September 2010

Almost three years ago at the Agile Development Practices conference Mary Poppendieck took the stage and announced to the assembled agilists that Agile has become mainstream. It was met with applause.

This moment reflects very well the mood of those involved in the agile movement back then. Everyone was sure that agile approach and practices will now take the industry by storm and reshape the way we work on software projects. For some time it indeed looked like Scrum, XP and other less known practices and methodologies will replace the dreaded waterfall and the poor quality it consistently delivered in software. Alas, three years later it is clear that even though almost everyone now claims to be ‘agile’ not everything turned out so great. In fact, it turned out that implementing Agile in teams is very hard and in large companies with many teams even harder. There were many success stories – but an also a great number of (mostly untold) stories of agile failing to deliver its promises. Clearly, Agile was working as expected only in some places.

In July I decided to start using webinars to interact with the users of our Scrum tool – the Banana Scrum. I also started to use webinars to broadcast seminars of the Polish Scrum Group.

Obviously, I needed a webinar solution to do this. Choosing which one of the many webinar/web meeting platforms available to use turned out to be quite a process. I share it here to help others who may have similar needs.

My requirements were pretty simple (or so I thought):

  • good for both demos (showing how to click around Banana Scrum) and presentations with traditional narrated slides (for the Scrum group),
  • easy to use for both presenter and participants,
  • recordings of good quality, preferably editable with standard tools, for subsequent posting on the pages,
  • event management (registration form, sending people e-mails with calendar attachments, links etc.),
  • cheap.

All in all I’ve looked at following platforms:
- Cisco’s WebEx,
- DimDim,
- Microsoft’s LiveMeeting,
- Cytrix’s,
- Adobe Connect Pro.

About a week ago I was looking at my screen in the morning and wondering how to improve how I handle my e-mail. My key problem was lots of mail that is not spam but is also not real e-mail nor something I want to read every day – stuff like LinkedIn notifications, discussion groups, E-bay notifications and the like. I started to think of creating a filter structure to sort it out of the way, but didn’t get to implementing it when Google announced “Priority Inbox”.

GMail’s “Priority Inbox” is basically a spam filter in reverse. Rather than trying to guess what is junk it tries to guess what is it that the user would really like to read. Great idea – and pretty well implemented.

I was already using a GMail extension called “Multiple Inboxes” so my GMail screen was divided into three regions: the inbox, just unread e-mails and starred e-mails. Priority inbox plugs right into this set up and creates a fourth region – e-mails Google’s filter “thinks” I want to see.

Since I still keep on using an e-mail client (Thunderbird) with my GMail accounts I was glad to find that the “Priority Inbox” is also exposed as an IMAP folder.

So far I’m really enjoying this new feature. Even though it makes me more addicted and dependent on Google’s GMail service it came at exactly right time for me.