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Is this progress?

6 Feb

If we stop logging our forests and rainforests, entire families, towns and cities earning a living through logging will struggle, starve, die. If we don’t stop logging, “the Amazon rainforest will turn into the Amazon desert”, and these families will ultimately still struggle, starve, and so on, and the changes to the face of our Earth will be irreversible.

“Progress” costs humanity a lot more than just the environment. Logging in the Amazon is just one example.

If you have some time to spare, I recommend watching “Surviving Progress”.

More links to come as I delve deeper into this topic.

Ruby Newbie

5 Sep

Wow, just wow. I know this book is educational, I know it’s about coding and I know I have other things to do right now; I only took a look because I was curious but wow, oh wow, I cannot put it down. I want to keep reading, god forbid I want to learn!, and I just can’t tear myself away. I’m pretty sure I won’t sleep tonight.


Now you’re curious too. I know you are. Go on, go learn ruby.


//Here’s hoping for a promotional cut of why‘s highly dreamed of earnings. And yes, I see the flaws in this plan.


Are you Awesome?

28 Jun

Are you Awesome?

The answer is yes.

Just a quick post today, to highlight this site:

Go be a speaker. Start preparing now.

The Next Steps (my learning journey)

23 Jun

After the strong finish point of my previous post, the youngest voice in the room, I’ve decided to look for inspiration on how to take those next steps. I recently picked up a copy of The Passionate Programmer, and whilst I am not a software developer, I find it still has plenty to offer in supporting my journey.
The text had me in its grips from the foreword, and just kept drawing me in. One of the key points made is that “a person who wants to become great is far more likely to be great” – that to treat your job just as a job is unlikely to lead to happiness, let alone success. The passion that comes with wanting “to be great” subsequently offers a lot of drive and energy for achieving just that.
Whilst I do recommend reading the book if you have the opportunity, I would briefly like to share just three of its tips that have resonated well with me:
  • Find a mentor
    Whilst there are many opportunities for self-driven learning (i.e. endless reading, attending events, and so on), experience has taught me that without someone else to bounce ideas off, I have no idea what I’m missing out on.
    Let me explain this another way: The way we think has often been described to me as drawing from four aspects of our knowledge – (1) what we know that we know, (2) what we don’t know that we know, (3) what we know that we don’t know  and (4) what we don’t know that we don’t know. — At this point in time, I am unsure of where this concept first originated, and hence who to attribute it to.
    1. Obviously the first, what we know that we know, is knowledge that we apply when we can. For example, I know that mingle is a pretty useful tool, and I know how to use it. I use this knowledge daily.
    2. When I don’t know that I know something, it often comes as a surprise – information that is stored in the back of my mind, that I absorbed at some point and have retained, that jumps to consciousness when I need it. For me, this is primarily medical information, as when I was younger I entertained a love of biology books and, a few years after that, would often help family and friends study for medical/biology courses. Right now, whilst writing this blog, nothing related to medicine/biology comes to mind, mostly just vague ideas, but I know from experience that if somebody were to ask me about, oh, what ibuprofen is or what interacts with calcium supplements, or maybe even about kidney diseases, I would probably pull the answer an accurate, informed answer from the depths of my memory, and each time it would surprise me, yet I would know it to be right.
    3. When I know that I don’t know something, I can seek out the information myself. This is when reading and self-learning is most useful. For example, at the start of this year, I did not know what mingle was, and at some point I knew that. It was then that I looked it up on the internet (like you likely will too – go on, click the link!), found out more about it, and trialled the software.
    4. The problem with the above example though, is that I first needed someone to tell me of something new, for me to know that I didn’t know about it. There are endless collections of thoughts, facts, ideas and knowledge that I cannot even fathom – to learn more about them, first I need some inkling that they exist. For example, I bet you didn’t know that you didn’t know about this concept. And now you’ve gone from (4) to (3) knowing you didn’t know to (1) reading about it here and now knowing that you know. This is where you most need triggers for your curiosity, and where a mentor can help out most.
  • Practice 🙂
    Not by doing what is comfortable, but by stretching your limits and trying new things. This may mean presenting at a conference, when you’ve only ever presented to your university class. Just go do it, and treat it is a learning challenge.
  • Learn to fail
    It’s not really about failing, but about being okay with potential failure. If we don’t feel capable of coping with it, chances are we won’t try in the first place. Recently, I was organising a vacation trip through the North of India, but I wanted it to be perfect. Knowing that I did not know enough to make it perfect, and knowing that I was certain to fail in actualising my feeble plans, I hesitated, and hesitated again, and kept postponing the bookings. Finally, a month before I was intending to travel, after realising I was going nowhere, I contacted a local travel agency, in the hopes that they could help me. I was relying on their expertise to prevent certain failure. When I ceased getting timely responses from them, I just waited. Knowing that something had gone wrong, I did not want to follow up with them and get the bad news, I preferred to hope it would turn out all right. In the end, things had gone wrong, and my entire vacation had to be replanned, but I only came to grips with this the day before I was due to fly out.
    Failure has its benefits – the primary one being that failure is often a learning experience.
    Additionally, failure is not as scary as we often make it out to be. The damage of my failed trip planning was little – it just required some replanning. This occurred much later in the process, but could just have easily been tackled months earlier. The damage caused by my lateness in facing the failure – major out of pocket expenses, due to the lateness of rebooking.


