Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Virtual Test Case Definitions vs Real World Expectation Declarations

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

In my space, there are a lot of parallels between the virtual space and the physical space. When I see a cup, I see a cup class. Then I think how it’s a unique cup, so it’s an extension of the cup class, perhaps, if we were to think about how cups are manufactured, then it’s a cup factory class, and it’s merely an object of that factory. So on.

Before a test is written, there is a clear understanding of what is expected to happen, and the test is considered incomplete until the test passes the assertion. It’s interesting because in the real world, I believe these are simply listing one’s expectations.

As a leader, I think it’s clear to communicate the things you TRULY care about in regards to your company. Just like in test driven development, you don’t care about the how things are defined, or constructed, but there’s a definite end result you care about. Your job as a leader is to communicate that end result. To illustrate this concept and the underlying reactions to such declarations, for example, lets say you said you care about the following things: Conversion rates, sales, traffic, site speed. The people who are responsible for those things might react as follows:

Conversion rates:

  • Examine existing conversion rates
  • Examine which pages convert the best, gather lessons
  • Monitor conversion rates across the site
  • Monitor overall conversion rate performance

Sales:

  • Examine existing sales
  • Examine which products sell the best, figure out why it sells the best
  • Examine current audience and existing markets
  • Devise a way to expand audience and market
  • Monitor sales and etc

Etc.

My point is, to do an effective job, clear definition of what needs to be done, will allow the people who are responsible for execution to determine how much resources are required, and if there are insufficient resources, which corners to cut. One of my mentors told me, in a project, you can control 2 of 3 things: Resources, Features, or Time, but never all three. Listing your expectation is the equivalent of listing the features. If you don’t want a person dedicated to these tasks, then that’s a resource constraint, and the execution team will respond with how much longer such constraints will delay the expected results. A leader doesn’t need to execute, but a leader needs to plan, communicate, assess, and make judgment calls based on assessments.

Why Segregate Production and Staging

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

I purposely didn’t specify server and environments. It’s EXTREMELY important that the staging environment isn’t sharing the same box as the production box.

A good staging box perfectly mirrors the production box, you’d imagine, that it’d be two birds with one stone, if you simply create a staging environment on the production machine. This is an extremely risky and bad idea.

The staging environment is for testing, all sorts of crazy things can happen, from installing hacked code, to code that are so inefficiently coded that the web server and the connecting database server’s load goes out of control. When this happens, sales will be lost, data won’t transmit, and there will be a definite cost to business.

So when weighing the convenience versus the cost, having a staging environment on a production environment is almost never worth the cost.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Nobody in this world can do EVERYTHING, but there are specialist in everything among us. Just like free-trade theory, if specialist engage in work trade, both parties benefit.

This is why it’s important to understand the things you are reasonably capable of doing, and things you aren’t. Then you can harness other people’s specialties.

This is a critical step. If you are under the impression that you’re the specialist in everything, then you’ll come to the conclusion that all work, in order to be completely efficiency, must be undergone by you. This is simply not scalable.

Sure, perhaps in a single person’s man-hours, it might be more efficient, but it will ultimately result in the project taking much longer to deliver than necessary.

None of us is perfect, but it’s the concept of working together to achieve a greater goal that’s been at the core of civilizations’ success and prosperity. Learn to lean and learn to lead.

Harsh on self, Harsh on others

Friday, December 6th, 2013

I realize that in my world, there is working or broken, completed or incomplete, one or zero. A delivery is not complete until it is delivered and proven working, until then, it’s incomplete.

I don’t like making promises until I’m relatively certain that it can be delivered, and this certainty can only be obtained through testing. Just like a test, either the assertion is met, or the assertion failed.

I don’t like building systems that are prone to breakage, and not doing a thing about attempting to avoid them. It makes me feel negligent. Fixing a bug that I incidentally introduce doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, it feels like a failure.

Every single system I touch, every single line of code I contribute, I have a sense of fondness for it. To me, computer systems are like children. You groom and shape them into exactly what they’ll be. Sometimes, they’ll take on a life much bigger than the life you anticipated, and when they’re able to withstand the battery that’s the real-world, you feel a sense of pride that it was YOU who brought it into this world.

I ponder if I’m being harsh, or am I just following best-practices.

