Archive for February, 2011

Rules?! In a Knife Fight?! No Rules!

February 8, 2011

One sticking point for me with learning and propagating Inspect and Adapt Empirical Techniques is the role of Dependencies and a Holistic Vision.  I think a pitfall might be to deny Cause and Effect.  Meaning – I didn’t give Alice the specs for the “Thank You” page so she makes it up when she’s coding it.  The end result makes sense to her, but the design wasn’t reviewed in advance so it makes no sense to anyone else.

For example, I’ve seen a PeopleSoft implementation that had no UX help in which you use “OK” to stay on a page you are editing and “Cancel” to go to the next page.  This sounds like it might make sense on paper, right? But everyone I know every time clicks “OK” to leave the page.  This is because the logic in the user’s mind is “OK, I’m OK with abandoning my edits” or “Cancel, I don’t want to abandon my edits.”  From a build point of view this is a small-small feature, but from a user point of view this is a big-big annoyance.

I’ve observed Agile folks having an absolute allergy to anything that has the slightest scent of Waterfall (which means steps and hand-offs), but I just can’t figure out how there could ever not ever be hand-offs.  There’s gonna be a time in which I have to do something on my own and give it to someone else.

Now, understand, I get this is not totally at the heart of Agile, at least not from what I’ve learned from Dr. Jeff Sutherland.  His classes, or at least the one I took in New York City, really emphasize the team, so much so that he even changes the questions we ask/answer in Scrum to be about the team.  More to explore on this point, but for now, just wanted to get the thread on paper, so to speak, for future weaving.

Definition of “Blessing” found on Wikipedia

February 6, 2011

I was a little sad to find out that fractals might be “cool” in someone’s world. Disappointed? Yes, because the strength of using such a metaphor might then be dissipated through use. In Bhutan cameras are forbidden in sacred places for this very reason. When it is too easy to take a snap of a shrine or sacred object, the blessing of that object begins to dissipate. In the same way I would be disappointed if fractals are considered to be “really cool” like this blog post claims:

A footnote on this Wiki page on Lineage gives us the background to more thoroughly understand the logic behind the Bhutanese prohibition on cameras:

‘Blessing’ (Wylie: byin-rlabs; Sanskrit: adhiṣṭhāna):

“In the Buddhist context, the term blessing should not be understood in terms of grace as in the case of theistic religions. Rather, it relates to the sense of inspiration receivedwhich transforms or awakens the potentials inherent within an individual’s mental continuum. Thus, the Tibetan word byin-rlabs is interpreted to mean: ‘to be transformed through inspiring magnificence’.”

Padmasambhava (composed); Terton Karma Lingpa (revealed); Gyurme Dorje (translated); Graham Coleman (editor); Thupten Jinpa (editor) with H.H.Tenzin Gyatso (introduction) (2005, 2006). The Tibetan Book of the Dead. First Complete Translation. Strand, London, UK: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-140-45529-8, p.448

“Lineage” is the line of Masters from whom we who study Buddhism receive teachings and blessings. It’s helpful to be reminded that this is not necessarily a form of supernatural and magic, but something extraordinary, yet logical. When you turn a sacred word, text, object, whatever into something that is used again and again, you make it every day, ordinary. The meaningful becomes exhausted of its meaning through over-use and over-exposure. When you apply a ceremony, such as only using on special occasions, not allowing it to be photographed, not allowing anyone to touch, and so on, the power of the item to “bless” in the sense of inspiring our minds “to magnificence” (something greater) can remain.  The experience of this is not really magic in the sense of something that happens without cause; it is something mind creates because of how we behave with the phenomenon we wish to define as “blessed,” as inspiring us to be greater.

