Why Spike the Poodle?

My first blog was called Spike the Poodle. I’ve recently imported a lot of my old posts from my early agile experiences with Scrum, which made me smile and sigh :)

Here’s the original story of why it was called Spike the Poodle.

“Poodles come in different sizes. It’s not something I’d really given much thought to before. I’m not really much of a doggy person, but when I was younger, one of my friends had a miniature poodle, and so I always kind of assumed that all poodles came in about that size. No.

I attended a Scrum training course in March 2006. It was during this course that, for the first time, I felt that I really wanted to be able to blog and share my experiences of trying to implement what I’d learned back home, and to hear back from others who might be doing similar things.

In learning about estimating the size of project requirements, we undertook an exercise working in pairs to assign scores to different breeds of dog … Great Dane, German shepherd, Pekinese, Labrador, and … you’ve guessed it … Poodle. Without guidance as to what criteria to use, a group of eleven people will come up with some pretty imaginative ways to score different types of dog :) In our case, we decided to use the easy option (we were only given three minutes! And plus, we weren’t the only ones) and estimate based on size.

For most of the breeds it was fairly straightforward, but we disagreed on poodles. I had a picture in my head of a small fluffy thing about the size of two shoeboxes but my partner argued that poodles were more like the size of a Labrador.

So to put this back in the context of project requirements … we both understood different things by what had been described to us. Scrum offers a technique known called Spiking when there are unknown elements in the user requirements, and in the group discussion that followed the exercise, our trainer’s advice was that in this type of situation, we could Spike the Poodle in order to learn more about the requirement … and so the phrase was coined.

It was a funny moment in the course and made me smile to see it in the follow up email. Since the course was the inspiration for creating a site, I stole the phrase to use as a tribute to the newbie ScrumMasters who graduated with me in Manchester, and those who trained us.”


In the middle of a busy summer that involved moving out of my flat in London, trying to plan a move to Australia, and taking in an obscene amount of beer and comedy at the Edinburgh Festival, I lost my blog. But it’s coming back, shortly.

Apologies to my (very few) commenters, I don’t think I can restore those. However, I do plan to restore some very old posts from my original Spike the Poodle blog, tales from my very first steps with Scrum, so that might be fun. There, I’ve said it. Now I have to do it.

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!

This post was originally published on my old blog: Spike the Poodle

I've been taking a long break from blogging, but I'm finally back! I wish I had a fantastic excuse, like "I've spent a year travelling around the world", or "the dog ate my keyboard" but sadly the lack of blog has been mostly down to a lack of inspiration and motivation.

So what's changed now? you might ask.

The main factor is that I've just joined ThoughtWorks – a company well known for their work in Agile. Oh, and apparently some of their people can be a little opinionated too (I should fit right in!) I'm hopeful that in between working hard on a bunch of new stuff, I might find the time and inspiration to keep the blog going this time.

I can't promise anything great. It's going to be a bit of a cocktail of agile posts, general work stuff and some personal bits all thrown in. Mmmm, cocktails …

All I want is 30″ and a remote control …

This was originally posted on my previous blog: Spike the Poodle.

We have a pretty nice television in our flat – it’s pretty big, not widescreen but that’s OK. It’s got just one huge problem: no remote control (it did have, once, but it was lost before it was donated it to me). I’m not lazy (well OK I am) but even so it sucks getting up to change between DVD and TV.

So I was excited when my flatmate announced that she was going to buy a new television for our living room. Scarily, she’s even less technical than I am when it comes to household appliances, so I was roped in as a (willing) shopping partner and we decided Today was TV Day.

We finally arrived at Currys Digital – via Boots, Debenhams, HMV (gotta have a new DVD to go with the new TV), one Currys that was already closing, Selfridges, John Lewis, and Starbucks – only to find that TV prices seem to start at around £500 everywhere. Unless you want to watch television on a postage stamp, that is.

When did televisions get so complicated and expensive? Everything is LCD and HD ready

LCD TVs are great, only a few inches thick, and if like my Dutch flatmate you’re planning to ship them abroad at some point it’s very handy. But they’re EXPENSIVE – we’ve got the space for a big TV, and I’d like to spend my money on something big rather than something thin.

I’m still figuring out what the impact of HD ready or not is. What I really want to know is: can I still use my TV in three or five years?

So we’ve resorted to shopping by remote control (more commonly known as the Internet). It wasn’t an entirely unsuccessful shopping trip – we did come home with 24 hours of Jack Bauer to waste the evening with.

Evildoers and guitars

I found Eric Sink’s blog recently through an intriguing link on Kevin Rutherford’s blog.

His post Thirteen Guitars about internet vandalism dates back to June, but it strikes a chord with me.

