Humane Interfaces: Fowler vs. Harold
Today I noticed an interesting exchange between two of my regular reads: Martin Fowler's blog and Elliotte Rusty Harold's Cafe au Lait web site. I respect both of the authors for their interesting view points which spark many an interesting thought, but on this occassion Elliotte has disappointed me.
Martin was discussing the value of what he terms 'Humaine Interfaces' - software interfaces which are designed to provide the methods you need with names that are easy to remember and type. Apologies for my explanation which is probably an oversimplification.
Elliotte comes in with an unsubstantiated expression of disapproval and claims that simplicity is key, and that too many methods is a bad thing.
Well in short, I disagree.
PRINCE2 vs. PMI's PMBoK
I've heard quite a few comments recently about the relative merits of PRINCE2  vs. the PMI's  PMBoK  (Project Management Body of Knowledge). Today I came across this presentation  which has a few useful comparative comments. In the past I've also noted this short paper comparing PRINCE2 and PMBok .
The paper's  comments about the role of a Project Manager are raise a striking point. A PMBoK style Project Manager is a dramatically different role from a PRINCE2 Project Manager. Indeed the term Project Manager is probably far too loose a term to mean a great deal!
Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive
I've recently listened to a talk by Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, talking about cost-effectively storing every book, sound recording, video, software package and web page ever created. It also diverts into copyright and community wireless networking. In short it's a very inspiring talk and well worth a listen.
If you don't have time to listen you might not realise that you can view web sites as they looked some time ago using the so-called wayback machine. You might also be unaware of 20,000 live concerts that can be downloaded for free or over 2000 movies that can be downloaded for free in DVD quality!
When I was looking at the WikiPedia entry for Community Wireless Networks I followed the link for UK networks and discovered this page of existing WLAN sites. You might be interested to take a look. I was certainly surprised at how many have already started in the U.K.
ITNow: XP, Agile or set in stone?
I've just received the latest edition of the British Computer Society's Journal ITNow (formerly called The Computer Bulletin). I confess that I rarely read it, but this month had an article on XP which caught my attention, so I thought I'd take a look. Unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment, as was another article under the category "the future of computing".
To XP or not to XP?
The article on XP (eXtreme Programming) is primarily a disappointment because it is supposed to present two opposing views, but the first view is a fairly loosely written advocation of the use of CM (Configuration Management) with Agile methods, whilst the counterpoint view is a very robust criticism of XP (far too robust in my opinion). To someone unfamiliar with this area it would be easily to miss the fact that XP is only one Agile method and it would be a surprise to then discover that the author of the counterpoint—Matt Stephens—is actually an agile practitioner who's views may well coincide with the author of the first view.
I then turned over a few pages to find an article entitled…
I'm sure I'm probably missing something here, but this article seemed like something that might have been better entitled "An historical look at computing". It seems to present a long explanation of how networked computing and increased computing power enable fully automated real-time processes. It then goes on to suggest a single iteration waterfall approach to software development, e.g. to quote: "design, engineering spec., build, operate". Somewhere down the line he seems to have completely failed to recognise the existence of "change" and the fundamental fact that "design, build, test, crash, fix, test, crash…" is actually a very suitable model for software development (where a crash is a very fast and low risk operation) compared with airplane design where a crash is a massive cost in time and money.
Ideas: faster podcast listening
Podcasts are a great alternative way of taking in information, but the flexibility of being able to listen to whatever you want whenever you want is balanced with the practical limitation that it takes 30 minutes to listen to a 30 minute post.
But this needn’t be an immovable constraint. A number of readily available applications including Audacity will allow you to take an audio file and change the tempo without altering the pitch. So you can take a 60 minute blog and reduce it to 45 minutes of faster speech or even down to 30 minutes if your brain is up to it, or the speaker is slow enough.
I’ve had a try at doing this as part a Podcasting experiment with a local Church, using SoX (a command line audio utility) to change the tempo before posting both a long and a short version of a podcast. The speech does sound a little like a Dalek, but it is perfectly useable and really does save time.
What would really make this useful would be if sound players, both desktop and portable, provided a playback tempo control for speech playback. The ability to change the tempo on the fly would allow you to adjust it in line with your level of concentration. But having podcast clients automatically change the tempo of podcasts as they are downloaded could be useful to.
Moving from Blogger to TypePad whilst considering WordPress
One of the main limitations of Blogger is its lack of support for trackbacks - which provide a key ingredient for real blog to blog conversations. The other significant missing feature is blog categories - the facility to identify blog posts under category names so that readers can pinpoint entries covering relevant topics.
TypePad is a commercial service built around the Moveable Type blog hosting software. It provides the crucial trackbacks and categories and quite a few other features whilst providing a fairly easy to use interface.
WordPress however, looks well worth a thought. It’s free and open source which are good qualities in my book. it also appears (from a brief scan) to support dynamic generation of pages so there’s no need for the whole process or ‘republishing’ a site when a changes is made to the overall look.
The reason’s I’m currently holding back on WordPress are:
I would probably have to set up my own hosting and install the software, and that’s a longer job which requires a bit of time.
WordPress doesn’t currently support multiple blogs unless you install it multiple times. The facility to host multiple blogs from a single installation is down on the agenda for the 1.6 release of WordPress.
My searches looking at this are encompassed in the following mindmap:
PRINCE2 Open Exam booking workaround
The day after posting this, APM Group fixed their site. Thank you.
Getting Things Done
Perhaps I live in the dark ages, but somewhere down the line I’ve missed the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) movement and it appears with recent reading that I’m missing out, so I feel overwhelmingly obliged to read “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity” by David Allen.
The final straw that lead me to this conclusion was reading one of today’s “Cutting Through” entries, “Prince 2, product and Getting Things Done”, which was about the 10th reference I’ve read to GTD in the last month.
An incomplete thought on blogging
What is the point of a blog?
It’s an interesting question to which I can personally think of too many answers to consider writing about, but a few short ideas have permeated recently which seem worth noting and provide an amusingly recursive entry, if you get what I mean…
Mind mapping with FreeMind
From time to time, when I have a problem to solve I like to get out pen and paper and start drawing out ideas and thoughts and connecting them together. Using some random variation on mind mapping and Goldratt’s “Current Reality Trees”, I try to make order out of some disparate thoughts and often find the whole processes extremely helpful.