June 13, 2009
Agile Coaching Book Out SoonAfter many months of toil, Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley's new book about Agile coaching is close to hitting the shelves.
You can pre-order your copy from Amazon now, and the book itself will be shipping in August, just after Agile 2009, which is nice timing.
November 4, 2008
Predictably Irrational On Holiday (Again)It's holiday season again.
Not yours. Just me.
This year I'm in Cyprus in a lovely and extremely English resort called Coral Bay. I've rented a villa about 100 metres from the beach and about half a mile from the main strip where they keep all the really touristy stuff and less law-abiding folk can buy very dodgy DVDs of films that are still in the cinemas back home (and, in some cases, haven't even been made yet).
Life can be hell sometimes
As usual, the villa has a decent-sized pool and I start each morning sipping coffee and eating a delicious continental breakfast on the terrace, wondering what it would be like to actually get into the pool and do a few lengths.
Of course, as the day wears on and the sun wears me down, I end up jumping in the pool to cool down. Well, it's a sort of exercise.
And, lets not forget, swimming pools are great for lying next to with a good book and a large glass of gin and tonic with about half a tonne of ice. (Note to villa owners- ICE TRAYS!!!)
Talking of books, right now I'm reading a book called Predictably Irrational, which is all about the wierd forces that drive us to make irrational decisions. Not randomly irrational, I should stress. Predictably irrational. It's about how we tend to be irrational in the same ways, and how this irrational behaviour can be exploited (or overcome).
Take, for example, the way we behave when we're offered things for free. Or should I say FREE!. The author cites an experiment he did where he set up a stall offering two kinds of chocolate to students on a college campus.
For 15c, they could have a delicious Lindt chocolate truffle. Or for 1c they could have a bog-standard Hershey's Kiss. At those prices, most of the students opted for the truffle because it was such a bargain price for a such lovely chocolate. I think about 70% went for the truffle and 30% went for the Kiss.
Then they dropped both prices by 1c, so now a truffle cost 14c and the Hershey's Kisses were free (sorry, FREE!) Even though, relatively speaking, the Lindt chocolate truffle was still the best bargain (measured as the net benefit of the joy of taste minus the pain of cost, if you like), now 70% opted for the Kiss.
There was another example of this effect where Amazon were offering FREE! shipping orders over a certain value, and this was spurring customers to actually spend more - much more than the cost of the shipping. Except in one country, where they offered shipping for about 20c, which is near enough to nothing as makes little difference, you might think. But in this country, sales didn't go up. Not until they changed it from 20c to FREE!, and then sales improved similarly to the way they had in other countries that offered FREE! shipping.
There are lots of other really fascinating insights into irrational behaviour - and especially irrational consumer behaviour. Like the way that customers find it easier to spend money on a product or service if there's a less good value option to compare it to.
Send out a flier offering to print 500 colour business cards for $50 and people won't know whether that represents value for money or not and you'll get fewer orders. Send out a fier with a choice of 500 for $50 or 250 for $45 and all of sudden they have a benchmark for value and you will mysteriously get more orders for the $50 option.
Look at the offers you've taken up recently and ask yourself if you've behaved entirely ratinally, or have you been manipulated by salespeople who know which buttons to press?
Now where did I put my glass?
September 22, 2008
Small WorldI was walking back along Charing Cross Road in London yesterday afternoon from a lazy Sunday lunch, when who should I bump into?
Only bloody Scott Ambler! Yes, that Scott Ambler, who lives in Canada.
That particular area - near Cambridge Circus - is a hotspot for such bizarre coincidences, as it happens.
A few weeks back I walked away from some potentially very lucrative work because I genuinely felt it was the right thing to do professionally and ethically. And I sat outside a pub called The Spice of Life - the Ground Zero for coincidences - and agonized over whether I'd done the right thing. I know so many people who would have advised me to just smile and take the money. Was I being too precious about my work? I looked for a sign. And at that exact moment, film director Terry Gilliam walked right by me. He would have walked away if he felt it wasn't right, I thought to myself. I don't usually pester celebrities (I mean REAL celebtrities, not just people who've dropped their trousers on live TV), but I just had to run up and shake his hand. Partly for showing up at exactly the right moment. Mostly because he's Terry ****ing Gilliam.
And a few weeks before that I'd organised a party to screen the series finale of Dr Who at a venue not far away. I invited, among others, the 6th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. Due to a monumental cock-up on my part, his tickets didn't reach him until the monday after the party. He very kindly called my mobile and left a message explaining that he wasn't really a time traveller and would therefore be unable to attend.
