Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

The next Google

Seth wrote what I was thinking when I saw Bing & Wave. Microsoft is truly dying.

Ease at Work
A great talk by Kent Beck in 7 fairly short videos totaling roughly an hour. Worth the time if you are a programmer. He uses one of my favorite phrases "Schedule Chicken". He also claims it takes on average 13 times for an idea to stick.He introduces the phrase "novelty vampires" in video #7.

I have done some of this but never looked at the topic deep enough.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Kissinger Politics Stakes Law

My neighbor informed me of today's quote of the day:
University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.
- Henry Kissinger
I had heard a version of this quote long ago and immediately fell for it! Years later I was working on a multi-million project at a multi-billion company and noticed that the politics seemed to fairly tamed based on my own experience. Once the project went live I noticed that slowly little stupid things crept up. I turned to my colleague who had been there many years and asked "What' going on? So and so seems to be treating me differently than before..did I do something wrong?" His reply stuck with me "It's not you it's BAU!"

I have long be a fan of organizational laws. Conway's Law is my favorite. I propose a new one:

The Kissinger Politics Stakes Law
As the stakes of an endeavour increase the politics will decline. As the stakes decrease the politics will increase.

If you think about it, it explains so many odd behaviors. Why during WWII did the US Government function so well and during the 90's boom do so poorly? Why do PTA elections seem to be more ferocious than US Presidential ones? It's the hidden law we have all been witness to!

I can't be the first to see this...Google provided the answer Sayre's Law. So it seems Kissinger gets credit where credit is not Sayre-ian :-)

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Agile (Wrongfully) Assumes Craftsmanship

In his book Complexity and Management Ralph Stacey wrote:

You Should Get Out More

"A study finds that living abroad for long periods of time boosts creative thinking." Now how does one convince the family? :-)

Tips for Retrospective Facilitators

Good advice. My only addition is that sentence case writing only work if you have neat white board writing. I do not, thus ALL CAPS is better than two words that no one but me can read.

Latency, Throughput, and Variance

An interesting article by Kent Beck using diagram of effects with some anecdotes to show how automation and early delivery seem to slow you down, but in the system as a whole cause you to speed up. Old conclusion told using different means.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Annals of Medicine: The Cost Conundrum

An 8 page article on helath care costs. It starts with a fact that McAllen,TX is "one of the most expensive health-care markets in the country. Only Miami—which has much higher labor and living costs—spends more per person on health care." Here are some gems:
  • "So here, along the banks of the Rio Grande, in the Square Dance Capital of the World, a medical community came to treat patients the way subprime-mortgage lenders treated home buyers: as profit centers."
  • "Mayo recognized that the first thing it needed to do was eliminate the financial barriers. It pooled all the money the doctors and the hospital system received and began paying everyone a salary, so that the doctors’ goal in patient care couldn’t be increasing their income. "
  • “When doctors put their heads together in a room, when they share expertise, you get more thinking and less testing,”
  • "The lesson of the high-quality, low-cost communities is that someone has to be accountable for the totality of care. Otherwise, you get a system that has no brakes."
  • "Any plan that relies on the sheep to negotiate with the wolves is doomed to failure."
  • "The decision is whether we are going to reward the leaders who are trying to build a new generation of Mayos and Grand Junctions. If we don’t, McAllen won’t be an outlier. It will be our future. "

Too big to fail? Overcoming size disadvantages - JPMorgan Chase

  • "It encourages banks to get bigger (or more interconnected), and it subsidizes risky behavior."
  • "...the solutions that have developed on the fly have done severe damage to the notion that there is a well-ordered capital structure that means something."

Looks cool. More details and opinions can be found at Tech Crunch and O'Rielly.

Microsoft is going after Google! Tech Crunch has a detailed look. Looks interesting and one has to like competition is a stale market.

I love it and I agree. We are all looking for "The Answer" when we are it!

Challenging convention

An article that makes sense about marketing...this is rare for me.

I just heard a great quote

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

My experience agrees with her statement "You know failure to communicate is one of the biggest causes of project failure, don't you?" The post reminds me of Gerald Weinberg's Quality Software Management books.

This article explains this anti-pattern well and has example code.

A 30 minute presentation on the state of IT and how getting to be more agile requires a deeper understanding of where you really are. Of course there is a pitch at the end, but it's not too bad.

I've always been a believer in Conway's law and I now know where I got the quote "no matter what the problem is it's always a people problem" - Gerald Weinberg.

