Archive for the ‘Working smart’ Category
Even if you’re just a developer, a little product management will open your eyes.
I know, you think it’s all about marketing, and it is, sort of, but from time to time an article series like Practical Rules for Product Management makes it fun, even for non marketers. So, enjoy:
Moving slow lets you finish faster.
Asynchronous communication doesn’t make you less productive, it makes you more productive.
Meetings for the sake of meeting are just poison. They just take everybody out of their flow.
If people tell you that it’s important, it’s critical, it can’t wait, it’s high priority, take it with a grain of salt.
Few things in life are important or critical, people make them appear that way.
You don’t like what you’re doing at work… do something else.
You can’t do something else at work, get a hobby… it will push you in the right direction.
You don’t like doing anything at all? Now that’s a big fat lie.
There’s always something else… that can make you happy.
There’s no magic fairy that is going to come along and fix everything. You’re not that lucky, nobody is.
Change, work harder, and it will pay off.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of people posting and tweeting, bragging about how zero their inbox is. This is funny and sad at the same time.
It’s funny because they’re getting it wrong… it’s never about having an empty inbox. It’s sad because at the end of the day they have an empty inbox but they didn’t get anything done… they were too busy getting their inbox to zero
Maybe the name ruins it all.
Maybe people get it as “I should spend as much time as possible checking my email, cleaning it, moving it to folders or deleting it so I can get it out of my mind, because that has some sort of psychological effect, relieving me of my pains and stress”, taking it from an ongoing habit to permanent effort.
It’s ironic that something meant to help sort things out and liberate more time for creative and productive work… actually transforms into a time-consuming and stressful (“not at inbox zero yet… have to get there… omg”) activity.
Think about this: If you’re checking your email every 5 minutes, you’re checking for new email 24.000 times per year.
What’s worse is that it turns into some sort of procrastination aid.
It feels like productive work, because you are clearing stuff out. Right? You are advancing and getting somewhere. Right?
Well, no. Inbox zero isn’t somewhere.
Don’t set your goal to have inbox zero… set your goal to actually get more things done right, both in quantity and quality and you’ll get somewhere.
Everything changes, nothing remains without change.
- Buddha (Gautama Siddharta)
In my last post I was talking about treating everything as a project and how change is inherent. This is one of the principles that I live by, one of the simple rules that guide me.
For me, there are 2 ways to handle change:
- believe it when people say that something is set in stone, unchangeable… fixed – and have an incredibly bad day when everything changes
- always consider everything in flux. have a plan and try to execute it – hope for the best but expect the worst. be ready for change, and when everything goes as planned be happy that it did
It’s easier to embrace change when it happens if your expectations are that everything will eventually change.
It’s even easier to embrace change when change is a part of your plan.
This way, you are always ready – never surprised.
This is what popped up while going through a thought experiment on choosing hosting and provisioning for the development of a new Software as a Service offering.
The options considered are:
- PaaS with multi-tenancy – use a PaaS offering (think Cloud Foundry, Heroku, Google App Engine and Windows Azure Compute) to host a multi-tenant system. Provisioning for a new client is zero-cost done inside the system
- PaaS with one environment per client – use a PaaS offering (think Cloud Foundry, Heroku, Google App Engine and Windows Azure Compute) to host a regularly developed system. Provisioning for a new client means configuring a new PaaS environment, adding an instance and deploying
- IaaS with multi-tenancy – use an IaaS offering (think Amazon EC2 or Windows Azure Virtual Machines) to run a stack of Virtual Machines configured to run your platform of choice, hosting a clustered multi-tenant application. Provisioning is zero-cost after initial setup
- IaaS with one stack per client – use an IaaS offering (think Amazon EC2 or Windows Azure Virtual Machines) to run one stack of Virtual Machines configured to run your platform of choice, hosting a clustered (or not) regularly developed application for each client. Provisioning means creating stacks, adding virtual machines, installing OS, DB, platform and deploying application
For convenience I also added a category called UGLY, just to highlight what I consider to be the worst point of each option.
