Thursday, March 22, 2007 Honored with 2007 Jolt Productivity Award

Last night, was honored with a Jolt Productivity Award in the Websites category. Having worked on the development of the site personally for more than 3 years, recognition like this is a great honor. The entire Koders engineering team wants to thank our users, the judges and SDWest/CMP Media for their support. This represents another great milestone for, and the best is yet to come - after all is built by developers, for developers.

In addition to the excitement of the awards ceremony, the show itself was a great opportunity to connect with existing Koders and a few new fans. The announcement of the Koders Pro Edition was well received, and developers are anxious to bring code search into their enterprise to share with their teams.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Scrum Show & Tell

Alternate Title: Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Software Project Management, I Learned in First Grade

Continuous process improvement is a primary objective for the software engineering team at Koders. They have done a fantastic job of adopting many Agile/XP practises including pair programming, test driven development (TDD), and most recently Scrum.

One of the challenges of scrum has been finding the best format for our daily scrum meetings. Our team has found that the rapid-fire, standing, 15 minute scrums are good for clarifying blocking issues and improving team collaboration, but don't necessarily provide management with enough detail on the true progress of specific tasks.

To help compensate for this shortcoming, our team has adopted Show & Tell sessions which are conducted 2-3 times per week. Koders Show & Tell sessions follow this format:

  • 2-3 developers are selected to show their most recent projects
  • each demo may include a user-facing demo, code review, and/or test results
  • the demo is conducted with text chat and a screen sharing application, so other stakeholders can easily participate

The demos have proved invaluable for our team. Some of the most visible beneficial improvements include:

  • better visibility of engineering progress
  • virtual elimination of 'ivory tower' engineering tendencies
  • multiple opportunities for management and team feedback before task completion
  • inaccurate estimates and incorrect task scoping is identified early

Is your agile development team using frequent demos or show & tell sessions? How is it working for you? What format are you using?


Monday, February 26, 2007

Improving Web Quality Assurance

More than 10 years after the web browser was invented, and after almost as much time spent creating standards, designing web applications with consistent display across different web browsers is still more art than science. Some products deal with this issue by limiting their 'supported' browsers to one or two, but this limits consumer choice, and defeats many of the reasons for building web-based applications in the first place.

For mainstream web based applications, compatibility with a variety of browsers, on many operating systems is a requirement. Yet testing against these systems - especially as product release dates approach, can require a massive amount of manpower. Your Web QA team needs automation!

The Koders team recently shared with me a fantastic tool for web-based look & feel QA: BrowserCam. Browser cam is a very clever web-based application, simply enter a public URL, select the operating systems and browsers you'd like to see the page displayed in, and you're off. In just a couple of minutes, BrowserCam will load your page on many target systems and post all the screenshots for your review.

This tool is more than worth its nominal fees for any team that is faced with pre-launch anxiety, post-launch headaches, and the general fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) caused by (sometimes very small) CSS changes.

BrowserCam is a great tool to help accelerate look & feel inconsistencies, but doesn't deal with web application workflow - another troubling area primed for automation tools. Stay tuned for a future post tackling this topic.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ID and Evolution: It's a matter of scale

I saw two leading scientists discussing the life of Darwin on Charlie Rose this evening. As expected an interesting discussion, and one that picqued my interest in the ID vs Evolution debate that has been re-invigorated in recent months.

My historical bias has always been towards evolution. My education as an engineer and scientist have provided me with enough information to understand that a world without evolution would be much more dysfunctional than the world we live in. In thinking about this topic again, and considering new beliefs I have formed over the years, it occurs to me that these competing philosophies may be more compatible than either side allows.

In fact, the time for an open discussion on ID may be just right, but not in the context that the neo-conservatives present it today. In fact, an honest discussion may require both sides to reconsider their basis.

In a pre-evolution world, creationism provided a fine solution to the time-limited horizon of thinkers of that day. In human terms, the world had existed for thousands or tens of thousands of years. My parents looked like me, my children looked like me, and I could assume that this was a consistent view across generations. A personified Adam and Eve were part of a lineage that I shared. The timeline of the universe was small, there was not a problem for evolution to help solve.

Darwin opened our eyes to a broader timeline of life and change. Life on this planet had existed for much longer than previous thinkers had assumed, and in larger time scales, vectored changes could be seen. Humans have grown taller, species have gone extinct and diverse living species could be connected through a continuum of related species. A genetic basis for these changes can now provide both a unit of measure (DNA) and a timeline for changes to occur. Evolution is undeniable within the timescale of life on this planet - which we now know is much longer that pre-darwinian peoples could have belived.

Our planet is statistically rare, but not unique. Drake provided a basis for the belief that life on earth is not a singularity, but rather a lucky event for you and I. Our discovery of other life in the universe is limited only by our technology and time to observe. Given these facts, it becomes clear that life on earth is part of a continuum - we are not the first island of life in the universe, nor will we be the last.

In this context, the question of origin rises again. How did life on earth begin and how is life here related to life elsewhere? It is at this juncture that ID and evolution could become more compatible in a unified theory. It should be reasonable to any Darwinian that intelligent life identified Earth as a fertile option for seeding, that the life found here was created as an inter-planetary experient or farm to spread another species to new galactic locales. The fundamental function of life, both plant and animal, seems to be propogation of the species - at any cost. As our technology advances, there is strong reason to believe that terraforming and planet seeding will become part of the human agenda. The largest barrier to such projects is that they would likely be executed across hundreds or thousands of lifetimes - timelines so large, that humans have never before contemplated such possibilities.

If one broadens the timescale of influence and considers the drivers of life, it is reasonable to believe that life on earth was in fact created by a superior being(s) and possibly in their image. The pundits of the neo-conservative ID movement would be more than reluctant to integrate such ideas into their philosophy - but it is one that pragmatisms and faithful could consider.

The fact that creationist events could occur at very large timescales, and evolution is undeniable within timescales we can monitor and relate might provide the foundation for understanding our origins and planning our turn to pass the torch.

:: Links to extremists on either side of this debate appreciated.