How to find the right sprint length

When you started agile, how did you chose the sprint length? Let me have a guess, it probably resulted in 2 weeks because of everyone does it like that. (I feel so trapped myself here — have a guess how we did it…)

Let me tell you about Peter, the creative genius behind the companies product. On the other hand he was and will never be a real tech. How long will this shiny new feature take to develop? No idea! But it’s awesome! Yep, that’s him.

So we have this genius guy and we have developers eager to write clean, scalable and perfect code ready for the next 1 year (things change quick in tech!) The challenge here is get those two mindsets on the same table and find a good solution making everyone happy. For example minimizing features and focussing on getting it really done instead of clean?

So here is agile, promising you to fix all your problems. Since this post is about sprint length I am skipping an introduction here — there will be another post about that!

It’s about 2 factors: size & frequency

But what about the perfect sprint length? Sorry to be disappointing, there is no perfect here. It’s as individual as preferences in what to have for dinner. There is not a simple formula for success, but if you follow some small tipps you will be way more productive and can ship more features faster after thinking about size and frequency.

Size of the features. Tech or no tech guy, it should be obvious that an entirely new app is not doable in a week including proper testing and reviews. The other side is a text change on your website. You can be sure that this is not a thing costing you one week of developers expensive time.

So try to collect some of your ideas and discuss them with your team. When you have rough ideas about how long development of those features could take and how complex they are find a good average. If this is 3 weeks let it be 3 weeks instead of listening to books promising you more results with 2 week iterations.

Then there is frequency. Do you have new ideas and change your opinion on them almost every day? Don’t go with 4 week iterations then. It will do nothing less than fuck up your own flow of ideas. So if you come up with modifications of your ideas once a week, note down 1 week iterations. If you feel more like 3 weeks, go with that.

After collecting data for those 2 factors, generate another average out of the 2 cycle times you just set. This average should be your sprint length. As simple as that.

Feel free to test this iteration some time after and recap after some time in the retrospectives to get a perfect match with your team. All over Scrum is about you and your team, not a book.

You need help figuring this out or just need an outstanding opinion on your process? Feel free to reach out, I’d love to help!

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3 things you should do on daily standups

I have a feeling everyone is trying to do agile these days. Especially the daily is probably the most copiedmeeting I have ever seen in startups to corporations — but everyone doing it in their own way.

Sure, agile is all about doing things that work for your team and to change quickly. Nevertheless it seems like the most integral reasons to actually run this get-together seem to be missing.

So here are my top 3 things to do as a team-member at daily standups, enjoy!

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Replace your AWS AMI’s with puppet

The number one reason to deploy things in the cloud is to be ready to handle massive growth and especially traffic peaks. Gone are those dark hours of servers responding super slow if at all and gone are the expensive hours of servers idling for the next peak.

But let’s face it: The cloud is hard to handle. Go buy a machine, install your fancy linux distribution and software and you are done is what you did, go spin up an EC2 instance on AWS with an AMI using the Console is what you do now. So far no problem.

Let’s talk about scaling first. Servers have a given capacity they can handle – owed to hardware limitations. A CPU can’t calculate faster than it was built and a network interface can’t process more traffic than it can physically handle. After all, the cloud is still operating on servers, you just don’t own and operate them anymore – others do that for you. And they still don’t offer you an unlimited cluster. All in all, all you get is virtual servers on someone else’s computer – some parts like databases often managed, some others not.

So, how do you scale this if you have more than 20 concurrent readers of your blog or your new startup get’s featured on shark tank? Straight forward, you need more servers and distribute the traffic. So instead of one machine taking care of all it’s several machines collaboratively getting the requests served. One of those servers fail? No problem, others can simply jump in. AWS even helps you here by offering autoscaling. By measuring load on servers and listening to events, they can automatically boot up and shutdown servers for you – without you getting out of bed and booting up your own machine first!

