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How you can contribute to WordPress (yes, 👉 YOU!)

Me: Do you regularly use WordPress? 📇

You: Yes, I love it, it’s fantastic! 😍

Me: Have you ever thought about helping contribute to WordPress? 💡

You: No, I am not a developer. 😥

Me: Well, good news, you do not have to be! 🎉

You: Ok, tell me more… 🤔

Whether you have considered it or not, I am absolutely certain that you CAN contribute to WordPress that I will personally offer to help you find a way to do so. I will outline some options below, but feel free to reach out to me directly and I promise to do the best I can to help!

How you can contribute to WordPress (yes, 👉 YOU!)

Note that this post is an update and refresh of a prior post on make.xwp.co.

But first, a little background on me… 🎞️

I graduated from college in 2001 with a degree in Computer Science, but have not spent any significant time coding since then. I have held roles in project management, product management, and team and customer management. The way I tell it, no one would realistically hire me these days for fine-crafted engineering. And yet, there has been a fantastic opportunity for me to help contribute to WordPress starting as a deputy release lead on WordPress 4.7. While this was a significant time commitment for me, there are many ways you can contribute with minimal time commitment.

Now let us focus on how you could contribute… 🕵️‍♂️

I am going to give you some options to describe yourself and then help show how different types of people within the WordPress community can contribute. It is like a choose-your-own-adventure!

Are you a project or product manager? 🗓️

Wonderful! There are WordPress component maintainers (in most cases, developers) that would love help running their regular meetings, taking actionable notes and publishing them, and tracking work against a roadmap. Read through the different components and reach out to the maintainers on Slack for whichever component is of most interest to you, they’ll be able to tell you how best you could help them. Come help ensure WordPress continues to deliver regular updates to the community!

Do you enjoy testing software and trying to find deficiencies? 🐛

Fantastic! There are many defect and enhancement tickets that have untested code available that would benefit from being tested appropriately. There are also many platforms that WordPress supports that would benefit from specific, detailed testing and issue logging. Take a look at how you could contribute with testing and then dive in whether it’s with automated testing, beta testing, user testing, or one of many other ways to help with testing. The best team to join is the Test team, so read through their handbook, and follow along via the #core-test channel in Slack. And remember, even something as simple as a well-defined bug report is a beautiful thing!

Do you speak a language other than English? 💬

Magnifique! There are many parts of WordPress that have not yet been fully translated into the 192 locales (and growing!) that are supported. Start by reading through the “get involved” portion of the Polyglots’ handbook, then read through how the translation process works with Glotpress, and then start translating. The Polyglots team welcomes you with open arms!

Do you enjoy organizing events? 🎪

Awesome! The Community team oversees official events (WordCamps), mentorship programs, diversity initiatives, contributor outreach, and other ways of growing the community. These ALL need help coordinating and would love to have your help! Take a look through the various handbooks for the team, read through the active projects to see which interests you most, and then follow along in the #community-team channel in Slack.

Are you a designer? 🎨

Marvelous! There is a constant need for usability testing, wireframing, prototyping, and visual designing to ensure that the user experience of reading and writing on WordPress is as seamless and graceful as possible. 34.7% (and growing!) of websites on the web need you! If you find interest here, then read through the Design handbook and follow along in the #design channel in Slack.

Are you a developer? 🏗️

Super! There are defects and enhancements both large and small that await your attention. Start off by reading through the Core handbook on how to “contribute with code” and “fixing bugs”, find a “good first bug” ticket to work on, ensure you’re following the WordPress Coding Standards, and then get to work writing a patch. If WordPress is going to continually deliver updates to the community and march down the roadmap that is constantly evolving, then we need your help to engineer that future!

Are you interested in mobile application development? 📱

Brilliant! Then check out the Mobile team and the iOS and Android repos on GitHub and read through their guide on contributing to WordPress apps.

Do you believe in making sure everyone is able to access the web? 🖥️

Fabulous! Then check out the Accessibility team, read how you can get involved with improving accessibility within WordPress, and then follow along in the #accessibility channel in Slack.

Do you enjoy helping others learn how to use WordPress? 📕

Excellent! Then check out the Support team, read their handbook, re-read the “giving good support” section as you will be the face to WordPress users in need, and then follow along in the #forums channel in Slack.

Do you love having beautiful, functional themes in the theme directory? 🌅

Outstanding! Then check out the Theme Review team, read how you can get started with theme reviews, request a theme to review and run through the review tests, and then follow along in the #themereview channel in Slack.

Do you love having secure, functional plugins in the plugin directory? 🔒

Terrific! Then check out the Plugins team, read through their handbook with specific focus on the “get involved” section, and then follow along in the #pluginreview channel in Slack.

Do you enjoy ensuring documentation is updated and accurate? 🔎

Incredible! Then check out the Documentation team, read through their Gutenberg HelpHub documentation, Codex to DevHub migration, and API documentation projects to see which interests you most, and then follow along in the #docs channel in Slack.

Do you enjoy teaching others how to use WordPress? 📝

Phenomenal! Then check out the Training team, read through their handbook and then the “getting started” guide, consider whether you want to help with writing, copyediting, testing, auditing, connecting or reviewing, and then follow along in the #training channel in Slack.

Do you just want to build WordPress sites? 🇼🇵

Groovy! Then check out the Meta team, read through their handbook, review their list of current and upcoming projects to see which most interest you, and then follow along in the #meta channel in Slack.

