Monday, December 27, 2010

Matrix "I know Kung Fu!" method of learning; is it here yet?

More Arabic audio books available here. Click Here

Yes, it is the same topic again, Audio Books and Podcasts. Until the time learning becomes as easy as they used to do it on Matrix the movie like when Neo learnt Jujitsu in a jiffy :
I so believe that one (if not the only) accelerated learning tools available is audio books.

But isn't video more superior than audio version of any knowledge? Yes it is, and No it is not! here's why:

  1. You can augment the value of your time vertically by listening to an audio book while doing something else; stuff like but not limited to the following: driving, running, walking, cooking etc.. In case of a video version, you cannot do that.
  2. While video version might be superior since it engages the visual sense as well, the audio version of knowledge is an imagination igniter; it keeps your mind in a continuous active state of visualizing and linking what you are hearing with your experiences and previous knowledge.
  3. You can harvest a lot of knowledge in so little time; have you ever thought that you can read 2 books or more in a week!

The benefits of exposing one's mind to various knowledge areas are countless; this is beneficial to one's professional, social and spiritual life. If you think reading and learning is a lengthy process and you hardly have the time to finish your work and have some fun, then you definitely need to consider Audio Books now.

The pace of discoveries, inventions, knowledge is accelerating exponentially; listening to Audio Books is just one way to help us keep up with this pace. Whether you have an iphone, ipod, zune, a mobile phone that plays music, an MP3 player, a flash that goes into your car audio system that has a USB interface, then all you need now are the books. You can buy , borrow, or download them.

Many Arabic literature audio books are available for free download. Click Here!

More Arabic audio books available here. Click Here

Hundreds of audiobooks , and you may also volunteer to contribute to the recording of the books . Click Here:

LibriVox Fundamental Principles

  • Librivox is a non-commercial, non-profit and ad-free project
  • Librivox donates its recordings to the public domain
  • Librivox is powered by volunteers
  • Librivox maintains a loose and open structure
  • Librivox welcomes all volunteers from across the globe, in all languages

Start listening now!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Portable White board: Effective discussions using the A3 method.

Mouneer mind maps A3 discussion

The A3 effective meetings
The easiest way for effective out-of-the-office discussions/meetings.
Recently I have started a new way to conduct productive meetings or discussions; I call this simple setting "The A3". Anyone who enjoys conducting discussions to solve problems, explain ideas, or explore solutions through simple sketching on a whiteboard or a flipchart, will certainly find The A3 very useful.

The source of inspiration to do that are:
  1. The back of the napkin book.
  2. The RSA Animate amazing videos.
  3. and recently how Edward De Bono , the lateral thinking guru conducts his seminars.
  4. Alistair Cockburn communication effectiveness diagram
Using pictures, graphs and drawings is very effective in getting every discussion participant on the same page; as humans we ignore the important visual aspect of conveying our thoughts and only rely on spoken or written words. The communication fidelity is at maximum when a group of people is doing their discussion on a white board or a big white paper with sharpies.

The book that I have been recommending is "The back of a napkin" that explains with beautiful simplicity why, and how to use sketching for conveying thoughts between people.

Now here’s what you can do to get started with the A3:
1. Get a dozen or more of A3 white papers and always carry them in you.
2. Get fine Sharpie (permanent ink pen) in 4 different colors; red, blue, black, green. You may have yellow and other colors as well.
3. Next time you meet with someone or a group of maximum 4 people in a café , during lunch or anywhere where there are no whiteboards or flipcharts, spread an A3 paper sheet or A3 transparent sheet (for reuse) and use it as your discussion board.

Alright, I have the A3 , the color sharpies and my friend sitting at Starbucks and ready to discuss a new business idea, to decide topics for our next community gathering, to come out with the first version of your school project presentation, or to explain a difficult physics topic , what do we do next?

The answer is : start utilizing the power or drawing and put your hands, eyes and mind’s eyes into action; draw mind maps, charts , graphs, objects, people, timelines, formulas etc... to communicate. Start practicing and maybe read more about mind mapping , simple sketching, and how our mind works. You will be amazed of how much we are missing for not using the visual factor in conveying thoughts.

Reasons to use for the A3 method:
1. It is the portal/mobile flipchart.
2. It helps having a focused meeting/discussion.
3. It gets your discussion to have a time rhythm rather than having an open ended discussion. Once the A3 is full, this signals the end of a cycle. You can then stop and review what you have reached at that point and decide if you need another cycle.
4. It is very engaging.
5. It is an archive with mental images to your discussions.

