A bad day, a new camera, and late Spring in Hyde Park

I got out of the wrong side of bed today. Things didn’t improve much after that either, it was raining so biking to work wasn’t an option, and by the time I got to work Soho was practically flooding. People were holding meetings in the rooms I’d booked (always annoying), and it was one of those days where everything I tried to do hit brick walls.

However, there was one bright point: my new digital camera arrived this morning There was nowhere to plug it in and charge it and no memory card so I had to wait until I got home to play with it. When I finally got home from work still feeling frazzled I decided to chill out by taking my camera for a long walk in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. At this point the day definitely improved, the weather even brightened up a tiny bit and the beautiful late spring flower displays were on show in the park. Most of my photos don’t even begin to do it justice, but I have to say that’s down to user (no I did not RTFM*) and partly down to the bad light, it was late evening and not sunny. I also managed to get a couple of snaps of some cheeky squirrels that I could have sworn were posing.

I’m definitely impressed with the camera though. The cameras I’ve had in the past have always taken ages to actually snap a picture, so when I went looking for a new camera this was one of the things that was important to me. I found a great site for camera reviews and decided to buy a Casio Exlim Z750, however by the time I ordered it, it had been replaced by the Z850 so I ended up paying a bit extra for the better model.

When you turn it on, it’s ready to take photos very quickly. The photos it takes so far look pretty good – it’s definitely captured the bright spring green pretty well. It’s really easy to adjust the exposure – just press the shutter release half way down while focussing on a spot either darker or lighter than what you want to take a photo of, then line up and take the shot. The focussing works the same, but I found this harder to get to grips with as it can be quite precise and as a result I have a fair few out of focus shots! Where I got it right, though, the pictures are perfectly sharp.

I’ve yet to figure out how to change the default settings – currently it defaults to infinity focus which is kind of annoying. It has enough settings to keep my busy for a while though which is nice! Also the LCD screen is really big, the camera itself is a nice size, not credit card tiny but definitely small and neat. My only minor complaint so far is that the zoom is a bit uncomfortable to use, especially zooming out on a portrait shot.

So a bad day turned out OK after all … and now it’s about time to go back to bed and start again tomorrow. The weather forecast is good, so maybe I’ll even make it on to my bike.

*Look it up on wikipedia ;o)

How many estimates?

This week, one of the questions I’ve been asking myself is whether we should have one estimate per story (or product backlog item) or more than one.

Our development team is new, and – at least in the beginning – not cross functional. The main split is between developers and testers. So I’ve been considering having two estimates: one for development and one for test.

The advantage of doing this is that, I think, it would allow us to arrange the work in Sprints more easily, especially in the longer term. It makes it more visible that certain combinations of user stories just won’t fit in one sprint, even if the total story points are less than whatever our velocity is.

However, the more I think about it, the more it doesn’t seem such a great idea.

Firstly – Scrum teams are supposed to be, if not fully cross-functional, at least semi cross-functional. If we start off with two estimates, how long before we end up needing another separate one for our UI designers, and eventually one for each team member … I’m hoping that having one estimate will help us remember that we should be striving to be more cross-functional and self-managed.

Secondly, even having two estimates isn’t going to give us a perfectly clear idea of what we can and can’t do within one Sprint. At least in the first Sprints there are going to be tasks that can only be done by one person. So ultimately, it’s probably even more confusing.

I’ve found it difficult to find much discussion around this subject. I’m reading Mike Cohn’s book Agile Estimating and Planning, and he advocates using one estimate except in extreme circumstances. I haven’t found much yet to help me address our situation though.

My proposed solution is to have one estimate and use the Sprint Planning meeting to facilitate discussions of what stories we can and can’t do. One technique I learned on the ScrumMaster course was to have the team work through the highest priority stories, or backlog items, one at a time, breaking each into tasks, and stop when we think we can’t do any more.

Taking this one step further, if the team estimate and accept the tasks as we break down the stories, it should become clear when certain team members are “full”. It’ll be interesting to try this and see if it works, particularly how we can rearrange tasks and choose extra stories to fill up the time of the other team members. As with everything else I’m going to try it and see … watch this space for updates.