“The greatest geek”

15 May

An ode to “the greatest geek who ever lived” was posted today on the Oatmeal. It’s more than a tribute to Tesla, though. It’s a tribute to all tinkerers, to all developers, to all geeks. It’s a tribute to all people with a passion for development.

It’s this passion that makes me not only proud to call myself a geek, but proud to work with geeks, be friends with geeks, and learn from geeks.

Seek not to be rich and great, seek to be driven by your ideas instead.

What’s your principle?

12 May

I came across this brilliant talk by Brett Victor via Vinod’s blog and, like Vinod, I waited about a month to watch it. There were always to reasons to put it off, the primary one being that it’s just under an hour long, and I needed to find enough time to first stream it, and then watch it. Finally, after going back through my archaic list of things to do, I saw this and thought “ah, what the hell, I’ll never get it off my list if I don’t give it a go.” My one advice after watching it? Watch it. Watch it now. It’s amazingly worth it.

The talk touches on a range of principles, including but not limited to software development, engineering, artistic and problem solving. More than that though, it’s focuses on finding the right principle to guide your life.

So what’s your principle? More importantly (to me), what’s mine?

When I look back on all I’ve done, the roles I’ve played in life, and the driving factors of my decisions, my initial reaction is to say “oh, well I must like to solve problems”. Then I think of how I’ve never actually solved a rubiks cube – I’ve definitely tried, and I know there are plenty of sources to help me understand how to do it, but I tend to just give up instead. It just doesn’t interest me.
“Oh, so maybe it’s because it’s been solved before, maybe I like to solve new problems?”. Then again, I do find important lessons in reinventing the wheel – I think it’s cool to be able to understand something, and then share it with other people.
“Ahh, people! I’ve always loved working with people but … only those who are open to learning”. Yes, I think now I’m onto something. I think my principle is to enable others to grow their own ideas. I’m not focused just on helping others learn, not really. What I am interested in helping people question themselves, their ideas, and inspire them to develop those ideas further.

So now that I’ve reflected on that, I think it’s safe to say that hearing about your principle is more important (to me), after all.

Retrospective Planning for a Small Team

27 Apr

I must admit that I have developed a personal infatuation with the retrospective – a process of collectively (as a team) looking back on your team’s progress on a project, with the goal of learning and improving. I quite like the approach of reviewing successes, failures, and lessons learned as an entire team, for a number of reasons:
* it enables shared knowledge
* it can reduce the stigma that often accompanies feedback sessions (as the term “feedback” can often be reminiscent of uncomfortable one-on-one encounters)
* it helps strengthen the team bond (as evidenced in Kerth’s “The Retrospective”)
After having facilitated a retrospective for a “large” group, I liked retrospectives even more for the opportunity to:
* facilitate discussion in a more interesting manner
* choosing from a variety of methods and patterns
* that inspire participation (and maybe even excitement)
* and utilise visual cues:
I can definitely see (and have experienced) the value in retrospectives for medium – large teams. But now I am on a project with a much, much smaller team, mostly co-located, partaking in daily stand ups and with plenty of face to face communication – how can a retrospective help us? What method or style will yield the most benefit?
My answer: I don’t know, but I’m determined to find out.

My Beliefs prior to Retro #1

Individual versus Group
From my point of view, a group retrospective offers two major benefits over individual feedback:
  • Shared learnings/knowledge
  • “Safety in numbers” – team members feel safer in giving and receiving feedback
Visual versus Verbal
I currently prefer visual tools (using written notes) to guide retrospectives, as it offers:
  • guidance for focus
  • opportunity for each person to be “heard” at the same time
Note: I am aware that another major benefit is that written responses may encourage shy team members to offer their voice as well – however, I did not feel that this will be a concern for the current team.
Fun versus Serious
Although games can be used to inspire a team to be excited and strengthen the team bond, I am uncertain of whether this will benefit a small team. On the other hand, a more serious approach may make the team less desirous of retaining the retrospective process.
This point of indecision remains my foremost concern (and hurdle) in planning a retrospective.

Plan for Retro #1

  • Based on my preconceived passion for retrospectives, it should not surprise that I will be hosting a group retrospective, aimed at enhancing collectivism.
  • Although I am more comfortable with the concept of running a fun, energised retrospective, I have my reserves as to whether this will be as beneficial for my team as it will be for me. Because of this, I will strive to create a more serious, reflective environment, by first encouraging self reflection in the following manner: I will ask the team to close their eyes (for a sense of anonymity) and nominate by show of hands (for physical involvement) how they felt the last few iterations have gone. As part of this, I will endeavour to highlight the value of the retrospective directive by disguising it as a short set of questions.
  • I will use a simplistic visual representation similar to that of the speedboat. I am aware that my team is likely to have seen this example before, but I wish to make the retrospective a comfortable/familiar process at this stage.
  • The pattern used will be the “How Did We Do?” Retrospective
Through this, I hope to facilitate a more serious, but still interactive retrospective session. Good luck to me!