Category: "Computers and Internet"

Managing Distributed Workgroups

Since the earliest days of InterActive Systems & Consulting, Inc. we've been concerned with how to support and manage distributed workgroups, whether comprised completely of employees, or including "outsourced" team members, whether all members are "distributed" locally or globally. This was a subject of conversation at our first joint Board of Directors and Advisors meeting in December of 2000. [We celebrated six years as a separate corporate entity on June 16th.] The discussion ranged [and still considers] topics as diverse as tracking time spent and resource usage to making all members feel like a part of the team. Todd McGrath was a member of our Board of Advisors, and from that IASC meeting, the idea for ServiceCycle was germinated in Todd's fertile brain. We had some input into the early direction of ServiceCycle, and, I believe, some influence on Todd's decision earlier this year to open source the code for ServiceCycle. Recently, Todd wrote:

Reasons for my questions and thoughts relate to an application I've been developing over the years - a collaboration platform called ServiceCycle. Frankly speaking, a thing that has always bothered me about ServiceCycle is that is not focused on a particular industry or niche. The industries that use ServiceCycle are all over the board."

"Perhaps ServiceCycle could fill a void in outsource management? It could be customized to provide SLA management/enforcement, RFP distribution and monitoring, service contract templates, preferred vendor list organization and ratings, monitor and measurement of milestones, issue tracking, key dates, communication archiving and of course, tracking and reporting.end quotation
- Todd McGrath in Flat World Software Development » Outsource Management Software

Since it's inception, ServiceCycle has been a integral part of our TeleInterActive Lifestyle™ toolkit, along with open source, web based software for project tracking and certain MMORPGs for team building.

ServiceCycle can most definitely fill a the void in outsource management. In addition to its current collaboration capabilities, it could also help improve/archive communications, using XMPP, OPML and SIP. [Todd - remember that one joint proposal we did to a Sheriff of the realm?] Some of Todd's other ideas could be implemented by incorporating workflow engines and reporting or decision support tools. One challenge with globally distributed workgroups is the problem of asynchronous communications - different time zones. Problems can seem less urgent when they arose while you were sleeping. If ServiceCylce can help bring immediacy to these types of communications, it would plug a gaping hole in outsourced projects.

Open Source and Offshore Development

Recently, my friend Todd McGrath has written about the symbiotic relationship of open source software and offshore development. He builds a case for the relationship between building trust in developers you might never meet (or mitigating risk in an offsourced project) with the use of open source software in the project.

In combining Open Source software and offshore development, high quality, cost effective software is more easily obtainable... Open Source provides a foundation of trust and confidence when using and/or providing offshore software development services.

In this article, my definition of Open Source is intended to mean complete products, tools, libraries, etc. with a vibrant community.

When implementing an outsource development strategy, choose developers that will use Open Source software in the overall solution. Using Open Source in the solution provides a shorter path to confidence and trust in outsourced software developers. Put another way, open source plays a positive part in the risk management of the decision to outsource. By choosing offshore software development partners that deliver based on community established Open Source with appropriate license for your needs, quality and the most competitive cost can be obtained.end quotation
-- Todd McGrath in Flat World Software Development » Open Source and Offshore Development

Those excerpts give his premise and conclusion, but you must read the whole article to see how he builds his case.

Todd focuses on outsourced, especially offshore, software development. There are, however, other things being offshored by businesses today. Business processes such as accounting and human resources, IT operations & maintenance, telecommunications management, design and development projects, and manufacturing are only a few examples. And there are many reasons for businesses to outsource. Some of these are reducing cost, enhancing skills, suplementing personnel, and taking advantage of economies of scale.

Having a common architecture or framework can be important in mitigating risk. But the assumption here is that if the first outsourced project fails, another team can pick it up because open source software provides common themes throughout software development, and you can find other developers with familiarity with the open source software that forms the basis of the project. I don't believe that this constitutes bulding trust in the original team, or even in the offsourcing tactic. So, I disagree with the premise that bulding trust is equivalent to mitigating risk. I would agree that using open source software in a software development project can help mitigate risk.

