Posted on October 13, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »
Posted on October 12, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

Due to the general, global economic woes I missed out on going to CAST this year even though I was scheduled to speak. I did however complete the paper I was going to talk on. The paper isn’t on the CAST site yet along with all the other ones yet, but in the meanwhile, you can download it here.

Here is the introduction:

It used to be that the when you joined an organization, you were there for most, if not all of your career. For better or worse, those days are largely over. Jobs and employees are increasingly mobile and more staffing is being done on a per-project base. Due to this pattern of changing stakeholders, the only thing that stays constant is you. This means that today?s testers need to manage their careers, their image, and in fact their entire brand more closely than prior generations.

There is no secret formula for success, but there is a well trod path through the brambles if you look closely. This paper sheds some light on the path and explains some of the waypoints along it; discovering your issue, communicating your message, assembling your tribe, becoming a microbrand and the maintenance of it.

Posted on October 10, 2009 in Uncategorized by adam2 Comments »

Seth Godin blogs once a day, and for a good long while I was able to keep up. I noticed though that I had 93 unread posts by him in my feedreader so I spent the 90 minutes it took to go through them. Here are the chunks of text that struck some sort of chord.

  • Winning on the Uphills
    The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset. The moment you earn your keep as a public speaker is when the room isn’t just right or the plane is late or the projector doesn’t work or the audience is tired or distracted. The best time to engage with an employee is when everything falls apart, not when you’re hitting every milestone. And everyone now knows that the best time to start a project is when the economy is lousy.
  • “All I do is work here”
    If you’re not proud of where you work, go work somewhere else. You don’t get the benefit of the brand when it’s hot without accepting the blame of the brand when it’s wrong.
  • Willfully Ignorant vs. Aggressively Skeptical
    If you want to change what your boss believes, or the strategy your company is following, the first step is to figure out how to be the best informed person in the room.
  • The modern Talking Pad
    Now, when you make your presentation, sit next to the person you’re meeting with and go through the booklet page by page, writing directly on each page. As you work your way through the ideas in the booklet, the two of you can talk about what’s in front of you and mark it up.

    It’s not a brochure, it’s the outcome of a working session. Leave it behind when you go.
  • Competing with the Singleminded
    When you have someone who is willing to accomplish A without worrying about B and C, they will almost always defeat you in accomplishing A.
  • Spare No Expense
    It’s certainly possible to build a brand without going to (c) [spare no expense] (witness the way Google almost never gets embroiled in special cases or even answers the phone–I know that they’re certainly not eager to fix my imap problems), but once you’ve trained your customers that (c) [spare no expense] is an option, it’s awfully hard to scale back.
  • Chai Wallah – Or you can be a wallah. Someone who does only that one thing.

    When you go all in, it focuses your attention and effort, doesn’t it?
  • Things to ask before you redo your website – What is the goal of the site? (This was first in the list. Everything else hangs on being able to answer it.)
  • Win the Fight. Lose the Customer -If someone thinks they’re unhappy, then you know what? They are.

    Trying say this to yourself: I have no problem acknowledging that you’re unhappy, upset or even angry. Next time, I’d prefer to organize our interaction so you don’t end up feeling that way, and I probably could have done it this time, too. You have my attention and my empathy and I value you. Thanks for being here.

    If you can’t be happy with that, then sure, go ahead and fire the customer, cause they’re going to leave anyway.
  • Launching Brands In Public – You can’t control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech. You can organize it by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word. And you can respond to it in a thoughtful way, leaving a trail that stands up over time.
  • Sell like you Buy – If it’s not good enough for you as a consumer, why should it be good enough for you as a marketer?
Posted on October 10, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

Scott Berkun wrote a great Letter to Micromanagers this week. This one paragraph got the wheels turning.

If you’re a manager, you must assume you have thoroughbreds working for you. Your job is to give them what they need to win their respective races, agreeing with them on the goal and rewards, but then getting the hell out of the way. Until they start jumping fences or attacking other horses, you have to let them run their race.

Agreeing with the on the goal.

But what if the troops don’t know where the goalposts are located? Well, someone screwed up and there was a failure to communicate.

If everything boils down to being a people problem, the root cause of that is likely communication. Or lack thereof.

When people don’t know where / what the goal is, they can’t operate with the same worldview as management. They may think they are, but any occurrence of that is just coincidence.

Maybe you do have some grand, rule-the-world scheme. But if the people you are going to rely on to implement it don’t know / understand it, you will fail.

