Product Reviews

Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.


Agile: Projects vs Support

One big questions that comes up ALWAYS when doing Agile is: “How do we deal with support requests (or issues, or helpdesk or operations)?”

Well, the answer, as you figured, is … It Depends.

First, it depends on what kind of project or team you have. Are you Development? Or Business Intelligence? or Creative/Design? or Infrastructure? Or XYZ?

One thing to think of as well is how is your organization structured? I went into a dev group and the developers couldn’t get anything done because customer service/support was constantly hitting them up with issues. What do you expect to happen? Magic? You need a buffer. 2nd Level support. Filter the issues so that there is just a trickle into “3rd Level” or Development.

You could even assign one dev to “3rd Level” for a sprint and reduce their velocity. But it always depends on how much is coming though. You want to reduce, reduce, reduce the noise coming into developers. Buffer.

What happens when there are issues that NEED to be looked into (server down, etc, etc). Well. Your “do’ers” need to look into it. You may have to pull out stories if it takes too long. Reduce the velocity. That is just the way it goes. If support issues continually cause you to pull out stories and reduce velocity, you should assess your organization structure, and get a support structure in place.

Big thing with support is this: YOU NEED TO TRACK STUFF. I can’t stress this enough. Bottom line is I have rarely or if ever seen stuff tracked well. This is a killer for your process. Issues need to be tracked for multiple reasons. Why?

Well, let’s look at a scenario or two.

1. Customer Calls Support
2. They work on issue for hours but never track anything
3. They go to 2nd level with the issue but since they didn’t track anything, who knows what was done already and what was changed, etc
4. 2nd level fumbles around for 3-4 more hours doing the same thing, but again, not tracking anything.
5. The issue gets handed off to 3rd level and it is a complete mess since nothing was tracked.
6. In the end, the issue might route back to 2nd level or whatever
7. In the very end, nothing was tracked at all. Even a Category or Sub Category, who the issue was for, what system, how much time, who worked on it, etc.

Now look at that scenario and think if everything was tracked. What if you could pull in all your support issues and Pivot them, slice and dice, see trends. Well, then you can figure out what you need for resources. Pretty simple actually. But harder in reality. People start working on something and run around like crazy and not tracking anything. It is a big problem.

Back to our main problem. Projects vs Support. Another thing everything depends on is this: Who is prioritizing your work? It is a main driver on what you work on. Someone needs to make a decision and say “This is a support issue, do it NOW, or.. This is not an issue, do it LATER, or.. this is part of our project, do a STORY” or something like that.

If the person who should be your main prioritizer doesn’t buffer or learn how to say NO, then everything because #1 top priority and everything you try to accomplish from a project perspective is worthless. Your prioritizer (if it is the Product Owner, your Manager, the Project Manager, whatever) can learn to buffer, and only let through the extra critical support issues to work on now, then you can dedicate 90-95% of your teams time to project (agile) work.

I think the main question of Projets vs Support really throws people off when it comes to Agile. Some groups are doing nothing but support so they are in a death spiral. They need a 2nd level support structure, or hell, even a 1st level support structure.

Teams that are trying to do Agile but feeling the pain of too many support issues, well they need a 2nd level support buffer.

Teams that are doing Agile but have 1st/2nd level support that isn’t tracking a ton are in need of some process control. (more so for resource management than anything).

As you can see, there are always ways to do things no matter what situation your team might be in, but definitely something you need to asess and figure out before you jump into a process.


Amazon S3 and WordPress Video Site – 2 Hour Project – What A Debacle

About a month ago, I wanted to test using Amazon’s S3 service, for storage. I couldn’t think of any quick, easy projects to use it for, then it hit me, how about video/photos?

I decided to see how long it would take for me to make a video site, with comments, views, etc, on a small budget.

My first thought was maybe to use a hosted blog, and just redirect the domain, which is about 10 dollars a year, and then use S3 for the video/photo hosting. That idea was nixed because hosted blogs can’t embed flash, javascript, or iFrames, etc.

My next idea was just getting a WordPress hosted blog at HostMySite, which is what I went with (which eventually I will move to my own server). This was 45$, and the domain was roughly 10$, so 55$ so far.

Now, to get videos working, and a cool theme. First the theme. I just searched free WordPress theme sites, and found one that looked cool. I set it up, slapped up some Google AdSense and Google Analytics, and changed the logo, rearranged a few things.

As for getting video to work. I was having issues embedding jscript (for the flash video embeds) in WordPress. It would work, but then screw up the formatting of the rest of the page, etc. I knew iFrame would work, so I went that route. Since I am a .NET dev at heart, I made a page where it will take some params on my site, and grab the file from S3 and play it. So on WordPress, I just iFrame that site with the right params. I suppose later I could make a PHP page to do the same thing and keep it all self enclosed. Probably will do that once I move it to my server.

For video I found a nice little flv embed, which has a ton of options, even can do pre and post roll ads if I want. What is nice with the setup I have is that there really isn’t and bandwidth being eaten by my webhost. Just the theme images. Everything else is on S3. The videos, thumbnails, etc.

Pricing for Amazon S3 is pretty good.

  • Storage Used: $0.15 per GB-Month of storage. This fee applies to all object data and metadata stored in buckets that you created under your account.

    It does not matter who created the objects in your buckets, so think twice before you give somebody the right to write objects to your bucket!