Over PaaS with multi-tenancy
Over PaaS with one environment per client
Over IaaS with multi-tenancy
Over IaaS with one stack per client
Some points are good and bad simultaneously. Examples:
Application must comply with platform constraints – which means that you can’t always do what you want to do, producing
- GOOD – sometimes enforces good coding and resource-usage conventions
- BAD – more effort in developing exotic things
One version for all clients – there can only be one version in production
- GOOD – less versions to worry about, less things to manage
- BAD – you may upgrade users that want the old version or you may have some users that want deep customizations and that are willing to pay for them
The overall conclusion is that the higher you go, the less you have to manage, the cheaper it gets.
For another good read you can check out the PaaS vs IaaS comparison on http://www.engineyard.com/paas-vs-iaas.
I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.
- Douglas Adams
When asking somebody a question, assuming that they are even listening, you can expect them to either:
- know the answer
- don’t know what you’re talking about
If they know the answer they’re going to give it to you right away, and that’s fine… because they know what they’re talking about.
If they’re in the clueless gang, they’re either going to give you a “sort of correct in their own opinion” answer or they’re going to recognize the fact that they don’t know, honestly. I just hate it when people give me “their correct answer”… and I’m not the only one.
Most people don’t realize that the choice they make in that exact instance is a make it or break it deal, especially if it’s a first impression.
Appearances do matter, and somebody jumping directly to conclusions even if their knowledge of the situation or problem at hand is close to nothing will automatically get tagged as either “clueless” or just plain stupid.
On the other hand, being thorough and wanting to give the correct answer (not the first one) is highly prized, because… it’s more productive to work on facts rather than fantasy.
So, if somebody asks you a question that you should be able to answer but you can’t:
- honestly say that you can’t answer at this time and that you’ll get back to them in a very short time
- find the right answer and validate it – if you’re going to take your time, make sure that you are right
- get back to them as quickly as possible - never over-promise and under-deliver
This is really important for anything related to costs (such as licensing issues and estimates), compatibility or interoperability questions (most of them are tricky anyway) and client-facing issue.
Ensuring that your answers are correct and that you had time to think things through will help you do your job better and I’ve never seen a manager say “I don’t want the right answer in 10 minutes, I want the wrong one now!”.
So don’t just get things done, start getting things right.
I know it’s really difficult to say no and that you just accept things because of your inner fear of conflict and lost opportunities. You just have to get over it and just learn once and for all how to say no! You’ll do yourself a favor… and everybody else.
The next time your boss (or anybody) is trying to push down an extra task on you just say “I’m sorry but I can’t do this right now.” in a straight and non-defensive manner. In time, learning how to say no will let you focus on the tasks at hand and it will change the habits of the people you work with – they’ll be more picky about the tasks they delegate to you.
If they ask for an explanation just say the truth – that your schedule is already full and that another task will just lower the quality of your work along with actually delaying your already existing tasks.
If they don’t understand “loss of quality” and “delay”… well, it’s their problem.
Quality is a rare commodity these days and we have to fight for it, even if it may hurt some feelings or even if it pisses some people off. In the end, quality always wins.
Users are strange creatures, and to demonstrate, here are some quick facts:
- They want to achieve lots of things as fast as they can, without learning anything new;
- They hate reading and avoid anything that resembles help or a user manual… or even freaking text boxes;
- They want user interfaces that look like other user interfaces and that function the way that other applications function but that ultimately achieve a different goal;
- They want things to just work.
Yup, strange creatures indeed. Who would have thought? Not us programmer types anyway.
None of these facts are new. All of them are known since the dark ages of computing. All of them are well documented and repeatedly demonstrated. It just seems that a lot of the things that we used to know and follow are now forgotten.
Users want well designed products that are tailored to their needs and that help them do what they want to do. Users just don’t want to read the manual and they have chronic dialog box blindness. For users, the user interface is the product so if you want them to use your product they need consistent and usable interfaces. Users need professionally designed, developed and production-ready products that just work; not unfinished, buggy, wanna-be software.
Because users are ultimately our customers and because it is the right thing to do if we consider ourselves professionals that is what we must provide. Because that is what they deserve.
You can consider this post a small rant – just blowing off some steam after re-iterating some of these facts to a bunch of confused developers that think users are just plain stupid. They’re not stupid – we are just building software for the wrong people (rocket scientists that can read binary while unit testing in their sleep).