Try it and post your feedback.

See the following videos for how useful sketching is and how effective it is a a method of communication:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

7 rules for successful entrepreneurial business

There's clearly an entrepreneurial/start-up spirit in the air in Egypt; there's also a great deal of support activities from the community and the government entities.

Here are my 7 rules towards successful entrepreneurial business; consider them my 2 cents advice on what an entrepreneur needs:
  1. You must have a dream. Visualize the dream behind what you want to accomplish; a hint: something other than making money ;). Watch this video How great leaders inspire action.
  2. Find yourself mentor(s). A mentor is a consultant guides and coaches you without asking for money :). They can provide you guidance when they feel your passion for the dream.
  3. Learn the basic skills of running a business. Things like essential accounting and how to manage money. You may want to read The One Minute Entrepreneur, a very useful quick guide for starting your own business and growing it successfully.
  4. Find the right partner(s) and the right team who share the same dream and make sure you guys complement each others. Agree on the roles each will play. And remember, an all-drummers group does not make a musical band.
  5. Learn and understand 3 things in the domain of your work: Business, Technical and People aspects.
  6. READ, READ, READ like crazy in all topics. (You may want to consider audio books and podcasts as well! Read this on the advantages of audio books "3 Reasons why everyone must start listening to audio books"
  7. Learn the difference between bootstrapping, venture capital , and angel investment funding to wisely decide how you are going to fund your start-up (more on that in the next blog post).
Think of why you want to have your own business, then consider what you want to do, then how you will do; work so darn hard and wise, then the money will come.

If you are just looking to get rich, then just ignore all that and do whatever you want to do.

Please share your advice.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Women in Software

Women in IT or Software:

The Observation is that the number of women in Software or IT who attended QCon 2010 London was very small, around 2 or 3 % of the attendants were women. This is nothing compared to the number of women attending agile 2010. The percentage of women attending Agile 2010 maybe somewhere around 40%. (these numbers are based on my observations and they don't reflect actual statistics).

QCon focus more on technical aspects of software development while Agile 200X harnesses more diverse topics related to enhancing the software development life cycle in general with somehow equally distributed sessions and workshops for technical and non-technical subjects.

My interpretation is that women in software are more into business, quality, team facilitation, and management rather than programming and operation. And this could explain the huge difference in numbers of women attending two events like QCon 2010 London and Agile 2010.

Please post your explanations to this observation.

Monday, June 7, 2010

3 Reasons Why Everyone Must Start Listening to Audiobooks & Podcasts

chopper car

Picture yourself happy and smiling amidst all the frustrated drivers stuck in rush hours traffic? Yes, this is possible; here's one way to become the happy driver :)
Audiobooks and Podcasts are 2 great ways to learn, they are just as important as reading books and articles in any domain of interest. Here are the 3 reasons why everyone must start listening to audiobooks and podcasts:
  1. Double your positive time utilization: Audiobooks and podcasts are extremely efficient ways of learning; one can learn just about any topics while doing something else like listening to a book or podcast while running, walking, driving, cooking or even cleaning the house!traffic jam
  2. It is like Reading on Steroids!: Listening to a topic gets your mind engaged in a fascinating way, your brain is always engaged, visualizing and imagining what you are listening to, relating what you hear to your work, and life if you ever listened to radio, you will definitely know what I'm talking about; if not, then you must start listening to your first podcast or audiobook NOW!
  3. You will not fall asleep while listening (usually :)): In our activities-packed lifestyle, listening rather than reading gives us a new way for getting focused knowledge fast, and better yet, since you are usually listening to a book or a podcast while doing something else, you will hardly fall asleep.
Start NOW:
  • Podcasts are free, make use of that if you have an iPhone or an iPod, check it out at Apple's podcast site
  • Many audiobooks are free at Gutenberg project
  • You can always invest in buying audiobooks at Amazon as well.

Learn and Enjoy

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development for University Staff and Students

During the month of April, 2010, I had the chance to present an introduction to agile and lean concepts and methods in software development for university staff and students in several places in Cairo:
  • Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University, at "Code Camp Reloaded" event for a group of students.
  • Faculty of Computer Science, Ain Shams University, at Student Group COMPASS event for a group of students.
  • Faculty of Computer Science, MIU Misr International University, for a group of staff and students.
A short description of the session will be available soon. meanwhile, you can view and download the presentation from the following link; Agile Introduction in Academia Presentation

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Technologies in Egypt e-government services

Here are the answers in response to the question:
How do you feel when all Egypt e-gov services are based on Microsoft, Oracle & IBM proprietary technologies?

