Category: Uncategorized

Presentations – Time

As a huge consumer of YouTube presentations (being an Aussie, I don’t have the money or time to fly over to Europe or the US to physically attend conferences) I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the drop in quality of those presentations, so rather than just whinge about it I thought I’d try to help…

Before I get in to the specifics, you may be asking “what’s my authority on this subject” – too easy…

  • I lectured in Computer Science across a wide variety of subjects from Computer Architecture, to most common Programming Languages and even Artificial Intelligence
  • I’ve worked for 3 Vendors doing pre and post sales work, doing everything from the construction and delivery of Technical Training to presentations to CEOs
  • During my 30 years of consulting I’ve created and delivered many internal training courses around Technologies, Architecture, Agile and Kanban, some of which were delivered across the whole of IT. I’ve also created and run “Train the Trainer” courses

BTW I’m not saying I swallowed the Presentation Bible, but I’d like to think that I’ve chewed a few corners over the years, so these are just my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to reuse, improve or feed back on them :)

At the moment I can think of 3 major areas which could help people:

  1. Time– the subject of this post – all too often, many people seem to be trying to incorporate the maximum amount of information to a presentation as possible, not questioning if this is the metric to use. How about the increase in peoples “understanding”?…
  2. Quality– it’s great that there are so many conferences and topics being presented, but people don’t seem to be given adequate training or preparation, so less than 50% of most presentations are “decent” – just my opinion 
  3. Feedback– many presenters don’t seem to be getting adequate feedback or acting on it as I’ve seen the same people making the same mistakes or at times even getting worse!

Time

The Theme today is Time. It’s a finite resource which we all seem to be short on with the increasing demands of our society. As we all know, although it’s heaps of fun, going to a “conference” is a huge “time suck” as you’re away from work and for most people you’ll spend a day or so getting things done before you leave and another one or two catching up on what you missed. Even if you’re just watching a video, it’s probably not at work, so you’re home and that’s time you could be spending with your family, which means you’re making a sacrifice and therefore expect to be rewarded in some form.

Unfortunately, an emerging trend over the past few years seems to be “excessive presentation”. By that, I mean someone having too much information for a presentation which is generally accommodated by either speaking really quickly through too many slides “I’m going to speak really quickly” or “I’m going to go through this really quickly”, skipping a whole bunch “We’ll skip these” or “These are not relevant for this presentation”, or just going until you run out of time and saying “Oh well, I had more, but my time is up”. Whichever way you put it, the presenter is basically saying “You’re not really worth my effort, so I’ll leave it to you to sort all this out” :(

I know that last statement may be contentious, but I think it is a valid subconscious sub-text, so the first suggestion is to “respect your audience”. As pointed out, they’ve made sacrifices to be with you in a room or hall and you are getting “paid”, either materially or reputationally, so surely isn’t it reasonable that you put some effort in to time management of your presentation? So people can then go away with knowledge which will significantly influence and inspire them because it’s valuable, rather than forgetting it (and you) the next day?

Time Management

We all know and have probably read a lot about Time Management, but that’s usually for Projects or People and Presentations are an entirely different beastie as they’re on such a small and intimate scale, irrespective of audience size. A typical presentation could be anywhere from 15 mins to 1 1/2h and people have set aside their valuable time to learn something from you.

As mentioned earlier though, there seems to be a trend of “speed presentations” that has emerged in the past few years, which generally takes one of two forms:

  1. A Literally Fast presentation! One of the key rules of effective presentation is to speak slowly, but I fear that people are not being told that they’re speaking way too fast or don’t realise they are (which you quite often don’t at first). The easiest check and fix for this is to record audio and or video and just listen back to it and adjust.
    Worst of all is people who speak really fast, yet have no remorse – I’ve literally seen speakers introduce themselves by saying “I’m a really fast talker, so this will be a jam packed presentation…” Really? For who? Certainly not for the audience as:
    • Firstly, they will have difficulty understanding the presenter
    • Secondly, even if they can listen to the presenter, the audiences comprehension will be another thing. If a subject is new to someone, they need more and not less time to understand the true meaning of what’s being said
    • Finally, in doing that, the speaker is focusing on their needs and not those of most of their audience. Shouldn’t that be the reverse?
  2. Too Many Slides! This is probably the more common of the two, but it can obviously lead to people speeding up as they get (typically 1/2 way) through and realise that there’s a lot of slides go get through, so they’d better hurry up! There’s an easy fix for this, and that’s planning your presentation which gets back to time management.

