Archive for March, 2008

Is walking more harmful to the Environment than driving?

March 31, 2008

Well, if you read this article (How Virtuous is Ed Begley Jr.?) published in New York Times and you are an environmentalist, you will certainly think about cutting off your walking to save the environment!

The article refers to the recent comments made by Chris Goodall on his web site – “How to live a Low Carbon Life?“. Mr. Goodall is a member of the Green Party in Britain and seems to be a devout environmentalist. The argument which Mr. Goodall makes is that when people walk they consume food. To consume food, food needs to be produced. Production of food is carbon generating activity and hence not environment-friendly. So by doing some numbers mumbo-jumbo, Mr. Goodall has concluded that may be driving is more environment friendly as compared to walking.

Looking at the comments and uproar which are posted on the New York Times article, may be I can argue that writing such articles is also not environment-friendly! So much of electricity would have been consumed by so many people just to vent their feedback on the internet. And I am sure that Mr. Goodall would realize that electricity generation is also not an environment friendly activity!

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Evolution of Workstreamr

March 27, 2008

Although few of us have been referring to Workstreamr in our blogs in the recent few weeks, the mystery around Workstreamr is now slightly clearing up. Stowe Boyd, one of the founder of Workstreamr, opened a curtain a bit more after he blogged about it yesterday. (Link – Workstreamr: Work Made Social)

I had started talking with Stowe Boyd, Sam Huleatt and Ben Schippers – the three co-founders of Workstreamr around the time of Diwali last year. (I will refer to the trio as SSB going forward in this blog). The first few weeks were spent in understanding the vision and the motivation which was driving these three guys. After about a month around the Thanksgiving time, my group – Version 1.0 – in GlobalLogic became the Engineering partner of Workstreamr and the actual implementation work started. It has been an amazing experience ever since.

One of the key focuses of SSB was to see how the social aspects of Web 2.0 can be used for fulfilling the needs of project-based work. Their argument (and I agree) was that the traditional project management mechanisms and tools in use today were built on older approaches which had an extremely linear thinking. For the sake of discussion here, let me call it “Microsoft Office” approach. In the Microsoft Office approach, Work items gets created in the Project first; they are distributed and assigned to individuals; individuals work and complete the work items. When all the work items are completed, the project is assumed to be completed. If things go wrong or unexpected, the whole process of re-calibration starts again. There is a ‘robotic’ feeling in this approach. IMO this approach simply fails in projects being completed by distributed teams.

As an organization, GlobalLogic traditionally has always been ahead of its time in adapting the modern practices in collaboration (especially associated with Web 2.0) within the organization. Tools like Wikis, Trackers, Instant Messaging, Bloggers, etc. are a common part of our day-to-day operations. (On the side note – I recently realized that everyone in my team is following everyone else’s work on Twitter). We call these as the “Productivity Enhancement Tools”. So in a sense we very quickly found ourselves aligning very closely with SSB‘s ideas. Also, having been in the Global/Distributed Product Development business for a long time now, we know that the needs for a platform like Workstreamr which facilitated the social aspects of collaboration and project management exists. IMO, I think this was a key ingredient for our successful collaboration till-date.

One of the powerful mechanisms which Workstreamr uses is the concept of ‘Streams’. Rather than one-on-one or one-to-many direct communication, Workstreamr pushes the concept of collaboration over ‘stream’ of information which individuals can subscribe, filter, or ignore based on their needs. Having said this, I understand that there are many other tools that are introducing the concept of streams in some or the other manner. Atlassian JiRA is one such example. However, the concept of ‘typed post’ which Stowe talks about in his blog is one of the big differentiator for Workstreamr.

For anyone interested in trying out Workstreamr, Workstreamr is taking in requests for registration for Beta at www.workstreamr.com (it is on a first-come-first-serve basis).

Along with SSB, my team and I are also very excited about how Workstreamr is shaping up.

