Archive for December, 2008

Mike Shannahan, former coach of the Denver Broncos, held a press conference today to discuss his firing.

This is one damn fine way (gracious, strategic, experienced) to handle getting fired.

Of particular note is Shannahan’s grasp of what it means to “deserve” something.

On if he deserved to be let go
“The thing about deserving is it really doesn’t matter about deserve. I feel good about the job I have done. The thing is, you have to make some tough decisions when you run an organization. You have to do things that are in the best interest of the organization, and I felt that that was right and I understand the direction he went. I have no problem with it because he is the best owner in sports. What I have to do is regroup, think about the things that I want to do. Relative to this team, Pat is going to keep the offensive staff intact as much as he can. We are going in the right direction. He is going to make some changes obviously on the defensive side. He is going to do what he thinks is going to give the Broncos the best chance to be Super Bowl champs. Sometimes you have to make those tough decisions. I have been here for 14 years, I had 14 great years and it has been fun. It has been a great ride. Twenty-one years all-in-all, when you go back to those experiences I don’t give anything up. Do you deserve it? We didn’t win for the last three years. We were 8-8, heck we were a .500 team. You get judged by performance, and I didn’t get the job done, that is the bottom line. Your job is to win and to win championships and we have not won a championship in awhile. The next place I go to, that will be the one thing that I am thinking about—What gives me the best chance to win a championship?”

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I can’t remember if I posted about Stellarium before.  Sorry for a repost if I have.

Stellarium is one of the coolest open source projects out there.  In fact, I’m not sure how good a commercial version of this would actually be.  Some things are just better as academic and labor of love efforts.

If you like star gazing, deep space imaging, telescopes and generally “where are we in the universe” stuff, download this thing and play with it.

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Here we find yet another lively discussion questioning whether Agile Programming is real.

Let’s just tackle the various claims and arguments head on.

The behavior involved and contingencies bringing about leaner development are real.  The name “Agile” is marketing.   The recent economic turbulence reinforces quicker time to market and lower costs.  However, the evolution of software development was/is being shaped even if the economy didn’t stink as a result of changing needs, better tools, and better talent pools.

As for statics claiming Agile has a better methodology – those all need to be qualified by their context.  Creating software in short sprints without extensive documentation doesn’t always lead to fewer defects over the lifetime of a code base, for example.  Often the comparisons of projects cannot be done because the context of project and the eventual life of the software is so drastically different.

Generally all software development involves:

  • Shipping code that works “good enough” for intended use (good enough being defined by “criticalness” of the software”)
  • Providing documentation for others to understand what the software does (documentation takes different forms, but there is always documentation)
  • Fixing stuff that doesn’t work (all software has bugs)

I propose that if you don’t do those 3 things, you aren’t doing software development.  You might be doing  proof of concepts or experimenting, but it’s not software development without those 3 things.

Whether you engage in rapid development, you’ll eventually have to document should you want other people to understand your code. (it might be a series of emails or a wiki, but there will be documentation).  If we do waterfall but the product is missing key features, you’ll sprint to add those at some point.  Users must use the code for you to know if it works.  And so on…  the point here is that no matter how you come at a project, software development has to have certain things accomplished or it doesn’t produce workable, usable, sellable code.

Furthermore, “agile” probably happens through waterfall processes and vice versa.  You can’t very well build an entire code base from scratch and never do a build and check.  And you can’t very well scrum your way to a marketable and packaged code base.

In fact, I challenge anyone to find me a project/product completely built in one method over the other.  One of the commentators in the linked article brings up the example of salesforce.com and their service building.  They do employ some agile approaches now but the core wasn’t built via agile.

Sure, “Agile” is a nice marketing concept AND it is a useful label because it helps people communicate.  If there’s one challenge that plagues all software efforts, it’s communication.  The communication most likely to go haywire is the context in which people are developing.  So having a company, client and team understand when phases of a project are in “agile”mode is a useful thing to keep people playing by the right rules for the situation.  The term also allows us to encompass a long description in a simple word.  That has a certain economy to it.

Agile is something.  Is it something new, probably not.  Is it something you use, yes, you might not have had one word for it yet. Now you do.

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Here’s a nice intro to functional programming on Dr. Dobbs.