Yasser Makram: This is the difference between employees and visionary leaders, an employee will go for the safe option and the big name not to get fired. A visionary leader will take risk and value the independence from proprietary companies and invest in the growth of local talents.

M Tantawy: this makes one feel "e7na mad7ook 3alena gamed" :S

Heba Ammar: Thrilled when the website loads then extremely frustrated when I discover that the services i want r not working ! irrelevant answer but this is what pops up in my mind whenever anyone mentions egov services

Mohamed Elnady: 3ady , mezabateen

Ahmed Abdelhameed: I feel that we rock :P

Amr Aboelel: popular commercial technologies ya mouneer! there is no trust in Egyptian S/W (if any) :))

and more to come on this topic ...

Monday, March 8, 2010

chronicles of a UX and agile project: from early failure to "disputed" success

This is the synopsis for the experience report I submitted to agile2010 conference. Please review and send me your feedack
The report will show an interesting experience for an agile project with “disputed” success; with the biggest winner being UX user experience. The chronicles will tell the story from RFP all the way through the second successful release; the challenges, failures, and successes of an agile method. What will be highlighted the most is how agile and basic UX practices were utilized to discover the users real needs and their barriers to accept a new enterprise system. This report touches the importance of team unity, team members qualifications, and the concept of agile generalized specialist.

Learning outcomes:

How UX can succeed with agile
Qualified general specialist UX designers/developers are pivotal for project success
How to be prepared for agile to expose problems early
How root cause analysis is needed in dealing with challenges in agile teams
How to facilitate effective discussion on the what and how of features between customer, UX designer and team

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Developers" for Human-Centric Applications

A great software community event just took place in Cairo, CairoCodeCamp where Yasser Makram and I got the chance to introduce the concepts of experience (UX) applications and how to think of their development as craft-based practices to achieve the right balance and satisfy user needs.

We tried to avoid the use of terms agile or lean till the end of the session in order to have attention focused on UX and the definition of developers. We referred to a developer as any member in a software development team where everyone is sharing in the development of a successful solution that achieve the balanced richness and reach to its intended users.

We also built on Alan Cooper's ideas about how the UX designer/developer needs to be committed to the creation of the software just as any other member in the team particularly the programmer; and what they need to do to achieve that. We emphasized that Rich User Experience is not always about beauty, not always about having a lot of features, not always about fancy animation , and certainly not always about absolute ease of use. We put together a definition for the term that it is the complete human experience that is enriched through the interaction of human senses and sufficient use of SW, HW, and effects.

We added that in anything we do or make there are 3 aspects:
• Mechanical aspect
• Mental aspect
• Emotional aspect
And we craft a software solution for success we need to think of the three aspects.

There are many technologies, platforms and tools for creating rich UX applications and products, we must not get stuck on certain path but we need to make the choice that helps:
• Achieve the right experience
• Multiple levels of experience
• Pay attention to the difference between the 1st experience and the continuous one
• And always be directed towards serving the user needs.

Finally we showed a high level description of a process for creating great UX applications based on Jeff Patton's recommendations and our recent successful experience.

Thanks for everyone who attended the session and we are really thrilled for the overwhelmingly positive feedback from Adel, Walaa, Ahmed Shreef, and MemoZiner .

The presentation is available for download as PDF here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Agile Capability, Maturity, Integration for People

Inspired by Alistaire Cockburn's Aikido learning Shu-Ha-Ri model and the CMMI framework, I came to think of personal and professional growth in a model that I refer to with CMI Capability, Maturity , Integration.
Everday in our life we get to learn a new "Capability" or a new way of acheiving a certain goal; we get to nurture this capability and perfect it through learning from others, reading, trying and failing, practicing till we reach a certain level of "Maturity". While doing that we learn other "Capabilities", and the cycle starts again and again. At a point in time, we start to have a mash-up of of "Capabilities" in varying levels of "Maturity" and without realizing it, we grow an interconnected mesh of "Integrated" "Mature" "Capabilities".
In software development paradigm, only those who became aware of and work relentlessly, iteratively, and incrementally towards "Integration", are the ones who make change and lead the pack.
Start now, always seek "Integration", for it is only then you shall realize true value of your actions and postively influence others.
Read and watch Christopher Avery's blog "Will Smith on Living and Success" writings and speeches!
Mouneer Rabie, Alistaire Cockburn