|By Jesse Randall Warden||
|April 15, 2009 04:00 AM EDT||
This entry is about creating proof of concepts that tackle challenging components in your application before Sprint #1 starts, when Strategy happens in the process, and the design challenges that still exist.
Proof of Concept
The POC stands for Proof of Concept. It’s a formal term used to describe the process in which a programmer tackles some of the high risk functionality items of a finished design comp to assess their feasability before the official start of the project.
At least, that’s what we define it as. The concept of iterations in software is to flush out the real problems with a design. When you have a 2 week deadline to code something, reality comes around really quick to expose miscommunications, not well thought out designs, and generally a firm challenging of assumptions.
…and there is Flash. With the amount of creativity expressed over the years in both design, multimedia, and applications, the reputation has grown that Flash Player is a wonderful platform to build your dream; an application rich in good design and experience. Like Apple products, only on the web.
This naturally makes things significantly more challenging for the programmer. Yes, the Flash Player, and subsequent software libraries (Flex SDK, Papervision3D, fluint, etc.) do help, but bottom line is, some of the components these designers create for us to build are just insane. Flash has allowed a lot of their ideas to come to fruition, so they are conditioned to do what a lot of good designers do, and raise the bar. There is a fine line between insanity and genius, and designers know it. Whether they are smart or not, they know that if a programmer can pull off some of their crazy ideas… it’ll be an extremely cool app.
Therefore, when looking at potential design comps for an application, you can pretty easily point out the things that look impossible to pull off. Rather than start going down a path you know will end in failure, you can chose to bring it up, OR prove it can’t be done in a reasonable time frame. Again, anything can be done, it’s the time element that is always the first metric for success. The POC relaxes that constraint a little bit, and lets you tackle the big items; the crux functionalities of how the app will work. You know these things will come up without even doing an interation, and since they are so insanely hard, you don’t even know if you can pull them off, you allot time to try.
For example, the ones I did were:
- Can you scrub a Flash H264 video frame by frame instead of using keyframes?
- Can you show hundreds of images instantaneously in Flash?
- Can you cache bitmaps utilizing Flash’s local SharedObjects (Flash Cookies)?
- Can you draw thousands of data points?
Now, keep in mind, this doesn’t categorically “prove” you can pull the functionality off. Remember, a Sprint is supposed to produce a real feature in real software. Test code you wrote working vs. the same code implemented in a real app are two different things. What it DOES do is at least ensure your Sprint has a modicum chance of success. Or, it could be a core feature to your application as a whole; even more important. For example, while I successfully completed all 4 POC’s above in a reasonable time frame, #3 did NOT work in production. Saving local SharedObject’s in Flash over 10 megs really bogs down the SWF. I didn’t think I’d have scaling problems; I mean, why would I? The Settings dialogue allows you to set it to “unlimited”… *face palm*. While I’m sure I could work on optimizations, that was not time I allotted for the original task, thus jeopardizing getting the user story it was associated with in the Sprint.
Again, iterations really do help in nailing down what can / can’t be done in a reasonable time frame. A few well chosen POC’s really help challenge assumptions about complicated components on a design, ensure you have a fighting chance doing them during a Sprint, and serve as a good litmus test for the team. If you don’t complete it, is it your lack of ability or the technology’s? In other words, the litmus test is somewhat subjective, but your team’s reaction to it is real and actionable.
A project manager had written me an email asking “When does strategy happen?”. To answer, before I come in. Meaning, this project’s design and business strategy/planning was all completed before I came on board to really contribute anything of value. The POC’s were utilized to challenge key functionality, but beyond that, all wireframes, comps, and plans of for product launch and components were all ready to go. May someday I’ll care enough to plan, but for now, that stuff is boring to me; I like building other people’s visions.
One thing using Agile/Scrum processes hasn’t solved is the same design issues I’ve always had. Those are:
- The designer has to see a working version of their designed components before they can truly define how it’s supposed to work.
- Design comps do not express how something works.
