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Webstock '08 Review - Part 4

Categories: Verity, Day to day

I'm currently reading Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp. There's a lot to take in with it, so I'm only reading one section at time.

Michael presented Primal Software Development. It made me want to found a start up.

  • One of the important things to do when developing version 1.0 is building culture. You don't get to do it again when you build 2.0.
  • Another important thing is that your product needs to be unique. The idea doesn't have to be unique. Getting it done is what makes it unique.
  • Business plans come later. Getting the product built is more important.


  • Your first hire is someone who can be the opposite of you, to augment your blind spots.
  • While you are small you need to hire complete people, generalists, who talk about every part of the business. Specialists will slow you down and you need to get your product out there quickly.
  • Your free electron hire is important. They are the most productive engineer (aka developer) you know. They will do the impossible. They may have strong opinions and produce odd results. They often say no without explaining why it matters. Accept that it matters and move on.
  • Your historian is the hire who communicates. They can inject reality into your organisation. They have a deep organisational memory and can explain why some things will not work. They help correct the course.
  • The Russian lit major glues the team together. They are not techie but interface well with tech. They may be the program manager or perform a QA role.

No one is indispensable.
Get rid of people causing problems.


  • Does not have to be red tape.
  • Better to have the right people involved in a decision than worry about being right.
  • Surround the team with tools that communicate by default.
  • Getting comments from version control provides a status report.
  • Track bugs.


  • Remember: You don't have a business until you have a product.
  • First impressions matter.
  • You are too close to the product. Use outside people to provide real feedback.
  • Culture matters to a product.

"Successful products are ones where the culture spills out of them."

Change what you do every 3 years; it keeps you smart, funny, and sane.

Good Design Ain't Easy, aka The Design of Communication, presented by Jason Santa Maria was one I particularly enjoyed. I didn't make as many notes; there was just so much to take in with his talk and the visuals.

Start with story telling by design. We are trained to look for stories within images. From the imagery you have Graphic Resonance reinforcing the text. The designer is the narrator of the story.

  • Use different designs to set the tone of the story.
  • Distilling stories down to content weakens the story. (But remember that content has to be good enough to stand by itself.)
  • Design within constraints, e.g. type face limitations.
  • Looking at good graphic design in print does not give good graphic design online.
  • Headings should use the Golden Ratio.
  • Use the Rule of Thirds for visual interest.
  • Design and adapt your design to the story being told.

Before Jason's presentation I saw someone with the perfect t-shirt saying to complement mine. I arranged to get the fun valentine photo taken immediately after.

A headache had been developing for some time, probably compounded by the twisting of my neck to see the stage. I skipped the Sam Morgan fireside chat with Rowen Simpson and when to a pharmacy to get something for the headache.

I was back in plenty of time for the Powerpoint Karaoke Idol. It was hilarious (and I don't use that word too often). Three speakers ad-libbing a presentation based on 12 unknown slide each lasting 15 seconds. The slides were a mixture of images, including images of opponents, simple text, and extremely complicated diagrams. Judges comments afterwards added to the humour.

Wrapping up the day was Cocktails in the West Wing with Craftstock. I got the chance to be a fan-boy and meet many presenters.

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By Brian Logan   Wed 20-Feb-2008

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