Category

Development

Make Your Content More Compelling With Embedded Twitter Searches

By Development, Marketing, Tips & Tutorials, Tools

Twitter has made it easier and easier to select content out of their daily feed to help you track items are you interested in. For example, if you were interested in knowing what was happening in the twitter sphere of influence for new environmental projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline Protects, you could simply embed the search on your page like. The steps you need are to:

Step 1

Create a twitter account (if you don’t have one) and log in.

Step 2

Go to the widget page:  https://twitter.com/settings/widgets

Step 3

Select Create new search widget.

Search Widget

Simple Twitter Search Page

Step 4

Configure your widget.

Configure the widget according to the specifications you have set.

Configure the widget according to the specifications you have set.

Step 5

Copy text and paste example into your WordPress blog.  Similar to this.  See below.  And, that’s it! You now have content that is far more compelling with live data.


Alexa Logo

Alexa Push Notifications | When?

By AWS, Development, Health, ToolsNo Comments

Eventually, Amazon will allow developers to deliver Alexa push notifications to their device. It is only a matter of time. This change, while seemingly subtle, will unleash an avalanche of innovations. Parents, imagine you are sitting in your kitchen and suddenly you get a report that your child’s bus will be at the drop off point in 3 minutes. Imagine eliminating time spent standing outside in the cold for a bus, simply by checking a phone interface. What if you could be notified when a storm is coming in your area?

The risk for abuse is real, but it is better off in the hands of the willing. All sorts of annoying advertising services will likely pop up. But for entrepreneurs and nerds like us, this is an exciting time.

Alexa Push Notification Work Arounds

Developers from all walks of life have opined on this topic. They have hacked together some incredibly creative solutions. Here are some of them:

From the Amazon Developer Forums

There has been some brain power expended to solve this without a clean solution from Amazon. It is left up to the reader to determine which is best. The approaches are:

Option 1: Developer Forum | Video

Option 2:  Hack |  Video

Timing Rumors

So far, there are only whispers of this capability on the internet.

Source: theinformation.com

Source: theinformation.com

Official Response

Here is the official response from Amazon developer services as of 15 Nov 2016.

Question: “I am a software developer and have read that Alexa may soon support push notifications to allow Alexa to trigger a conversation with a human instead of the other way around. Is this true and if so, when is it coming?”

Answer: From Amazon, as of 19 Nov 2016

I’m not sure where you read this, but unfortunately, we have nothing to announce at this time regarding this. I’d suggest keeping an eye on our official blog for any official announcements. 

Wireframing for Startups and Corporations

By Design, Development, Estimation, MVP, Software Lifecycle, Testing, Tips & Tutorials

It’s Cheaper!

If you are interested in building bad software with bugs and lots of mistakes, then this article isn’t’ for you.  If you are interested in moving your development team along faster, saving money and building a better product for your user, please read on.  When Bytelion wireframes, it allows us to see the application.  The final wireframe summarizes all of the thoughts held in people’s minds and ensures that everyone not only understands how the application solves your problem but more importantly, it quickly and easily helps others understand what you are thinking.  Wireframing is critical to all lean departments and especially technology start-ups.

How does wireframing save you money?  Simple, it ensures that you have the right workflows up front. In this hypothetical, imagine if you omitted an essential feature on a page that was pushed to production.  To find the bug  for this feature, you have paid for:

  • UI Design (8 hours)
  • UI Implementation (8 hours)
  • Backend Implementation (12 hours)
  • Quality Assurance  (4 hours)
  • Total=32 hours

If you had wireframe the issue, the bug would have cost you

  • Wireframe (2 hours)
  • Total=2 hours

Stealing off of NASA’s slides and making some slight modifications, the blue arrow indicates where wireframing is in the bug detection value stack.  Used early, it is an awesome tool.

 

Value of catching bugs in wireframes.

NASA value of catching bugs in wireframes.

If you are a startup, every dollar you is extremely expensive and must be spent wisely.  Why focus on fixing bugs in production when you can solve most of your problem in the first two weeks?

To read more about NASA and bugs, check out.