Posted on October 9, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

I’ll admit that Bob Cringely’s columns have lost a bit of their punch recently as he has gone off on mortgage and other tangents, but his recent post on the cybersecurity myth redeems him somewhat.

Let’s ignore the overall article, which is pretty bang-on I think and focus in on the notion of expert.

“(It) depends on your definition of expert,” said expert number one, who works deep in the military-industrial complex. “If you mean someone who can spell ‘cyber’ then sure (there are 1,000). If you mean those who know that ‘cyber’ is short for ‘cybernetics’ and has little to do with computers then probably not.

Ah. So you mean we have to come up with some sort of common definition of what ‘expert’ means in a given context. Good luck getting that in the testing world where we are split over the very basic definition of testing.

“Define ‘expert,’ said another friend from behind Door Number Three, who comes from the security software business. “(An expert is) a person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject. Great, but the question is all about scope. I may be an expert cook – but can I run a kitchen? Same thing with security there are tons of experts – in specific areas. I was an expert in AV, IDS, and other areas. But I was not the all knowing security guru. (even though my knowledge base was very broad). This is where we run into unintended actuated consequences. An expert will make a choice and take an action. The end result may not be what they had anticipated because of other factors beyond the realm of their expertise caused an unanticipated consequence.

Well, we addressed the first problem about definition, but we’ve added that annoying wrinkle of scope. Well, there has to be some way of understand a person’s scope of knowledge.

*LIGHTBULB* We can certify them! Oh wait…

“DoD has established a number of credentials required to be classified as a security specialist like CompTIA Security+, CISSP, etc. None of this stuff has any practical application because it is hardware/software neutral.”

Oh riiiiight. Context matters as does hands-on, practical, real-world experience. Not just some letters behind their name. Good to know my industry isn’t the only one affected by this.

Posted on October 9, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

O’Reilly sponsored a webinar today with Nancy Duarte as a cross promotion of her book, Slide:ology. She is perhaps, before the book, best known as the person who did Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ deck which won him an Oscar, so she has a bit of credibility on the subject of creating a nice presentation. As someone who is starting to speak more, I am getting more-and-more aware of my lack of presentation-fu. (And that of the testing community at large.)

  • The mission of her company is to ‘make the complex simple’. Nice.
  • It is the job of leaders to eliminate uncertainty
  • The bar for presentations is (currently) so low in most places.
  • There is a scale at play here. Document -> Telepromptor -> Presentation. Obviously you want to be on the right hand.
  • The Presentation Landscape is a great reference for what type of presentation you should be creating for which audience and for what purpose
  • The default template in PowerPoint makes ‘documents’ not ‘presentations’
  • Rule of thumb – If a slide takes longer than 3 seconds to absorb, it has too much stuff on it. (She then did a fun trick of showing a couple slides for 3 seconds to illustrate the effect. Awesome.)
  • Only one message per slide
  • Make the illustration match the messages. For example, is a line drawing Marilyn Monroe right for a quote about simplicity?
  • Think like a designer
  • Design creates higher perceived value
  • The first, most obvious idea is not the best idea
  • Slides are free. Have lots.
  • Have only what you are talking about now on the page
  • What is the best way to display the information you need to convey the meaning you want?
  • Rule of thumb – Make you presentation look like it could be a magazine spread
  • STAR – Something They will Always Remember
  • As a presenter, you have the opportunity to deliver a profound experience
  • She is doing a series of for-cost webinars which expound on these topics, and more

One other cool thing about the webinar is all attendees get 45 days access to the book in Safari. Of course, if O’Reilly wanted to send me a dead-tree copy, they have my mailing address…

Posted on October 9, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

Here is the current batch of Selenium links that came my way. If I decide to keep this up I’ll start to more aggressively filter links and put in commentary like A Fresh Cup, but for now…

Posted on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized by adam1 Comment »

Our corporate heritage is Rails and so we’ve standardized on Capistrano for all our deployment needs. Yes, even our Java deployments are Cap based (it’s actually pretty cool and one of these days I’ll write a post about it). We also use Hudson as our CI server. Actually, its the nerve center of all our build and deploy processes. It should be no problem then to do a bit of Continuous Deployment magic using Hudson and Capistrano.

You would think so. But you would be wrong.

You see, to execute Cap, you need to have Hudson spawn a shell process (I think it is actually a thread, but whatever). And that shell has only a minimal environment.