7 reasons puppet is superior to custom AMI’s

But here comes the problem: The cloud doesn’t know your application and just booting up a few linux machines will help you not at all. 500 machines with a plain OS won’t help your visitors, just cost you money. So how to deploy your application to this machine? One way to go is creating an example server, installing your application on there and saving this state to a custom image to be used for new machines. Every time AWS boots up a new EC2 instance it will use your image instead of that plain CentOS then. Those images are called AMI.

Cool stuff! Let’s do continuous integration and deploy 10 times a day! Well, this means creating those reference servers 10 times a day, storing it in an AMI and reconfiguring your auto scaling groups to use the new image. Not to mention that Amazon charges for storage, so the more images you host there, the more you pay.

Talking puppet! Puppet is one of the few tools used to describe your infrastructure. Another option would be Chef, some count ansible to this group as well. What you do is basically code your server installation that puppet can then parse your specification and setup and configure your server as described in it’s configuration. This way you can either use a puppet server (master) or just pull your code from any location and run it to get your server up to speed.

Why is this better?

  • You have one AMI you use all the time
  • Your application comes from a separate place
  • Your developers can code new plugins they need
  • Your developers can use vagrant and develop in the same environment you use for production
  • You save money – text files consume way less than images
  • Autoscaling uses the same image and automatically triggers puppet to deploy your code
  • You can scale up and down as you like

Why I like puppet? Straight forward: because of I started with it and I learned to love the approach they take being a state machine for servers instead of a remote execution framework like ansible. If something is already in the desired state – for example config files or a package is already installed – puppet doesn’t do this again. It realizes that the state is matching and goes on.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and welcome any questions! More things about puppet are soon to come.

Reasons why remote should be an option

Hiring tech talent is getting a real pain these days. You are one of those high-performers or „best“ engineers on the market? Congratulations, there are at least 10 new openings trying to make you apply per day.

But ignoring the fact that everyone wants the best talent our economy is so stuck with offices and office culture. They limit the pool of potential candidates to the people living around a certain place and to the ones willed to travel to this office every day – taking a total of several days of time per year per employee – which is in no way compensated. Sure, there are benefits like a job-ticket for public transportation and such. In another point of view you got me right: We take this as a benefit and are thankful for this as a bonus.

I don’t really regard this as fair since employers expect their employees to work from a given place for various reasons including the impression to have control. But why don’t they pay their employees for the way to this place? In my perspective, this time is part of the job – and thus should be included in the time working. If they can get stuff done in this time great, give your people a notebook, pen and papers and have them work in that time. If not, you have a choice: Compensate or go another way.

But let’s see what else is out there, working very well for quite some companies.

The world is huge and talented people are spread all over the planet – so it would be stupid to assume you can get them to work all in one place unless you convince and fly them in. But talented people… well… they know they are talented. And why should they leave friends, family and their culture behind to work and live in another city – just for a job. As I mentioned, there are tons of jobs those people can even choose from.

I see one real alternative to the old traditional way of limited resources and limited talent: Remote. Give people the chance to work anywhere they want when they want. The world is getting more and more digital and you have a connection on the middle of a sea – so why don’t allow people to work there if they are the most productive there?

Technology allows us new ways of communication and collaboration. Face to face meetings can be replaced by using software like Skype or Google Hangouts and tracking hours can be done by software or – my preferred way – trust.

Going remote can’t be done with traditional thinking. But by changing how we think and allowing remote we have other advantages as well:

People can work more productive by setting a messenger status. It is not a myth that multitasking is a pain. But on the other hand it is almost impossible to avoid people talking to you about any topic just in the office when seeing you not being on the phone. If you are remote, this simply cannot happen. It’s impossible. Worst case: Your workers wife or the postal service is ringing the bell – or your coffee is getting served. Simply put: You get that shit done.

People feel trusted. By not tracking their time and watching them all day they know what they are getting paid for: for the results. Let’s be honest: you hired that person because of he is qualified for the job. You trust him to get the job done. So why do you feel the need to track those persons constantly? You don’t trust them to work? Well… You hired the wrong person then.