Popular languages on GitHub ranked by number of bytes stored
I was surprised that C was #1, C++ was #4.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Great post on an area we all need help in from time to time. In summary the lessons are:
Lesson #1: Make Useful Assumptions
Lesson #2 Assume Positive Intent
Lesson #3: Know What You Want
Lesson #4: Meet People Where They Are
Lesson #5: Listen To Go Deep
Lesson #6: Choose Your Words Carefully
Lesson #7: Relationships Are About Perception
Lesson #8: Project and Expect The Best
Lesson #9: Keep Your Wits About You
Lesson #10: Create Change In Stages

Anti-Patterns and Worst Practices – You’re Doing it Wrong!

Some new anti-patterns (Arrowhead, Heisenbugs) and some familiar ones (Monster Objects & Utils Class).

How TDD and Pairing Increase Production

Good article debunking familiar reasons for not trying these best-in-class practices. The conclusion is worth repeating:

If you want to increase the productivity of your team, then do these three things:
    1. write a microtest that fails before you change any code;
    2. adopt a “no-pair no-keep” agreement;
    3. establish a shared understanding of internal quality.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Blind To The Whole

Analysis on units per dealer for Honda, Toyota, Ford & Chrysler before and after the trimming. The only change in rank ordering was that Ford went from #3 to # 5.

A Clarion Call For Leadership

An update to his "The Hollow American Economy": A Clarion Call For Leadership "a little more positive and motivating".

Why The American Civil War Is Important

Engaging and funny post on a much covered topic, but he still managed to bring something new.

In Praise of Silence

Short and to the point. I use my hammock for just this purpose.

Vanity Metrics vs. Actionable Metrics

Good post on web site metrics with recommendations.

The value of a fresh mind

A good post on stepping away to be more productive.

Ignoring the Wisdom of Crowds

Good post explaining the wisdom of crowds and how they aren't creative.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review of "Outliers"

Malcom Gladwell's latest, "Outliers", is subtitled "The Story of Success". It is a good read with great stories, good facts and interesting theories. Given that in hardback it is only 285 pages it is definitely worth the time even though he failed in his mission to transform the way I view success. Though, I can't fault him for having a lofty goal. The book is story driven and the introductory story, "The Roseto Mystery", is fascinating. Roseto, PA was founded by immigrants from Italy and became the focus of a study by Stewart Wolf due to their abnormally low rates of heart disease. Their environment, nutrition, heritage were all ruled out. It was caused because they were a close nit community.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one, opportunity, starts with a chapter titled "The Matthew Effect" with a subtitle from Matthew 25:29. He goes into a discussion of Canadian junior hockey and how the two best teams in the best league are predominately born in the first third of the year. The cut off for each league is Jan 1, thus the kids that are just about to turn 10 are in the same league as kids who just turned 9. The biggest and fastest are selected to play more often thus they get better. It's not just sports. Kelly Bedard & Elizabeth Dhuey found a advantage of 4-12 points on the TIMMSS scores for fourth graders who were older.

This is followed by "The 10,000-hour rule". The rule is that about how long it takes to master a skill. Lots of stories, including Bill Joy & Bill Gates, but the one that stuck with me was the a study done by K. Anders Ericsson on music students at Berlin's elite Academy of Music. They divided the violin students into three groups based on ability. The star group had all put in at least 10,000 hours of practice while no one in the other two groups had. The good group was around 8,000 and the worst group was at 4,000. Is is talent or hard work? The second observation was around the richest people ever (BTW #1 was JD Rockefeller at 318 billion in current dollars! Gates is only #37 with only 58b :-). 14 of the top 65 were born in America between 1831-1840. Just old enough to be able to take advantage of the oil & railroad boom, but not old enough to dismiss it as a fad. They were in the right place at the right time with their 10,000 hours.

The next two chapters two parts titled "The Trouble with Geniuses". Some interesting stories (most notably Christopher Langan), but the one that grabbed me was about Lewis Terman and his obsession with IQ scores among children. He documented the best of the best and found that his life work was basically an error as his "termites" didn't all become the leaders of their generation. They basically fell into three groups much like the violinists. The next chapter was titled "The Three Lessons of Joe Flom". The three lessons were "The importance of being Jewish, demographic luck & the garment industry and meaningful work". The chapter was interesting and showed that success isn't predictable. The best law firms of the time passed on Joe Flom, but being from a hard working family and willing to take any work laid the ground work for the opportunity of the 1970 corporate takeovers legal boom.

