Professional Development

You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling

The subtitle of this article was going to be "What to do when your job doesn't offer fulfillment or a value to society", but I quickly realised that I didn't actually know the answer. I do have a few ideas but I'll leave it open ended and others can add to the list later.

Contest: Craig Larman - An Agile Evangelist

This is the second of a series of contest entires. Voting begins on Friday 08 September.

After some very serious pondering I have come to the conclusion that the person who has had the most profound impact on me has to be Craig Larman. Although there are of course several movers and shakers that have influenced me, Mr. Larman is the one that really has made me think differently about software development.

Craig Larman is the author of "Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager's Guide". At first the book title felt repelling since it was directed at managers and I certainly am not one. Fortunately for me I read the book - I devoured it in a few nights. The concepts of Agile software development seemed so perfectly sane and logical that I was shocked that I hadn't thought of them before. This image of a this-is-for-your-own-good kind of down-to-earth mentality was further enforced when I got to hear Craig speak at the second ever Agile Finland seminar.

Craig Larman has permanently shifted my brainwaves by such a degree that I will not - without influential coercion - go back to the Dark Age of Software Development from which I was once freed.

Contest: The Technology Person Who Has Had The Biggest Impact On Me

This is the first of a series of contest entires. Voting begins on Friday 08 September.

Since I spent the first 15 years of my career as an embedded engineer, it was critical that I learn to program efficiently. Embedded systems have several requirements that are challenging ... limited processor power, limited memory, and the need to always be running. Wouldn't you hate it if your microwave oven gave you the blue screen of death? There is often a financial incentive to minimize the hardware costs which only serves to exacerbate the problem.

You might say this still isn't rocket science, but for my candidate, it is. His name is Jack Crenshaw, and I've been reading his "Programmers' Toolbox" articles in Embedded Systems Programming magazine for almost twenty-five years. His early stories were peppered with commentary on how routines were developed for NASA. Some articles are purely theoretical, but many have pseudo-code algorithms that can be directly implemented. These articles are the primary reason for the success of the embedded systems that I've developed.

CodeSnipers First Birthday Contest

Greetings and welcome to CodeSniper's First Birthday Contest.

For those of you just joining us, we launched one year ago this morning with 10 contributors. We've had some ups and downs, some changing of the guard, and some silent periods (*ahem*July*ahem*), but overall, it's been fun and educational so far. On the flip side, I know of at least three CodeSnipers who have been contacted by companies and had their contributions here referenced. Not huge, but still exciting.

Now the contest part...

MicroIVs - Making Dreams Come True

Hey! Where's the "S" ... that's the all important "Software" part! If you thought I misspelled the title of today's post, I didn't. I'm starting off today talking about "Independent Vendors". Does the same Internet that enables MicroISVs today also support the creation of self-sustaining MicroIVs of different flavors? I believe it does! If you didn't catch the thinly veiled recapitulation of the the title of Bob Walsh's excellent book, "MicroISV - From Vision to Reality", all I can say is "Shame on You" (okay, maybe you're in the wrong place ... you can find Google here). If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then maybe other businesses can follow the MicroISV leaders. Almost every topic in Bob's book is either directly or indirectly related to every small business.

Open Source Beer and more

It seems this summer the whole world is moving towards Open Source: from the Our Beer gang to Microsoft providing a tool to easily embed CC licenses in Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, opening Codeplex and giving in to OpenDocument, to the whole Web 2.0 use our API’s movement. What’s going on here? More importantly, what opportunities might there be for micro-ISVs?

If you missed that first reference, a group of students at IT-University in Copenhagen have created Our Beer, the world’s first beer brand with a Creative Commons recipe. Geeks being a thirsty lot, this Open Source beer has generated a nice buzz above and beyond the alcohol. And a lot of intriguing ideas: will open source shake up the tangible world as it has the intangible world of software and micro-ISVs? Is Open Source the antidote to brain-dead call centers, crappy products that fall apart in a couple years and advertising on every flat surface your eyeballs happen to rest on? Maybe.

Vacations, Adaptation, and Software Project Success

If we managed software projects the way we manage vacation trips, the success rate would skyrocket.

When my wife and I planned our last vacation to Seattle, a city I had never visited, we had bunch of unknowns.

Where was the best area to stay? What did we want to see? Was it the best time of year to go? Can we get a good deal? How long should we stay? What are the best places to eat?

Just like on a new software project, there was no way to know any of these things for sure, even though we read a few guide books, and talked to a few friends who had been there a few years ago.

Bill Bows Out

In case you've been in a zen-like coding state for the past couple of days, Bill Gates is checking out the building. In hindsight, it's clear Bill has been edging closer and closer these last few years: first handing over the day to day to Steve Ballmer, then elevating Ray Ozzie to sit one step down from the throne.
Since everyone else with a heartbeat and a laptop have opined what this means for Microsoft, the software industry and the WBM (World Bill Made), I thought I’d weigh in with what a few predictions of what this means for micro-ISVs:

  • Go Live Go – Ray Ozzie gets the Net in ways Gates only reluctantly ever did. Now that Ozzie is The Man, expect to see the Live vision of the world get significantly more resources and prestige internally in Microsoft at all levels. On a practical level for developers, expect to see Microsoft build a true online ISV distribution channel – one that micro-ISVs will be able to get in on.
  • Big Ships Turn Slow – At the same time, Microsoft is a huge company nowadays, and huge companies at the top of their game turn very slowly. Office 12/Vista will unroll pretty much as planned over the next several years. After that though, I would not be surprised to see the next big Office/OS become a low cost core endpoint for consumers, business and enterprise pulling down from the MicrosoftNet added functionality tailoring the one size fits all to the era of customized everything.

So You're a Programmer, but Should You Be

In my last post, "I went to the dark side and made it back alive", I made a brief reference to Myer's-Brigg's personality typing and the need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. In all honesty, I wouldn't have had a clue with regards to personality types if it wasn't for my wife's expertise in this area. While she specializes in child and youth psychology, she's contributed to a lot of what I understand about myself as well as how I view others. In fact, she'll read this before you will.

The basis of this personality testing is that there are four pairs of traits we each have. You get to pick one (that's wishful thinking) of each pair and that's how you'll tend to behave. This results in sixteen distinct personality types, each of which has a few traits in common with others (say those that share three of the four) and some traits that are particular to just that group. The title of this post refers to programmers, so I'll focus on the traits that make good programmers (or the lack of the traits that cause bad programmers). One other facet of this typology is that two of the traits will tend to group the types. Keirsey calls the four major groupings the "Temperments" and the 16 possible combinations the "Role Variants".

I went to the dark side and made it back alive

As any regular Dilbert reader will know, the dark side I refer to in the title of this post is "management". It's really easy for a good technical person to be promoted into management and, according to The Peter Principle, rise to their level of incompetence. My career (thus far) is a perfect example:

  • Job(-3)
    • Technician
    • Manager of technicians
  • Job(-2)
    • Engineer
    • Engineering Manager
  • Job(-1)
    • Contract programmer
    • Programmer
    • Embedded Systems Engineerr
    • Engineering Manager
    • Director of Engineering
    • CTO
    • Director of a Business unit
  • Job(0) Current job
    • Staff Engineer
    • Manager of Systems Engineering
    • Principle Architect

Notice anything different about my current job? (Bueller, Bueller, Bueller) It wasn't that I didn't like management (I knew that the first time I had more than 5 employees) ... it's that I figured out what to do about it!