Death March by Edward Yourdon

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Death March (2nd Edition) (Yourdon Press Series) - published by Prentice Hall, 1997

When I first began reading this book, I thought it would be all about the team that came before us… the one that spent a lot of time delivering something that didn’t work. But the more I read, the more I found myself identifying our current team with the descriptions in each chapter. Curious as the title doesn’t sound that positive! As Wikipedia defines it, a death march project is one that is destined to fail.

One point that comes out repeatedly is that while in some ways “Death March” projects are not intended to be the norm, more often than not they end up being the de facto way that many IT projects are run.

In Ch. 1, characteristics of a “Death March” project are listed as including:

Hmm.. that sounds familiar!

In subsequent chapters he goes on to cover topics such as Politics, Negotiations, People, Processes, Tools & Technologies and finally the idea of “Death March” projects as a way of life.

In Ch. 3, the topic of Estimation is examined, and the value of having an experienced project manager who can estimate slightly better than just “gut feeling”, and that there are software estimation tools that can improve forecasting accuracy. I reckon Steve McConnell’s Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art (Best Practices (Microsoft)) could be worth a read to learn a bit more about this topic. I’ll add that to my wish list!

People can make all the difference, and our team certainly bears this out. I can’t agree with the comment that 80 hours a week is ok though.

Yourdon also espouses the importance of good workplace conditions – in particular quietness and privacy (eg. separate offices). There’s certainly empirical evidence to reinforce the productivity benefits, which flies in the face of the current trend of “open” office space, cramming as many people into tiny cubicles as possible.

Triaging tasks/bugs are critical, and allows you to prioritise what is important.

When this book was first published, there wasn’t much in the way of “Agile” development practises, but I think Yourdon is alluding to this when he makes mention of using RAD tools (refactoring), mini-milestones (iterations) and daily builds (continuous integration).

One thing I did find annoying was Yourdon’s use of a monospace font when listing the emails in each chapter’s list of references. This made them very hard to read and I mostly ended up skipping over them as a result.

Overall I came away inspired by this book. Yourdon highlighted the many pitfalls that await a team who are engaged in a “Death March” project, but does offer hope that under the right conditions, you can achieve success.

sevenfold – Yeehaa!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

We had a blast last night. It was great fun. We ended up performing about 10.40pm, and seemed to be well received. The stage was a little small but we managed to fit all 7 of us there (and Billy-Bob said they once had 14 so we’re not the largest group to play there).

The quality of the other bands playing was very good, but I think we held our own. No word from any record companies wanting to sign us up yet.

We all got a free drink voucher, but curiously they insisted the voucher was good only for a schooner of beer, even though all I wanted was a “raspberry” (surely soft drinks cost less than beer?). I bought one instead, but had to tell the girl how to make it - “just raspberry cordial and lemonade”. Yum.

On an final note, I also discovered that “pub rules” for playing pool do exist – fortunately I wasn’t the one who failed to pot any balls :-)

Looking for a new printer

Saturday, 1 November 2008

I’ve decided we need to get a new printer for home/home office use. The main requirements are for black & white, with some colour printing (but not necessarily photo-quality). We’re happy to continue to get our digital photos processed commercially (eg. when Harvey Norman has a special!)

We’ve previously had a old Canon BJC-2100SP, which was never that impressive. More recently Gary gave me a second-hand HP LaserJet 2100, which does a very nice job except when it jams (which is becoming all too frequent).

One thought was to get two printers – a B&W laser and a cheapish inkjet colour printer, but talking to the guys at work yesterday, Timothy pointed out that if you don’t use the colour regularly then it can dry out. So maybe a colour laser printer might be a good option. The idea of having a network-enabled printer is attractive, though obviously you do pay more for that feature.

Here’s a few of the models I’ve been considering, and a rough calculation of the cost per page for black and white printing.

Model Toner Toner Cost Pages Per page Printer Cost Retailer
Samsung CLP-300N Black $89 2000 0.04 $179 MSY
Epson C1100N Black $115 4000 0.03 $579 MATS
Canon 5200 Black $133 5000 0.03 $376 MSY
Canon 5050N Black $88 2300 0.04 $389 TechBuy

Maybe the network option isn’t really necessary. Going on the figures above, the Canon 5200 does look like a good compromise between upfront and ongoing consumable costs.

Any other suggestions?

Goodbye Domain Central, Hello GoDaddy

Friday, 31 October 2008

The domain I registered for our band SevenFold is up for renewal in a couple of weeks. I’d received a few reminder emails from Domain Central and as it was getting close I decided today to get around to paying the money.

First stop, I went to their website, but was surprised to see that their online price was now $AU17.95 for .com domains. That’s a fair bit more than the $AU12.50 they’d listed on the tax invoice they mailed me.

Not wanting to pay more than I had to, I then rang them up and tried to pay over the phone. All was fine until they repeated the amount – “Hang on, my bill here says $12.50!”.

“Sorry, our costs have increased so we increased our prices just over a week ago”.

So they refused to let me pay the tax invoice they sent to me, and insisted that it was a “mistake” – even though the invoice wasn’t due until 1st November (and today is the 31st October).

I rang the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs and they confirmed that I should be able to pay the bill I had received for the amounted printed on the bill.

Figuring that I’m not likely to have any more success ringing Domain Central back, I’ve decided instead to take my business elsewhere.

It was 20 years ago today..

Sunday, 26 October 2008

That I was in year 12 at Blackwood High School. So last night we had our 20 year reunion at the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in Lower Mitcham. It was a very warm evening, otherwise I might have worn my old year 12 top (I’ve managed to keep it and it hasn’t faded too much. And yes, it is blue) -

Front of Blackwood High Year 12 jumper from 1988

In many ways, 1988 doesn’t seem that long ago, and looking around at the many people who turned up, it was interesting to see some faces that had hardly aged a year, and others I completely did not recognise at all. That’s not completely surprising though – there were originally about 245 of us!

I find it is an occasion to reflect on your life – the choices and decisions you’ve made that have led you to where you are today. Remembering those days leaving High School, wondering how things would turn out. Would I ever have a girlfriend, get married, have kids? “Yes”, “yes” and “yes” in that order as it happens!

It’s interesting that out of all those people, there’s probably only a small handful that I have maintained contact. Having said that, it was really nice to catch up with a few old faces that I wouldn’t have seen since school days.

Thanks to Anita, Kendall and Louise for organising the event.

And if that’s got you in an 80’s reminiscing mood, why not listen to a bit of SKY.fm’s Best of the 80s streaming radio.. ah so many memories, so little time :-)