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Webinar – Helping Entrepreneurs Launch ‘Fabless’ Software Enabled Businesses

March 26, 2008

If you are a technology entrepreneur or a domain expert keen in hearing out the experiences in launching software-enabled businesses – you may want to check out the “Helping Entrepreneurs Launch ‘Fabless’ Software Enabled Businesses” Webinar. (Thursday, April 03, 2008, 1 P. M. EST). To register, you can follow the instructions listed on the page link above.

The Webinar is sponsored by GlobalLogic (my current employer) and the Version 1.0 Service which has been my recent passion.

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What Programming Languages should you learn?

March 19, 2008

I have always been a firm believer that as a software programmer – unlike their real life – one should avoid getting married to one programming language (at least personally this is what I expect from most of the pure computer science specialists). I know that there are people who will hurl stones at me when I say this. However, openness to explore something new in this regards, has always been a key criteria for me to select people in my group.

My views certainly got validated by Christopher Diggins in his article “Learn as Many Languages as You Can” in Dr. Dobbs Journal. While he certainly has his preferences set for Scala, however he is also encouraging programmers to leave their safety zone to effectively expand their thinking.

Regarding expansion of thinking – Chris points to an interesting hypothesis called as Sapir-Whorf’s Hypothesis (Wikipedia Link). This is the first time I have read this theory. It talks about how a particular linguistic language influences the thinking of its speakers. What this means is that if a Person A uses English as his speaking language vs Person B who uses Chinese as his speaking language – there is a high probability that both of them would have a different outlook towards exactly same aspects in life. I agree with this theory as I have observed this to be true in my real life. So what Chris is saying is that if this hypothesis is true, why not learn as many languages in order to get a wider outlook towards general software programming.

I completely agree with you, Chris!

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Across Browsers Compatibility

March 19, 2008

Some things never change, do they?

I was watching the team yesterday meticulously trying to make sure that the user experience of the application is same across various browsers and their versions. It reminded me of my early days of the programming career little over decade back. Same story, same issues, and same hair-pulling experience! Mozilla vs. IE (it was Netscape vs. IE in my days); Works in 7.0 but does not work in 6.0; works on Joe’s IE but does not work on mine; blah blah. Same story but a different year! Or should I say a different decade?

I do agree that Web Programming has become extremely cooler and sophisticated over the last decade. I can recall a time where in order to make a web site interactive, all you could do was to pop-up an error or confirmation box using JavaScript on the Client Side. Today, however, the possibilities of what you can do in an application running in a browser is amazing. However as much as the complexity and wide-reach of Web Programming has increased, the technology to help in resolving the challenges associated with rolling out a Web – based product has not improved that much. It is still very human dependent as it was about a decade back. I am saying this even with the good web testing frameworks (Watir, Selenium, etc.) out there. There are certain things that still requires human eye.

[On the side note - I sometimes wonder why many programmers today shy away from Web Programming and prefer to confine themselves dealing with more structured programming languages (Java, RoR, etc.). IMO, Web Programming today is much more challenging than it ever was.]

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Perceptions vs. realities of GDPs across countries..

March 18, 2008

I should confess here that I am very poor in understanding the economic theories out there. So for a novice like me in this area, I found this published article in The Economist (“The Grossly Distorted Picture“) to be a very interesting read. It compares how looking at the same data across a different dimension can give you a completely different view. (For example – economy of Japan suddenly seems to be looking much better than USA – contrary to the popular current belief)

Again, I am not an economist so may not be able to debate about the pros and cons of this method. However, it makes me wonder if it was all about looking at GDP as a function of head count, why weren’t we doing this measurement before?

This article also has an interesting discussion thread which is worth a read.