Do you enjoy video post-production? 🎥

Sensational! Then check out the WordPress.tv team, read through their handbook, decide if you’re most interested in helping with video editing or managing subtitles or captions, and then following along in the #wptv channel in Slack.

Are you none of those things I have mentioned above? 🎯

Perfect! You are unique just like all of us in the WordPress community.  Please reach out to me via the Comments section or my contact information below. We will work together to find a way for you to help advance the WordPress community!

WordPress Slack: @jeffpaul

Twitter: @jeffpaul

Email: jeff.paul+help@10up.com

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Farewell to XWP

I’m re-posting something I shared in XWP‘s internal Slack a couple weeks ago with some minor edits. It’s a good recap of how I felt in deciding to walk away from work and dear friends at the end of 2018.

As I unplug from XWP, I’m reminded of the many amazing people I’ve met and worked with over the last almost three years. The best way I can explain how I feel is via a Dave Matthews Band video:

If you keep your eye on Carter Beauford (the drummer), you’ll see him watching and enjoying how others in the band are improvising all while still jamming to the song together. He’s also keeping the rhythm going as others diverge from the “normal” arc of the song and not missing a beat in the process (pun intended for you punsters out there). You can start to see a lot of this happening around and after the 3m20s mark as Carter plays under the horn section while the trumpet and sax play what comes to them.

This is exactly how I’ve felt working at XWP; namely that I’ve had the fortune to watch amazing people showcase their individual talents all while I merely “kept the beat going” alongside and underneath everyone else’s work. I have had the privilege to be the face to our clients for this amazing work and I wish you all the very best in the future. Please do stay in touch!

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Complaints on Gutenberg rarely include alternatives

I understand the people who feel that Gutenberg does not serve the best interests of the WordPress community, but my concern is that I rarely hear a “I think we should be working on *OTHER REALLY BIG THING* instead”. If you are going to critique the WordPress core development roadmap, then please offer alternatives.

Disclaimer: I disagree that Gutenberg only serves Automattic or other large hosting players in the WordPress ecosystem. As it evolves, I feel that it will enable easier site and content editing compared to the current set of WordPress capabilities and that very much serves a large swath of current (and hopefully future) WordPress consumers.

Related reading, especially the comments:

We Called it Gutenberg for a Reason

Matt Mullenweg

What Gutenberg Means For the Future of WordPress

Morten Rand-Hendriksen
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Game Over: NBCUniversal Edition

That pesky Bowser took out my last life, so unfortunately we won’t be working together to rescue Princess Toadstool from the castle. Hopefully we’ll meet up for some two-player action again, but until then may your travels through Mushroom Kingdom be safe and enjoyable. Player One… out.

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Diverse Teams + Desire To Disrupt Status Quo = Breakthrough Ideas

Earlier today I sat in on a webcast that Joi Ito from MIT Media Lab hosted with David and Tom Kelley from IDEO where they discussed how to foster a culture of innovation and maximize the creative potential of said innovative organization. Then this evening I attended an intimate discussion hosted by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce at WeWork between Kevin Winston of Digital LA and Eric Garland of Live Nation Labs. I’ve excerpted some of both discussions below, but more interestingly I’d like to analyze some commonalities. The brothers Kelley came at the discussion from an agency, teaching, and author/public speaker background while Eric had an entrepreneur turned corporate research & development background, but both ended up hitting on some similar topics. Namely: hiring the best people, fostering their communication, and then getting the hell out of the way.

A common thread has emerged lately in articles I’ve read, videos I’ve watched, and events I’ve attended where managers response to the general question of “what was most important to your success?” is almost always along the lines of “I had a great team”. Clearly some people long for a shortcut to success, but the common answer tends to be “hire great people”, “set your team up for success”, “rinse & repeat”. So then how do you go about hiring great people and setting them up for success? The Kelley brothers seemed to say that having a diverse background was valuable for their team members (I seem to recall one of the brothers noting an opera singer on staff) and that diverse employee base allowed for a wide-ranging set of experiences from which to draw upon during creative sessions. That approach may work well for an agency in that they often work on varying projects and clients and need to have a different approach on a regular basis. However, I wonder how that applies to someone like an entrepreneur or someone  locked into a specific marketplace (e.g., Eric Garland’s focus on the music industry and advancing Live Nation’s business via his Labs team).  Can those teams afford the luxury of a diverse employee base or must they stick to the “engineers and designers with pre-existing experience in the music industry” bit that seems to permeate job postings? The answer, in reality, seems to be against a diverse employee base (see Live Nation Labs job postings for an answer to that). But this is a small sample size, so if you’re aware of teams who hire specifically for diverse candidates I’d love to hear about them to compare their success and failures against organizations who hire for job-specific talents with marketplace experience. My second question of “how to set up your team for success” was hit on by Eric during his discussion; he seemed to say that allowing the team to work when, where and on what they wanted while keeping them physically and mentally separated from upper management was a key to success. Any additional thoughts you have on this topic would be warmly welcomed in the comments section below; let’s chat!

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E3 Highlights

Along with @norrismarkw, I joined 46,800 video game industry professionals, investor analysts, and retailers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the annual video game conference and show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Items generating buzz at this year’s E3 were Nintendo’s Wii U next generation console, PlayStation’s PSVita next generation handheld, and Microsoft’s Live TV on Xbox 360. Notable software demonstrations included Star Wars Old Republic and Battlefield 3 from EA, Gears of War 3 from id, Halo 4 from Microsoft Game Studios, Tomb Raider from Square Enix, Rage and Elder Scrolls V Skyrim from Bethesda, and Bioshock Infinite by 2k Games.

