Monthly Archives: June 2009

Commercials I Hate

Smiling Bob
If I ever meet this guy, I’m going to punch him right in the nose

I just spent the last week at the beach, and my kids love TV. They like getting out and doing stuff, but the minute they come back the TV comes on. It’s like they are incapable of self-directed enjoyment.

I wonder if other people notice this in their kids too?

While we’re on the subject of TV, I’m really getting annoyed at these commercials I see everywhere. It seems like everything is fair game and there’s no common decency. Call me a prude, but I would think that commercials should be viewable by kids. But we’re getting disgusting, intimate, crass, and ugly stuff shoved at us during almost every commercial break no matter what the time or what the underlying show. It’s enough to swear off broadcast television completely.

Here are several commercials that I would like to shoot with a bazooka:

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Myrtle Beach Pictures

I just spent the last nine days in Myrtle Beach. It was a welcome vacation.

Myrtle Beach has been called the “Redneck Riviera” due to the fact that it is convenient to the Bible Belt and is known as a lower cost family resort vacation.

I think the term is a little overdone. Myrtle Beach, located in the southeastern United States, is a good example of what happens when government gets out of the way of progress. As somebody who has been coming every year or so for the past forty years, it’s been interesting watching things change.

South Carolina is not a rich state, but it does have beautiful beaches. For some reason unknown to me, the city fathers of Myrtle Beach decided not to have overly restrictive zoning regulations. They decided to let the place grow like it wanted to grow. What happened next was an interesting experiment.

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Google Lies: The Myth of Good Content

/* BEGIN GRUMPY RANT */

I blog for myself, mostly. I’d like something for the great-great grandkids to read about me, and I enjoy putting my thoughts on paper. If you like any of this, I’m happy.

My latest reading mission has been on web marketing. I want to find out why and how some people start with Google and end up buying something. We all do it, yet I really don’t have a clue as to how it happens!

After years of creating some pretty good programs, the light finally dawned on me that promotion and marketing is as much, or actually much more of an important skill than just slinging code. Being a code monkey is fine, but it’s more fun to build a code zoo. I’m finding something similar in web marketing.

Not that everybody else knows. Some folks seem determined to ignore reality.

Many, many times somebody at Google says something like, “Well, the best way to get people to visit your site is just to have good content.”

That’s total horse-hockey, and Google knows it. Let’s get real.

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Our Thoughts

Iranian Protester
A young Iranian woman protests the rigged elections in her country

Our thoughts go out to the people of Iran who had their election stolen from them. Of all things, being able to change course peacefully is the one thing that separates successful nations from failed nations. Hopefully Iran can find some way to become the intellectual and cultural star is has the potential to be.

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New Head Shot

There’s a new picture of me up today. I thought I might explain it, in case you had any small children that were frightened.

I have a major client that is about to end a contract sometime in the next few weeks/months. Somehow it became traditional with me many years ago to do something unusual at the end of each contract — sort of a rite of passage. So I’ve lost some weight, shaved the beard, and now, e-gads! the magical hair-of-youth! I told my wife I would dye my hair blue. She yawned and said it would go well with my eyes. She knows the score.

I know I am not alone in this: a friend who is in the same situation is buying a sports car and another friend has decided to become a certified fitness trainer. A third friend in the same situation decided to become a priest. Another decided he wanted to try painting. I guess somehow these contract transitions lends themselves to trying new things.

I tell people I have been very lucky to have had a dozen careers in the same lifetime. I really mean that — it’s been an incredible ride. I’ve seen startups, dot-coms, Fortune 10s, big government, big insurance, big finances — I’ve seen a lot. It’s been great. Somebody asked me once if I was afraid of the uncertainty of a contract ending. Not at all! I look to each contract as a wonderful chance to meet great people and help them out — it’s impossible to go on to the next contract without the current one ending. And so far each new gig is better than the last. Who’s complaining?

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Funeral Home Blogging

It’s been said about the internet that never have so many had so much to say about which they knew so little.

As I sat in the lounge in Atlanta yesterday trying to read, there was a television on. I was subjected to local news, Entertainment Tonight, and some real-life garbage. It was hours and hours of stuff you’d show a person who was mentally deficient a hundred years ago: innuendo, gossip, people arguing with each other over nothing while thousands watched. The vain in search of the famous.

