Agile-Antipattern #221817 : Slicing a waterfall vs delivering value

We discuss often about what agile methodology IS, but today I want to address one of the most frequent NONagile practices done by who think that they have mastered the methodology. While what I will introduce is nothing new, it always helps to have several voices in the choir to ensure everyone hears.

More like Carnival singer… as a silly hat helps carry your voice. (Source Pixabay)

How the dialog goes …

« We develop in two week iterations. »

Automatically agile?

FAUX – FALSE

« We develop and deliver to production in two week iterations. »

WARMER – Tell me more

« We develop and deliver to production, in two week iterations, customer value (or our best guess) »

AGILE

« We develop and deliver to production, in two week iterations, customer value experiments that have results we can measure. »

AGILE + LEAN: ENLIGHTENMENT

Agile DOES NOT equal just iteration. It equals iterative and utilized VALUE. Just see the first principle on the manifesto, if you do not believe me.

Because it means nothing without a meme. For your sharing pleasure to shame the others. Errr… I mean share the good word.

While shorter development cycles are a good first step, do not stop there:

Your end game is to get the product out as soon as possible with the best value and quality, so that it is used… or better… yet bought.

If you build a product in an iterative manner and it does not get used by any sort of customer until 6 months or a year later, it is still waterfall.

Agile is challenging yourselves as a team (all voices included) to find the smallest iteration or story “slice” that can be actually released (even in beta) for the best beginning value. It may not be perfect, but it is a start that will already get you feedback! Feedback is the most precious-ness… my precious…

And as indicated above, the best of all, is when you measure the results to see you were successful. But that can be a whole article for another time.

EVERYONE LOVES A METAPHOR (AND S’MORES)

Mmmmm s’mores… (Source Pixabay)

I think of Agile delivery planning as a campsite rather than a house.

A house is meant for sleeping and eating. First the foundation is poured, then the structure is built, the insulation is added, etc. This is all well and fine if no one is going to live in the house until the end.

But here is a test… if someone wanted to move in half-way through the construction, can they sleep and eat in my house?

Not if they like a soggy head and soggier toast when it rains!

Good lighting though, during the day. Source: Flickr

Same goes for your product. Always ask, “If after this sprint if the project is immediately canceled, would what we have still be useful?” Trust me as someone who has had projects cancelled mid-sprint that you will be happy you built it in this way.

A campsite though is a better example of how you should construct your product: a campsite is meant for sleeping and eating as well but built quickly and modularly, delivering value with each part. First a tent (already able to sleep in, and your food will stay dry), a firepit for cooking, then some stools as our legs get tired while heating s’mores, etc…

Lucky suckers… Source: Flickr

Get started building your campsite. There are bears!

That kid has NO CLUE how many bears there are around… Source: Pixabay

For better slicing based on value, I suggest these resources to get started:

Also, good technique is when looking at your first planned iterations, to step back and ask yourself :

  1. Does this serve the base customer value that I want to test?

  2. Can I do this more simply?

You can test this further by actually removing a part of the product and then looking back at question #1.

Something to think about: For team leaders, project managers, etc, how do you splice your projects in general? Is it a roadmap with no deliverables for three months, six months, or a year even? Why not apply the same technique?

Good luck, Happy Campers! Avoid those waterfalls; there are bears there!

Valently striding into battle and certain death! Source: Pixabay

Make that big change… or not! Thanks to these self-retrospection exercises

Unhappy in your job, but uncertain if you changed, what you would do? Or perhaps you have a job you used to love, how do you rediscover that passion?

In business and agile product management, we talk about “pivoting” a product to meet the market. Pivoting is tweaking, changing direction, rebranding and more. But what about ourselves? Why not use the same product management and agile skills to improve ourselves, the most important product of all?

Business People doing Business Things
Obligatory motivational business photo with vague symbols and action lines. This could be you!

How do we pivot ourselves to meet our own “internal market” so that we may perform our best, motivated by our passion, and increase our return on investment (aka more happiness)?

Enough of these questions! The answers lie within you. Here are some self-retrospection exercises that have helped me and others make that big (or small) change towards happiness.

Exercise #1: Papertrail retrospection: What is “Past You”‘s “why?”

What makes you happy? Dogs make me happy.

Before knowing your next step, it is first important to reaffirm your baseline of what motivates you when out in the wild. Much like a business must construct the “why” of their product and test it, so must you. This is facilitated by looking back at your past life “tests” or experiences.

This exercise is especially important when considering big changes, and the answer can keep you in check in the future.

