Monthly Archives: March 2014

Can Dinosaurs pupate?

A prediction was made about computing devices a long time ago. I think it was around 2005, although this report is dated 2008. Nigel Clifford, then the CEO of Symbian and the supplier of software to Nokia said:

“All of those single use devices – MP3 players, digital camera, GPS – are collapsing onto the phone.”

Basically, Symbian and Nokia both thought that the Smart phone was so good that there would be a convergence of mobile devices into the one form factor. Naturally this was the form factor that Nokia was selling. Here’s another quote from that story from the BBC:

“Converged devices are always with you and always connected,”

That was Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, then CEO of Nokia. Neither Nigel, nor Olli-Pekka now lead those companies, Symbian has gone and Nokia will become a device brand name for Microsoft, which at that time in history was Nokia’s worst nightmare.

So, is the future diverged devices? You’d think people who run these large companies born from the start of the microcomputer boom (early 1970s) would learn.

Here’s another, more recent, quote:

“The world in the next five years and 10 years is not going to be defined by the form factor we know and love today, but by the variety of form factors that will come to be over the coming years,”

This time it’s from Satya Nadella, currently CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the launch of Office for iPad. So, in nine years some of the big companies have noticed that the earlier predictions were wrong.

Sadly it’s still a behemoth thinking they know the way that things will go.  This is the company that had it all once and missed so many changes, including the kick to the internet given to it by the World Wide Web.

It’s not that there aren’t good predictions around. Symbian, Nokia and Microsoft all had people with good, realistic visions.

Realistic predictions are based on the reaction of humans (and cats) to technological change. Companies get it wrong when they predict that the changes will be as a result of their company road map.


YAGNI applies to process

You Ain’t Gonna Need It – YAGNI, comes from extreme programming. Basically don’t write code just because you think you’ll need it.

YAGNI also applies to documents. In the Scrum control methodology the main concern is Return on Investment (ROI) for the customer. And this applies to non-software items.

You should always ask; does the customer want or need to pay for this?

In fact you can probably not create quite a lot of documents. Process documents for example. If you come from a traditional (waterfall) project management background or even if you think you are agile you may want to create a document that ‘captures’ best practice.

Don’t do it. Scrum has a retrospective activity that allows the team to consider how to improve what they did.

Good practices should be like folk lore; passed down by experience and demonstration.

The oral tradition applies to management. Any document should have emblazoned on the front:

‘Out of date if you are reading this’.


Keeping the tags on

I was going to mention Internet of Things in the last post about simplicity of applications in the face of growing diversity of devices.

I’d seen a presentation about IoT that used a retail fashion application. There was an RFID (NFC) tag on the swing tag of the article. If people selected an article the in-store web application could suggest items that would complement because the system knew the type, style, colour, etc.

Once the device is sold the swing tag and the attached RFID tag is removed.

Why? If the RFID tag remains on the item of clothing the owner has a machine readable history of the garment. If they go into a dry cleaners with the garment the operators can ensure they treat the garment properly.

Why not? Apparently the tags are blasted to stop working because of privacy concerns. People might be tracked by their cardie. That’s ignoring the phone, credit cards and any Bluetooth devices that might be broadcasting their ID carried by the person.

For retailers, if they could find out what is the colour and style of the clothing the person is wearing, they would know a lot more about the psychological makeup of the person. Perhaps they wouldn’t waste their time on someone who is in no mood to be sold to.

This can be extended to other items that people purchase. I watched Country File last night. Litter was being collected from a beach left by visitors. If RFID tags were attached to low value items like plastic water bottles and plastic bags then the people who have the greatest environmental impact could be made liable for that impact. This could be via a fine; perhaps even taken directly from the debit card used to pay for those items bought for a picnic on a beach and left to be eaten by a seal who then died.

A plastic bag or a bottle may not cost a lot to manufacture. As we all know now, the environmental impact is getting bigger. IoT enables us to track everything that is making our world a worse place to live in.


Simple makes it complicated

The problem is pervasive, it applies to all mobile implementations. The solution needs to be simple otherwise it won’t be used.

I suspect that’s the reason this particular problem hasn’t been solved before.

To make the solution simple it needs to work with most mobile devices. By sales that’s Android then iOS. By data volume it’s iOS then Android.

At the moment.

By this time next year there could be a number of other devices providing significant volumes of data. For example Mozilla OS intends to market a device for around $25 and at that price it could be of interest to many people who currently don’t have mobile devices. Add to that the challenge made by Facebook and others that, with support from the relevant mobile network operators they could connect the last two billion people on earth.

Make no mistake these new two billion mobile users are not there for the voice. These companies want them to be new end points to the internet.

I think 2014, with these initiatives, is likely to be the year that the mobile network operators realise that to charge extra for their data is self defeating, possibly even suicide. Once we have really simple devices that are more or less permanently connected to the internet networks will understand that Voice is just another data application.

The mobile phone will be dead. Long live the mobile device.

To make this solution simple we have a lot of work looking at the specifications of the possible contenders for mobile devices.



No promises mind, life gets in the way too much.

I’ll post here when I can’t stand to do any of the many other things I should be doing. Consider this displacement activity.

So, another attempt to start a business. Instead of trying to think of something that, according to my wife, will make lots of money, I’ve listened to customers.

They have a problem and we’re going to try and fix it.

We, this little group of people who I’ve asked if they want to be involved, will create a product that will solve this problem. It’ll be slightly better than what happens at the moment. That’s the best we can hope for.

Why the blog? Because we’ll be doing it the way that modern startups do things, but we’re not in California. That’s an accident, but we’ll get to that later. To collaborate we were using email until we got to the point of realised that we need all the stuff a business needs. Now we’ve started using Glasscubes.

Up to now we’ve discussed the idea, done a business model based on the lean canvas in lean stack and then started backlogs using Easy backlog for the minimum viable product (MVP). Once we have a product we can think about funding. My idea is to go to enterprises and see if they’re interested. This approach could take longer but we can keep talking to people as we refine the product. My experience with big customers is they always want a slightly different product. In that case you have two options; disengage until they decide they do want the product you have to sell them or negotiate a price that will allow you to make the changes for them.

We’re using freely available tools where we can. Some of us are hardware engineers and low level hackers, so we’ll need hardware design and layout tools, embedded software tools, as well as data design and web service tools. There’s also the business support tools.

Process? What process? The product design and implementation must be documented and eventually it will have to be tested for compliance with various safety and other legislation. To go to production the design will have to be acceptable and comprehensive enough to avoid problems caused by us, because we can’t afford to make mistakes.

Two of the team are Scrum Masters. So the project control methodology is Scrum. It’s simple, very flexible and applies to any dynamic project, not just software. Which is good because this is not just software.

This post may change if revise it to add links. There again my thoughts about links are changing. If it’s obvious, you can simply copy something into a search bar and you’ll find the references.