Grass Roots Peer Review

We had a Bay Area gathering of the Blue Oxen Associates Collaboration Collaboratory at Applewood’s Pizza in Menlo Park, California. Nine of us showed up, and we had a great time mixing and chatting.    (3P)

At one point in the evening, Brian Lincoln told Jon Cheyer his idea of Grass Roots Peer Review. They talked for a bit, and then Jon drew me into the conversation. Before we knew it, we were all discussing the idea,    (3Q)

Eventually, we started exploring a possible experiment that the collaboratory could perform. I posted a synopsis of that discussion on the tools-yak@collab list.    (3R)

A Unit Test Success Story

I spent the past few days closing out PurpleWiki bugs in preparation for our impending v0.9 release. And once again, unit tests saved my butt.    (3I)

Automated unit tests are like programming with a net. You invest a little bit of time up-front writing the test, and then you save a ton of time later. Most importantly, unit tests give you confidence to experiment. You can dramatically refactor your code without worrying about unknowingly breaking something.    (3J)

I’ve used unit tests on a number of small projects, and have been pleased, but not overwhelmed with the results. However, my experiences with unit tests and PurpleWiki have been extremely gratifying. Our unit tests have consistently caught bugs that might otherwise have stayed hidden for months, even years.    (3K)

Extreme Programming (XP) advocates writing tests before writing code. I cheat a bit here. I usually write a few test cases, write the code, then write the automated unit test. Same goes for bug fixes. More importantly, we mandate a unit test for every bug fix. If changes to the source code revive an old bug, the corresponding test will catch it immediately.    (3L)

On a related note, I ran into Chris Sepulveda, an old college acquaintance, last week. He’s been an XP consultant for several years, and he recently moved from NYC to the Bay Area. We had an excellent discussion about XP patterns and adoption. In particular, he bemoaned how narrow thinking about the methodology prevented many people from incorporating it into their processes effectively. XP is as much about philosophy as it is about methodology.    (3M)

Chris is loaded with good thoughts, and is slowly but surely sharing them with the rest of the world on his blog.    (3N)

CSS Stylesheets for EEK Speaks

I got an e-mail from Steve Iman, who had downloaded my blosxom flavours files for this blog. He said that it took him a while before he realized he needed my CSS stylesheet to make the flavour files work.    (3E)

I didn’t include any CSS files in the package, because they are publicly available from my web site. However, you will definitely need them if you want to play with my flavour files. Here are the direct links:    (3F)

Heavenly Brisket at Flint’s

This blog is supposed to be a work journal, and it is. But the temptation to write about other things is strong, and I am weak. I am especially weak for good barbecue.    (38)

In the summer of 1997, my then-boss, Jon Erickson, took me to Rickey’s Pit in Kansas City, supposedly one of Bill Clinton’s favorite meat joints. To this day, I have not had better smoked catfish. At the end of that trip, I almost missed my plane back to California in order to sample the succulent offerings at the Great Lenexa Barbecue Battle.    (39)

I’ve had decent barbecue in the Bay Area, but nothing that matched my Missouri/ Kansas experience. (The closest was at Big Nate’s in San Francisco, but having former NBA great Nate Thurmond take my order might have affected my judgement.) Until yesterday.    (3A)

Last night, I went to the original Flint’s Barbecue in Oakland. It’s located in a nondescript building in a nondescript neighborhood on the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Market. The place is old school and no frills. There are no tables or plates, and the menu covers the basics: brisket, ribs, chicken, links, and of course, the requisite slices of Wonderbread. If you want soda or silverware, you will have to go elsewhere.    (3B)

I had the brisket and ribs combo. The ribs were good, but the brisket was unbelievable. Just watching the friendly woman at the counter hack up slices of beef made my mouth water, and the meat tasted even better than it looked: tender, moist, and smoky, perfect with the hot barbecue sauce.    (3C)

Flint’s has been around for 55 years. I plan on doing my part to keep it open for a long time to come.    (3D)

David Perkins on Organizational Intelligence

David Perkins, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, just published a new book on organizational intelligence: King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations (John Wiley & Sons, 2003). See Harvard Gazette‘s review of the book and of Perkins’s work.    (37)