  1. Print out your CV, your Facebook/Twitter feed, your last couple emails, etc. or have them pulled up on your computer screen and grab a notebook to make notes. Do not just go off memory as you are bound to forget the important small details.
  2. Highlight/note the experiences where you were legitimately happy and/or proud.
  3. Take it a step deeper: WHY were you happy? Keep on asking “Why?” until you get to the underlying value that motivated your efforts. This may take a couple sessions of reflection to discover and it could evolve over time.
    Example: I was happiest when I helped launch that new website for a volunteer association. Why? Because it helped multiple countries. But why that? I was able to achieve something with a multi-national group. But why that? I met new interesting people and learned about myself. But why that? I enjoy new experiences with new cultures. But why that? I like diversity and challenging my own perspective. But why that? I need to continually grow and feel part of a global community.
  4. Now brainstorm what activities can you cut out to focus on only those that build you toward happiness. Or, do you need a complete change? No worry. you already have experience. Just look at your highlighted CV or notes!
    Examples:

    1. I only do websites as a hobby. I will focus on increasing my programming skills in my off time and start applying for international freelance projects.
    2. I will liberate time in my schedule by cutting out unnecessary meetings, and I will from my boss request approval to participate in the companies’ culture think-tank.

Bonus activity: Recreate your CV putting your highlighted experiences in the forefront and start floating it around on recrutement sites or consider going independent. You will be surprised how many bites you may get and how more motivated and convincing you will be in your interviews if it something you ACTUALLY like.

You recreating your CV.
Cannot find ANYTHING in your CV that makes you happy or proud?

That is why I also suggest searching your social media feeds, old photos, or personal emails. What makes you smile? You can still use these items to professionally progress. I know someone who once got a development job due to the personal WoW videogame forum he created. In interviews, I have successfully used my volunteer dance teaching and event organisation experience to boost myself. Often these personal experiences show more your motivation than paid gigs.

Me in college contemplating how I can spin “making wine in my closet” in my next job interview

Exercise #2: Classic Retrospection… Do, Rinse and Repeat

As I wrote about in my last article, retrospection can be applied in organisations on varying team levels. Also do that for yourself! I am a firm believer that the Agile methodology does not just apply to business.

This exercise is good to do on a continuous basis. Reflecting on your entire life or one area (personal, family or side professional project), ask yourself:

In [AREA OF MY LIFE]…

What has made me the happiest?

What takes away from my happiness?

What are some solutions?

Journal out your responses; focus on one solution (we cannot change Rome in a day); and then return to this in your next self-retrospection in the coming week, month, etc. Find your rhythm and stick to it.

Yellow jacket not required.

The End Result

The end result could be:

  1. You do love your job and now you know why you love it. In addition, you can use this knowledge of your “why” to decide in the future on new endeavors or commitments.
  2. You love your job but you currently are spending too much time on happiness-detractors derailing you.
  3. You would like to change within your field.
  4. You have exhausted all possibilities, and now, want to completely change.

All these are fine responses. Reflect (but not too much) and then just do it. Take your next step or embrace where you are.

Ever feel like you are waiting for a sign? Oh well, back to the game!

A Personal Case Study:

These activities are based upon past mentoring experiences and my own recent personal journey. For those interested, my recent foibles go as follows:

I started as a web developer and designer. Seven years ago, I transitioned to team and product management. Now I am an Agile organisation and product vision coach, trainer and writer.

Accurate depiction of me

Five months ago, I took my latest leap to coach 100%. After 12 years in the industry, this change in hindsight now seems natural, but it took some not-so-evident reflection.

You see, I had an issue for despite gaining more and more opportunities and acknowledgement for my product work in larger and more prestigious companies, I was not happy.

This unease befuddled me, my husband, my friends, my family, and the random barman I would sulk to.

Me in my short stint as the lead singer of my dad’s rock band.

If you look back at my life and professional career as a series of iterative experiments, as far as advancement, all would point towards not pivoting.

After all, only now, Product Management is really getting the acknowledgement and the solidification that it deserves. Now companies are finally waking up. They are hungry to define and fill these types of postions with better compensation and recognition.

But only money and advancement matters, right?

It depends. For some people, “Yes.” That is fine, but reflecting back again, obviously as someone who gave up everything to restart her career in “salary-poor” Paris, money is not my greatest motivator (though it is nice… I am not a robot and need money for cheese… my greatest “why”).

Really what is not to love? This cheese did this on its own… in ambiant room temperature.

So after doing further self-retrospection and the activities above, I realized of all my experiences I was the MOST happy when it was facilitating team growth and product vision, but not necessarily orchestrating it.

When teams were more efficient, autonomously delivering better quality and were happier, I was happier.
When companies lost in the woods discovered the product vision they had been searching for thanks to my advice or facilitation, I felt found.