More importantly to building trust and to mitigating risk is assuring that the culture of the outsourcing partner matches your own culture. Can both partners truly communicate? Not just speak the same language, or a dialect of the same language, but truly understand each other's written and spoken dialogues, specifications, emails, messages and meeting notes. When offsourcing, societal, cultural and language barriers will complicate matters, and you may not have much control over these factors. [Excepting some artificial and unsustainable rules, such as a USA firm should only choose offsourcing partners in the Philippines because of the good blend of cultural match and economics.] You do have control over corporate culture aspects that affect the project, process, program or people being outsourced. For the type of software development projects of which Todd is speaking, you might want to consider:

  • decision making
  • documentation
  • specification
  • in-code comments
  • project management
  • QA
  • configuration control
  • version & release management
  • testing
  • bug fixes, enhancements and problem escalation/resolution
  • meeting protocol
  • team structure/team building
  • interfaces across and interactions among business untis/users, operations personnel and developers

I think these types of factors will be more important in building trust across distributed workgroups than the software architecture to be used.

Having said that, I do agree that there is a symbiotic relationship between offsourcing and open source development methodologies, in that both use the priciples of distributed workgroups, both are enhanced by the TeleInterActive Lifestyle™ and the two movements have feed off each other to a certain extent.

Crackers for Christmas Suck

Crackers planted some nasty software on one of our servers, and were using the dear machine for launching Denial of Service attacks. Of course, they did this whilst the technical brains of our organization were off for the holidays. Clarise, I hope that you're enjoying Australia. :>>

The crackers were apparently from Brazil. The strings from the scripts were in Portuguese. Dont' they know that the Italian farmers and Portuguese fishermen worked together to build the San Mateo coast. What are these idiots doing? :crazy:

Once again, I would like to thank the tech support folk at ServerBeach for helping me with this problem.

Edwin Aoki Tag Spam Fighter

Edwin Aoki of AOL presented at Tag Tuesday. AOL is beginning its fight against Tag Spam or Spag before the problem becomes huge, and Edwin is asking other tag service providers [TSPs?, TaaS?] to join in. Edwin presented a number of interesting ideas, and he was very focused on his topic. I found that Edwin was really addressing the larger topic of tag usability. Many of the ideas and statistics that Edwin presented, not only reflect the idea of Spag, but also the idea of bringing tagging to the mainstream.

If the overuse of fairly generic tags like "Open Source" or "Health and Wellness" has already led to tag pollution, how useful will tags be to the casual user? If such tags are already "polluted" and unusable, will tags become so specific that only a handful of folks will find what they want through tagging?

For example, we met with the folks from Kinetic Networks yesterday, to discuss their open source ETL tool, KETL. I'm still writing the article, but the tags I'm using are "Computers and Internet", "Open Source", "Business Intelligence", Bizgres, ETL, KETL and "Kinetic Networks". Are at least two of those tags too polluted to be useful? Will someone looking for information on an open source ETL tool be able to find articles that are tagged as I tagged this one? Or will these tags only prove useful to someone specifically looking for information about Kinetic Networks and KETL.

Since the power of tagging is the human factor, the developing folksonomies, how will mainstream users, private folksonomies in intranets, and automated tagging suggestions affect this power?

I think that tags must be viewed through unions and intersections of meaning and context if they are ever to be useful to mainstream users in either a business or personal environment. The potential is there, but we need to understand tagging at a far more sophisticated level than current approaches allow.

Silicon Valley Tag Tuesday November 29

Clarise and I will be attending...

Tag Tuesday is coming to Mountain View! After three meetings in San Francisco we have decided to give Silicon Valley a try to extend our reach. Our next meeting will take place next Tuesday, November 29, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at AOL%u2019s campus in Mountain View.end quotation
-- Silicon Valley Tag Tuesday November 29

Of course, since this is the first Tag Tuesday NOT being held in San Francisco, we'll be in San Francisco earlier on Tuesday for meetings. :)

But we're looking forward to both talks being presented at Tag Tuesday this month.

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The TeleInterActive Lifestyle is about the business processes, life choices, management challenges and technical issues facing organizations and individuals as individuals and organizations adopt the Internet of Things, Mixed Reality, wireless networks of all levels, mobile devices, long-distance collaboration, social networks, digital transformation, and adjust to growing urbanization.

Sensor Analytics Ecosystems for the Internet of Things (SAEIoT) brings value from emerging technologies through data management and analytics, advances in data science, as the IoT matures through the 5Cs: Connection, Communication, Contextualization, Collaboration and Cognition. The socialization of machines will allow for Privacy, Transparency, Security and Convenience to be flexibly provided with two-way accountability to build Trust among Humans and Machines.

AsDataArchon, we have evolved our consulting data scientist work from learning how to incorporate sensor analytics into data warehouses, business intelligence and analytics to focusing on IoT data management and forming sensor analytics ecosystems.

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