Flimsy digital ownership

Last Christmas I received a voucher from my employer to watch a film of my choice through the Pathé Thuis, the on-demand service of the major cinema chain. I knew we had the app on our smart tv, but with a Netflix subscription I hadn’t got round to check out a service where you have to pay per view. We still have plenty shelf space of dvd’s we seldom watch. The arthouse offering was not bad at all compared to Netflix, and reasonable at 3 to 4 euros a pop.

Apparently Seinfeld is coming to Netflix, but it won’t stay there indefinitely. Friends will clear the way, as rumour has it.
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Never split the difference in Scrum estimations

Never split the difference is a fascinating book by Chris Voss, which has nothing to do with coding or even with software. Voss was once a hostage negotiator for the FBI. The stuff of high-octane Hollywood movies starring Samuel L. Jackson, only for real. Understandably he has since switched to a more lucrative and less stressful career of giving corporate advice and writing said best seller.

Splitting the difference seems a legitimate compromise when the parties can’t agree on their final offer, but in fact everybody gets a bad deal, albeit equally bad. The buyer overpays while the seller is underpaid. The better option would be to walk away. Here’s a mildly amusing footwear example. If you really can’t decide on the black or bron pair, choose the grey pair. Don’t wear one of each. There’s a 50% chance it might rain on our hike. So let’s wear one waterproof boot to be on the safe side.

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The definition of what: regular increments of valuable software. That’s all there is to agile.

In agile development we don’t like to specify to the tiniest detail before we begin coding or estimate the cost down to the last euro. It is a pointless exercise because building complex software is like travelling uncharted territory on foot: you cannot tell how hard the journey will be from a reconnaissance flight. Until you get your feet wet you cannot predict how hard it will be or how long it will take. That’s the definition of a complex, adaptive domain. Like the time I decided to climb Table Mountain in Crickhowell (Wales). It looked a lot less steep from our holiday cottage (left photo).

Table Mountain in Crickhowel (Wales)
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Most software is not fit for dog food. How do we fix that?

Every so often we hear that developers would do well to use the products they create. You probably know it as the not very appetising inducement to eat your own dog food. Do so and you will gain a better sense of what you’re doing it all for, and for whom. Even cat people can’t argue with the benefits. You don’t even have to enjoy the product; it can be a necessary evil like a tax return app. Be aware though that dogfooding is a mixed blessing, especially when the developers are a bit too passionate about the product. They are not your average users. Make them the sole masters of the product’s destiny and they will only build what tickles their fancy and over-engineer the hell out of it.

Brussels, 2004

That’s why there’s so many WordPress code highlighting plugins: tools made by techies for other techies. As a hobby it makes perfect sense. You can be your own stakeholder, code whatever floats your boat and get kudos from your peers. You can scratch a personal itch and give back to the community, all the while doing what you like. You don’t even have to pretend you’re doing it for selfless reasons.

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Artwork for my new site

Over the Christmas holidays I created a new home for my open source projects and articles: Aligilo.com. The name is made-up Esperanto word, meaning something with which to join things. It can be glue if you want. Feel free to stick around.

My wife Sandra drew this cartoon figure ten years ago when I was working a lot with Google Web Toolkit. I removed the GWT logo from the box and repurposed it. These days, with my reading glasses and streaks of grey hair I’m actually a better match. Being a coffee lover as well as an amateur photographer I made coffee-themed photos for each entry. Enjoy!

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