Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Wolf

Recently, I hit a personal milestone: a piece of software I wrote went out on my office's mailing list. It has been downloaded 17 times.

I've been writing little utilities here and there for years now, but I've never actually gone to the length of releasing something. When you do, a couple questions go through your mind:

  • Is this thing any good?
  • Is it actually useful?

Luckily, the first person I showed it to pushed it out to more people for feedback.


Expense reports are an everyday part of life for traveling consultants. The confirmation that they've been paid is emailed to us every two weeks in a giant Excel file with 3 columns:

  • Employee ID
  • Date Paid
  • Report ID

Most of us can't remember our Employee ID, and having to look that up requires a 2-step login. The noise of everyone else's Report ID can also be difficult to look past.


I really wanted to do two things with this utility:

  1. Not have to look up my Employee ID
  2. Not have to open Excel
I think I succeeded on both accounts. If you tell The Wolf to save your employee id, it writes a simple file to your home directory, and you never have to mention it again. By default, it will output the most recent reports paid with their date. Optionally, you can tell it to show everything of yours in the spreadsheet.

Ultimately time will tell how useful The Wolf is. The early results are good though -- the first person I sent it to loved that it churned through 3 years of expense reports in a manner of seconds, and omitted all the noise. Others have mentioned setting it up and its ease of use. I'm finding myself more and more motivated to release small tools that may help someone out.

Interested in more?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Mountaintop Scale

Retrospectives, and meetings in general, only really have value when the people involved feel comfortable enough to share what is on his or her mind. That's why we start with a safety check.

Safety checks are typically on a scale of 1-5. The participants write down a number and anonymously put it into a hat. The runner of the retrospective then tallies the results and decides whether it's worthwhile to continue, or something needs to be done to bring up the safety level of the team.

At least, that's how it was until yesterday. Yesterday brought the introduction of the mountaintop scale. Arguably simpler, but undeniably more accurate, the mountaintop scale ranges from 1-6...with 4 being the highest. Here's an ASCII art picture for your enjoyment.

       /\ 5
    3 /  \
     /    \ 6
  2 /
1 /

As our iteration manager so eloquently put it:

It's easy. If you're between a 3 and a 4, you're a 5. If you're between a 2 and a 3, you're a 6.
Happy retrospecting!