According to an info-graphically dense report from the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) survey of almost 1,200 households that have been identified as owning either or both a video game console or a personal computer used to run entertainment software, 72% of American households play video games and 82% of gamers are adults. The report also highlighted that 42% of gamers are women and that women over 18 represent more than 1/3 of the game-playing population. In addition, purchases of digital full games, digital add-on content, mobile apps, subscriptions, and social network gaming accounted for 24 percent of game sales in 2010, generating $5.9 billion in revenue.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • The average game player is 37 years old, while the average game purchaser is 41 years old
  • 65% of gamers play games with other gamers in person
  • More than half (55%) of gamers play games on their phones or handheld devices
  • 86% of parents are aware of the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system, and 98% of these parents are confident in the accuracy of the ratings
  • Parents are present when games are purchased or rented 91% of the time
  • Consumers spent $25.1 billion on game content, hardware and accessories in 2010


Hardware News
Nintendo announced the sequel to its Wii console, dubbed “Wii U”, that includes a new controller with a tablet-like touch screen. The new controller sports a 6.2in touch screen with a heft similar to the Galaxy Tab, yet still has a rather plastic-y feel (the durability will hopefully be improved by the time the console launches late in 2012). In addition to displaying info that’s not on the TV (e.g., map details, special character views, game configuration details) the new controller features a user-facing camera, microphone and speakers, and stylus. Also, information and viewpoint of the controller can change based on the orientation of its gyroscope. In theory, the Wii U “experience” shown at E3 can support full HD graphics and allows consumers to continue playing while the TV is used for other activities (e.g., TV, movie), but must still be in range of the main console (so it’s not a standalone device). Games can be played on a TV, the Wii U controller, or both (in conjunction with the Wii Remote). Nintendo’s aim is to continue their progress on capturing the causal gamers while focusing back on hardcore gamers that never really took to the original Wii and are entrenched with the PlayStation3 or Xbox 360. The only negative that the public seemed to espouse with the Wii U is its intended launch date later in 2012. Thus, most items shown at E3 were concept games and not fully functioning next generation games; those are expected at E3 2012.

Sony unveiled its new portable device, the PlayStation Vita, as the successor to the PlayStation Portable. The new handheld sports a 5in multi-touch OLED screen, dual analog sticks, dual front and back cameras, and Sixaxis motion sensing. It will come in either WiFi only or dual WiFi/3G (3G from AT&T) models. The PSVita allows the use of its Internet connection for voice and text chat during gameplay or when browsing the web. It also provides a new social networking function called Near that allows owners to connect and interact. Cloud-based game saving will allow PSVita players to pickup gameplay on their PS3 and vice versa.

Software News
Microsoft’s Kinect has started to penetrate hardcore gaming titles like Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Solider, where players can assemble and fire a large variety of guns using just their hands. Microsoft Game Studios also demonstrated an upcoming Star Wars themed title: Star Wars Kinect. Players take the role of a Jedi and wield a lightsaber and force powers with nothing more than hand gestures. However, there are concerns as to how realistically a hardcore gamer would play using just their body and Kinect as moving seems to be optimal using the normal remote. Other titles that focus less on precise movements seem to be where Kinect will truly shin. These types of games include Dance Central 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, Kinect Sports: Season 2 (golf, but not football), and Kinect Disneyland Adventures.

Of the various highlights from Microsoft’s keynote, the most notable for media companies is the Kinect-based TV navigation. This allows an Xbox to act as a set-top box, let consumers watch live TV, and use an Xbox-based DVR with voice & body movements. This feature is already live with Sky TV in the UK, Canal+ in France, and FoxTel in Australia. In partnership with the UFC, they will be allowing mixed martial arts fans to quickly and easily enjoy pay-per-view events on the Xbox. Xbox Live is also getting some additional entertainment features including YouTube, Bing for search, and voice control capabilities.

The movement in the Asian gaming market has been towards the freemium model and is most likely where the US market will trend in the future. A great example of this sort of success is Zynga’s $10B valuation and probable IPO. The days of subscription-based gaming (e.g., World of Warcraft) are likely on their way out; what remains to be seen is whether the console gaming market will trend this way as well and focus more on in-game purchases. Clearly game studios are hedging their bets with the likes of Disney purchasing Playdom, THQ partnering with Jimmy Buffett, Exploding Barrel Games creating a 3D game on Facebook, and iOS devices using the Unity gaming platform.

NBCU-related News
Syfy and Trion Worlds announced a partnership to launch the game and television show titled “Defiance”. This unique title will blend game play elements from first person shooters (FPS) taking place in a MMO virtual world (massively multiplayer). The game will have a shared universe with a TV series to be aired on the Syfy channel. In-game events and those on the show will influence each other. According to Lars Buttler, CEO of Trion Worlds, “This is essentially the convergence of the television and gaming industry into one fully-developed cohesive property. Syfy is creating a television show that takes place in the fictional universe that the game is set in. The game and the show will constantly [influence] each other from the moment they simultaneously launch.”

