Search This Blog

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Introduction to David Hussman (The Dude) at the Agile Austin 2012 Conference

With apologies to the Cohen brothers, my modifications in italics.  

Way up North there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of David Hussman. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Hussman, he called himself "The Dude". Now, "Dude" - there's a name no man would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about the Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense to some. And a lot about where he keynoted, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'.

See, they call Austin the "Capitol of Live Music"; but I didn't find it to be that, exactly. But I'll allow it as there are some nice clubs there. 'Course I ain't never been to London, and I ain't never seen France. And I ain't never seen no queen in her damned undies, so the feller says. But I'll tell you what - after seeing Austin, and this here Agile Austin 2012 Conference about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd seen in any of them other places. And in English, too. So I can die with a smile on my face, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me.

Now this here Agile Austin Conference about to unfold took place in the early '10s - just about the time that agile adoption hit its stride, but people were starting to miss the point. I only mention it because sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here - the Dude from Minneapolis. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude. The Dude, from Minneapolis. And even if he's an agile man - and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the agilist in all of Minneapolis, which would place him high in the runnin' for agilst worldwide. Sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell. I've done introduced it enough.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Agile Austin Conference: Keep Austin Agile - Enabling a Culture of Agility!

Note:  This will be in the Program Book for the 2012 Agile Austin Conference.  There are still two weeks to register for this valuable conference! 

You have made a choice in joining hundreds of others today who share a common purpose in helping to create, sustain, or promote a culture of agility.  Everyone has their own unique perspective on why being here was worth the investment of time and mind.  But there is one thing that unites every one of us here today--an incredible opportunity to interact, learn, and teach to make lasting positive changes within our organizations.

I cannot tell you how excited I am to have culture be the focus of this event.  Lasting change that transcends charismatic leadership at the boardroom or grassroots level can only occur through a deep and fundamental cultural transformation of the entire organization.  This is not the responsibility of a committee, consultancy, or management team.  It is your responsibility to achieve the "art of the possible" within your organization to create a system that will deliver valuable software to your end users in a competitive marketplace while respecting the humanity of every individual involved in its creation.

This conference was brought about by a decentralized and self-selecting team of people who are passionate about changing the way that software is developed and the culture that sustains that development here in Austin, Texas.  There was no hierarchy of this all-volunteer effort, but there was a wealth of leadership that emerged from every member of the planning committee.  Team members selected work that accentuated their strengths and problems were continuously exposed, solved, and the knowledge in solving them was shared.  It was truly a model of an agile culture that I am proud to have been part of.  I would like to thank the team that made today possible, along with our partnering sponsors.  If you would like to be part of this effort, we would love to have you.  Feel free to make note of what you would change based on what you've learned today, and join us in shaping the next Agile Austin conference!

Please do not let the conversations and learning that start in the sessions end there.  Allow them to flourish in the hallways and resonate in your minds long after the day is over.  Bring them with you to work in your retrospectives and interactions with others in your organization.  Share the knowledge you've learned with others in our community through the various Agile Austin meetings, SIGs, book discussion groups, and workshops.  Extend your knowledge into other communities in Austin and then take back what you've learned and why it was important so that we may all benefit from and develop cultures of continuous improvement, learning, and agility!

Matt Roberts

Thursday, June 28, 2012

[DeltaAgileAustin]Agile Austin Membership Definition Vote June Feedback and Upcoming Vote!

As discussed, June was the month that we would discuss, as a community, the proposed change in Agile Austin membership from paying annual dues to meeting attendance, as a number of us believe that the latter signifies a greater dedication to the organization for the purposes of voting.

The least you need to know
The board of Agile Austin will be voting this evening on putting a vote to the members asking them to amend the charter so that membership definition will change from an annual subscription for a $30 fee to attendance at six Agile Austin meetings in a twelve-month timeframe.

If you’re interested in being part of the discussion at the Open Board Meeting, please join us this evening at 6:30 PM (let me know soon so we can order you some tacos):


I held two meetings this month on this subject.  These meetings were  in addition to the previous DeltaAgileAustin meetings that occurred earlier this year, as well as ongoing open Agile Austin board meetings, where this subject has been discussed in length.  Of these two meetings, there was only one participant besides me.  This participant was our Vice President, Walter Bodwell.  We came up with the following proposal, which we should feel free to discuss in this forum.  Any and all comments are welcome, especially in this discuss thread.