You see, despite my titles not reflecting it, I did amass five years experience helping teams transform whether as a manager, teammate, or agile advocate within the company. While often this was a side goal given to me or for which I volunteered, I started becoming known for my Agile expertise. In fact, in my last position they hired me expressly as a Product Owner whose first mission was to complete the Agile transformation and advocate for new ways of working.

Here is another cheese photo to break it up a little.

So now, after all these experiments (and I have changed jobs often), what rose to the surface naturally? It was this passion to facilitate the growth of others. I would have never come to this conclusion without wiping the slate clean, including the red-herring that was my past goal of product management upward mobility.

Flush Out Your “Idea of You” as You Grow

There is no perfect answer or perfect life “test”.  Here is a great TED talk by Ruth Change about making tough life decisions for inspiration. What is important is to move forward and cultivate an attitude of self-introspection.

Not sure how to put your past non-professional ‘happy’ experiences to work? Leave a comment. Have you made a leap recently? Share your own story.

Are you now a pilot?

Meanwhile, I will keep you all up to date with my own journey.

The First Agile Baby Step Is Inwards

When it comes to big new life changes, I am as guilty as anyone in my need for premature optimization, meaning my first instinct is to not start before all is ‘perfectly’ planned… sometimes so that I never actually start.

Paralyzed, I want to change in a big WATERFALL kind of way where everything is planned out and all items implemented at once.

But then I shake myself a little, say a few choice words in the mirror, and step forward in an agile, iterative, and most importantly, reflective way.

Because the first step is the most important.

Not HOW you do it. But JUST the fact you do it.

So, the first step for transforming your business towards agile is … ?

The same goes for transforming your business, project, team, etc. to begin using ‘agile’ methodologies. It is a big company culture change! You must resist implementing all at once. When I am ranting on about how much I adore agile, I am quite often asked :

Okay, but how do I implement it? Where to start?

There is a glimmer of fear in their eye as they reach for their coffee or beer (Yes, I ramble on about agile outside of work… often.)

CC Alvaro Perez
Copyright Alvaro Perez

This question is hard to answer without meeting the team and knowing the particular intricacies of the project and the overall production needs. In addition, it is best not to prescribe too much as it really depends on the team’s unique DNA and what THEY want to do first (Yay, autoorganization!)… as top down rarely works with these kinds of changes.

The first step I often recommend and one of the easiest to implement (once the team is convinced) is putting into place: “Retrospectives” or “Retros”.

What is a Retro?

A retrospective can take many forms and often should change and adapt with the team over time (if not to add some spice). The overall idea is the team gets together to reflect upon:

Since the last retro…

  1. What went well?
  2. What could improve?
  3. What are some solutions?

Then two or three of the solutions are collectively chosen and teammates volunteer to follow these points until next retrospective. After all, we can not change Rome in a day! Here are some ideas for retro formats.

How often and who?

Depends on your team! Typically retrospectives are at the end of the development cycle for development Scrum teams.  I suggest conducting retrospectives at least once a month for non-development teams, especially in the beginning.

Oh, that is right.  I suggest retrospectives on all levels. It is not just the developers that produce, so why not spend that valuable time improving on all levels?

You have multiple product owners? Do a scrum to scrum retrospective! Do a company wide one! Marketing team one! All levels will profit from regular introspection, though the time intervals and format will vary depending on the scope.

The key is though to not turn retrospectives into ‘diss’ fests against people or teams not present. This should be watched for and any point involving those not present should be noted and taken up in the next retrospective including them or by their manager in private. If it is solely a personal conflict then it is best discussed between the two people involved.

In addition, I am a big advocate for having mixed profiles in the retrospectives including managers. BUT it is important that the managers exercise listening and letting each person, especially those naturally timid, feel free and safe to express themselves.

Much like brainstorming sessions, the participants must freely be able to communicate their ideas and thoughts. Only later when you vote on the most important solution upon which to work , should there be a HEALTHY debate on the pertinence.

Here is the kicker: You have to actually do it for it to work

Now over the years of seeing various companies/projects/teams transition to agile, one of the biggest stifling factors has been cutting off open communication or not prioritizing it. For example: just filing away retros as “another meeting”. This I have found especially true for non-sprint organized teams.

Ug another meeting?
Ug another meeting? Meetings have been hated since well before 2016.

“Ahh… well I have so many meetings… so much to do. Do we REALLY have to have our retro? Didn’t we just have one? I would appreciate it if we could push it off… I have this [INSERT DEADLINE] coming up.”

Respond, “No, sorry. It is important.”

