IBAN length and DESI score
Looking at the formats of European country international bank account number (IBAN) codes, I noticed that the IBAN length didn’t seem to be significantly correlated to the country’s population. Could it be related to the country’s IT maturity? I tested that using as a proxy the EU Digital Economy and Society Index, and the results were stunning.
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Pia Betton on Service Design
I attended an excellent talk by Pia Betton on service design, which according to Wikipedia is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers. Here are my notes.
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Service Orchestration with Rundeck
Increasingly, software is provided as a service. Managing and controlling the service’s provision is tricky, but tools for service orchestration, such as Rundeck, can make our lives easier. Take software deployment as an example. A well-run IT shop will have automated both the building of its software using tools like make, Ant, and Maven and the configuration of the hosts the software runs on with CFEngine, Chef, or Puppet (see the post “Don’t Install Software by Hand”). Furthermore, version control tools and continuous integration will manage the software and the configuration recipes, handling developer contributions, reviews, traceability, branches, logging, and sophisticated workflows. However, these tools still leave a gap between the software that has been built and is ready to deploy, and the server that has been configured with the appropriate components and libraries and is ready to run the software.
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Developing in the Cloud
Running a top-notch software development organization used to be a capital-intensive endeavor, requiring significant technical and organizational resources, all managed through layers of bureaucracy. Not anymore. First, many of the pricey systems and tools that we developers need to work effectively are usually available for free as open source software. More importantly, cheap, cloud-based offerings do away with the setup, maintenance, and user support costs and complexity associated with running these systems. Here are just a few of the services and providers that any developer group can easily tap into
(you can find many more listed here):
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In the 1920s, the Ford Motor Company embarked on an ill-fated attempt to establish an industrial town in an Amazon rainforest as a way to secure a cultivated rubber supply for its cars’ wheels. At the time, it already owned ore mines, forests, and a steel foundry to produce the raw materials for its cars; today, it buys from external suppliers, even its cars’ electronic control units. How do these two phases of the automotive industry’s history relate to the way we currently develop and adopt infrastructure in our profession?
Continue reading "Bespoke Infrastructures"
The Frictionless Development Environment Scorecard
The environment we work in as developers can make a tremendous difference on our productivity and well-being. I’ve often seen myself get trapped in an unproductive setup through a combination of inertia, sloth, and entropy. Sometimes I put-off investing in new, better tools, at other times I avoid the work required to automate a time-consuming process, and, also, as time goes by, changes in my environment blunt the edge of my setup. I thus occasionally enter into a state where my productivity suffers death by a thousand cuts. I’ve also seen the same situation when working with colleagues: cases where to achieve a simple task they waste considerable time and energy jumping through multiple hoops.
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How do Big US Firms Use Open Source Software?
We hear a lot about the adoption of open source software,
but when I was asked to provide hard evidence there was
little I could find.
article I recently published in the
Journal of Systems and Software together with my colleague
Vaggelis Giannikas we tried to fill this gap by
examining the type of software the US Fortune 1000 companies use
in their web-facing operations.
The results were not what I was expecting.
Continue reading "How do Big US Firms Use Open Source Software?"
In a recent
NPR interview the journalist
described how I used a mind map to organize my work while I
served as Secretary General for Information Systems
at the Greek Ministry of Finance.
A number of people asked me for more details;
if you're interested read on.
Continue reading "Mind Mapping"
Advice from Successful Greek IT Startups
Members of the
Hellenic Association of Mobile Application Companies
Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association,
assorted biotechnology companies, and representatives from
Greek and US-based venture capital funds gathered on Friday
December 17, 2011 in a meeting
to exchange advice, tips, and war stories on venturing abroad.
It was one of the most inspiring meetings I've attended for some time.
These are my notes from the meeting.
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Lessons from Space
By Diomidis Spinellis and Henry Spencer
Continue reading "Lessons from Space"
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?
— John Maynard Keynes
A management practice is mature when even government bureaucracies decide to adopt it.
The March 2011 publication of
UK’s ICT strategy
marks this moment by advocating that “the application of agile ICT delivery methods [...] will improve government’s capability to deliver projects successfully and realise benefits faster.”.
This begs the question: were we misguided during the decades we were advocating stringent control of requirements and a tightly milestone-driven development process? Interestingly, this was not the case. We were right then, and we’re right now. Things have changed, and this is why we can nowadays smugly apply agile practices reaping impressive dividends. Numerous new factors are driving agility by increasing our productivity. Our growing ability to swiftly put together sophisticated software affords us the luxury to listen to our customers, to try out new things, to collaborate across formal boundaries, to make mistakes, to redesign as we move along—in short to be agile. Knowing these factors helps us realize when we can afford to be agile and when not. (Hint: agile development of a plane’s flight control software from the ground up is still not a good idea.)
Continue reading "Agility Drivers"
Manifesto for Agile Government
I'm sure that many readers of this blog have read the
Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
Having worked in government over the past year,
I wondered how a similar manifesto for government,
created by a group of people who would radically want to improve existing
would look like.
Here is my take.
Continue reading "Manifesto for Agile Government"
During the past six months I've been drowning in email.
I spend a large part of my day responding to email messages and filing
incoming messages I consider important.
Yet I'm falling behind
and this affects the quality of my work:
I sometimes delay responding to important messages.