You can hire the best. That one developer getting more done in a day than the rest of your entire company in a week is living on the other side of the world, including his family? No problem, let him choose if he wants to relocate or just stay. He can still work for you – and get more done than the rest of the company. Because of he is good and he is happy. Happy employees are better employees!

There are lot’s of tools supporting you in being remote and even more ways to still grow as a company – but it requires work. You are a bigger company? Well I’m sorry but you most likely need a bigger change process.

But you are not alone. I helped quite a lot of startups and companies grow, hire, organize and track people and projects using software and frameworks like agile. We at SAFEWRD.com run the entire company 100% remote as well – and it works perfectly well. You want to know more? Just send me an email and we can see how the SAFEWRD team and I can make your company better – one step at a time!

Configure Fedora 23 firewalld to allow nfs (Vagrant)

So today I have been trying to test some puppet modules in Vagrant but the machine bootup got stuck when trying to mount the nfs shares.

Some research showed, that firewalld and vagrant are not what you could call best friends, so basically the ports are blocked so the Virtualbox or libvirt (for example) connection tries get stuck in the firewall.

Here is a little script you need to run as root in order to allow nfs on your machine and be able to work with Vagrant like you did before again. Please note: This is for the Workstation version! You might need to change the zones for the server or cloud installations.

firewall-cmd --zone FedoraWorkstation --change-interface vboxnet0
firewall-cmd --zone FedoraWorkstation --permanent --add-service nfs
firewall-cmd --zone FedoraWorkstation --permanent --add-service rpc-bind
firewall-cmd --zone FedoraWorkstation --permanent --add-service mountd
firewall-cmd --zone FedoraWorkstation --permanent --add-port 2049/udp
firewall-cmd --reload

What this script does? It adds the vboxnet0 adapter Virtualbox uses to be taken care of by the FedoraWorkstation zone, allows all ports needed permanently (to survive reboots) and reloads the iptables rulesets created by firewalld.

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Reinventing how people work

Technology changed the way people do their jobs at massive scale. So many people who once knew every little detail about how to do things moved on to simply know how to program a machine getting the desired result. Details about the process or how the actual operation works? Why should the operators care – the manufacturer of the machine knows this and implemented that knowledge into the core of this machine already!

Yet technology is just in the roots to start changing how people work. Almost everyone got the casual 9 to 5 workday sitting in a crowded office at a time when the boss thinks you are the most productive. Weiterlesen

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Arrrr from Pirate Summit and Startup Bus

I really got to like conferences and startups. It’s so amazing to see chaotic groups of people build amazing things and make a business out of this. Conferences help those to gain attention, share knowledge and experiences as well as establish contacts and relationships to grow it even further.

One of the bigger players in Germany is the Pirate Summit. It just took place at beautiful Odonien in Cologne with tons of pitches, a burning man (shit got real!) – and if you wanted to walk the plank yourself Wirecard got you covered:

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Let’s get down to what really happened.

Checking in using my new Apple Watch literally made the day for the staff and me since it was their first time and it worked like a charm – and it was so cool to not stand there with a sheet of paper in my hand.

After that it was time to explore the place and watch some of the pitches. It’s impressive to see so many different ideas from all around the globe and that people came from far New Zealand to pitch their idea. I loved so many, but I’m positive that some will have a very hard time as well.

When my cofounder arrived things got hard. After participating in the Startup Bus Europe the winning team Warm-Hands was asked to pitch in roundabout 4 hours and they got almost nothing more than a developed idea. Time to help – and so did others as well. We ended up being 15 people from 5 different countries building the entire thing from scratch starting with a website, social media channels and getting 2 NGO’s supporting them as well as one politician – and we created a new Pitch Deck. Every time I recap what happened with poor wifi and just some passionate people with intense skills and the will to get this done I get thrills. Please give Bara and AJ a like, this thing is dope! They try to support refugees AND elderly people by connecting those two groups!