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Version 0.1 for Workstreamr

March 13, 2008

The team just released the first Iteration Release of Workstreamr this Monday and I was amazed at the terrific job they did. As I told all of them – this is probably the first time in my working experience that I have a seen a relatively functionally stable product released by the Development Team after the first iteration. Typically in my past experience, the first iteration release to the QA was when all the hell would break loose (sorry, there is a slight exaggeration here). QA cursing Developers for what they have handed them, Developers passing the buck to the Requirements Engineers for unverified requirements, and so on. It used to take few iterations and multiple patches to make the product stable for functional testing. In this case, the product was put to actual usage after the first iteration. It was a perfect synchronized dance between all the members.

The team sat down for an interesting retrospective meet yesterday.

Some key things which the team claimed worked very well for them were

  • Well defined and understood Iteration Goals. Goals were kept in an achievable format. (Team had spent substantial time at the start of the iteration to talk amongst themselves about the goals and success criteria)
  • Requirements in visualized formats (from wire-frames and prototypes).
  • Good team coordination and quick turn-around for queries. (Team uses Velocity Methodology & Platform)
  • Test Automation

Areas of improvement which the team suggested -

  • Branding Planning & Design should happen before the engineering starts.
  • In Iteration Planning Meets – plan for things beyond the next iteration.
  • Although it worked in the current iteration, Iteration Planning & Estimation process needs to be more rigorous.

There are three more iterations left for the release. I am sure the team would have excellent opportunity to implement these improvements. At this time, however, they should savor their achievements. And yes, a pizza is due on me!

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Documenting the Indian Partition History

March 12, 2008

An interesting article in Washington Post today which talks about the growing attempts and increasing urgency in documenting the history associated with Indian Partition in and around 1947. (Registration may be required for the link)

Partition is an extremely painful yet unwritten epic which is part of Indian History now. It is or it can certainly be counted as part of Top 5 modern-age worst human disasters. For ages, there seem to have been a tendency amongst many to keep mum about the subject rather than confronting the ghosts of the past. The generation which went through it and experienced it is now fast depleting. Hopefully this exercise will record their pain and encourage them to speak of their sufferings before they move on to the oblivion.

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Product Engineering approach for Startups (3): Goals driven planning.

March 12, 2008

[This is third in my series of blogs about Product Engineering Approach for Startups. In my previous blog, I had talked about why should startups invest in prototypes.]

One of the most important thing all the startups have to figure out as part of their Business Plan is what is going to be their go-to-market strategy atleast from Product or Services Delivery perspective. As critical as it is for almost all the startups, I see that many startups make the mistake of planning their go-to-market strategy using engineering milestones and not customer-driven milestones – especially in products which are more customer driven.

To explain my point here, let me take an example of two hypothetical Startups – A and B (assume that they are building same type of product).

  • Startup A sets its first milestone to roll out a Beta Release. So they plan a list of features to be implemented in Beta and drive their product engineering. The goal or purpose behind the Beta Release is somehow implicit here.
  • Startup B sets its first milestone to get 100 users start using their system. So in this case they drive their plan for Beta Release with the bare minimum features which will reach them to their goal. In some cases, these minimum features might be same as the features which Startup A is implementing. However, the point here is that purpose of the milestone is well defined in B’s case as compared to Startup A.

IMO, from the above example Startup B is in a much flexible situation where they can maneuver their engineering close to what customers or potential customers are expecting. They are customer driven. Also, there is also an implicit requirement on Startup B to be more Agile to reach the goal. Startup A’s strategy is more Engineering driven which may or may not be the same as Customer driven focus.

While I am personally in favor of following Startup B’s approach, I will also agree that organization’s circumstances to select either of the approaches may be driven by more wider range of issues.

From my experience, I have also learnt that Product Developers are more motivated and aligned when B’s approach is taken. They are more mission oriented. Whereas in A’s case, I have seen that the aim is more timeline oriented.

I would love to hear your thoughts/comments/feedback.

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Are we getting a smell of Web 3.0?

