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David Kramer’s high-entropy blog

Using And Making Open Source Software

I’ve been using Linux/UNIX for about 20 years.  I am also Assistant Director of the Boston Linux and UNIX Group, and have contributed to several open source products.  In general, I find open source software more flexible, more transparent (no security through obscurity), and more focused on what’s needed instead of what marketing says would be cool.  I like that open source software is usually developed modularly, with separate components each doing what they do well, each designed to be combined with other component, each with its inputs and outputs documented for fitting Tab A into Slot B.    Open source’s community support model (with a sufficiently large community) is often far superior to calling tech support.  All that said, I still believe very strongly in “the right tool for the job”.  Sometimes open source is not the answer.

Just like commercial software, it’s important to evaluate not only how well the software suits your need, but the “health” of the product and its creators.  Just because it’s still available doesn’t mean it’s still supported, updated, and in common use.  That may not be a deal-breaker for you, but it does need to be factored in to the decision.

Read on…

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Two Upcoming Agile Events In Boston

I am a Team Leader in Agile Bazaar, a member of both the Agile Alliance and the ACM.  We have two events coming up in a few days.  Please go to Agile Bazaar for more information on either event.

Nanette Brown: Agile and Architecture: Crossing the Great Divide 

May 6, 2010 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm at the IBM Innovation Center, 404 Wyman Street, North Entrance, Waltham, MA

Agile development and software architecture are frequently seen as two divergent schools of thought or camps. Agile developers often refer to architecture as Big Design Upfront (BDUF) and may regard the architects major output as merely shelf-ware. Proponents of architecture-centric software development may see Agilists as undisciplined or short-sighted, engaged in endless rounds of refactoring which architectural foresight could have forestalled.

In reality, Agile development and software architecture practices are complementary. Focused attention on architectural concerns becomes critical as Agile development scales-up to handle larger and more complex systems. Agile developments focus on customer value, rapid feedback and response to change can provide practices that assist Architects in dealing with ever more volatile environments and increasingly compressed delivery cycles.

In this presentation, we will take a journey to each camp to dispel misconceptions and discuss how Agilists and Architects can learn from and benefit each other.

Deep Agile 2010: Empowering Teams with Agile Games

May 15-16, 2010 at Microsoft New England Research & Development Center, One Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02142

Agile development teams are like emergency response teams – they need to be ready to act quickly to new challenges and changing competition.

At the Deep Agile 2010: Empowering Teams with Agile Games seminar, you will experience techniques that teach agile teams how to work together effectively and adapt to changing conditions.

I say “experience” because, rather than hearing lectures, you will be learning actively through observation and situational experiences, led by professional coaches and engaged facilitators.

The seminar includes structured sessions along three tracks: games to learn, games to change, and games to do work. You can move between tracks to select the blend of exercises that best suits your needs. Sessions range from introductory Agile concepts, to the theory of constraints (via the “bottleneck” game), to innovative topics such as using the art of improvisation to facilitate teamwork and exploring emergent design.

The second day will feature an “Open Space” meeting session, in which participants decide the agenda, then meet in breakout groups to explore the topics of greatest interest and share ideas for solutions. Open Space sessions are exceptionally stimulating and productive, because the discussions focus on the questions, problems and successes of you and your peers (See: the Agile Bazaar website for more information).

Of course the only way to gain all these advantages is to attend Deep Agile 2010: Empowering Teams with Agile Games in Cambridge, MA on May 15-16, so register today!

For more information and to register please go to http://games.agilebazaar.org/.

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How Agile Is Your Company?

First, a little fun. I found this survey asking just that question, but in a humorous way.  Here are the results, which were presented at the Agile 2008 conference in Toronto.  I also found (through LinkedIn) a post on Peter DeYoe’s blog with a humorous job posting for a Scrum Master.

Now for a real live case study.  In my job hunting, I discovered this article by Damon Pool on Litle & Co.  The reason I like this story so much is that not only did the push for Agile come from the top, but they started out that way.  They didn’t adopt Agile, they were born with it.  That eliminates a lot of problems that come along with trying to adopt Agile later on:
Read on…

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A change to this website’s look and feel

Hi, this is Admin here (Dave’s alter ego, and the BOFH that  holds all the power. Don’t tell Dave!).  I make all the changes to how the website works.

Many of the articles Dave posts have a lot of links to other websites embedded right in the middle of sentences.  It’s Dave’s expectation that the reader will follow those links to learn more about what he’s talking about.  Recently some comments on the posts on this website lead me to believe that some readers aren’t even aware of the links.  I feel that might be because the website’s style is to bold links, but not underline them, as links usually are.  Sure, it looks great, but if it isn’t doing the job of identifying that text as a link to somewhere else, then it has to be changed.

At a recent Agile Bazaar meeting, I had a talk with a Web Designer who specializes in accessibility and standards, PJ Gardner, Founder of Gardner Information Design.  I’ve known her for a long time, and respect her opinion.  She advised me to put back the underlining of links, and I did.  It does make certain things on the website look a little less clean, to be sure, but usability is more important to me than beauty, so I’m keeping it that way.  Feel free to comment here and let me know whether you like it or not.

By the way, she also recommended I not put all those links in the middle of sentences.  I don’t know if I can do that, though, because my style depends so heavily on it, and frankly it allows me to crank out short but meaningful posts without much layout work.

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Event: 05/28/09 Agile Bazaar Talk On Ineffective Scrum Practices

Title: Ken Schwaber on “Flaccid Scrum – A New Pandemic?”
When: Thursday, 06/18/09 06:00 PM – 09:00 PM
Where: MIT Building 26, Room 100, Cambridge, MA – Cambridge
Cost: Free

Scrum has been a very widely adopted Agile process, used for managing such complex work as systems development and development of product releases. When waterfall is no longer in place, however, a lot of long standing habits and dysfunctions have come to light. This is particularly true with Scrum, because transparency is emphasized in Scrum projects.

Some of the dysfunctions include poor quality product and completely inadequate development practices and infrastructure. These arose because the effects of them couldn’t be seen very clearly in a waterfall project. In a Scrum project, the impact of poor quality caused by inadequate practices and tooling are seen in every Sprint.

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Event: 05/28/09 Agile Bazaar Talk On Speeding Up Organizations With Agile Teams

Title: A Jet Engine On Your Pinto: When HyperSpeed Agile Teams Pull A Slow Organization
When: May 28 06:00 PM – 08:30 PM
Where: Pizzeria Uno – Newton, MA
Cost: Free, though donation toward food cost is welcome
Parking: Garage (entrance off Bacon St.) parking is free with validation from Uno’s

If you piloted an agile team that was successful, you might start a few more. If they were successful, you might then initiate a push to convert the whole company as soon as possible. One company did just that – started forty agile teams, each one delivering impressive results. But it strained the organization so badly that the whole agile program was scrapped. They are not alone – others have experienced this. It’s like installing a jet engine on an ordinary car; the engine will go fast but will tear the car apart. Unless you add the right support structures! We will examine what these structures are for companies on their agile journey.

Agile Bazaar is an ACM chapter and an Agile Alliance affiliate.  If you’re into Agile/Scrum/XP, it’s a great organization that has great meeting topics, and they welcome new ideas and topics.  Here’s the info page for the event.

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