The Ludewig Multimedia Blog

A Better Idea for Building Software

June 7, 2018

The conventional wisdom around agile software development goes something like this:

  1. Product managers engage designers to create Photoshop or Sketch renderings of what they would like the application to look like.
  2. Software developers take these designs and break them into tasks, which are individually estimated and assigned to 2 week sprints.
  3. QA teams validate the work and create bug reports.
  4. The devops team pushes the end result to staging and then production.

The above appears to be a perfect way to organize a project, but there are a number of fatal flaws that are rarely acknowledged:

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Bitcoin Blockchain Opportunity!

December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Ok, I'm guilty of click-baiting. But it does pretty much sum up the year in tech. Everyone is eager for good news, and some early adopters have done incredibly well with Bitcoin. For my part, I shy away from putting all my money on the number that came up on the prior spin of the roulette wheel. I don't think it improves my odds.

To me, the most fascinating thing about Bitcoin is not its crazy price changes or the potential of shared ledgers. It's how software can be engineered to drive human behavior. Entire data centers have been built to mine Bitcoin. The allure of "free" money is incredibly strong and built into the core of the Bitcoin tech. Designing software with an understanding of what motivates people is incredibly powerful.

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The Key to Speed

July 12, 2017

There's a quote from Steve Jobs I keep on my desktop:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.

What this says to me is that if you want to get your software product out quickly, typing faster is not the solution. It's about doing less. It's about knowing what is important and what is not.

When the iPhone first came out in 2007, it was a 2G phone without video or picture messaging released into a world of 3G, video-enabled smartphones. On the face of it, you might say, "How can you possibly expect to succeed?" But Jobs knew that it wasn't about 3G or video. It was all about the touchscreen. He put his energy into what was important and had the courage to let the other "must have" features wait.

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You Need a Great Team to Win

April 26, 2017

Sometimes I wonder if business management schools are stuck in the century following the industrial revolution. The focus was on organizing large numbers of people to perform repetitive tasks with consistent quality and minimal cost. None of this matters in software development. The mass production of the code is completely automated and practically without cost. Yet so many managers still hire programmers based primarily upon cost, not talent, and place them in open floor plan offices laid out like the sweatshops of a bygone era.

The success of software development cannot be judged by lines of code written per day. What matters is creativity, craftsmanship and the ability to anticipate and react to the needs of your users. Filling your software "factory" with rows of programmers cranking out code as fast as possible won't achieve anything but a waste of capital. Just think of the ACA website debacle, and you'll get the idea.

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You Can't Test Your Way to Quality

March 29, 2017

I once had a food safety company as a client. The founder had a long history with a variety of large food processing facilities, some of which were fairly impressive. In dealing with his customers, he often said, "You can't test your way to quality." At first, I was confused. In software, QA tends to be all about testing. Unit testing, regression testing, automated testing and so forth. It's almost an axiom that software QA equals testing. After some explanation, I came to understand what he meant, and it now forms the basis of how I approach software quality.

A test is only an indicator of a problem. If your product tests positive for Salmonella or E. coli, the solution is not to run more tests and see if they come up clean. You have to stop everything and get at the root cause of the problem. Were the ovens hot enough? Were the counters properly cleaned? In other words, quality is the result of good processes, not thorough testing.

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