Followng Peter Drucker's dictum
"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it",
I decided to write a tool to analyze my incoming and outgoing
Continue reading "Email Analytics"
Ron Heifetz on Crisis Leadership
Earlier today I had the privilege to attend a lecture on
crisis management by the Harvard Senior Lecturer
Here is a list of points that struck me
(in the form of slightly edited tweets),
and my view of their relevance to software development.
Continue reading "Ron Heifetz on Crisis Leadership"
Email's Ten by Ten Law
I drown in email and my aspirations for handling it are becoming increasingly
In the 1980s my goal used to be an empty mailbox at the end of each
During the 1990s the goal became to empty the mailbox by the end of the day.
But tasks I couldn't complete within the day accumulated, so in the 2000s
I just tried to have only so many messages as could fit in a window without
a scrollbar, so that I could immediately scan what I had to do.
Nowadays my modest goal is to keep the size of my mailbox below 100
messages, and I succeed in that only half of the time.
Continue reading "Email's Ten by Ten Law"
Basic Etiquette of Technical Communication
Parents spend years trying to teach their children to be polite, and some of us had to learn at school how to properly address an archbishop. Yet, it seems that advice on courteousness and politeness in technical communication is in short supply; most of us learn these skills through what is euphemistically called “on the job training.” With enough bruises on my back to demonstrate the amount and variety of my experience in this area (though not my skill), here are some of the things I’ve learned.
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The Price of Cheap Labor
The strange entries I've found over the past two weeks I've been
researching a large database are innumerable.
Some addresses, like Wastington, DC are simply annoying,
while others, like Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4 United States, are
It's clear to me that the database has been populated by the massive
application of a cheap labor force.
This is happening all too often, and I think it is a mistake.
Continue reading "The Price of Cheap Labor"
Open Source Opens up for Business
Today, as I was reading the
I was impressed by the number of business-related software in the top-25
I was sure this wasn't always the case,
so I dug up the corresponding
the top-25 projects at the beginning of 2006
to refresh my memory.
The differences are profound.
Continue reading "Open Source Opens up for Business"
Robert Kaplan on Strategy Execution
Today I attended a presentation by
Robert S. Kaplan,
a Professor of Leadership Development at the
Harvard Business School,
on using strategy maps and balanced scorecards in a strategy execution system.
Dr. Kaplan managed to distill 15 years of research and its application by
the world's leading companies into a fascinating 90 minute talk.
These are my notes.
Continue reading "Robert Kaplan on Strategy Execution"
Central Planning Hurts Research
Today I was invited to contribute to the European Commission
that will be used to draft (in the Commission's words)
a new strategy for ICT research and innovation aiming is to put European
ICT industry, especially SMEs, to the fore of the race for global
I believe that the Commission's approach towards research planning
and funding is fundamentally wrong.
Continue reading "Central Planning Hurts Research"
Eric K. Clemons on Monetizing the Net Without Advertising
Earlier today I attended a very interesting and entertaining talk that
Eric K. Clemons,
Professor of Operations and Information Management and Management
gave on Internet business models that don't rely on advertising.
Continue reading "Eric K. Clemons on Monetizing the Net Without Advertising"
A Visit at BMW's Leipzig Factory
Yesterday I had a chance to tour the BMW Leipzig factory.
It was a unique experience, in which I witnessed
the sophistication of modern production methods,
and the most well-organized complex human undertaking I have seen first hand.
The factory literally runs like a clockwork, eerily bringing to my mind
the descriptions of Mars's factories in Bogdanov's science fiction novel
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Secure Passports and IT Problems
In 2003 Greece, in response to new international requirements for secure travel documents, revised the application process and contents of its passports. From January 1st 2006 passports are no longer issued by the prefectures, but by the police, and from August 26th passports include an RFID chip. The new process has been fraught with problems; many of these difficulties stem from the IT system used for issuing the passports.
On December 12th, the Greek Ombudsman
(human rights section) issued a special 22-page report on the problems of the new passport issuing process.
The report is based on 43 official citizen complaints.
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So Long as there's a Jingle in your Head, Television isn't Free
Yesterday I switched from an ancient version of the "free" Adobe Reader to
the current version 7.0.
I spent the morning studying some fairly tricky technical documents.
Within that interval I often caught my eyes glancing to the top right of the
Adobe Reader's display window where
an advert button flashed as it changed its content.
Needless to say, this change of focus interrupted my train of thought,
and got me out of "flow mode".
Continue reading "So Long as there's a Jingle in your Head, Television isn't Free"
Web Page Hits, Amazon.com's Sales Rank, and Actual Sales
Over the past three years I've been collecting the
amazon.com Sales Rank for my book
Code Reading: The Open Source Perspective,
and (lately) also for its sequel
Code Quality: The Open Source Perspective.
Yesterday I mapped the sales rank to actual sales, and correlated those
with significant events and hits on the book's web page.
Continue reading "Web Page Hits, Amazon.com's Sales Rank, and Actual Sales"
NASSCOM Quality Summit 2006
Last week I attended NASSCOM's 2006 Quality Summit in Bangalore, India.
There I gave a tutorial on tooling with open source software, and
delivered a talk on Global Software Development in the FreeBSD Project.
It was an edifying trip.
Continue reading "NASSCOM Quality Summit 2006"
Efficient Human Multitasking
I sometimes hear colleagues complaining that they can't get anything done,
because they have too many tasks in their head.
I've found that in order to increase the efficiency of my work
I need a moderately large selection of pending tasks.
This allows me to match the type of work I can do at a given moment
with a task in the most optimal way.
Continue reading "Efficient Human Multitasking"