Point 1:  What is the value of membership—why should someone be a member?
·         Membership creates a benefit to elect the Board of Directors of Agile Austin, which is a 501I6 non-profit organization. 
·         Board meetings are currently only open to Agile Austin members (however, we would like to change this to be open to any participant and will vote on this at the next board meeting)
·         Historically, there have been training discounts only available to Agile Austin members.  However, this too could be discontinued as the vendors normally don’t care and would like to extend them to the entire community.  We will vote on this as well at the next board meeting as we cannot recall a specific member’s only discount being issued any time in the past twelve months.
·         Historically an annual membership came with a premium such as a coffee mug or T-Shirt.  We saw no reason to discontinue this with a change in membership definition. 

Point 2:  What would be the minimum number of meetings to attend in order to gain membership?
·         Reflecting what was discussed in previous DeltaAgileAustin meetings as well as what seemed to make sense, both Walter and I agreed that the number should be six.  This equates to one meeting every other month.  A meeting would be defined as any officially-sponsored Agile Austin meeting including, but not limited to monthly meetings, special interest groups (SIGs), workshops, dojo, community series, etc.  In the month of June, there were over 15 meetings, which is normal.  Attending six meetings in one year would equate to approximately going to 3% of the total meetings in a year.

Point 3:  What would be the language of the vote?  Do we want to make it specific, or allow the board to have broad scope in modifying the membership definition?
·         There are certain benefits to make the language of membership definition broad.  If we made it specific to a certain number per year, any modification would have to go back to the membership to make a change.  However, this is one of the most critical aspects of membership, so it may be better to leave it specific and require a vote each time it’s changed.
·         Ultimately, Walter and I agreed that we would make the vote specific as opposed to giving the board broad powers of definition.  Of course, we can always revisit this if it doesn’t work.

Point 4:  How will we count the number of times someone attends a meeting?
·         The main thing that we need to focus on is ease-of-use in this area for both the participants and the program leads.  We strongly desire to eliminate paperwork and challenging processes.
·         In order to count, the board will develop a “Roll Call” application that can be used quickly via cell phone to register for events.  There will always be a manual backup in case the Roll Call application is not available. 
·         Earlier this year, the Board voted to move the annual Board vote to June, so we’d need to calculate this on May 31, 2013 to send out the ballots.  We would also conduct a trial run on May 1st letting people know how many events they’ve attended and how many more they’ll need as of May 31st.

Point 5:  When do we stop charging/Current members?
·         All membership is valid for the period until such time as it expires.
·         Once we have the new membership process in place (member vote to change the charter and the Roll Call implemented), the paid membership will be discontinued.

Point 6:  What are the dependencies of this change?
·         We need to have Roll Call working before we call a vote of the membership so we can immediately implement it.  We will begin beta testing this in July at a variety of the SIGs.

Point 7:  How will people know whether they are a member or not?
·         They can ask—sending a message to
·         We would like to have an automated way for them to check
·         We would like to have an automated system send email when the member has reached membership status or is about to go off membership.  We might just do this as a simple rails app backed by a database so we could always have the information quickly and easily available for everyone.
·         We may be able to print special badges denoting members

Again, please let us know if you have any questions or comments.  I’ll also be available to discuss this after our next monthly meeting on July 10th.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Agile Leadership Lessons from Lao Tzu

I have been reading The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge as part of the Agile Austin Book Discussion Group, and one quote struck me as particularly meaningful from Lao Tzu:

The wicked leader is he whom the people revile.
The good leader is he whom the people revere.
The great leader is he of whom the people say, "We did it ourselves."

To me, the "great leader" succinctly describes what it means to be a servant-leader--what do you think?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Matt Roberts - Cloud Architect Circa 2001?

I helped start a company called Meetrix, which delivered multi-point collaboration services back in 2001.  We had a good run for about 4 years, but we ended up taking a bridge loan (bridge to nowhere), and the whole thing went through bankruptcy for $10k.  At one point, the offer had been in the millions, but it "wasn't enough".  Sigh.

Anyhoo, as we were strapped for cash and our original investors were all Enron guys who ended up pulling back the $5 - 10MM promised for the initial investment, I had to get creative on putting the service together.  So, I looked for third-party solutions that I could customize, keeping the IP of the multipoint audio and video conferencing as our core.  IBM/Lotus Sametime was the software that I selected to use as the meeting room (like now WebEx/Gotomeeting) software that would kick off the audio/video portion.  In order to make this happen for our SaaS model, I had to make some *ahem* modifications to the source.  What we wound up was with a "cloud" based version of Lotus Sametime that was multi-tenant.  This, of course, was before anyone referred to the cloud except in fancy architecture presentations where you'd always start with a cloud representing the Internet.  It was also SaaS before anyone came up with that particular popular palindrome.  It worked really well, and ended up being the only thing that survived the bankruptcy and ever since, some of the guys have been working the model.

