Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Scaling Scrum to a 30 person team

Friday, January 11th, 2019 | Business & Marketing, Tech

What do you do if you need to scale your Scrum team? Ideally, have multiple teams and use one of the many fine methods for scaling with multiple teams. But what if you want to scale a single team? To say, 30 people?

This was the situation I ran into with a recent client. They had an important project and lots of money to throw at it, and they wanted it all to be one team.

You might think “but there is no way that could possibly work”. And you would be correct. It didn’t work that well. But, having no other option, we did find some hacks that made it easier. I’ll present these below.

Kim’s Corners

Doing a stand-up with 30 people is tough. You might think it took ages. But it didn’t. We got done in 15 minutes. There were so many people (in a special meeting room we had to book every day) that people kept it short and sweet. From that point of view, it was a good learning experience.

But it wasn’t useful. There was so much stuff going on that nobody could remember what everyone else has said. Most people did not even try. They just tuned out for most of it.

So, we moved to Kim’s Corners. Each workstream had a corner and we went around one corner at a time. The people in that corner listened to each other intently, while only taking a high-level overview of what the other corners said.

Goldfish Bowl

Having a retro was also challenging because there were so many people wanting to weight in. To solve this, we used the Goldfish Bowl technique.

This involves having five chairs in the middle of the room. Four people sit on them, with one empty chair. Everyone else sits around in a big circle. Only the people in the inner chairs are allowed to talk on the topic at hand, and the discussions are time-boxed to five minutes. The group can vote to allow another five minutes if required.

What if you are sat on the outside? You go into the circle and claim the empty chair. At which point, someone from the inner circle is obliged to get up and go back to the outer circle, freeing up a chair to be the new empty chair. Anyone who has a strong opinion can take a chair, but without too many people talking at once.

Refinement Lucky Dip

30 people were too many people to have sat around looking at a Jira board and pointing stories up. So, we used a lucky dip system in which five people were randomly selected to attend backlog refinement sessions.

Anyone else that particularly wanted to be involved, perhaps because they had the a specific knowledge or interest in a piece of work that was upcoming, was also welcome to attend. But they were not required or expected to attend otherwise.

The City Talking: Tech in Leeds

Saturday, August 6th, 2016 | Tech, Video

Interesting documentary about technology in Leeds. I was already familiar with the history of our tech scene, but it is always nice for a refresher. Many people may be surprised with just how involved we were with the early internet.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Monday, February 8th, 2016 | Books

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers is a 2014 book by Ben Horowitz. Horowitz worked at Netscape before founding Opsware/Loudcloud and later the venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz.

It is mostly a book for people who are running tech companies. This is mostlu obviously from the title. However, it’s appeal outside that setting is quite limited. If you’re not in that situation I would probably say that it is not a particularly useful read.

He covers a wide variety of topics. Primarily these are hard topics with no obvious answers. His conclusion is that some things are really hard and you can only learn to be a CEO by being a CEO. Nevertheless, there is good advice dispensed along the way.

It’s important to draw a line between facts and perceptions for example. It sounds obvious, but is difficult to do in the moment. He also says that if you want to do a successful start-up, you need to be doing things 10 times better than the competition if you want to succeed. It’s a high bar, though perhaps lower than Peter Thiel sets in Zero to One, who makes the case for only entering markets you can have a monopoly on.

What should you do about titles? Mark Andreessen suggests giving them out because they are the cheapest benefit you can provide for employees. In constrast Mark Zuckerberg gives deliberately deflated titles to ensure everyone is re-levelled when they enter Facebook.

He also mention’s the Facebook slogan “move fast and break things”. I have always liked this mindset. I am doing a lot of this at Sky at the moment, usually with a bug fix right behind it, and everyone seems to be happy with my delivery so far. If you want to change the world, you have to be bold.

Horowitz also recommends the film Freaky Friday as a great management resource. When sales and customer support went to war with each other at Opsware, he simply switched the heads of department with each other. They soon understood the other side and began working together to solve problems.


Hack Day

Sunday, February 17th, 2013 | Tech

Recently, Sky did a hack day – the idea was that you could take a day to work on any project you wanted, as long as it was vaguely business related. Then at the end of the day, everyone came together to demo what they had done.

It was a cool idea, and most people really enjoyed it, though I was fairly non-plussed. I couldn’t get my project working, on a number of angles, so didn’t really have much to show by the end of it (I had a demo, but as I couldn’t integrate it into the product, I didn’t think it worth showing). I think if I had actually worked for Sky though, I would have been far more motivated by such an event.

Life at the BBC

Sunday, October 14th, 2012 | Tech, Thoughts

Having heard another talk about the BBC’s technology side on Sunday, I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be a pretty awesome place to work.

While they don’t perhaps have the funds that private sector organisations do, I guess I assumed that being a public institution that would be large and lumbering, risk adverse and slow to react.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For example, they use Scrum. Scrum is an agile methodology used for developing software in the real world (ie, a world where the client is always changing their mind). But they don’t just use it for software – they use it for managing projects right across the business.

Secondly, they’re really up on technology. The speaker on Sunday was telling me about how they had developed an open source project for parsing Gherkin – a lot of software developers might not even know what Gherkin is!

They’ve also previously developed their own JavaScript library, which was a contender alongside jQuery and Prototype (you know, before everyone accepted jQuery was the best, but then everyone realised you could actually just use selectors and not load any library at all).

