Sunday, March 30, 2008

I like to read text backwards. Don't really know exactly why. Am I alone?

I catch myself time and time again reading a text backwards. Be it a short email, an article, or even a book. Most of the time I start from the end, read the last paragraph or page, and start jumping pages and paragraphs randomly backwards up to the start.

It may have been influenced by the fact that most magazines leave the best content to the end (so they can place a lot of ads in the middle).

Another explanation is the fact that less than 10% of everything I've ever read is fiction, where linear and progressive reading is the only way that makes sense.

Could it have any relation with the fact that I'm left-handed (I'd say 75% left-handed)? I looked around and couldn't find any scientific article or study about it.

Another theory I have is that it may be a habit that evolved from a known speed reading technique: doing a very fast skim on the text, basically trying to figure out how lengthy it is, how it is structured, what it talks about, where is the main point, how long is the conclusion and so on. So your eyes eventually get to the end of the text and then I get lazy to find where it actually started, so I just go on backwards from where I'm at.

Regardless of the reason behind it, I have found that it gives me better comprehension and helps me 'skim' the material objectively. Try it later and tell me how it went!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On business developers and sales managers

Something really wrong is going on with ISVs and the commercial software market in general: clueless business developers and sales managers alike. I mean, it has become acceptable for a "business development executive" or someone with a similar pompous title to be simply unable to demo the flagship product for the company he works for or to have no idea of which modules the product he's desperately trying to sell is made of. "On top of what technology our super great product runs? Gee, wait a sec. while I schedule a meeting next week with you and one of our tech guys".

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gone, Without a Trace

The lengths a reporter will go to get away with having to pay back for a lost review MacBook Air borrowed from Apple.

I mean, the guy used 1008 words for saying "Sorry Apple, I lost it. Can I get another one? I promise to write a short essay on how thin it really is, to the point of accidentally throwing it out with yesterday's newspaper".

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Quick guideline for using experimentation as an aid for decision making

This is a short guideline inspired by an article from J.B. Rainsberger on the Nov/Dev issue of IEEE Software.

The motivation is that whenever your team is on a meeting and taking more than 20 minutes to come up with a decision on a design issue, you should be better by simply doing experiments and just trying the altenatives.

Identify and state a clear question the experiment should answer. Most of the times this is half the work, as people love arguing about 10 things at once and confusing matters, causes and effects etc.

Fail fast. Identify and state clearly how you'll know if the experiment has failed early. The whole point of an experiment is to answer a question quickly.

Choose a reasonable amount of time to spend on the experiment and stop when this limit is over. The "cone of uncertainty" tells us that it takes up to 20% of a project's timeline to have a good estimate of the work remaining (i.e. it takes a day's experimentation to evaluate an idea for a week-long task). Running out of time on an experiment is probably a sign that you've asked the wrong question. Go back to your team, discuss the issue, come up with another question, set a new time limit and start a new experiment.

Throw the experimental code away when the question is answered. The goal is gathering information rapidly so you might write code with less care as you focus only on the question and its answer. Most people is tempted into using the experimental code as a foundation for production code. Resist doing that!