches! How cool is that? Street furniture which is sentient, and reorganises itself!

I'm looking forward to seeing what they go with.

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September 01, 2003

Photos of Snowdonia

I'm slowly catching up with all the things I've not had chance to do 'cos I've been busy being busy recently...

The pictures from the 15th-17th August's weekend in Snowdonia are now up on the website.

Only a few because I forgot to recharge the battery on my digital camera before I went, so limited myself to some nice shots of a twisty road, a couple of pics from the top of Tryfan (good recommendation by Stefan, nice bit of scrambling to get up, although it was a bit busy at the top so I didn't jump from Adam to Eve), and then some of Criccieth Castle when we decided to do some touristy stuff on Sunday.

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