I was relaying this anecdote to a friend visiting from Paris on business sitting in - yes, you've guessed it, The Spice of Life recently. We left the pub to go find somewhere to eat, and who should we bump into crossing the road outside? Sylvester McCoy! Ask Dave Chaplin if you don't believe me.
Another person I invited to the finale party was the gorgeous Nicola Bryant, who played a very critical role in my teenage development.
Her guest was going to be Toby Hadoke, who writes and performs a stand-up routine called Moths Ate My Dr Who Scarf. They couldn't make it in the end, due to a last minute job offer that meant Nicola had to stay home and learn her lines.
One guest who did make it was new series writer Rob Shearman. And who should I bump into one afternoon having lunch in The Spice of Life? Yep. Rob Shearman. Who was he having lunch with? Yes, again. Toby Hadoke.
And those are just the most recent examples of weird coincidences in "The Charing Cross Triangle" (technically, it's a square, but you get my drift.)
So I've gotten used to it. But seeing Scott striding up Charing Cross Road yesterday still managed to throw me. The guy was a loooooong way from home.
And I'd just been out buying books on FIT (really gotta get into that stuff now, think.) Scott's books were right there, too, on the same shelves. How close did I come to bumping into Scott Ambler with one of his books in my shopping bag? I think that would have made my head explode...
May 10, 2007
Update On Book Topic Poll
Here's a quick update about the poll I'm running to help me figure out what kind of book I should write.
After 21 votes so far, the leading choice is actually one of the red herrings I threw in, just for a bit of a joke. It seems the joke might have backfired, as nearly half voted for Web 2.0 Design Principles & Patterns.
These all have design implications, I suppose. I've already written about how new AJAX tools can encourage a 2-tier design mentality, leading to the kind of maintainability headaches that Visual Basic veterans will know only too well. (The horror!)
It will need some thought and a bit of creative noodling.
Hot on the heels of Web 2.0 Design Principles & Patterns are Evolutiuonary Design, Agile Software Development, UML & OOA/D, and C# (meaning code samples in C#, not a book about C#).
If you have your own thoughts about what book I should write, please take a few seconds to complete the poll.
May 8, 2007
What Book Should I Write?
While sifting through the several dozen advertisements for cheap Viagra in my inbox this morning, I came across another email from a publisher asking if I might be interested in writing a book.
I've discussed this possibility before with other publishing companies, and it always comes down to the fundamental question:
What would it be about?
You see, what with the Viagra and the whole "making a living" thing, I'm a pretty busy man. And writing a book takes time. Lots of time. So I doubt I could produce more then one book every, say, lifetime - so if I do sit down and write one, it's going to have to be absolutely the right book to be writing.
But what book should I write? What topics should I cover? What needs or tastes aren't being catered for?
And if I wrote this book, would you buy it?
If you've got a moment, perhaps you could help me to figure out what this book should be about. You can do this by participating in this online survey (room for only 100 responses, I'm afraid - so it's first come, first served!)
Or, if you feel really strongly about it, drop me a line with your thoughts.
February 23, 2006
Motivational SpeakerThe funniest thing I've heard this week comes courtesy of a motivational consultant from Zimbabwe called Basil Meenie (no joke, honest):
"A one-armed golfer with the right attitude can achieve more than a two-armed golfer with the wrong attitude"
November 6, 2005
Vote For Your FavouriteTo spice things up a bit round here, we're running a poll on our home page to find out who the world's favourite UML author is. In terms of sales, according to Amazon, Martin Fowler leads the pack - by a considerable margin. His book "UML Distilled" is still the highest selling guide to the UML on the market. But is it the best? Did you find "The Object Primer" by Scott Ambler a better read? Or is "Executable UML" by Stephen J. Mellor more your cup of tea?
Take a few seconds to vote for your favourite, and look out for the final poll result at the end of the month.
April 20, 2005
Book Review - Head First Design PatternsHead First Design Patterns is a remarkably accessible book by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman, Bert Bates and Kathy Sierra that appeared towards the back end of last year, and I finally got around to reading it.
The style of most patterns books (let's face it, of most books about software development) is dry and rather wordy. Instead of making us trawl through paragraph after paragraph of "look how clever I am" explanations of design patterns, the style and layout of Head First is slick, varied and entertaining. I would never recommend that anyone try to read through the Gang Of Four patterns book in one sitting, but that's excatly what I found myself doing with this one.
Every page is peppered with diagrams, doodles and snappy asides and it's a breeze to work through. If you're new to design patterns, this is a great place to start. It's just a shame nothing like this was available 10 years ago when the first patterns books started to appear. I suspect a lot more developers would know them by now.
The examples are in Java - but it'll look familiar to you C# bods, too.
Find it on amazon.com
Find it on amazon.co.uk