Sprint is a four-letter word

Finish Line
I’ve always been uncomfortable with the term sprint. It’s a short word, easy to say and quick to type, but the connotations can be misleading, especially for people new to Scrum. I used to run track in high school, and I have a pretty vivid body memory of what it felt like to sprint – an all-out blast of energy expenditure that left me panting, heaving, and, sometimes, if I’d pushed hard enough, even nauseated. I was no Usain Bolt, but I wasn’t a slug either. I was a regular person, reasonably able to run pretty well. It left me in no condition to do anything but sit there recuperating until my muscles and lungs stopped screaming and returned to functioning normally.

You can’t sprint your ass off, pause for a minute, and then do it all over again. It’s not sustainable. And yet one of the most important benefits of the Scrum framework is that it provides a sustainable rhythm for work. It’s meant to be the opposite of a death march or a self-destructive series of Jolt-fueled all-nighters followed by days of hibernation and recovery.

There’s always the argument that after enough use, the word itself becomes a signifier for the concept and its connotations become less relevant. Who, after all, thinks about chitinous little bugs when talking about John, Paul, George, and Ringo? But words do matter, otherwise we’d refer to everything with algebraic letters, symbols, or glyphs. So, no, I’m not proposing that we start referring to sprints with Σ (even though that would be awfully cool), but language being what it is, the other commonly used terms are each fraught in their own ways. I tried using iteration for a while, but Nathan found that made people think about dozens of tiny, obsessive refinements towards a specific ideal. Sprints are about getting shit done and perfect being the enemy of good, most definitely not about obsessiveness or idealism. Timebox, another common-ish term, feels cold, bureaucratic, and constricting. So, in the spirit of Scrum, we continue to try out different words, getting a sense of how well they do or don’t work, and we iterate our way forward. We may never have the definitive word, there certainly isn’t a perfect one, but in the meantime we’ll keep talking, training, coaching, and working.

UPDATE: Sasha Magee offered some interesting proposals from the sport of cycling:

G+ identity follies


Google wants real identities on G+. No pseudonyms. (After enduring enough protest, they relented for those with established pseudonymous public personae.) And yet, Google also gently but persistently harasses you to setup a G+ identity for every Google account you have. At the moment I have two personal Gmail accounts and three Google Apps work accounts. Google keeps insisting that I make a G+ profile for each one of those accounts, either by pestering me upon login or by disabling key features of applications like Hangouts for accounts without a G+ profile. I now have five G+ identities to manage. I can laboriously recreate my “circles” on each one and flesh each of them out, figure out some way to syndicate one of them to the other four, or simply ignore most of them, leaving them to molder as dusty ghost profiles. It’s hard to see how this is good for the health and vitality of G+ as a community or social network except to artificially juice the number of users.

iPad is to iPhone as…

The single most notable phenomenological residue of spending a few hours with the iPad is what it does to my perception of the iPhone. The minute I picked up an iPhone back in 2007, other smartphones that had seemed remarkably capable (Treos, Blackberries) suddenly felt dated and limited. To my great surprise, the iPad does, for me, the same thing to the iPhone. Whereas before today the iPhone felt like a capable, if diminutive, computer, suitable for web browsing, email, composing text, and running all sorts of applications, it now seems more like, well, a phone. A phone that can do lots of cool things, to be sure, but nonetheless, my perception of its primary identity is no longer “computer that also makes calls” but simply “phone that runs some handy utilities.” As of today, when I picture the “thing from the future that I take with me to do almost everything I can do with a laptop except write code,” I picture an iPad, not an iPhone — until, of course, the inevitable release of the device that changes my perception of the iPad.

Tears in Rain

One my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, rendered in Lego (via Brick Brothers).

Blade Runner – Tears in Rain (in LEGO) from Zach Macias on Vimeo.

A better today

It’s a hell of a thing to find one’s president on the front page of the Financial Times (above the fold, no less) kicking ass in the manner of something written and directed by Melvin Van Peebles and John Woo. I’m impressed.

I won the Nobel Peace Prize today

My gut instinct is that if they could have given the Nobel Prize to the American people for electing somebody other than George W. Bush, they would’ve done so.
Stewart M. Patrick

Microsoft, bless its heart

It was 1984, and we didn’t care. We burst out of the preview screening of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo into the crazy streets. The energy poured off the walls and into our brains like the United Colors. We were high on paint, spray paint, and we thought we’d live forever…

Oops, sorry. That picture isn’t of spontaneous and illicit street art from the 80s at all; it’s a picture of a very earnest photo shoot on Stillman Street from just last week. Microsoft appears set to launch yet another lovably tone-deaf and embarrassing campaign touting, I assume, the ineluctable hipness and freshness of Windows 7.

And if you look closely, you can see that all the black folk who were photoshopped out of other Microsoft ads have generously been re-hired for this one, because it’s, you know, urban.

Sad bunny

We are all puffer fish

In fact taking on oneself too much of anything is indicative of inflation because it transcends proper human limits. Too much humility as well as too much arrogance, too much love and altruism as well as too much power striving and selfishness, are all symptoms of inflation.

— E.F. Edinger

Same as we ever were

If you need extra mental discipline or tool support to get the focus you need to do what you have to do, there’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. But if none of your work is pulling you into The Zone, quite possibly you have a job problem not an Internet problem.