Star Trek, a model for Agility

As a Trekkie I’m prone to watching reruns of old Star Trek episodes from time to time and I started seeing many similarities between an agile approach to “getting things done” and the way the crew of the Enterprise work. Yes, granted, it’s a militaristic structure but that’s not to say you can’t still be agile:

  • Crew members exhibit a general knowledge of most fields, with expertise in a particular field (see how well the bridge crew interchange roles during disaster situations where members go down).
  • Away teams are generally cross functional based on the task at hand, and usually range in size from 3 to 7.
  • The Captain issues orders (“what”) but relies on the crew member(s) to execute them (“how”), and does not interfere unless further clarity is needed.
  • There is a deep level of trust and respect between crew members.
  • There is constant collaboration, communication channels are constantly open from anywhere on the ship (and off).
  • They celebrate their victories and learn from their mistakes, and adapt as needed.
  • At any point in time, the crew is working on whatever will add the most “value” to the mission (work is prioritized).
  • There is an understanding that collaborative teamwork is the way to success.
  • There is a good work/life balance, even on a Starship.
  • The crew are passionate about their roles.
  • Mission planning sessions only plan enough to get the mission going, and are then adapted on the way.

Any other Trekkies out there see similarities I’ve missed?

Google South Africa conference (day 2)

I’m back in Joburg and I figured I better get around to writing a Day 2 post. Day 2 was, for me anyway, not as interesting as Day 1, but nevertheless worth it (it’s a fault of mine that I’m way too technical and not focused enough on “the other stuff”).

It’s focus was mostly around monetizing (Adsense / Adwords / YouTube for Business) and optimizing (Webmaster Tools), and some useful tips came out of the sessions. There was also a rehash of the first days strategy talks (what Google are doing in Africa), compressed and optimized for more business orientated people, as well as a demo on Voice, Goggles and Maps(with a monetization/marketing slant).

One of the things that stuck out for me was the YouTube talk, the stats on video usage is phenomenal, with predictions that up to 80 or so percent of internet traffic will be video within the foreseeable future. Is the internet as we know it dead? I think that as it stands now, and based on those figures, it may not be dead, but will most certainly change in a significant way. Something else I wasn’t aware of was that YouTube had a South African branch, which is awesome, means all those videos are now local traffic for us.

One more thing that stuck in my head was the somewhat corporate way in which Google dealt with the complaints from two people regarding being blocked from Adsense. I’ve personally experienced the automated messages warning against “unsavory behavior” and realize the frustration of trying to find out exactly what the Google checking algorithms consider as “unsavory”, and not being able to communicate with a “human” on the other side, so I know how the must feel. I think people need to realize that Google is a listed company with shareholders, they need to protect their interests and with large volume obviously there’s no feasible way they can treat everyone equally, so they give special treatment to large account holders, it’s just a fact of business. One thing I don’t agree with is the lack of information when you do query a threatening letter, not sure what the Google strategy is here but it’s not really very, well, “warm”.

The conference closed (for me anyway) with a “website clinic” where Google went through some guest websites giving suggestions on what was and wasn’t good practice, an interesting exercise and I got some interesting tips from the session. Unfortunately I had to leave for the airport at that point so missed the last few sessions and, other than dodging a few thunderstorms, had an uneventful flight back.

All in all the 2 days were worth it, connected to a few people, got to meet some Googlers and hear them talk about the interesting technologies I’ve been using. The food was nice, the venue was awesome and Cape Town is still beautiful (wouldn’t mind moving back there). Hopefully they will be back next year, although I think then it should be up in Johannesburg so that they guys up here can experience it as well.

Interestingly enough, the word “cool” was not used at all in this post…

Google South Africa conference (day 1)

Geeks, coffee, sweets and cool music, add that to a lineup of interesting speakers talking about cool technology and you have a recipe for an awesome event. Day 1 of the Google South Africa (g|southafrica) Conference finished a couple of hours ago and it was a pretty cool day. I’ve worked with most of the Google technologies before but still found the conference a wealth of knowledge. It’s always refreshing to see a group of dedicated people speak about something they’re passionate about, and the Googlers are quite passionate about their products.

Day 1 of the conference made it quite clear that Google has big plans for Africa. They’re on a mission to bring the Internet to everyone, making it an integral part of every African’s life, and I think they have a good grasp of the potential pitfalls and problems of dealing with this continent; things like the multitude of languages, lack of Internet access and decent localized content.

What are they doing about it? Lots of cool stuff it seems, like Google Voice, a speech to text recognition tied in with Googles’ search engine, now you can just say what you want and it delivers it to your device and, believe me, what they’ve done with voice recognition technology is awesome. Oh, did I mention it’s in Afrikaans and Zulu as well? Then of course there’s the heavy focus on us (the developers of cool apps), trying to get us entrenched in all the cool API’s they have available, building relevant content for local customers. What’s refreshing is that they recognize that they’re not the specialists on localized content, they’re merely the tool providers, WE’RE the specialists.

Some other cool things at the conference (for me anyway) was Google Goggles (still in beta I believe), let’s you scan just about anything and recognizes and returns information on it (except pet’s and accessories, but they promise they’re hard at work getting that sorted 😉 ), pretty awesome technology (it’s not often you get a room full of techies to applaud spontaneously during a demo!). Another cool technology was the entire Map / Location base suite of API’s ; I’m working on a project currently using these technologies so I am biased towards it’s coolness but what they showed was mind altering to say the least, lots of cool technology to play with.

All in all the conference was awesome, lots of useful tips from the Googlers on getting the technology out there (especially in the mobile arena) and using it in an optimal way (like search optimization), together with lots of cool demo’s of cool technologies.

Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow… more coffee, more sweets, more awesome…

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I used the word “cool” 12 times in this post…