DRIP: my letter to Sam Gyimah

Seems like the government are trying to stitch us up again with regards to our privacy. In a nutshell, they want ISPs and phone companies to retain ALL of our data. The worst part? They’re rushing it through without proper scrutiny or debate, this is an underhanded cowardly move.

Read the boingboing article here: http://boingboing.net/2014/07/11/uk-surveillance-stitch-up-cow.html

Write to your own MP here: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/no-emergency-stop-the-data-retention-stitch-up

Dear Sam,

It seems I only write to you about something that is bothering me. I should take the time to write you a nice letter soon.

In the meantime, I am disgusted that there is legislation being rushed through that so clearly requires scrutiny an debate. Privacy is a serious business, no doubt, but this, frankly impinges on my privacy and I will not stand for it.

You cannot simply shout “TERRORISM” at the top of your voice and expect the public to believe what you say. It’s no wonder that ridiculous parties like UKIP garner more votes every year when the parties that actually have the ability to affect the future of the country behave in such tragically desperate, underhanded ways that are bordering on the criminal.

I do not want ISPs and phone companies to retain all of my data. Neither should any right-minded member of your constituency. You just have to look at the facts about ‘security theatre’ to know this is all blustering idiocy anyway. Retaining all this data WILL NOT STOP TERRORISM. When I can buy a cheap, contract free phone, use an internet cafe or ENCRYPT MY DATA before it is sent, what use is it? Any sufficiently technology savvy terrorist will circumvent this and make the whole thing a mockery.

For one, there will be the increased cost which will UNDOUBTEDLY be passed onto the consumer, so, thanks for that.

Then there are the potential privacy issues from leaks of this data, I mean, the government isn’t THAT good at keeping the data of its voters safe now is it?

There is no legal basis to be rushing this through without proper understanding and scrutiny.

We are not in a national emergency situation, so this shouldn’t be rushed through, it needs scrutiny by MPs, Peers, and civil society – you know, the people who understand this stuff and do it for a living, not people like yourself and your colleagues who don’t understand the technology enough to make decisions like this.

The European court rules that blanket data retention is incompatible with human rights legislation and the UK has an obligation to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Should this legislation be pushed through, I will be voting for one of the parties that tried to stop it in the next election. I hope that I can count on yours to do the same.

Sam, I would appreciate a response to this message that isn’t a boilerplate email. I want to know exactly how YOU feel about this and you will, or have, voted on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Pearce

At the risk of repeating myself about what agile is…

It is not a set of practices. There is no silver bullet, golden nugget or platinum compass. The agile manifesto is a set of values and principles that have learning, excellence and collaboration baked into their very heart. They will not prescribe how to deliver valuable, delightful software, they will not explain whether TDD or BDD is best. They do not insist that you use a product backlog, user stories, story points, iterations, stand ups, demos, code reviews, peer programming or continuous integration.

“Agile” adoption will not help you if you do not understand this. It will not help you if you are conflating “scrum” with “agile”. It will not help you if you do not truly understand what it is you’re getting yourself into.

… agile is defined by its principles rather than specific practices.

- Mike Cohen

The agile manifesto is what it is: guiding principles and values that empower you to make your OWN decisions on how to deliver valuable software (or anything for that matter).

Surface Acting: bad for business and your health

Angry Twins by Pelle Sten (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pellesten/8286639449/)

Angry Twins by Pelle Sten

Have you ever been in any kind of meeting that made you angry, sad, excited, disappointed or frustrated? Sure you have (if not, I want to work with you!) and you’ve also probably tried, on occasion, to mask that emotion. If you’re British, there’s the idea of the stiff-upper-lip and there’s probably similar in other cultures. However, this is bad for your long term emotional balance.

‘Surface Acting’ is a means of managing ones emotions. This technique allows you to pick the right emotion for whatever situation you are currently in. We do it in all kinds of situations; doctors, waiting staff, the police. Any situation where we’re unable to generate any kind of sincere empathy means we resort to acting the correct emotion.