Part two, legacy, starts off with "Harlan, Kentucky", but I would have called it culture of honor after the book where he got the idea. The chapter can be summed up in the fact that your heritage (going back generations) effects who you are in profound ways. The next chapter, "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes" continues this idea in a discussion of world cultures and their effect on airline cockpits. Cultures with high Power Distance Index (PDI) had higher rates of crashes than one's with low HDI. I'm glad they figured it out before I had to get on a plane with a Brazilian (#1 HDI) crew :-)

The next chapter is "Rice Paddies and Math Tests" which has some fascinating facts. Rice paddy farmers work an average of 3000 hours a year and the case is made that hard work is highly correlated to good scores on math tests. The TIMSS test has a questionnaire with 120 question. Erling Boe found that he could predict TIMSS outcomes based on the number of questions filled out in the questionnaire. The is followed by "Marita's Bargain" which tells the amazing story of the KIPP Academy. The part most interesting to me was the work of Karl Alexander. The city of Baltimore gave CATs at the beginning and end of the school year. They found that the poorest kids did the same (+189) if not better than the richest kids (+184) during the school year (the best performers where the middle class +214.) During the summer though the poorest kids gained 0.26, where as the richest kids gained 52 points!

He ends with a touching personal story, "A Jamaican Story", about his parents and his mother's parents. It is amazing and if you read nothing else it is worth the time of getting the book out of your local library just for these 16 pages. All in all a good book and one that makes you challenge assumptions we all make from time to time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Very long and detailed. If you want to be informed please read.

Tesla now worth half GM's value

How far the mighty have fallen.

Jumping The 20 Fence

Good read. Some good stories with a point to boot. " “winning” I mean the client and their clients were stoked, and it literally made people of our User Acceptance participants (an actual rep) started to cry. "

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

A picture is worth a more than a thousand words in this case.
The Hollow American Economy
His draft paper is a good read. While I'm not sure manufacturing is the only answer the paper has these gems:
  • "While Bernie Madoff will rightfully go to jail for his crimes, it can be argued that our entire economy has become a grand pyramid scheme – borrowing money we don’t have to buy real estate at ridiculous prices, to make money by selling it to someone else at an even greater price, and on and on until we inevitably run out of buyers and reality sets in – we have way more houses than people who really have the money to live in them and, like all pyramid schemes, the whole thing collapses. Only this has been a government sanctioned pyramid scheme – government urged for that matter – and the perpetrators are not going to jail – they are being made whole with even more borrowed money."
  • "Very important questions must be asked and answered: If manufacturing cannot compete with American wage rates, how is it that Toyota and Honda do so well? Can legacy costs for old union agreements really account for the entire gap? Or is there more to it than that? What is the reason for the disparity between publicly and privately held companies – why do the privately held companies do so much better, and why are they less apt to outsource? "
Hopefully this economist knows what he is talking about :-)
Shocking Survey Results about Performance Appraisal
I agree with this completely. I wonder when organizations get this simple fact.
The perils of not logging out
A 3 yr old buys a $15K digger on an auction website!

Will is particularly diatribic in this one. California is typically the leading indicator for political reform. I see higher debt and taxes for all.
Some good points. "Scrum like all early (first generation) Agile methods really do not change the project management paradigm very much." Kanban might be the next step in the evolution of software development. The key is to think of it as a step that is built upon/using good ideas of today (e.g. TDD).
Small download and simple usage for those of us who live by copy and paste.

A good description of the the "dynamic" keyword in C# 4 also some references to other dynamic languages as well as a high level review of the new DLR.
Clean Code and Battle Scarred Architecture
Most interesting to me is his formula "comp(f)2 X (1 – cov(f)/100)3. + comp(f) Where comp(f) = the cyclomatic complexity of the function f. and cov(f) = the unit test coverage of function f." He aims for .1%. I wonder why such a complicated function is necessary, although I like the idea of a simple metric to keep a system from having a hidden ogre.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Measuring Perfomance on SCRUM & Re: Measuring Perfomance on SCRUM

Age old bad question and a rather decent follow up. Responses worth reading 38623 & 38638
I didn't learn much, but I thought this post was well put together.

Metrics, Schmetrics & Metrics, Schmetrics - II

Good posts on metrics the good and the bad. Part II provides a good example of a project dashboard. I have been doing something similar for a few years and highly recommend it.

Has a good quote The Birth of Lean, a book I think I might like.

Australian doctor uses household drill to save boy

There is nothing more fascinating than reality.

A good synopsis of C# 4.0 with examples. He covers Interop & COM changes in detail with CLR and DLR and BCL, oh my!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

The Motley Fool at its best! "Lie No. 1 -- Consumer spending will solve our problems... Lie No. 2 -- Housing will bounce back... Lie No. 3 -- (Insert name here) is too big to fail."