I just heard that they won the 2011 Beacon Award "IBM Cloud Computing Innovation - For Application Providers."


Meetrix is the first company to virtualize Lotus Sametime in a public or private Cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Meetrix UC in the Cloud integrates Telco 2.0 telephony and third-party plug-ins. The innovative Cloud-based design delivers low-cost, secure, anytime, anywhere unified communications and collaboration; connecting people, data and environments and enhancing business productivity.

So there you go--Matt Roberts, Cloud Architect, for over 10 years with expertise in multi-tenant Saas n-tier web applications.  I may even put it on my business card :)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

What's in the background of Matt's Blog?

Good question.  It's called "Multithreaded" and it was captured when I was in the Chicago O'Hare Airport in 2005 and is available under the Creative Commons license.

More from the "Abstrakt" set are available here.


iPad SketchUp - Finger Painting made less messy

When I got my iPad (third-hand generation one--work sponsored), I started exploring the possibilities of using it for drawing thanks to inspiration that I received from an artist friend of mine, Adolfo Isassi.  Both of these were done as "emergent" drawings.  In other words, I didn't know what I was getting myself into until I started to see it take shape in front of me.  That's actually something I tend to do regularly as my drawing/sketching tends to be a form of meditation or a way of keeping myself in motion while I take in information in forums such as presentations, conference calls, meetings, etc.  I used to get in trouble for this behavior when I was in class as a child, but I never stopped.  I wonder how many other people doodle/draw in this fashion....

Both of these were created using SketchUp and my finger was used as the stylus.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

AgileAustin Conference Pitfall! Theme

About a month ago, the AgileAustin Conference Team was discussing various ideas on themes for the conference.  Janelle Klein originally had some ideas around problems with trying to adopt "A"gile (as opposed to agile--more on that later).  Paraphrasing her idea, it would be framed as a conference on Agile Problems.  I thought that was a brilliant idea as we've seen so many challenges on so many levels over time.  However, the consensus from the conference team was that it may not be inclusive enough or have more of a negative focus.

So, I had a problem that needed fixing, and harkening back to the 1980's where the A-Team could solve anything, I decided to call upon that golden era with a single word that evokes memories of massive problems overcome and treasure gained, all under 2KB of RAM--"Pitfall!"

Here was my concept drawing that I doodled during the meeting:

I threw it up on the whiteboard to see what everyone thought.  A lot of folks in the room identified with it and really liked it.  We delved into the various aspects of what it meant, and we started tweaking the concept.  I originally wrote "For Use by Intermediate and Experienced Teams" but was swayed by folks who thought we could be more inclusive, so I wrote "For Use in Learning Agile Organizations." I realize I was trying to focus our conference on the "swingers" to focus our efforts in the conference.  However, when I heard how many were planning to attend that were very new to agile concepts, I changed my mind.  There will ALWAYS be pitfalls for new teams running into that brick wall or teams that had been swinging through the jungle for a while.

The theming is excellent--gold bars (e.g. technical debt reduction, cost-of-delay value measurement, exploiting variability for profit), brick walls ("doing" vs. "being" agile, queues, siloed knowledge, lack of transparency), logs (technical debt, not focusing on engineering principles, work-in-process, beauracratic processes), aligators, scorpions, pits...It's a rich area for metaphor to say the least.

We ended with a decision that this might not be appropriate for a main conference theme, but it could certainly work for one of the four conference tracks.  I'm happy with that, especially given my recent thoughts on the "Mix Tape" Open Space.

I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks here!

Oh, and here's a simulation of how I spent a great deal of time in the mid-1980s.


Friday, March 2, 2012

AgileAustin Conference 2012 - "Mix Tape" - Does anyone have Open Space experience?

There are some really exciting things happening with the conference planning and things are proceeding nicely.  I noticed however that the team had initially been struggling with some of the following challenges:
-          Should it be paid vs. free?
-          Should it be on a Friday or Saturday?
-          Should it be content tracks or Open Space / Unconference?
-          What should our theme or themes be?

