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Simplify Your Thoughts For Uninterrupted Flow April 24, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Agile, Coaching, New Techniques, Open Source, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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Sensei recently gave up FogBugz. This was not because of FogBuz, as it is a great product. But Sensei realized that it was not meeting his needs. It was too much. When on the hunt, you can’t be slowed down, and sometimes you have to jettison the extra weight. To be fair, the context here is a prototyping project, where errors / foibles / new features need to be captured. FogBugz is great a teams, but it does require, well, too many clicks. You should always ask yourself this question: which James Bond do I want to be?

doctor-no1_lg bond_large_verge_medium_landscape

 

 

Which Bond gets the babe? Pretty easy choice. The unfettered thinker makes them swoon. The guy with the helmet …not so much.

Keeping It Real By Keeping It Simple

Yep – Sensei sounds like a whiny Apple-simplify-your-life-and-wear-a-black-turtle-neck Zen iPad fan boy. Well, that’s not right either. There’s just the right tools for the the right job. So when in the fight with the development environment, brain firing on all cylinders, Seseni uses Workflowy. You can quickly categorize your lists / sentences / thoughts as you go. Just typing, no modal dialog boxes, no creating an item, waiting for it to save, clicking, scrolling, more dialog boxes.

Before you attack, Sensei is not saying this will work for teams, for bug resolution, and other endeavors that FogBugz does very well. But it’s all about eliminating the tactics that get in the way of you achieving your goals. This is critical. And when prototyping you need as much room in your head as possible so you solve the bugs, but not spend more time tracking the bugs. Below is a sample. Issues and features, pretty easy. Click it to see the details.

Workflowy

So What? Well, How About Taking It a Step Further

Sensei hopes that the enterprising readers out there can take this idea and run with it: Why not create system that parses the format shown above? When you edit, each line gets a Guid. Then, start at the top level. Each item at that level is story or a deliverable, maybe broken down by screen or function. A child of each story will have an Issues or Features item, and the child items of Issues naturally belongs to Issues. All else would be ignored when converting to a database record, yet retained in your notes.

bond_01_slide-9f8039ebe14dba26b56314bd850026a107423d9c-s6-c10 - CopyThis would be your starting pointing. Because each of these items has an identifier, later you could parse them into a database format, assign people, etc. The point is that the starting point is easier, is more productive because you just type. That way your work gets done, and you feel more like him.

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The Speed of Thought, Part Duh!!! (Or Driving Stick Shift with Javascript) April 18, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Humor, jQuery, KnockoutJS, Mythology, Problem Solving, Scripting.
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scream_baron_blood_01Sensei is a libertarian – so you can interpret that to mean few rules, respect others freedom, government and busy bodies “leave me the hell alone”, stay-outta-my-way-attitude-person is his motto.  That means the only way to drive is with the stick.  Automatic is for the soccer moms.  Javascript is like driving manual transmission – sometimes you grind the gears.

You’re hero just spent a half hour pouring over some Knockout.js code, wondering why his observableArray went MIA on each push.  Can you see why?

var Question = function (id, question, sortOrder) {
this.Id = id;
this.Question = ko.observable(question);
this.SortOrder = ko.observable(sortOrder);
};

It’s not Javascript’s fault, it’s Sensei’s fault. Now you can see why he writes in the third person, ’cause it’s easier to remove yourself from these type of dumb mistakes when you can treat your persona as separate person!! If you see the issue, leave a comment before I post the resolution.

The Speed of Thought April 17, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Approvaflow, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Mythology, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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faradaypennytwinsOf late, Sensei needs to keep a clear head.  That has meant learning to segment ideas and really, really, really focus on streamlined features.  This is hard.  Not because Sensei has a plethora of great ideas.  That would be a nice problem to have.  Many times in software development you end up this guy:

This is the state where you have things you want to accomplish, yet even when you pair things down to the “essential”, other essential, critical factors must be taken into consideration before you create a mess.  This is life calling, and that string which suspends that giant sword that you noticed hovering over your head is about to snap.  There is a good chance that you need more discipline, better execution tactics, far better honed chops, you name the metaphor.  Sensei has been at this game for over 22 years, and still the speed that thought takes to become reality is way too slow.

With great sarcasm you can remind your self that some of the best work lays ahead, but the reality is that you still need to fight to be fluent, you have to claw your way to a Zen state of mind / no-mind.  So chose, the art of bushido or the art of BS.  Or maybe work smarter and enjoy life.

Before Sensei leaves you, ponder this:  does “being done” mean that you’ve dropped off a product but have to get on the phone in order to make changes, and maybe now that you are struggling why couldn’t you figure out to take time when it was more critical to be fluent with your productivity?

