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Me an my mo

November 11th, 2010 No comments

Magnum

Remember him? Not the ice cream. No, PI, the private investigator; Tom Seleck. Of course you do. He was the sexiest man on the planet back then.

Well, as I said, that was back then…

(If, after looking at that picture, you already now know what to do, just head off to my donations page. Otherwise, please read on. Don’t worry; I’ll repeat the link at the end.)

Arriving in moustache land

When we first arrived in Australia early November last year I admit I wondered a fair bit about all those men in scanty moustaches everywhere. The image we Europeans have of the land down under suddenly seemed modern and fasionable! It took me a while to find out what it was. It was Movember! And then, all of a sudden I thought -I’m doing that. Next year.

Now what?

So, now it’s next year, and I’m sitting here with hair on my upper lip. Cool, but now what?

I admit it; it’s fun doing something out of character for once. Remember, I’m Swedish. We live our whole life in character. It’s dangerous on the outside.

But really, this is not about me!

…and certainly not for the wives and girlfriends of us moustachioed men. So, then who is it for?

It’s time for a very short rundown on the Movember concept.

Movember

Each year, Movember, the month formerly known as November, is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces around the world, with the sole aim of raising vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and depression in men.

http://au.movemberfoundation.com/about-us/

The Stranger

The other day a complete stranger* (by the name of Jim) stopped me on the street here in Manly.

-Are you doing the Movember thing?
-Yes, I am,
I answered, looking down at my shoes.
-Fantastic. Really, thanks for doing this.

Then he told me briefly about his friend, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and how tough it was, for him and the people close to him.

-Please, he said, let me make a small donation, to show my appreciation. Here’s $20.

That moved me. Of course it did. It’s a terrible fate, as is any form of cancer for anyone of any age and any sex. But I can’t fight them all. No one can. But Jim got me realising this was more than just an excuse for looking corny for a month (and to tease my wife), but instead a real opportunity to actually do some good.

And all I have to do is just not shaving my upper lip.

Pay or stop shaving! …or both…

Now, it’s time for me to ask you to do some good. You know what? I’ll even give you three choices:

Whatever your choice

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Thank you for that!

* That complete stranger’s name was James (Jim) Green. Apart from his donation, he wrote down a greeting for me to put on my Movember page. (And Jim; if you, by any peculiar circumstance, were to read this, please drop me a line, so I can thank you again for making my day!)

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No, I’m not a mason

October 27th, 2010 8 comments

“Danger! Software Craftsmen at Work”

Now that’s a great title! I wish I could have used that for this post. Instead, that’s the title of the QCon 2010 David Harvey presentation that is the foundation of this blog entry.

In his talk Mr Harvey places the “Software Craftsman” ideas and practices somewhere between distracting and dangerous, and claims these ideas builds a wall between developers, organisations and customers.

I claim he exaggerates the dangers, but I welcome the stirring in the pot and I do agree in parts of what he says, mainly regarding the emotional associations of the metaphors used by the Software Craftsmanship movement.

I agree with Uncle Bob‘s views on “The Empty Manifesto“, “Engineering vs. Craftsmanship” as well as “The Craftsman Connotation“, the last one being the one I’m expanding upon here. Plus, he sums the whole thing up nicely, so if you haven’t yet, please read that one first. (Yes, you may read Gael Fraiteur’s post too if you must, but please then leave a trail of breadcrumbs so you find your way back here.)

A masonry brick wall

So, on to David’s talk:

My first issue is with his first analogy; why would wearing a white T-shirt with printed instructions make it any worse walking into the lion’s cage? …ok sorry, that’s not the point. And, to give hime some credit, the print was in fresh blood and lions tend to like that, so fair enough, I’ll let it slide. After all, he was standing inside the lion’s cage saying it.

And thanks for putting yourself in that cage, David. It was refreshing to see an alternate slash controversial view presented on this subject.

My biggest issue

My biggest issue, however, is that he picks on a great movement with the noble goals of achieving a larger recognition of software development as a profession and to “raise the bar of professional software development”. Why would anyone want to do that? That’s just mean.

Or, is it? He is, after all, a developer himself…

Please, let me shine some light on an important point he makes, one that I’ve brought up before: We should be careful with our wording! We are already perceived as loners, nerds, Storm Troopers sleeping in line for Star Wars premiers. We don’t need to enforce that perception.

