If the only tool you have is a hammer…

I’ve been talking to a lot of engineering leaders and every one of them asks some variation of, “What are the best tools to use?” Behind the question seems to be the idea that with the perfect set of tools, organizational transformation is easy.


If you want a modern, effective, and motivated engineering team, tools alone will not help. You have to put the work in! It’s how you use the tools that’s more important, and that means process.

  • How does your business make decisions?
  • How do you communicate those decisions to teams?
  • How do teams turn those decisions into real customer value?
  • How does that value get into the hands of customers?

Make sure these are are in place first, then look for and use tools to support that. If you look at tools first, then you’re in danger of letting those tools decide how your business runs.

When I started my agile journey twenty-five years ago, we ran a full agile transformation using marker boards, post-it notes, spreadsheets, pen and paper. We didn’t have Slack, JIRA, GitHub, or CI, but we did have clear processes. This set us up to be able to pick the best tools as they emerged.

Start with asking “why” and “how” before running towards “what”.

exit (-1): NULL pointer exception in dmr

First Steve Jobs and now Dennis Ritchie.

A C Man’s Lament – Rupert Goodwin

The problem I find when I’m looking at lines
Of programs all written in C,
Is that the syntax and grammar resemble the stammer
Of a dyslexic demoralized bee.

I’ll bet any man here (I’ll wager a beer),
Can’t guess how to copy a string.
The mess is dramatic, all [
. & _ !

Pointers collected, and thrice indirected,
Collated in structs and compiled,
When traced by debugger can make coders shudder,
And conditionals drive a man wild.

I don’t wish to seem bitchy, but if only old Ritchie
Had been strangled a birth by a Nurse;
And the fate that I’ve planned for all Kernighan’s clan
Is unprintably several times worse.

I find that the pain begins with the main(),
The only way out is to hack it.
The one bit of syntax that keeps my mind intact
Is the very last }

I hope that this ode is clearer that code
I write in that monstrosity.
You might think that Pascal’s a bit of a rascal,
But the ultimate b*d is C.

My program is calling (in structure appalling),
I must finish my poetic plea.
But, let’s all face it, use Forth, LISP or BASIC,
Whatever you do, don’t use C.

Translator’s guide to pronunciation:
[ = open square bracket
. = dot
& = ampersand
_ = underscore
! = pling
} = close curly bracket
* = star

Cargo Cult Crackberry

Cargo Cults emerged on New Guinea during World War II after the indigenous populations saw planes landing to deliver food and other materials. Later, to bring back the aeroplanes and hence their cargo, the islanders built runways on the beaches, a hut to serve as a traffic control, and even lit small fires for landing lights. Obviously, this didn’t work.

Unfortunately, for Samsung, their new business style phone seems to suffer from Cargo Cult Blackberry disease. On the outside, it looks like a RIM device – it’s got a tiny screen, a keyboard, and can fit in the palm – and gives off the appearance of that holy talisman of the pin-striped priesthood. On the inside, however, it runs the Android smartphone operating system leaving a hybrid that has none of the good points of either.

What sets Blackberry apart, in spite of their aging devices, is their efficiency; Blackberry server and devices are perfect at email they use very little data and are designed only for this purpose. Android can handle email either through the build in Google Mail application or over SMTP, but it’s not as quick and easy. As with the New Guinean cargo cults, Samsung have built a Blackberry body, added a keyboard, and even stuck in a few software tweaks to make Android a little more businesslike, but I don’t think the planes will come.

Which is a shame, since their actual smart phones are pretty good.

“Now, let’s take a look inside this fascinating medieval long burrow”

Between 1984 and 1986, the BBC partnered with Acorn, Philips, and Logica to create a modern version of William I’s Domesday Book. Stored on a pair of optical laserdiscs, the modern Domesday project contained a multimedia snapshot of life in the UK during the mid-eighties.

I remember watching a children’s quiz show back then and wishing we could be taught in such a cool way, but all the Irish Department of Education had to offer were fifty year old film projectors and velcro figures on felt boards.

The BBC has now released the completed work online, and it looks like Cambridge hasn’t really changed all that much in thirty years.