Keep Posting

Pete has some good advice for writing a blog that lasts: Keep Posting.

I should post more, but I’m frequently paralysed by choice. I’m a software dev manager, so I’m interested in down-in-the-mud-coding, software quality, personal and team productivity, agile techniques, web analytics, business value and return on investment.

That’s not to mention the fact that my two-year-old is finally sleeping at night and I’m starting to pick up videogaming again (did I mention I have a 3DS so that I can finally complete Ocarina of Time? The console is physically delightful and OoT:3DS is the best version Nintendo have made of possibly the best videogame ever).

Also: Kindles, tablets, portable computing, mobile apps vs. web. Someone at work described me as ‘decisive, but easily distracted’. I like to know about everything; frequently, this doesn’t leave time for writing about anything.

Change the world

I work in Higher Education in the UK.

Every day I see enterprisey systems which are awful, terrible, unfriendly, unusable, behemoths.

The market for each niche system is more or less a monopoly.

The market is prime for smaller, more agile, more user-friendly systems to come in and destroy them.

Please, somebody just kill off these dinosaurs.

What are librarians for?

Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about libraries recently, and it rang true with me. I’m reading more than ever, but I wouldn’t even bother asking a librarian what I should read next.

Public librarians today seem to act more like sentinels of dead-tree collections. They own the data, they tidy the shelves and care for the books but when they want a recommendation, they use goodreads.com or amazon like the rest of us. Knowledge is a handwave at the encyclopedias in the corner or the ancient pcs lined against the wall. As much as bookshops are suffering from their failed attempts to get into multimedia and from publishers not understanding how people buy books, their staff are still typically enthusiastic, informed book-lovers, able to make a recommendation professionally rather than only knowing the authors they’ve read.

This is a generalisation of course, but it is at least anecdotally true. My region’s library website is librarieswest.org.uk and despite knowing which books I get out, my wife gets and what we get for our son, it makes no recommendations. Just like its meatspace equivalent.

The conversation of ‘readme’

It used to be that when I found an article that was too long to read there and then, I would add it to delicious, tag it as ‘readme’, and hope that one day I would get around to it.

These days I just click my Kindlebility bookmarklet and read the article next time I’m on the bus or train, but still get value out of the articles that other people are posting to delicious. Am I doing them a disservice by not posting things I think are interesting enough to read? What social obligation am I under to reciprocate in this loose-form network? Why does it worry me? Should I learn to let go, or should I write code to free me from this tyranny?

Exit point

It was twitter‘s fifth birthday last week, which means that I’ve been there for almost five years now.

My feelings about it are summed up by Ryan Mickle in his post When free makes your product suck:

I realized that Twitter is turning the corner from a beloved, worry-about-making-money-later company into a just-barely-tolerable advertising machine.

So I’m looking for a way out. I don’t care that much about posting new tweets (that’s just a bad habit), but keeping up with some interesting people (oh, and the team at work) is something I’d like to do.

A little while ago I set up a local version of Tweet Nest, which is a fairly simple backup of the content you post to your twitter account. It was easy to install and works fine for just keeping a backup of what I’m saying.

ThinkUp is a more advanced version of the same idea; it keeps what I’m saying but, according to the site and this brief review, everything else as well. A one-stop twitter-backup solution including threaded replies, graphs of followers and a summary of all the links that people have tweeted. I’m fairly tempted to install this and start using it as my primary interface to a read-only twitter.

Will twitter miss me? Probably not. Will I miss out on contributing to conversations? Probably.  Am I OK with that? Absolutely.

What is Scrum?

A first-pass set of definitions, in increasing order of cynicism:

Scrum is a methodology designed to help an organisation deliver a product every few weeks rather than every few years.

Scrum is a set of rituals intended to prevent motivated, clever people from becoming cowboy coders. It channels agile behaviour into a predictable cycle of deliverables at a given level of quality.

Scrum is a set of processes designed to be adopted by organisations who want to find out if their staff can ‘do’ agile.

Scrum is a form of project management where neither the start nor the end of the project are defined.

What definitions have I missed out?

The limitations of the now imposed by the past

Tomorrow evening I’m doing a talk at Ignite Bristol 4 entitled “The eternal sunshine of the spotless Facebook”. It’s not really a relevant title, but it was when I was thinking up ideas to talk about.

It’s being held in the ss Great Britain, the world’s first propeller-driven, iron-hulled steamship. This leads to the nicest part of the whole event:

But please, please, please bear in mind that modern card reading devices are incompatible with 19th century iron-hulled ships.

Get that! A ship built in the mid-ninteenth century is affecting what we carry in our wallets in the twenty-first century! My head reels at the implications of what we’re doing and building now having physical effects on individuals 150 years from now.

Kindlebility

In my attempts to find better ways of getting long-form content onto my Kindle to read offline, I’ve mainly been using two tools: Instapaper and the Later On Kindle Chrome extension.

Instapaper has great formatting, and repeated delivery works like a new issue of a periodical, but as far as I can tell, on a slightly unpredictable schedule (or at least on a schedule that is slightly inconvenient to me).

Later on Kindle sends the content pretty much instantly, which is much more useful since it means that provided I leave a few minutes to make sure it all gets processed, I can send some pages just before I leave work, and read them on the way home! The big downside is that your page ends up text-only; it doesn’t keep images in the same way that Instapaper does. Also, having it in the Chrome toolbar is very nice.

The solution for me is Kindlebility. It uses Readability to parse the page into a sensible layout (including multi-page articles), converts that to a PDF, then emails the result to your Kindle. It’s triggered by a bookmarklet, which means it can be added to any browser. Even better, it’s open source (more info in this blog post), which means that if I want to, I can avoid using any middleman at all!

Right now, this is by far the best solution I’ve come across so big thanks to Daniel Huckstep for putting it together!