It dawned on me that AND is often more helpful than OR, so I came up with a proposal (enclosed) for a Saturday Open Space that would be free for all conference participants.  It would also be free for anyone else who wanted to attend that was not a paid conference attendee J

The theme is “mix tape” (80’s lingo—it could be “mashup” 00’s lingo) where the goal would be to have every session be a mix of at least two (more = better) disciplines getting together to achieve agility.  These can be cross-functional, cross-organizational, etc.  The classic example is something like DevOps, but what about UX and QA, executives and individual contributors, technical writers and salesfolk, chip designers and product marketing folks?  It could also be a conference track in and of itself and the open space could riff off of that.  Think about it—one day of presentations/workshops, and the next day of engaged discussions. To me, this is a really exciting idea.

In my typical style, I have signed up to run this if no one else does.  However, seeing as I’ve never run an open space conference before it would be really nice if there was someone in the community who had the experience and wanted to partner with me in this effort. 

Please let me know if this strikes your fancy and you have some relevant experience in doing this type of thing.  As usual, we’ll have all the logistical support (room, food, sponsor, etc.) from AgileAustin.

Thanks everyone!


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SIGs continue to take flight (Thank you PlanView)

About a month ago, I announced that BazaarVoice had stepped up and helped spread the SIG goodness by agreeing to host the DevSIG and the DevOps SIG.  I hinted that another one was in the works, but I didn’t name names J 

I am now pleased to announce that two SIGs have moved from CA Technologies to PlanView!  This is due to the direct efforts of Eric McVickers, who was one of the AgileAustin founding members, to contribute to the community and help find sponsorships that are meaningful and aligned with local companies’ interests.  The QA SIG and the KanbanSIG had their first meeting there a few weeks ago, and will continue this going forward.  This has been a great part of the DeltaAgileAustin working group—I might not have met Eric if not for his involvement in this effort, and our subsequent discussions.  Rock on.

The Leaders SIG and the Architect SIG remain at CA Technologies as will another that will be starting shortly—the AgileUX SIG.  More on that one soon.  If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering and getting more valuable programs started for the community, please contact me or any other board member!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Communicating Architecture Decisions in Financial Terms

During yesterday's AgileAustin Architect SIG, we had a lively discussion about communicating architecture across various parts of the organization, which was particularly relevant to me as we're now communicating our decisions to a group of about 4,500 where the number was previously less than 40! Good times.

Now that I'm frontal cortex-deep into _The Principals of Product Development Flow_, I stated thinking about communicating architectural decisions in light of economic factors, expanding the communication chain out to the corporate finance types, etc. During this discussion, I remembered a book that I read a while back that presented a series of financial models for software development projects--especially agile software development projects that may be able to fund themselves by releasing the most valuable features early. This one is interesting as it finally gets to that holy grail of terms to couch various technical decisions--total lifetime profit.
The book that I was discussing was _Software By Numbers, Low-Risk, High-Return Development_ by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang. It was written in 2004 and is still very relevant. While I find that the concepts can be applied in the large, they're also very appropriate to be applied in the context of day-to-day decision making and can be used effectively for arguments for technical debt reduction, doing things "the right way" and so on. The important thing is to frame technical decisions as business decisions, especially when non-technical folks have the final say.

By the way, if anyone wants to borrow this book, just let me know--I'd be happy to bring it to
the next meeting or would just mail it to you.

Thanks again Lee and David for leading this awesome group!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SIGs are Taking Flight! (Thank you BazaarVoice)

A few weeks ago, Ryan Hand and the team at BazaarVoice asked me how they could sponsor AgileAustin. We had a great few initial meetings, and we found that sponsoring one or more of our SIGs would provide the greatest immediate value not only to the AgileAustin community but also the hundreds of folks engaged in product development at BazaarVoice. Not only will their team have direct access to the meetings in their facility, our community will be exposed to folks that are part of a high-growth agile adoption strategy. As if this isn’t enough, BV is continuing to investigate more ways that they can sponsor AgileAustin!

So, I’m excited to announce that BazaarVoice has agreed to take on two of our Special Interest Groups (SIGs)—the Developer SIG and the DevOps SIG. While I will miss having the crowd here in CA Technologies and the short commute that I currently enjoy, I’m looking forward to the opportunity for our office to shelter new types of programs through their nascent stages as we continue to inspect and adapt on the types of programs that offer the community real value.

Be on the lookout for another great Austin company that has also volunteered to be the home to an existing and *NEW* SIG—it might also be a better commute for some of us (not me J ). I’ll be making this announcement shortly.

As always, if anyone is interested in either sponsoring AgileAustin, or coming up with a new AgileAustin program, please let me know.