For me the timing of watching this presentation was great. It aligned perfectly with a conversation I had the other day:

The conversation

I was sitting out on the lawn, (re)reading a book* about apprenticeship and craftsmen, when my neighbour approached me.

-Are you working?
-Yep, reading up on some important professional elements.
He shot a quick look at the cover.
-But aren’t you in IT?

I began explaining, but it wasn’t until I started using words like professional instead of craftsman and mentoring instead of apprenticeship and that the book was really about learning and improving that the coin really dropped and the conversation took off. Turns out he, being an ambulance driver (amazingly enough, the very one that drove me and my wife to the hospital six months ago, when our bub #4 decided he wanted out in the middle of the night), knew and practiced many of these patterns. New ambulance drivers work with experienced ones to pick up on the large part of that profession consisting of working in the field, in an often critical atmosphere.

-They have to. Can’t read that in a book.
-So ok, you do that too, he said, I get it. Cool. But what with all the old guild talk? You’re not a mason, are you?

Touché!

So, why do we fight so hard for recognition?

Well, for one, it’s still a fairly young profession, but I also think some of it has to do with our characteristics. Software developers are smart, analytical people, lacking the social and communicative skills required for many other professions. (Generalising. Trying to make a point here. Moving on.)

I don’t care if you’re socially inept, as long as you can code. It’s actually better that way, since you’re going to spend most your waking hours in the basement anyway.

This has changed, greatly and quickly, and we are now in contact with the users, the business, no longer sitting in the basement. But even so, to the outside world that’s still us, the loners.

We see all that – we’re smart and analytical remember – and we’re tired of standing back to the sports jocks from the school yard, now turned corporate leaders. And we just don’t understand why people have such a hard time seeing the complexity, the necessity, the importance of what we do, just because it’s not tangible.

So, maybe we get a little bit too eager to get that recognition and forget there’s a gap that needs bridging first. (…and now, also a brick wall to tear down. See, we’re not making it easy on ourselves.)

Bridging the gap

That gap will be brigded though, sooner or later, through continously working on doing what we should do and doing it well. I agree with David’s advice; developers, stick to what Kent Beck described as the four basic activities of XP:

-Listening
-Testing
-Coding
-Designing

Do them well and stop worrying so much about recognition and acknowledgement. And by all means, use whatever names and metaphors you want for learning and improving, but do it internally. On the outside, make sure our organisations and customers understand what we’re doing too.

And anyone suggesting writing software is not hard, not a real profession, is welcome to come and give it a go…

* Not just “a book”, ladies and gentlemen. The Book! Apprenticeship Patterns – Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman, by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. Read it. Please do. For your own sake.

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Native or X, and native who?

October 1st, 2010 No comments
Update: This just in: "Big Android Market expansion". Thx Jason :)

Last night I attended another YOW! Nights Sydney. This time the title was Mobile Platform Developer Shoot Out! and the battle was between Google Android, Apple iPhone, Microsoft Phone 7 and cross platform.

Here’s my position before:

iPhone rocks! I have one and I love it. My only issue is it’s too much fun – it eats away at precious hours of my days. (That’s why I’m not getting an iPad btw.) I don’t love vendor lock-in and arrogance, but I just can’t not love excellence and beauty.

Android is definitely interesting, but it’s like Linux for me. Great stuff, but too fragmented, too unpolished, demands to much fiddling. But yes, I do welcome competition and I love openness and solid technical groundwork.

Windows? On a phone? No thanks…

X platform sounds really interesting. I wonder, is there more to it than just packaging and touchifying websites?

When it comes to developing for mobile (which I have yet to do first hand, native that is) I’ve since long been a proponent for native for apps requiring anything beyond the most rudimentary touch based interaction. For pure info, adaptive websites will do fine.

And after last night? Pretty much the same, only now I’m a wiser man. Read on…

Doing such a session in a little over an hour, with four speakers taking turns, you know you’re in for merely a scraping of the surface. Sometimes that’s a good thing though. Like when you want to merely …well, scrape the surface. What’s out there, where to start?… And I think that’s pretty much what most of us wanted, or at least expected, this evening.

Some quick notes from the session:

(I’ve provided some links, but to find out more about the program, speakers and their background, check the itinerary.)

