Human factors and missed solutions to Enigma design weaknesses: Cryptologia: Vol 40, No 2

Human factors and missed solutions to Enigma design weaknesses: Cryptologia: Vol 40, No 2
— Read on www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01611194.2015.1028680

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A great way to make quality important in your organization

There’s really only one key practice for quality:  continuous improvement, and its dual, continuous learning. For continuous learning, many practices that help; one of my personal favorites is ‘Lunch and Learn.’  It’s easy to get started, allows the team to ‘opt in’ to shared practices, and is an amazing opportunity for growth.

One example that quickly springs to mind is “Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship” by Robert Martin. This was one of the featured books in our lunch and learns at EVault. We’ve also done this at Pharmatrust, and I think we’re about at critical mass to do this at MedAvail.

On a side note: I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from the teams I have worked with over the years; it’s one of the greatest pleasures of my professional life.

Beautiful code

If you are a programmer, or a manager of programmers, it is critically important to keep working to improve your craft and your sense of what good code is.  This book, Beautiful Code, edited by Andy Oram and Greg Wilson is a great collection of articles from leading practitioners in the field.  Very much worth your time.  (I don’t know Andy Oram, but I have corresponded with Greg Wilson, and we both attended University of Oregon.)

I decided to read this while browsing some papers and books at the ACM digital library, and got hooked.   Highly recommended.

(I’ve been taking more advantage of my Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) membership recently and the additional ‘digital library’ access; also recommended.)

Best regards,

Dak

Ed Catmull on why innovation and sustained vision matter

If you are in a software leadership position, this is worth your time.

A Conversation with Ed Catmull – ACM Queue.

Key quote:  “When computer graphics became practical, it reintroduced technical change into this field and invigorated it.
Continue reading “Ed Catmull on why innovation and sustained vision matter”

Why your customer service is the most important thing for your business…or for YOU personally.

This article (a summary of Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans, with what appears to be material from a subsequent interview), may be the most important thing you read today.

Ken Blanchard: Save your firm from a customer service crisis.

Are your firm’s customers, or YOUR customers, raving fans?

Happy reading,
Dak

Software architects and strategic decisions: Build, buy, open source, or partner?

I had a conversation today with a former colleague about implementing mission-critical software, and the cost assumptions of Agile methods. He cited “Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed” as an analysis which says Agile assumes as an axiom that the cost of change is constant (in the front end engineering processes, not in remediation, fixes in the field, etc.) Frankly, I suspect that’s because Barry Boehm is a classic “programming in the large” guru, but I haven’t read the book yet. 

This is true (that Agile assumes constant cost of effort) in the sense that it’s held constant in the same sense of any other “assuming all other things are equal, we vary this.”  I see the point, but it seems to me that it’s not true in practice, in my experience, but then, I don’t think many people implement Real True Pure Scrum or Lean or XP or any other agile practices; they typically implement some kind of composite methodology, which merges specifications and design artifacts in the outer feedback loops of (for example) Scrum.

But he did have an excellent…nay, *superb* point: without explicit architecture work as an input to software development, development frequently gets caught in a cycle of relative local improvement, without being able to leap beyond the limitations of the existing or incrementally developed architecture, and sometimes that just won’t get you where you want to go.  I personally believe that these outer feedback cycles, including project kick-off, are the best integration points, and that most people practicing Scrum are working away with the “release and below” of the feedback loops, and neglecting release and multi-release planning entirely.

(I personally like the XP-style feedback loop diagrams on this page…to me, the architectural inputs belong in the outer feedback loop, with tweaking and involvement from the architecture team in the inner loops.)

To me, the point is that as software professionals, we have to be able to make decisions about what we’re going to build, buy, or integrate with, and this meta-decision can easily be a part of the Scrum, XP, or other Agile processes, and we don’t have to model the cost of the estimate purely by (for example) planning poker, especially when there are other costs involved. However, many organizations FAIL to make these decisions, instead always choosing to build, which leads to massive expense overruns, because they are trying to solve the wrong (software architecture) problem.

I’m looking forward to reading the book to see if it provides suitable guidance for practitioners in the field, both that I can use myself, and that I can reference to customers and employers. I generally find (both when working directly for an organization, or as a consultant) that some kind of ‘made to fit’ methodology is what’s really needed…and I haven’t seen that codified. Might have to do it myself, we’ll see.

Comments, insights, or experience are always welcome. More later after I read the book; I’ve always enjoyed Boehm’s work, so I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks,
Dak

A brilliant management two-for-one

There are two excellent ideas in this posting on ZDnet, aside from the observation that you can scale Ruby on Rails if you avoid hitting the disk farm for static content:

1) Have a team devoted to rapid scalable prototyping.  (LinkedIn Light Engineering Development)

2) Use free apps for both proof of concept testing and marketing.

Read and enjoy.

Ruby on Rails: scaling to 1 billion page views per month by ZDNet‘s Dennis Howlett — While a lot of attention has been focused on Twitter with questions about whether Ruby on Rails scales, LinkedIn has been quietly running a RoR application on Facebook that is beating down around 1 billion page view per month. Bumpersticker, a relatively trivial Facebook application that allows you to create a cartoon that you can […]

Best,

Dak