If I’m the person in charge of handling a project, or a delivery, and it doesn’t meet my criteria of code and system integrity, then it’s like asking me to violate my own principles. Not only am I violating my principles, it’s likely that the violations will result in much more headaches and time expenditures than originally allocated. Such requests are inconsiderate and insulting, especially if you acknowledge that you know the consequences of such violations. Perhaps the reason why I find it so irritating is that I expect them to understand the principles I live by, and for the most part, everyone should. You’re either alive or your dead (medical), you’re either in the black or the red (finance), you either got paid or you didn’t (human resources), your system entire works entirely or it doesn’t (code); It’s not so abstract of a concept really.

So am I being harsh on myself and others, or am I just being normal, and others are being extra lax? It’s something to think about, but I say I’m being normal.

Responsive Design: Fixing misconceptions

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

I’m exposed to more of the web than most people, not only on the usage front, but also from the development front. A lot of people employ a technique called “word salad”. Roughly, the spout a bunch of words, and pray that they have some sort of meaningful connotation.

One of these words is “responsive design”. Truthfully, “responsive design” meaning should be closest to “fluid design”, which is to develop a site that look “right” on different browser sizes and resolution.

One interpretation of responsive design seems to be, develop a webpage, that if the user switches from desktop, to tablet, to mobile, things will look the same, and the user will have the same experience.

That interpretation is absolutely wrong. If anything, the better statement would be mobile-tablet-desktop-friendly-architecture-with-relevant-designs. Fact of the matter, if you’re website is image intensive, 5 megabytes of image intensive, even if you employed the most advance fluid layout techniques, it WILL NOT be a good mobile device experience.

The main thing to take into consideration is bandwidth. Most likely the user is viewing the site using a 3G, 4G connection, and even then, not everyone has access to 25+ mbps wifi line.

Instead of creating one design that will magically work for all 3, I say design 3 versions that are designed for a specific experience. If you design for desktop, tablet and mobile miss out. If you design for mobile, the tablet and pc version is lacking. If you design for tablet, you’re kind of stuck in the middle, with a mobile device that has a slow experience, and a desktop version that has an underwhelming experience, since it could’ve been so much more.

I think if possible, we should stick to the terms “mobile design”, “tablet design”, and “desktop design”, and the “responsive” versions of each. If the web would adopt this, I’m sure a lot of people who do work in the web will be saved a lot of headaches, where requirements just seem to crawl out of nowhere, rendering existing architectures less effective at the very last stages of development.

Happiness Ladder

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

In my limited perception of the world, I find it interesting. The workers are always looking up at their boss thinking, man, he’s made it. The boss is looking at his boss, and concluding the same thing. For the most part, unless you’re at the very top of the chain, you’re still looking up. Even at the top, you might be looking towards the past for inspiration, comparing yourself to historic figures.

It might sound obvious, but if you were to compare yourself to the people less fortunate than you, you are much better off, but if you compare yourself to a person ahead of you, you feel far behind.

I just think it’s important to realize that as long as your basic needs are covered, everything else is just a plus. It’s important to be content with what you have, but desire upward mobility simply for the sake as a challenge to yourself. It’s not a goal you must met, but a goal you can entertain yourself with. Much like playing a game, that you may or may not win. Sometimes, it’s not winning that’s important, it’s the experience of the game.

The Ten Commandments of Project Management

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Following at least these 10 commandments will be a big step towards becoming a well-respected, trusted, and optimal project manager:

  1. Always treat the person that’s working with you with respect.
  2. Always assume that your team is working as hard as they can, as fast as they can, and as well as they can.
  3. Always ask how long things are going to take, never assume.
  4. Code WILL break, it’s just a matter of WHEN.
  5. Describe tasks so even a person who’s never been on the project can figure it out.
  6. Angry, sad, and annoyed team members are non-optimal team members.
  7. The larger the project, the longer the estimate, the more likely it is for the estimate to be wrong.
  8. Anger is a sign of losing control, and not a sign of assertiveness.
  9. Let your team do what they do best, remove obstacles that can get in their way, provide support whenever possible.
  10. Always recount the things your team members did, and thank for the efforts it took to get it done.

There’s more to management than numbers. There’s more to communicate than words. There’s more to life than just work. A project manager is a person placed in a very important role, a bad PM can spell the death of an entire project, a good PM can be at the heart of it’s success. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and learn to harness their strengths, and try to reinforce their weakness. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. A happy team is an efficient team, and you’re often times that’s exactly what you want.

Invest in Your Business: Time is Money

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Everybody knows time is money, but it seems to be a very important concept that seems to escape a lot of developers’ mind as we strive towards code utopia. One of the strengths of developers as Larry Wall, the father of Perl, has put it, is laziness. We’re willing to go through great distances to save time in the long run. We invest into infrastructure so that we can benefit from it in the future. This causes us to obsess over frameworks, languages, plugins, coding standards, documentation, and so on.

