After a fair bit of research I decided to upgrade from my (basic) Kindle to the Kindle Paperwhite.
Kindle Paperwhite, 212ppi, 16-level gray scale
My previous Kindle was great. I didn’t feel like I needed the touch screen, and using the 5 directional button was fine. The main thing that I wished for was backlight. In the past, I would read on my Kindle during the day (especially outdoors), and on my iPad Mini at night. I’m hoping that now I can just use one device…
Why not the Voyage?
The Kindle Voyage looks great. I wish that the Paperwhite had physical page turn buttons, but I can’t justify spending $120 more for page-press sensors, 300ppi (rather than 212ppi for the Paperwhite), and adaptive light. I’ll just buy a dozen books with that money instead!
Why not read on the iPad Mini?
I could make up tons of reasons, but the truth is that I’m just not disciplined enough. I love my iPad Mini and I just get distracted by all the apps and things that I could be doing.
The Watch would be irresistible if it had kinetic charging.
A bunch of people that push each other forward and work together for a common goal form a team. A number of people who work for the same organisation but have individual goals belong to a group. One of the biggest differences between a team and a group is that a team’s achievements always outweighs the sum of all the individuals’ accomplishments.
To better explain my point of view, I will break down my definition of a successful team into the categories below and close with what I believe the manager’s role should be.
Motivation: Purpose, Accountability, and Goals
People in a group are very likely to be sold a goal. Depending on their professionalism, they will push themselves to achieve great outcomes and they will strive to be honest. Any failures or imperfections are forgettable and are perceived to be short-term. Accountability applies at personal level. In this context, the motivation for an individual is most often extrinsic.
In a team, the goals are set together through discussions, planning, and by sharing a common definition of success. The team has personality. Since the goal is shared, they push each other forward and hold each other accountable. Due to the fact that they collaborate closely they often end up raising the bar of expectations for each other in order to deliver better results at both personal and team level. Team players are intrinsically motivated.
Collaboration and Roles
In a group, individuals are less likely to contribute to other skills
In a work group, people share information, they are respectful with one another, and sometimes even behave in a formal way. Meetings sometimes turn into status reporting. Peoples’ ideas don’t always get challenged or augmented. There’s hardly ever any work done outside one’s area of expertise. The skills overlap is kept to a minimum, almost as a sign of respect. Personal development is determined by one’s own desire to better themselves rather than as a need to fill a gap. A designer is always a designer and a tester is always a tester. The Gantt1 chart for how a project runs is clear-cut. Task B always follows task A and never comes after task C.
In a team, individuals tend to push their peers forward
In a team, the collaboration is not just close, but from the outside it may even look chaotic. There is energy and people often venture beyond the limit of their skill. Developers and testers may end up sketching design approaches. Designers may roll up their sleeves and help with testing. Product owners will join the designers in user testing. Personal development is often done in a way that completes the collective knowledge. A tester may learn to use prototyping tools, while a designer may learn how to work with development tools. Each person may wear the hat of any of the other team mates and may jump in when their help is required. In a Team, tasks A,B, and C may take place at the same time and make a project manager’s life a living hell.
The Manager’s role
In a work group, the manager is almost a dictator (sets the goals, measures progress, and is the only one who can push a member’s limits). In a team, the manager is merely a guide and a facilitator.
All teams start off as a group. It’s a manager’s job to create an environment where people:
are comfortable with themselves and can be genuine
so that they can discover each other’s strengths, accept the weaknesses, and, over time, build trust.
1 Disclosure: I really don’t believe in Gantt charts.
This year’s DevMob was different compared to all the previous DevMobs: there was tangible equilibrium between iOS and Android, with both platforms showing maturity in terms of tools, design metaphors and developer attention.
This year, the swag was particularly nice (thanks to the Alphero team). The sponsors also contributed with very interesting talks, availability and engagement throughout the weekend, and a wicked Lego Death Star draw!
It was Wellington’s turn to host, and the chosen venue was Samuel Marsden Collegiate School. I give it the thumbs up: the food was great, there were plenty of rooms (and each had a projector), and we were even allowed to use the amphitheatre.
An evolving conference
Over the years, the conference evolved from being focused on iOS only, to sharing the spotlight between iOS and Android. This reflects the marketshare and the user base of the two platforms, and the ever growing number of developers interested in them. As one of the attendees who hasn’t missed a single iteration of this event, I’m happy to see such organic growth. It’s also good to see that the Microsoft folk have not given up, and keep attending these gatherings and contributing with incredibly useful insights (Azure being one such example).
My observation (potentially wrong) is that, year after year, the iOS talks have become a bit more abstract and more high level (a good incentive for me to return). At the same time, the audience has managed to keep some practical sessions on the board:
the show-and-tell sessions took a UI/UX spin
the demos contained products that are more and more polished (even though their authors consider them “rough”)
the live coding sessions were focused on concepts that a newcomer would probably struggle to fully understand, but would still find valuable
If a couple of years ago Julius was struggling2 to attract a handful of devs to take part in a blue-sky discussion, this year all the Android sessions had full rooms. Refreshingly, Google’s Material Design was at the centre of most discussions. The tools and libraries that people spoke about covered everything you can possibly think of: from analytics, networking, and storage, all the way to dependency injection and reactive programming.