  • Network Data Transferred: $0.20 per GB of data transferred. This fee applies anytime data is read from or written to one of your buckets. It does not matter who is reading or writing the data, so consider this when you give public access to one of your objects that may become popular.

With the site just starting, the storage and transfer is really low. Less than a dollar.

So, in about 2 hours and less than 60 dollars later, I created a self managed Funny Video site, from the ground up. I can now use Windows Live Writer to post to it, and I use a S3 tool to upload files to S3.

I also have other people putting videos on it, so that is cool as well. I am not sure where it will, because it really was just an experiment to see how fast I could get a video site up, and for how cheap.

Not sure how funny the videos are or will be, but if you want something up, I will put it up. Once nice thing, is that I can just iFrame YouTube as well, so if there is something there that might be Copyrighted by a YouTube uploader, I don’t have to worry about that, since its just the YouTube player which you can embed legally.

Fun stuff πŸ™‚

Check out the site.




New @Home Project: VehicleInfoTracker

I decided to start a new project at home, VehicleInfoTracker. I swooped up the domain, and started building a class library to support what I want to do. Using VS2005, C#, TDD, SQL2005. Have some basic parts done already – registering as a user, registering a vehicle(s) to a user. Working on adding a GasFillup/GasStation object model now. Since I bought my new car, I have been tracking my fillups and saving info on them so I can track my gas milage. We will see where it goes from here.. πŸ™‚



New project πŸ™‚ – Me and a buddy are collaborating on a new site,

Right now it is just a blog about everything google. Check it out!


PocketBlogger 1.3 Released

I just released PocketBlogger 1.3 which adds support for MSN Spaces. Here is my post over at if anyone is interested

Version 1.3 Released (MSN Spaces Support)


New Project

I have been working a new project the last week or so, and it is coming along pretty good. Maybe once it gets farther along I will give out more details. Thing is, I find myself getting stuck on the trivial things, and the not-so trival things, they seem to fall right into place. Goofy how that works sometimes. πŸ™‚


PocketBlogger v1.1 Released

Changes in version 1.1

* ability to save username/password
* ability to paste into entry screens
* get recent posts (title and date) and then edit and delete

Other notes:
paste function will paste over everything written in entry box, so it would be best to write your whole entry in another text editor if you want to go that route.

saving username/password should work, if you are having issues with that, let me know and I can look into it. the program will connect to web on start and exit to save password locally encrypted.

still no setup program, but two dll files have been added, so you need to copy the exe and the 2 dll’s to the folder of your choice on your PPC for pocket blogger to work…

Download Pocket Blogger v1.1



Well, the last few weeks, I have been working on a new application…PocketBlogger.

I posted awhile ago that I wanted to post to blogger from my phone, well, I went ahead and made an application. I have created a website for it


If you have a PocketPC and a Blog, and want to try it out, go for it. Donations are gladly accepted, and any feedback or feature requests are gladly welcomed!!

If you do try it and have any problems getting it going, please let me know.


"Planet of the Apes" Temporal Anomaly

I bought the whole Planet of the Apes series on DVD – and one Saturday, I watched them all the way through (6 DVD’s!) Anyways – the story gets goofed up if you really thing about it:

The story starts with astronauts in a spaceship, showing earth time as 1973, and ship time as 3955, because of time warps, and speed of light travel, etc (physics, worm holes).

When Taylor (Charlton Heston) crashed in 3955 (The Planet of the Apes), he was first introduced to the apes, and humans were dumb. He meets Zira and Cornelius, and they befriend him. Taylor realizes that the planet he is actually on is Earth, in the future.

Then, in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, Brent came looking for Taylor, still 3955
They were both there and saw the war happen, and they end up blowing up the Earth totally.

In “Escape from Planet of the Apes”, Zira, Cornelius, and Dr. Milo, come back to 1973 time on earth, following the trajectory Taylor took the first time.(First off, would it be like the year 5955 and there would be no Earth left because Taylor blew it up?) but anyways, the kicker is that only way Zira and Cornelius could EVER come back to 1973 earth was because Taylor and Brent came to 3955 earth (and crashed their ride, giving Zira and friends a way back)

OK, in the first movies, they talk about a lawgiver that told them of an ape that knew how to talk and rose up to be king of the apes. This is even more wierd because in the 4th movie, the apes are pets/slaves of humans because of a virus that killed all the cats and dogs (they tell us in the movie that Zira and the other apes brought the virus from 3955 back to 1973).

Zira has a son, Milo (Ceaser), and 20 years later Milo revolts, leading the pet/slave apes.

In “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”, Ceaser and some humans defeat all the bad humans; the year is now around 2003. The lawgiver is present in the beginning as a storyteller so the year there is probably around 2050 or 2060, but this really doesn’t matter.

The main point is,

If Taylor would have never went to 3955 earth, Zira would have never brought a virus to kill all the cats and dogs, making apes pets, later to revolt, and she would have never been able to give birth in 1973 earth time. Therefore Milo (Ceaser) could never revolt and then apes would have never taken over the earth.
But say if Taylor would have landed 20 years later, after Milo was already born in 3955 time, which would have been around 3975, then Milo couldn’t revolt in 1991, because he would never have been there.

ItÂ’s all an infinite loop, with each event dependent on the other with a lot of unanswered questions. I watched them all in series, all in a row, so it was easier to understand.

It sort of reminded me of 12 monkeys in a way, but ill let you think about it…