Bringing In Mentoring Consultants

Bruce Eckel related some enlightening evidence that many organizations aren’t comfortable bringing in a high end experience consultant to help review their code and architectures:


In all the years that I have offered design reviews, code reviews, and walkthroughs, only one client has ever used these services.

I can second that anecdotal advice. In about five years of doing professional services I only had one client who ever brought us in to review their architecture. The sad reality is there is really valuable information to be gleaned through this process, but very few organizations are up to using it. Much easier to send some people to a training class or bring in a contractor to cover a narrow role on a single project.

If you bring in a consultant to review your code and design they just might tell you that something is wrong, and that’s difficult.

Office to Team Room

At the suggestion of a developer I’ve revisited the idea of turning my office into a true team room. After about 6 months in the cube farm my office is pretty much just used as a team room anyway. Here’s the current office:

The current layout has a few issues:

  • One whole wall is locked out from whiteboard/corkboards due to some cubicle bookshelves.
  • No table for longer meetings. It works fine for standups, but after 15 minutes you might want to sit down.
  • The shelves along the north wall block easy access to the corkboard, so people have to reach to move around there tasks into the ‘tested/done’ column.

Here’s my team room concept:

With a little luck and the help of an admin who’s passionate about rethinking our space, I may be able to pull this off.

Sprints in Peopleware

I ran across this quote in Peopleware:

The chemistry-building manager take pains to divid the work into pieces and makes sure that each piece has some substantive demonstration of its own completion. Such a manager may contrive to deliver a product in twenty versions, even though two are sufficient for upper management and the user. It may even be necessary to conceal some of these interim versions form the client and build them only for internal confirmation and satisfaction. Each new version is an opportunity for closure. Team members get warmed up as the moment approaches, they sprint near the very end. They get a high from success. It suffuses them with renewed energy for the next step. It makes them feel closer together.

— Peopleware 2nd Edition pg. 152

Way back in 1987 Demarco and Lister described a pretty good version of Scrum and why it works. Other than the idea of the non-transparent idea of concealing some of the demos of the versions it aligns almost exactly.

IBM Moving Quickly to JSR-168

We had a conference call today with some IBM Websphere specialists on an issue we’re having with intra-portlet communication. They have been gently hinting that their customers should move to JSR-168 because they’re taking out the IBM portlet API. Still with enterprise software vendors you figure this will be a very slow process. Verbally today they made it quite clear that they plan on moving to JSR-168 aggressively, and that in Websphere Portal 6.0 they’re actually deprecating IBM portlets in favor of JSR-168. The mentioned the word deprecated at least four or five times in a short discussion around the topic.

Just to prove that they’re an enterprise vendor at heart they did explain that they’re also pushing SDO (Service Data Objects), which is no longer a JSR, (or at least an active JSR) but more of a push by an “industry consortium”. How that plays out is still an open question.

The Audit Excuse

I tried to remove a small impediment today. Nothing hard, just some access form we have to fill out to allow content authors access to edit content on our intranet. It’s costing us a few days per content author, and no one can see any value add by going through the process. I shot off an email after the standup meeting to the network admins asking why we have to fill out an access request for such a simple request and who I need to talk about to change it.

I got my response also via email soon enough:

Well, in the good old days we used to do it verbally. Then we had to start doing it when we added access to a network share for the content authors. Now we need to do it for the portal content authors. Audits happen around here.

Apparently we’re not even sure who started the policy. That’s one of those details I’ll have to follow up on. I’m guessing our internal audits group. I may find we have an actual policy because we had an audit finding on this issue.

What I expect to find is we’ve fallen into this cover your butt policy because of some fear of a possible audit finding. That fear leads to an avalanche of costly bureaucratic policies at many companies. You know the sort of things you have to fill out an elaborate five page justification survey to have your helpdesk download some dangerous open source software like Perl complete with signatures from your CIO granting explicit permission.

I can’t figure out any reason for this form:

  • We have complete knowledge of who has access to the intranet authoring via LDAP. This includes tracking of all changes by a given content author.
  • All of the content being edited is simple informational content. The worst thing someone can do is accidently delete something.
  • There are no licensing issues involved, our license to Websphere Portal lets us setup as many content authors as we want.

With luck, tomorrow we’ll be able to mark off the impediment.