Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bought a Netbook

Last night I did some comparison shopping for a new netbook. I posted the details in this blog along with some affiliate links. I figured, since I'm going to buy a netbook anyway, I might as well share the experience.

A Software Developer's Rationale for Affiliating


I'm trying the Amazon Affiliates program for this experience. There's a benefit to both of us. If I'm doing some comparison shopping, we will gain maximum advantage through re-use if you (dear reader) were in the market for a netbook. And in return, you'd be helping me out by buying your netbook through one of my affiliate links. It costs the same for you, and I get a little commish for having posted my experience here.

What I really want is to share some good things with my readers. For example, I applied to be an affiliate for PluralSight. I love their selection of training videos, and I hope that happens because I believe in what they have to offer! But, I digress.

And the Winner Is...


Getting back to the topic. I went with the ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS04 11.6" (that's the affiliate link in case you'd like to follow suit and get a great little netbook for yourself or a loved one). It seemed like the best deal on the market. With Prime Day coming very soon, you might want to keep an eye out for a good deal on it. It really came down to having the most/best reviews in the price and spec range.

Basic Specs

Here are the primary technical specs for this model.
  1. 4 GB RAM - I'd like more, but I don't know that I would need more.
  2. 11.6-inch anti-glare LED-Lit HD monitor - I'll be using this on the train a lot and sometimes that sun shines right into the windows. Anti-glare is a huge plus!
  3. 32 GB internal storage - I wanted the extra storage, wouldn't hurt whereas running out of space would!
  4. Chrome OS - I'm giving it a try. I use a lot of their apps and services, so why not. If I don't like it at all, I'm going to see about installing a Linux distro on it. Maybe Ubuntu. Ubuntu on a netbook...yeah!
  5. 2.65 pounds - this is the main thing. I needed something lightweight because I'll be slinging it on my back. I have a lot in my pack, and the laptop is just too much to lug around.
  6. Dual processor - A lot of the less expensive netbooks have a single core processor. That means only executing one thread at a time. I prefer to have my processor multi-task so that I can keep working while background processes run. I know it depends on the app and processor architecture, but 2 cores are usually better than 1.
So those are the basic specs. And that's part of why I went with this model.

Primary Deciding Factor

It really came down to the reviews. This one had the specs I liked, and it had the most reviews and a comparable rating to other netbooks in its class. To me, this says that enough people bought it and liked it enough to give a favorable rating. Statistically, a set of over a thousand reviews is more significant than a set of under one hundred. So I went with the popular vote.

I'll post some pics when I open it and do a quick review once I get a feel for Chrome OS. Thanks for hanging with me tonight! Have a happy Prime Day!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Buying a Chromebook

Ok, so I have a Lenovo Notebook that I use for everything right now. It's decent enough to do what I do. I'm using it right now, in fact. I can use the internet. It works for programming. Sure, it isn't a top-of-the-line model, but it's getting the job done!



Except, when I take it with me on my daily bike or train ride and it's hanging out in my backpack adding 5 or 6 pounds to the load. Then it sucks! I need something lighter. I'm considering a Chromebook but I don't know which one. Maybe it doesn't matter since they're priced so low that it's not like it would be a total loss if it wasn't that great. But then again I don't want to be so annoyed that I can't be productive. I plan to blog a lot on it and need it to be portable.

Here are a few that I have in mind (I really am buying a netbook, but I want to mention that all the links are affiliate links, so if you would like to purchase any of them I get the benefit of a commision at no cost to you...and a big thank you if you do!):

ASUS

The ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6" has 4GB RAM, 11.6-inch monitor, and only weighs 2.2 lbs! I like the lightweight.

But then again, it's only got a 16 GB hard drive and the next level up has a 32 GB. The ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS04 11.6" is the same but with the bigger hard drive. Apparently, 16 GB extra of hard drive adds 0.4 lbs.

The only thing is they come in dark blue. I'm not too concerned with color so long as it's not a standout color, but I would prefer something dark-grey or black.

Samsung

I could go with a Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K03US. It has a 4-GB RAM and a 32-GB Hard Drive. And, oh look! 2.54 lbs! And what else? A Dual-Core Intel. Hmm...Samsung, should I give you a shot or keep looking? There's only one left, but I am a sucker for familiar brands. I haven't had a Samsung laptop. I know other folks have had some problems with other types of Samsung products. 4 stars for this though. Let's see what else:

Acer

This Acer Chromebook 11 is looking mighty nice in Clamshell White. Not really my taste. I would get one for my daughter though. Ok, so it does come in black too.

