Archive for January, 2014

Agile lunch breaks

January 24th, 2014

<c:/lean bites. served agile>

Spotted the above banner at the g-food Lounge

The Product Owner added a new user story to the sprint backlog:

As a human, I would like to put food in my mouth to satiate myself at lunch time.
Success criteria:

  • Feeling of hunger eliminated for the afternoon
  • Delicious taste

“In addition,” the Product Owner added, “we’ll need to do a spike to investigate which food trucks are available today.”

Recruiting via sidewalk sandwich board

January 15th, 2014


(Spotted on 2nd Street)


Are sandwich boards a good way to hire software engineers and high-level managers? Now to be fair, Craigslist isn’t the perfect way to hire people. But this feels a little informal.

Still, it’s fancier than a vinyl banner or a piece of cardboard stapled to a telephone pole. So there’s that.

Why San Francisco is not 7 by 7 miles

January 15th, 2014

San Francisco is seven by seven miles. Everyone who lives here knows that. There’s even a magazine named after this fact.

Problem is, it’s not exactly true.

While the land area is about 49 square miles, as Wikipedia points out the total area is a much larger 232 square miles when you include water. Aside from a sizable portion of the bay and some of its islands, San Francisco also includes the Farallon Islands and surrounding water in the Pacific.

The city’s actual borders are easy to visualize using OpenStreetMap:

In case you’re wondering where OpenStreetMap is getting this data, it’s straight from the US Census TIGER data. The same information can be viewed on their website, albeit with some difficulty.

One more thing: (Spoiler alert!) Despite what many seem to think, SFO is not located in San Francisco; it’s entirely in San Mateo County. So if you’re ever wondering why the airport doesn’t have SF’s trademark urine, pot, and beer smell, that’s probably why.

Why it’s time to shut up about “wearable tech”

January 14th, 2014

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Sports the New Google Glasses at Dinner in the Dark, a Benefit for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- San Francisco, CA
(Photo by Thomas Hawk. License.)


Lately we’ve heard a lot about wearable tech. It’s said to be an exciting new product category that involves smartwatches, Google Glass, and perhaps fitness trackers.

But how many of the people talking about this future of wearable gadgets are wearing wristwatches, glasses, or contact lenses? And how many of them are wearing clothes and shoes made from fabrics that didn’t exist a century ago?

Wearable tech isn’t the future, it’s the present. Just because we don’t always think of elastic underwear or an old-timey wind up watch as “tech” doesn’t mean they aren’t.

So what are we really talking about when we discuss this seemingly inevitable rise of gadgets we strap to ourselves?

Essentially, we’re lumping together products designed to put on our bodies that are futuristic in the sense that they’re not very good yet. They all suffer from one or more of the following flaws:

  1. Uncomfortable
    Is Google Glass really something you’d be able to wear all day? And aren’t your fingers too fat for a smartwatch touch screen?
  2. Doesn’t work well
    Early digital watches required users to press a button to see the time. Existing analog watches didn’t have this problem. Most new products take years to get right.
  3. Not useful enough
    Microsoft launched a smartwatch called SPOT nearly ten years ago. It wasn’t on the market for long. Why? Most people at that time were buying cell phones that offered more features. It’s one thing to have an extra gadget (or ten) around the house that you don’t use, but the bar for usefulness is much higher if you have to put it on when you get up in the morning.
  4. Looks silly
    Would you wear a fake beard made out of colorful beads? While most people would have no problem wearing one on Halloween, on most days wearing something visible and unusual in public has a social stigma.

Point is, we need to stop talking about HUDs and newfangled computer watches as though they belong together. These are very different gadgets with discrete feature sets — and different problems to overcome.

Even as buzzwords go, wearable tech isn’t meaningful: it’s unnecessary, not descriptive, and even if it were it still wouldn’t be a product category in and of itself. It’s time to shut up about wearable tech and let this buzzword die.