Why is that a problem? Well, Cap is based on ssh and once you have a number of machines to access you quickly move away from using passwords to public keys to negotiate sessions. These public keys are (on unix) stored in the user’s .ssh directory — of which the Hudson spawned shell has no idea about. This results in this sort of error:

+ cap deploy
  * executing `deploy'
  * executing `deploy:update'
 ** transaction: start
  * executing `deploy:update_code'
    updating the cached checkout on all servers
  * executing "some command"
    servers: [""]
Password: stty: standard input: Invalid argument
stty: standard input: Invalid argument
stty: standard input: Invalid argument

Ugh-oh. No key means no access which means no deploy.

An hour later I did manage to figure out a nice, neat solution.

The trick is to tell Cap, not the shell, where the key you want to use is. In order to do this you need to add this somewhere in your Capfile

ssh_options[:keys] = %w(/hudson/.ssh/id_rsa)

Obviously, if you user is not ‘hudson’ you would change it to whatever it is. Likewise if you are using DSA rather than RSA for your key.

Now you can run your Cap tasks from within Hudson. And not have a busted build. 🙂

Posted on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

The local professional football team sucks this year. The quarterback remarked after a recent game that the team lacked rhythm. The hosts on the radio yesterday were discussing this quote and said something along the lines of rhythm is not something you can draw on a clipboard or practice, but it is obvious when the team is lacking it.

It is not uncommon to hear the term ‘rhythm’ applied to practicing TDD. I’m really bad at TDD, but I know enough to completely understand the applicability.

I think development teams can also get into rhythms. This is one of the reasons why Scrum meetings are held at the same time each day for instance; to try and develop a rhythm to the day. Committing code often, deploying frequently (internally or externally) are all part of a modern, healthy development rhythm.

As organizations grow, they start to develop their own inertia against this rhythm with meetings about meetings, fiefdoms, external agendas, etc.. The role of the team lead (or Scrum Master if you are in that context) is then to protect the team’s rhythm. I keep thinking back to Mitch Lacey’s Agile 2009 talk about how his team’s rhythm was under attack from within and he took on someone higher in the chain to resolve it for the better of the team.

Right now I can’t help but think our team was finally starting to approach a healthy, sustainable rhythm, but in the last couple days it looks like we’re about to get tackled off that rhythm Real Soon Now. Hopefully we aren’t on the ground sucking wind for too long.

At least we have been forewarned.

Posted on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

In sport there is the expression ‘losing the room’ which is used when the coach or manager has lost the faith / interest of the team. Essentially, the team has fired the coach and while they may listen to what they say, it just glosses over them and they do what they feel is best and any alignment with the coach’s will is completely accidental. When this happens to a baseball or hockey club, the coach is often replaced. The players after all are the talent. They are whom the public shells out their money to see.

Managers in dysfunctional organizations can lose the room as well. Especially if they are the source of the dysfunction. Too often people who make it into management are all too good at keeping their job. This results in gradual destruction of morale and high employee turnover. Sometimes it is a gradual eroding, but sometimes it is also a very glaring event. Or worse, a glaring event that knocks all the supports from out the erosion zone. That’s almost always uncomfortable.

How do you avoid this? I think there are three contributing factors that combine to cause this phenomenon. One on its own is certainly not nice, but when you get all three mixed into the stew you have a real problem.

  1. Trust – If your team doesn’t trust that you will do what is in their best interest it is really hard to get them on board with new ideas as they will be met with significant amounts of skepticism. Sometimes you have to make decisions which which are unpleasant for the team, but necessary for the company. When that happens, be honest about the reasons behind them. Problems happen when it appears you have your own agenda to push. Especially if you are still just new to the group. Blowing the trust of the team from the start is a fantastic way to hobble yourself in a new position.
  2. Respect – This is a companion to Trust. I won’t go so far as to cite the Golden Rule, but treat your team as the adults they are. Ask for their input on decisions. In a development environment, they actually do know more about how things are wired together. And don’t just ask for it then do your own thing anyways. That is an altogether too common pattern, but is a killer.
  3. Belief – A team needs to be able to believe that what their manager says. Without belief you end up with ‘sure, of course we are going to do x. riiiight’. Soon they are just a talking head. Not a manger. Certainly not a leader. Just the person who gets in your way.

Any high-functioning team, or even just a functioning team has those three elements. Both to and from management and within. But the disconnect between management and their teams is often where this appears most often and causes the most damage.

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