HP

I do have experience with HP products - mixed but generally good on the hardware side. So there's the newest HP 11.6” HD IPS Touchscreen Chromebook. Touchscreen, eh? I never really worked with a touchscreen before. I might give it a shot! It's pretty lightweight at 2.5 lbs. Says the battery will last 12 hours on average! Most of the others were around 9, so that seems pretty good! 2 processor cores - another plus. The 16 GB hard drive is a bit of a drawback.

Decisions, Decisions...

In the end, I think I'll go with the masses. That second ASUS with the 32 GB has the most reviews and a four-star rating at the moment. Seems like it would be the best all-around. It's just a little more pricey than some of the others, but you get what you pay for right?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Introducing: "SWARMing"


Hello all! I popped into Dan North's blog to see what he's been writing about lately. Dan North introduced BDD (Behavior-Driven Development) to the world which bridged a huge gap between the Customer and the Team.




His latest post "In Praise Of SWARMing" grabbed my attention. I thought it was going to be about "swarming" a problem as in Kanban. But it's actually a different-ish approach to adopting Agile at Scale. SWARMing is Scaling Without A Religious Methodology.






His ideas really hit home with some great points! There are some harsh criticisms of competing methodologies. Those are somewhat tasteful. And I have to warn you, its a bit wordy. At over 4200 words, it's quite a bit more than your average "browsing the internet" post.


Here are some things that really jumped out at me.

The Good Parts



I particularly like the contrast between "moving the work to the people" and "moving the people to the work." This translates to reorganizing. The term "self-organizing teams" comes to mind.


I do prefer the flat structure of "every part of the org is geared in delivering value" vs the slanted structure of "sales makes the money and everyone else spends it." It allows businesses to utilize all their assets in focus of value delivery.




I read once that value is expressed as the benefit for the cost. A "good value" doesn't necessarily mean inexpensive. It means you actually got a return on your investment, monetary or otherwise. I wonder if looking at your organization from a "good value" perspective would make a positive difference.


Speaking if value: There are a couple terms worth following up on. OKRs are a relatively new way to set and measure goals. I learned about Risk-Adjusted Return on Investment, which is your profit plus or minus risk.


The Bad Parts

The post is long. It has quite a few run-on sentences. The upshot is that it's not an easy read. My concerns are that you (dear reader) won't see through to the beneficial parts. Please press on, it's worth it!


You've also got to see past the sales-y aspects. He's pretty tough on competing methods of implementing Agile at scale. He's right with those points, but it drags the article and makes for a slightly bitter taste. Sorry.


I get it, he's selling consulting services and differentiating from his competitors. But that wouldn't really be necessary if the most valuable points were laid out without the cruft. Maybe do those parts in a future post dedicated to a comparison.


The last "bad part" is the focus on hard numbers. These days, organizational psychology says to keep your focus on doing good for your customers. But that depends on perspective I suppose. Those with the pocketbook will care about the revenue aspect, especially when they're being told to rethink how they allocate funds!

The Rest




Somewhere past halfway, Dan iterates over eight points about how to be SWARMing. Some of those go into depth with definitions of types of leaders: servant-leader and leader-leader. This section has some practical advice for hiring services to help with your transformation process. The successful transformation will be a long and investment-intensive road, so buckle up!

Conclusion

I sent Dan an email asking if he had a more concise description of SWARMing. One that, hopefully, lays it out without the heavy padding. Those things are valuable to support the idea, no doubt! But I can't exactly expect busy execs to read such a lengthy argument all at once. Especially when it's a new idea which asks them to rethink their organization from top-to-bottom, front-to-back, and side-to-side.


All in all, I'd say it's worth taking the time to read his post. With the right packaging SWARMing could be a catalyst for much needed change. I hope it gets that with a bow on top.





Thursday, July 5, 2018

Book Review: To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink

I've never posted a book review on this blog, so here goes!

I've been inspired in the past by Daniel Pink when I read his bestselling book Drive, I subscribe to his newsletter, I've written him a couple emails (to which he responded). You might call me a fan. Maybe I am. I did, after all, read another of his books - To Sell Is Human.

Here are some things you might like about it (I know I did)...

What's It About?


In this book, Daniel Pink points out that we all sell. He makes a distinction between sales and non-sales selling. Sales selling is the traditional kind that makes you think of a used-car salesman from the 70's. Non-sales selling is the kind we all do - all the time!

Daniel takes you on a sales call with Norman Hall, the last remaining Fuller Brush Man. Norman is a "door-to-door" salesman. He is resilient, friendly, and has specific characteristics that make him a perfect seller. We should emulate Norman!

