Archive for July, 2008

Response and meaning

July 31, 2008

I recently took part in a videoconference. These are becoming more and more common at work as they provide an effective alternative to flying with more nonverbal signals than one gets on a teleconference call. In this call I was the only one in the room in Amsterdam whilst the nine or ten other participants were on the same room in Dublin.

I knew the message I wanted to bring across and had prepped a little on what the other speakers were going to say. Still I only received the presentations at the last minute, unlike the ‘rest of the room’ who had all presentations printed in book format.

Halfway through one of the presentations I jumped in to point out a key risk. This is something I’d discussed at length with the speaker already, although this time we were speaking in front of his boss and other executives. At the time I spoke passionately (as I am wont to do at times). This was not how the others in the room experienced my little speech. I got an mail from my boss pretty quickly asking me to tone down my remarks. I didn’t understand but a couple of minutes and mails later he repeated the request. From that point on when I wanted to speak I raised my hand primary school style.

After the meeting I got feedback from a couple of different people that I had been overly aggressive (not passionate). Also this did not match with my experience I took it onboard and started to investigate more deeply. Sure enough the guy with whom I was speaking was actually very annoyed with me. Although he was not really offended he was pretty puzzled — ie he was wondering why I was out to get him.

One of the presuppositions which is axiomatic to Neuro Linguistic Programming is that “the
meaning of the message is the response you get”. ie it is not what was in your head when you were speaking but the response that that elicited from your partner in conversation. This I’d not to ‘be kind’ to the person with whom you are communicating but to help you in communicating with less iterations of confusion. This is a principle I have given talks and workshops on… which is why it is humbling — and useful — to screw up like this.

I did my best to make up, by talking about my intent and my behaviour — and apologizing as only the British can.

What is actually worse is that by making this kind of schoolboy error most of my point was lost on the room and it will be harder to make the point I’m the future.

Live and learn, or in the words of a Japanese expression “Fall down seven times and get up eight”.


Understanding before documentation

July 25, 2008

One of the most important principles I use in all the agile and lean software development or cross functional teams I run is ‘understanding first’. This means that teams must first seek to understand and only then write that up. My default form of this is to take two very different groups — perhaps IT and the business or product management and producers or finance and a budget owner — and get them to each explain their viewpoint to the other. They talk until the other group can explain their viewpoint to their own satisfaction. Then they sit together and write it up.

The longer that the groups work together the more rapport that they build. Talking is many times quicker than writing and this is many times quicker again than waiting for an email response. Once understanding is reached the last crinkles can be ironed out by writing together.

Often the business will ask IT to do the write up so that they can review at their leisure. This is a mistake. It confuses the time spent as support with the total time needed. A little feedback in the first write up can be the difference that makes the difference so that only one iteration is needed.

IPhone as beatbox

July 25, 2008

One of the statements I had heard from colleagues about the first iPhone was that the speakers were not really loud enough to hear what was being said so one would have to use the headphones to have a reasonable conversation.

On holiday I often bring my mac so I can upload and edit photos. It also doubles usefully as a stereo system so we can relax to a little music. Over the months aqand years my mac’s little 100gb drive had gradually filled up so I’ve been moving my various virtual goods and chatels to external drives. As a result I have very few music files left on the mac. My iPhone is stuffed with my favourites.

So it seemed only natural as we cracked open a bottle of Douro and got stuck into our fried fish and squid that we also put State Radio’s Us Against The Crown on the iPhone and cranked up the volume. It wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t half bad either.

Apple have a great iPhone 2.0 app with their Remote which allows you to control your mac’s iTunes using your iPhone. A great next move is to be able to listen to music on your mac using your iPhone or vice versa.

New iPhone keyboard

July 24, 2008

This is my first post using my new iPhone. I have to say I’ve gotten used to the keyboard remarkably quickly. I am at least as fast on the iphone as I am on my blackberry pearl despite the fact that I am still only typing with one finger on the iPhone. The thing just manages to guess what you mean a lot more often than the BB. It specializes in the commonest misspellings one can achieve on the iPhone keyboard, which are getting a couple of letters on each word mixed up with their neighbours on the keyboard.