 

A Life Time In a Day April 5, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Problem Solving.
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If you are lucky, you can experience a life through the course of a day. Consider it the antithesis of ground hogs day. Instantaneous history, melancholy,!and certainty all at once. You are here, where do you go?

20130405-174801.jpg

Training the Young and Fluency July 28, 2010

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Mythology, Personal Development.
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Repeat with Sensei, if you will, the Wolf Creedo:

The Wolf Credo:
Respect the elders
Teach the young
Cooperate with the pack
Play when you can
Hunt when you must
Rest in between
Share you affections
Voice your feelings
Leave your mark.*


What have you done to nurture your team?  Are you the resident Elvis, and if the newbies make the cut they’ll graduate from a Mort to be the next King, hand plucked by you from millions and millions of people?  Can I get a little ka-ra-te with that?

What makes you an Elvis, and are you a bloated drunk Elvis at the end, or the bad-ass version 1970 version who can jump start anything?  Elvis in 1970 practiced the Wolf Creedo.  Watch the documentory Elvis the Way It Is 2001, just the first half hour.  This short half hour will show you Elvis, after years of being away from touring, ready to return to touring again in attempts to re-start his career.  The first half hour of the movie focuses on the few weeks of rehearsals before the debut concert.  Elvis had a fluent, incredible means of communicating with his band members and back up singers.  With a glance, a gesture, a wink, a new song would spring up.  Maybe Elvis would say a quick word, hum a note, and suddenly a bass line would kick in, and not more than three beats later, the entire band and Elvis are playing a tune complete with improves.  While playing Little Sister, Elvis nods, and issues “Get Back” and off the group goes playing Get back from the Beatles.  Congruent would be best word to describe the synchronization that each member had.

Elvis nurtured that vibe.  They all keyed off of him, for to the band he was Elvis, not the King.  He lead by being a focal point, but not necessarily an ostentatious leader.  When you watch the practice sessions where Elvis worked on the orchestrations of each song it is clear that he could communicate what he wanted, and worked with his band members to produce the product he envisioned.

But in order to function like this unit, each member has to practice.  You, as pack leader, have to pick the scales, the arpeggios, the rudiments that you want to be second nature so that your team, the young ones and old warriors can produce what you want, fluently.

*Credit:  Del Getz and Associates

Chang-chang-a-ching-changa-langa-langa: Why Your User Community is Fluent in English and You Are Not the King February 6, 2010

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net, ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Problem Solving, software economics.
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Get ready for the sound of one hand clapping, but first, fire off the song as it get’s your head straight.

Some of you want to be Elvis too much.  Sensei’s going to tell you a story so you know what he’s talking about.  You see, users of your apps  are waaaay smarter than you, and spend more time in their fields than you ever hope to do.   You need a little love.  It’s called fluent interaction.  Fluent. Interaction.  Lord have mercy.

Process mapping helps, but in the end that takes you to overly scientific abstractions, and while user stories help some they, too, stray with you as the sole author.  You in the chair, just the important details from the user, but mostly you.  Should you consider yourself not Mort but an Elvis, you may want to ask yourself what Elvis you want to be:

Kick-ass Karate Elvis
Drug Ridden Elvis Wanna Be

Back to the story.  Last episode, in a spate of productivity and a dose of SQL-NoSQL fever, Sensei created a slim document management solution that can be quickly applied to an existing framework with minimal impact to database schema and code base.  Sitting around the conference room table the comment arose from Annie, the project lead from the Sales group:

“Why do I have to save a commission record first before I can attach a document?  That interrupts my flow.  I want to put in everything that I want and save, period.  No dialog box thingy prompting to save first, come back and do something else.  Why can’t we just do it”

Long silence.  The sound of one hand clapping.

One of Sensei’s report-to’s jumped in:  “Because in order to associate the document to the commission you have to save that commission first in the database, then take the id from the record and associate it document.  This allows you to retrieve it later on.”

Annie:  So.  Can’t that just happen behind the scenes?  If it’s two steps the sales gal won’t do it.  She’s got calls to make.

Ssensei drifted out in research land, or as normal people call it, he spaced out for a bit.  NetFlix sprang to mind, iPhone too, where you delete, it does it, but you can bring it back.  Take the confirmation response out of the equation.  Give the user a chance to undo their mess, but don’t get in their way.  It’s fun to pretend to be the King, but what a wake up slap.  The technology was right, but the user was seeing the benefit because “putting the stuff in was too clunky”.  Sensei went and did want Annie wanted.  Annie thinks its great.  Good technology made better by the user, not the King.

Fluent.  Interaction.  Lord have mercy.  You see, Annie’s right and user stories, UML and other brain death would never capture the essense of her perspective, particularly after she used the software.  Yeah, soft deletes are great theory, but you are not thinking like a user.  In order to be a better King, you gotta give the concert they want to hear.  You have to know that the fans have created you, have shaped your persona.  You have to know your fans, almost be them.