This is also an idea I wish to hold onto for inclusion in a post I am working on. This will relate to feudalism, process as religion, and other supernatural matters. I actually have seven drafts in the queue:

  • Is Being “Of One Mind” Such a Good Thing? and other pitfalls
  • Leadership, the Supernatural Powers of Kings and the Religion of Process
  • Can we be good without God?
  • Stories? or “No More Stories!”
  • Checklists, Backlog, Specs
  • Dark Side of People and Teams
  • “We Look to Scientists to Settle Them”

Guess which this applies to. I may or may not combine or split apart any of the above. Just where I’ve zoomed in on the fractal for today.

To understand more thoroughly the meaning of the power of the meaningful being exhausted through over-use and over-exposure,

SEMAT, Mastery, and Human Factors

February 5, 2011

In my links-to-links-to-links exploration, which I think of as fractal (but had a debate with PhD-types who felt that this is not true – but more about that in another thread), I came across this discussion of the “Software Engineering Method and Theory initiative” (SEMAT).

It seems what they are up to (again) is creating a meta-process for designing/developing software.  Digging into it, I found their manifesto (you have to scroll a little on their page to see it in context):

Call for Action

Software engineering is gravely hampered today by immature practices. Specific problems include:

  • The prevalence of fads more typical of fashion industry than of an engineering discipline.
  • The lack of a sound, widely accepted theoretical basis.
  • The huge number of methods and method variants, with differences little understood and artificially magnified.
  • The lack of credible experimental evaluation and validation.
  • The split between industry practice and academic research.

We support a process to refound software engineering based on a solid theory, proven principles and best practices that:

  • Include a kernel of widely-agreed elements, extensible for specific uses
  • Addresses both technology and people issues
  • Are supported by industry, academia, researchers and users
  • Support extension in the face of changing requirements and technology

People involved in creating this are great thinkers – out of laziness I am paraphrasing below from Wikipedia:

  • Ivar Jacobson: a Swedish computer scientist, known as major contributor to UML, Objectory, RUP and aspect-oriented software development.  (He claims to be the “Father of UML” on Twitter…)
  • Bertrand Meyer: an early proponent of Object-Oriented Programing and a proponent of (gasp) of the ideal of simple, elegant and user-friendly computer languages (I thought Basic was pretty simple and elegant, but I’m not a Master).
  • Richard Soley: lead the development of a standard called the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) which enables software components written in multiple computer languages and running on multiple computers to work together (i.e., it supports multiple platforms).

Some people I admire a lot have also signed:

  • Ken Schwaber: co-codifier of Scrum with Jeff Sutherland (don’t see Jeff on the signatory list)
  • Ed Yourdon: writer of Death March project management book.

What I found interesting is even in the language that they use in their communications is super-formal.  And it made me think if the language itself is not human-friendly, then a sense of rigidity sets in. A sense of “Well, we’re the experts, so don’t question us,” sets in.  What we seem to be up to here, we beings, is creating strong walls for reality to exist within. We’re denying the fractal nature of experience.

I found these critiques from Alistair Cockburn, Martin Fowler, and Kelly French.

Dr. Cockburn observes the effort is…

intended to generate support through appeal-to-authority, hype, and ambition

Later in his article he observes that ideas are not considered if not “widely accepted.”  This I think is at the heart of being closed-minded in some ways.  But it is a contradiction!  If thinking and writing are not peer-reviewed, how can they ever become “widely-accepted?”  And – is “widely accepted” such a good thing anyway? Seems like all those “widely-accepted” ideas get us into whole deep pots of hot water.  (Like – wasn’t Mubarak of Egypt “widely accepted?”)

Kelly French talks about how we want people to “fly right.” It’s such a great short post, I am tempted to copy the whole thing here – but will satisfy myself with:

While Extreme Programming hasn’t become the standard development model, that doesn’t mean it failed.  When the history of Software Development is written, XP will be given credit for re-introducing the most important factor; not tools nor process, but people.

For later – for me to handle in another post – she talks about the “dark side” of people. (What I’ll think about later is the dark side, “human nature?”, grasping, ignorance, and is there any “bad,” really?)

