Monday, February 8, 2010

Mobile Me iDisk and rsync

I’ve been using Mobile Me since 2002. (Then it was called .Mac). One of the features I really like is the iDisk. This is really convenient when you have to transfer large files. Also, I use it to keep a set of files I need again and again for my work as an agile coach. To make the access transparent and fast you can keep a copy of your iDisk on the local Macintosh HD and use it like any other drive. There is a sync process running in the background taking care of the data syncing. Very nice and convenient. In the beginning I could put a symbolic link into the local iDisk to reference a folder with the files on my local hard drive. Then the files were synced onto the iDisk in the cloud and I could access them from anywhere.
However, with the release of Leopard this stopped working. Well, rather annoying but not a real big problem. I just created a folder which I kept up date manually. But, since the iPhone has an iDisk app I started to read and re-read certain documents while on public transport. As you can guess, it happened again and again, that I forgot to do the manual update and therefore could not read important documents.
rsync to the rescue. With rsync you can keep folders in sync. I use it to keep the folder on the iDisk an exact copy of the folder containing the documents.
Well, next problem. Now, I have the copy process automated but I still need to run the script manually. The fix for this is crontab. Crontab is a list of scripts to be executed by the cron demon at certain times. I cannot tell you how much I like that OS X is Unix based. A nice UI with the power Unix underneath, what a great combination.
Now at midnight, the documents are automatically synced from the local folder on my hard drive to my iDisk. There I can access them using my iPhone or my notebooks. (iDisk also has a Windows client).
If you run into the same problems, then hopefully this shed some light onto it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Productive Meetings

Don't know what your experience is like, but for me it is the following. Meetings are much more productive when someone is standing at a white board and writes down ideas, risks, problems and what have you. I am sure every single human being who has attended enough meetings has observed the default pattern -- or anti pattern -- in meetings. Everyone has their point of view and does all necessary arguing to protect their idea. They fight each other instead of pulling together towards a common goal. Often after a long and useless meeting it is commonly decided (the only agreement) that another meeting is needed.
One way to counter this behavioral pattern is to mail out an agenda with all the topics and asking the participants to prepare. This might help but most often it does not. I even doubt that every recipient of the mail does read it entirely. It usually drowns in the sea of more important emails.
Now, imagine you are in a pissing contest meeting and someone gets up and starts to write the different points clearly visible down. In a heart beat the whole meeting has structure, everyone turns their head towards the board. Not the loudest voice is heard but all ideas. Often, after some time the whole group is working together towards a -- just identified -- common goal. If you don't believe it, then give it a try at the next deadlocked meeting. You will be amazed how much power a white board and a marker in hand can create.
Why am I writing this? Well, Scrum has this at the core of all of it's meetings. In Scrum we have four different meeting types. Sprint Planning meeting, Daily Scrum, Review and Retrospective. Usually each of those meetings is moderated by the Scrum Master. It might be moderated by someone else but it is always moderated! The medium to write on are either index cards or PostIts which are aranged on a white- or corkboard. Those cards are then updated and rearranged during the course of the sprint. A very visual way of management. Alistair Cockburn named it accordingly: Information Radiators.
Next time your are stuck in a non productive meeting just get up and start to use a marker and whiteboard. Everyone in the rooom will be grateful.
The future is Lean Agile.
PS If you are interested in a simple way to moderate a meeting then try out Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats