As a Tekkie I’m prone to watching reruns of old Star Trek episodes from time to time and I started seeing many similarities between an agile approach to “getting things done” and the way the crew of the Enterprise work. Yes, granted, it’s a militaristic structure but that’s not to say you can’t still be agile:
- Crew members exhibit a general knowledge of most fields, with expertise in a particular field (see how well the bridge crew interchange roles during disaster situations where members go down).
- Away teams are generally cross functional based on the task at hand, and usually range in size from 3 to 7.
- The Captain issues orders (“what”) but relies on the crew member(s) to execute them (“how”), and does not interfere unless further clarity is needed.
- There is a deep level of trust and respect between crew members.
- There is constant collaboration, communication channels are constantly open from anywhere on the ship (and off).
- They celebrate their victories and learn from their mistakes, and adapt as needed.
- At any point in time, the crew is working on whatever will add the most “value” to the mission (work is prioritized).
- There is an understanding that collaborative teamwork is the way to success.
- There is a good work/life balance, even on a Starship.
- The crew are passionate about their roles.
- Mission planning sessions only plan enough to get the mission going, and are then adapted on the way.
Any other Trekkies out there see similarities I’ve missed?
I’m back in Joburg and I figured I better get around to writing a Day 2 post. Day 2 was, for me anyway, not as interesting as Day 1, but nevertheless worth it (it’s a fault of mine that I’m way too technical and not focused enough on “the other stuff”).
It’s focus was mostly around monetizing (Adsense / Adwords / YouTube for Business) and optimizing (Webmaster Tools), and some useful tips came out of the sessions. There was also a rehash of the first days strategy talks (what Google are doing in Africa), compressed and optimized for more business orientated people, as well as a demo on Voice, Goggles and Maps(with a monetization/marketing slant).
One of the things that stuck out for me was the YouTube talk, the stats on video usage is phenomenal, with predictions that up to 80 or so percent of internet traffic will be video within the foreseeable future. Is the internet as we know it dead? I think that as it stands now, and based on those figures, it may not be dead, but will most certainly change in a significant way. Something else I wasn’t aware of was that YouTube had a South African branch, which is awesome, means all those videos are now local traffic for us.
One more thing that stuck in my head was the somewhat corporate way in which Google dealt with the complaints from two people regarding being blocked from Adsense. I’ve personally experienced the automated messages warning against “unsavory behavior” and realize the frustration of trying to find out exactly what the Google checking algorithms consider as “unsavory”, and not being able to communicate with a “human” on the other side, so I know how the must feel. I think people need to realize that Google is a listed company with shareholders, they need to protect their interests and with large volume obviously there’s no feasible way they can treat everyone equally, so they give special treatment to large account holders, it’s just a fact of business. One thing I don’t agree with is the lack of information when you do query a threatening letter, not sure what the Google strategy is here but it’s not really very, well, “warm”.
The conference closed (for me anyway) with a “website clinic” where Google went through some guest websites giving suggestions on what was and wasn’t good practice, an interesting exercise and I got some interesting tips from the session. Unfortunately I had to leave for the airport at that point so missed the last few sessions and, other than dodging a few thunderstorms, had an uneventful flight back.
All in all the 2 days were worth it, connected to a few people, got to meet some Googlers and hear them talk about the interesting technologies I’ve been using. The food was nice, the venue was awesome and Cape Town is still beautiful (wouldn’t mind moving back there). Hopefully they will be back next year, although I think then it should be up in Johannesburg so that they guys up here can experience it as well.
Interestingly enough, the word “cool” was not used at all in this post…
November 10th, 2010 in
| tags: conference
Geeks, coffee, sweets and cool music, add that to a lineup of interesting speakers talking about cool technology and you have a recipe for an awesome event. Day 1 of the Google South Africa (g|southafrica) Conference finished a couple of hours ago and it was a pretty cool day. I’ve worked with most of the Google technologies before but still found the conference a wealth of knowledge. It’s always refreshing to see a group of dedicated people speak about something they’re passionate about, and the Googlers are quite passionate about their products.
Day 1 of the conference made it quite clear that Google has big plans for Africa. They’re on a mission to bring the Internet to everyone, making it an integral part of every African’s life, and I think they have a good grasp of the potential pitfalls and problems of dealing with this continent; things like the multitude of languages, lack of Internet access and decent localized content.
What are they doing about it? Lots of cool stuff it seems, like Google Voice, a speech to text recognition tied in with Googles’ search engine, now you can just say what you want and it delivers it to your device and, believe me, what they’ve done with voice recognition technology is awesome. Oh, did I mention it’s in Afrikaans and Zulu as well? Then of course there’s the heavy focus on us (the developers of cool apps), trying to get us entrenched in all the cool API’s they have available, building relevant content for local customers. What’s refreshing is that they recognize that they’re not the specialists on localized content, they’re merely the tool providers, WE’RE the specialists.
Some other cool things at the conference (for me anyway) was Google Goggles (still in beta I believe), let’s you scan just about anything and recognizes and returns information on it (except pet’s and accessories, but they promise they’re hard at work getting that sorted ), pretty awesome technology (it’s not often you get a room full of techies to applaud spontaneously during a demo!). Another cool technology was the entire Map / Location base suite of API’s ; I’m working on a project currently using these technologies so I am biased towards it’s coolness but what they showed was mind altering to say the least, lots of cool technology to play with.
All in all the conference was awesome, lots of useful tips from the Googlers on getting the technology out there (especially in the mobile arena) and using it in an optimal way (like search optimization), together with lots of cool demo’s of cool technologies.
Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow… more coffee, more sweets, more awesome…
Oh, in case you’re wondering, I used the word “cool” 12 times in this post…
November 8th, 2010 in
Having just returned from what was an eye opening Blackberry Developer Days conference in Johannesburg, I thought I’d write a few of my thoughts on it, and Blackberry itself (or rather the direction I see it going).
Firstly, thanks to the presenters, they showed both a good knowledge as well as a passion for the subject, both ingredients that kept me interested. Secondly let me state categorically that I am an Android Fanboy, love it, enjoy it, code it, and dare I say, worship it? Also, I’ve never touched or been close to developing anything for a Blackberry so this was something I went to with an open, yet somewhat skeptical, mind.
I’ve always thought of Blackberry as a device aimed at the corporate / business market, but after this conference I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Their consumer drive is impressive to say the least. In a nutshell with their 5.0 release of their OS, they’ve played a lot of catchup (to the other smart phone brands) of features they needed to add, and added some nifty things that make them really cool.
Here are some of the good things that stuck out for me:
- The Theme Studio, customize your own theme (even animated) for your Blackberry, cool idea.
- Geolocation based services, not much to say here, pretty much on par with all the other manufacturers, although I think their model to handle loss of signal and use of best available service is better than others.
- Changes to graphics, introduction of 3D OpenGL (think gaming) and an Animation API.
- The ability and level to which you can integrate between applications on your device (both custom and built in), and outside via networking, was impressive, reminded me a lot of the android model, but different in many ways.
- The Blackberry Alliance Program with cool incentives like loaner devices.
- They actually showed us South African developers some love! With the ability to do paid apps and receive revenue it puts them ahead of Google (1/2 credit for the Google Africa conference next month, but give us paid apps already!), and WAY ahead of Apple (who I doubt even know we exist).
This is what was not so great for me:
- Lack of support of the Eclipse plugin in Linux (Mac and Windows supported). Although there are workarounds but still… professing to be open and not supporting THE open source OS ?
- The 70/30 cut on profits from sales of your app, seems a bit steep, but that’s just me.
All in all it was a good experience, an eye opener of sorts, I’ll definitely be getting into the Blackberry development arena.
One last thing I want to say is that, although Android is growing so rapidly and iPhone is, well, iPhone; here in South Africa Blackberry is still very much the leading brand (by far) in the bulk of the market (with their Blackberry Curve mostly). People don’t know “Android” and most don’t care to know “iPhone”, being priced way out of their pocket. Blackberry is what people use for a smart phone here, and it’s pretty dumb not to be targeting that market, if you’re serious about mobile development that is.