They did not make it to finals with their pitch, but will continue to grow this idea still.

In the evening we just ended this work-session with some beer and a real burning man – which makes this conference even more awesome. It’s the first non-festival doing that!

Next day was AIDEN time. We networked quite a lot and got great feedback about our idea and what to do next. This includes getting to launch soon – after restructuring our team and – sadly – letting go one of our co-founders. Nick, all the best here as well!

As a recap: Visit the next Pirate Summit! You will like it – trust me. People are just so welcoming and it’s almost impossible to not meet new people. Literally all you have to do is go and talk to them – everyone is so open. You could say: approaching a girl is harder. People almost want you to talk to them and exchange ideas there.

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What is this AIDEN all about?

Have you ever been in the need of some helping hands? No matter if it was for heavy lifting, setting up your brand new computer or just assembling some IKEA furniture because – let’s be honest – you got confused by the instructions? Yeah, me too. Not that long ago some new stuff was delivered and it was almost too late when I realized that I need more than just a screwdriver and myself to get this become a solid bed. I was scared of sleeping in it because it might have collapsed every other second.

Same goes for setting up your brand new computer or tablet. It happens quite often that, no matter what generation, people fear doing those tasks just because technology is evolving so fast and it would be a full time job to follow along.

I used to be one of those tech savvy guys in the family that everyone ran to no matter what the problem. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve faced the statement „Help! My computer is broken!“ or something like

You are so smart, can’t you help me with this?

Even though companies preach simplicity and cut on all ends to make their products more slim and more Web 2.0, they often forget about UX, the User Experience. Moreover the problem is that there are so many generations using these products that they end up with an information overflow almost all the time.

Today, you don’t need just the smart kid but experts. Not that these kids just vanished or you stopped trusting them, they just don’t know how to do it anymore.

When I faced some deeper WiFi problem at my parents house, I was unable to fix it first hand. Not every house is big enough for two routers and some deeper networking, but it is a great example to show that the smart kiddo is smart, but not a networking professional with a great understanding for WiFi access points and device roaming. I am sure some people doing this on an ongoing basis would’ve hit the solution right away.

Non-technical tasks

Okay, I just talked about tech. Why? Pretty easy answer – I just know that shit! But what about stuff like moving help or bicycle repair as well as handymen services?

A friend of mine needed to move a while ago. He is a very talented person, but just as much as talented he is a manager personality. Instead of spending hours to do stuff on his own or even days to move his belongings by himself, he just goes out and asks people to help or even do it for him.

Some would call this lazy, I call this problem solving. Instead of wasting hours he get’s more done quicker – in return for money.

When the day came and he waited for some friends to move the furniture, 50% of the people didn’t show up cuz they were hung-over from the day before or still celebrating.

Another day he needed to work but handymen services dated themselves from 7 a.m to 4 p.m. to work on some internet connection wiring. After taking a day off and swapping with a few collegues, waiting all day and getting more and more pissed, no one showed up. Some jobs took longer than expected they said. They will be around in 2 days they said. Needless to say what this costed in nerves as well as money. In the end, they showed up, were unfriendly and another friend needed to help with a resetup of the router – it just didn’t work as expected after all.

The problem

Needless to say we have a problem. You can’t get mad at your friends for not showing up to a friendship-service and you can’t influence handymen.

But what can be done against that? There are services like myhammer and TaskRabbit, but they are not that helpful or not even active in our country. They also often lack in convenience and the fact that people tend to go for cheapest – which destroys the market. Bad service is not a matter of everyone sucks but pricing and intransparency on the market.

It’s also so unpersonal, especially you most often end up with some off-shore companies with cheap labour and even cheaper materials. They are just not focussed on customer service and a great experience but surviving and getting the most out of the dumping charge.