The best rough indicator of whether you have too many or few slides can be solved by simple arithmetic – just get the running time (don’t forget not to include question time, if that’s a thing) and divide it by the number of minutes per slide. What’s that though? Most will give you a figure between 2 and 3 mps which is only an overall average, so you may spend 1 minute on one slide and 5 on another. I usually use between 3 and 4, depending on the type of presentation I’m giving. The figures you get will obviously flex, but if you had 30 slides for a 30 minute presentation, I’d be worried.

There is one underlying assumption here, and that’s that you’re using your slides as anchors and talking around them, rather than just the points or content. I think we’ve all seen those presentations where someone literally reads the points on the slide to which the obvious question is “where’s the value-add?” and “why didn’t you just send me the slide pack?”. This gets us to the Quality of your Presentation which will be the next topic.

As preparation for that topic, you may want to think about the topic of “cognitive load” ie how much “brain power” is being consumed as there are physical limitations on how long most people can concentrate for.

PS Any thoughts or suggestions most welcome – just comment below…

The REAL Battle Of Mobile Bay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia… Enjoy ;-)
Battle of Mobile Bay
Part of the American Civil War
Bataille de la baie de Mobile par Louis Prang (1824-1909).jpg
Battle of Mobile Bay, by Louis Prang.
Date August 2, 1864–August 23, 1864
Location Mobile Bay, Alabama
Result Union victory
Belligerents
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
David Farragut (Navy)
United States Gordon Granger (Army)
Confederate States of America Franklin Buchanan (Navy)
Confederate States of America Richard L. Page (Army)
Strength
12 wooden ships
2 gunboats
4 ironclad monitors
5,500 men
3 gunboats
1 ironclad
1,500 men
1,000 Samsung Galaxy Note 7‘s
Casualties and losses
151 killed
177 wounded
1 ironclad sunk
13 killed
22 wounded
1,587 captured
1 gunboat captured
1 gunboat destroyed
1 ironclad captured

 

The Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864 was an engagement of the American Civil War in which a Federal fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, assisted by a contingent of soldiers, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Admiral Franklin Buchanan and three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay that was a central Confederate storage area for their mobile phones which were essential for communication amongst the Confederate forces.

The battle was marked by Farragut’s seemingly rash but successful run through a minefield that had just claimed one of his Stainless Steel, Single Block monitors, built with the help of the British genius Sir Jonathan Ive, enabling his fleet to get beyond the range of the shore-based guns. This was followed by a reduction of the Confederate fleet to a single vessel, ironclad CSS Tennessee.

css tennessee engages the unionTennessee did not then retire, but engaged the entire Northern fleet. Tennessees armor enabled her to inflict more injury than she received, but she could not overcome the imbalance in numbers and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7‘s which were being lobbed on to her deck. She was eventually reduced to a motionless hulk and surrendered, ending the battle. With no Navy to support them, the three forts also surrendered within days. Complete control of lower Mobile Bay thus passed to the Union forces.

Mobile had been the last important port on the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River remaining in Confederate possession with a supply of Mobile Phones – mainly Apple, with some of the more recently introduced Google Pixel phones, so its closure was the final step in completing the blockade in that region and severely reducing the Confederates capability to communicate.

This Union victory, together with the capture of Atlanta, was extensively covered by Union newspapers and was a significant boost for Abraham Lincoln’s bid for re-election three months after the battle.

Tennessee being bombarded by Samsung Galaxy Note 7‘s

This lead to one of Lincoln’s most memorable quotes:

“I Destroy my Enemies when I make them Friends, and give them a Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Abraham Lincoln Galaxy Note 7

Abraham Lincoln posing with a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which he fondly remembered as “The Union Buster” after the Battle Of Mobile Bay.

Back in Australia

MoranReserve

WOW! I just realised that it’s been a year since I did a blog post. I knew it had been a while, but I figured around 6 months max… Well, I suppose I needed it, and the good news is that I’M BACK!

I’m not going to go in to what has transpired over the past year since an agile adoption, as it’s quite involved and will come out in some successive posts, but will focus on where I am now and what my Posting Plans are.

Near the end of last year we started planning a return to Australia after almost a decade in the UK – what a BLAST! So many lovely experiences, people, places and new friends :-) Eventually though, it was time to return to Australia as it really is my home and although I may have a few gripes about it, Australia really is an amazing place and as the old cliche goes: I now really appreciate how lucky I am to live in this country after being away so long. That shot above is from my local beach which is 3 mins drive, and I can get in to the city (in the distance) in around 1/2h with a walk and public transport – that’s a pretty good lifestyle.

