Friday, February 27, 2009

DW-BI and agile

Kaushal Karnad asked on LinkedIn whether DW/BI projects can be run in an agile manner, as he points out that outputs are mostly reports and extracts and continuous integration would be an issue, having to move data across various DW layers every now and then.

Of course they are! DW/BI projects are, by their nature, to be run in incremental and iterative mode, as the risk associated with a full blown solution is way too high, even more that in traditional software development because of all the non-technical issues related to them. The best approach is to start from the core part of the business, which has the highest priority, and iteratively add new areas and refine what has been released so far, always trying to maximize the value for the customer. And that sounds like agile.

Outputs might be "only" reports and extracts, but what is important is the way you figure out the data and the paths you follow during your analysys: the more you use the system, the more you might feel the need to link apparently unrelated data to gain a deeper understanding of what you're delving into, thus requesting something more (or something different) iteration after iteration: not only new reports, but also new combinations and possibile paths. That sounds like agile too.

Continuous integration is normally about code, not about data, so maybe this is a false problem; anyway, the frequency of updates strongly depends on the real needs of the knowledge workers and often one update a day will suffice.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Agile Manifesto

I can't believe I have waited for so long... better late than never, I'm one of the signatories of the Agile Manifesto.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another hard lesson for Italy

As predictable, Ireland showed no mercy for Italy, punishing them whenever they gave them an occasion - and Italy gave more than one. Maybe the final 9-38 is a bit too heavy, but Ireland was way better than Italy, except for the first 30 minutes in which the Azzurri managed to hold the field, thanks to a better organized scrum (this time they had a proper scrum half). In the remaining time Italy showed the will to produce good rugby, but, alas, they did not produce good rugby, never really worrying the Irish team which in turn scored five tries, two of them in the very last minutes, increasing their already remarkable advantage.

Ireland are thus sailing to their objective, while Italy is still making for the wooden spoon. Somebody has already started wondering whether they really belong in the tournament, reminding that economical reasons played a strong role in their admittance. Will they be given the axe?

By the way, I am really proud to say that I have a wooden spoon myself: my friend and teammate Paolo Ragusi gave it to me after our dreadful season against the best teams in Italy when we were both seventeen. We lost each and every match, so I really deserved it!

Debt Metaphor

Ward Cunningham talks about the Debt Metaphor. As he is the one who started using it, it is supposed he knows what he's talking about...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another grand slam?

Wales are paving the road for their second consecutive Grand Slam, something they have been chasing in the last 100 years; the Dragons defeated England 23-15 at the beautiful Millenium Stadium (even if my heart still dwells in Arms Park). The game was not the one-way clash most people were expecting, but it was well fought and quite enjoyable.

Unluckily for England this time Stephen Jones wore his right shoe on his right foot (and the left shoe on the left foot) and he booted 18 points for Wales, leading them to victory even if England scored two tries against the single one realized by young Halfpenny - who also booted a penaty.

It should be obvious by now that England have some problems with the rules, and it is costing them an arm and a leg. Moreover, Martin Johnson does not seem fit to make them turn about: besides, when a coach, instead of focusing on correct play, has the players train with just fourteen men on the field just in case of a sin bin, well, you start asking yourself a couple of questions.

France beats Scotland

But unfortunately I wasn't able to see the match... 22-13 the final result, one try on each side... not exactly the outcome I was hoping for :-(

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pomodoro moves to Google

The Tecnica del Pomodoro Yahoo Group went English and moved to Google Groups, precisely here. The old group will be terminated within a week.

And... did I mention the fact that I'm the first poster if we don't consider the group creator?

The pomodoro technique

Francesco Cirillo finally published the English version of his famous paper; you can find it here.

Stay connected for the team version! I'm looking forward to it because we tried different techniques here but still are longing for some best practices to improve the way we apply them.

I can't believe you haven't read it yet!

"Here, take it! you MUST read it" - "Well... it's yours, maybe it's better if you read it" - "No, no, it's all right, I've STUDIED it already... more than once!" - "OK then, I'll take it and give it a look..."

That's how I gave one of our directors my copy of Peopleware... let's hope to spread the infection! Too often there are grey areas in matters concerning people in offices...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wales still the team to beat

After beating Scotland 26-13, with a try count of 4-1, Wales is putting forward all the assumptions for another great tournament. Scotland managed to hold the Welsh for the first 25 minutes, but the end of the first half reported a quite heavy 16-3.

Cross tackling Byrne while the latter was in the air to catch the ball was a good demonstration of why air tackles are no longer allowed; the rule was introduced to protect the jumpers, but this time the worst time was passed by the tackler, who was severely blown by a knee on the head. Beyond the normal recovery time Cross got another ten minutes to recover due to the sin bin subsequent the dangerous tackle.

That was probably the start of the end for Scotland, that could no longer hinder the Dragons whose backs really ravaged, with Shanklin breaking the ice with the first try of the day, followed by the ones scored by Alun Wyn Jones, the rookie Halfpenny and the unfailing and ubiquitous Shane Williams.

A try in the last 10 minutes was all the Scots could scrape together, which is something if you consider the fact that Wales only conceded two tries in last year tournament.

England is now hoping not to be skinned alive next week (maybe Stephen Jones will wear his banana shoes again...)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

O'Driscoll alive and kicking

Saturday's match against France showed everyboy that Brian O'Driscoll is back, and he's back to stay, despite what his detractors might have said. And, talking about detractors, I heard people say that Sebastien Chabal was just a bag of fat walking around... well I think that everybody saw that he's not, even if I liked him better as a flanker than as a lock.

