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Things Software Leaders Should Know

Reflecting on a tumultuous but ultimately successful year. Here’s what I’ve learned, re-learned, or cemented in my “2015 things (software engineering) leaders should know”:

On Measurement

  • Measure everything, as early as possible.
  • Collecting data is cheap. You will not know you need it until after you need it.
  • Do not build anything (teams, features, processes) without having a measure for success.

On Team Empowerment

  • You can never empower teams enough. Ownership is a force multiplier.
  • Convey problems to be solved and jobs to be done, not solutions to be built.
  • But: a great, empowered team still needs direction, and can take direction well when required.
  • An empowered team without appropriate context and direction will (rapidly, skilfully and with great dedication) create chaos.
  • Often mum knows best. Eat your broccoli before you have dessert.

On Coaching

  • Coaching skills are the most impactful thing you can learn as a leader.
  • You may think you’re a good coach, but you’ll be better if you actively train in coaching.
  • Allowing yourself to be coached is a powerful way to improve yourself as a coach.
  • Personal feedback is your lightsaber: be mindful where it’s pointing before you turn it on.

On Discipline

  • Maintain a to-do list. No excuses.
  • If you have people things and tech things on your to-do list, put the people things first on the list.
  • If you don’t have a great technical partner (CTO) to help tick off those tech things on your to-do list, make it your mission to get one.
  • Put Bronnie Ware’s regrets of the dying at the top of your to-do list.
 (also published on Medium)

Cleverloop Security System Review – Update

Update: Cleverloop have responded to the criticisms in my review in a brilliant way.

They have:

  1. Rolled out a firmware update to the base station which disables the dynamic DNS feature of the IP cameras. This was my main concern, and with the fix it means that the cameras are not so easily exposed to the outside world.
  2. Fixed the issue with wireless configuration of the indoor camera – yay.

They’re also looking at the default password setting: “In terms of the default camera credentials, from within the app there has always been the option for users to change the username & password through the camera settings page. You’ve made a really good point though that this should be included as a step for people during the set up process. We are making this change and will include it in our next firmware update, which will go to the app stores next week (a few days later for iOS users).”

I’m extremely impressed by Cleverloop’s response to these issues: it gives me huge confidence in their ongoing support for the platform.

Read the original review here.

Cleverloop Security System

Update: Cleverloop have resolved problems I highlighted. They replied rapidly to the security issues and have closed the holes. I’m super impressed by their responsiveness.

Home security cameras come in three broad categories these days: cheap and cheerful Chinese IP cameras (often wireless); cloud-connected cameras like the Nest Cam (formerly DropCam); and full-on surveillance cameras tied to a DVR. All of these options come with some limitations:

  • The cheaper IP cameras usually have appalling web interfaces, and are often a security nightmare thanks to their default passwords and dynamic DNS settings.
  • Nest Cam is a bit easier to set up and has a much nicer interface, but comes with a fairly hefty monthly charge to unlock alerts and cloud storage.
  • “Proper” surveillance camera systems that tie multiple cameras with local storage are bloody expensive.

Cleverloop (launched as an Indiegogo campaign in 2014) tries to bridge across these three categories. Combining cheaper IP cameras with a smart hub to provide local monitoring, cloud storage, and alerting for a one-off price. How does it measure up? Continue reading

Orbitsound SB60 Airsound vs M9 Soundbar

A little while back, I was contacted by reps from Orbitsound to ask whether I wanted to check out their SB60 Airsound Base. I’ve been looking for something with a bit more oomph than the plain old TV speakers, so I took them up on the offer.

SB60 Airsound™ Base

If I’m honest, I was pretty unimpressed with the SB60. It added a bit more volume to the TV output, but I found the overall output very muddy, especially when it comes to voices. Not being able to clearly distinguish voices from background noise and music is a fairly fundamental flaw for a device designed to sit under your television.

I’m not sure if it was the particular acoustics of our TV cabinet, or a fundamental flaw with the SB60, but it was bad enough that we found ourselves using the TV sound more often than not.

So, when I returned the SB60 and Orbitsound came back with an offer to also try their M9 Soundbar, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 First Impressions

They’ve done it. After a couple of false starts, Samsung have finally worked out what people want in a phone. Good design, great materials, fast software that gets out of your way, and a kick-ass camera.

The S5 was a hilaribad warmed-over S4, stuffed with crapware and ignoring much of the great work Google has put into Android over the last few years. The S6 in comparison is a fresh start.

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