It’s Snowboarding season, and for the first time in 6 years, I actually care!

November 13, 2007

In my previous life as a funpig, I was pretty religious about tracking storms in the fall. In the early to mid fall, storms brought wind, which actually meant that there was pretty fun windsurfing in the seattle metropolitan area. Other people kept going past November, but once it started to snow I switched gears to my true love, snowboarding.

Every morning I would roll out of bed, call the Stevens Pass hotline, and plan the day. Yes, I had a job, but that job had the “10 inches of fresh” rule, which categorically stated no work could happen if a winter storm blew in enough snow. There were no temperature maximums, although we did tend to steer clear of rain and ride till we dropped during a cold snap.

That was the 90s. In 99 I left that company to work for F5 , in 2004 I left F5 to work for Vulcan, and now I’m working at While we are working on something super exciting and revolutionary, it doesn’t leave much room for weekday powder raids.

Also, I’m a father now, and for the past 6 years (Son 6, Daughter 4), and life has gotten much busier (and bigger) than 6AM weather reports and storm tracking. But last year I took Kiran up to see if he would even consider snowboarding. I didn’t think I had much of a chance, since he doesn’t like cold and he’s a naturally cautious kid. The only thing I cared about was that he had a good ‘first time’. So I skipped the whole lesson thing and we did laps on the magic carpet. Once we were at the top I would give him a gentle shove and run down in front of him. I just wanted to give him the feeling of standing sideways, sliding downhill.

Kiran is a cautious little guy, but he also has really good balance. He not only managed to stand up just fine, I even had him turning a little bit. I would run down and to the side of him and make him twist his torso to look at me. I don’t think that is an accepted teaching style, but that’s the way I think of turning, and it seemed to work for him. He had a good time — he enjoyed it much more than I thought he would. What they say about low expectations is true.

This year we got ready by hitting the Mercer Island Thrift Store, where we found a pair of Burton Ion boots — used twice, size 4. The kid has nicer boots than I do (and he’ll never appreciate that we started riding in sorels). He’s signed up for lessons, and I’m trying my hardest to keep my love of snowboarding to myself, so that he can fall in love with it (or not) on his own. Now if it would only snow…it’s already almost thanksgiving and it’s bone dry up there!

Scrum, lessons learned

November 1, 2007

a little while back I was raving about Scrum, which in retrospect is funny because we hadn’t even made it through a single iteration. 6 weeks later, we are 1/2 way through our second iteration, and I am somewhat older and wiser.

Long story short, we flailed. The DBA wrote a bunch of opaque code then decided to quit, we spent way more time trying to fix code that was being pushed way past it’s intended limits, and this was the first time we were trying to plan for any period of time past 2 weeks. As a result, our tasks were very vague, like “write new schema — 32 hours”. The only problem was we had a hard deliverable to meet, and we were no where close. We were able to fake the deliverable in a way that didn’t impact any dependent systems, but didn’t even get 1/2 way through our original list.

There was a lot of finger pointing — by everyone except the devs. A lot of fingers were pointed at me, which made sense since I was the one leading the effort. In any case we were pissed, thrashed, and happy the month was over.

Lessons learned:

  1. always break tasks into no longer than 8 hour estimates.
  2. never design and build in the same iteration. The design from a previous iteration should inform the planning for the X next iterations.
  3. Only plan out as far as you feel comfortable with. With this team, the comfort level is about 2 weeks. We made sure that the next two weeks would be very informed by the first two weeks.

This iteration we are cranking. Part of this is due to better defined tasks: it turns out that our failed iteration was spent designing and understanding the scope of a very complex problem, and the first two weeks of this iteration were spent executing what we understand after that design process.

Even though the iteration is ‘officially’ a month long, we are moving and planning in 2 week increments, and this has allowed us to feel much more comfortable about the remaining two weeks.

Finally, we are not designing and building within the same 2 week period. This means that we are not promising fully functional components, we are instead promising well thought out designs, and the first ‘tracer’ implementation of that design (which is tasked out only after the design has been reasonably well understood).

I’m not going to call this iteration a success yet, but we are over 50% burned down and the pace is not slacking. Everyone has something to prove this time out, and probably for the next couple of months.