Universal Pictures also had some coverage of their upcoming Jurassic Park game and their existing Back To The Future (“BTTF”) game; both games are in conjunction with Telltale Games. The Jurassic Park game comes out later this year on PC/Mac, the PlayStation Network, and eventually the Xbox 360. The game focuses on puzzle solving and is very story-driven. It is based on the untold story of Nedry, his Barbasol canister, his handlers, and of course Velociraptors & T-rex. The BTTF game is an interactive choose-your-own-adventure style game that allows fans to take the role of Marty McFly and travel back in time to save Doc Brown. The game comes in several incarnations: iPad, Facebook, PC/Mac, and a physical card game.

NBCU Competitor-Related News
Disney Interactive Studios showed off their upcoming titles that include characters from Cars, Phineas and Ferb, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension is an action game (Wii, DS, & PS3) taking part over five worlds that gives players access to odd gadgets that let them melt enemies and stick to walls. Players may also play with a friend in co-op mode. Disney Universe is an online multiplayer action game (Xbox 360, PS3, & PC) that has gamers working together to save the “Disney Universe”. Fans take on various Disney characters and progress through Disney-themed worlds via challenges. Cars 2: The Video Game is a racing game (PS3, Xbox 260, Wii, DS, & PC/Mac) similar to Mario Cart that takes place across Europe and Japan where fans can play as Mater and 20 other characters. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Wii, DS/3DS, Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, & PC) has fans building Legos, dueling, and treasure hunting as 70 various characters. Finally, a fan favorite at E3 had several Disney animators drawing hand sketches of various characters from the Disney archives, easily winning as the best swag item of the show.

Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment’s lineup of games at E3 included Batman, Lord of the Rings, Green Lantern, and Sesame Street. Batman Arkham City’s follow-up to Batman Arkham Asylum is an action and puzzle game (Xbox 360, PS3, & PC) that sees the Caped Crusader using forensic analysis and a criminal database to track and catch villains across the city. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a co-op game (PS3, Xbox 360, & PC) for up to three players touching on items not in the films. Rise of the Manhunters is a 3D game (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS/3DS) that sees Hal Jordan, using the likeness and voice of Ryan Reynolds, and his Power Ring use various weapons to defeat the Manhunters. Bastion is an RPG game (Xbox Live & PC) that sees the narrator provide different feedback based on the players actions. Finally, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is an adventure game (Xbox 360 Kinect) focused on helping kids learn to read by solving problems with the help of monsters. It also features a co-op version to allow for parent-child cooperation (sibling cooperation gameplay seems highly unlikely).

Other Gaming / Software News
Another interesting development from Nintendo was its 3DS mobile gaming platform. There were several games to demo including classics like Excitebike [10] and Tetris [11], as well as updates to newer favorites like Mario Kart- all of which use autostereoscopic (aka glasses-free) 3D that can be increased, decreased or disabled depending on the consumers desire. Older gamers and those with glasses or contacts take note: 3DS gaming can make you reach for some Visine as well as a serious temple-rubbing rather quickly.

Nintendo’s 3DS mobile gaming device also showed off some Augmented Reality (“AR”) titles including Kid Icarus: Uprising [12] and Pokédex 3D [13]. The new version of the classic Kid Icarus game certainly cannot be labeled “retro”. It uses the built-in 3D camera to recognize countless specially designed AR Cards with animated game characters popping up in 3D on the game screen and even battling each other when two cards face off. For those Fallon fans out there: in addition to a copy of Kid Icarus, Jimmy Fallon received a demo of Zelda: Skyward Sword and the WiiU console and controller courtesy of Reggie Fils-Aime (President & COO, Nintendo of America) [14]. The free Pokédex 3D application includes a collection of over 150 Pokémon from the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White games. The application lets you see each Pokémon in 3D with animated motion and sound, and you can rotate the Pokémon image 360 degrees to zoom in and view it from any angle. You can receive Pokémon data from friends using the SpotPass WiFi feature or by scanning AR markers. Once you have collected data for a Pokémon, the AR Viewer allows you to view that Pokémon image in a real-world setting in real time and create photos to share with friends.

GRilli3D [15] presented their “3D Without Glasses” technology to allow for 3D viewing on iOS devices. GRilli3D films are known as “GRillis” and allow users to view 3D-generated content in true 3D stereo format without cumbersome and expensive 3D glasses. GRilli3D offers the very first of a next-generation utility that allows users to enjoy true 3D stereo depth by virtue of applying a simple and inexpensive plastic film to a 3D-enabled device. GRillis operates by interposing a series of “Barrier Lines” between the eyes and the projected image, blocking the view of each eye differently and providing the signal separation that result in depth perception at close intervals when used with mobile devices. “GRilli3D really is the first of a new generation of 3D stereo viewing devices that completely eliminates the need for special glasses,” said Dwight Prouty, GRilli3D’s Inventor and Founding Partner. The GRillis in combination with Final Cut or Avid software would allow for rendering and viewing content for iOS; this was demoed at E3 using an episode of Mr. Ed to prove that it wasn’t content created for 3D.

As an observation, there were several companies including QR codes in their booths and marketing materials to direct consumers to mobile websites, video clips, and other marketing materials. However, several brands directed users to full web sites instead of mobile-optimized websites and this sort of QR code usage should be explicitly avoided by NBCU brands looking to explore this space.

EA made a splash with its new Lord of the Rings title: War in the North. Using a full orchestra, EA demonstrated the emotional impact of a powerful musical score. In the EA booth, several stations were setup for attendees to try out four player cooperative game play. The game will be available on PC, XBOX360 and Sony PS3.