A recent study highlights that we even do this in meetings. The study claims that 15% of of personnel budget is spent on meetings, yet up to a third of all meetings are a waste. They make links between surface acting and the perceived effectiveness of the meeting. Because an attendee is expending energy on portraying an emotion they might not be feeling, that’s energy that isn’t being spent on the purpose and outcome of the meeting. It requires self-control and limits our ability to attend to what is going on, as part of your attention is turned to acting.

It’s also exhausting. Those who reported high levels of surface acting, when quizzed three months later, exhibited higher emotional exhaustion, or burnout, scores and an increased intention of quitting altogether!

So, next time, you feel an emotion, let it out. Be truthful with the way you feel about the world around you. Be mindful that you’re not being a dick and ensure you’re meeting the needs of the people around you, but don’t mask emotions. It’s unhealthy and, usually, untruthful. I’ve blogged about lying before, so this study further supports the idea that politicking around the office is not only bad for business, but also bad for your health.

——

Shanock, L. R., Allen, J. A., Dunn, A. M., Baran, B. E., Scott, C. W. and Rogelberg, S. G. (2013), Less acting, more doing: How surface acting relates to perceived meeting effectiveness and other employee outcomes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 86: 457–476. doi: 10.1111/joop.12037

Are you intelligent? Do you do intelligence?

Well, are you? Are you intelligent? Or perhaps you do intelligence. Do you? You do? No.

No, you don’t do intelligence just as you don’t do clever and you certainly don’t do agile|Agile|aGiLe.

I read this article today Kanban Is Not Agile and I’ve read a few others like it in the past. No, Kanban isn’t agile. But neither is scrum or DSDM, or crystal or SAFe or whatever.

You cannot DO principles and values, you are principled and you hold values. When someone says “We’re agile!” challenge them, ask “What does that mean?” because I can almost guarantee they’ll say “We do scrum|kanban!”. You’re following practices that stem from upholding the values and principles of the manifest, but you’re not doing agile.

What’s more and what will hold business back until they realise it, is that while these values and principles are software-centric, they certainly aren’t software dependent. If you distil the values and principles, you get things that any one can uphold, regardless of industry.

You don’t DO agile, you ARE agile.

Is it feedback, or signoff?

Keyboard Jumble by Lynn Friedman

Grubby sign off. Photo by lynnfriedman at Flickr

Many groups suffer from having too many levels of sign off: designers seek sign off on UI changes from the head of their department and, potentially, the studio manager. This is after UX have sought sign off from their functional head. After that, we need stakeholder sign off, product owner sign off, marketing, brand and communications sign off (to ensure the message is correct) and who knows who else will need to have a say?

“With all this signing off going on, how will we ever get the damn thing launched!?” said the frustrated team members.

Perhaps you’re conflating “sign off” with “feedback”. Ultimately, there is usually only one or two people who are accountable for the success or failure of the thing you’re working on. Pragmatically speaking, this would be the product owner. For the sake of argument, we can also extend this to key stakeholders too. It’s these people that give “sign off” on whether something is ready or not.

Everyone else is just giving feedback, which can be taken on board, or ignored, as the product owner and key stakeholders see fit. If it’s a decision between pixel perfect designs and getting it in front of customers, let the PO decide. If you’re one of these functional heads and you’ve employed people whose work you need to “sign off” before it sees the light of day, perhaps you’ve employed the wrong people?

As Roy Castle sang, “Delegations what you need.” (He didn’t, he sang “Dedication…” but, whatever). If you’re building websites, your mistake won’t be live long. The more time you spend in the cycle of sign off, the less time you spend with your product creating value for your users.

Sorry, It’s Company Policy.

Possibly the most frustrating, emotionally bankrupt and redundant four words you’ll ever hear in the workplace.

I recently had the displeasure of hearing these words. Not, thankfully, said to me however. What made the whole situation worse was the person who uttered this charming sentence had allowed the policy to be bent only the day before.