Next Up: Google Africa Conference, let’s see what THEY have to say…
Disclaimer: I am not nor have I ever been a Blackberry Developer, I speak here purely from personal experience so feel free to correct me if I have been inaccurate in any way
In my spare time I do what I love (how sad, I should do what I love all the time), and what I love is coding, and the android platform…
I’ve created my first android application available here: http://torrentfunnel.ricktonoli.com, read up on it at the site. If anyone wants to give it a whirl I’d appreciate feedback. It’s still in beta, so no promises…
July 15th, 2010 in
| tags: android
I am one of your developers, when you hired me you treated me with respect, you asked me about my skills and abilities and (I assume) hired me because of these. Please could you explain to me why, now, the respect is gone and I’m being treated like a mentally deficient child?
If you want me continue adding value please consider the following:
- I am not 6 years old, stop treating me like a child.
- Using fear, intimidation and sarcasm to control me does not work, the more you try the more I will resist. Try a little more collaboration and a little less intimidation…
- If you would like me to tell the truth, don’t force me to lie by shouting at me every time I tell you the truth.
- Stop rejecting reality and inserting your own version of it, this is a sign of insanity.
- If you force me into a corner, I will lie to get out (see point 3).
- If you want me to be responsible, give me ownership of the problem AND the solution and stop telling me what to do by when.
- Stop treating me like the “bad guy” and take responsibility for your bad management decisions.
- I’m not giving my opinion to irritate you, I’m giving it in an attempt to add value. After all, you hired me for my expertise, right?
- Respect that I am a person, not a robot or a number, and that I have a life outside of work.
July 9th, 2010 in
Yesterday I found out that my dad was robbed, not in some dark ally or in the dead of night, but in broad daylight, walking through the entrance of a busy shopping mall in Rustenburg, with (useless) “mall guards” and numerous shoppers within meters of him. Thankfully he was not harmed, this time.
This is a warning to all those tourists coming to this country…DON’T. Stay away, make other plans. A game of soccer is not worth your life, or the life of a loved one.
If you insist on coming, please be aware of what you’re walking in to. This is not a “rainbow” nation of friendly people, not a place where life is valued and people feel safe.
This is a place where criminals beat a 1 year old child because it “was making too much noise”, where children are kidnapped and dismembered for some sick ritual need, where small girls are stolen from their mothers arms and sold into slavery, where old people are brutally beaten and murdered in the most grotesque ways, where a person is shot for their cellphone and R50 cash, where people are robbed in broad daylight, where the criminals are free and innocent people lock themselves behind burglar proofing and electric fencing. This is Africa…be prepared.
May 19th, 2010 in
| tags: Africa
Forcing impossible deadlines, ordering people to be at work during certain hours, denying leave, bringing in consultants and hinting at using them as a yardstick for productivity… I often wonder what makes people resort to these tactics and if they know the net effect of them? Decreased morale, lowered productivity, lack of any desire to do anything, “stick it to the manager” mentality, tiredness, increased stress, fear of job loss…I can go on but you get the point.
What brings this on? Not entirely sure but I can speculate…people react differently to varying degrees of stress and who can say what goes through someones mind when faced with pressure from above from someone who does not fully understand the given situation and lacks (or has incorrect) facts. I would say though, having worked with various managers under varying degrees of stress, that this is indeed the role of middle management, to absorb, explain, clarify and defend the team in which they trust, assuming the trust relationship is there.
Trust, that’s perhaps the key factor here and I think the core of where these decisions come from. Trust is the difference between saying “all leave has been denied until project X is done” and “as a team you guys decide whether you can absorb the impact of this leave but whatever you decide, I will back you”. Trust is not telling your team “you will be at work between the following hours…” but rather saying “there’s an incorrect perception linking the current level of productivity to peoples hours of work, how would you guys think we should approach correcting this perception?”.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, lists Trust as the foundation of any good team:
“…members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors…”
“Team”, in this case, includes everyone trying to achieve a given goal…everyone. Often I see management reeling under the pressure from above and, instead of approaching their team, bringing them into their “world of pain” and trying to collaboratively find a solution, they will resort to giving orders and clamping down. Inevitably though, the harder they squeeze, the more they lose control, forcing them to squeeze harder…a vicious circle from where the only thing that results is broken trust, something that’s almost impossible to fix.
in fear you squeeze it;
it runs away.