Monday, 26 May 2008

Are we there yet?


Photo by tonivc used under a Creative Commons license


Reaching the end of a project is always a very satisfying feeling for me. A few years ago, I got over that feeling of panic and dread that came from the belief that if a bug went in to production then the world would end; people would sue us; and puppies would die. That is quite ridiculous since there are ways to ensure those risks (I so dislike that word) are minimised.

Don't expect me to go in to why agile software development will save your life. There are many ways to assure yourself that the world won't implode because of you and they go from development methodologies to putting things in to perspective. Since many others will preach agile, I'll try give you perspective.

At university, I was lucky enough to have a programming lecturer who had worked in the real world and hadn't just read books (although I had plenty of the book types). His experience included working on implantable defibrillators. Imagine the machines they use in medical emergency shows, that are used to zap someone's heart when it stops beating. Everyone yells "stand back!" and then a huge charge is sent through two paddles in to the patients chest and hopefully the heart monitor starts blipping again. Now imagine they implant a tiny version of that so that if a heart patient's heart goes too fast or too slowly, they are zapped and encouraged to beat at a normal pace. Well, my lecturer was one of the embedded systems programmers who wrote the code that told the implanted device when to go boom.

Now, this would not be a useful story if there had not been a bug in their code. The thing is, their bug meant that they had to recall the device to replace the defective code. Think it through, recalling the device meant putting patients under the knife in order to remove and replace the defibrillator. Heart patients having unnecessary surgery is never a good thing but that's what had to be done to deploy the fix.

In our nice little worlds where a bug may cause a user to not be able to log in or to call up a helpdesk to get the account opened or not be able to update their GCC step count, it's probable that no one will die. If you do work in the other world where they could die then please ignore me. You are the minority. The rest of us can relax a little and breathe. Take your time to enjoy that you started and finished a project. Bathe in the glow of delivering software that will be used. After all, letting your heart rate rise too much might lead to the need for me to necessarily zap you.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

My Current Favourite Time Waster


Today I discovered dipity.com and found that I've only been contributing to the Interblag as Damana 2.0 since early last year. It sure feels like forever. I wonder if writing web apps counts... prob not.

dipity lets you graphically display all your different feeds in a meaningful timeline. My current obsession is to understand why people need to see things as a picture to fully absorb them. Many conversations with varied types of people since Tuesday have pulled me from side to side. Do conceptualists need pictures? If you need visualisation tools, should you be in IT? Is there value in the 10,000ft view? It is not yet answered in my mind but the blog post is being born. Stay tuned.

Until then, check out what I've been doing since March 2007.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The 'No Chick Lit' Rule


picture from alternative-footwear.co.uk


Over the last 12 months, I have ranted and blogged about women in IT across multiple blogs and to anyone who is interested or polite enough not to walk away. This post continues that theme so stop here if you were hoping for something lighter.

I'm a geek girl in almost every way but am still pretty unique, while being like everyone else. My latest geekdom to be revived is my love for discussing what I read. After leaving Canberra, finding a book group wasn't as easy as I'd hoped so that meant starting one was the only option. It has started and is going well. We are on our first book and headed at some cool titles I would not have picked off the shelf on my own but am looking forward to reading.

When it rains, it pours. After signing up for goodreads.com at the recommendation of a couple of friends, I discovered others I knew shared the same hobby for reading and talking. A wise friend of mine says that "you can tell a lot about someone from their bookshelf" and that is true. I'm willing to push that as far as you can tell a lot about a person if they read at all.

With a lovely invitation to join another book group came the tale that they want people who join to share a book with others in the group that they might not read normally... BUT there is a 'no chick lit' rule. The person doing the inviting is a geek girl. Now what I am about to say does not apply to her directly but what she said triggered off a torrent of emotion and thought that had to be ranted at someone (so you will do).

Why is it that geek girls say and do things that make other women feel insecure about being geeky and girly at the same time?

Just like it is ok to not be a pink-feather-boa-wearing girl in thigh-high boots reading chick lit, it's ok to be that too. I like to think that I'm pretty secure in who I am most days but it sure does suck when I feel the need to butch it up so as not to lose some geek cred. Imagine how it makes young girls feel about a career in IT. Every time I hear this it makes me want to be who I want to be and ignore the no-blah rules. What if you are more socially driven? Is this what makes 'geek' a bad word? All this talk of rejecting mainstream views because geek and popular are mutually exclusive?

Embrace your inner pink feather boa wearing self and read your chick lit while eating Swiss chocolate on a couch with a sequined cushion or don't but I'd like to let you know that whichever path you choose to walk is ok. You are a cool geek girl, just like Jane Austen.

Maybe we are wrong about Lotus Notes

Maybe Notes is IBM's way of making people talk to eachother because the pain of having to send an email is too great. It is IBM bringing people together.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Ruby on Rails presents WeddingPresents


My friend James, has created a unique wedding registry site written in Ruby on Rails. It took him no time at all and leaves us with a cool site that allows the couple to pick whatever presents they want without signing up to a department store.

Having recently used it for James' wedding last week, I can say that it's simple to use and effective. Also a great help for those of us who shop a little late :o)

" Why YourWeddingPresents.com?

Unlike other wedding registries, Your Wedding Presents is not owned by any store, and does not limit your gifts in any way. Your Wedding Presents:
* is completely free. No strings attached.
* lets you choose gifts from any store or even just say the type of present you want (eg, cutlery set for six).
* lets you ask for contribution presents, where several guests can pool their money to get a larger gift.
* shows you which presents have been chosen and, if guests enter their name, who has chosen what.
* lets you write a welcome message to show guests when they go to your registry.
* is easy to use. There are no big forms to fill in. "

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Sir Robin and the Bubbles

I often tease my friends at Google about the preschool environment they work in - bright colours; soft furnishings and mobiles hanging from the ceiling. After stepping back and trying to argue that RPS is a valid way to settle a small bike-shedding disagreement, I realised that my time at TW has been more of a game than a job. That's a good thing. Work is fun but it's probably not the definition of "grown up" - which is just so over-rated anyway.

Our team is known as Team Bubbles for classified reasons. Of course, we've gone wild with that idea. There are bubble machines, individual bubble packs (manual) that are great on breaks.

This is one of the bubble machines that greets people as they enter

Then there are the non-bubble things like Sir Robin, our check-in chick-en. He's our check-in token and as we try to maintain a green build (especially) through UAT, he makes sure we only commit while we are in his company. We are currently trying to get him on to our RM list as a Release Manager but our Resource Manager guy is resisting... so far. Sir Robin has connections though so we might get him signed up as an official TWer.

Sir Robin with the founder of TW at the Australian Team Hug
(photo by Lachlan)

The aircon in our building hardly ever works so we have a portable aircon unit and since there was a spare beach ball hanging around (as usual) we got the anti-gravity going.

The magic falling floating ball


Then there is the lolly drawer for sustenance, the hats to let everyone know when you aren't working on a story and the pweety flowers. It's fun. I hope we don't have to grow up any time soon.

The very unhealthy lolly drawer full of 10kg of lollies at a time

Sam + I not working on our stories

A sticky note flower

Monday, 5 May 2008

Let's Hug

What happens on the Gold Coast, stays on the Gold Coast... well mostly.