So I regularly type “tje” and get what I intended: “the”. The main stumbling blocks are learning to trust the thing to do its telepathic magic and occasionally hitting the delete button by accident which WILL confuse it.

To give an idea I’d say that I misspell two out of three words but only have to retype one out of fifteen. Retyping is my critical constraint that determines typing speed. I know a few blackberry users who have worked out the same thing but get by fine by just ignoring any and all spelling mistakes, a generosity that my OCD does not afford me.

My next steps are moving up to two finger (or thumbed) typing which absolutely has the possibility to add another 50% to my speed.

One disappointment is that the guessing is turned off when you type some small fields (like the title of this
mail). I am so addicted to this feature that it is almost impossible to type without.

One fun thing is that as you learn to trust you can get pretty close to touch typing without looking at the virtual keyboard and just at the virtual screen. Very relaxed typing – thanks Apple.

T-mobile iPhone start-up crashes and stays down; doesn’t anyone git it?

July 11, 2008

I got up early this morning and queued with the rest for my piping hot iPhone. I had visited a few different shops yesterday and found that T-mobile would not take any reservations whilst resellers like BelCompany sometimes did. As of yesterday at 2.30pm there were still a couple of white 16 gig iPhones that could be reserved in Leiden so that’s what I did. I got up at the unearthly hour that I did because rumour had it that connecting an iPhone with the T-mobile network would take 10-15 minutes, and with 16 phones and a couple of terminals that could do the connecting — that’s a few hours of connecting mostly likely.
Which is why I was the only one standing, sitting (on a bin bag), munching on sandwiches and generally enjoying the fine weather and sense of anticipation at about 7.30am this morning (OK, ‘unearthly’ revealed my true nature of someone who cannot abide getting up in the morning). Possibly with the exception of a mammoth delivery truck wanting to dump his load of perfume for the Douglas shop next door. We chatted a little — he did not understand the hype. Just down the road a queue of about 15 people had already started in front of the T-mobile shop. Around 8am a couple more curious people arrived in dribs and drabs but left shortly after when a salesperson arrived and explained that ‘if you aren’t on the list, you ain’t getting in’. A few arrived for The Phone House across the street. The Phone House took down the names of the people in the queue at about 8.30am to make their reservation list, but hadn’t allowed people to reserve the day before (I know because I tried). The real volumes kicked in around 9.15am. A number of people were pretty upset that BelCompany allowed reservations.

I was first in the door and we started the ’10-15 minute’ process. Halfway through, the system came back with a 404 error and 25 minutes later we were no further on. I went to get a coffee and when I came back it was the same story. The T-mobile system was not highly distributed (or so the salesperson told me) and 10,000 salespeople had all tried to connect their new iPhones simultaenously to no avail. The guy took my number and was going to call when everything was up and running. It’s 2pm now and I’m still waiting for that call…

This made me think about git (as it naturally would, of course). Git is a distributed source code management system. It’s very simple and very powerful. It’s not a source code management system that was built to work with one server, but it’s got distribution in its very genes. And not despite that, but because of that, it’s speedy and efficient and allows you to do all the things you naturally want to do in (say) CVS, but where you naturally end up hitting a brick wall. Splitting out branches and merging branches is whole a lot easier and more natural in git. A couple of servers falling over do very little to hurt it.

Anyhow, git is not a natural thing to think of, but as I make another of my deep dives into coding again, it makes you realise how much more common very distributed systems are now than they were five years ago. And the systems that aren’t (are you listening T-mobile?) stand out like a sore thumb. The same goes for business processes. It certainly helps the hype to batch everything and drip feed iPhones into the market, but spikes of demand with supply and gluts of supply without demand and just not profitable ways of running a business. It results inevitably in waste. Lean workflows mean happier customers.

—- Update —
Belcompany called me late that afternoon with the great news that they had got the iPhone activated and it was ready and waiting for me. They stayed open late that day to make sure that everyone who had waited actually got their phones — great service!

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