So what’s in the pipe? A much more varied mix than when I started out doing just “software stuff”:

  • Reflections on life in the UK and Europe
  • Observations on life in Australia now I’m back
  • Reviews of gadgets
  • Travelogues as I explore my own country – now I’ve probably seen more of Europe than I have of Australia, so it’s time to correct that
  • Process  – yes, I’m still on the agile path
  • Architecture – looks like that will be my primary area of work still
  • Software – which I’m gradually getting back in to, with the current focus being Clojure
  • Probably the odd bit of music or photography to round things out
  • Anything else anyone would like me to write about…

YachClub

Skramjet – Cognitive Bias

Most people are probably familiar with Cognitive Biases, the things that can wreak havoc on people, relationships, teams, organisations – really anything where people are involved. If you’re not, you may want to read Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Biases and Reasoning Heuristics. To summarise and refresh your memory, here’s the list from that article*:

  • Framing: Viewing a need in the real world as a “problem” you can work on solving Mistaking your view of the problem for the real need.
  • Anchoring & Adjustment: Assuming a starting point and thinking about adjustments from there
  • Status Quo: “Business as Usual”, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
  • Sunk Cost: Treating the resources already spent on one alternative as an estimate of the resources you’ll have to spend all over again to start a new one
  • Confirmation: If you’re leaning towards an action, see if you can prove it’s a good one
  • Cognitive Overconfidence: Decisiveness & Refuseal to be haunted by doubt
  • Prudent Estimation: “Conservative Estimates”
  • Risk Aversion: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Avoid probability of ruin
  • Selective Perception: Knowing what you’re looking for
  • Recallability (’’availability’’): If an idea doesn’t fit in with the obvious data, it’s surely suspect
  • Guessing at Patterns: Quickly spotting the trend or the big picture
  • Representativeness: “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck”
  • Most likely Scenario: Avoids wasting time on possibilities that probably won’t happen
  • Optimism: Go for the gold!
  • Pessimism: Avoid unpleasant surprises

It’s pretty easy to see how we all, personally and organisationally can fall in to these traps at varying degrees and frequency. I’d add one more, which I think is often a risk on software:

  • Least likely Scenario: Obsesses over a scenario which is highly unlikely and probably won’t matter anyway

which is a tricky one. Part of our job is to explore the realm of exceptions in IT as anyone can design a system that works for “the happy path”. The real skill is designing a system that is “robust” and can withstand unusual paths. This is not the same as exploring every scenario, no matter how unlikely. A robust system should be able to handle error paths that no-one has even considered. To me, that’s where real Architecture and Design come in, but that’s a whole other post.

Back to the Skramjet context, I think it’s obvious that you need to be aware of (and hopefully correct) your own cognitive biases, but I’d add that the team also needs to be aware of it’s and the organisations cognitive biases. As people, with sufficient motivation we can change quite quickly, for organisations this is more difficult because of the “momentum” and the “Status Quo” bias that seems to exist in most organisations, even more “progressive” ones. This is not an easy path and to tread and to do this we need some heroes, so dust off your cape for the next post ;-)

* with a bit og googling you can find even more comprehensive list! Personally, I think these are enough for most activities

Don’t Spy on Us!

2 Crypto KeysIt’s the end of the day here, and what a day it’s been with 3 causes, 2 manifestos and so many hashtags I lost count! ;-) Organised chaos springs to mind… But it’s been worth it. I’ve done my best to spread the word and went to my first CryptoParty (and Unconference :) at English PEN, which I just thought I’d briefly recap. The function was at their offices in London which were probably a bit small for the event even though there was a small lecture theatre space included.

EncryptionLuckily as the numbers were limited it wasn’t too crowded,  just very comfy. The mix was interesting – a few business people, some good hackers, information & freedom people, quite a few IT people (like me :) and just many who were interested and wanted to find out more. There was certainly a wide range of topics covered (in no particular order):

  • Secure SMS
  • Smart Phone Security
  • Secure Storage
  • Encrypting Mail
  • Safe Web Browsing
  • Why Bother? I have nothing to hide…
  • A Secure OS – Qubes OS
  • How Google and Facebook make money from you
  • PGP
  • Politics
  • TruCrypt (the software Snowden et al use)

nsa Utah Data Centre

In all, I’d say a Total Success! I was able to chat with many people and my wife was educated on many issues, some of which I’d talked about. The great thing was that it wasn’t just me blabbering on and there were some interesting freedom and rights perspectives that were also given.

