Book club suggestion: What to do with bugs?

In my old team we had the discussion about how we should handle the bugs we found. There are a few ways to handle them.

  • fix them
  • prioritize them among other items in the backlog
  • leave them to die in a bug reporting system

Would you like to have that discussion with your team? Hold a book club (blog post club?) over lunch to get the discussion going.

I suggest reading both Elisabeth Hendrickson’s  “Bugs spread disease” and Jeff Athwood’s “Not all bugs are worth fixing” and discuss them together. Talk about how the articles make you feel, what advantages do you see with each approach, and what long term effects do you think they have. Also talk about how it applies to your team and get extra credit if you devise an experiment to try in your team during the coming x weeks.

Book clubs are great for many reasons but their main disadvantage is the fact that they are long. People usually read half a book but rarely finish them. That’s why articles or blog posts are a better fit for a book club.

Happy reading!





From insecure teenager to appreciated consultant

A fixed mindset almost made me quit computer science

Video of the talk (swedish)

For me, university was hard. I guess in a way it is for most people, but the reasons for each person are different.

Here’s my reason: I was stuck in a fixed mindset. It wasn’t until I heard Linda Rising at the Agile Turku Day that I realized this had been the problem. Linda explained the work of Carol Dweck, a professor in psychology and the author of Mindset.

In short, you can either see your abilities as fixed and static the same way as your height for example. Or you can see them as muscles, being able to grow. If you see them as fixed, you either have an ability or you don’t.

So this happened to me in a programming class: I felt like all of the others understood things faster than me which meant their ability for learning programming was better than mine. This also meant that I would not be able to learn as much programming as them. And worst part: there was simply nothing I could do about it!

It got so bad that I almost gave up. I thought “I apparently don’t have any talent for this. What’s the point in even trying?!”.

Now, I don’t even believe in talent. Perhaps, the very best in the world could have something special with regards to the topic they excel at. But then again, the very best in the world have spent an incredible amount of time practicing that particular topic…

This means I live by a growth mindset nowadays; given enough time I could learn anything. My biggest issue now is prioritizing all of the topics I want to learn and making sure I pick one at the time to focus on. Otherwise my stress level goes up.

Yesterday I gave a talk about this at my old university, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, at an event called Future Friday. The goal of the event was to attract students to apply to the master of science program in information technology. The attendees were 18-19 year old and trying to decide what to study.

The title of my talk was “From insecure teenager to appreciated consultant”. About 100 people came to listen and 95% of them were girls. It makes me wonder, is this something we need to talk about more? Not the success in your career, but your struggle in your career. What was hard for you when you worked your way to where you are now?

Either way, I think everyone should know about the concept of fixed or growth mindset because everyone I talk to has a story related to it and as long as the concept of “talent” is out there people are going to believe that abilities are static. So, read Mindset, and spread the word!

The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

Did you know that urban legends are a part of software engineering?

Book review: The leprechauns of software engineering by Laurent Bossavit

The same way we have heard stories of kidney theft and rats in pizzas, we are surrounded by stories and factoids in our work.

Laurent Bossavit takes on a few of these bogus facts and debunks the myths. For example, the (in)famous Waterfall paper and people’s different opinions regarding it get analyzed. What did the paper really say? Was it an instant hit?

Some topics analyzed:
+ the cone of uncertainty
+ some programmers are 10 times more productive than others
+ the waterfall method was a thing
+ finding defects early is less expensive than finding them late

Despite the populistic title and simple topic, Bossavit takes on a more scientific tone in his writing. In order to really grasp some of the stories, a little knowledge of statistics is required. When Bossavit debunks a myths, he has done thorough research into scientific papers and like a detective he follows the trail of evidence to see if there is any truth to the claims. I fear that for some readers, this academic approach might not be as exciting as for others. However, it is also possible to skim through it and still get the main message.

I feel that the book is much needed. While reading it, I tried to remember when I last heard someone make the claims which are being adressed. Often, it was recently, perhaps a couple of weeks prior. Once it was even from my own mouth.

Reading this book has made me a bit more sceptical about what I listen to when people state that something is a fact in software engineering. It has also made me rethink how I express myself, talking more about my experience rather than stating things as facts. Bossavit also ends the book with a discussion, science doesn’t seem to be apprioriate for analyzing methods in software engineering, how can we work with it instead?

I really enjoyed reading The Leprechauns of Software Engineering. For me, it was exciting to follow the trail of evidence (or lack thereof) and see the claims debunked. I also think it could be good book club material with interesting discussions to follow.

30 day experiment: tools for reading more easily and therefor more

In order to succeed with my 30 day experiment of reading every day, I spent a bit of time setting up. I created an Instapaper account and bought the android app for my phone, I downloaded some audiobooks with Audible and their android app and I made sure had something to read on my Kindle.

Instapaper is an awesome tool which helps you deal with all of those interesting articles your friends send to you or you find on Twitter but you don’t have the time to read right now. Instead you click “read later” and Instapaper will save a copy in an easy to read format for you. At some other time, when you have time to read, you can bring up your list of articles and read them.

Audible is a site where you can purchase audiobooks, it allows you to access your books on a mobile phone, an ipod, your kindle, etc. I prefer the android app and I find that it works very well.

For me, I use audible when watching my kid play in the playground or when riding my bike to work. Instapaper and Kindle I use on the subway.

I also tried sending my Instapaper articles to my Kindle but I don’t recommend it. Instapaper sends articles periodically (daily, weekly, etc) and the title of the document in Kindle is the date on which it was sent. This makes it hard to find a specific article.

Having these things set up, I had prepared for success and I don’t think I would have met my goal without the preparations.

Try something new for 30 days

ImageAt the Agile Sweden (Agila Sverige) conference which I participated in organizing there was a talk about making changes stick. The presenter had been inspired by Matt Cutts’ TED talk and had tried out a few things for 30 days. He gave some tips to succeeding, for example only take on one challenge at the time and let people know that you are doing a challenge.

This is me letting you know that my 30 day challenge (started on May 2nd) is to read something every day! It’s not a big change from daily life but/there fore I think that it’s a good step for a first challenge.

I’ve charged my Kindle, downloaded an Audible book to my mobile phone and created an instapaper account. I’m setting myself up for success by making sure there will always be something to read.

I highly recommend Matt’s TED talk which is only 3½ minutes and really inspiring.

And also, if you want to try it but need a few good ideas, Matt writes about his challenges on his blog.