I’m sad to see that Android developers still have to battle with basic things such as networking and resource loading. Michael Rueger from Xero gave a very good talk about the way their app tackles this area. I definitely think his talk should be shared at one of the next Wellington Android Development Meetups. While I’m talking about Xero, Glenn Parker was particularly active and even shared some interesting work they have underway. The Poweshop folks also contributed a great amount, confirming that Wellington is the place to be for Android developers. Not to be outdone, I shared as much as I could about the way that we do things at Trade Me.
No doubt about it, Android is a first class citizen and there’s some outstanding work being done in this space.
New in 2014
Back in 2009 when Jade Software launched DevMob (under the NZiDev moniker), the questions that people used to ask were along the lines of “how do I code, test, deploy, market my app, all at the same time?”. After just 5 editions, this question has transformed into “how do I run a distributed team? how do we collaborate with designers and testers? how do you manage an app’s backlog?”.
This year, I believe two themes were new to the stage: mobile development at scale, and an in-depth look at how to build mobile software. The gimmicky apps were pretty much absent, confirming that the mobile gold rush is well and truly over. For a change, Layton and Karl did not have to too many questions on how to build the next million dollar app.
Surprisingly, managing scale was probably one of the most talked about things this year. So much so that the group ended up creating a follow-up session after Luke Gumbley‘s “Backlog management / Feature planning” talk.
Team building, maintaining happiness, and dealing with ownership, all got tackled by the audience. The information flowed freely and openly thanks to the trusted environment that makes so many people return to this event year after year.
It wasn’t just the management side of things that was new this year. The sessions went deeper into the product life-cycle with topics such as API design, security, functional testing and mocking, UX, continuous integration and more.
I was happy to see large development houses (Cactuslab, JSA, Powershop, Trade Me, Vend, Xero, etc) share intimate details about how they tackle many aspects of the SDLC. The fact that non-coding topics permeated DevMob 2014 is encouraging for future iterations of this (un)conference.
Until next time
I missed out on the socialising that traditionally happens after the first day of the conference. I suppose that’s part of the deal when the event is hosted in one’s home town.
Many thanks to the hosts Nat, Janine, Tanya, Julie and everyone who contributed to making this event a success.
If I got anything wrong, or if you wish to pass any feedback, you can reach me on twitter.
Notes: 1 To learn more about (un)conferences you can visit Nat’s website, buy this Kindle book, or, my favourite option, just take part in one! 2 Julius is no longer struggling to attract new people to his talks. He now just needs to find a way to keep Sam awake. (Okay, this photo is cropped and you can’t see the 30 people sitting behind Sam, but it’s funny nonetheless.)
In my Log In post I was hoping that One day, smarter Log In pages would be able to Trust my location. A mere 2 days later, Google announces Smart Lock (as part of Google Play Services 6.5 and Lollipop).
The Verge provides a good translation of what this will mean to regular users.
In a nutshell, you can now define a location as safe, and then your Lollipop phone won’t ask you to unlock it when you’re nearby—it’ll just let you straight in.
As a team leader, I sometimes find myself in a situation where I have to communicate a decision to my team. Here are some key principles that I a guide myself by when I do this.
Do it as early as it makes sense
Timing is one of the most important things to me. If my team find out about the “news” from somewhere else, their trust in me is likely to be shaken. I am there to look after them and to be their voice in the conversations that have an impact on them. The sooner I can do that, the more I can help them.
Give a quick rundown of what will be covered
At the beginning of the discussion I try to clarify what I will talk about. This provides not just structure, but it may prevent questions that would be answered anyway. At the same time, it enables everyone to write down any questions that I may have overlooked in my FAQ.
Ideally, the agenda should be sent with the meeting invite, but sometimes this is just not possible.
The reality is that not everyone reads their emails. If these emails contain business speak, are too lengthy, or come from a source that is too far away in the organisation, then it’s possible that people will just skim the message and not retain too much information.
The first part of the discussion should definitely include a quick recap of what has been going on, to bring everyone up to speed.
Stay honest, genuine, natural
I have seen so many people try to become somebody they are not during a presentation. Their pitch or tone would change. Their body language would be awkward. Their hand gestures would be unnatural. I try my hardest not to be one of these people.
Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
I feel like being genuine helps reassure people that I am being honest. Even if the point of the meeting is to “sell” to the team something that they might not be too happy about, it’s still important that my tone is affiliative.
Give just the right amount of information
One very important aspect is finding the right balance between getting lost in the details (overwhelming the team with too much information) and being too vague about what the decision really entails.
Go through a FAQ
I try to think ahead of the questions that the team might have. Putting myself in their shoes is good for several reasons:
helps me prepare for the meeting
contributes to the decision of how much should be communicated
keeps me honest
prevents the piling up of answers such as “I don’t know”, and “I’ll get back to you”
I am a strong believer in the power of an honest “I don’t know”. Realistically, if the truth is that I don’t know, then anything else I would say is BS. I respect my team too much to reply with a political, or vague answer. It’s also very likely that the answer will be important to me too.
Thank and close
When closing, it’s important to remind people that the communication channel is still open. Some people are introverts, or simply not comfortable asking questions in front of their peers. Others prefer to communicate in writing. Their voices are equally important therefore they need to know that they can follow-up with me.