We go on other journeys to find out more about non-sales selling. Daniel takes us along to a training session with VPs, CEOs, and other business folks who are sharpening their selling saws. This book is packed with practical advice and results of studies to substantiate his claims.

So, Why Does Traditional Sales Suck?

The book shows us how we generally think of traditional selling in a negative light. Then it opens our eyes as to why. Spoiler Alert! The sales we think of - used car sales from years ago - is an unbalanced transaction. The sellers have all the power. That power was so often abused that the decent folk got pushed out. Why did they have all the power and what changed?

I'd recommend that you read the book and find out for yourself. But, since there are so many goodies in To Sell Is Human, I don't feel sorry about giving away this bit. The equation changes when buyers are informed. For example, we can find out everything we need to know and more about a used car before we buy. And we're not as limited in our options. We have the internet. The "information superhighway" for those of you old enough to remember the TV commercials.

Traditional sales used to suck, but it doesn't anymore. It's been transformed into more of a partnership. The role is more about discovering problems and applying solutions than it is about tricking uninformed consumers. Sure, those types of salespeople are still around feeding off the bottom. But your real sales jobs are much more elevated. Think about this...who is running the company you work for? Do they know how to sell?

How Do I Sell?

And then there's non-sales selling. You already do this. Whether you sell the dentist to your kids, a vacation to your spouse, or a new procedure to your boss you're selling! Daniel gives us plenty of practical advice we can all use in everyday life to make the sell.

He presents the new ABCs of selling (Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity) in an entertaining and digestible way. There's a lot to learn for those of you who have a hard time selling your ideas. There's some for those of you who think you have it all figured out too!

Besides those ABCs of how to be, he shows you what to do. Pitch, Improvise and Serve.

But, I'm an Introvert! I can't Sell...

This may come as a shocker, but extroverts aren't much better at selling than introverts! It turns out that ambiverts, those who are in the middle of the spectrum between intro- and extro-, are the best sellers. And chances are, you're more in the middle than you care to admit!

"vertedness" isn't binary any more than "brainedness" is right or left. Both are a spectrum, and most people are somewhere in the middle. Find your middle ground and become better at selling! Too much extro- leads to pushiness and not listening. Too much intro- leaves you under-assertive and too quick to walk away. Balance is better, despite what folklore says.

What Can I Take With Me?

This book is a perspective changer. It has shocking revelations! It has practical advice! It's fun to read! To use one of the techniques in the book: To Sell Is Human is a great read, you'll be pleased indeed!

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Big Five + Johari Window: Creating the Holy Grail of Personality Tests

As for personality tests, there are many options to choose from but which will guide us to the truth about ourselves? Meyers-Briggs? What kind of Ice-Cream are you?

Grouping and Sorting


We like to group and sort. At a young age, we learn this skill. But it doesn't mean that the world fits the models we create so nicely! And that's just it—we create models as substitutes when reality is beyond our comprehension.


Models help us communicate more easily with others. Imagine explaining a bird, for example, by iterating the entire set of species within the bird family. We didn't really get the classification of planets right until we found such an outlier that we had to redefine what it means to be a planet!

Binary Choices

We seen to like binary choices - 'A' or 'B'. A-B testing is the common paradigm for proofing a new feature design in application development. We default to two political parties in the US almost to a fault! I've noticed that my children respond more readily with binary choices. It's just easier to reason about!


The trouble is, binary choices are mis-leading. If you have two compasses, and they're slightly different, which do you follow? Either you need a third compass to prove out the faulty one, or you need to just pick one and go with God!


Is it accurate? When you move beyond the fervor of political campaigning, can you thoughtfully agree with everything on one platform vs another? Am I an INTP or an ENTJ? I've come out with both! Sometimes I align with E and sometimes I. Sometimes I'm Perceiving other times Judging. Seems logical that I straddle the line on those two factors.


Finally, with Autism they've done away with binaries. It isn't as if one is either autistic or not autistic. It really that we're all autistic to varying degrees. It's just another way of thinking 😔.

Beyond Binary Lies a Continuum

As it is with many things, our personalities lie on a continuum. If we take something like the Big Five, and rate each of the five traits on a continuum we will have a closer model of reality.
There is, however, a specific problem I want to address in how we collect the data. Self-selected ratings are prone to bias. Therefore, those surveys you take for yourself are highly prone to error. They may tell you more about how you perceive yourself or how you'd like to perceive yourself than how you actually are. And what good does that do you? After all you know yourself anyways, right??

