Saturday, December 28, 2013

Game theory can be fun

I reviewed a book recently:  Theory of Fun for Game Design, 2nd Edition by Raph Koster

I have always been an aspiring game designer and developer and thought this would be a good one to read to get a few ideas.

When I think of 'theory' I usually envisage something that, while useful, is going to have a hypotheses and some research and analysis... a stereotype I know, but I dot usually expect it to have any fun. Despite its title, this book bucks my stereotype.

The author's style is easy to read and 'conversational' and gives good practical examples of the 'theory', supported by lots and lots of nice hand drawn illustrations.

One of the points made in the book is that fun games are a form of 'pleasurable learning' and I certainly had fun reading this book and feel like I learned a lot.

As an aspirational game designer, I am not sure how I would apply what I have learned as there appears to be no 'formula' for designing fun games (and maybe that is just as well) but there are a lot of good stories and examples to get you thinking and this is what makes the book a good read.

Easy to understand
Helpful examples

Might Be Hard To Apply The theory

Bottom line:  Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Too sexy for my job?

I found this article on being a Data Scientist: The sexiest Job no one has

It could be a case of 'the grass is greener' syndrome but this is the job I want and I think Im on the way to getting it :) ... to me, its an exciting prospect that 'the universe (is) one large data set' ... *big data* indeed ;)

Now here come the 'damned lies and statistics'... Gartner estimates that there will be 4.4 million IT jobs created to support data analysis in just the next two years... and about half of those will be outside the US... I wonder what the stats say for data scientist jobs being generated in Australia?

I wonder what qualifications and experience I will *really*need, maybe its all that geeky stuff I keep hearing about...

- watch The Big Bang Theory religiously ... maths, science, history, unravelling the mystery ... (tick)
- can recite the script of The Matrix, 1, 2 and 3 (tick)
- think that leela and amy are hot (tick)
- yada, yada, yada (tick)

... oh, oh, what's this....

- PhD is advanced statistics

... darn, I was really close... well there's something to work on!

I just hope this 'wave' is really and not all sexy hype... cue LMFAO ;)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Technology leadership and innovation at Google - how does this relate to 'normal' organisations?

I came across the following article by Google on 'the 8 pillars of innovation' a few weeks ago and it got me thinking... what is innovation and technology leadership for a 'normal' company?

'Normal' companies are not Google... but there are many companies that would *love* to be 'like Google' (at least in some respects e.g. market cap, revenue streams, etc.) and so do some of the ideas presented in the article apply?

In many ways, companies like Google, and Apple, and others, are synonymous with innovation. The visible innovation occurs in the market, with new products and services that are offered. The less visible innovation is happening on the inside - as illustrated in the article and also in Hollywood films like 'The Internship' ;) lol

Its hard to imagine a 'disconnect' between the internal culture and the external culture. They may not be the same in every respect but there is no doubt IMHO that there is significant congruence between the two.

I think that is one reason why when I see a focus on client-facing-innovation I get excited because it probably means that there is a very innovative company on the 'inside'.  It makes me want to be part of it :)

One of the interesting points made in the article is how Google handles 'failure' - never fail to fail!  That part reminded me a lot of when I first became a consultant, at Simsion Bowles & Associates (good 'ol SBA)... Graeme (Simsion) did not mind failures, they were a chance to learn, the only rule was 'fail fast and learn quickly' ;) SBA was a very innovative company, at least in my own experience to that point, and its was a really fun place to work and to grow.

As an IT guy, one of the 'spin offs' I look for in an innovative company is how innovative they are in their use of technology.  I just hate it when IT is seen as 'pure expense' or a 'necessary evil' that makes it really hard to enjoy my work... in my career I have had a gut full of 'bureaucratic IT departments' pushing their view of how technology can and can't be used... the worst thing is its done from a purely 'selfish' or 'ignorant' 'don't create work for me' point of view :-/

As a disclaimer, let me say that last part is not a criticism, it is more of a challenge!

Every company needs to have some control over their technology, its cost, impact, etc. but I think it sometimes goes too far... people so far removed from the 'customer' think they are in charge and that they can make up the requirements... this is where it all goes pear shaped IMHO.

The 'effect' of client-facing-innovation is a catalyst to putting the focus squarely back on the client and their needs and when this happens it can help 'obliterate' the way companies think about technology (to borrow an expression from Michael Hammer in his famous 'don't automate, obliterate' article in the HBR).

The 'spin off' winners are the internal staff who get to share in the innovations created for clients and, to coin another term, 'the cobblers children will *finally* get new shoes'... because the shoes will have been designed for the client and, as we all know, there is nothing more enlightening than 'walking a mile in another person's (the clients) shoes' ;)

I hope our 'cobblers' in your organisation are up for it, there are a lot of new shoes to make ... welcome to the revolution ;) **1

**1 I had a choice between the song 'Children of the Revolution' by T-Rex or Tommy Lee Jones' quote from 'Under Siege' ... I went with the song :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Agile Data Warehouse development

I am currently 'brushing up' on Agile Data Warehousing approaches to match a need which has arisen in my work.

