Monthly Archives: May 2011

More muzak

Some more muzakal musings in catch-up mode…

Environments The Future Sound of London: Environments (2007), Environments II (2008), and Environments 3 (2010)
This is largely previously unreleased stuff from the FSOL and Amorphous Androgynous heyday of the early 90s. On the same trip as Lifeforms and Tales of Ephedrina: loads of exotic samples, beats and basslines, and lush reverb-drenched ambience. This definitely works for me, but there is plenty more stuff from the archives available for sale on their site if these still doesn’t satisfy your craving. Only for the fans.
Either way, just sit back and watch the Lifeforms video.
Available for purchase on their site.
Kryptic Minds: Can’t Sleep (2011)
Dark, muted, but civilised dubstep album from this popular pair. As opposed to the screaming bass-driven mayhem the kids are jumping up and down to these days. This has plenty of space, sub bass, and some slight menace, like an abandoned warehouse at night. These guys work it over very smoothly. Even a couple of vocal tracks.
Discogs entry. Listen to track one and the title track featuring Alys Be.
Actraiser: Losing You (EP) (2010)
A nice little three-track release of dubtech and tribal house on the same label as The Faun. Definite echoes of FSOL in the mood and progressions, so I like. This is a upbeat start to the day.
Snippets on Youtube here.
Shed: The Traveller (2010)
This is less traditional, more experimental dubstep, with strong input from the electronica, techno, and d&b relatives, but still with the sub bass and reverb that makes the genre. Released on the reliable German Ostgut Tonlabel, there are some shorter tracks, so works well with your attention span issues.
Check it out before buying. Promo video for the title track here.
Various Artists: Supakonfekt (2010)
Free German style house and tech house compilation. It’s a decent collection of styles and tracks. Download from the Supafeed netlabel. 
For happy days.

Agile explorations

While settling into my new city and looking for a job, an amount of my reading lately has been in the field of Agile. That is, of course, with a capital A, because this adjective is way too fashionable to require a noun.<p /> Although Agile (and XP before it) has always resonated with me, I have a history of working, even successfully, in rather un-agile companies. Although I have introduced both XP and Scrum in previous organisations, I&#39;m still wary of buying a one-way ticket on the Agile train, to coin a dodgy metaphor. While it seems pretty clear that Agile — as defined in the motherhood words of the Agile Manifesto — has become the most effective way of delivering quick returns on software development, it is not universally clear that the Agile approach has automatic application to other business activities. Agile evolved out of software development because of most modern software&#39;s recognised properties of complexity, market dynamism, requirements uncertainty, and so on. Do these same properties exist in other fields at a level at which Agile will bring the same benefits? Is there indeed a more universal Agile mindset or analytical lens that can be used for other areas of value creation?<p /> Trivially, the answer to the first question is yes if you consider fields like design, advertising, and music, where collaboration and rapid feedback definitely take a front seat to hierarchy and rigid process. I don&#39;t know if it&#39;s true, but maybe it&#39;s possible that some of the Agile concepts were inspired by successful practices from those fields.<p /> To the second question of a broader Agile mindset, there is certainly movement in this direction. Three books on Agile that I&#39;ve been reading lately are:<br /><ul><li><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Management-3-0-Developers-Developing-Addison-Wesley/dp/0321712471/">Management 3.0</a>, by Jurgen Appelo</li> <li><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Agile-Project-Management-Creating-Innovative/dp/0321658396/">Agile Project Management (2nd Ed)</a>, by Jim Highsmith</li><li><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Succeeding-Agile-Software-Development-Using/dp/0321579364/">Succeeding with Agile: Software Development with Scrum</a>, by Mike Cohn</li> </ul>My crude mental model now is something like this.<p /><div><div class='p_embed p_image_embed'>

Image

Each of the three books essentially focuses on one of the above areas. From a first pass on each, Mike Cohn's book is a very practical manual of insights and best practices in forming and maintaining successful Scrum teams to deliver software. Clearly, a lot of practical experience of success and failure has gone into this, and we can at least avoid falling into some of the same holes. Although, human nature being what it is, we still will.

Jim Highsmith's book is more dense; it embeds a generic Agile implementation approach in a complementary project management framework, appropriate to a pre-existing mature business context. It can therefore be used to interface and buffer hierarchical command-and-control business managers on one side to agile implementation and delivery folk on the other. Electrical impedance matching between the two mindsets, if you will. Importantly, it includes good coverage of agile governance, scaling agile, and portfolio management, which are essential in larger organisations.

Jurgen Appelo's book is more about applied psychology and complexity theory than software as such, and works well as a complement to the other books. He frames Agile as a logical response to managing complex adaptive systems, such as team software development, and dicsusses how Agile values can be expressed at a management level. It's a wide-ranging and very readable text and updates an amount of traditional management and leadership thinking for the Agile Enterprise.

For me, even though I'm less than half way through it, Jurgen's book makes clear that Agile's scope is not limited to software development. Anything sufficiently complex, malleable, and people-centric can benefit from an Agile approach, whether that is delivering consulting services, a marketing campaign, starting a (non-software) business, restructuring a company, launching a product, or, yes, just building a web site. I've even used it in my job hunting. 

Speaking of which, I'm currently available, and itching to put more of this into practice. Let's do coffee.