Hey, secretly, you may even want to cancel it! It takes time and energy to communicate openly and establish healthy channels to do so. But giving that loving push to yourself and others to keep to the retro routine is important.

Trust me; of all the times my teams have wanted to cancel the retrospective… Where people grumbled, “Well, what do we really have to say to each other? We talk a lot already.”… those OFTEN turn out to be the best retrospectives. People leave smiling and feeling loved because they took the time to improve themselves and their team, vent their frustrations and find solutions.

Pro tip: Bring candy. People love candy. Or ask people to volunteer taking turns cooking or purchasing food to bring. Food = love, commitment and yumminess. Plus, it gives the team a sense of ownership. They will want to be at that retro so that they did not bring food for nothing!

4751483994_fbfd158921_o
Copyright Lottie

But why?

Well other than the free candy… In your agile transition or project life you may not always make the right decisions. The first steps may be off path, BUT if you bake in moments of reflection, you can easily fix these mis-steps and learn from them. Turn them into an investment and not a loss.

So no crazy long, overly optimized roadmap of how to transition to agile is necessary.

CC CP Ewing
Copyright CP Ewing

Just start by talking with each other.

Just take that first step and keep at it and the rest will eventually fall in line.

 

Seven Tips For Keeping Creative While on Deadline

Creativity is for hippies… and well everyone else as well.

In my previous post (“Ode to the Art of Product Development.”), I waxed on the artsiness of product and UX development.  Still these professions are not always treated so.  Often there is a trap that even I fall into, where we expect that anyone can plan/layout a site as long as they understand user experience concepts or the product goals. And that when the site moves to the graphic designers, that’s when the real artsy magic happens.

 

But it takes some serious problem solving, inspiration and creativity to lay out a site in a logical, readable, attractive manner that supports the product goals and suits the target market’s needs.  This especially can get difficult with more “tool” like websites that must be easy to use for a variety of different workflows.  Or for those in product development, discovering that perfect product or “tool” for your market.

Glad I never worked in a place like this...

 

Knock Knock. Mr. Deadline who?

 

But we don’t have time!  Deadlines press on us and the world turns!  And often we try to set a time limit on the product and UX design process.

Sometimes an hour is not enough...

Marty Cagan speaks about this in his book Inpired: How to Create Products Users Love (a must read for web professionals even if you are not a product manager recommended to me by the awesome Mr. Tim Rosenblatt).  I feel that this conundrum of needing to meet deadlines but allowing time for creativity  effects all areas of the web development process including UX design, marketing and software development.

 

Following are some tips that help me when on deadline and needing to work quickly and creatively… Applicable to all though I may tend to write from a product/ux/consultant point of view.

1.  Research Should Not Be Sacrificed

No matter how snap the decisions have to be made: do not let it snap your necks.  As in, take the time to do SOME research, even if you have to timebox it to a short period of time.  This research can be as simple as searching the internet for inspiration.  All your decisions need to be informed, and being more informed will in the end give you more ideas, helping with your creativity. Best yet, giving you informed ideas! 

2.  Keep Open

 

While working under pressure do not let that limit you (easy to say, huh?).  Maybe you won’t have time to wireframe out all your pearls.  But atleast start by listing or sketching out all your ideas before pursuing one.  As with research, to ensure you stay on deadline be sure to timebox your brainstorm session.

What is key is to not judge these ideas right away.  The biggest poison to creativity is closing yourself off by judging prematurely.  SURE the idea may be stupid at first, but if you have a little time to follow the thought process out you may arrive at a golden solution. And if you train your brain to judge your ideas immediately, you shut yourself off from fully utilizing its creativity.  Meaning, less ideas come out when you blockoff pathways.  Also, when you move on to picking the key ideas you will pursue, you still have a list of ideas to fall back on.

3.  Keep Focused Via the POWER OF LISTS

 

 I. Love. Lists. As anyone that knows me… well, knows.  YES keep open but at a certain point you need to hone in (or clear the clutter of your frantic mind).  The best way to keep your priorities straight is to have lists. Make a list at least of your top product goals (or other goals if you are not a product manager).  Also a clear list of feedback is good, when reviewing your solution for a 1st,  2nd or 3rd time.  Try to keep these lists short though… even with feedback, try to boil it down to key points.

Now you have these lists, use them.  When you get lost, refer back to them and center yourself.  Another reason why for product manager’s personas (<– click there to read all about the magic of personas) are key!

 

4.  Digitally Brainstorm, Save Trees, Save Time

 

For the first three tips you could do this on paper.  And for sketching that is often the fastest unless you have a tablet and software skills.  But for the rest, try to do this using google docs, a word processor program or a awesome list software like WorkFlowy.

