The “Last Responsible Moment” may be sooner than you think

Now that was a nice one – as a practitioner of agile ‘stuff’ I have been a big fan of postponing decisions to the last responsible moment for quite a while. Suits my way of looking at things too.
The question of course is: When exactly is the last responsible moment? Usually when building software it is tempting to work with the assumption that the last responsible moment is right before I write the line of code related to the decision. Works well with the way ‘agilistas’ despise Big Design Up Front too.

Funny when you start to compare software development with the real life. (After all: That’s what object orientation is all about, right? Modelling the real word with software representations? But let’s take that at another time and come back to the subject at hand.
While I literary roamed the world in 2011 the concept of planning with regard to the “Last Responsible Moment” made the rounds on some of the mailing lists concerned with agile software development practices.
I on the other hand tried to live a ‘normal life’. writing software and preparing material during the daytime, while spending the evenings with everyday pastimes – in my case Aikido. Never mind if you have never heard of Aikido – although you might want to look it up at Wikipedia.

The question in case is the one of the latest responsible moment – in this case the moment for the decision on whether to hitch a ride with one of my fellow aikidoka, take a cab or take the bus.

To cut a long story short – in the real world the latest responsible moment is not when you reach a bus stop a couple of miles of the central public transport axis of Dubai, shortly after your last training buddy has left.
Especially if the area temporarily has no cell phone reception and that particular bus stop is only serviced until half an hour earlier at this time of the year (mentioned in the small print)


Oh, and by the way: Please refer to “real options” in the comments, so that I have a reason to blog: “What traveling to New Zealand has to do with Big Design Up Front”

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Arrived in Bali

Finally at Bali – much to my disappointment to be honest.
But that seems to be a common pattern wherever I arrive – the first impression of most places is rather impersonal and unwelcoming – good thing that this usually changes over time.

I’ve got a new phone number as listen on the status page, but I am not yet sure how to approach the Internet situation here in Indonesia. Although mobile internet is way cheaper than in the UAE, just to name one place extraordinarily expensive place, it still is way more expensive than in Malaysia.


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Since the place I’m at right now is so nice I just decided to stay a bit longer – see the updated tour dates – and while I was at it I also added my current mobile number to the status page.

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The little tea house at 3 Jalan Kg Kuli, Melaka, Malaysia

Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia  – Tuesday, July 5 2011

I’m just coming back from an amazing afternoon and evening here in Melaka, Malaysia.

This is so ‘not western’. I love it!

After my Hotel here in Melaka turned out to be not quite suitable for me to work here – after all at least a window or a chair would have been nice – I had to look for alternatives. So I kind of – literally, actually – worked on the street today and decided around four a clock that I should try another approach. Sitting at an open air eatery by the Sungai Melaka, just a few meters off the water wheel, extending my stay for a pau and kopi’o for way to long I logged on to the couch surfing website and posted the question “Desk-Surfing – possible in Melaka” to the Melaka discussion board.

It took two other members of the couchsurfing community less time than it took me to cross the river to answer to that request – one of them being Siew Yong Pak, the owner of the tea house at 3 Jalan Kg Kuli who offered me table at her tea house. My workday was done already but I decided to visit her place anyway – according to google maps it was less than 100 meters away from the place where I was.

Being the good netizen that I try to be I posted my intention to go there to the Melaka message board and tried to map the virtual 100 meters to the very real 400 meters it actually took me to hunt the tea house down in concentric circles. Intending only to have a short look and then negotiate the details I was swamped by the friendliness and open-mindedness of Pak’s son who showed me around a simply amazing, peaceful and very distinguished chinese tea house that would have fit into any romanticized chinese movie. The gallery on the top floor with chinese wall scrolls and painting also added to the overwhelming atmosphere of the place.

