Agile Development

Steve Yegge writes about the good and bad aspects of agile software development:

I would caution you to be skeptical of two kinds of claims:

– “all the good stuff he described is really Agile”
– “all the bad stuff he described is the fault of the team’s execution of the process”

You’ll hear them time and again. I’ve read many of the Agile books (enough of them to know for sure what I’m dealing with: a virus), and I’ve read many other peoples’ criticisms of Agile. Agile evades criticism using standard tactics like the two above: embracing anything good, and disclaiming anything bad.

If a process is potentially good, but 90+% of the time smart and well-intentioned people screw it up, then it’s a bad process. So they can only say it’s the team’s fault so many times before it’s not really the team’s fault.

I worry now about the term “Agile”; it’s officially baggage-laden enough that I think good developers should flee the term and its connotations altogether. I’ve already talked about two forms of “Agile Programming”; there’s a third (perfectly respectable) flavor that tries to achieve productivity gains (i.e. “Agility”) through technology. Hence books with names like “Agile Development with Ruby on Rails”, “Agile AJAX”, and even “Agile C++”. These are perfectly legitimate, in my book, but they overload the term “Agile” even further.

And frankly, most Agile out there is plain old Bad Agile.

YouTube-like on Mobiles

International Herald Tribune writes:

Phone companies are working furiously to develop systems that will allow social networking or the sharing of material with a layer of human control to filter submissions. “We definitely think there is a long-term business model around it,” said Daniel Winterbottom, a senior analyst with the research firm Informa Telecoms & Media. “Anytime you create a community it’s a way of driving the up-selling of content.”

With the growing popularity of sophisticated telephones, Informa forecasts that globally, operator revenue from such services will rise to more than $13 billion by 2011 from $3.45 billion this year. Asia is the most active region, with revenue from “mobile community services” of $1.8 billion this year, followed by Europe at $721 million, according to Informa. Leading the way are companies like Cyworld in South Korea, a creation of SK Telecom that allows cellphone users to share pictures, clips, music, ring tones and games.

Knowledge from Emails

Bill Ives writes:

I recently met with Thierry Hubert and Frederic Deriot of Knowledge Energies. They are coming up with some interesting ways to look into emails to abstract the knowledge exchanges that are normally lost through this channel. The use tags for this and these tags can be applied dynamically.

They write that most collaboration technologies like email ignore the importance of linking context and process when communication occurs so valuable knowledge is lost. This is one reason to switch to blogs as many have written about. In their approach, which requires some upfront discipline by the participant, context and process is captured so the knowledge gained can be obtained.

Video and Social Networks to Surge

AlwaysOn (Bambi Francisco) writes:

In the past year, social networks and video-sharing sites have come into prominence. As measured by page views, MySpace is the No. 2 most popular site while Facebook is tied with Amazon.com (AMZN) at No. 10, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. By unique visitors, YouTube ranks No. 15.

Social networks are estimated to attract $280 million in ad dollars this year, according to eMarketer. Online video-sharing sites are estimated to attract about $385 million. EMarketer estimates that $15.9 billion will be spent in online advertisements in the U.S. this year. That means social networks and video-sharing sites only attract about 1.8% to 2.5% of total online ad spending.

Will the gap close? It’s my bet.

TECH TALK: Good Books: The War of the World

I am not much of a history book reader. Two experiences recently rekindled my interest. I had gone to a relatives home as part of a social obligation. Not much of a talker, I was sitting around in their living room after the initial courtesies. The silent distant stares were getting a little awkward. As I looked around, my gaze fell on a ninth standard history guide book. I picked it up and started perusing it. It must have been more then a quarter century since I delved into a history book with anticipation!

The ninth standard portion was amazingly vast. It covered everything from the Harrapan Civilisation to the World Wars. I could not but marvel at how broad a swathe our Indian education system takes! Of course, the guide book had condensed the answer to every possible question into a few simple, easy-to-memorise sentences.

As I sat there for the next half-hour or so reading the book, a curiosity started taking shape within me. How did we come to be? That same evening, as I sat channel-surfing on TV, I stopped by The History Channel. The story being dramatised was about Hitler and Germany in the 1930s. It was quite something to see it all come so alive.

A few days, I came across a review of Niall Fergusons The War of the World and decided to buy it. The book discusses conflict in the twentieth century, with a focus on the fifty years from 1904 to 1953. I have just started reading the huge book it is about 700 pages. It is quite engrossing. It will take me quite some time to read the entire book given that I find very little free time nowadays. But, I would definitely recommend it for those who want to learn from the past and better understand the future given the conflicts that we continue to face in the world. Keep in mind these words from Ferguson written in Foreign Affairs magazine: The twentieth century was the bloodiest era in history. Despite the comfortable assumption that the twenty-first will be more peaceful, the same ingredients that made the last hundred years so destructive are present today. In particular, a conflict in the Middle East may well spark another global conflagration. The United States could prevent such an outcome — but it may not be willing to.

Why is this period in history so important? Ferguson writes: The twentieth century was the bloodiest era in history. World War I killed between 9 million and 10 million people, more if the influenza pandemic of 1918 – 19 is seen as a consequence of the war. Another 59 million died in World War II. And those conflicts were only two of the more deadly ones in the last hundred years. By one estimate, there were 16 conflicts throughout the last century that cost more than a million lives, a further six that claimed between 500,000 and a million, and 14 that killed between 250,000 and 500,000. In all, between 167 million and 188 million people died because of organized violence in the twentieth century — as many as one in every 22 deaths in that period.

Tomorrow: The War of the World (continued)