Some interesting advice. My favorite is "If you get to thirty and you still think persuasion is about making a logical argument, you have already lost"

Good articles on the potential future of news.

Fascinating all of the things you can control on their cloud. This cloud idea has some legs.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Must read book: Brain rules

When there's disagreement on feedback data
Some decent sounding advice on giving negative feedback.
I'm not a big into Quality Attributes, but I have found them useful in certain situations. The post has a nice Excel spreadsheet that would be useful if I need them again.

97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know: Book Review

Looks like a good book as it parrots many ideas I have. "Use before Reuse" was a term I used back in 1996.

Latest by Codinghorror is a good story and a lesson in "Understand All Parameters to Library Functions".


The Death of Richard Dawkins

A short story by Steve Yegge. It is humorous, a little confusing and makes me think, maybe I should just call it "Classic Yegge". I'm not sure how this story fits into his series "A programmer's view of the Universe" (part 1part 2part 3) I might find out in his next installment, but I might not.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Obama picks a Republican Governor to be ambassador to China. I'm impressed.

The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes 

An exploration of group sizes. The graph at the end is fascinating if it is satisfaction is highest at 7 and then again around 50, with a dip in between.

Greed's Saving Graces 
Will on efficient markets versus regulation. The article is best summed up in this quote "Greed is worse than a moral defect; it is a cause of foolish pricing. That is why markets know it when they see it. And when markets are allowed to operate, greed generates its own punishment." The key is information flow.

Google patent on floating data centers

Instead of SkyNet it will be OceanNet that is the ruin of civilization :-)

A simple overview of a Kanban process. Has a lot in common with other process improvement techniques, but the focus is on pull rather than push. 

The LoC Misintegration

Some interesting points about the nature of programming languages. Introduces the term
"referential transparency" and dismisses Java as impractical. All in 10 paragraphs!

Review of "The Element"

I recently finished "The Element" subtitled "How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything" by Ken Robinson. I think it is worth the read as it is only 260 pages and has some good ideas and some great stories. It starts off with the title of the book and entices you with stories and a general criticism of public education as done today. He then goes into a decent discussion of intelligence with extra attention debunking IQ tests.

Creativity is the next topic. I loved the relative pictures of the planets. Some great stories including one on my favorite physicist, Richard Feynman. He ends with a great quote from
William James "...if you change your mind, you can change your life." Next topic is the zone which wasn't new for me, but his history of Myers-Briggs was. He claims they were unqualified to make such a test and research shows it to be unpredictable for judging anyone. He recommends the HDBI.

Finding your tribe is next. The stories were good, but the material was lacking. I think the Internet and it's various ways of connecting with people would have fit nicely here. Maybe I should read "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us" by Seth Godin. Next was what could be stopping you is your fear of other's opinions. Again, nothing new but some good stories.

Luck was next and it made up for the last two chapters by shining a light on "The Luck Factor" by Richard Wiseman. Wiseman identified 4 principles that characterized people who call themselves lucky:
  • Maximize chance opportunities
  • Listen to their intuition
  • Expect to be lucky
  • Don't allow events to deter them
People who call themselves unlucky have the opposite. In Wiseman's eyes luck is attitude!

Next he covers the roles of a mentor (recognition, encouragement, facilitating & stretching). He follows that by talking about a fear of age, "is it too late?" Good coverage of how age and health are affected by creativity and doing something you love, shockingly the point of the book. Next is on doing something for love or money. Nothing new there. His last chapter is a condemnation of how we run our public schools and a Utopian, highly impractical approach he recommends. 

While I agree that test driven education is completely wrong, I'm not sure his recommendation is actionable. Maybe I'm wrong, but I haven't met a teacher who thinks that time spent preparing the students for standardized tests is beneficial to the students. Education is tricky because it is so dependent on the one being educated.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

What Ms. Pelosi Knew - It's a good question, but not the only important one in this torture debate
I am not interested in either party's attempt to make the other look bad, but this article isn't about that and it had a good quote at the end " It was a collective failure in which a number of officials and members of Congress and staffers of both parties played a part . . . Precisely because this was a collective failure it is all the more important to comprehend it and learn from it." 
The Invisible Hand Hoax 
I always wondered about this quote from Adam I now the REAL "TRUTH" :-)
I can almost get behind this idea as I hate "pints" that are small, but come on...a LAW?!?
A great example of easy customer service via technology from NetFlix.
Search Options
Google had added some cool search options.
Congratulations, Google staff: $210k in profit per head in 2008
I had no idea Google was making this much and I'm a sucker for graphs!
Not an interesting read, but a neat reference. 


