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Gallery

Nautica Malibu Triathlon training #throughglass

I’ve worn my Google Glass(es) while training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon the last few weekends and wanted to share some of the pictures of the area around Zuma Beach that I’ve taken with Glass… enjoy! If you’d like to donate to my fundraising in support of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, then please graciously do so here: http://nauticamalibutri2013.kintera.org/faf/r.asp?t=4&i=1059352&u=1059352-322595231&e=7084305771.

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Asides

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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Asides

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

Test Driven Development = Good, Acceptance Test Drive Development = Bad

For the most part, that was the message at the “Acceptance Testing: Just Say No” by James Shore Meetup tonight at the Shopzilla.com offices in Santa Monica, CA. James structured the talk as though it was a “fill in the blanks” Anonymous meeting (you know, Alcohol Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, etc). The concept of Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) Anonymous was actually pretty clever and came across pretty well, at least to me.

As for my general notes on the talk, he started with some background on the ATDD area focused on Ward Cunningham and his creation of Fit (aka, Framework for Integrated Test) as an original unit test tool that was co-opted as an ATDD tool. Fit spawned Fitness which is a wiki-based table tool, again, co-opted as an ATDD tool; another TDD tool mentioned was Cucumber.

James noted that it’s unfortunate that its easier to quantify the costs of co-locating teams than quantifying the hidden costs of not co-locating teams, but that in the end it’s better to co-located teams for success. For anyone who’s worked on remotely located teams (me being one of those folks), this doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve found that my more successful projects, products, and roles were ones where I was co-located with customers and developers.

James mentioned four types of bugs and how to work to eliminate each. Requirements errors can be eliminated (or shall I say reduced) by having customers co-located with the product/development team. Programmer errors can be reduced by using Test Driven Development (TDD). Design errors can be reduced by continuous incremental design, by doing constant code refactoring, and by building in slack each week to do so. Systemic errors can be reduced by performing an RCA on all errors identified. More on these types of errors in a bit.

Now, how would a team work to reduce these four types of bugs? In serial or parallel fashion? Good question, so I asked James. His response was to take a large chunk and just do it, failing that go with TDD first. Outside of his own book and Michael Feathers’ referenced below, a good resource for guidance on adopting TDD are his Let’s Play TDD webcasts that go through real world examples as well as his chapter on TDD in his book. His experience seems to point to the Kaizen approach not working for TDD.

James stressed the importance of cultivating an attitude of “bugs happen to other people” which is an attitude that makes me drool. Having a team that thinks & acts like that? Now that’s sexy. (I know, I know, I’m a nerd.)

The best way to solve co-location issues (i.e., having remotely located teams) without co-locating is via expensive video conferencing equipment or better by plane flights to meet in person. Reading between the lines here is that you can spend all the time & money to get close to a co-located feeling, but until you’re actually co-located you won’t get all the benefits of such a work environment.

In terms of helping solve the issue of eliminating or reducing bugs on legacy software, James recommended Working Affectively with Legacy Code by Michael Feathers. And to read more in-depth on James thoughts on reducing the four types of bugs, check out his blog post on Alternatives to Acceptance Testing.

In short, combine TDD with great customer collaboration and co-located teams.

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Asides

Agile Journal Seminar: Agile Comes to LA

The following are my notes from the Agile Comes to LA seminar on Thursday, December 17th 2009. The event was sponsored by AccuRev, Coverity, Electric Cloud, Rally Software, and BigVisible. The event saw leaders from each sponsor talk about how Agile software development techniques and the tools that support them can help you reduce risk, boost the productivity of your existing organization, and cut development costs.

George Schlitz (BigVisible): Agile Hits Ground in the Organization
+ Required, if humorous, reading: You Might Be a CrAgilist If…
+ Educate PMO on new ways to report progress (e.g., Burndown Charts)
+ Educate Compliance/Audit on difference/changes w/Agile
+ Ensure measurements reward the behavior that you want (How do we reward the new behavior?)
+ What does career development now look like?
+ Combine benefits of diverse methods: theory of constraints, lean & agile
+ Don’t measure individuals, measure teams and their success
+ You can’t really create an Agile standard for all teams to follow, just get started w/the basics and let the team determine for themselves what will work for them

