Category: "Living the Life"

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 ยป 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.

No Signal

You can't live the life [TeleInterActive Lifestyle™] if you can't get a signal. Cell phone signal coverage, or WiFi coverage, we're always looking for signals to keep in touch, get data, stay connected. And all of us have trouble finding a signal, whether a WiFi hotspot or asking "can you hear me now". With cellular signals, staying connected once you get a signal is as big a problem as finding a signal in the first place. Rural areas have the spottiest coverage, but even heavily populated or trafficked areas have problems.

The Wall Street Journal provided coverage of this problem on page D1 of the 2005 May 25 issue, Why You Still Can't Hear Me Now. No carrier or service is immune, nor is any technology.

Most troubles are caused by inadequate coverage leading to dead areas, fluctuating signal strength/quality, and dropped calls. When I was involved in a severe car crash in March, there was no cell signal - on any carrier. [If you wish to read that post, please register and I'll make you a member; the post is protected until the insurance claims are setteled.] As I drive around the SF Bay Area, I often get dropped in the middle of a call, or can't get a signal one time where I have a good signal other times. When I stand still, while making a call, I can see my signal meter go from 1 bar to three, or three bars to five. My Sony Ericsson phone on Cingular {I was Mobile One, then AT&T Wireless, now Cingular all with the same number without me doing a thing] generally has 1 to 3 bars at my house, though sometimes it can't find the network at all. My partner's newer Sony Ericsson phone on Cingular never has a signal at my place. I'm afraid to get a new phone.

And the cell phone coverage maps from the carriers are generally wrong. Even the new online address-by-address map on T-Mobile isn't always accurate. [You can see some anecdotal evidence at "T-Mobile's New Consumer Aid"]. Cingular has something similar, but only available through kiosks at some stores. Right now, it's basically impossible to tell if you'll have a signal where you need it before you select a carrier and phone.

This has to change.


Cellphedia, according to its home page, is "the 1st Ubiquitous Social Encyclopedia". Think of it as a cross between Wikipedia and online social networks, for your cell phone. This was developed as part of founder's Limor Garcia graduate thesis at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Right now it seems more suited to trivia questions, but as the knowledgebase grows, I believe that the utility will grow as well. It will be interesting to see if she seeks to grow it as a business, how that business fares, and the direction the cellphedia community takes as it grows.

[Related Reading:]

Cellphedia Melds Facts with Mobile Smart Mobs


Cellphedia: The mobile phone social encyclopedia

Cellphedia: mobile social knowledge

Can You Hear Me Now

From the San Francisco Chronicle on "Verizon CEO sounds off on Wi-Fi, customer gripes Seidenberg also explains phone company's reasons for wanting to buy MCI"

Seidenberg, for instance, said people often complain about mobile phone service because they have unrealistic expectations about a wireless service working everywhere. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon and Vodafone, is the state's largest mobile phone provider.

"Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?" he said. "The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator; they want it to work in the basement."

Seidenberg said it's not Verizon's responsibility to correct the misconception by giving out statistics on how often Verizon's service works inside homes or by distributing more detailed coverage maps, showing all the possible dead zones. He pointed out that there are five major wireless networks, none of which works perfectly everywhere.

Wow. There is so much material in this great article by Todd Wallack, Chronicle Staff Writer, Saturday, April 16, 2005, from municiple WiFi to political machinations. I want to focus on those unreasonable expectations that I've quoted above.

Hmm. One of our board members took on the role of CEO with a company that has offices here in the Silicon Valley and in India. His most memorable experience from his first trip to India was the consistent and ubiquitous cell phone coverage.

My neighbor, who uses Sprint, must leave his house, and go outside to one and only one, street corner to get a signal. I use Cingular [actually CellularOne that was eaten by ATT Wireless now Cingular] and my signal in my house ranges from "No Network" to three bars. My partner, also now on Cingular, has no signal when she visits here. My parents, on Verizon, live downstairs and they range from one to three bars. Isn't it enjoyable to sit in a chair and watch the signal meter on your phone bounce around from naught to full WHILE YOU ARE PERFECTLY STILL?

There really needs to be a better way to determine, other than the two week trial period, if the phone you want from the provider you want will work where you want consistently. Actually, we're working on a way, but we can't talk about it yet. After all, how can you live the TeleInterActive Lifestyle without a signal? This article was just too good to pass up though.

Modern Man Meets the Source of His Food

There is nothing like fresh dungeness crab bought right from the boat in Princeton Harbor.

Our good friend [and corporate attorney] makes the trek to the coast every so often to meet with us. And this time, he wanted to buy some fresh crab after we had lunch at Mezzaluna. As we walked down the pier, checking out the whiteboards that would tell us which boats were selling, you could see on his face the dawning realization: "fresh off the boat" means LIVE CRAB.

Words really can't convey how much fun we had as the fisherman explained proper handling and cooking techniques, how to assure that the crabs wouldn't throw a claw [A defense mechanism they have to escape when a halibut has bitten down on a claw] while he deftly selected two crabs, each weighing about 2 pounds, threw them into a plastic bag and handed them to our friend, warning him not to loose a finger. And then handed us two more bags, as "those two fellows will likely poke some holes in the bag".

We gave even more advice on the ride home. :p But all's well that ends well, for back in the East Bay, to quote his after supper email...

"I must say, however, that it was a bit out of the beginning of "The Last of the Mohicans" with my 'thanking my brothers for giving their lives for me....' And the meal was delicious."

This is the most I've laughed since before the accident of two weeks ago. It was a great day of crab hunting.

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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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Our current thinking on sensor analytics ecosystems (SAE) bringing together critical solution spaces best addressed by Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in Data Management and Analytics (DMA) is here.

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