Being a Scott Ambler fan, I decided to start with Agile Best Practices for Data Warehousing (DW)/Business Intelligence (BI) Projects and also with the TDWI as I recalled that the 2010 conference in San Diego was about agile DW/BI approaches

From the Abler article, I found a link to AgileData methods and also to AgileModelling .  One thought I really liked was the 'Let's keep the modeling baby but throw out the bureaucracy bathwater. ;-)' ... this I *really* like, to me, modelling (and the design aspects that go with it) are key.  If you don't have a 'top down' view of the model and the key design points its very hard to be effective using Agile IMHO... Agile without modelling is a bit like Monty Python's 100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction ;)

 I'd be happy to hear about anyone's experiences with Agile DW/ BI approaches.  I will post more on this as I read more and formulate an overall approach for 'my project'

My new 'project' - Wordpress and GIT

So, my new 'project' is getting Wordpress and GIT working together.

My 'ultimate' goal, at this stage at least, is to have a local install of Wordpress and GIT, running on a Mac Mini on my home network, that 'mirrors' a hosted install of Wordpress (except for some Wordpress settings that need to be changed).

The idea is to be able to make changes to the local development installation, track changes with GIT, and be able to 'push' updates up to the hosted install once I have had a chance to test things out.

Its early days but I have found a few articles on the net that sound promising... here is one that I am studying to learn the basics of what I need to do  Developing on Wordpress using GIT   and here is another Using GIT for Wordpress development  and this Adding GIT to your Wordpress development workflow

Anyone know of any other articles worth reading?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Recommended ebooks on Wordpress Multisite

Check out

There are two ebooks on WP multisite that I have bought and can recommend

The first book is by Andrea Rennick and is a short guide to enabling WP multisite.  Its clear and well written, easy to follow and explains the basics of WP multisite.  I knew most of it but it was a good refresher to check my understanding of the key concepts.

The second book is one that has been co-authored by Mika Epstein and Andrea Rennick and is a more in depth look at WP multiple networks and multisite… I'm only part way through but I like the easy to follow style of the book.  I'm learning heaps about WP multiple networks and multisite and I hope I can learn enough to be confident to manage my WP multiple networks / multisite installation.  You can find more info about the second book here

Both come in Kindle format for use on a Kindle or, as I do, on an iPad with the Kindle app installed.  There are also PDF and ePub formats.

Good work Andrea and Mika I love your work :)

p.s. I came across Mika on some of the support forums… a very knowledgeable and helpful person :)

See for an example

Friday, September 27, 2013

The value of 'a topic on a page'

Some time ago, I become interested in summarising a topic on a page.  The interest sprang from some really good posters I found that summarised all the important stuff ragarding a topic e.g. Rational had a really good one on UML and another on RUP.

Around the same time, I found a template that Apple were using for creating 'posters' to summarise a topic on a page and the notion of 'poster sessions' where people would put their poster on a wall and people would meet in a room with multiple posters and read them to get a quick update on topics of interest.

Most recently, I have rekindled my interest in 'topic on a page' and find them a great way of communicating a lot of concepts quickly.  The digital equivalent seems to be a really good infographic or a really good Prezi presentation.

The only trouble is, a good poster is hard to produce.

I'm currently working on a 'Big Data on a page' poster and will post it back here when I have something to share.

In the meantime, any tips on how to create good posters, infographics and the like are most welcome :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Microsoft knocking down barriers to BYOD

Apparently there has always been some legal issues with companies installing or providing access to Microsoft software on their employees' BYOD's - see this Forrester article from 2012 ...

However, it looks like Microsoft have taken some good steps in knocking down the barriers with the introduction of Windows Intune - see 

Im keen to see the barriers knocked down and this seems like it just might - now all we need is for the legal agreements of companies with Microsoft to 'catch up' ;)

Does anyone have any experience with Windows Intune yet? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Rosie Project

Last night, I went to another book launch. Actually, it was the first one I have ever attended but I'm sure for some people and the book store on Norton St, Leichhardt, Shearer's Bookstore, it was another one of many.

The book launched was Graeme Simsion's "The Rosie Project" and having read a 'preview' of the book before it was officially published, Im looking forward to starting the official book this weekend, Graeme tells me it's even better now and I thought it was great before.

I won't spoil things by telling you too much about the book itself other than to say I think you will find it a "very good read", as did the Woman's Weekly.

I'd rather give you some of the highlight's from the book launch itself which, unless you were one of the 50 or so people there, you probably missed :)

Graeme addressed the audience from a 'pulpit' above the floor of the book store, with the audience spread out in a number of directions, following the aisles of the book store that radiated out from the corner of the room above which Graeme was standing.

The first part of his address concerned how he'd become rich and given up his day job which apparently had happened about a month ago.

Ive known Graeme for many years and while I know he sets his goals very, very high, I think the part where he told the audience how much money it had taken to give up the day job was, there was a hint that Graeme was slightly incredulous that it had all happened so quickly.