Cliff Utstein (AccuRev): Automating Agile Software Development Processes
+ AccuRev – process driven SCM software
+ Product quality is fixed, business requirements persist (increase?), resources may be cut, little/no schedule relief
+ increase throughput by improving software development processes: automating & optimizing

Behrooz Zahiri (Coverity): Managing Software Quality in Agile Environments
+ The earlier you find a defect, the cheaper it is to fix
+ Cheapest to fix: in development; more expensive to fix: during integration; even more expensive to fix: during test; most expensive to fix: during production
+ Static Analysis – like a spell checker that finds your most difficult bugs
+ Coverity helps identify bugs for open source projects at scan.coverity.com, 11,303 defects have been fixed since March 2003
+ Coverity supports C, C#, C++ and Java

Martin Van Ryswyk (Electric Cloud): Making Agile Work
+ Continuous Integration = Agile; checkin & get instant feedback on integration problems
+ Fast builds (“espresso” builds), automated builds & test on-demand
+ Access for developers/QA/etc. to schedule builds, on-demand builds or stimulus builds
+ Auto build after code checkin to get fast feedback on build integrity/code quality
+ Include pre-flight tests to help reduce build failures

Alex Pukinskis (Rally): Case Study: Customizing Agile Tools for Project Success
+ Current fave book: The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development by Donald Reinertsen
+ Three meetings: daily scrum, scrum of scrums & regular retrospectives
+ New Rally build due out 12/19 will allow for setup of different types of dashboards built on roles (developer, manager & executive)
+ Remove obstacles for team members ASAP to limit overall delays
+ 100 day delay starts with multiple 8 hour delays

Additional notes from discussions:
+ Look into Bamboo to help with Continuous Integration/automated builds

UPDATE (7 Jan 2010 @ 12:32pm PST): I’ve added links to the presentation files.

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Asides

Rally’s Agile Success Tour 2009: Los Angeles

agile development - active user involvement is imperative!
agile development – active user involvement is imperative!

I sat through Rally Software’s Agile Success Tour 2009 in LA on March 26th at The Belamar and am pleased to provide my summary below along with some additional and relevant content from Rally. Please do enjoy!

  • A recommended Agile blog to read: The Agile Executive
  • A recommended book to read: Code Complete by Steve McConnell
  • 40-50% of VPs/Directors/Managers and 10-20% of engineers/architects can be expected to leave the organization after implementation of the Agile process
  • Measure what you want to improve, what’s important to you
  • Overall reduction in lines of code by removing duplicative code & unnecessary features/code
  • Know what the goal is, what problem is being solved?
  • Metrics to track: # defects & user stories per Sprint, $ spent, customer satisfaction, time to market
  • Continuous integration will expose defaults/inefficiencies (i.e., source control, change control)
  • Limit work-in-progress, multi-tasking… single task & focus on one thing (a story, project, task)
  • Continue breaking down User Stories until they can be delivered within a Sprint
  • Involve customer in Release Planning & Demos
  • Don’t load Sprint to 100%, sicknesses/vacations/delays/incorrect estimation will account for 20%
  • Servant Leadership: lead by serving, serve by leading
  • Own Vision, continually ask for insights: What’s not working well? What’s working well?
  • Another recommended book to read: Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • Estimating will be rough initially, but they will improve; Give Estimate, Commit to estimate with no repercussions of missing, adjust understanding if estimate missed so that future estimations are more accurate
  • Always leave buffer in Sprints, don’t commit to full list of detailed features, talk about high level themes of releases
  • If you’re getting closer to the end of a Sprint & are over allocated, work with customers to weed out features or scope down features into smaller portions
  • 5 Levels of Planning: Vision set by leadership team, Product Roadmap set by product council, Release Plan set by every affected individual in org, Iteration Plan, Daily Plan (see whitepaper link below)
  • Get something small, but get it done
  • Meetup Group: LA Agile & Scrum User Group
  • If you deliver crap, it doesn’t matter – Christophe Louvion
  • Stay “Releasable” with nightly builds/test, 2 week iteration demos, frequent & rigorous peer reviews

Here are some additional liveblog posts from Rally on the day of the event:

And as a final note, here’s a great white paper that covers the different levels of planning involved in the Agile methodology and provides a great entry point into Agile:
Five Levels of Agile Planning: From Enterprise Product Vision to Team Stand-up