But this is not the moment when the afternoon ended with me saying “ok, I’ll drop in tomorrow, thank you very much” – instead Pak’s son asked me if I would like to stay to wait for his mother and offered me “a tea for the waiting time”. And what a tea that was! A complete chinese tea ceremony – much less formalized than the japanese version, and “only one of a dozen” different ceremonies – that extended itself until seven o’clock.
And of course the fact that I had been a good netizen in stating my intentions for the afternoon online had its effects. All of a sudden William, the other couchsurfer who had recommended some places to work showed up – well he didn’t only show up. He also showed me a place to have dinner – which we did – that I would never have found of my own.

But the story is not yet quite over – although we’re coming close.

After I returned the bicycle to the tea house – didn’t I mention that the family from the tea house didn’t let me go to dinner without urging me to take their bicycle? – I was invited to the next tea ceremony – this time conducted by  K. K. Lai – the husband of Siew Yong Pak. The story ends – three quarters of an hour later – with me, standing in front of my hotel – where Mr. Lai had dropped me, because he “lives somewhere close”, so it is no problem at all – completely baffled by the positive effect of a short inquiry at the couchsurfing website and especially by the openness and friendliness of the family Siew Yong in Melaka.

So for tomorrow I’m really looking forward to my working day at the best place I could imagine to “do some mind consuming thinking and writing”.



Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia  – Wednesday, July 6 2011

And that’s how working here looks like:

A view of the garden section of the tea house

The garden section of the tea house - better than any office I can imagine

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To blog or to edit? Some thoughts on WordPress publishing

This blog has not been dead for the last two month – but it actually looked that way.

A worried e-mail from a business friend who asked if I was still alive – even if she used different word – brought that to my attention.

Why it is an unfortunate idea to re-edit and re-publish word press posts

Edits in a WordPress-powered and -hosted website are invisible to the casual eye. They do not show up on top of the article list. Actually they neither show up on top in the web UI nor does the RSS feed include an update notice. And – at least with the theme I use – the edit date is almost invisible in both cases. Plus it does not make sense to edit the publication date because that would violate the w3c rule on cool URLs since the publish date is part of the article’s URL.

What’s the problem anyway?
What I did was publishing some partial information (among other things because of early feedback, to ingrain a ship-it mentality in myself and to have option to fail early) and then adding to it periodically. As a way of content creation this might work, but it is not the way people seem to expect a blog to work.

How I plan to handle changing content in WordPress blog posts and pages from now on

Two options came to my mind and I intend to realize them both. Blogging about changes to other entries and preferring pages over blog entries for editorial content.

Blogging about changes – especially when a link to the updated entry is included – allows interested parties to keep up to date (even when they are following the content via RSS) And the partial shift of editorial content from the blog-stream to WordPress pages frees the blog-stream mentally from the burden to contain only “important” articles.

— Michael
Singapore  – Saturday, July 2 2011

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Really? Ideas are nothing, execution is everything.

They say ideas are nothing, execution is everything, right?
Well, let’s see – these are some of the things I intend to work on over the year.

If you like one of them enough to develop a solution, just let me know, so that I can sign up as beta tester 😉

    • (just another) Online Service for converting documents
    • Text processor that suppresses manual formatting (double spaces, multiple CR, bold etc.)
    • Planning Poker Server (mediocre solution exists)
    • AccesPoint on an iPhone (Done by Apple…)
    • better sticky application (plaintext)
    • “Buy a feature” (innovation games) with real money
    • “Export to zip” from iPhoto
    • Listviewer for Calendar (Mac)
    • Large Script for iPad done right
    • Dropzone (as a fork for droptarget apps)
    • DropSha (Verfy shas via drag and drop)
    • Keyword / Tagging App für iPhoto
    • # 13 Location updater for social networks (e.g. skype profile, twitter, LinkedIn, couchsurfing)
      additionally by

    • Strip format for Keyboard-Friends (pbpaste|pbcopy)
    • NoAutoUpdate (remove Googles system additions)
    • Home Automation (big project)
    • Smart Notes (aggregation of comments etc.)
    • some more that I have not yet transcribed from the flips
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My Life – Boxed

I’ve been a traveling consultant most of my life. And the last couple of years I thought my life was pretty uncluttered in terms of stuff accrued.
Starting a one year journey certainly sets ones mind straight at some things.