In any functional programming language, you are likely to encounter these features:

* First-class functions, or higher-order functions: Functions can serve as arguments and results of functions.
* Recursion as the primary tool for iteration.
* Heavy use of pattern matching, although technically it is not a defining feature of FP.
* Lazy evaluation, which makes possible the creation of infinite sequences and other data structures.

At the end of the article on page 2 you get a nice discussion of Mathematica as a functional programming language.

It’s been noted a lot lately in technical publications that functional programming will continue to grow in importance due in large part to the need for parallel computing.  Functional programming is well suited for massive parrallel computation for a variety of reasons and the article does a good job highlighting some of those.  Of course, it comes at a price to developers – the learning curve.

It’s not a trivial exercise to switch from OO and imperative styles into functional.  And the lack of huge repositories of free code makes doing a quick commercial application fairly challenging.

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The CNN article “Charting the psychology of evil, decades after ‘shock’ experiment” ought to be retitled “Charting the psychology of web reading on a Dull Friday

Stanley Milgram’s research was remarkable and valuable. It has been replicated. It has been quoted and interpreted to ad nausium. Now in an effort to sell copy during the hiatus between presidents some genius has resurrected it and given it a fancy name with “evil” in the title. Now it has a zillion hits and is replete with “coulds” shoulds” oughts, may, and other conditional phrases that allow the reader to be led down a path to a possible chance-finding of a new version of a car crash.

Words are powerful. It is a sign of Dumbness when people hoping to land on an island of absoluteness grasp on to anything that is presented as binary:

Good vs. evil

right vs. wrong

Chevy vs. Ford

normal vs. abnormal

Democrat vs. Republican

Worker vs. management

Muslim vs. Christian                                                           

etc. vs. etc

It’s here again. We use the research rather than this sadly disturbed illiterate interpretation to keep authority figures off alter boys, teachers off cheerleaders, bosses off new-hires and rent-a-dicks away from ‘civilian combatants’ in detainment.

But, because we have the 1890 concept of behavior as being based on religion, traditions, and good and evil, all these perverts continue to exist aided by the writers who need to finish off the month with a dippy article in order to look like they know how to read.

All this has to do with implied and explicit rules and a false sense of personal and divine responsibility that has been part of the teachings in schools and churches and synagogues for 400 years at least.

Pay attention to the consequences to understand behavior. Pay attention to the rules that the “other” person is working under to understand behavior. Pay attention to the knowledge that you have millions of rules you don’t know about and those rules are not likely the same as anyone else’s rules – at the moment they are your rules. Pay attention that the different rules you attend to on Monday don’t exist on Sunday.

When reading about “What the heck is going on out in the world? – consider that some grad students or volunteers got paid to be in an experiment 29 years ago. They wanted to do it right in front of all the PhDs and they wanted the money and they wanted to show they were smart and on and on.    Hundreds of rules were working including doing what you were told that our parents locked down early on.

When you define things arbitrarily – the things like evil, good, honest, hero, sinner, saint, patriot, freedom fighter, and all the other meta-terms keep their fuzziness so that you read what you bring to the article. (By the way, that is another experiment to read up on….) While having specific and empirical definitions is not going to happen, using your noggin for something more than a baseball cap rack can’t be beat.

As they say on ESPN’s NFL Countdown… “C-mon Man!

This site and this author will contribute by provided one of the many versions of “BALONEY DETECTION COLLECTION”… stay tuned…it’s coming to you and, as always, it is FREE…

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Here we see another example where people are looking for a phenomenon that doesn’t exist – EVIL.

Do people harm others in the real world and experimental settings?  sure.

Does that constitute evil? no.

The conclusion of the studies never mention evil.

“What the experiment shows is that the person whose authority I consider to be legitimate, that he has a right to tell me what to do and therefore I have obligation to follow his orders, that person could make me, make most people, act contrary to their conscience,” Blass said.

It is the junk writing and sensationalist interpretation of data that assigns the evil label.

What the subjects were doing in these experiments was behaving under contingencies.  Assigning a label of evil or hero or immoral doesn’t help explain what’s actually going on.

Get over the search for evil or good.  Get on with the search for why and how we behave.

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Could socialmode.com be the next breakout on the Interwebs?

Social Mode Crushes Traffic Expectations

Social Mode Crushes Traffic Expectations

Be part of the dream!  Comment!  Suggest! Link to us!  Put us on Digg!


Is kinda nice to see some traffic, even though all the money goes to WordPress.com right now.

Oh well.

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