Geek Smithology

January 24, 2007

Jobs on Java – it’s dead.

Filed under: Craft of Dev by Nathan @ 7:30 pm

As a developer who genuinely likes Java, this is just ignorant (see more info here)…

Markoff: “And what are you thinking about Flash and Java?”
Jobs: “Java’s not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It’s this big heavyweight ball and chain.”

With all the Java developers using Macs these days, this feels like a slap in the face. The iPhone runs OSX – what are apps going to be written in? Ruby? Objective C? Is there some magical deal with Microsoft to bring .NET to the iPhone? There’s always Javascript…

Besides, talk to Amazon, eBay, Google, or the thousands of developers writing Java code right now — rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

January 23, 2007

Douche is a funny word…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 9:04 pm

From Orange32:

Tired of arguing with complete morons? Tired of getting into bar room brawls? Well now avoid the confrontation with our glorious Douche Card. Simply hand it to the asshole in question and walk away. Problem solved.

These are too funny…

I hope I never, er, “receive” one 😛

January 22, 2007

Six Word Stories

Filed under: Written Word by Nathan @ 10:41 pm

Perhaps you’ve heard of Ernest Hemmingway’s six word story, which he claimed to be his best work[1]:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

I was reading this Wired article (courtesy of this entry on Wil Wheaton’s blog) about several dozen authors who wrote their own wee stories. I’m partial to Frank Miller’s “With bloody hands, I say goodbye.” Naturally, since I fancy myself a bit of a writer, I figured I’d try out a few for the hell of it…

We couldn’t. We shouldn’t. You did.

No, not like this. So cold.

I never loved you.

If you have any of your own six word stories, feel free to leave ’em as comments. So many ways to go…

[1] Possibly apocryphal, but I don’t want to try and verify one way or the other – more romantic that way.

January 19, 2007

The Story of XMLHTTP

Filed under: Craft of Dev by Nathan @ 12:21 pm

If you’ve been developing dynamic web applications for any length of time (especially pre-buzz when there wasn’t a googol of Javascript frameworks trumpeting AJAX enabled for all the world to hear), you’ve run into XMLHTTP. Alex Hopman, the author, has posted the story of XMLHTTP and if you like to read about what goes into the technologies we use, it’s a must-see.

January 7, 2007

It’s too easy to make fun of American car companies…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:07 pm

I don’t link to other bloggers too often, but this post from Scott Adams (he of Dilbert fame) about GM’s new electric car prototype, the “Volt” (and you thought Prius was a stupid name?) Apparently, they are still working out the kinks in the battery, so it won’t be available for another 5-7 years. I’ll quote Scott, because he’s way funnier than I am:

In other words, except for knowing how to make a battery for their electric car, everything else is pretty much under control. If you were an employee of GM, I have to think this would worry you.

Too funny. As for the concept itself, you can see some pics @ GM’s car show site (warning, needs Flash). I think it’s ugly, especially the rear.

January 1, 2007

Is Agile Estimation an Oxymoron?

Filed under: Craft of Dev by Nathan @ 1:12 pm

Browsing Jeff Patton’s blog, I read this entry about story estimation that illustrates some points that we’ve all instinctively felt but not had the words (or the courage, more on that in another entry) in which to frame those instincts. As developers, we are always forced to give estimates for the work that we’re going to complete in any given timeframe, and we’re almost always wrong. Occasionally, there is the perfect storm where:

  • The customer and developer both have a clear idea of what is needed
  • The problem is small and well understood
  • We are conversant with the domain
  • We know the implementation technology like the back of our hand

And in these cases our experience allows us to build meaningful estimates.

Far more often, however, we’re in the middle of a windless sea, and in the absence of landmarks we wet our thumbs and throw out a SWAG[1] estimate so that the PM has something (anything!) to enter into his Gantt chart. And that’s where we run into trouble. Jeff’s advice (and a new favorite quote) is to

Treat estimates given at the outset of a project as a budget for some possible solutions, not as a bid for one specific solution.

When we’re writing stories, measuring velocity, and planning our iterations, we feel confident in calling ourselves agile…but those stories stop being launching pads for clarification and start being bullet points in a distributed requirements specification document. Why are we so afraid to be honest about what we can reasonably take on, and why is there always some point at which we stop embracing change? Is the mere idea of Agile Estimation an oxymoron?

I believe passionately in the theoretical underpinnings of Agile, but I’ve yet to see it play out in practice. I’m willing to offer the fallibility of mine and my team’s in bringing these theories to life, but I don’t see this as a problem easily solved with a bit of coaching. How deep and how wide can we manage customer expectations? How long do we overschedule iterations while saying “trust me” before it’s all gone Pete Tong and we’ve failed? How many under-implemented projects will be burned at the stake in the name of projected velocity being written in stone and married to hopeful estimates too early in the budgeting cycle. Where is the Herculean PM that can manage not only the client expectations but his own to see this through?

Or is Agile another idea that’s great on paper but cannot be both pure and effective when it hits the real world? I would love to be proven wrong.

[1] Shitty Wild-Ass Guess

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