Declan Kidney's first appearance in the RBS Six Nations as a head coach was a great victory, and Ireland played a very good rugby. France did not let them loose, even if they did not capitalize everything they produced, and the result was a very enjoyable game, with Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy scoring three wonderful tries that let Ireland win 30-21 over France, which is something that had not happened in quite a while.

The Irish are keeping their feet on the ground - Kidney will care for that - but people are starting to wonder wheter this could be the right year, maybe playing for the Grand Slam against Wales on the last day of the tournament.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Italy steamrolled by England

Having an English friend is wonderful (even if maybe you don't call him as much as you should... Hi James!). Sometimes, though, it is a horrible thing, as it exposes you to all kinds of mockery. Saturday was one of these times, even if, at least up to now, I have been spared the mocking. So much time seems to have passed since last year's match...

Due to a certain lack of scrum halves, Nick Mallet tried the Mauro Bergamasco trick and lined him up as number nine. I think Mauro is a very good player. When he plays as a flanker. Saturday's experiment was a complete disaster - and this to compete in the euphemistical contest. The official RBS Six Nations mercilessly reported that "Italy’s one-dimensional attack was not at all difficult to read with Bergamasco at scrum-half". Welsh icon Jonathan Davies said Mauro's match was one of the worst ones in history for an international player. Mallet admitted his error, so we'll see Paul Griffen back in action.

The transition from the two roles is not easy, and I know what I'm talking about because I did it myself in my youth in the west that is forgotten (it was 1988), when Santa (not Santa Claus, but Andrea Santamaria, our great coach at the time) first lined me as a scrum half against Calvisano (and a few of our opponents might as well have been in the team that won the italian title last year): we gained a beautiful victory, so from that day on we practically played with three flankers and a number eight. But this is a different story...

To save the day, I liked the try scored by Mirko Bergamasco, but the game, which ended 36-11 with England scoring 5 tries, was quite dull, even if I have to admit I haven't followed it with all my attention - sad but true, it did not deserve it - and I had something else on my mind.

Don't ask. The picture is more than a smell of a scent.

And I'm still longing for Jonny Wilkinson.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How to search for images of a specific size

Looking for some small images to test the FisheyeList dojo widget I discovered that you can google for images of a specific size just adding imagesize:widthxheight to your keyword, e.g. homer simpson imagesize:90x90

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The three most important things in IT

Backup, backup and backup. If you're not persuaded, ask one of our customers who happily stopped performing regular backups last May (the 23rd, to put the dots on the "i"s). A couple of days ago their hard disk went F.U.B.A.R. and their data vanished into thin air. Think twice before you say "I'll backup it tomorrow".

No hints on F.U.B.A.R.? Don't worry, not even Ray Tango knew what it meant. You can always ask Gabriel Cash fore more info.
I wonder why every programming example uses "foo" and "bar"...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers win Superbowl LXIII

The Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23, bringing home their sixth title. In the halftime performance Bruce Springsteen, with the E-Street Band, showed once again why he's The Boss.

How to impose a timeout in JUnit tests

Ever had the need to check if a method is taking too long to complete? You can follow the instinctive path, get the System.currentTimeMillis() before and after the execution of the method and assert their difference is smaller than the acceptable value.

Or... you can save time and rely on JUnit to stop the test thread and fail the test (a TimeoutException is thrown), simply passing the desired timeout value to the @Test annotation:
public void testWithTimeout() {

Agile Day - Result Day

During the fifth Italian Agile Day, held last November, I missed the Retrospective for the Italian Agile Community, but I read everything about it in the following days. The community proposed a "result day" in which we would share our experiences and verify our progresses since the agile day, to check whether we're really improving or are in a "one step up and two step back" situation. Gladly accepting the invitation, these are my comments.

A small foreword is due for better to grasp what's behind the result: some of our customers belong in a very politicized niche, and (also) for this reason they say they absolutely need to know in advance exactly what they will get, when they will get it and how much it will cost. Ok, this is almost true for non political organizations too. Anyway, except for small projects, this normally forces us to rate the analysis and give a guesstimate for the software, which will be specified and formalized at the end of the analysis phase.

In the last few months I have been involved, amongst other things, in an assessment project for one of our customers: they need a software and they need it quickly, and we offered them a solution.

Our proposal has a paragraph that explains how we will build the software. It expressely says that the system will be realized in an iterative and incremental way. It says that the estimates are based on user stories (which we verified with their IT manager - our Product Owner, I daresay - who in turn has checked them with his colleagues). It says that the customer will prioritize stories. It says that the project will be divided in 30 days iterations called sprints, and that it will be monitored using a product backlog, many sprint backlogs, burndown charts and running tested features charts. Most of all, it says that the system will be validated by automated acceptance tests.

Well, this is my result: it may be small, but I am really proud of it because it might be a turning point from just being "agile inside" to spreading the agile way of thinking amongst customers and their managers.

I must admit that the fact our customers cannot afford the time requested by a traditional waterfall process made my task easier, but that does not touch me particularly; on the contrary, just the fact that everybody agreed upon the fact that the waterfall process is a longer and more expensive one and that an agile process is needed (we never mentioned it, but you've already figured out we're talking about Scrum) is more than enough...

Many other posts for the result day can be found on the Italian Agile Movement forum page on the subject.