Maybe people on the internet blab a lot about things they know nothing about, but it certainly didn’t start with the internet.

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Badges? Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges?


The origin of the joke line: badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!
(It was copied later by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles and made into a punch line)

I was finishing up work on one of my microsites (shameless plug: Neuropathy is a serious condition and you should be aware of it) when I came to the decision about badges.

Badges are those little graphics you see on some web pages that assure the reader how safe the page is. “Scanned for viruses” or “Member of the BBB” or “HackerSafe” or “Endorsed by Dr. Phil”

We’ve all seen them. I looked into how to get some of these. Some are very expensive! Some just require you to fill out an online form. One page had a bunch of the buttons and said to complete the application to receive one. Only there wasn’t an application anywhere. So I just lifted one of the images.

One guy was making his own badges. “Approved by Chuck!” it proudly said, with a picture of Chuck (I presume) in the middle of an ornate circle.

So from a web owner standpoint, these badges are valued all over the place, and what do they really say? That you had money to pay somebody? Do the badges actually serve a purpose?

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What Really Drives Innovation, Anyway?

I recently had a team that was under-performing by any standards. They were all nice people: smart, capable, positive attitudes, competent in their work. But they just weren’t producing that much.

So management told them: produce or die. Basically either finish up your work in the next sprint or we’ll just throw away the entire project and start over with a different team.

It was amazing. People started working harder, using and creating effective information radiators. The team’s stand-ups became laser-focused on the work. Everybody was looking for obstacles and getting them out of the way before they could affect progress. The team innovated several new ways of getting things done faster. They had a six-fold increase in productivity.

So what drives innovation, anyway? What makes one team create the next Google and the next team struggle to create a simple report?

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Will The Social Compact in the United States Remain Valid?

Picture yourself as a colonist in America in the mid 18th century.

The British government is taxing your imports and exports. Their agents are everywhere in the bigger cities, making sure that the right companies are allowed commerce. When troubles arise, instead of the Brits coming over to fix it, they hire Germans to come and do their dirty work for them.

Even with all of the discontent, it was very difficult for the colonies to decide to leave the empire. When Jefferson sat down to write the Declaration of Independence, he listed all of the reasons the social contract with England had to be dissolved. The reasoning was basically “we kept up our end of the bargain, but you failed yours”

Adding fuel to the fire was Thomas Paine, who basically called the King of England a brute and said he had no business ruling England, much less the colonies. Paine spoke in a common, easy manner, and appealed directly to his countryman’s sense of fairness and justice.

I was thinking about Jefferson and Paine as I continue to read about the amount of public debt the United States is building up and planning to build up. Out of a need to do something, anything, I wrote my senator, Jim Webb.

I told Webb I was a big fan of his books and national service and asked him to do something about out-of-control spending. I told him I also liked his ideas on prison and drug reform. Prison and drug reform are things we can do that could actually raise more money for the government. They could give us more freedoms in our lives. But keep your priorities, I begged. I asked Webb to do what he could about holding runaway spending in check. Don’t make a big political scene, I told him. Nobody is looking for you to make a big break from your party. Just don’t be a political putz and do the right thing. Don’t be a party man. Be a representative.

What happened?

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Agile Project Management Is Like Teenage Sex

Agile is a marketing term that describes best practices for iterative, incremental development of technology. In general, it emphasizes people over process; short feeedback loops; regular, quick delivery of business value to the customer; and a tightly integrated co-located, collaborative team working at peak performance. If you’ve wondered about how successful startups work, or how companies like Google or top-notch performance consulting teams operate, the answer is Agile.

But Agile is also a kind of movement. There are conferences, books, a manifesto, seminars, training, videos and all sorts of other things to help you out. Sometimes this help gets kind of silly, like in the recent conference where haiku was proposed as a way of bonding the team together better. Like anything that focuses on person-to-person interaction, there’s no shortage of opinions. So because Agile focuses on the critical factors of technology development, communication and collaboration between humans, it has roots close to sales, negotiation, religion, psychology, politics, sensitivity, feelings, expectations — all of that messy people stuff.

So what happens is that there are a lot of people who are very serious about developing software as efficiently as possible chasing a lot of stories and anecdotes about just how to do that. What can I say? Sometimes it feels like geek sensitivity training.

So as a public service to the agile community, I would like to offer the reasons why Agile Project Management is like teenage sex.

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