“Policy” as described by the OED is:

a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization or individual

“Policy” as described by most companies is:

a rule which we can use to bash you over the head in order that you do our bidding.

Policies are usually created as a sledge-hammer answer to a walnut sized problem. In the past, someone (or many someones) have done something which was bad for the company (or, another company) and this has resulted in their being a policy.

As a general rule, humans work for, or with you. As we all know, each human is a unique a beautiful snow flake. Trying to apply a “policy” to govern the actions of behaviours of your workforce as a whole is pointless and demeaning. Take the time to understand the people who work with you instead of putting your fingers in your ears and going “lalalalcompanypolicylalala”.

The only policy you should have is one of common sense and decency. Treat your staff like the people that they are, not the resources that Taylorism would have them be.

“OH HAI, THE 1950s CALLED, THEY WANT THEIR IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO WORK BACK”

(Also, beginning the statement with “sorry” is also disingenuous – if you really were sorry, you wouldn’t have to say it in the first place…)

Does It Need to Be Said? Don’t Lie.

I recently watched Liz Keoghs “Let’s be honest…” YouTube that she did at the goto; conference. It was a fun and engaging talk, but I was frustrated and, frankly, surprised that there are companies or individuals that need to be told don’t lie. She used examples from previous positions to illustrate her many points, but there were two that stuck out for me (well, most of the points were salient, but these were the two that had the most impact on me).

The first was her statement that we’re no longer finding better ways to build software, we already know how to build software, we’re finding better ways to discover. Liz had the sentence from the agile manifesto on screen when she said this. Now, while I’m still not entirely convinced that a nearly 12 year old document is as valid now as it was when it was written, I believe that, if any of it is true, then that be is – we’re still finding ways to build better software. The constant evolution of our industry is testament to that. Don’t get me wrong, we’re much better at it now than we’ve ever been, but it would be arrogant to announce that we’ve reached the pinnacle of software development. Even if you’re a super-duper, high perfoming, cross-functional team, if you stop trying to improve, you’ll rot from the inside out.

This doesn’t mean that the rest of Liz’s statement is wrong, we’re also finding better ways to discover what our software should do, the fact that BDD is now more popular than ever means we’re trying harder to find out more about our products, not just how we build them.

The other thing Liz said in her talk was about user stories and how, we’re lying if they’re not actual stories for the user. Gojko said the same thing in his angry Monday blog post and it got me to thinking. Gojkos was a better example in that “As a user, I want to register, so I can use the site.” is probably a lie – no user ever wants to registers, it’s a necessary evil we perpetrate over and over again in order to provide some persistence for the users’ experience – however, we have the story because we think we should. It might be better phrased as “As marketing, I want the user to register, so I can send them email” or similar (Gokjo has other examples).

But, for me this misses the point. The stories are a catalyst for conversation, what they actually say should really be irrelevant. They could say “Login” and just a a placeholder. This will force the people involved to talk about what that means and how they should build it. It’s this conversation that needs the to be focussed and honest, not the story card. It also needs people to think differently about how they go about the discovery process and this, for me at least, is key to what both Liz and Gojko are saying.

I believe that, for the most part, we lie without knowing we’re lying (is that even lying?). We make verbal assertions about thing X to move us passed that to get to thing Y. The danger then, is that you don’t revisit thing X to work out whether or not your assumption was correct. Do the quickest, most expeditious thing to move you from nothing to something in order to find out if you were right, if you spend too long worrying about whether your story card says the right thing you’re going to miss out. After all, it’s all about the users, get it in front of them and let them tell if you’re lying.

Finally, I believe in starting from a position of trust, this means that I cannot entertain the idea that people are lying until it’s proven they are. The people around me (and, hopefully, you) don’t lie. They’re professionals and adults and shouldn’t lie. If we ever find ourselves in a position where we have to point this fact out at a conference, we’ve got much bigger, darker problems than what we write on story cards.