For those classic gamers: a company out of El Monte, CA called Hyperkin [16] have gone the Ben Heckendorn route [17] and are mass-marketing new hardware systems to support classic cartridge games. Favorites at the show include the RetroN 3 console [18], which allows for playing NES, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis cartridges all on one system, and the SUPABOY portable pocket SNES console [19], which can play Super Nintendo and Super Famicom cartridges anywhere you are.

Finally, and again for the classic gamers, the Video Game History Museum [20] had an exhibit at the show displaying a portion of their 25 years of game artifact and memorabilia archives. Their mission is focused on archiving and preserving the stories of how the industry evolved as well as honoring and documenting the contributions of the people that made it possible. In addition to thousands of physical artifacts and memorabilia, the museum’s digital archives boast hundreds of gigabytes of design documents, memos, magazines, press kits, and other historical corporate paperwork. The exhibit specifically showed off 30 classic coin-Op machines, 18 classic console stations, 256 pieces of nostalgia, and two bands rockin’ classic game tunes.

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LA Agile Cafe: All Your Agile Questions Answered!

2011 Agile Cafe

Last week I attended a half-day Agile Cafe event sponsored by Shopzilla and Rally. Paul Wynia from Irdeto and Rony Sawdayi from Shopzilla both provided some insights to their Agile deployments. Paul, Rony and Mik Quinlan from Shopzilla then had an open panel discussion covering topics from the crowd. Finally, John Martin from Rally wrapped with a keynote presentation on Agile teams.

I’ve spent the past few years learning about, testing out, and running Agile in various aspects. One area that was always tough to get a handle on was how to actually get started and what things should be done to “be Agile.” The problem with asking that at any Agile gathering is that the usual answer is “let the teams self-organize” and “learn by doing.” That’s great and all, but if I toss a couple of developers, UI designers, QA testers and a PM into a room they’re more likely to follow some craptastic waterfall method than randomly luck into following an Agile process. So, I’ve always wanted to find some simple framework or documentation to give teams to start following and *then* let them self-organize and do what works best for them. So, my comments and thoughts that follow are fueled by my notes from this Agile Cafe as well as some experience from the past few years.

Why Implement Agile?
Some of the benefits that teams have seen after implementing Agile are continuous feedback, flexibility, improved morale, and transparency. The continuous feedback from business champion, product owner, testers and all others in the team help make sure that what’s being worked on is getting the focus of the entire team to make sure that what gets released is actually what’s needed. Given the nature of Agile and that you always make a release date, just sometimes with a smaller or different set of scope, helps to make sure that your team ca adjust up or down the level of scope based on the amount of work they can deliver. Someone gets sick? Drop a user story from the iteration. Someone can’t sleep at night and want’s to work on a nagging bug? Great, more items in the release. Did the Sales team rope in a new client who needs a new feature? Drop some user stories in priority and get those new ones added to the top of the release. It’s that flexibility to add and remove scope that eliminates those 18 hour days that cause stress for teams trying to make a release with a set-in-stone set of requirements. Of course, this takes flexibility on the business side but ideally they’re seeing benefits from being able to change their minds and quickly get results from the team anyway.

The ability for the team to self-select the items from the release priority list allows them to create some quick wins in delivering code that the business needs and thus helps boost morale that they’re not stuck working on a useless feature that no one needs. Stakeholders are as involved as they want to be and get full transparency into what’s being worked on, what will likely make the release, and what won’t likely make the release. The good & the bad of the transparency will hopefully overshadow the black box that usually goes with waterfall development. The best quote I’ve heard so far on this came from the Shopzilla team that with Agile “you go from a black box to a glass box.” Pretty illustrative of the significant differences that people see between waterfall and Agile methodologies.

How Best To Get Started With Agile?
The best way to get started with Agile and make sure a high probability of success is to start with Executive Sponsorship, an Agile Coach, a Pilot Team, and Offsite Training. The executive sponsorship helps make sure that you have the support to try Agile without any other competing goals or requirements. Ideally you’ll have a pilot team consisting of a couple of developers, designers, testers to go with a product owner and a business champion who are all co-located and even more ideally working in the same area or room together. The Agile coach will help make sure that as you get started that you’re following the proper aspects of Agile, will help answer questions along the way, and help make sure that after the first few months that the group doesn’t regress into a waterfall method or a Scrum-But process (“it’s Scrum, but we don’t do retrospectives”, etc.). The offsite training helps bring the pilot team together to understand how Agile works, to decide how they want to adopt and self-organize under Agile, and provides a comfortable and safe setting to start out with the Release & Iteration planning before heading back to the office to get started with daily standups.

As part of the offsite training, you’ll want to make sure that everyone agrees to their role and responsibilities on the team as well as the general processes to be followed on a daily/weekly/etc. basis (e.g., “I’m a developer and I’ll attend the daily standup at 9am every day and make sure my Rally tasks are updated at the end of every day.”). Some teams handle their standups by developer and others by user story; the obvious answer here is to let the team choose. If you can’t decide, I’d recommend the story-based approach as this generally keeps all team members focused throughout the standup instead of potentially drifting off when it’s not “their turn” to talk about “their stories.” This also ensures that what’s covered in the standup are the most important stories (assuming you start at the top of the priority list). Also, standups don’t have to be at 9am; sometimes folks don’t operate conversationally that well early in the day, so let the team decide what time works for them. The standup isn’t a status report either, it’s a conversation within the team and the best and easiest way to get help with issues team members are facing.