Android

  • XML/Java and Eclipse IDE. Familiar stuff.
  • No. of apps per day to Android Market catching up, but Apple’s still way ahead.
  • Bad :(
    • Piracy, viruses and malware! Major issues. Google are taking actions against it, but haven’t been all successful so far.
    • Developers in Australia can’t sell apps on the Android Market! Didn’t go home well this evening. (The ones in Norway – my professional home country – can’t either, if that’s any consolation.)
    • UPDATE: Yes, they can! (ref. article)
    • Fragmentation. 25% of Android handsets run OS v. 2.2 (the latest) and about 45% v. 2.1 and the remaining 30% was a jungle of older versions. And then there’s the hardware…
  • Good :)
    • Choice! You’re not restricted, not even to one Market. There are already more and rumour has it Amazon’s up to something here…
    • Extremely fast cycle! Push to market and it shows up instantly. First download after 20 seconds and another 20 seconds later you get your first bug.

iPhone

  • Ten different devices spread across different screen sizes. However, Apple’s hide that diversity very well for developers.
  • The toolkit (XCode, Interface Builder, Simulator and Instruments) is great says Nathan de Vries.
  • (The Simulator’s fast. Don’t forget to check devices too.)
  • The documentation is really good. And check the sample code; lot’s of useful examples.
  • An initial hump to get over.
  • Get over it by reading a good Objective-C book and another one on memory management. After that, it’s all fun. Again, according to Nathan.
  • (Quickly mentioned Blocks (closures or lambdas for obj-C). Check it out if you will. And while you’re at it, check out Grand Central Dispatch. Not new, but exciting stuff still.)

Phone 7

Harder to bullet point this one, because Dave Glover was so eager to show us their new phone that I think he forgot he wasn’t a salesman. (To his defence; he was the only vendor representative up there.) So, did he sell?

  • Well, no but I’m quite impressed with the UI. He let me play with his phone after the session and it was really snappy; the closest I’ve seen to iPhone’s superior touch feeling. Not bad.
  • The UI’s different, with hubs, tiles, panoramas and some-other-fancy-name, and different’s good. Considering how late they are to the party, choosing the same path they would never catch-up, but this? I don’t know, they might just have found a shortcut through the woods.
  • But with no copy-paste and only 1st party multitasking they have to step it up a notch…
  • It’s Visual Studio (for Windows Phone) and Silverlight, so it should be honk and go for .NET devs.

Cross platform

Hard to get where he (Julio Maia) was heading (and what he was saying) due to some basic presenting issues, but basically:

  • jQTouch for UI. (jQuery-ish, pretty good, fast learning.)
  • Phonegap for packaging (fairly straight-forward).
  • Used Agile Australia conference app (http://aa2010app.com) as PoC.
  • Don’t trust simulators. Try every phone out there. Browser testing anyone?!…

Ok, so the questions are:

  • Do you go native?
  • With whom?
  • Or do you go X?

My combined answer is simple: Go native for (mobile) apps and cross platform for websites. (And make sure your website adapt to whatever client.)

As for whom, do iPhone first, then Android. If Phone 7 turns out to be a success, you’d better have a look at C#/Silverlight too…

Then again; interesting to see what HTML5 will do for X platform. Thanks André (Heie Vik) for queuing me in on that thought. Still think it won’t keep up with a native experience (without wizard’s magic), but still…

Why native?

Basically: Experience and performance of the app. After listening to Nathan and his iPhone talk (which, in my opinion, was the most convincing and credible) and talking to a couple of great people afterwards, my own thoughts and views found new strength.

It does really make a bunch of sense utilising all the specialised, built-in magic, or as Nathan said it (ca): The frameworks are great, especially on the UI side. Stay at the highest possible level and let the existing frameworks do the heavy lifting.

And on a final note

I had a great time. Again. Always a pleasure hooking up with the YOW! crowd. Lisa Cumes and Dave Thomas are doing a fantastic job on both these YOW! Nights and the upcoming, great looking conferences in Melbourne and Brisbane.

It was really interesting talking to Dave about what’s going on behind the scenes of YOW!/JAOO/QCon; the branding, the marketing, the speaker selection and the great focus they have on delivering quality form one end to the other. I went to JAOO in Århus in 2008 and had a great time, learning tons. This year I’m going to Brisbane in December, expecting nothing less :)

And had a nice talk to Tim Lucas too, before he had to run out to look for some stolen bikes. Thanks Tim for sharing your thoughts on the native/cross issue. (…and for sponsoring YOW! of course!)

(And thanks to Nathan for the tweet reply. Helpful.)