Big Brother Is NOT Watching YouFor me, it was great to meet others of like mind, that simply want to be able to express themselves freely and without fear of any consequences now and in the future.

One of the key messages was that privacy should be the default (ah – remember the good ‘ol days ;) and that we should politically move towards this.

In the mean time however, we need to implement “stop gap measures” that increase peoples privacy by encrypted communication, storage and working. This has given me some focus for my contribution.

I’d planned on leaving Google this year anyway and blog about it. I can now see that I actually have a greater need to reclaim my privacy, and I’ll be blogging about that also. I can’t wait to see what happens on next years The Day We Fight Back, Necessary and Proportionate, to Stop The NSA, and Stop Spying on US! Or as I’d like to call it – Information Freedom Day :-)

Mathematica – coming to an iPad near you in Wolfram Calculator!

It’s not often you stumble across something that people don’t already know about on the net, but I think I’ve done it! I was doing my n-monthly “Mathematica iPad” search (which I’ve been doing for years!) when I stumbled across the this Stack Exchange discussion: Mathematica and the iPod or iPad [closed] where a link to a very interesting video (above) is given

I almost didn’t watch it as I thought “just another overpriced Wolfram iPad product (e.g. US$50 for the Wolfram Alpha App???), but something made me keep watching and at 13:44 – BLAM!

Wolfram Calculator : Mathematica

So what’s the big deal?

Plot[Evaluate[D[func, respect]], {respect, -3, 1}.., PlotRange->Automatic]

is Mathematica Code!!! Or the “Wolfram Language” as Stephen Wolfram has so humbly named it ;-) That’s right – somewhere in the upcoming (they’re saying Q1, 2014) Wolfram Calculator is the Mathematica Kernel and Language. This is pretty significant in a number of ways:

  • It’s a great differentiator (no pun intended ;) for their calculator which will make it unique and beyond the reach of anyone else on the iPad within the foreseeable future – hopefully they’ll only charge US$50 or less though as any more and people probably won’t buy it.
  • It’s getting a subset (kernel/core) of Mathematica on to the iPad, which is an incremental step to the inevitable:
  • Prediction>>> Mathematica on iPad! Given the fact that Mathematica will be free with Raspberry Pi’s I’d be surprised if we don’t have Mathematica on iPad by the end of next year (2014) – hopefully it too will be reasonably priced, especially if you have existing Mathematica licenses

Lean Kanban UK – Day 2

These second day of the conference ended up being just as amazing as the first, building nicely on it. As I’m doing this on an iPad I can’t link to the other posts, but they’re just below

Models, Maps, Measures & Mysteries

A great intro to how someone used Kanban in their organisation, warts and all with both cards and JIRA! Most of the common models and measures were covered with some great bits of advice like setting the WIP limit low on areas where you shouldn’t be doing too much so you get early indication if your system is putting too much work in to them.

What is the value of Social Capital?

Looks at Knowledge work on the assumption that humans are _not_ rational, which is not the assumption of many approaches. In this new and realistic light it is shown that the main value is not so much even the people, but the _relationships_ between the people. Mentions a whole interesting area called Social Capital Theory which seems worthy look.

Shortest Possible Kanban Definition

Andy starts off with the conventional definitions, principles and methods in Kanban and strips them to the core, so you can even tweet them!

Change your viewpoint (lean flow paradigm):
See work as flow
Change your mindset (foundational principles):
Start from here and improve
Change your process continually (core practices):
Make work and policies visible; make validated improvements

Beyond Agile

This was the Big Ticket presentation of the conference from Jim Benson about his new book, of the same name. I think it was a great summary of where “The Leading Edge of the Post Agile (Lean/,Kanban?) Industry” is. It was certainly good enough to buy the book straight after ;-) For me, the takeaway quote was
“There is no recipie for success. There is a recipe for not likely failing”

Red Brick Cancer

What can I say? Hakan Foss, Lego – a winning combination. Hakan is a brilliant presenter and educator and for me personally, this was probably the best session for me personally as it consolidated so much of what I’d learnt during the conference.

Cycle Time Analytics

This would of been better in it’s (originally) earlier slot as it was a quite dense and demanding presentation on forecasting (estimation+probability) for work by an absolutely brilliant Aussie :), Troy who brings a rigorous, mathematical and evidence-based approach to what is so often a “black (box) art”.

There were some great drinks after the conference and I may do a quick entry on these a bit later… Overall, I must say that Lean Kanban UK was an amazing conference – perfect if you’re a newbie or early in your journey of these methodologies as it will provide a boost to your existing experience &| learning,