Crowdsourcing

Besides the self-affirming nature of those questionnaires, the sample size is way too small—it's one! Thankfully we have social networks of friends who are generally willing to participate in social games. If only we can make it enough of a joy to participate in the game, that they'll readily participate. 50-100 question surveys aren't very rewarding! Enter Johari.

Making it a Game

The Johari Window model is kind of like a game. The subject and his/her friends, relatives, and colleagues choose adjectives that best describe the subject. The intersection of those choices fall into four quadrants: Arena, Façade, Blind Spot, Unknown. They're classified by whether or not the adjectives are chosen by the self and others.

The adjectives in a Johari Window are generally good traits such as "cooperative", "intelligent", and "friendly". There's an inverse called the Nohari Window which uses negative traits like "Stubborn", "Quarrelsome", and "Dense".

Combined, the Johari and Nohari Windows can give you a pretty decent view of how you perceive yourself compared to how others perceive you. The tricky part is to get enough participation to get a well-rounded view.

If you're interested in doing your own Johari Window, this one at Kevan.org is pretty darn straightforward. There are some other fun things at Kevan.org including this personality test.

 #   |.
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If I were a NetHack monster, I would be a unicorn. Most people are only after one thing - I try to maintain a quiet and respectful distance until I feel sure that I can trust someone.
Which NetHack Monster Are You?

How about that...I'm a Unicorn after all! And here I was all along thinking I was a Bridge Troll.

And... if you haven't lolled off into Kevan-land by now, I'll be getting to the point soon.

Participation

Getting participation for something unfamiliar or that's going too much out of one's way is challenging. As previously mentioned, social media can help with this. It has familiarity, where an unfamiliar and poorly designed website can make others standoffish. You've got to expend some social capital on getting folks to participate.

That's not good. We want to build social capital with these exercises, rather than spend it!

Combining FTW

I'm thinking of combining concepts from the Big Five (or six, or whatever) with concepts from the Johari/Nohari Window.

This will work like this:

  • Use traits from the Big Five or HEXACO or some other number of traits
  • Present adjectives that fit with each trait (positively and negatively correlated)
  • The subject participates and asks for participation from acquaintances
  • From each trait group, participants choose 3 adjectives to describe the subject
  • There are two questions about the participant's relationship with the subject
    1. What type of relationship (choose all that apply): business, friend, family, acquaintance
    2. Scale of 1-10, how well do you know the subject
  • The subject answers the same 2 questions about each participant.

Additional Setup Details

Adjectives in each trait group vary in scale. For example, for the trait "Openness" some adjectives might be as follows:
  • accepting
  • progressive
  • open-minded
  • close-minded
  • conservative
  • curious
  • dull
  • intolerant
  • tolerant
Another option is to use emoji or some other visual indicator which is more culturally neutral to represent the adjectives.

Scoring

The strength and number of times each adjective is chosen are combined to give the rating scale for each trait. For example, if the traits given for Openness were selected as follows:


adjectivestrengthweight
close-minded-55
dull-72.5
intolerant-42
conservative-17

The subject would be considered low in Openness (-57.5).

Besides the ratings scale, the quadrants of the Johari Window can be brought into the model to provide more useful information to the subject. The concept of "known to self" and "known to others" is powerful in realizing how well we know ourselves and how we present ourselves to others.

In our example of Openness, we can also see that the subject did not pick any adjectives which are positive indicators of Openness. Therefore, the subject is not blind to this trait. This is the Arena quadrant of the Johari Window.

Anonymity and Sample Size

Two must haves in order for this to achieve useful accuracy are anonymity of the participants and large enough sample size of participants. They support each other. Large sample size secures anonymity. Anonymity allows more people to participate without fear. Additionally anonymity allows one to be more candid with their responses.

Diversity

A diverse sample is also important to get a more holistic view. The subject will be known in different ways by different people. This is the nature of relationships.

Conclusion

By combining concepts from the Big Five and the Johari Window, a better personality test can be created. What's more, is that this type of test will find more willing participants because of the fun nature of choosing a few adjectives rather than using something like a Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, etc.). This test is not strictly self-reporting, therefore not as subject to bias.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

You Need to Know: Shadow IT

Troy Hunt just posted a new free Pluralsight video about "Shadow IT." That term sounds nefarious, but it's actually quite innocent. It's someone creates or uses software or a resource that hasn't been documented in the IT inventory and approved for use inside the organization. Because it hasn't been through the on-boarding process for IT resources, it also hasn't passed security checks.

Some examples include: A Google Drive or a One Drive to store or share files. A share drive with open access. Cloud services on Azure, AWS, Google Could, IBM Bluemix, etc.

