Archive for category personal

Happy New Year & 2008 in the Rear-view Mirror

A bit late but hopefully still good, a Happy New Year to you all! Resetting the DayOfYear-count always makes for a good time to look at what happened throughout the previous year. Here’s how 2007 went, and here is my 2008 timeline:

January

We encounter our first huge slowdown in the project as one person quits and another is coming aboard. We’re still as a collective fumbling with regards to TDD and unit testing in general, especially when it comes to non-domain code aspects.

I’m getting more involved in company wide issues by the day, and I’m contributing to a couple of offers.

I turn 30 with no real fuzz. Just the way I wanted. I’m getting old, and I can spot a grey hair occasionally!

February

We’ve just ramped up a fourth developer when he slips away for other duties, and another one is coming on board on the project. Good thing we have a zero-friction developer install for our solution. We present the project for the whole division at our yearly kick-off.

We’re moving offices at work, moving across the street. At the same time we’re rearranging how we’re situated, and are now grouped by roles and projects rather than section.

I attend Software 2008, and I think it’s good!

March

The project at work marches on, nothing spectacular happens.

Enjoying a nice week off during Easter.

April

Starting coordination work with another application vendor we’re integrating with our application. Integrations always seems to be a pain point, and it’s good to start early.

I’m summoned as a witness in a trial between an ex-colleague and ex-employer, and I’m clear and concise in my statements on the stand. It was certainly not a nice experience. The ex-colleague wins the case, which later has been anonymously cited nation-wide for it’s precedence in overtime payment.

My oldest son turns 4, how time flies…

May

A really quiet month, I guess I was incredibly productive :-)

Oh, and I start this years outside maintenance and upgrading of the house.

June

The biggest thing this month was definitively Norwegian Developer Conference. Two full days of great content, and it really catapulted me into the .NET community at another level.

July

I’m taking a 4 weeks back-to-back vacation for the first time ever. It was great, and I got to read a lot of great development books on the beach.

August

Getting into the nitty-gritty details on the integration in our project. Reality is messy by nature.

Reflector is now in the hands of Red Gate. I great addition to their already awesome portfolio.

My youngest son celebrates his 2nd birthday.

September

The whole division at work travels to Rome for an extended weekend. I’ve never been there before, so it’s a great experience. Must return some day.

I’m kicking off internal presentations of techniques, practices, technology, and anything really developer related at work. We’ve arranged 7 meetings to date and have touched topics from Silverlight via F# to Design Patterns and Continuous Integration. A definitive success.

I’m attending an MSDN Live event in Oslo with Steve Ballmer.

October

Smidig 2008 is arranged, and I’m there. I sometimes wonder how far fetched my thoughts are about the intersection between the agile and the .NET community being Ø… Come on, it’s enough agile to go around for everyone. Great lightning talks and even better open spaces. I especially enjoyed one on clean code, and another with technical debt. Thanks to the participants!

November

More people are starting to touch our fully integrated test installation of our new product, and we find some strange bugs.

Our team has been using ReSharper a long time, and after a presentation of its capabilities to the division we’re overwhelmed with the interest. The end result is that we invest in another 20 licenses of this great product.

I’m attending a breakfast seminar with Bob Martin on FitNesse. I’m not completely sold on the idea though.

My better half turns 31. She’s still in the lead.

December

I’m attending a CSM course with Jeff Sutherland and become a Certified Scrum Master. It’s supposed to be a Next Step course, but I think there was a flawed filtering process as most did not have any experience doing Scrum. Some value was extracted however, in particular in the Q&A sections.

We have an all around crappy Christmas, being ill most of the time.

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Music with capital M

Growing up with the C64 and the SID, a lot of good feelings emerge when the small tunes reach my ears. I have also fond memories of my first PC and an imported Gravis UltraSound in the early 90’s and the demoscene back then.

So when a coworker introduced me to Slay Radio, I just had to spread the love. I have previously been an avid listener to Nectarine Demoscene Radio, so now I suddenly have a luxurious problem on my hands; to which do I lend my ears?

Well, enough of my hard choices. Get ready for endless hours with nostalgic musical pearls and good feelings all around and tune in to either Slay Radio or Nectarine now!

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What happened in 2007

Here the main things that happened in 2007 grouped by month.

January

It’s my last month at my former employee Adrega AS. We’re working hard to get as much as possible done on a new module for our product before I leave. I’m sad to leave, but I think I’ve accomplished a lot as developer and development manager the past 3 years there.

I have my birthday the 8th and I’m just a year from my thirtieth.

February

I start up my career at my current employer Norconsult Informasjonssystemer AS. It’s a soft start, but I eventually get everything up and running and start to get productive on an internal project merging two older applications; Visual Project & GProg ProsjektØkonomi -> ISY Prosjekt Økonomi (project economy). I’ve long neglected a lot of hard core technical topics, but now I’m back in and I start reading technical blogs. I find that they’re a great source for what’s hot. Take a look at my blogroll.

March

Still doing work on ISY Prosjekt Økonomi, I’m mostly doing the administration part. I’m finding it somewhat hard to adjust to my new position, being a peripheral employee in contrast to what I was at my previous job.

