Written by Thomas

Buffer post

Firstly…I’m always a bit taken by how quickly time flies by. Its been roughly 9 months since my last post which puts my ‘become-famous-blogger’ plan in a somewhat ill perspective.

So before I hopefully pick up a faster pace (…) and start writing ‘serious’ posts, I’d better quickly recap my life from the time of my last post uptil now:

  • Still got my wonderful wife, and my son is growing up and becoming increasingly lovable.
  • Got a job-title change from ‘Pure Code Monkey’ to ‘Online Community Organizer’, which basically means that I’m responsible for my firms online community @ (well…it also includes some support responsibility…so it’s not extremely fancy fancy)
  • We bought a house…and are enjoying this new status and all the worries that follow in the wake.
  • I’ve started working with Betware’s platform which also makes me a web developer (Struts, J5EE and whatnot)…I suppose.

I’m still buying books by the truckload…so in some distant future I’m going to become an expert on the Lego Mindstorms NXT platform, a network security mastermind, Struts Wiz and Agile guru.

An elephant vs. the porcelain factory

Lately I’ve been working on modifying existing games for a new customer. Each game packs a couple of years of codebase history, one of them even has had multiple developers assigned since its birth.

Now, let me start by stating that I’ve never considered myself especially gifted when it concerns programming. I know my way around the fundamental concepts, and pack a decent analytical skill when it comes to design and architectural decisions. But these recent work tasks as really challenged me in almost all dimensions.

Getting to grips with the original mental model of an application is indeed much more complicated than understanding the problem domain itself (ahem…depending to some extent on the problem domain type…). Unfortunately there is very little documentation related to the games I have been working with. Most application knowledge exists within the head of the firm’s game grandmaster. Luckily he is very friendly and willing to help.

But as the title of this post states, it is easy to feel a bit like an elephant in a porcelain factory. Whenever you have to make a turn, your large behind knocks over something fragile and hard to recreate. So You learn to turn very carefully, and perhaps even get a little paranoid and do nothing but tiptoe around all day. When working within a fixed iteration with defined tasks and deadlines, a though choice have to be made. To continue building on top of existing code trying not to break anything, or to acquire the appropriate resources for rebuilding the program, knowing that it most like would not be backwards compatible and we would end up with parallel codebases for the same application (more or less). I guess that abstraction and modularization would cure some of our difficulties, but such rework would still require unavailable resources.

I guess communication is the golden key to success, once again.

‘the myths of innovation’

It is hard to avoid contact with the term ’innovation’ these days. Most of us probably have some basic perception of what it means to innovate and to some degree also which factors are good innovation fertilisers. Without new ideas and ways of running a business, an organization will quickly get sidetracked or left behind in our evermore demanding, and increasingly smaller, global world.

Scott Berkun has taken one more step in his quest to fill a bookshelf with his own books by writing ‘the myths of innovation’. It is rather short, less than 150 pages (not including appendix and such). In ten chapters Berkun access common myths about innovation. Being myths, the author seeks to rebuke them one by one, some of these are:

  • The myth of epiphany
  • The myth of an open mind towards new ideas
  • The myth of the lone inventor
  • The myth of the insightful boss
  • The myth of best ideas

The basic message of the book, as I read it, is that we must accept and embrace the fact that innovation rarely happens instantly. But that it instead takes time, lots of hard work and typically collaboration between knowledgeable peers.

Furthermore, when we identify a brilliant idea, realising it is both more troublesome and considerably costlier than our myth related expectations. Conservatism blocks innovation and overcoming its barriers requires endurance and courage.

Besides deflating innovation myths, Berkun also provide pointers to the seeds of innovation with which we gain an understanding of the different motivational backgrounds that drives innovation.

I would recommend this book for anyone who craves an alternative, and somewhat lighter, approach to the concept of innovation. Berkun provides several historical examples, and shows how the myths of innovation have shaped our present understanding of these. The book doesn’t tell you how to lead an organization to become market leading, but it does help you to understand the road bumps your bright idea will face on its path to realization and eventually…glory.

One step closer

to getting published! Last week I recieved an email from the editor of International Journal of Business Information Systems (IJBIS), informing me that the article I wrote in cooperation with Lars Mathiassen, got accepted for publication. The reviewers found it interesting enough, so all I have to do is adjust the article according to their comments.

Naturally..I’m thrilled about having my work published, but it seems that I’ll also have to be a bit patient, as the article will be published in Issue 1 in 2009, so…in one and a half year..You can find my article in IJBIS :-)

New books (and a little redundancy)

Yet again I’ve spent money on books. This time mr. mailman provided me with a few Java books (hopefully enabling me to keep up the pace at work). But I was mostly excited about receiving Lars Kolinds book ‘Kolindkuren’. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about this book, so I bought another book by him also…called the ‘Second Cycle’. When I got my books I discovered that my eagerness blinded me to the fact that Kolindkuren is simply the Danish translation of the Second Cycle….so now I have to almost identical books…

Any way, 75 pages into Kolinds book, he delivers a easily digestible and comprehendible message. His points generally concur with Haeckel’s ‘The Adaptive Enterprise’, and the openness touted in Wikinomics. Eventually, when I’ve understood the full message of these books, I hope to construct a analytical framework for understanding my new workplace and the organization our firm is a part of.

A peek into the real world

Phew…a good month into my new life as a software engineer, I can honestly say that many of the distressing situations discussed by the books and articles I read during my thesis, do not grab the problems out of thin air. It appears that both requirements gathering, communication, documentation and code maintenance are topics which requires both ‘fingerspitzgefuhl’ and consideration.

Its a joy to participate in a working relationship, but several of the small firm challenges I investigated during the last year readily applies to my new job. Emotional code ownership and task delegation appear to be key factors in ensuring a smooth running team.

Today I’m a little anxious concerning my abilities to gather the necessary amount of self responsibility for the job, as my tasks depend heavily on already burdend employees. I wonder if all small firms eventually reach a point where they have to decide on either making a huge leap in market and product faith, or simply decide on the current niche position with all its inherent risks?

Java Puzzles

Recently entered my book collection and is now awaiting reading and reviewing.