31
May

TDD for Speaking

One of the things I love about test driven development is that you define what something should do, what purpose it should have, before you implement it. So before you write any feature code, you’ve understood what needs to be achieved by a user. This is often a better way of exploring user needs, and the potential grey areas in particular, than detailed written requirements might be.

A couple of years back I took to using this same approach for writing talks. Rather than starting with what I had to say, I started with what questions the audience might have. What do they want to learn? Who will be at this particular conference? What will they likely know? What knowledge, experiences & skills do I have that would best add to what they already know and can do?

This approach has paid off in a multitude of ways. Rather than trying to shoehorn an existing talk into a conference proposal, I think more about what the attendees will want to learn. I genuinely think I deliver better talks as a result. And often big chunks of existing talks I’ve done fit in with that new set of needs; so I think more of the chunks of narrative, tools & info than in terms of whole talks.

It also has the advantage that I can write the proposal long before I ever write the talk. Usually when I submit to a conference, or am discussing with an organiser who’s approached me, I end up with a good summary of what the talk will be and what people will take away at the end. The written description serves as my own test that I refer back to: am I achieving what this description promises? Does this talk answer those questions? Will people walk away with the understanding we committed they would?

And lastly, it’s pushed me to tailor talks much more to the specific conferences and associated audiences. To be braver in proposing talks that will be more useful (but may be less comfortable for me personally).

In short: thinking of conference proposals & talk descriptions like we do tests in TDD helps a speaker focus on what the audience needs to learn, rather than just what one has to say.

This post was inspired by those fine folk who run the Technically Speaking newsletter, which I’d heartily recommend you subscribe to.

19
Mar

My Monolith is Melting talk from PIPELINE CONF 2015

Thanks for the enthusiastic reception at PIPELINE CONF today. Here are my slides from my talk:

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29
Jan

Stealing PM Lessons from Artificial Intelligence – DPM UK

Thanks for the great reception at DPM UK today; and for all the folks who braved the snow!

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14
Dec

Dealing with Lots of Email

I’ve written before about dealing with huge volumes of email, and my approach of looking at your email sideways to slice & dice it more appropriately. Since then, the various email clients and services available have improved a fair bit, making some of these things easier.

Bulk Processing

Mailstrom is great for when you have a bunch of stuff in your inbox and want to process it fast. It extends the sideways approach I talked about previously, also giving you options to unsubscribe from mailing lists (including many companies’ promotional emails), see only emails from people you have emailed, and categories of shopping and social. This in addition to being able to sort by subject, sender, time or size, as one would in a mail client.

Mailstrom also sends you emails giving you some insight into your inbox and how you’re handling it, which can be useful — sometimes an automated analysis actually makes you realise things you otherwise wouldn’t! The profile pages give you a (sometimes scary) look at how your inbox size / rate of email looks compared to others also using the service. I find mine quite worrisome.

It’s a service I happily pay for, and signing up via this Mailstrom link will get you $5 off if you’d like to try it.

Daily Upkeep

Day to day, I use Mailbox on my phone. I like that it has swipe gestures for archiving, deleting, filing (though annoyingly only in folders under Mailbox) and a snooze function. The snooze is the real killer feature IMHO — you can defer an email until tonight, tomorrow, the weekend, next week for for a month. You can also have it come back at a certain date, but I find I don’t use this much; I prefer to add things to calendar that are really for a specific date or time.

I’ve moved my @action, @readlater, @waitingfor, etc GTD folders to being under Mailbox, and swipe stuff into them when processing on my phone in a spare minute here and there.

Structured Gmail Inbox

The only issue with filing items away is that they can seem filed away. So the final piece of the puzzle, for me at least, was to structure my Gmail inbox so I couldn’t fail to see emails in my @action etc folders. I used this approach to customise my Gmail inbox and find it helps keeps the right things top of mind.

8
Dec

My Unicode & URLEncoding Hell

Struggling with a particularly nasty set of unicode & URL encoding bugs a couple of weeks back, I was reminded just how much I hate dealing with unicode and encodings.

Gave me an opportunity to brush up though, and to find a bunch of good resources I hadn’t seen before including:

And also to revisit some golden oldies & useful references:

Mostly posting as a reference for myself 😉

10
Oct

Baking In Accessibility — Fronteers 2014

Thank you so much to the Fronteers Conf 2014 crew for inviting me to Amsterdam to speak about hacking people & process to make accessibility and other good practice intrinsic in how we work.

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6
Oct

Stealing Project Management Lessons from Artificial Intelligence

I was delighted to speak today at the Digital Project Management Summit 2014 in Austin, Texas. Below are my slides, and the links to the books and resources that I mentioned.

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5
Sep

Awesome People Management with Agile

As promised, here are my slides from my Agile on the Beach 2014 talk.

I also mentioned my Coaching & Mentoring talk which you can find here (including video kindly published by the Dare Mini folks).

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