Clutter at Home vs. Minimalism on the Go

On the left side you can actually see “The life of Michael Mahlberg – Boxed” whereas on the righthand side you see the “100 things or less” I’ll own for the next twelve month – kind of.
For me the important point is not to own less than a hundred things – I didn’t count yet, but most probably I still carry way more than a hundred things – but to minimize the amount of stuff I’m tending on day-to-day basis.

Take away for aspiring world journeyers:

Don’t plan to pack and leave – plan to pack and stay.
Live your old life for a week or two with partial constraints from the future life. This way you might have more that 10 minutes between the moment you close the lid on the last box and the moment you have to leave for the train station.
[Even more important if your first leg happens to be by plane!]

So, how long did it take me to box my Life? That should be fairly easy to calculate. The average time to fill a box of the size these boxes are is about 15 Minutes. There are 32 Boxes on the left that had to be filtered for the mere 1.35 cubic feet (roughly 38 liters) on the right. A simple calculation gives us 8 hours or one working day to sort the stuff out. Easy enough. In reality the journey was quite a bit longer. It took me two weeks
The same is true for my computer – and for yours probably as well. The stuff that accrued over the years in my download folder, in my client work directories and in the various picture stores that are available to me nowadays also takes more time to sort that one should think.

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Three days, three countries – need to slow down

Ok, it’s only been three days since I started with the first step of my “1000 mile Journey” (actually more like several thousands of miles but that wouldn’t fit the quote…) and I’ve been in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. If I go on like this I’ll probably end up visiting all countries, and there are several reasons why I don’t want to do that.
So I intend to stay in the Netherlands for at least another week – and finally get some work done.

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Rules of travel

When I set on to this all it was merely a strange idea to change the focus of my company and my own way to conduct work.

Now I’m wondering whether I am on a Grand Tour like the nobles from the 19th century or if it’s more like a “Walz” – which can roughly be translated as the journeyman year(s).

To sharpen the picture for myself a bit I tried to set up a small set of rules for this journey borrowed mostly from the concept of the medieval german walz – which is somehow fitting.

  • Not closer than 50 kilometers (I kept to 50 miles btw.) to home
  • No town twice (exempting harbors, train stations and airports)
  • Only carry on luggage
  • Performing my craft on the journey
  • An uneven number of crossings of the date line (this one actually is not from medieval times, but ensures that I really go completely around the world)

[A very nice summary of this german tradition has been brought to my attention by Stefan Tilkov]

So why is this journey like the journeyman’s years from medieval times?
For the last couple of years I’ve been exclusively on the consulting side of the business – mainly concerned with processes and architecture.
Now I intend to (re-)learn the craft of software development. And with my current experience and depth of knowledge in the fields I plan to venture into – namely Objective-C and Ruby – journeyman seems to fit the bill for me.

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Dry run – London

Before the real journey around the world begins I need to get a feeling for a couple of things. In my future past job that would be a so-called [Spike] – doing part of the real thing without really committing to the delivery just to get hard, measurable data. In my current situation in only means visiting a conference in a city I’ve been to before without following my reflexes for booking a hotel.
So while visiting QCon in London I won’t do my usual routine of staying at the business hotel around the corner from the conference but take the opportunity to a) visit an old friend and b) find out how easy it is for me to find a place to stay at a sustainable rate.
What’s the problem with that? Well, if you travel around the world for one year £200 per night is not sustainable! At least it is not sensible to pay ~100.000€ over the course of the year to live in quarters so small. But of course I’m in the comfortable position that I’m only a couple of hours away from my hometown and that I don’t have to find a sustainable accommodation. I can always “Fall back” to the point of view that this is a business trip – and check into the aforementioned business hotel around the corner of the venue.
We’ll see how this works out!

[I’m about to leave London now and it actually worked out quite well! Thanks to Leo & his girlfriend for letting me stay at their place in such an uncomplicated, warm and friendly way!]

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