April

I’m supposed to get technical responsibility for a new application currently developed by a sub-contractor, but it is in no way finished. So I’m still doing work on the ISY PØ application. I’m getting more involved every day, and I’m doing some interesting work in the core of the application. I’ve stated my interest in development methodologies at work and I’m getting involved with an ongoing quality project. I’m also starting a job making an aggregate installation for the Visual Project product line.

My oldest son turns 3 the 10th, and is definitively growing his own mind by the minute :-) .

May

Working with ISY PØ most of the time. I’m also involved with another section at work regarding  a planning module with a third party tool from Ilog called Gantt for .NET. If I tell it to dance, so it does.

I’m buying a few books from Amazon on development; WCF, WPF, Software factories and some more.

Most of May and June I’m home with my youngest son which is about 9 months old, giving our father-son relationship a real boost.

June

I find myself intrigued by the blogosphere, and I order a web hotel to host a blog.

I’m still mostly changing diapers at home though.

July

It’s a month mostly filled with summer vacation at work.

After a lot of waiting (felt like ages!) my web hotel is around and I start blogging. It’s going slow, but at least I got it out there.

I download my first podcast from .NET Rocks, but don’t listen to it right away.

My wife and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.

August

Things are now rolling at work as I embark on a new development project with some initial analysis and estimation. It was the only thing missing, so I am very pleased with situation at the moment. I’m also guide for two new employees at our section, showing them the out and ins of NOIS and the projects they will start on. They are fresh out of school as MScs.

My youngest son is 1 year old on the 27th.

September

We’re awarded the project we just estimated, and starts up the initial exploratory phase. Deliverables from this phase will be a specification document and a working prototype showing a vertical slice of the architecture and testing its feasibility. I’m also pretty involved with our company’s effort to evolve our development methodologies. My first submission is a guide to source control going a bit further than just check-outs and check-ins; going into labels, branching, merging and general best practices.

I get hooked on podcasts, and I download episodes from .NET Rocks and Hanselminutes continually. My commute is 45 minutes twice a day so I got plenty of time to listen to it. Good thing I have a lot of catching up to do.

October

Now working full time on the prototype, trying some technologies and how they can fit into the big picture. We’re steadily heading towards a smart client solution as a rich and responsive user interface will be crucial. We don’t want any stone unturned, so we’re trying AJAX-solutions and different vendors before we’re going down the Windows Forms-road.

November

We’re settling for the smart client solution, and we’re ramping up the environment (continuous integration ++). We also have our first sprint planning sessions, and project kick-off with all participants.

The wife is 30 years old on the 16th, oh my, she’s old :-)

December

Our first sprint started and we’re developing at full throttle now. We’re going TDD and I find it a very good methodology.

I’ve listened to 114 hours, 20 minutes and 52 seconds of quality podcasts from .NET Rocks and Hanselminutes since September.

We’re celebrating Christmas with my mother and I’m amazed at the all the presents for my sons.

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Happy new year!

And good luck with that. 2007 was a great year overall, and I’m hoping 2008 will be just as great.

I’m starting the year adding my blog to the Technorati community. Do place my site in your favourites if you like what you read.

I also have a new year resolution regarding this blog; there will be a post at least once a week.

Phuh… then I’m saved the first week ;-)

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Catching up

In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been doing a lot of catching up on the technology side of things lately, and when I started out reading blogs I quickly realized it was a lot of ?LAs (1,2,3,4,5,.. Letter Acronyms) that I didn’t grasp or understood.

So I made a list of every ?LA and buzzword I didn’t know about while reading (and didn’t need to because of context at the moment), and I’m now at a point where I want to grok’em. I also wrote down things I had heard about or just scratched the surface on, which I wanted a clearer view of.

One by one, I’ll describe them in my own words. I’ll provide pointers to references where I found useful information and I’ll let you in on what detail made me go “Oh, a-ha!”. The list can be found here.

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Sources of Software Development learning (About Me)

I’ve been steadily increasing my knowledge of SD during my career, but just now I found yet another way to squeeze in some more learning.

So I thought I’d share how I’ve been learning earlier and how I’m acquiring new knowledge these days.

The early years

During my college years I was laying the newly discovered internet at my feet. I had a huge interest for the hardware part of computers, and was an avid reader of Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech. This of course wasn’t a drawback as I worked part-time in a local pc hardware shop as technician and seller. So via classical web pages I was ploughing the local hardware fields. I also had a subscription to the Norwegian version of PC World magazine at the time.

As I turned my interest towards programming, we where introduced to the first beta of Visual Studio .NET in one of our college courses and I was hooked. Again I turned to the web for more, and I picked up the occasional Dr. Dobbs Journal.

At the time I also discovered Amazon, where I could find great books on .NET and ASP.NET in particular which I was in love it. I bought Alex Homers first ASP.NET (Wrox) book early on, I even submitted a “bug” in the book and I think it still there on its errata. It seems that Wrox denies the books existence, as they doesn’t have it on their web pages. I guess it was replaced by the Professional ASP.NET 1.0 book from 2002. Anyway, here’s a link to the original BETA book!

