January 2011 Archives

Remembering Challenger

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I was walking down the hallway. It was lunchtime and I was heading toward the gymnasium. The hallway was empty, always a minor thrill of independence for a grade-schooler. No classmates, no teachers and certainly no parents.

I don't recall exactly where I was coming from, but I hadn't yet passed my classroom. Then my teacher, Mrs. Y approached. I recall her telling me something had happened and knowing my interests, suggested I join Mr. H's class. He had originally gathered his class together to watch Christa McAuliffe and her crewmates launched into Earth orbit.

The desks in Mr. H's room faced to the left, toward the large chalkboard. But the class was sitting on the floor, facing a television strapped into a tall cart straight ahead of the door. For the first time, I saw the footage of what had happened prior to my arrival.

Astronaut Memorial

Astronaut Memorial at Kennedy Space Center by pdweinstein via Flickr

We naturally filter what occurs around us personally. Being in 5thgrade at the time I can only say I knew of the crew that made up Challenger's last attempt at orbit. Yet looking back 25 years later, I can't help but think I was personally affected by their loss, for a childhood dream was slipping away.

I remember two and half years later my classmates and I reconvened to witness the return to flight of the Space Shuttle. But two and half years is a life-time and a half to a preteen. What might have been a personal interest to many was expressed as distinct uninterest in just another mandatory group lesson.

Middle school is the beginning of that hazy inbtween of childhood fantasy and adult responsibility. One knows the expectation is to "think realistically about one's future". No longer is it acceptable to answer the eternal question of "what do you want to be when you grow up" with the response of astronaut. Yet what else is there?

I still carry a personal interest in space and space exploration with me. I follow the politics and as well as the technological developments. Perhaps some day I might still be able have a small influence, in something that has had a large influence on me.

Where Software Methodology and Business Strategy Meet?

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Two Keyboards and a Mouse

Image by pdweinstein via Flickr

When I initially envisioned the article Web Development: Before and After the Client (local copy), my initial idea was to draw a line connecting Orbit Media Studio's overall business strategy, through the implementation of specific development methodologies, to the end result of the type of service Orbit offers.

Consider the description for Orbit's method of enhancing their content management system; "the focus is on breaking down the feature into workable steps and rapidly building them." This incremental process allows Orbit to keep coding solutions simple, quickly incorporate lessons learned from previous projects and sustain development of their codebase for the long term;

In doing so we consider what has worked for clients in the past along with growing trends such as social media integration.

But once a client enters the picture the goals change. A client has specific objectives, chief among them the desire for a stable website that is delivered on time and on budget. The change in goals requires a change in methodology;

In this sequential development process each step follows from the last. There is a specific beginning and ending. One step cannot be started until the previous step is completed and approved.

Thus, while these two methods have distinctly different goals unto themselves, Orbit uses both to bring about a specific end result in desired quality of results.

The point that I was trying to make got me wondering. Given a set of goals would most developers, or project managers, choose the development method(s) best suited to realizing those goals? Or would they choose the one they are most comfortable with?

Sure, most project managers or software engineers would recognize the different methodologies described above and that they focus on different objectives. But what's the most common way a development process is chosen?

Unfortunately, my experience over the years leads me to believe that most choose the one they know the best, is in fashion or is what is used "in-house." In fact many places I've interviewed at consider development methodologies like software platforms, they maybe an "Agile shop" just as much as they are a Mac or PHP shop.

This lack of connection between desired outcome and actual process haunts both business and technology managers in my opinion.

Then again, maybe I've had an odd experience with my career thus far?

Postscript: In perhaps an answer to my own question, while I was drafting this blog post, I came across this article, Design Driven Development. The post, from a Boston-based web design firm, outlines a similar organic evolution of their development process.

About the Author

Paul is a technologist and all around nice guy for technology oriented organizations and parties. Besides maintaining this blog and website you can follow Paul's particular pontifications on the Life Universe and Everything on Twitter.


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