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Yo(w) bro

June 1st, 2010 No comments

Yesterday (actually it turned today before I published) when I wrote my post on the Dave Thomas YOW! Night I forgot to mention a funny thing:

Before he dug into the main bits Dave took the opportunity to advertise for the YOW!2010 conference(s) later this year, in Melbourne and Brisbane.

And there on the Big Speakers Slide, as one of the poster boys, together with Erik Meijer, Jim Webber, Rod Johnson and Guy Steele was my little big brother!

Young Erlang wizard

Ulf battling an early concurrency problem

I didn’t even know he was confirmed and I’m not even sure he knew. He had just briefly mentioned that it was a possibility. So I texted him and said -Hey, know what?…

Funny feeling that; seeing your brother in that setting. I mean, he is after all my brother. I know for a fact he’s not super human, whereas with the others I just have to believe them when they say they’re not…

Joking aside, I’m very proud of him, and also really glad he’s coming for a visit. Thanks for bringing him down here Dave :)

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Envisioning envisioning

June 1st, 2010 No comments

Tonight it’s time for another evening with Dave Thomas. This time he will talk about NoSQL (which really should be called something else, emphasizing its non-relationness) and I’m really looking forward to it. He’s a really entertaining guy and usually provides quite refreshing sessions. He certainly has strong opinions on our beloved business and with his experience and track record you’d do well to listen to them.

But, as I said; that’s tonight. Now I thought I’d give you a quick recap on last YOW! Night here in lovely Sydney:

Two weeks ago, on May 19th, I went to the Wesley Conference Centre to see Mr Thomas talk about “Improving the Quality and Productivity of Backlogs Through Envisioning: Collaborative Agile Product Analysis, Architecture and Design” (phew…)

Before I go on, I’d like to quickly comment on that title: Three words: No no no. Yes, he did talk about envisioning and backlogs, but the rest? Too fluffy and frankly a bit boring. Just compare that to tomorrow’s title: “Why Real Developers Embrace Functional Programming and NoSQL Data: Confessions of an Object’holic’ and Statefull Sinner“. Still long, but that one carries some punch! But then again, to quote Shakespeare:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

And Dave Thomas is indeed a rose! If you ever get the chance to go and see him; just go, whatever topic and title. And relax; you will be in for an interesting event and you will learn. Lots.

So, let’s talk rosy smells; what did we learn?

First of all: Use common sense! There are a lot of hypes surrounding Agile and where there is hype, there are priests! Beware of them. Each customer and case is different anyway, so being a slave to a bible will do more harm than good. Rather be great, know your stuff, and adapt to your circumstances and build on them.

The emphasis on Envisioning means: Think, model, scribble, brainstorm, mock, prototype… Do whatever it takes to really understand the requirements, to understand what you’re really going to build. Your backlog – that’s your bible btw – should be clean and safe to use so don’t let any contaminants in there.

I’d like to mention some of the points Dave made about improving understanding:

First: Developers can build anything, they just have to understand it first.

Sprint 0 is the Envisioning sprint. I repeat: Do a proper job here and it will pay off. Sometimes this one can take months. So be it!

If you later do get stuck on something along the way, don’t just let it go on. Stop and push it back. You will only run into trouble later for ignoring it now. Be honest!

Build prototypes. Find a really great UI guy (at least) who can create mockups quickly. Done right this can really pay off; the customer will love it and it will deepen the understanding through out the team. By visualising your system early things will fall into place much quicker.

The problem with the prototyping as well as with a lengthy Sprint 0 though, is that it relies heavily on your faith in its long term effects. You will most often need to really work hard to sell these precious babies to the stakeholders. Do that. It’s worth it.

Use Personas; a great way of creating a common understanding of your users, across the whole team. Another great idea is to use same set of personas across projects so that everyone quickly get who/what we’re talking about. Don’t use too many though. Dave says max. 6-7 which feels right to me, even though I often see higher numbers elsewhere. One important clue to reach the best possible common understanding is to simplify. Within a team you should be able to quickly refer to a common set of rules and definitions with as little ambiguity as possible and without having to look them up. Personas will help you achieve that.

The team

I really liked what he said about colocation of teams: It’s overrated! Oooh, did he just swear in church?! No no …well, yes he did, but wait, here’s the good part: He would much rather have a teammate on the other side of the earth, sharing the same mental space, than share an office with one in another. I find it hard to disagree with that, even though I know a lot of people don’t. You could, of course, argue that the same mental and physical space is a winner. Yes, but that’s not always possible. And if it’s not: Don’t colocate developers just because some priest says it’s in the bible. -But what if you constantly end up in projects with people not sharing your mental space? Sorry mate, but then you really should find another job, pronto! My words, not Dave’s. Not on this particular night anyway. I’m quite sure he agrees though.

