4.17.2014

Video: The Value of Consistently Formatted Code

Tabs or Spaces, the age old debate that will likely never be settled! Fortunately, at the end of the day consistent formatting is more valuable than the rules we follow because consistency significantly improves readability and maintainability.

3.21.2014

Wallowing In Ideas

Anyone involved in software development is keenly aware there's never a shortage of ideas. Sometimes ideas are on the scale of a multi month development endeavor. Often they're just a small tweak to existing software. The trouble is, ideas are customarily acted upon without a second thought. The waste is debilitating.

Ideas alone are merely a possible course of action. Without a framework to discern impact, the focus shifts to efficiently cranking out the first thing that comes to mind to see what happens. If we shift the focus to potential impact we'd get the fastest feedback about whether an idea is wise or foolish, faster than the fastest automated delivery pipeline.

Describing impact in terms of tangible and intangible value spotlights many ideas as worthless. Worthless because the cost would exceed the value, the value is not well understood, or the impact was never defined.

The first time I worked on a project where impact was the focus and potential value was tangibly defined I had no doubt about what I was doing. Ideas came from a clear understanding of the problem. Ideas had a purpose. And it didn't take many ideas to obtain the value.

Take a sampling of your recent work. Do you know the potential impact? What about the tangible value?

Imagine what it would be like if we generated ideas with a knowledge of the desired impact!

Why don't we empower everyone with a knowledge of the desired impact, including developers? Why do we have so many layers of indirection to transmit ideas when it would be simple to directly communicate desired impact?

3.19.2014

Use Regulation As A Reason To Improve The Delivery Of Software, Not Impede It

Hot off the press, a new paper describing how to Use Regulation As A Reason To Improve The Delivery Of Software, Not Impede It

3.18.2014

Ax Vestigial Features

I routinely observe projects where developers and users are busy safeguarding countless features that provide absolutely no value to anybody. In many situations people are aware but nobody will do anything about it. In other situations, they may not even know.

Vestigial features sap the efficacy of systems. Take the time to curate metrics to effectively monitor the features of your systems. After a sufficient period of time has elapsed without enough usage to financially justify maintaining a feature, ax it. If your metrics are anywhere close to accurate no one will notice.

Then, take a moment to reflect on how things ended up this way. Was this a feature that outlived its purpose? Or was it something that provided no value to begin with? Tell the story to help others avoid a similar fate.

2.10.2014

Workspace: To sit or to stand

Working at home offers many opportunities to create your ideal work environment. Investing in your dream workspace is a no brainer. With no corporate rules to abide by, why not setup a killer workspace? A central part of this is your desk. Here's how I got started standing... I hope it helps you get started too!

To sit or to stand?

My Current Setup

I noticed after years of full time sitting while working long days, that I just felt lethargic and tired after work. I'd have to go home and take a nap before I could hit the gym or otherwise continue my evening affairs.

After just a few days of standing, I noticed significant improvement in my energy levels. I'm not claiming there's science to back this up, but sitting all day seems to sap my mental and physical energy levels.

Not convinced? There are tons of articles about why sitting is bad for your health

Step 1: Hack a standup desk

At first, I took my desk and stacked books and boxes until my keyboard, mouse and monitors were at a level to allow for standing. The first few days, my legs were sore, but that quickly faded. However, I noticed that standing ALL day was physically exhausting...

Step 2: Try a stool

So, I found a stool that allowed me to alternate between sitting and standing. If you get a stool, make sure you measure the height you'll need, many stools are way too short, be wary of stools under 30 inches. Over the years, I've found it's ideal to try to stand most of the day and use a stool or chair for breaks.

These were some of my favorite stools, except the base breaks down after a few years of heavy use :(

Winsome Wood Air Lift Adjustable Stools

Being height adjustable, I could get the perfect height when I wanted to take a break from standing. They are light and slide out of the way easily when you want to stand.