Too Many Wireframe Tools… Which One Should I use?

There are many tools on the market. We have used all of them. I could write pages upon pages of why some systems are better, but here (in no particular order) are some of the tools that are best.

MyBalsamiq – The desktop was by far the best user experience, but its ability to not sync with an online version make this not as usable because customers and team members email different versions of the application. Because we work in a distributed environment, this didn’t work for Bytelion.

Gliffy’s integration with Atlassian’s JIRA + Confluence suite makes this tool amazing.  However, it is so inflexible that maintaining a working wireframe falls apart.   Sorry Atlassian, I still love you.

Azure – Bytelion loved the framework, and it was our primary for years, but found the product confining regarding our on online integration needs.  It slowly came out of favor and was replaced by…. our new go to.

Pidoco – Yes, this is the wireframe company that you probably didn’t hear of.  We didn’t either until we scoured the internet and tested everything we could.  This tool is our new standard.  There are three simple reasons by we love it:

  • Single Page App (SPA) is super fast and responsive.
  • Extremely flexible Workflow System…. THIS IS THE BIG ONE….  If you want to change a workflow, you can configure a workflow in a few minutes and keep different versions of the workflow.  This is ideal for rapidly testing different UX interactions.
  • Pages can be templated.  If a designer changed the header in one location, the header modified for the entire app.

Note, we have no association with the Pidoco company at all.  They did, however, chose to engineer their product well and didn’t take shortcuts.  We respect that and think that they will come out on top of they can build enough market share.

Selecting Red Routes First

Now that you know what tool you are going to use after testing them all :- ) you have to build your wireframes.  For an application, you have different use cases for what a user needs to do.  For example, if you are creating a recipe app, you would need a user to do the following:

  • A user needs to create an online profile
  • The user needs to buy other recipes from other people.
  • User needs to be able to generate their custom avatar online
  • The user needs to be able to post recipes to their Facebook account.

Of these use cases, you only want to select the most critical to making the application work. We call these red routes. In our scenario, we would only want to use these:

  • The user needs to be able to post to their Facebook account.
  • The user needs to buy ABC product.
  • A user needs to create an online profile
  • User needs to be able to generate their custom avatar online

We keep it simple and only wireframe the stuff we need.

Don’t be Lazy – Keep Your  Wireframes Current!

Once you create a set of wireframes that accurately reflect what you are trying to do, it is critical to keep it.  These wireframes will come up over and over. For example, if you are designing an aspect of a project that you have not touched in 6 months, having your wireframes current with the design make this is a snap.  Thankfully, Pidoco makes this easy to do.    It takes discipline to do this… keep up the discipline.   It is cheaper, better, and more fulfilling for you in the long run!

wireframes_keep_current_v2

 

I Quit Full Stack Development

By Development, MVP, Tips & Tutorials

I quit full stack development because, in many senses, it never seems to work out.   In spite of this, the mythical promise of a full stack developer solving the world’s software development problems is alive and well.  Why shouldn’t you become (or use) a full stack developer in most cases? The best analogy that I can think of is in the medical field.

Imagine you want surgery… would you go to a specialist or a general practitioner?  I don’t believe that you need me to answer that question for you.  Why would you want to do the same thing with your software development needs?   If you want to develop code, for example, a mobile app, where do you go?  Software development has many different disciplines, tools and experience requirements.  You need to understand the difference between someone who knows Objective C and Visual Basic.  Hiring a full stack developer is like saying “I want to hire a general doctor and have him learn about heart surgery one week and then brain surgery the next.”  Can they hire a doctor to do that?  Yes, they could, but the results would most likely be unpleasant.

MVP – Full Stack  = Win!

One size doesn’t fit all.  For prototypes of MVPs, full stack developers are the best!  They execute quickly and get the product in front of users in record time.  If you need to scale out a real product, peccadilloes of an MVP tend to be noticed more often and require more attention to detail.  This is something that a full stack developer will typically run out of time to do.

Product – Full Stack =  Loss!