Fresh professional

The first flirt with IEEE was during my master thesis, and for quite some time after graduation, I had “forgotten” all about it. We had full access to the vast library from IEEE at the University, I remember I had no idea so much had been written about my specific field of interest, and was amazed at the time.

During my first year as professional I had little or no time to further educate myself except the occasional web-browsing you do during death marches. So my main source of mental income where of course from my colleagues.

Making the leap

I hadn’t been developing professionally for long, before I was promoted way past my level of incompetence. I was suddenly the company’s developer manager and I was terrified at first. So to compensate for my incompetence, I scouted the web again for useful information on how to succeed. At least I had the clear sight to see my shortcomings, and make up for it after the fact, which of course is useful at any given time.

I turned to Amazon again, searching for management books in general, software development management books, etc., you name it. A couple of colleagues had heard about Scrum, so I tossed a couple of books about that into my shopping cart. In my search I also found other books, in particular from Steve McConnell which had gotten great reviews. From there it was just the snowball effect, Amazon makes a great salesperson with all its semantics on its books. I ended up with 10 books, and that Christmas I didn’t do much but read!

So with my hard-earned death march experience, possibly natural management talent, a fresh literature study, and a big pile of beginners luck, my management career was of to a flying start.

My brief encounter with IEEE was at this point also coming back to me, and I applied for a personal membership that same Christmas, and we’ve had an ongoing romance since.

It wasn’t long either, before I found specific websites where I could find useful development management information, tips & tricks, and so forth. Joel on Software was one of the first sites I found, and it was a lucky strike.

Doing more managerial tasks, my interest was turned in that direction. I continued to add books to my collection from great people like DeMarco, Lister, Brooks and Yourdon. My technical reading was not up to speed as I had great confidence in my subordinates doing that for me. I still had to code some, but I was more an organizer, scheduler, project manager and so on at the time.

Time of change

Commuting for a 2+ hours a day can make your day pretty short. And it certainly didn’t get any longer when my second son was born. So I was tempted by an offer from a company closer to where I live. I left the firm I was part of building up, and started fresh in Norway’s largest consultant company in engineering disciplines.

Gone was my manager title, and I was back into the world of {} and ;’s at full throttle. And I went off into the web to get up to speed on the technical side of things.

I browsed the usual suspects (Amazon) and found new books to silence my hunger. The theme of books this time was architecture, design, and construction. I should really mention Martin Fowler, which I got a couple of books from. I was tossed into ASP.NET 2.0 and AJAX development project, so I figured I needed some reference work on that as well.

The present

After just a couple of weeks into my new position, I had turned to a several technically oriented web pages which all had the form of a blog. As I followed even more links from those pages, I figured out the beauty of RSS feeds. It wasn’t all unfamiliar, but now I grokked it and started subscribing to feeds through SharpReader.

I was thrilled, much like when I first saw the IEEE library. There were lots of bloggers out there with great things to say about nearly everything I potentially could be interested in. Here I could really see what the innovators and early adopters where doing in our community. So blogs are definitively a great place for information.

My latest addition in my toolbox of learning is podcasts. I still do some commuting, and what better way to fill that time than listening to interesting people talking about interesting subjects? Well, I’m hooked.

And to sum it up

The most important thing here is to never stop learning. Continuous Learning. That should really be the motto. So, to facilitate that today I use these primary sources:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Professional societies
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts

In a later blog I’ll get more in detail on the specifics in those bullets. Until then; happy learning!

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Tuning my writing expectations

I have a writers block. After a couple of blog posts I have a writers block. Isn’t it just sad.

Well, it’s just partially true. I’m not out of ideas or drafts, I have several 90% there. But I’m reluctant to finish and publish them, I’ve come down with what I think is a serious lapse of self confidence.

The last months I’ve been reading up on a lot of .NET related issues. I have found great blogs, written by people I think is the front figures in today’s .NET world (you can see them in my blog roll). These have inspired me to share what I know and to start my own blog, but now I’m being discouraged by the same people because I can’t write like them (yet)!

For a blog to be interesting, the person writing it must know what to write about or how to write about it. If the person knows their way around both issues, you have a blog superstar.

Jeff “Coding Horror” Atwood is one of those superstars, and he recently wrote a blog post about how you shouldn’t be a commodity blogger. I’m certainly not an expert in any field, nor am I a wizard with words, so where do I start?

Atwood says it in the end, it takes an effort. Another superstar and a personal favorite of mine is Joel Spolsky, and from this article I quote:

Writing is a muscle. The more you write, the more you’ll be able to write.

Because if I want to get better, I have to practice. Practice makes perfect is an old proverb that certainly fits the bill. And to practice I have to write this blog, even though it still is a commodity.

The main problem is to live up to expectations, my expectations.

I’m putting myself out there, no filter applied, and I’ll try to speak my mind. I’ll have to face my fears.

And for the rest of you trying to blog about something, Chris Garrett gives us a pat on the back with this post.

Phew… It helped writing this. Maybe one of the other below average posts will reach the public as well after this.

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