What Are the Issues?

It's not that using these resources are an issue in and of itself; it's that they present potential security and management issues.

Security

Because the security of "Shadow IT Resources" are unknown to the organization, they could open security holes. Those security holes can be either external (exposing information outside the organization) or internal (exposing information to unintended people inside). It may not always be a problem per-se, but either scenario could really cause problems for the organization. Those problems can result in loss of business, legal proceedings, and even cause the business to fail.

Web app services on Cloud platforms are designed to be open to the world be default. They can be secured by deploying them inside a VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) which is accessible from within the network only. This same concept applies to many other Cloud services.

Besides Cloud services, there are countless tools, games, and application that are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Security problems unknown, these could contain malicious code which is designed to leak information

Cost

Besides the costs of recovering from an information leak, another potential cost concern is an unplanned expenditure. Particularly with cloud services since its relatively easy to create a new resource on a cloud platform. Cloud services are pay as you go so it would be a slow-burn rather than a fast explosion that leaked information would present.

This kind of issue is easier to resolve since all activities are logged and can therefore be monitored easily. Services like Alert Logic and Stackify give you insight into activities on the Cloud.

Scaling is another source of cost. Cloud resources are made to scale -  meaning new servers or service handlers are created to handle increased traffic. Configure scaling appropriately and set limits to ensure that a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack doesn't end up costing you a fortune overnight. For example: the cost difference between a single small AWS server and many XXXL servers is in orders of magnitude of 100x the cost.

Goldilocks

Despite the aforementioned concerns, it's not worthwhile to be too restrictive when it comes to using the tools available. The trick is to find a path that's just right.

The Tale of Goldilocks According to Me

In the classic Goldilocks fable, Goldilocks happens upon a cottage in the woods. The cottage is the residence of three bears (papa, mama, baby). She "innocently" does a B&E (Breaking and Entering). Besides the unauthorized entry into the abode, she eats their food; sampling the porridge of each until she finds the one that's not too hot and not too cold, but just right! After that she samples the chairs. Baby's chair is just the right size, but she breaks it. Then she proceeds upstairs to the bedroom and tries all the beds: papa's is too hard, mama's is too soft, but baby's is just right. She falls asleep only to be awakened by the angry bear family returned from their morning walk ready to maul her. She barely escapes with her life after her little crime spree.

Lock-Down?

Besides the rampant crime in the story, Goldilocks has to try what's available until she finds what's right for her. Follow this practice, starting with most restrictive. However, do be open about the strategy so that those in the organization aren't taken aback by the sudden lock-down! Some of what exists in Shadow IT-land may be business critical! In that case a total lock-down would cause serious business disruption. Consider that they do lock-downs in prison when a fight breaks out...

Stay Calm and Keep Innovating

Another extremely important factor in applying the right level and doing so with care to respect the autonomy of individuals is the innovation factor. Theodore Henderson of the Forbes Coaches Council notes that "Innovation Is Crucial To Your Organization's Long-Term Success." He cites many success stories of innovative products that have lead to serious growth of organizations. One such example is GMail, which is the fruit of Paul Buchheit's 20% time according to Time.com (free time given for the purpose of innovation).

Disallowing the use of applications and services can seriously stifle innovation. It can do so in two ways:

1. Denying access to tools that can make people more productive.
2. Making employees feel less autonomous.

Autonomy is important to innovation which stems from motivation. Going into total lock-down mode can make people like they're under total external control which stifles their innovations and productivity. As a business model, that isn't going to go well unless you're business is 20th century line assembly.

Concluding

While it may be natural to knee-jerk and enter into total lock-down, it's important to find the right level of control. The right level of control means keeping Shadow IT to a minimum and plugging security holes while keeping all employees on the same side as Info Sec and Governance.

Read Troy Hunt's post here: https://www.tyroyhunt.com/new-pluralsight-course-the-role-of-shadow-it-and-how-to-bring-it-out-of-the-darkness/

Friday, March 9, 2018

Do The Gemba Walk

As a developer or analyst, you should sit in your users' seats so that you fully understand how to meet their needs. Interviewing is merely an introduction to those needs. In Kanban, they do a Gemba walk, which means going to where the work is done. We call it management by walking around. This is fine for management, but for actually creating something that helps the users or the business, one needs to actually do the work to comprehend the actual problems in order to solve them in the best way
While doing so, keep in mind the user's technical skill and framework. You may find that your applications have more than one persona using the application. A persona is different from a role. You can have many personas in each role. Let's say a Legal Assistant is a role. Those users may or may not be tech savvy. Consider that in your UX design!