Why? Because when the time comes to present your ideas, spec your ideas, etc, you already have them typed up.  Clean them up and VOILA.  Saves you time from parsing your scribbles on paper and transcribing them for that power point. Yay, for copy and paste!  In addition, those brainstormed ideas are digitally saved for later.

5.  Feedback early and often

No one likes to waste their time (or your client’s, colleagues, etc).  You will find when you are working close with your client (maybe even in the same room) you will move faster.  Or if this is not a client situation, your teammates, test user, etc. Like in a game of Marco Polo, you need to get feedback often or you may hit into the wall of the pool opposite from your target.

For those who have not played Marco Polo. Basically you close your eyes and flail around in a pool trying to tag your friends. When you call "Marco", they must respond "Polo", helping you find them.

Do not do get feedback via email – if possible.  Even if you have to arrange an impromptu, walk over to your client/boss/colleague’s desk for advice or video skype meeting, be sure not to waste your time writing up some big email just to get quick feedback.  Also that way you can see their reaction first hand and quell any worries on their behalf.

6.  Feedback as Inspiration

 

To continue the last tip’s line of thought, you need to strike a balance between showing people your product too early and shutting them off from you following that train of thought and getting the feedback you need.  This is especially true for consulting… and I could write a whole novel on this. So while I encourage early feedback, do take some time to fully explain your idea and make it clear this is just the beginning of the baby’s life.  Depending on the client, you will have to find the sweet spot, where early is not too soon.

What is important is, do not let feedback/judgement stymy your creativity.  Take it as a challenge/new aspect to design around and not necessarily a reason to move on immediately.  Feedback is not a final deathtoll and is is just a reason to reflect and adapt your idea.  At points you do need to give up the ghost on an idea, but the first negative feedback should not be the death rattle.  And starting over should be avoided especially when on deadline, unless with more feedback you realize its a deadend.  Even then parts and main concepts learned for your idea should be salvaged (thank you Mr. lists).

7.  Take a break

 

When especially frustrated… take a walk!  Bounce a ball against the wall!  Or if you cannot rip yourself from the computer, just peruse the internet for inspiration.  Something as simple as searching for your key goal words in google images, to see what comes up.  Work smarter, not harder.

 

 

 

 

GO TO YOUR HOME!

 

So in summary, the above tips are for creativity when in a pinch.  There are of course more tips necessary just to ensure you MEET your deadline. Such as avoiding the dreaded feature creep beast.  But that is a post for another time..

 

Let’s end with a laugh shall we?  This is what I think about every time I cannot figure out where to place an item while wireframing:

You too good for your home? – S

Ode to the Art of Product Development

Lately I have been working with a company giving UX advice and revising wireframes for their new site.  It has been a fun and rewarding experience!

Friday it struck me once again, with a sappy sort of realization how creative the user experience design process is.  This should be evident but by the word, “design” but often the process is not thought of as so.

Product Development as well demands such creativity (and really any of the web professions, when you need to problem solve and develop).

I wrote a WHOLE post about creativity, tips, etc, but that needs to be honed and posted another day. (Edit: That day has come! Seven Tips for Keeping Creative while on a Deadline)

But for now I present a metaphor…

 

I like to think of the product development & user experience process like sculpting.

You happen upon a big lump of concept in which you can see a glimmer of an fully formed profitable product inside.

You chip at it and make something that you think is pretty darn good looking, using inspiration from experience, other artists out there (past and present), books about sculpting and what you know about your future viewers.

Sculpt
By TochiPhotos

But then you step back or have an art critic look at it… And its a hunk of crap.

Ew

And with the feedback you roll up your sleeves and jump back in with your chisel.

And repeat this… for who knows long until FINALLY you step back, look at it from all angles, have that critic come back over to gander, show your mum and some random passerby… and it is right!  Or right enough to test further. 🙂

Funny things is it often looks MUCH different from what you originally invisioned… but if done right…

By KittiVanilli

It’s better.

– S

SILMACOR – Website Launch – Follow the Dots

This week I launched: SILMACOR.com!  I built this site for a client and it was a very pleasant experience.

Specs

Silmacor Screenshot

  • Design matching provided Logo
  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • JavaScript/jQuery Animation (Scrolling Navigation)
  • Section 508 Compliant
  • Ajax Contact Form with Validation

Design/Dev Thought Process

This was a very smooth process and I appreciated the client’s trust in my expertise and content readiness.  It helps to have the content ahead of time!

The idea of the design is to be clean and up to date but still speak to the bank clients that will be directed to the website, that might not be as into the super modern design aesthetic.