You’ll find that instead of pushing work to developers that you let the team pull work from the prioritized release backlog allows for a feeling of ownership in the release. Developers can pull their work on a daily basis based on their progress instead of sweating it out at the end of a release to get everything done that was committed by someone other than them self.

Another important, and often overlooked, aspect of “going Agile” is the retrospectives at the end of a release cycle. You need to remember to demo what was completed, go over what went well, what could be done better (and fix these issues), and then celebrate the release (margarita Fridays!). Some teams have found that combining the demo, retrospective and release planning into one meeting on a Friday helps kill several birds with one stone.

Change isn’t usually something that people seek out. So, to get your organization to change from waterfall to Agile you’ll generally need to prove that Agile works with a pilot team and show that you’re able to provide business value. As you get a pilot team started on Agile, you’ll want to make sure you’re measuring the success of the implementation to help evangelize Agile later on and prove its usefulness in your organization and (ideally) expand the implementation to other teams. Before Agile were you missing release dates and are now having on-time, consistent releases? Have you gone from constantly fighting fires due to several bugs appearing in releases to a dwindling list of defects? Are your team members happier now that their days & weeks are more predictable and are able to maintain a better work/life balance since they’re signing up for user stories instead of having work pushed to them? Did you have confusion in your team on competing priorities before and now that everything is prioritized by the product owner & business champion in Rally your team actually knows what to work on?

If you decide to have an Agile coach for just the first iteration or release, then make sure you at least bring them back a few months later to help analyze your progress in the Agile implementation and help you make any process tweaks to make sure the long-term viability of your deployment.

Some people see Agile as a way to avoid the documentation that goes along with waterfall, but you’ll still want to document the code as you go along and certainly the same with creating artifacts based on features and bug fixes in releases. With that in mind, you may want to keep a wiki that tracks this information as this is a good way to make sure you can easily knowledge transition as your team naturally changes or others approach with product questions.

How Best To Get Started With Rally?
Besides the obvious answer of working with your Agile coach, you’ll want to have Rally come onsite and help set up your instance of Rally based on how your team has chosen to self-organize and operate Agile. You’ll likely want to set up some of the customizable dashboards for the various types of people in your pilot team and others tracking your team (e.g., VP, PM, Developer, Tester).

You’ll want to work with your Agile and Rally coaches to decide how you handle maintenance/support of your product as well as how you best go about keeping Rally updated. Some organizations may decide to have engineers start in their Maintenance/Support organizations before moving onto the Product team as a way to learn the product. Ideally the Maintenance/Support team can get the details they need from your product wiki and anything missing should be detailed back into the wiki once issues are resolved. As mentioned before, ensuring that team members make a daily effort to update their Rally tasks will go a long way in keeping your Agile implementation healthy.

How Can You Expand Your Agile Implementation?
Some of the best ways to increase your team’s productivity and increase your organizations Agile adoption are test automation and continuous integration practices. Test automation will help make sure that your testers aren’t spending time on regression testing and instead are focused on scripting tests for the new stories or defects. Then these tests become part of the test automation that helps regression test. Companies like Electric Cloud offer solutions to help in the continuous integration space (e.g., Electric Commander). This allows developers to quickly test their changes and only create builds with workable code and eventually deploy based on clean builds from all developers. You’ll need a fairly advanced operation to get to this point, but if your organization or product are large enough then test automation and continuous integration and absolutes necessities to “get to the next level.” Assuming that you run UI tests nightly, you’ll want to make sure that any issues found get addressed immediately the next day or, at worst, get added to the top of your defect priority list; you don’t want to be adding technical debt in releases.

Other areas to expand your Agile implementation are when you have multiple Agile teams, you may want to have a top leads review / a meta scrum / a scrum of scrums that is essentially a meeting outside of the Agile team that allows for a daily review of issues across the organization. This would typically be attended by the various product owners and those in management interested in issues and/or capable of helping resolve any blocks that are keeping the teams from proceeding. This can also serve as a good view into the status across the organization, but should be limited from including those actively working on a team so they can instead focus on their user story development and defect resolution.

Once you start expanding from a co-located pilot team you’ll almost always find yourself running into an issue where your team is located across various time zones. While this is certainly not ideal, Agile organizations have made this work. You’ll want to have local Agile coaches and local managers helping the teams stay in contact. You generally won’t want different locations working on the same user story or defect as you lose too much of the day in time zone changes; thus it’s better to have collaboration on user stories and defects done at a local level. With that in mind, you’ll also want to have estimation done at a local level as different teams will likely operate at a different velocity and thus need different levels of estimation. If at all possible you’ll want to have autonomous teams by location meaning each location will have its set of developers, designers and testers instead of having developers in one location, designers in another and testers in yet another location. This helps make sure that daily interaction within the team on the shared user stories & defects. Web cams and video conferencing technology can also help aid in teamwork and reduce the friction caused by geo-location issues within teams.

Finally, the easiest way to notice that you’ve made progress in your Agile adoption is hearing “we” instead of “I” on your team.

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Asides

Happy Birthday to Me, Episode 32

Present for me, Present for Crystal.
Present for me, Present for Crystal

So, this time last year I set a couple goals for myself for the year and now its time to go back and see how I did as well as set some more goals for this coming year.

1) Be the best father, husband & friend I can be.
Well, I have to say that while fatherhood is certainly a job, it’s one that I wouldn’t trade away and every day with Finley brings such joy to me. I’d like to think that I scored pretty well on the best father and husband bit, but I probably could have done a better job keeping in touch with friends (and family) who aren’t out here in LA. I’ll give myself a B on this one due to the somewhat lack in keeping in touch with friends. So, I think I’ve got an idea on goal #1 for 2011-2012.