One key thing to remember as a programmer is: “time is money”. The ultimate law of an employee is that you must bring in, in one form or another, more money than you cost. If that’s not the case, the company can quickly go out of business, or you become a burden on the resources and less of an asset. Sometimes, as a developer, we need to take a step back, and think “What does business what? What does business need? What WILL they need? How are the investments I’m making going to further that?” Often times, the code infrastructure investment doesn’t.

For example, if we decide to port the javascript over from one js library onto the next, and it cost the entire development team a couple of weeks to port, a week to test, and another week to put out all the fires that occurred because of the port. To developers, they might think, “Yes! Now everything is on a more modern javascript framework, we might get more cool stuff for free from now on, or it’s less likely to break. We can do javascript faster now!”

From the business standpoint, “We just lost a month worth of development time, and ALL these bugs just came out of nowhere! Our competitors just launched X! We need to gain ground!”

As developers, we need to understand that we’re playing a support role, a significant support role, but a support role nonetheless. We need to be more of an asset and less of a liability. We’re helping to keep a ship sailing. When we make our time investments we need to not only make it from our the perspective of making developers lives easier, but also whether or not that type of investment is even an option for the business. As a developer we are often times protected against all the business craziness so we can focus on our work, but at the same time, I do believe that exposure to such business requirements can help us better align how we use our time a bit more appropriately. At the end of the day, if the ship sinks, what good are all those technology investments we made?

Project creation, specification, and sizing

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

There are couple things that every single developer needs to know in a project:

1. How it looks
2. How it functions

To figure out how to code something, I generally one, talk to the “client” and figure out what they want. In this process it’s very important to figure out what the client wants it to do. This is where we gather a feature list.

Then, we map out these features, figuring out what actions are necessary for users to get to the desired page. Mapping out which sections users click on, where they’re placed, and etc. This will generate a wire frame. It’s also at this stage that you break down each overall functionality of the site into the various relevant sections. The output of this stage should be one: a diagram with very generic depictions of interfaces, resulting pages from user actions, and a list of functionality and more specifically the logic for the functionality.

The wire frame will enable both the designer, and developer to work in parallel, since they both have a basic idea of how everything will flow. Hopefully, by this stage, you have a good grasp of the functionality.

The designer takes the wire frame, logic, and specifications, and generates a mock.

Development

There are 3 classification of development:
1. HTML/CSS
2. Frontend
3. Backend

1. HTML and CSS controls the way it looks.
2. Frontend development generally involve the javascript, and various controllers
3. Backend development will involve the database, business logic and etc.

Of course, this can all fall under the broad umbrella of development, but the main reason why I broke it down is due to the fact that the work can be broken down, so that multiple hands can work on it at once. That being said, the more hands on deck, the more overhead is generally involved.

So we’ve covered how to create a project, and how to specify the project. With the specifications listed, now it’s possible to come up with accurate estimates, or size the project. Everything can be estimated and delivered. The person who dreamed up the project is responsible for listing out the ideas and how it’s going to work. Together with a UI person, he can then work out and deliver the wire frames. Then the business person, and the designer can get together and design out how all the pages will look, delivering the mocks. Finally when the mocks are delivered, they can be handed off to the developers, and the developers will be able to code everything. The better a job the business person does at being specific, the less likely he’ll be pestered by developers to clarify the business logic. Essentially, having the project broken down into these sections will allow the estimates to be much more accurate. The more complex the business logic, the more complex the code, and most likely, the more man hours it’ll take to code it.

MVP Minimum Viable Product

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Most Valuable Player? That’s what I originally thought, but in the start-up space, it means “Minimum Viable Product”. The LEAST you can do, to get your product to market.

The concept behind MVP is to test and collect data as soon as possible, saving time and resources. To construct a MVP, what you need to do is dream up your product, and the trim the hell out of it. You have an apple? Give me the core. You have an apple core? Give me the seeds!

The reason why you want a MVP, most likely, is for data collection and idea demonstration purposes. Often times, people have an easier time understanding your product if they can see it, or interact with it. Out of the two, interaction is often the best. We can try to explain things in all sorts of ways, using all different types of lingo, but the minute one interacts with the product, they’ll know in their own words what it does.

After your MVP is released and has fulfilled it’s role, and if the fates have decided in your favor, then you go ahead and tack back on all the things you’ve trimmed one layer at a time, until your dream comes to fruition.

That’s what MVP is all about apple seeds and fruition.