The client plans to use this almost as a presentation that he would point potential clients to, hence the sliding navigation.  My idea was to allow the client to even use this if necessary as a power point, which is aided by the one page format that does not require multiple page loads ( as you may know, you never know how the internet will be at conferences or outside the office…)

I was asked to clean up and match the diagram to the website style. In addition, design wise, I was given the task to add blue to the pre-existing red and grey logo color scheme.  The client did not want to overuse the red color, which can be alarming.

I strove to use the dots from the logo as a trailing/alternating border to encourage the user’s eye downward, breaking monotiny and catching attention.  This border is resized to the content using JavaScript so that the client may add content without fear of making the border look broken, a technique also used on HilaryMercer.com, which my husband and I developed together.

Reflection

I learn from each project I do.  With this project, it helped stretch my design abilities by exercising my use of simplicity and quiet design for a client who may not have a Web 2.0 per se audience.

 

Thank you Silmacor! – S

I heard you like the internet so I put the internet in the internet… internet

Yo dawg, just a quick rant/thought about the Facebook Auto-share feature for apps that will be appearing in the coming weeks as apps adopt it.

Basically the idea is, for certain apps when you opt in they automatically share every video/article/etc that you look at on a certain site.  Not only could that be potentially embarassing, as pointed out by Mashable but I argue that it hinders the overall user experience.

  • On one side you have users even MORE paranoid about opting into apps, which lowers their acceptance of possible good apps.
  • But then you just have utter crap filling up the increasingly cluttered and unfocused facebook stream.  I cannot think of ANYONE, unless they are a psychic kick-ass web developer (who reads before he clicks awesome articles), that I would want to see every article they happen upon. Yes, some could be good. But the odds of that?  Retweet or resharing has a purpose, the user actively chooses to share an interesting article.

This really is a step in the wrong direction, rather than helping users focus into educated suggestions on the internet (collaborative filtering). (Edit: See comments for a link shared by Cliff, its a discussion whether collaborative filtering is even wanted. Good read!) We are basically inserting others’ meanderings around the internet in the internet… just creating noise.  No little doggy ear, top story feature, will protect us from the drivel, as its all a crapshoot.  An intellectual farmville…  

 

The only way I see this potentially augmented so that it is useful, is if there is a review layer.  So as the user leaves the page, the app asks them to leave a review or rating, and choose to share.  Which the prompts could get annoying… but at least cut down on the crap inserted in their friends’/followers’ newsfeed, or at least warn others if its crap.  And perhaps give meaningful feedback to the site author.

At first I was surprised that Facebook is fostering this.  As someone who has launched a Facebook app game, I know they are very guarded about automatic posting on walls (though mostly when regarding your friend’s wall).  Honestly, I see it as them mining more user interactions, part of their now ultra-hyped up “SHARE ALL THINGS” (and save for analysis later) motto.

Needless to say I do not see myself adding any app to my timeline with this feature.

– S

 

 

The Unimaginable Awesomeness of Facebook’s Timeline

And I say that in a HP Lovecraft sense of the word.  Awesome can be good news.  Awesome can also be the powerful destruction of a landslide.  Or in the case of Facebook, its the awesome and semi horrifying realization of what I have been doing all along.  I have been chronicling my life.  One status update and new friend addition at a time, since 2004.

The internet has been watching.  Deep down I knew it… but until Timeline it wasn’t quite as tangible the sheer amount of data I have been supplying to the Sheila Chronicles.  In other words, I have looked into the abyss and it has blown my mind.

Google+ vs. Facebook vs. MySomething or Another: Pre-Timeline

 

Since the release of Google+, there have been murmurs of Facebook going the way of Myspace or My _________ or whatever you call that dinosaur built entirely of blinking gifs.

Honestly, despite being one that has been sucked into the ease and inventiveness of Google+, I had no real fears for Facebook.  At least not for a while.  Myself, I have found I mostly post articles I want to share (like on Twitter) on Google+ but add any real personal data to Facebook.

My Reasons Two:

  1. People (gentiles) are on Facebook.  Google+ gained momementum quickly but only my most avid technophile friends have stuck to Google+.  Let’s be fair Facebook has the CONTENT to keep people for the time being. One big complaint I have heard over and over is, “Google+ is boring”. And it really must be for anyone who does not have rabid googlephiles adding to their stream.  In addition, with the Google+ API only just released, I have no easy way to post to all my Social Media bases, sticking just to Facebook/Twitter where I can get bang for my metaphorical buck.  Takes time to tend your Social Media ant farm!
  2. Like candy to a search engine baby – I consider myself a rational person but I can’t help but feeling I am handing over very personal data to a search engine. And while I trust Google with my personal/business mail, documents, calendar… I just can’t shake the feeling that I should not give them all the milk.  On the other hand when I post blog links and other professional data publicly on Google+, I feel like I am “optimizing my SEOs”.  Its a mix of paranoia and reality.  Facebook is just as bad if not worse but somehow it just didn’t feel as blatant… until now.