Not to mention the pioneering work with iPlayer. They launched iPlayer in 2007 – that is five years ago! I can’t really remember a time before iPlayer now, but I don’t think there was many other people doing it at the time. Not to mention that they also have iOS and Android apps available for it too.

In reality, the BBC is no lumbering institution at all – it’s an fast moving, agile, technology-savvy organisation that must be amazing to work at.

Inaugural Leeds Transhumanists meetup

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 | Events, Foundation

Last month we held the first ever Leeds Transhumanists meetup at the Veritas bar in Leeds city centre.

The sickening stench of a climate based religion

Monday, December 7th, 2009 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

I love the environment. I love the planet. I think we need to take action in order to prevent human caused climate change.

But like so many of the causes I support, I hate the people who also support it.

Of course, I don’t actually hate them. I just said that for dramatic effect. I suspect they hate me and I’ll come on to that later. It’s more that they irritate me. Much in the same way as religion they arrogant self righteous actually cause more harm than good and I feel a need to stand up against this.

So, I guess we should start at the beginning.

Global warming, human caused climate change is happening. I should say it’s almost certainly happening to be more accurate, there is always that .1% chance it isn’t, but to the best of our knowledge it is happening, it is having an adverse affect on the planet we’re living on and as we are planning to continue to live her for quite a while we should really do something about it.

But the current climate change movement isn’t helping matters. Indeed they’ve become so dug in to their beliefs that it has almost become a religion. Indeed, it has become a religion – earlier this year a belief in climate change was held up to be in need of the same protection as those afforded to religious beliefs. Of course the fact that these beliefs need such protection is the giveaway.

Much like religious stories, the ideas of the climate change movement are just so crazy and far out there it’s almost “too unbelievable to make up.” Take a minute to consider them. The planet, the whole planet, and the very future of the entire human race is at stake. It’a future rests on you. You can save it – if only you would switch off that light bulb that draws only a 1/200th of the power your kettle draws in that room you are not using.

But it’s gets far, far worse. From this very dubious idea we have an entire world view building up around it which mirrors religion – and in particular Catholicism far closer than anything ever should to the point where you would expect a scandal a decade down the line involving small children and sexual acts which should never have taken place.

It’s the concept of original sin. The idea that you’re born into the bonds of inequity as St Paul put it. That you have some kind of penance to pay to a greater body which you will always be trapped in.

Think about it. You’re a new born baby brought into the world. Into a hospital surrounded by bright lights, of intensive electrical equipment in a city so full of light pollution you can’t even see the stars. You’re already a sinner – using up energy! Do you need that incubuator? Won’t a blanket do?

We live our lives every day using up power, turning lights on, running our computers and it’s all just climate change sin. You can’t escape it – you can’t not use electricity. Or gass. Or paper which is still bad even though it’s a renewal energy source. You’re sinning every minute of every day of your life.

You might think you lead a good life. You’re trying your best – you turn lights off in rooms you’re not using, you turn your TV off rather than putting it on stand by. But honestly, have you recycled everything? Have you scraped the cheese off that pizza box so you could recycle the cardboard? Have you turned the computer off the minute you finished using it? Left a charger plugged even after your phone was fully charged? Have you even just thought about it in your head?

Of course you have. So I have I. Right now I’m running my laptop and my desktop and only using my desktop because I’m going to use my laptop again soon. I also have a light on in my kitchen so I can see where I am going when I go in there to take my dinner out of the oven. And where, where is the global warming jesus character to take this climate sin away from us?

We need to pay penance for our sin, sin which we generate every day by just trying to live our lives because quite frankly the modern world just isn’t stressful enough.

For the love of the god I do not believe in, it’s 2009, the UK is a 1st world country, we shouldn’t be in this situation.

I was at a York Brights meeting last month and there was a discussion going about the real way in which people could control their footprint – by not having another child.

And they’re right. Having a child has a huge environmental impact. Every new human does. It’s probably the number one thing we could do to stem climate change, just stop having kids.

Of course, this is just stupid. I don’t even need to make a reductio ad absurdum argument, because we’re already here. We shouldn’t have to prevent ourselves from having children if we want them, we should be able to leave our computers on all day if we want to, we should be able to light our homes without feeling guilty about it.

What we need of course, is a serious approach to climate change.

Stemming climate change isn’t going to come from stumbling around in the dark or using paper bags even though the productuion methods use almost as much natural resources as just making plastic ones.

It’s going to come from technology and innovation. From human creatively, from pushing back the boundaries of science and engineering, from creating new ways to generate the energy our society needs which don’t damage the world around us. Remember all that stuff? Or are we so dead inside that we have forgotten we are the same people that put man on the moon, split the atom or transformed Planet Earth with civilizations and cultures more advanced than anything we know of?

But it’s blasphemy to say this. It probably offends people’s beliefs for me to express these opinions. Like the religious fundamentalist the idea that I might take a position based on reason and evidence rather than their carefully constructed dogma threatens their fragile world view which can so easily be blown away by the winds of logic.

Well it’s about time people stood up and called them on it. There are ways we can solve these problems – amazing ways. Look at nuclear fusion (not to be confused of course with nuclear technology at the moment which operates on nuclear fission). Here we have the potential to unlock virtually limitless supplies of energy without harming the environment. Why, why are we not literally pouring money into such research?

We should be, we need to be – for our own sake, as well as the planet’s.