- Flash / AfterEffects animations do help express how something works, but get out of date quickly.
- Fonts are a PIA.
For some complicated components, the team really didn’t know some of the finer details of how it should work. So, I’d have to guess, make a quick build, upload to the server, and show the link to the designer. I’d then call him on the phone and work through it. It was actually a pretty quick process, but made me feel insecure sometimes because a lot of my point estimations (and thus time estimations) weren’t really aimed at figuring these things out. Yes, I’d designate something as hard if it looked hard to pull off, but I had already assumed I had a decent understanding of how it worked… which was wrong for a few components. This happens to me in every project.
It’s not so much the components, but rather, how they interact with other components. Once you start wiring things together, you start to see the application in a new light, and holes in the user interface are exposed. A lot of times they are minor, but those minor issues add up in un-accounted time. I don’t know how to fix this. Unless designers can physically sculpt the application with instant feedback, I fail to see how they can effectively communicate to me how it should work. So while I respect this, it’s really challenging to plan time for it. It’s also frustrating because you have to just make a gut decision and pray it’s close to what the designer wants. Then again, it’s better to be doing this in quick Sprints with only a few user stories working towards a valid build vs. an entire app over the course of a few months.
Wireframes and design comps are great. I couldn’t live without them in the more complicated projects. The more detailed, the better. The downsides to them are they get out of date quickly, versioning is a bitch because UX and designers don’t use version control, and all the CMS systems like BaseCamp don’t make it easy to keep track what version you are looking at during meetings where all of you “open the PDF” only to find you all have different PDF’s. Additionally, as an engineer, I make extreme inferences on how things work. The designer then goes through it explaining it, and this usually changes a lot of my inferences. While good, I’m still making inferences. An inference is an educated guess. That’s another way of saying, “I think I’m smart, so ensure I don’t look like a moron to my readers, I’ll use the word inference instead of assume to avoid all the cliches”. While perception may be better, it’s still an assumption.
If a designer takes the time to knock out a quick Flash demo that’s clickable or even just an animation showing how the app works, this is extremely helpful to those are visual learners. I’m audio, so just need to talk over the phone; others need pictures. Regardless, it’s a lot more iron clad than a comp. The downside is, it’s more work for the designer and they can get out of date when you decide you no longer like the functionality in the end of week UAT. I’d rather have and use them vs. not, though, that’s for sure.
Finally, fonts are still the biggest pain the ass in Flex; same as Flash, only different IDE. Sometimes they work, sometimes they only work for one developer, sometimes only on one OS. You then start doing lines of coke whilst trying crazy ideas such as renaming the TTF file names, finagling with your CSS, and generally trying all kinds of shotgun approaches to “get it to work”… that don’t.
I’m glad I had the POC’s to do in the beginning. They really did help give me a broader picture of what the stakeholders felt was challenging, what I perceived as challenging, and what everyone perceived as important. Besides, it’s nice to get the hard stuff out of the way first so you can focus on being awesome. While a lot of great online services have come about to help the development process, design to me is still touchy feely throughout the entire life-cycle, every Sprint.
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
Oct. 8, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 231
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Oct. 8, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 160
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
Oct. 8, 2015 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 251
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
Oct. 8, 2015 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 130
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Oct. 8, 2015 07:00 PM EDT
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
Oct. 8, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,159
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Oct. 8, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 229
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
Oct. 8, 2015 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 7,468
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Oct. 8, 2015 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 494
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
Oct. 8, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 646
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley. The program, to be aired during the peak viewership season of the year, will have a major impac...
Oct. 8, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 255
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Oct. 8, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 758
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Oct. 8, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 472
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
Oct. 8, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 505
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, will look at different existing uses of peer-to-peer data sharing and how it can become useful in a live session to...
Oct. 8, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 602
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
Oct. 8, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 575
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Oct. 8, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 725
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Oct. 8, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,866
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Oct. 8, 2015 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 756
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
Oct. 8, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 542