Other important take away tips: Create an architecture map and stick it to the wall, use those nice little cards with acceptance criteria on one side and the story on the other and take a look at decision tables (I will, looks great!)

And remember: Done = Acceptance tested! Unit tests are fine, but they have little business value.

To round up this Envisioning/backlog bit I want to use pretty much the exact words from Dave:

All code has bugs. The important question is: Does it matter? The whole point of Lean is triage: In ER, treat the dying patients.

That one sat well with me. Being a trained military medic (in the Swedish army – that’s a little like the Israeli army, only tougher) I’d even like to expand some upon it, making this analogy even more fitting: In the event of war the medical prioritisations change; some of the most critical peacetime wounds are now given only palliative care, i.e. the patient gets a shot of morphine so he can die peacefully…

On a final note I just have to make a little digression and pass on Dave’s sincere apology for OO. He said it made sense with Smalltalk, but now… I must say he looked very sincere, and given his prediction about the future legacy problems we’ll face it’s understandable. In his opinion, Java, and especially J2EE etc, will make the COBOL legacy look like a drop in the bucket. I suspect we will hear more about it tonight…

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Iterative evolution

May 28th, 2010 2 comments

Isn’t it great when you stumble upon something, whatever, that makes you think, really think?! And then sometimes, that wonderful stumble triggers you to rethink things you thought you already knew, things you took for granted. Ah, that’s indeed a wonderful process.

It just happened to me. This time it was two very interesting articles that got me thinking about the Agile idea of iterative delivery.

Step by stepPhoto Credit: extranoise

Delivery

The way of delivering anything these days is arguably to do it in steps, adjusting as you go, depending on the feedback and the changing requirements. Yes, yes, yes, I know; far from everyone agrees with that statement. Hence “arguably”. (I’m not going further this time. Go google – or bing if you will – delivery waterfall agile if you want to dig deeper into that subject. And bring a sturdy spade.)

Having lived with a term like “iterative delivery” for about a decade now, believing to have a rather firm grip around its meaning, I find it interesting – and refreshing – to find it challenged twice in a couple of days, after reading two excellent articles sort of on the subject.

Iterative delivery

A common way of looking at iterative/evolutionary product delivery is: Release and fail fast, acknowledge missing features, embrace change and continuously add and improve all the way to the “final” (great) product.

Banana skins

My two challenges, or pitfalls, for today concerns:

  • The acknowledgement of missing features
  • The failing fast

The acknowledgement of missing features

There is a very interesting article by John Gruber, about “how Apple rolls“, showing how Apple consistently release their products small, and then improving on them, slowly, bit by bit. Of course that’s what they’re doing. I just haven’t seen it like that before. Apple is doing iterative delivery. They just don’t advertise it as they go. They never focus on the missing parts. Every product is a flagship that will, and most often does, revolutionize the industry.

Before I go on and you accuse me of comparing Apple and orange: When we talk about Agile software development principles, the acknowledgement of missing features is commonly communicated within the team, including stakeholders/customers. What Apple is doing is marketing externally to the end users of the product. That’s a different ball game, but nevertheless I think there’s an important lesson to be learned here:

One of the great benefits of the Agile way of thinking is that it fosters a humility towards failure and change. However, too much of a good thing may do you harm. When you insist on putting up a sign on the front page telling the users this is not a complete product, when you refuse to remove that Beta tag, you start making excuses, effectively demoting your product. You don’t have to speak Apple, but be careful. Don’t be too humble.

Fail fast

The same goes for the mantra “fail fast”. It’s a great guiding principle, but be careful communicating it to people without the same level of understanding and knowledge about Agile and XP. They might just perceive it as a careless approach to their product, their time and money.

But pretty please with sugar on top; it’s such a catchy phrase, with its short allegorical allure! Yes, but it does front a dangerous word when it comes to the customer’s children: Fail!

It’s not just linguistics though. Fail fast is a concept that demands and deserves proper presentation. It lives dangerously close to the world of lazy or lacking preparations. (Which, by the way, is not a good starting point if you have any ambitions.)