We have utilized full stack development many times, but as professionals, we strongly advocate bifurcating these efforts into full-time backend, full-time front-end development. This allocation allows each developer to focus exclusively on their area and work quickly and efficiently.  It also forces users of the API (for example, the front end team) to develop to well-documented standards.  Writing UI code is hard.  Writing backend code is hard.  Let people focus instead of thrashing due to rapid context switching. When initially rolling a product out, developing to standards slows development considerably.  Once a product is in use, however, developing to standards that actually move your development along faster and decreases errors.

What do developers think?

If the project is large enough, most developers will quickly agree. While everyone wants to be an expert across all disciplines, the tools aren’t there yet to allow for it.  Let the backenders be backenders and leave the front end up to the UI guys/gals!

Scrum.org vs Scrum Alliance: How to Train in Scrum

By Agile, Development, Leadership, Organizations

Introduction

Agile methodologies have gained significant traction since the 2000’s.  Scrum is an Agile methodology that promotes bottom up leadership by utilizing self-organizing teams, not top down direction.  To understand why Agile is such an effective development strategy or how to transition your difficult team to agile, check out our other Blog post: Corporate Agile & How do I Transition my Difficult Team to Agile? 

The big question is you are most likely having is what is the best company to certify with: Scrum.org or ScrumAlliance.org?

History

During the early 1990’s Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland jointly presented a paper at the Business Object Design and Implementation Workshop in Austin, Texas. This gained more publicity in the 2000’s and led to the birth of what we now know as SCRUM. Schwaber and Sutherland formed the Scrum Alliance and the CSM (Certified Scrum Master) certification. In 2009 Schwaber left and created his own certification, PSM (Professional Scrum Master), at Scrum.org.   One of the best articles that we have read is from .  If you haven’t read this article about the fragility of the scrum certification process, you should.  Below is our take on each program.

If only we could settle this with an epic of rap battle between Ken and Jeff.  Sigh… this topic most likely won’t reach the high ERB entertainment threshold,  lets take a quick look at the different ways people can become certified.

Scrum Alliance

The Scrum Alliance alliance offers certification to become proficient in Scrum, whether as a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Product Owner (Certified Product owner) or even Developer (Certified Scrum Developer). The test’s only requirement is a two day Scrum course (approximately $1,295, depending on the instructor). Once you have completed your training, you can take your test online. The pass acceptance score is 24/35 questions (65%). Obviously, this is not particularly difficult to pass, but it’s not meant to be. You have gone through the rudimentary training, and you understand the basics. To become truly accomplished at Scrum it takes experience. For training courses to receive certification via the Scrum Alliance, you can find a searchable list of available trainers/ courses on the home page of their siteSample of a course

Scrum.org

 

For those who do not have the flexibility for a 2-day course, or for those who have their team spread geographically, Scrum.org has you covered. Scrum.org offers certification straight up with no mandatory training. You will however need to motivated and pull your own training courses together.  Obviously, it is best to train before taking the test as it has an acceptance score of 85%. The courses are named differently than those of the Scrum Alliance (e.g. CSM is PSM (Professional Scrum Master)) but they cover the same material. Scrum.org offers 2/3 levels of certification with varying prices according to the certification. For example, a PSM certification is typically $150 for the first tier, $250 for the second and $500 for the third. A Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) only has two tiers ($200 and $500).  For all of the certifications, you do not need to take the lower tiers. If you feel you are capable, you can go straight to the top!  Don’t worry however, there is a pricey class you can attend as well for $1,495.

Failing the Scrum.org Test

Here is a story about failure and success with the scrum master certification.

Summary

Cert Type Scrum Alliance Scrum.org
Certified Scrum Master/Professional Scrum Master ~ $1000 $150/$250/$500
Certified Scrum Product Owner/Professional Scrum Product Owner  $1200 – $1500 $200/$500
Certified Scrum Developer/Professional Scrum Developer $1800 – $3000 $200

Scrum certification isn’t required, but it is a nice to have.  Because of the pricing and convenience, we enjoy scrum.org’s model thoroughly.

Note: Both sites offer various other forms of Scrum certification which are worth taking a look at, but these are the three core ones.