2) Blog regularly.
By a rough count, I got twenty-five or so posts up in the last year. That’s bearly two per month and they tend to be grouped in bunches. I’ve got a stash of notes for posts I want to put up, so I may need to be more aggressive on this goal in the coming year. Again, this sounds like a B level effort.

3) Read 6 books.
Well, I certainly crapped out on this one. I read my fair share of the magazines I subscribe to, but books? Nope, didn’t really get near reading six. D effort, way to go.

4) Make something.
Yeah, hmmm, I think I struck out on this one too. E effort? Damn, this whole “grading my goals” isn’t looking so good right now.

5) Get my fighting weight to under 200lbs.
Well, I did manage to buy a scale at some point last year so I know how my weight has trended. Unfortunately it hasn’t managed to get under (or frankly, near) 200lbs. Looks like another E. We joined the YMCA at some point last year, so I may need to reconsider the amount of time I’m spending there.

6) Participate in 6 races.
Bah, this isn’t looking good at all. And no, I’m not going to settle for “well, I just had a kid so give me a break”. E effort. *sigh*

7) Homebrew.
Well for Pete’s sake, I definitely bit off more than I could chew. I kept looking at the Mr. Beer kit, but never did anything with it. We definitely juiced some fruit & veggies a couple of times and bottled them for the weeks following, but nothing close to home brewing. E.

8) Go to church.
Ok, this one I know I’ve done extremely well at. We’re now regular members at Visitation Catholic Church and even when we’re away we manage to catch a service somewhere. On top of that, I’ve started going through the RCIA process at Visitation with the goal of becoming a become full members of the Roman Catholic Church. That way we can go to church and receive communion as a family. This one definitely comes in at an A+.

9) Vegas.
Ok, I made it to Vegas, but only as part of a work trip to CES. I went out and gambled a bit, but didn’t really have what I’d call a “Vegas experience”. So, I’ll put this one down as a B- and will have to see about getting back for a personal trip later this year maybe.

10) Enjoy SoCal, enjoy life.
Ok, I definitely take advantage of living out here. Bonfires at night, beach on the weekend, enjoying being outside with Finley at night in the “winter”. I could probably spend a bit more time outdoors, but we’re certainly taking advantage of our options. I’ll mark this one as a B- as there’s certainly some more we could be doing outside in SoCal.

Ok, so what does that leave me at? B, B, D, E, E, E, E, A+, B-, B-. Doing some rough, middle school, math gives me an overall grade around C-, ouch. Sounds like I either need to tone down the goals a bit or do a better job of keeping them in mind and working to attain them. Let’s not go easy on me, I’m going to aim for the latter.

So, goals for the coming year?
1) Be the best father, husband, brother/son/etc. & friend I can be.
2) Update website regularly via blog posts, picture galleries & videos.
3) Reduce back catalog of unread magazines to under 5.
4) Make something.
5) Get my fighting weight to under 200lbs.
6) Participate in 6 races.
7) Homebrew.
8) Continue going to church & RCIA.
9) Travel more (locally: CA coast, Vegas; afar: Hawaii, London).
10) Enjoy SoCal, enjoy life.

There you have it, my 2011-2012 goals. I’m hoping those of you out there reading this blog will help hold me accountable for them and smack me when I’m not doing a good job on them.

I’ve setup a Birthday Giving page on DonorsChoose.org, won’t you consider making a tax-deductible donation to some worthy causes I’ve picked out? And if you don’t find anything interesting in my list, please search the site and find something that does interest you. Consider that a birthday gift to me, thanks!

Ok, so now on to the birthday weekend. It’s a bit raining in the forecast, but I’m hoping to get in some triathlon practice for a race next weekend at UCLA and get Finley to a park to go for her first ride on a swing set. Maybe even start some homebrew and enjoy a bonfire?!?!

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Asides

Reblog – Highlights of CES 2011

I’m reblogging my post from an internal NBCU site here on our website for posterity sake.

Syfy at CES 2011
Syfy at CES 2011

The 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just wrapped in chilly Las Vegas and two topics are worth noting: 3D & tablets. On top of those two major highlights you’ll see different form factors, different operating systems, different user interfaces and different application marketplaces which equates to a myriad of options for consumers and a headache for content creators.

3D TV
TV manufacturers are making heavy investments in 3D across several areas: displays, Blu-ray players, & cameras. The conversation between Active & Passive 3D heated up even further with TV manufactures staking their preference on each side of the fence with LG & VIZIO on the Passive side and Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Sharp on the Active side. The issues with viewing angles, refresh rates & flicker seen in the 3D TVs in 2010 have improved and the resulting 2D quality is astounding. While the various TV application marketplaces used different standards, there were some similar apps across the ecosystems: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora. Sony demoed their consumer-grade 3D camera (3D Bloggie HD) that allows consumers to shoot their own 3D footage that can then be watched; it should be noted that the quality is very much entry-level and nowhere near the quality that broadcast networks or film studios are capable of with their 3D cameras, but an interesting option for taping your child’s upcoming birthday party.

