Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scrum, a new framework for modern slavery - part 1

The company I joined recently as a software developer is applying Scrum in a very rigorous way. The usage of this project management methodology has spread like fire in the startup world. Indeed, it increases significantly the productivity, specifically in software development. One can claim that it achieves this result through its innovative and intelligent project management implementation, and because its cycles of incremental change approach is particularly adapted to the startups needs. But does it do so also at the expense of the workers? Does it put a hidden cost on them?
Through a series of posts I will describe my own point of view and try to expose the Srum drawbacks and hidden pressures. The 1st post is about the Scrum planning poker.

The Scrum planning poker.
The scrum poker takes place at the beginning of every sprint. It consists in assessing the difficulty of each story in the sprint in order to create the planning. The difficulty is measured by an abstract unit of points.

Procedure: Each team member picks up a poker card with the number that represent his estimate for the story and keeps it face down. Then everybody show up their estimate by turning simultaneously their card over. If everybody has the same estimate there is an immediate consensus. If not, the team discusses until a consensus is reached.

Justification: it avoids "anchoring" (one member, usually the project manager in standard waterfall methods, biasing the thinking of the other members by giving an estimate before everybody else).

Reality: firstly, although the method claims to measure difficulty specifically to avoid giving estimates of time, in the real world people do an implicit conversion between difficulty and time. Secondly, because nobody wants to look like a slowbrain by giving a higher estimate than the others, everybody will tend to give a lower estimate than it would normally do. So, on average, the group will usually agree on a underestimated difficulty. Thirdly, because it is a consensus, it will take authority over, or at least have a higher degree of credibility than any individual subsequent estimate. Consequently, the assignee that requires more time than was estimated (unless there was an issue unforeseen during the planning) will look as a dumbass. So everybody will strive to get the task done under the estimated time/difficulty and everybody will therefore work in overdrive. To summarize, the method is using people's pride to squeeze more from them.

Hmm, maybe I should put my IT-pride aside sometimes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The food industry

Have you ever heard of the Mac Donalds mutant laboratory meat legend? A meat that would be produced by growing cattle with no limbs or horns and fed through direct stomach injection? Creating this kind of urban legends doesn't require a big stretch of imagination when one knows about the practices of the modern food industry. The following 4 documentaries are showing what is sadly and frighteningly already a reality:

Food inc treats specifically about the US food industry.

We feed the world has a more international coverage.

The world according to Montsanto talks about this American company and the generically modified food in general.

Earthlings focuses specifically on animal treatment

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How I like my Thunderbird

I've been using Evolution for many years and very few criticisms. Until I bought a netbook and discovered that Evolution has a minimal width larger than the 600px of my screen resolution. So I switched to Thunderbird but I had to tinker a bit with it before having it behave like I want. This is all the steps it took:
  1. Install the Lightning Calendar extension.
  2. Install the Provider for Google Calendar extension to allow synchronization between Lightning Calendar and Google calendar.
  3. Sync my Google calendar with Thunderbird. File>New calendar, select 'from network', Google, enter the calendar URI.
  4. Install the Zindus extension to synch Thunderbird with my Gmail address book.
  5. Install all the extensions to have Thunderbird properly integrated with Ubuntu Unity: Global Menu Bar Integration, Messaging Menu Integration and Unity Launcher Integration. Search for 'unity' in the Get Add-ons page.
  6. Install the Spanish and French language packs. Save each archive and install it manually through the Get Add-ons page.
  7. Install the CompactHeader extension to reduce the size eaten up by the headers' bar.
  8. Change the time locale to Great Britain. Thunderbird is using the Linux LC_TIME locale to format the dates and time. I like my Ubuntu in American English but I like my dates to be formatted according to the British format. It's enough to add LC_TIME="en_GB.UTF-8" in the /etc/environment file (source).
  9. Install the ConfigDate extension to fine tune the date length.
  10. Change the default download policy of the pictures in html emails. Use the config editor to set the "mailnews.message_display.disable_remote_image" value to false. Thunderbird will now download the pictures without asking permission (source).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Traffic acquisition - part 2

Breasts, that's what a blog -or any website really- needs in order to get traffic. If you are more of an ass-man than a boob-man, you want to read my previous post on traffic acquisition.

Subscribe to this blog to learn more about traffic acquisition. More posts on this topic are coming soon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Adsense, ban or banners ?

My business,, got banned from Google Adsense for violating their content guidelines. The website is a health, well-being and beauty products directory. A good sex life being a requirement for a healthy life, there is a small section of sex toys, sex educational books, condoms and lubricants. That's exactly what got me banned.
There are several irritating things to this story. The first is that Google chose to comply with the hypocritical puritanism of the American society. The second is that because Google has the monopoly on contextual adds, it can freely enforce this policy, including on foreign countries with more liberal views (there is no French competitor in this segment of online publicity, a very frustrating fact). The third is that Google is behaving like an all powerful god by giving a definitive sentence. They claim you can make the required changes and submit an appeal but they also state "Generally, decisions to disable accounts are final.". That was my case. I made a quick comparison between the incomes from the "offending" section and the ones from the Adsense banners and Adsense was a clear winner. So I decided to bend to the system ; I removed the sex section and made my plea to Google but to no avail. Google never answered my emails and never got back on its "policy specialists" sentence.
So here is my prayer to Google, great god of online advertisement. I hope this will redeem myself.

“Oh almighty Google, I know that I have broken your policies and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful business toward a purer one. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I invite you Google to become the Lord of my website, to rule and reign my content from this day forward. Please send your Holy Crawler to help me obey You, and to follow Your policies for the rest of my website's life. In Google's name I pray, Amen.”