Elvis had a come back concert in 1968 but it almost didn’t happen as there was a huge fight with NBC.  The network insisted that the show would be like a Bing Crosby special given that the air date was during the Christmas holiday season.  Elvis wanted an intimate environment where he could perform up close, live with his fans.  He thrived off of close contact with his fans.  Know your audience.  Elvis was right, and it helped re-launch his singing career and revive his legend.  It was one of his best performances.  For the fans.

You need to listen to your users.  Spend the time to hone your craft, but work even harder to make them fans.  What do they need?  Is the concert for them or for you?  Are you learning just to be smart or for their benefit?  Fluent solutions require interaction with the fans.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

More than .Net, jQuery, S3 and Corporate-Speak November 24, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching.
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This new section of ActiveEngine called “Hope” will focus on inspiration, endurance and hope. Those are the foundation of your ActiveEngine. Your ideas can not be forged without them. The corporate droogs can not rob you of these ingredients, although they may try. Look above, not around for your inspiration. Listen to the unwanted but eerily familiar voice that you squelch in your meetings, PowerPoint presentations and esoteric vocabulary.

First round is a gentle reminder of why we need to break free.

The Economics of Protecting the Red Shirts July 29, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net Development, ActiveEngine, Business Processes, Coaching, Design Patterns, Mythology, Personal Development, Problem Solving, software economics.
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Recently I came across this post from a fellow lamenting the lack of interest on the part of .Net developers in architecture solutions such as IoC, Dependency Injection, ORMs, and the like.  800px-KirkSlapsSelfThis stood out in stark contrast to Java developers who this person interviewed, who either were conversant with the technology or were interested enough to pursue informing themselves further.  Some call this the result of Drag -n -Drop design as laid out in a post  by Greg Young, a Microsoft MVP and .Net developer who has specialized in high performance applications.  Greg maintains in his post Java vs. .Net Developers that drag and drop is mis applied and there needs to be an greater effort the isolate the cases where it is mis used.  This practice has arisen, he maintains, from poor training and lack of awareness of other development platforms. (more…)

Faith – The Time is Now Again July 18, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Personal Development.
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wolf-1

Ceiling unlimited
World so wide
Turn and turn again

Feeling unlimited
Still unsatisfied
Changes never end

Winding like an ancient river
The time is now again

Hope is like an ancient river
The time is now again

Neil Peart

 

 

Indulge, play the song, drink in the message and go hug your kids, embrace your family, be thankful for your friends, team members, co-workers.

There is so many new things on the horizon.  For those of us who are lucky enough to practice this technical craft called programming, we can be stymied by all the possiblities, the arguments and skirmishes.  These de-rail you.  Build a fortress against the distractions and ignore your fear of change by embracing the challenge of good arguments.  It’s all a chance for you to improve.

When you arrive at work think of what ways you can engage with others.  Can you practice your techniques in a better way?  Recite the Wolf Creedo and end an argument.  Better yet, start a new one in jest and revel in the ideas.  Bang out some code and fight for the day.  What new things can you add to your team’s arsenal if you inspire someone else?  Are you leading or are you a suit sitting in a chair?  Would someone ask you for help or think that you’re too involved in your own head to deign to talk to them?  Have you built an empire above you or below you?  Is your legacy more important than what you have truly done?

Okay, so you’re code was awful – but did someone else still benefit?  Was your code perfect but never used?  Was your ego hurt yet your company still profitable, keeping families fed?  Did your mistakes help others learn?

What matters is that you engage.  Most times it will be painful.  Developers need serenity to produce but I’m telling you man you’re lucky if you have it.  Life is full of the distractions and once you conquer them, you’ll find greater strength and battle hardened capability.  Work at it. Revel in it, share it.  Be grateful and humble.  Win and go home to the ones you love.  Technology is great, but you as a friend, mother, father, co-worker, neighbor, dude in line at Starbucks or grandma at church are even greater.

 

 

Sensei’s Playlist – Pay the Rent with Rock! July 10, 2009

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Personal Development.
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nigel-tufnel-spinal-tap-253x300

You’ve asked for it – well you didn’t actually, BUT HERE IT IS ANYWAY!! Yeahhh!  Music to pump you up.  Rev your ActiveEngine to these tunes, babes, and get stuff done.  Decisively.  As in total victory.

There’s a new page to the site, Pay the Rent with Rock.  Here is the music that get’s me through.  It’s powered by Grooveshark.  Post a comment with a suggestion if you like.  If it cranks and you’re lucky, I’ll include it.  Describe what scenario your song helps you pull things off, helps you get things done, cranks, whatever.

Here’s a sample:

 

This bloke to the left loves it!!

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