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Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Impressions: TekPub

link -> First Impressions: TekPub

OK Folks. I don’t do endorsements. I especially dislike commercial / corporate training. The trainers aren’t really experts. They didn’t create this stuff. They don’t even use this stuff. They just *teach* this stuff – day after day, city after city. I can learn 95% of the material with my laptop and 15 minutes with the slide deck.

What’s the alternative?

Blogs? They’re fine for keeping up with trends and knowing what the cool kids are doing, but if you’re trying to learn something from scratch, you’ve got to dig for the good stuff. The worst part about web 2.0 is that any idiot can start a blog about stuff he doesn’t really understand – even me.

Books? While I could recommend a few, the honest truth is that I’ve had a dozen queued up on my bookshelf for nearly a year. Even if you do take the time to read, the information is out of date before the book even hits your shopping cart. On top of that, you have no guarantee that the author is really an expert.

Here’s something different.

TekPub_logo Rob Connery @robconery and James Avery @averyj started That’s @tekpub on Twitter. It’s a library of professional screencast series by Rob, James, and other subject experts with names you’ll recognize. They’re not little 30 minute channel 9 interviews with obscure Microsoft PMs. First, the message is not corporate in any way, shape, or form. Second, the quality is amazing. The audio is clear. The text is crisp and easily readable. The images are both humorous and relevant to the topi

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A student-designed velomobile

link -> A student-designed velomobile
As you know, I like to share student designs from time to time. Joseph Campbell is a recent design graduate whose senior thesis project “dealt with bicycles and how they do not fit into Americas current grid”. As someone who has cycled for transportation for many years, I don’t completely agree with that statement, but I do see his point. There is much more that can be done both with infrastructure and with various types of pedal powered vehicle designs that can open human powered transportation options up to a larger segment of the population. I won’t discuss the inadequacies of our current transportation system in this post. Instead, I will share Joseph’s thoughts about the velomobile that he designed in his own words:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reading gets personal with Popular items and Personalized ranking

link -> Reading gets personal with Popular items and Personalized ranking

(Cross-posted with the Official Google Blog)

Today, we're launching two changes to Google Reader to help you discover more interesting content faster. Just as the launch of Personalized Search improved search results based on your search history, these changes use your Reader Trends to improve your reading experience.

  • Explore section - We're always trying to help you discover new stuff in Reader, and today we're introducing "Popular items" and "Recommended sources", two ways to find interesting content from all over the Internet. We use algorithms to find top-rising images, videos and pages from anywhere (not just your subscriptions), collect them in the new Popular items section and order them by what we think you'll like best. Now you don't have to be embarrassed about missing that hilarious video everyone is talking about — it should show up in your "Popular items" feed automatically. And to make it easier to find interesting feeds, we're moving recommendations into the new Explore section and giving it a new name — "Recommended sources." Like always, it uses your Reader Trends and Web History (if you're opted into Web History) to generate a list of feeds we think you might like.

    Explore section

Linq to NHibernate Progress Report

link -> Linq to NHibernate Progress Report

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blood Rivers and Stone Forests: 15 Alien Landscapes

link -> Blood Rivers and Stone Forests: 15 Alien Landscapes

Shared folders and multiple file upload in Google Docs

link -> Shared folders and multiple file upload in Google Docs

Characteristics of a Collaborative Team

Tabaka writes
a collaborative team holds the following set of characteristics:

  1. They are self-organizing versus role- or title-based in organization.

  2. Teams are empowered to make decisions versus being dictated to by an outside authority.

  3. Members truly believe that, as a team, they can solve any problem.

  4. Members are committed to success as a team versus success at any cost.

  5. Trust versus fear or anger motivates the team.

  6. They aggressively engage in participatory decision making versus bending to authoritarian decision making or succumbing to bullying for decisions.

  7. Decisions are consensus-driven versus leader-driven.

  8. Teams maintain an environment of constructive disagreement versus falling into damaging conflict or no conflict at all.

The other day my boss was asking me what the vision for my team would be. I think this is a very good start.

I just finished the "Why" section of Jean's book, and I am moving into the "How" section. I am very excited to try out her suggestions with my team.