Bravo at CES 2011
Bravo at CES 2011

Tablets
In 2010, netbooks were all the rage; in 2011, you couldn’t avoid the proliferation of tablets and their corresponding peripheral devices. The main positioning that tablet manufacturers are using to market their devices are that they’ll be used in conjunction with watching TV. Some, like the Panasonic VIERA tablet only have a function when viewing TV (and in that case, only with a VIERA Connect-compatible TV). The crowd favorite seems to be a toss-up between the Motorola Xoom and the Blackberry Playbook with a slight edge to the Xoom for being a more open ecosystem. The Xoom features Android version 3.0 (aka Honeycomb) that was specifically designed for tablets, has a well-integrated experience, and appears ready to take advantage of Motorola’s Media To Go home broadcasting feature to display content from your DVR or live TV on the Xoom tablet. The Playbook, built on Blackberry’s own OS, has the ability to authenticate with a Blackberry device that’s in-range and display email & other data related to the synced users account; otherwise it has all the same functionalities as the Xoom minus the home broadcasting options. None of the tablets on display are expected to upstage the iPad, but there will be some competition as the fight to be #2 begins.

Comcast-Samsung Partnership
Brian Roberts showed up at the Samsung keynote to show that Comcast will be partnering with them on the video portion of Samsung’s cloud-based platform to store, share & play content. Brian also displayed the Xfinity TV app for the Galaxy Tab, how it turns the tablet into a guide, video player, and remote, & noted that they’ll be adding the feature to watch live TV on the tablet and social media features soon. Samsung Smart TVs will have access to Comcast’s VOD library and you can switch between the tablet & TV and it’ll pick up where you left off. Samsung’s TVs will support Flash and Adobe AIR will be the technology behind the cross-platform, multiscreen applications

Oxygen at CES 2011
Oxygen at CES 2011

The NBCU Booth
The NBCU booth focused on Syfy, Bravo & Oxygen on successive days as well as hosting a five-seat hub for bloggers, a live set for CNBC & MSNBC, a staged control room for consumers to see “how the sausage is made”, a group of six hanging wicker chairs with iPad’s displaying many NBCU apps, and a simple information booth. Oh, and a giant sphere who’s various panels could move independently to open & close to display the various networks showcase concept of the day. Thursday was Syfy’s day to shine and they used the space to display the first playable demo of the RIFT game. The makers of RIFT gave a short talk on the gameplay in the center of the Syfy sphere, were accompanied by an appropriately dressed Asha from the Telara saga, and consumers could sample the gameplay on the kiosks circling the sphere. Friday was Bravo’s day to take control and Top Chef’s Richard Blais turned popcorn, liquid nitrogen, and a blowtorch into a tasty spherical treat. They also had some of their famous Housewives on-hand for interviews and photo ops. The weekend saw Oxygen putting their Live Out Loud label on the line with video-taped karaoke that consumers could later download from the Oxygen website as well as a live interview with the host of The Aubrey O’Day Project. More from the NBCU booth can be found on the NBCU at CES website.

Other Highlights
Some other highlights include autostereo (glasses-free) 3D technology from several manufacturers, a convertible laptop-tablet from Samsung featuring Windows 7, a dual touchscreen laptop from Acer featuring Windows 7, Avatar Kinect from Microsoft that allows for chatting via Kinect online personas, as well as Microsoft and several partners displaying functioning System on a Chip (SoC) hardware designs.

Many thanks to NBCU for the opportunity to be here in Vegas as I’ve enjoyed my entire CES experience. I hope to come back next year and provide updates to my blog readers as well as co-workers at NBCU!

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Asides

Reblog – Microsoft Keynote: Quick Impressions

Microsoft Pre-CES Keynote
Microsoft Pre-CES Keynote

I’m reblogging my post over on the NBCU at CES site here on our website for posterity sake.

After sitting through the Microsoft keynote, I can say for certain that they have some great things ahead in 2011 including a tablet & laptop device that I might mediately order tonight.

Steve Ballmer focused the crowd on their coverage of TVs (via the Xbox), phones, and PCs. 2010 saw a lot of progress with the Xbox 360, Xbox Live and Kinect. With the addition of the Zune marketplace and Kinect you now have hand and voice controls of music and movies to go along with the obvious Xbox gaming platform.

With the addition of Netflix, Hulu Plus and ESPN3.com you now have access to movies, TV shows and sports all through the Xbox. One thing not mentioned was that each of those services require paid subscriptions, so buyer beware.

The Windows 7 phone has been launched with 9 different phones, by 60 mobile operators, in 30 countries. They demoed some cut scenes from Xbox Live games on the phone, all of which looked fun but several appear to be “me too” apps compared to Apple’s app store options. Competition in the mobile marketplace is a good thing and proof of that comes in some things not seen on an iPhone. Live tiles on the lock and home screens give you quick access to the most important info (# of emails, texts, voicemails, etc) so you van glance and go. A physical camera button that works even when the phone is locked allows you to go from pocket to picture to post in seconds.

Their last segment on PCs showed some hot gadetry in the form of an Asus dual touchscreen laptop and a Samsung Sliding 7 Series PC that is a laptop the converts into a tablet. So, if you want to get some large format Nintendo DS action, the Asus machine is for you. If you’re like me then the Samsung device will let you have the office power of a laptop plus the kick-up-your-heels comfort of a tablet. I’ll be getting my hands on that later today and possibly putting through an order on Amazon.com!

Now I’m off to the rest of CES, but stay tuned to the NBCU coverage via Twitter (@NBCUCES), Facebook (NBCUCES), and here at http://NBCUatCES.com.

(Blogged from my iPhone.)