Into the Abyss

 

Today I activated Facebook’s Timeline via the developer preview.  I wasn’t a hundred percent certain what to expect since first reading about it in Mashable’s doomsday/coming-to-god like article “Prepare Yourself for the new Facebook“.  And since the beta release the overall consensus has been one of admiration that you don’t see usually attributed to a website.

My first Cover

Initial Reactions

  • OOo let me see here… Cover photo!
  • ASCII penis art and a chainmail status posted by my friends in 2004? Good lord I can go through each month and see what was posted on my wall…
  • This is semi terrifying, wonder what my security settings are?
  • Oh wait, this information is not correct let me add my actual highschool.. birth.. etc… information

The Genius of Facebook

 

Facebook has done which few can… and honestly it is a bold step.  A revealing of cards which few can boast.

You can’t leave me… because I AM you.

 The emotional tie, their coupe de grâce, is revealing what we have been building all along. Our internet legacies or our own graves, depends on how dramatic you want to be.

And at first you react with surprise and try to cover up your nakedness but then you say “Hey!  They assumed my anniversary was my marriage anniversary and not when we started dating!  I better correct that.

And “Oooooo there’s a big button that says add a photo next to my birthdate.  Better add a baby picture!  I already uploaded those a year ago to some album…”

FEED ME SEYMOUR!

SOYLENT FACEBOOK IS PEOPLE!

 

For the first time, and I am not a paranoid person (just ask my husband, it irks him), I have to ask myself what Facebook’s TRUE intention is.  And as an internet professional, I wonder: What is the harm?  Is this what our users want? A way to mine and then reflect on their personal data?

In the end, is Facebook providing us the ultimate service?  A legacy, in which our grandchildren, barring we keep our security settings open, can come to understand?  A reflection base in which to look back on our accomplishments and week moments? Or just TMI?

But is this hubris?

 

It’s pretty ballsy of Facebook to give us a glimpse of what they have been collecting, though its been available for download for years now.  They really have laid down their cards in a connect the dots kind of way.

When released into the wild I can see this going as follows:

  • There is a max exodus of the already paranoid Facebook base (mostly to Google+ or to a bomb shelter).
  • In the end, the majority are winned over by sheer self consumption.  It is pretty flattering and interesting to go through your life story of the past however many years… 
  • The Facebook ball gets bigger. And after a short lag Facebook continues on detailing the human existence in the modern age.  Only now with more granular clarity, as the Facebook antfarm, now more than ever, has swallowed the sugar water and understands the bigger part of the “mission”.

Repercussions for Sheila Suarez de Flores

 

How do I hide the ASCII penis art from my grandma?  I need to probably figure out these circles.. lists… security thingy majig.

 

“The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
― H.P. Lovecraft

 

– S

Keeping Up with TheJones.com

So life is exciting to say the least!

I feel where I’m finally in a moment where I no longer have to rush forward.

  • No age markers to wait for (18, 21, etc)
  • Graduated from college
  • Married
  • Moved to the city of my dreams
  • Working in a job that drives and fits me

It’ll be a while before I even have to consider kids or possibley grad school.  For now… I can just be. While I am still young, newlywedded and gainfully employed.  The world is at my finger tips.

I do not want the moments to go quickly anymore.  I want to sit back at a cafe and slowly drink them up.

Odd feeling as I have always been someone PUSHING forward, trying to get to that next moment.  I’m still progressing, but its in daily life and no longer a “rush” of scenary.

Also that whole, working on “living in the moment” thing, that’s helped.

But how do I encapsulate this in a 140 character tweet?

#firstworldproblems I know.  Guess that’s why its going into the ole blog.

Despite being wired into the internet via phone and laptop.  Despite the apps to stream my outpouring of banal musings, photo captures and video romps.

I feel I am not doing enough.  I need to capture more.  I need to share more.

I need to take more pictures, edit them, write a blog on them, share the funny ones on Tumblr, tweet my blog post, post the pictures on G+, Flickr, Facebook in an organized systematic, tagged manner to the correct circles.

Out at a bar? Gotta rate the bar service, the beer, the food (while sharing a picture of it).  Gotta check in and become the mayor AND duke.  Gotta check into both.

