Saturday, July 18, 2009

The user is the real boss

About a year and a half ago, when I first joined my current project, it had little to no actual management. Even though I was merely QA, I cared deeply for the project and decided to take it upon my self to implement some agile practices and make myself defacto project manager.

At that point I began doing a lot of research on various project management frame works, starting with scrum, and working my way back to Agile and XP. Trying to implement best practices from the bottom presented its own set of challenges, but with the help of supportive developer we were able to get the boss to go along.

We started off pretty strong with daily standing meetings and weekly scrum sessions, and every thing began to come together. Six months down the line we had a product, and were ready to launch, so we started introducing it to our users only to discover that it wasn't really what they wanted! Turns out we had been far too concerned about what we thought they wanted, that we spent a lot of time going in directions that ultimately proved to be dead ends.

It was then that I realized, that we should have included the customers from the beginning. We should have been pulling in our potential users for our weekly demos, to conduct market research even as we were developing the product. Flexibility has always been the point of agile, but whats the point if you don't know which way to bend?

Since then, We have been doing weekly demos for some of our users, and the project is shaping up nicely, though in a whole different direction then we originaly expected.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The fragile web

The recent events in Iran and china have made it abundantly clear to me the the web is no where near as robust as we'd like to imagine. Governments still have the power to shut off access to certain sites, or to pull the plug all together. This is why I feel that we really need to push forward with mesh networking technology. Not only will it secure communication between individuals, but it increases the possibility that some one on that mesh might have internet access through a nearby nation where communications aren't as restricted. I know that mesh enabled cell phones and and massive continent spanning nets are still along way off, but there is already technology that can dramatically boost that signal.

And local mesh networks have uses far beyond reporting authoritarian crack downs, they could have the effect of creating real local connections, addign space to the web, and bringing communities closer together.