In his very short post, published just to explain why he didn’t get involved in SEMAT, Martin Fowler says:

I got the distinct impression that the central thrust of the initiative is to create a software meta-method-kernel – essentially a set of common process elements for software developments that you can rigorously compose into a method for your own project.

And this leads me back to the concept (and desire) to be peer-reviewed.  “Peer” reviewed.  Who gets to be a “peer?”  Who is an expert?  I say in another thread that it is a Master and someone who has “done” something. People who have shown the discipline and wherewithal to have spent time doing the homework and who, therefore, should be respected for their knowledge and opinions.  Otherwise, like artists who worked in the 80s rediscovering this little thing called “perspective” we just end up repeating thought patterns that these experts have already been down.

Or is this true?  Again, the student’s questions should be viewed with fresh eyes by the Master.  Was the Master really right? (correct?) The data seems to support the idea.  Could the data react differently in different circumstances? With the causes and conditions changed?  When we include the human factor?

When are we ready for Peer Review?

February 4, 2011

I sort of thought about if anyone but me sees these posts and then has a reaction to them, assuming the reaction was not one of complete boredom (indifference).  Am I ready yet for input? for peer review? for the review of a master?

It then lead me into the fractal and 1) I started questioning the metaphor of the fractal at all and 2) I started thinking about the admonition within the Tibetan Himalayan Buddhist text Words of My Perfect Teacher for the student to examine the master and, likewise, for the master to examine the student.

These all lead back to the necessity of peer review, of good scientific method of test and learn.  It reminds me of a lecture I attended at Yale when I was very young in which a speaker, I forget who, talked about humanism versus science.  He was asserting that Scientists are the true optimists about the human condition.

I don’t remember exactly what he said. But here I think it is really that test and learn *within the circumstance* because circumstances change.  And what is the main variable of that change? As Alistair Cockburn has written, it is humans.  Or as a policeman in New Orleans said to me once “Humans are the most unpredictable animal. You never know what a human being is going to do, sugar.”

OK so first, back to examining the teacher (before examining the fractal) and examining the student.

First, what does it mean to be ready for peer review?  It means that you’ve put the effort in to what you’ve thought about to a sufficient extent that you feel confident in your hypotheses.  I do not feel I’ve done enough homework (reading people’s books) and test-and-learn to be at that point. Not enough experimentation and results to report back.  (But is that true? Am I really just trying to protect my process from debate so I can feel safe in its cocoon?)

If I were ready for Peer Review, I’d want real peers first.  Why?  Fear.  I’d be scared to have a Master give me feedback until I’d done my homework.

What are peers, actually?  Other PMs?  Other Buddhist practitioners?  When can one say that they are really a peer?  This came up for me because I was thinking that if a PhD type read my material, that it was peer review – then I corrected my thinking because I’m no PhD.  In the case of a PhD type reading my work, it would be a case of a Master conducting a review, possibly.

If I was fortunate enough to find a Master who would be willing to review my thinking without pay (e.g. outside of the confines of a school), then I would want that Master to point out to me flaws in my methodology of thought itself.

So now we get to questioning Fractals as a metaphor.  A Master who has studied might say “No – a fractal is not like you have described; a fractal is like this.”  That’s already happened to me, actually, because one PhD did say to me “a fractal is not a container.”  I think this is something I need to meditate on because, as I say in my Fractal post, it is how things *feel* that remind me of fractals.  Not necessarily how fractals function in and of themselves.  However, the benefit here is that this forces me to look at my own thinking, to become more self-aware.

In the same way? Peer review.  If you are lucky enough to get it, it forces you to think about *how you are thinking.*

So back to another post I made, in which I observe religious people might want to kill you for disagreeing with them, I think it may be this: when you look at *how you are thinking at all* then the true deadly sin comes to light.  “Sin.”  Meaning, the way you are really grasping and stuck on something; where you are not inspecting and adapting.