Nature’s Art: Striped Icebergs & Frozen Waves of Antarctica

link -> Nature’s Art: Striped Icebergs & Frozen Waves of Antarctica

Sunday, October 11, 2009

DISC model of team roles

Jean Tabaka has an excellent explanation of the DISC model of team roles in her book Colloboration Explained. DISC is an acronym that stands for four different personality types

  • D: you can describe this person as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering.

  • I: you can describe this person as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic.

  • S: you can describe this person as calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced.

  • C: you can describe this person as careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful.

Teams tend to be imbalanced if a majority of the people on the team have the same personality role. This imbalance happens frequently because people tend to gravitate towards like minded and like acting individuals.

Teams with too many "D" types tend to be very results-oriented, but they don't produce very high-quality work or very detail-oriented solutions. Decisions are made based on speed and who has the strongest or most dominating personality in the group. Team meetings are marked with frequent power struggles, grandstanding, and little collaborative output. These teams are constantly running as fast as they can, straight into brick walls and then on to the next great idea or initiative.

Teams with too many "I" types tend to enjoy debating and brainstorming but have trouble really making any productive progress. These teams are weighed down with endless design meetings and can't focus enough to fully understand the details of the software they are building.

Teams with too many "S" types tend to hyper aware of how everyone is feeling, but they take too long to come to decisions. In addition previous decisions can be retracted and revisited the next time the group meets because someone's opinion was not included.

Teams with too many "C" types tend to have trouble sticking to their decisions because their decisions never feel quite right. They spend too much time reworking solutions trying to handle all possible scenarios even if the scenarios were not requested by a customer. All of this rework results in missed deadlines.

The highest performing teams are the ones that are composed of all these personality types. These teams just need the right guidance to move from divergence to convergence.

Comic for October 11, 2009

link -> Comic for October 11, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rambling on Cyclomatic Complexity

link -> Rambling on Cyclomatic Complexity

Fundamental Cultures of Working Part 2

Last time I talked about the command and control culture, the next culture is competence. The downside of the competence culture is that if only a few of your employees are competent then what happens if one or more of those employees move on. Another downside is that if your employees are competing against each other it can be very difficult to get them to communicate and help each other.

The downside of the cultivating culture is that employees are mostly concerned with their own interests. Deliverables and deadlines are not high on the list of importance. Teamwork only happens if helps the individual.

The collaboration culture is about teamwork. Teams work together to come up with ideas and solve problems. The team utilizes the wisdom of all team members to make the best decisions.

The book talks about how a collaborative culture can build a sense of community where people are motivated to move past conflict into productivity, move past indecision into action, move past defensiveness into trust.

If you can't tell from reading my post so far, I am very biased towards a collaborative culture. The book says that if you want to have a collaborative culture then it is good for the manager to be passionate about collaboration.

The manager tries to build a highly integrated and self organizing team that can find its own path to success. The team should come to value participatory decision making, self-discipline, and self-organization.

To me this sounds like a big project to take on. I am excited to try it though. I believe the effort I put in will be worth the pay off and then some.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fundamental Cultures of Working

Tabaka lists four fundamental cultures of working
Command-and-Control— The leader is in charge and makes decisions for the team to ensure tight authority and responsibility.

Competence— The team or project relies on the expert capabilities of the few to bring about success for the whole.

Collaboration— Decisions are consensus-driven, and the team works in partnership toward success.

Cultivating— Establishing personal and professional improvement for each team member is paramount.

The book mentions that some of the downsides of command and control are that the success of the project rests solely on the shoulders of the manager. In addition this culture ruins morale and reduces motivation and creativity.

Since I assumed the manager role on my team, I have had a couple people tell me that I need to take on more of a command and control approach. I am not sure yet that I want to do that. I am interested in reading more about these other approaches. I am glad I picked this book.

I will add some more comments about the other cultures next time.

Integrating StructureMap and NHibernate with WCF - Jimmy Bogard - Los Techies : Blogs about software and anything tech!

link -> Integrating StructureMap and NHibernate with WCF - Jimmy Bogard - Los Techies : Blogs about software and anything tech!
Los Techies - Code like a rabid donkey!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How Ironic

My last post asked how can I help my team while not being the manager. Since my last post I got reassigned to be the project manager. Weird. I feel like should I title this post how can I help my team as the manager. :)

For starters I am dusting off this blog and starting a new book today called Collaboration Explained by Jean Tabaka.

I will try to post comments about the book as I read through it.