Five minutes later I emerge from my phone and my friends are turned and talking amongst themselves.  What happened to living in the moment?

But sharing is caring!

I love sharing!  I love reading the comments and discussing with my friends near and far.  Giggling, commenting & up voting.  These are people I miss and respect.  Awesome collaboration often comes, and sometimes a merging of my “circles”.  All learning and growing and sharing.

Is this not ultra connectiveness?

But meanwhile in real life I am missing those I respect IN PERSON.  And while my eyes are glued to the screen, they are not looking “around” me.

Or are they? But is the internet my true reality? Especially if I’m reading about “reality”? GAH!

And if the cities are man made and so is the internet, what makes going out on the town talking with new friends better then staying home and talking with new friends?

Those that loved, lived and died in the Matrix never knew the difference.  Did their lives suffer if every moment they enjoyed just because they never truly touched soil?

Enough of that… I don’t have the answers.

*Deep Breath* One post at a time….

I am a month behind on hoards of pictures I have to post about my adventures.  I have not written a post on my blog in over a month, well until now.  My flickr is woah-fully unorganized/tagged.  My portfolio site is half finished.  And its stressing me out, man.

What have I been doing?

Mostly learning french, building friendships, working & traveling.  In general, soaking it up & establishing a foundation.

It takes TIME to represent yourself fully on the internet.  To chronicle your life.  To gain the feedback of others. Sometimes it takes double the time!

Is it worth it if you never go back to relive/look through the chronicling (that counts 3x+ the time).

SHOULD WE NOT BURN ALL OUR POSSESSIONS AND WALK NAKED INTO THE WOODS AND EXPERIENCE EACH MOMENT WITHOUT LOOKING BACK?

Well, that’s a fun Foursquare tip.

In the end… I suppose… kinda…

We use the internet as a pool of reflection.  A place to throw our thoughts and see what sticks (like this blog post).  And perhaps search on Wikipedia to win bets.

But as soon as we let it hinder our relationships (despite building distant ones), because we do need support structures nearby, then perhaps we need to put down the 3g, man.

But then again, who cares?

Vive la difference!

If it makes you happy to check into three different geoloation social media sites, then get on with your bad self!

For me I think I’ll continue scrambling forward trying to cobble together my internet identity and build a memory basis.  It’s good for my career in the internet industry and darn it, I enjoy it! Though sometimes I laugh at the fact that the introduction of G+ made me have to rethink my “social media” strategy for easily posting food pics.

I will take moments to nurture my self that needs the internet reflection pool.  There is a reason I edit my photos & post them, because each one reminds me of a dear moment and allows me during the process to meditate on what I learned & experienced.

BUT I think I’ll try to stop feeling bad about being woefully back logged.  After all the internet…

Is a series of tubes – S

 

 

Though my portfolio does need updating… THE VICIOUS CYCLE CONTINUES… until next time.

 

Magic Ruby is a Gem

So I wanted to make a quick post about an event I went to in February: Magic Ruby. It was a free event near Disney.

I love me some Python but man the Ruby community can be great.  I have only dabbled in Ruby but I couldn’t resist a free conference where Dave Thomas and Chad Fowler were speaking.

Turned out to be awesome and totally applicable to my work.  A lot of the talks were about good practices in general, so could be applied outside of Ruby.  I especially give kudos to Dave Thomas who very openly talked about what the Ruby/Agile community could improve on.  Namely keeping a more open mind while not chasing the golden idol of new technology without weighing the cost to production.

Thunder Struck

So I did my first impromptu lightning talk (hosted by Gregg at Envy Labs!). It was on accessibility and simple things you can do to improve your site’s Section 508 compliance and make it all around more usable. I had five minutes to talk and they requested a video as well. Check it out below…

Addendum:

  1. Using multiple H1s is allowed in HTML5 but keep in mind this is still not supported by most screen readers. The big point here is to keep the hierarchy clear and not to jump levels or use random headings for accent.
  2. I had a 5 minute time limit so I didn’t get to clarify the resource “Just disable styles on your site!”. What I meant here is a good troubleshooting tool is to look at your site and remove all styles via your browser setting. If the content makes sense and nothing vital is lost, you should be on the right path! This is not a foolproof technique though.
  3. I had my references on the stats slide but viddler cuts of the bottom… VIDDLLEERRRR! Trust me I researched them?

Pretty sweet background muzak huh? Recorded with Jing in the hotel side lobby…

It was a good experience. And I had some people come up and talk to me afterward voicing their frustration as well as to the lack of knowledge about accessibility. I also got a high five!

I think I’m going to prepare a longer one for Barcamp Orlando

Yay for Awesome Free Events! – S