I was searching on Google last night for a place to buy a television. Amazingly, almost all of the sponsored advertisements are for price comparison sites that don’t actually sell anything (in this case, PriceRunner and Kelkoo). Although most spam is filtered out of my email, I don’t have automatic spam filtering on this blog and I’ve lost count of the number of spam comments that have been posted linking to mortgage sites.

As the internet continues to grow, I spend more and more time sorting through the clutter caused by people trying to make money by doing, well, as little as possible.

Judging by the quality of said spam, I’m inclined to agree with Eric that for many Internet Evildoers now, it’s not about the money but simply the annoyance and chaos that they cause. And unfortunately, like him, I don’t have any clue about solutions :(

A particularly productive business trip

Last Thursday, after working until midnight on Wednesday, I arrived at our office in London at 8.30am for a breakfast “meeting”. OK, it was just a breakfast gossip really, but still. It was 8.30am and I was TIRED.

At about 12.30pm, I left in a taxi to Paddington station to catch the Heathrow Express. My flight to Seattle was due to leave at 15.05, so while I had enough time to get to the airport, I had very little time to spare.

I made the 12.50 Heathrow Express. Perfect. I sat down, opened my bag and looked for my laptop. Oh **** … yes, I had happily walked out of the office leaving it sat in the docking station on my desk.

At this point, there was enough time to have somebody at the office bring the laptop to Paddington, just about. However, after three unsuccessful attempts to reach my manager, I got on the train and decided to sort it out when I got to Seattle.

I didn’t feel bad for too long, because at check in, I was unexpectedly upgraded to business class, so for the first time I enjoyed the BA flat bed for nine hours and had my airline meal served on a china plate :)

I have to give my co-workers huge kudos here. Not only did they manage to sort me out a loaner laptop by the time I arrived, they also went to great lengths not to make me feel too bad, although the jokes since have been pretty funny. I’ll spare you the references to hair colour, but as Ryan pointed out “it makes for a particularly productive business trip, I always say”.

So after two nights in Seattle, during which time I’ve caught up with my colleagues in our Bellevue headquarters, I’m off to Minneapolis today to go to Agile 2006. I’m really looking forward to it, especially since thanks to Tobias Mayer my blog seems to have a few new readers who I’m looking forward to meeting at the conference.

Waterbaby …

Yesterday I went waterskiing! Despite the very early Saturday start, it was worth it – the weather was windy, but really warm and sunny.

This is my third time on water skis. Last year was the second time I’d ever been, and having done it once before (and not been tooooo bad for a first timer) I thought I’d go straight on to the rope. Newbie waterskiers can start off holding a bar at the side of the boat, but I’d been there, done that … anyway, long story short, last year I could barely stand up. I had very unstable waterskis, apparently, not ideal for beginners. Honest.

So, this time I was back on the bar to start with, with more stable skis, and wow, it was so much easier! This time I managed to actually ski on the rope, standing up properly (knees still knocking, but hey ho). I still have a way to go before I (deliberately) move on to just one ski :)

Today my arms ache, but I’m definitely going back next year!

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)

We Asked One Hundred People To Name …

This made me laugh out loud at my desk while I was reading!
These are actual Family Fortunes answers (supposedly)

We asked one hundred people to name…
You say…
A famous Scotsman Vinny Jones
A famous Scotsman Jock
An item of clothing worn by the Three Musketeers A horse
A jacket potato topping Jam
A food that can be brown or white Potatoes
A sign of the zodiac April
A job a working dog does Slave
Something with a hole in it A window
Something people might be allergic to Skiing
A type of large cat Persian
A type of record Floppy disc
Something associated with pigs The police
A non-living object with legs A plant
A domestic animal Leopard
Something red My cardigan
A kind of ache Filet-o-fish
[To a contestant who was a SOUP salesman:] A food that can be easily eaten without chewing Er, chips
Something you beat An apple
A dangerous race (i.e. a motor race or summat) The Arabs
A number you have to memorise Seven
Some famous brothers Bonnie and Clyde
Something that floats in the bath Water
Something in the garden that’s green The shed
Something a blind man might use A sword
Something you wear on the beach A deckchair
A famous cowboy Buck Rogers
An animal you might see at a zoo A dog
A famous bridge The Bridge Over Troubled Waters
A part of the body beginning with the letter N Knee
Something you put on walls Roofs
Something you do in the bathroom Decorate
A famous Royal Mail
Something slippery A con-man
A way of cooking fish Cod
A form of transport you can walk around in My foot
A method of securing your home Put the kettle on
Something you do before going to bed Sleep
Something a cat does Goes to the toilet
An animal beginning with the letter B Bullfrog
The last thing you take off before going to bed Your feet
Something that makes you scream A squirrel
Something you have with coffee The Sunday Sport
A song with ‘Moon’ in the title ‘Blue Suede Moon’
Something that flies that doesn’t have an engine A bicycle with wings
Something with a red light on it A Dalek
Something you open other than a door Your bowels