AIDEN

Here is where we think we found a good way to support people get their stuff done. We want to build a marketplace with a focus on experience and the customer. No more price-battles – we define prices. No more intransparency – we focus on ratings by our clients and ourselves. Yes – ourselves. We believe that people just rating our partner don’t ask for the exact help on a daily basis, so they should focus on what they feel about it and how the service was delivered. After checking proof of work pictures and validating the rating of the customer, we then add a second rating which get’s calculated into the customers one, based on experience and performed by professionals doing this all day long.

The client is the king and the problem we see is directly linked to what Uber saw in the cab ecomony:

It was no longer about the service but just getting the job done.

Another focus of ours is to get the service performed instantly. When I realize I need help I don’t want to make appointments in the next two weeks and wait for days to get it done. When I call for help, I want it in that moment and am free this exact moment. Think of calling a friend: You don’t ask them to go out or anything in two weeks but today. It’s just convenient.

AIDEN is location based. When customers ask for helping hands, we check if a partner is around and if he accepts, we send him to the customer right away. It’s like a waiter in a restaurant:

Raise your hand and get what you desire.

But let’s be honest: You don’t know this person. Do you really want to hand him your credit card or even get yelled at because of you don’t have enough cash with you? Best example unlocking your door when you forgot your key inside. I don’t.

That’s why we process payments and pay-out the partners. See us like PayPal for services. We take care of you when you have a problem, and we take care your data is stored at a safe location. Especially I hate to transport cash – that’s what I adore the USA for. They can use their Credit Card almost anywhere, and this makes them such a powerful tool. Why always carrying a batch of valuable money with you if it could be seurely stored with a bank (okay, we all hate banks but anyways, safer than on your pocket, right?) and locked by a pin code and plastic card? It’s lighter as well.

Compliance problem with the partner? Just let us know and we take care of this. We want to be trusted by you, so we do trust you to not abuse this to try get rid of charges. You won’t anyways – it’s not that we just refund all the time. We are more like a man in the middle, trying to be valuable for you as a customer and the partner for a trusted professional with great skills.

It is hard to describe a problem as trivial but as complex as what we are trying to solve in an easy to understand way. I hope I did quite well anyways. If you have any questions, let me know, I am more than happy to answer every single one!

What I learned by using a Jawbone UP

I started doing sports when I was around 4 years old by starting my not so successful career as a soccer player – which ended 2 months later. 

After practicing Judo for some more years later, playing table tennis for two years, handball for around 2 years and some Tai Chi Chuan I suddenly graduated and started to move several times in Germany and spending some months in Switzerland. 

You could say this was the end of my active sportsman history, because of I never really started to do any kind of that again since then. Some more months have passed and I bought a Jawbone UP recently. I always thought being somewhat active still and keep up the sportsman-spirit by casual walking at least and living a healthy life. 

After testing the Jawbone UP for some months I finally realized that I still need to walk way more than I do. My current count is around 3000 steps a day and I sleep about 7 hours a day.

What did I learn? First of all, my sleep schedule needs to get improved soon. It’s not that optimal to work till 12 am or sometimes even 2 am – which I reduced to stopping at 10 pm max. Just by doing this I can relax more and start sleeping around 12 and get to the recommended 8 hours of sleep – which also affected my general feeling through the day! I never thought that just sleep could affect me personally that hard, but it’s a fact. If I can tell you one thing: Don’t underestimate sleep – it’s a relevant factor for your general health! 

The other thing is that I need to move way more than I do. Just taking the train to every single spot in town or taking a cab is comfortable – but get’s me lazy as hell. Just walking more also made me more energetic and I actually started getting shit done way faster and in a way higher quality! And just to mention: I also feel way more creative and started blogging again! 

This doesn’t mean I disliked it before – transparency and sharing is one of my core intentions – but I often thought that things I did are not worth sharing just because of people don’t care or already know – but I see that I was just lying to myself because of I did not know how to write it now. 

Do you use fitness or health trackers like Jawbone Up, Fitbit or any other type, too? Do you like it? 

Ps. I also added a newsletter to this blog! Feel free to subscribe 🙂