Why I don't use CouchDB

I almost didn't read this as I thought is was going to be a rant. I was pleased to find a well done critique that asks some good questions and provides examples of other products that do it better. I am no DB expert, but I find articles like this one informative.
The Security Implications Of Google Native Client
I did not read this as security implications typically bore me, but it was cool that Google's Native Client can run Quake!
Fairly long story to get to his point, but I liked the story.

Priyesh's Law of Excessive Separation | Elegant Code

Funny and to use it myself :-)

Project-wide controller survey through reflection

Cool .NET 3.5 code using LINQ with reflection...very cool.
Null Is Not Empty

Great post about NULL and C# nullable types. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Comparison Shopping: The real reason CEO compensation got out of hand

Much like pro-athletes CEO's get more because of their peers, but with CEO's the peer selection process is usually skewed. This gem near the end sums it up nicely "We all want to be a little better than average, and for board members who like to think they have an above-average CEO, this may translate into the choice of a relatively favorable pay package and a set of peers to match."

Total Company Involvement

Why Do Computers Suck at Math?

It is always good to review the basics, but I can't help but think we need to get to a place where programmers shouldn't care and let the computer figure it out. While computers are bad at thinking they are excellent at computations.


Tincture of Lawlessness Sets Up No-Software-Needed Web Presentations

Cool service (free with limits). Watch out WebEx!

Anxiety or Boredom Driven Process Improvement?

TeamCity.CodeBetter Project List

An interesting list of projects to check out when one has the time.


Nuts & Bolts: Campfire loves Erlang.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

Is the Stock Market an "Efficient" Market?
Long but very informative of how/why bubbles exist. Some gems "...Federal Reserve should have lanced the housing bubble no later than 2006..." and ended with "Even if the Federal Reserve could not have spotted the housing or credit or stock market bubbles before they burst, it knew or should have known that these booms could be bubbles and that if so they would burst and when they burst they could bring down the economy. This made the expected cost of the booms high, even though that cost could not be quantified...high enough to justify intervention, or, at the very least, the formulation of contingency plans to deal with worst-case scenarios." We don't need more regulation/government but we need action by the organizations we already have.
Let’s Avoid Other New Deal Policy Blunders
Good read on the past, present and future of Government spending in the name of recovery. Some gems:
  • "Based on budget deficits as a share of G.D.P., Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were the most Keynesian presidents with budget deficits exceeding 4 percent of G.D.P. in seven out of their 12 years in office."
  • "The largest Bush deficit was 3.2 percent of G.D.P. in 2008. ...President Obama and the Democratic Congress agreed on a fiscal stimulus package of nearly $800 billion in mid-February. This appears to be a true Keynesian push. ...budget deficit of nearly 10 percent of G.D.P. for 2009."
A good post with this gem at the top " of our Kaizen experts asked me, “I’m in favor of a clean fulfillment center, but why are you cleaning? Why don’t you eliminate the source of dirt?” I felt like the Karate Kid."
Good story that I have experienced..this was preaching to my choir!


REST – Good, Bad and Ugly
Best one pager on REST that I have read.
A good story on defect prevention and root cause analysis.
We have a Knol for winner!

The winner"How to Talk to Your Doctor" is good advice.

The guy goes through his design of a new website blow by blow over 4 days. I see some flaws, but I think it is a good design. You can see the final version @

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stuff I Have Found Interesting Today

This consultant dug through the Chrysler bankruptcy papers to see they had "...40 people at the average dealer to sell and take care of 1.5 cars sold per day.  Plus another 3 or 4 people back at Chrysler to handle the paperwork." Toyota sold 1.5 times the number of cars with less than half the number of dealers. "As the lean community knows all too well - DIRECT LABOR IS NOT THE PROBLEM!" Great quote from Will Rodgers to boot "If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising, then they wouldn't have to advertise them."

Ignore sunk costs

Great point that is useful for everyday life.

I now want an android phone...too cool!

"He operates at a strategic level, not the day-to-day work you’re involved in. Translation: He sits in his office, reading the Wall Street Journal and playing Sudoku, and will get the credit for anything you achieve."

One of the toughest job-interview questions ever 
Good story on the validity of problem questions. BTW I had never heard of the cuckoo hashing algorithm either!

John Heintz on the Lean & Kanban 2009 Conference 
Kanban is the new BUZZ WORD. I haven't seen anything worth reading until this one line: Kanban is "...Limit the number of things in work to a fixed number." I'm not sure that a fixed number is all that important, but I'm not omniscient.
Another good use of version control.

Interesting tool and competition is always a good thing.