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Showing posts from 2013

Zen of Listening (Book Review)

Listening is an often undervalued skill. Often you can do a better job of communicating what you want other to know by listening better to your audience. The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction is a very practical guide to understanding impediments to listening better, and improving your listening skills.

This is not a typical communications book full of techniques to help you convince others that you are listening. This book focuses on techniques to help you build a mindset to listen better. You'll learn how you think about interactions, and how that thinking affects how you respond.

This was a deceptively simple read. The book was easy to get through, but after you read each chapter you are left with a lot to think about. The book will leave you with insights that will help you to understand and improve your interactions with others. As you read, you'll understand both about how you listen, and why some interactions might bother you. With this i…

Lean UX for Startups (Book Review)

I recently received a review copy of another book in Eric Reis's Lean series, UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design. In this book, with a lively, if somewhat irreverent, tone, Laura Klein guides you through the process of using UX as a gateway into finding a market and eventually, success. This book has pragmatic advice on what to do and how to do it now, and more importantly, what not to spend time on. Not just a concept book, this book discusses tools and detailed approaches. Klein addresses many of the concerns people might have about "skipping steps" in order to be lean, and explains the both the challenges and benefits of a lean approach to UX design. The author discusses how UX fits into an agile startup environment.

This book shares some of the irreverant tone of another book geared to people starting a business: The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field. The author's tone takes a bit o…

Lean User Experience: Using UX on an Agile Project

User Experience is a discipline that has a strange relationship with Agile. On the one hand, traditional UX work involves research, testing, and other steps that seem inconsistent with working in the context of an agile project. It also seems to be a discipline where practitioner often seem to be committed to a Big Design Up Front approach, which is inconsistent with Agile. On the other hand, getting the user experience right seems like an essential part of delivering value. The book Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience explains how UX work integrates with agile.

The book combines the themes of The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (including MVP: Minimum Viable Product) with those of user experience and agile methods like Scrum, in a concise, book that can serve both as a quick overview of the concepts which you can read in one or two sittings, as well as a reference for how to a…

The Human Side of (Agile) Software Development

In  the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of IEEE Software Linda Rising writes on the role of sterotype and collaboration in teams and explains that i t was only late in here career that she came to the realization that the "people side" of software development is both really important and really hard.

This is an important point, as it is quite easy to think that it's easy to ignore people in a project while you have more important things to work on, such as code, and tools. There is an intersection between people and tools; tools like Software Configuration Management systems, Wikis, issue tracking systems (be they software based or index cards on a wall) can improve or detract from the effectiveness of collaboration on your team. But it's easy to get hung up on the tools and not think about the effect of the tools on the really important thing: How the tools help (or hinder) the people on your team from collaborating to deliver business value.
I was fortunate to have had the imp…

Usable Usability Across Virtual and Physical Spaces

Books on usability often focus on either software and web usability or usability in the physical world. In many cases services people use span the two. Physical objects often have a software component and many interactions span physical and virtual spaces. You need to consider usability not only in the context of the thing you are working on, but in the context of the system the person is interacting with. In other words, rather than thinking about the user experience for an application, it's worth thinking about the user experience for a service. Eric Reiss's book, Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better provides you information to understand usability implications of web design, physical design, situations when the two intersect.

While any one book can't fully cover everything you need to know about usability across these spaces, Reiss does a great job job giving an overview of the issues, and pointers for more information Usable Usability: Simple Steps…

The Pumpkin Plan

From time to time I'll read a book about how to start or grow a business and I realize that there are lessons that apply not only to entrepreneurs, but also to anyone trying to manage their projects. The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field is one of those books. It describes how to transition from an unsustainable situation where the people who start a company are over committed and doing all the work, to a sustainable organization where you can have a reasonable work/life balance, and create systems that allow your company to scale.While the details of the stories and techniques in the book are focused on business owners, there are lessons anyone whose work involves juggling priorities. I was glad to have had the chance to get a review copy of this book.

The Pumpkin Plan is addressed to entrepreneurs who have businesses that may have customers, but which aren't growing. The author delivers on his promise of providing guidance for helpin…