There have been times that I’ve felt this need for careful wording trying to convert waterfalling customers, but after reading this rather energetic confrontation with the mantra from a VC’s standpoint, it really made its way to the frontal lobes. Again, all I’m saying is: Be careful.

Do your homework

Be careful you say? How? The way to avoid these pitfalls is – in my humble opinion – to be sure to communicate, to eat, live and breathe responsibility and thorough groundwork. From there you can go pretty much wherever you like…

Guilty

May 20th, 2010 No comments

You have a blog, you have tons of ideas, you know how write, you want to write, you want to share and interact and most of all; you want to learn, to grow! …so, what’s stopping you?

Of course there can be lots of reasons, but a common one is fear!

Rejected

Here we go again (and probably not for the last time)

Why blog?

One of the reasons to write a blog is to write down what’s on your mind, to provide an outlet for your mind. But if it was only that, you wouldn’t have to publish it, right?! So, another neat thing about a blog is that people can actually read your works of art.

So, why don’t you then?

That last thing; that your writings is actually out there, in the open; that my friends, is the scary part. That’s what makes people afraid of putting pen to paper (or finger to key if you will). Out of fear of making a fool out of yourself – one of mans biggest fears in life – you wait and you wait and you wait for that perfect idea to come along for you to write about. And then you will probably wait some more for a divine outline and a heavenly disposition to come to you in your sleep. In your dreams.

Guilty as charged!

Sentenced but not jailed. Partly because I got an easy sentence – this is, after all, my 12th blog entry (in only 3,5 years) – but primarily because you don’t actually get jail time for not blogging. So, here I am; free to change; to try again. And again. And again. Failing, adjusting, retrying…

That is, instead of thinking about how to make it perfect, just do it. Really, what’s the worst that can happen?

An example

Last post I told you to stay tuned for my intentions “to try to map out an understanding of how to be great at something and have fun while you’re doing it“. That was, in my humble opinion, rather well put. Yes, I need to tighten it up a bit, but that is my intention for the not so distant future. However; having written that I suddenly felt the pressure to do just that, to do it really well from the beginning, and not “polluting” my blog with anything not answering to that mission statement.

A solution came to mind: I should start a new blog devoted to that statement. Of course, I would then need an appropriate (and smashing (and available)) domain name, the right theme and a …yes, you see where this is heading, right?!…

Don’t get me wrong though; Those are all excellent ideas. I will do all that.

Branding, marketing, designing your blog is essential to really reach out, but that’s not where to start. Start by creating (great) content. A blog is nothing without content, however shiny.

New game plan

In due time, I might spawn a new blog and start putting more effort into branding and focusing, on polishing my professional writing, but for now I’m just going to make a fool out of myself (more often)! Starting… NOW! …or rather 527 words ago…

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Mastering a new skill

April 15th, 2010 No comments

They have a game here in Australian schools called Handball. No, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Olympic sport Handball. So, what is it then? I’ll tell you in a minute…

I have two school kids (so far). This particular story will include my son who is six. Moving here to Manly late January and starting school just six days later, we where quite eager to see how they would cope, especially him knowing hardly any English, but for a few words. We weren’t particularly worried though; he’s a smart kid and also quite confident and secure. Plus, he loooves anything sports. That always helps a young guy at school.

It didn’t take long to see that handball was the thing at school. The kids play it every recess as well as before and after school. Baltazar wanted to know right away how to play it so I asked a couple of kids to teach him.

So, without further due, please let me introduce the rules of handball:

BigFooty: Who used to play handball (aka four-square) back in school?

Too much for you? I understand completely. It’s a complicated game in all its apparent simplicity. Add to the above rules some Manly(?) specific features like Skillage, Rollings, Grabs, Poison etc. – most of them being dynamic, i.e. dictated by the owner of the ball and/or the current King – and you have an intricate, fast paced game that I for one have trouble understanding even after all these hours of watching and even playing myself.

So, how can a poor six year old kid from the cold north learn this in such a short time without even knowing the language?

…actually, he hasn’t just learnt it; he masters it. He was just unofficially crowned the Best Year 1 Player at Manly West Public School, among 120+ year 1 students (not all of them playing handball of course, but still…)

I’ll tell you why:

  • Because he has passion!
  • Because he’s not afraid to go up against the best in the field.
  • Because he has stamina – he’s not giving up.
  • Because he has fun.
  • Because he’s entering the task with an open mind.
  • Because he just jumps right into it, he doesn’t waste too much time on theory.
  • Because he wants to improve, he wants to be the best!
  • (And of course; because he’s got talent.)