Additional Resources

The internet provides many free resources for Scrum training. My favorite is the Scrum Training Series by Michael James (shout out to Michael, thank you for your impressive training via your site!!)

Regarding books, if you want a quick page turner you should try ‘Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction‘ by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson. For a more in depth look into Scrum ‘The Elements of Scrum’ by the same authors will provide you with all you need to know.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below or shoot us an email at info@bytelion.com 

Agile development

Corporations Moving To Agile

By Development, Innovators, Startup

Introduction

It’s 2016, and the software industry is booming. Every other day there is a new start-up rearing its head and surprising us with applications we never knew we couldn’t live without. However, many more are failing, and this is not only applicable to start-ups. More and more, corporations are adopting software management techniques to gain the advantages of rapid delivery that their start-up counterparts have been using against them. Let’s take a quick at why Agile is so much better than Waterfall for most SAAS products.

Waterfall

Older project management methods will typically use the Waterfall method or something similar. In the Waterfall method, the project is broken down into several aspects: Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification, and Maintenance. Relatively straightforward, you tackle each problem individually, in steps, as seen in the diagram. (Its shape is what has dubbed this process as ‘Waterfall’)

Waterfall model

Detailed View of the Waterfall Delivery Model

Any mistakes made earlier in the line are extremely costly. Let’s pretend that Facebook was built using this technique. Mark Zuckerberg would have gathered all of his requirements for college students. Then, he would have carefully designed all of the data models to support the requirements. With the data models in hand, he would have designed the User Interface to determine exactly how users would use it.  After two months in the design phase, he would have then jumped into three months of the implementation carefully building what he thought was right. After the product was complete, he walked through a complicated verification process to ensure that the application worked and was valid.  Then, once the users were using it, the product went into maintenance mode, and the application blew up overnight to be a success.  This is not what happened in reality though.

Agile

If he made a mistake, it would take weeks to correct. If you are familiar with Facebook’s development process, it was hacked after hack… which meant, version after version of the product was put in place to help Mark learn about his customers and make adjustments on the fly.  Whether he realized it or not, he was using the Agile development methodology. What makes Agile different is that the steps involve all of the categories at once. The following analogy is taken from the Scrum Training Series by Michael James.

 

Imagine we take the diagram above and put it into a blender.

Dropping Waterfall steps into blender

The Waterfall Approach

SCRUM Blending Waterfall into Sprints

The Sprint Approach

We then serve out several ‘cups’. In Scrum, these are called ‘Sprints’. Regarding our Facebook example, this means that Mark would design each feature individually. If there is an issue, it can immediately be identified and corrected first time round. So if the idea was faulty that day, it would not be as catastrophic! He can stop the development process and fix the issue before the Facebook app upsets too many users, and most importantly, this method minimizes waste.

Why Corporations Struggle With Agile

Corporations struggle with Agile development because it requires a cultural shift. One of the biggest problems with this shift is that it exposes poor software developers in companies or as contractors. Building software requires you to be nimble and deliver on a routine basis. Developers who enter larger companies can become complacent and lose their edge. One of the biggest hurdles is taking a poor performing team and getting them up to speed so they can, on a routine basis, deliver gold. There is no magic bullet here. It takes leadership, focused effort and at times, the backbone to move people off projects to get them going. The best developers will love it; the worst developers will hate it.

How to Make the Agile Transition

Training your team is critical. No matter how talented, smart, or seasoned they are, getting your team on board with the same training information is the fastest way for the team to coalesce around an accountable system to track their achievements on a daily basis.  The training is often disregarded because Scrum seems like such an easy topic, but investing in a basic certification for your team members is invaluable. While we don’t like certifications, there are times when it makes complete sense. We looked at some of the certifications and were shocked at the pricing difference. Our comparisons and recommendations can be found here: Scrum.org vs. Scrum Alliance or How Can I Transition My Difficult Team to Agile? 

Conclusion

Agile is definitely worth investing the time and effort in for your company. It does not take too long to study, and it can be surprisingly easy for some to incorporate it into an existing company framework. You should expect to have a bumpy road with some developers, and it may signal a period of shake up for you and your company. It is definitely worth the investment.