Publicious Links: The Whine Flu Edition

I don’t have a cure for the H1N1 virus, but good links are good medicine for whatever ails ya. Unless you’re ailed by attention deficit disorder. In which case, they’re poison. Anyhoo…

Thus far, I’ve been able to avoid the Swine flu, but I think I’m coming down with a case of the Whine flu. Symptoms: dissatisfaction with my software and hardware. Not fast enough. Not up-to-date enough. Buggy. Case in point: Adobe’s back with another warning about the security of Javascript in Acrobat. Some folks are so fed up, they’re dumping Reader for alternative PDF software. Sheesh. Adobe invented PDF. “How embarassking,” as Popeye would say. The new patch is promised by May 12th. Till then, I guess, just rub your screen with Purell, and disable Javascript in Acrobat.

Not to kick a giant corporation while they’re down, but there is more bad news in Adobeland. Not only did they have shutdown weeks where all employees were forced to stay home, layoffs, wage freezes, and now financial analysts downgraded Adobe stock from “buy” to “hold,” even though it’s stumbling between $15–$25 lately. The thinking is that Adobe’s stock will stay low till Creative Suite 5 appears. Let’s hope CS5 is a home run. But of course, if you read Publicious, you already know what’s in store for CS5 😉 If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the  interview with CEO Shantanu Narayen. I’m sure he mentions Publicious in there somewhere…

Actually, he’s more focused on Flash, making deals with Netflix, Comcast, and Disney to deliver content in Flash to your TV. The question is, do you want Flash on your TVs? Personally, I don’t. TV’s craptacular enough as it is, without having to install the latest plug-in version and reboot the set before you can watch MythBusters. Or commercial pop-up ads. Or the prospect of having the SuperBowl “Unexpectedly Quit” while a team is driving for a touchdown. When it happens (and you know it will), it’ll be a 21st Century Heidi moment.

Want to know who else is reading Publicious? Check out Quantcast.com for a look at yourselves. It’s fun to see where everyone is coming from. I’d like to give a shout out to my 10 unique cookies in Bulgaria. Yo! S’up, Razgrad?

Trying to enhance your software developer skillz? By all meanz, check out Refcardz.com for free PDF “cheat sheetz” chock full o’ information and well-dezigned.

Also worth checking out are Adobe’s new “marketplaces.” Claiming to be “the ultimate resource” and “the most comprehensive collection products, services, and communities available.” Sounds like Exchange on steroids. So far there are two marketplaces, Photoshop and AIR. If they succeed, there will no doubt be more.

I’ll give you three guesses who just bought Stanza, the eBook reader app for the iPhone, and the first two don’t count. If you said Amazon, you win (or do you?) Hmmm.

By the way, Amazon just announced a large format Kindle, aimed at the textbook market. My heart’s still with the underdog, PlasticLogic guys. But either way, if my son’s backpack can get under 20 lbs, I’m good.

Looking for a perfect Mother’s Day gift? Sure, Facebook was ruined when your mom joined, but at least you have Twitter, right? Well, before mom starts following Ashton Kutcher and tweeting links to your prom photos, you might be proactive and give her the new Twitter book from O’Reilly. Who knows, maybe she’ll become a niche titan and buy you a shiny new MacBook Pro.

Finally, I leave you with the disturbing images of the real origin of swine flu: Johnny Cash singing with Miss Piggy.

Be good, and remember, cough into your elbow to keep your PDFs virus-free.

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Agility

The ability to change course as circumstances dictate is the strength of the project management philosophy we’ll look at now. Agile development is based on the idea that development is an iterative process that uses cross-functional teams to solve problems and develop solutions. Adaptability is the name of the game.

In our current XML publishing project, we’ve split the initial development phase into several parts. Different teams are focusing on different parts of the system: content modeling, authoring, content management, and composition. Each group is responsible for research and requirements gathering. By splitting the tasks between groups of experts, we’re speeding up the whole project, but still are able to delve deeply into each topic.

Contrast this with our previous project, which used the traditional waterfall methodology. In that project, everyone worked on everything. Time and personnel alone imposed limitations on the project. Instead of small groups working in parallel, we had one big group lumbering along, taking on each issue in sequence.

It’s kind of like the old christmas-tree lights where if one burned out they all stopped working. What a revelation when they came out with the ones that kept working despite one burned out light.

There are dangers with agile development of course. One of the groups could go off the deep end or down a rabbit hole, or fall victim to any number of cliches as the project wears on. Different groups may have slightly different ideas of what the project is all about. For this reason there still needs to be a strong project manager who’s in charge of it all–a benevolent dictator who has the authority to say “no, that’s not what we’re looking for.”

So far, on our project, this methodology is working fairly well. Each group is able to spend ample time researching their area of responsibility. We’re getting better information than if we were all lurching around together. It’s nice not having to have every aspect of the project in your head at all times. I never learned how to juggle, after all.

At certain points, though, we all have to come together to compare notes and make sure we’re on the right track. Inevitably somebody puts together a presentation that gets shown to the management sponsors of the project. Words of encouragement are offered, opinions are aired, and we move on.

As our project continues, I’ll be keeping track of any good or bad aspects of agile development. I’ve never worked on a project to completion using this methodology before. I’m curious to see if it really will help us deliver a better system when we’re done.