These qualities that come so easy and naturally to a six-year-old; how come we adults find them so hard?

Mastering a new skill is scary business; we tend to focus too much on the vast distance separating ourselves from the current masters. But as with any other seemingly insurmountable obstacle, it helps to break it down into smaller parts.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

My intentions are to examine these attributes a little closer to try to map out an understanding of how to be great at something and have fun while you’re doing it.

Stay tuned…

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noPad

April 7th, 2010 10 comments

Part of me – the nerd part – thinks the iPad is another piece of fantastic news from Cuppertino (even if I must admit my first reaction was -What on earth would anyone want this for?). It seems quite the slick machine. I mean, just look at “The Elements”.

But, I’m not getting one!

Why?

A) It’s for consuming (paid) content, not for creating. I want to create more and – if need be – consume less. I don’t want another shiny distraction on my path to delivering more output.

B) It’s another thing! I don’t need more stuff. Moving Le Family to the other side of the world, packing light and living frugal made us realize we don’t need stuff. We left all but clothes and a few toys behind and haven’t missed any of it. Reading a recent Cornell study about material things vs. experiences reinforced that feeling. (Thanks to Alex Kjærulf for tweeting the link.)

(Plus it’s bound to be an additional gadget; it doesn’t replace anything. I still need my laptop and my iPhone. Why don’t we just make that C).

So, I won’t get an iPad. What’s the big deal?

I have an iPhone. And I’m in love with it! ( · · · — — — · · · ) But I have also often wondered if I weren’t better off with my plain vanilla Nokia _phone_.

…but every time I dare think those thoughts my iPhone shines at me, begging me to pick it up and play a little more with it.

Damn you Steve…

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An unexpected interaction

March 10th, 2010 No comments

Not too long ago I bought a TV on eBay. It was a great TV, and by great I don’t just mean excellent. It was also huge (especially weight-wise). You see, it was a good old 32″ fat screen Panasonic…

I love that TV; nice and clear picture and a surprisingly good sound. And for a price of 50 Australian dollars (~USD 45) it was a steal. But I digress; this post is not about my dear old new TV. It’s about my interaction with the seller.

How you experience an interaction is largely dependent on your expectations. If you’re buying something at a luxury store you expect that little extra. You’re not just buying the item; you’re also buying the experience and the service. When it comes to buying a cheap old TV on eBay you pretty much focus on the goods and hope it’s not broken.

This particular ad said “local pickup only“. My guess is the seller thought

it’d be a waste to chuck a working TV. Let’s try putting it on eBay. Someone can come and pick it up and save me the hassle and maybe, just maybe I’ll even get a few bucks for it.

So there you go: The ad is there. The TV looks good. I’m willing to pay a hundred bucks for it. Since I don’t own a car I set aside AUD 50 for taxi transport and put in a bid for the remaining 50 that turns out to be the winner. Hooray!

I’m a happy camper. The seller has every reason to be satisfied too. If only the TV works and the seller gets her money (and we don’t rob or rape each other) this business transaction will go into history as a successful one…

Here’s when the seller delights me: She says she’ll be driving past my neighbourhood anyway so she’d be happy to just drop it to me. Just like that! She didn’t have anything to gain by doing that: She had to ask a friend to get the darned thing into her car, she had to find out where I lived, she had to go out of her way (if only a little) and she had to take her time to do it.

For me on the other hand there was both time and money to be saved. We (me and my wife that is) therefore thought we’d get her something to show her our appreciation of her kind gesture, so we bought her some flowers.

For us that felt like the least we could do. We were still well under budget, we didn’t have to look for her place and all we had to do now was carry the TV in from the street. AND it felt good to reciprocate for her kindness. Plus; it really was nothing much; just a simple bouquet of flowers.

For her, judging from the look on her face and her eBay feedback, she was genuinely thankful. I suppose she really didn’t think it was a problem to deliver the TV to us. She probably felt it was both convenient and time-saving. She certainly didn’t expect a reward for it.

So, the point is: Even a simple business transaction, with no other expectations from either side than to let money and goods change owners, can become something extra. All it usually takes is for either party to go that extra inch – to do just a little bit more than what’s expected. If on the other hand both parties does just that, that simple interaction can turn into something really memorable and smile inducing.

That’s the real reason I love that TV: It’s a constant reminder of not just a great bargain, but also of a memorable and unexpected business interaction.

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