March 9, 2008

It is going to happen or it may already have happened. The race for defining what is next after Web 2.0 i.e. Web 3.0, Web 4.0, etc. is on. I have seen various different sources starting to talk about the next generation of Web 2.0. This week an article in Newsweek – “Is User-Generated Content Out?” by Tony Dokoupil is certainly going to add more this debate. Especially because it is coming from a popular news-source like Newsweek.

Tony’s article talks about how there seems to be a growing need of having a layer of control over the increasingly unreliable user generated content which traditional Web 2.0 era is generating.

This article also alludes to the points I had raised in my blog few weeks back – “Social Aspects of Search Engines“. I had talked about how controlled and organized search are making their way.

While I am not sure if this is what is going to be called as Web 3.0, I agree with the issues associated with growing noise in the content out there on the internet and hence a definite editorial layer needs for the same. However, I think I will disagree with Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis whose premises behind all this seems to be that wisdom of crowd seems to have peaked. Not too sure if there are any buyers to this assumption.

[On the side note - Calacanis certainly seems to have a great knack of making hugely people-stirring statements. Especially considering how much of a blogger-world attack he has received on his latest blog-post titled "How to save money while running a startup?"]

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Sometimes these products amazes me…

March 8, 2008

Check out the Bluetooth-enabled pillow which is supposed to make its debut very soon.

I am trying to count the number of assumptions this product is trying to make here -

  1. Like teenagers, grown-up adults like talking on the phone lying down for a long period of time.
  2. Teenagers are not going to buy this product – well, atleast the normal looking at the price tag.
  3. While in the bed, people typically won’t like to bother their body while talking on the phone – well atleast anything other than the mouth muscles.
  4. The pillow would really require a long battery life – for more than 8 hrs of talking time.

I am sure the product manufacturer’s have done a broad market study to find this to be a viable product idea. However, I am sure people like me would have been left out of this market study.

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ASAP

March 3, 2008

Is it just me or many of you find the use of abbreviation “ASAP” in regular one-on-one communication, either written or verbal, slightly rude? (ASAP is an abbreviation used for “as soon as possible”)

I have seen this getting used a lot in corporate world. I somehow could never understand the need for this abbreviation. I can understand is associated savings in the SMS world. But the use of it in day-to-day communication or emails is beyond my apprehension.

To prove my point about ASAP sounding slightly rude – here is a test I would like all of you to run on yourself. Read the three sentences listed below aloud (also if possible imagine that someone else is communicating this question to you). See if you can bring out the emotions as conveyed by each of the sentence. For example – words in CAPS assumes that you would be putting more stress on those words. Let me know what kind of feeling you get after reading each sentence -

  1. Can you do this as soon as possible?
  2. Can you do this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?
  3. Can you do this ASAP?

When I ran this test on myself, here is the feeling I got. Number 1 sounded like a normal conversation sentence or request to me. In the second sentence – while it was a request, I felt that there was also this tinge feeling that things are not at the same wavelength between the sender and the receiver. In third, I felt that it conveyed an outright order to do it or there was also a feeling of superlativeness getting involved from sender’s side.

So unless and until the intention is to communicate the feelings involved in Sentence 2 and 3 very clearly to the receiver, why use the abbreviation ‘ASAP’!

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Obsolete Skills

March 2, 2008

Came across this interesting & funny wiki – list of obsolete skills. I am sure this list is going to increase but here are some of my top choices.

8. Letter Writing
7. Cursive Writing
6. Knowing what part of town someone lives by their phone number
5. Loading a camera roll
4. Sharpening a pencil
3. Map Reading
2. Playing Marbles
and my personal fav. -
1. Common Sense

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Adios… Netscape!

March 1, 2008

While I personally have not used Netscape for many years now, it certainly brought in some mixed emotions in some part of my heart when I read this. Netscape – which for a long time at the start – was the face of World Wide Web is now been officially been given its final good bye by its current owner – AOL. I say ‘officially’ because it anyway had become a non-entity in the browser world for many years now.

In any regards – Adios Netscape! And for whatever it means now – Thank you!

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