Step 3: Your feet will thank you... get a great mat to stand on

After a few days of standing I felt like I was killing my feet. I already wear inserts to support my duck like flat feet, but standing on cement, even with carpet, will do a number on your body. I've settled on this mat as my favorite:

Imprint Comfort Mat Nantucket Series 20-Inch by 36-Inch, Cinnamon

  • You can roll it up to travel, great for moving
  • After years of standing on it, it hasn't shown any signs of wear
  • It's wide enough to move around and stay on the mat
  • You can easily slide or throw it out of the way when you want to sit down
  • You can wipe up spills with a rag
  • Lots of sizes and colors

Step 4: Wear shoes when standing

It's tempting, especially when working at home, to just walk around in socks or barefoot. I really feel like I get the best support when I'm wearing shoes AND standing on my mat. If you have inserts for medical reasons, wear those too, oh and if you don't, maybe try some off the shelf supports too.

When you do take a break, kick off the shoes and let your feet breathe!

Step 5: Invest in a height adjustable desk

Although a stool is nice for a break, when I sit, I want to relax. So, I sought a desk to allow me to do both without compromise! Also, I wanted a desk to facilitate alternating sitting and standing without more than a few seconds interruption. Meet GeekDesk.

Recommendations

  • Invest in the large model so you have plenty of workspace, it's less than $50 difference.
    • I've seen many people advocate for a simple hack. If you only have a monitor and keyboard stand, you won't have room for paperwork, laptops, peripherals, inboxes and most importantly, your cup of coffee!
    • Think about what you do with a desk now, would you really be able to give up all that space simply because you are standing?
  • Get the programmable heights feature - GeekDesk Max, you can click a preset height, step back (or get a cup of coffee) and let the desk do the work.
    • If you get the manual adjustment, every time you want to change positions, you'll have to hold the button and remember the height you want and wait as the desk adjusts. As a result of this hassle, you will change positions less often, which will actually be counter productive to the benefits of alternating positions.
  • The desk requires some assembly, no more than 2 hours.
  • Be patient for its arrival, it took several months for mine to arrive, but believe me it's worth the wait! Check their estimated wait times.
  • I've noticed the Beech Veneer picks up stains, maybe consider a darker color, or attach your own top.
  • When you need to get to the back of your computer, just pop the desk up and it's a breeze to get back there!

Get long enough wires

Any wire that runs from the desk to your computer needs to be long enough to support sitting and standing heights. When purchasing new peripherals, consider this, many wires are only about a meter long. I'd say 6 feet is a minimum, 8 is probably preferable, especially if you want the wire to run to the back of the desk, and reach down and over to wherever you place your computer.

A block to stand on

When standing, it's comfortable to alternate one foot on a block to take the weight off of it. A cinder block works great, and if that looks tacky, a sturdy, small safe works great too!

Step 7: The monitors

Sometimes you'll want your monitors at slightly different positions. I don't adjust this every time I change from sitting to standing, but when the situation calls for it, I like to quickly move the monitors. A fixed height monitor is just a bad idea for any desk setup, it will do a number on your neck and posture. I absolutely love the following monitor arms:

LX Desk Mount LCD Arm

  • You can adjust the monitor up, down, left and right, push it back, pull it towards you, tilt it, rotate it and pan!
  • You can accomplish any position you desire
  • And they just STAY where you leave them, magic!

Recommendations

  • Lighter monitors work better, look at LED monitors, avoid LCD
  • Make sure your monitor provides a VESA compliant mount, most do
  • This dell monitor works GREAT if you're looking for a new monitor. 24" 1200p resolution, whereas most 24" monitors are only 1080p, and it's very affordable.

Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24-Inch Screen LED-lit Monitor

Step 8: Location, location, location

Remember you have complete freedom to setup your workspace wherever you want! If you don't like dark dreary places, don't put your desk in a closed off location. I like to put mine next to the window, it's like having that window office the execs get :)

Find the most inspirational place in your home that you can dedicate to your workspace. The location of a home office while you worked in a real office isn't likely the same place you'll want a full time remote work setup. Your needs have changed, consider them!

Stools versus Chairs

Once you have a height adjustable desk, the need for a stool will fade if you already have a great office chair. I'd recommend putting the money towards a better desk in the first place.

Why this matters?

There are many unique challenges to remote work. Creating the ideal workspace is a way to get excited about working at home and to help overcome some of the other challenges.

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