Many months before, I had been having drinks with Graeme and had contemplated putting $10,000 into the project, believing that it would succeed. I wish now I had wired the money the next day or taken out my cheque book there and then *sigh* ;)

The rest of the address concerned how the story had been inspired, how it was originally produced as a film script, and how it had been Graeme's project at his Screen writing course in Melbourne and that he had repeated the subject because a prior version had not been ready and he went back again to finish it.

I was mesmerized by the story, never having heard it before, all the time thinking that this was typical Graeme :) ... listening to the story I felt sorry for the jugernaught, they have nothing on Graeme :D

Monday, September 2, 2013

I want to be a Data Scientist

I want to be a Data Scientist

I saw a really interesting YouTube video today on called [The Data Scientists Toolset] [1]
[1]: "YouTube video"
It is a video of a panel discussion from a conference called Data Scientist Summit (note to self: I have really missed the boat if the others are already having summit’s… back in 2012! ;) )
I admit, I did not know anyone on the panel but after listening to them talk I believe they must all be experts of some note.
Some of the key points for me were:

  • The 3 big things you need as a Data Scientist
  • Value from Big Data = having Big Analytics
  • Run experiments ‘at scale’
  • Room for Everyone - Hadoop, NoSQL and “new SQL”, and
  • The ‘Desert Island challenge’

I’ll cover each in a bit more detail below.

The 3 big things you need as a Data Scientist

According to the experts on the panel, there are 3 big things that Data Scientists need to have:

  1. Domain skills and expertise,
  2. Great modelling (read statistics) skills, and
  3. Tech literacy with the Big data (and other) tools and technologies required.

To me, this is a great list of reasons for good collaboration between the Business and IT. Business professionals ideally have good Domain skills and experience. Visa versa, IT professionals typically have technology literacy.

The 'middle ground' Great modelling (statistics) skills is the interesting one. Some people have this based on whatever they did in Uni and continued into their professional career.

Its more likely that Business professionals are going to have the right skills and experience, especially in business domains such as Economics, Finance, Science, Research, etc.

However, of the 3 required areas of skills/ experience, this is the most likely to 'fall between the cracks' i.e. no-one has them.

I think this is (perhaps) the reason that higher education qualifications being offered by Universities around the world are so 'heavy' in statistics and maths.

Value from Big Data = having Big Analytics

I think this was a great point!

I see a lot of excitement (almost hysteria) about Big Data and how **cool** it is to be able to parse the Petabytes of log files and other Big Data out there but … where is the value?

Big Data is often associated with the 3 'qualifying' V's - Volume, Variety and Velocity.

I think it is a good idea to add 2 more 'quantifying' V's to the list - Veracity and Value.


Veracity to me examines the question of the 'validity' of the data source in terms of what people want to do with it.

One of the lessons I have learnt from just 'normal' Data warehouse and Business Intelligence/Analytics solutions is just because there is data out there it does not mean you should try and capture it and make use of it. You really need to ask yourself the question: is this data appropriate to my needs? or, in a qualitative sense, how appropriate is the data? (does it do part of the job?)


The 'flip side' is, Is there value in using this data? Does it help me tell the right story?
Big Data to me has a huge risk to be addressed - the GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) principle means that people risk *Big Garbage*.

Run experiments ‘at scale’

Gone are the days of having to have small amounts of data to test your 'models' and to validate that they produce the 'right' results before trying them out on the 'real data' (usually Production or a copy of Production).

The panel stressed that Big Data tools and technologies allow you to operate 'at scale'.

Personally, I'm not sure about this one. I may not be a gun at statistics but I seem to remember that it does not take much data to provide a statistically valid model e.g. to predict the outcome of an election all you really need is a relatively small, but representative, sample from the population to have confidence in the results predicted… assuming that the rest of the population follow certain rules.

I think there's a difference between validating your models and running on full scale data.
Just because Big Data has 'resources to burn' I don't think people should lose sight of good modelling and testing.

Room for everyone

I think its 'reassuring' that Big Data is seen as a complementary technology and is best applied to suitable 'problems' (or classes of problem).

The panel made it clear they see a role for all of the data technologies: Big Data (e.g. Hadoop), NOSQL, and 'new SQL'.

One criterial they suggested for deciding which data technology was a best fit was whether the model of the data was 'to be discovered', partially agreed, or agreed (respectively).

Big Data technologies are typically associated with 'a model at use time' versus 'new SQL' where the modelling takes place first and then the data is poured in.

The ‘Desert Island challenge’

When it was time to wrap up, the moderator for the expert panel session posed a question: If you were (to be) stranded on a desert island, what tool or technology would you take with you … and only one!
Interestingly, **all** of the panel members named a programming language technology: Java, C++, Python, etc.

I guess this speaks to the 'roots' of the panelists and the fact that the Big Data tools and technology, while all useful in their own right, are not quite there yet to be able to dislodge the versatility and power provided by a programming language.

I hope this 'commentary' was of interest. I would encourage you to view the YouTube video for yourself. I am sure you will get different stuff out of it than I did.

More on Big Data to come in future Blogs.

Friday, July 19, 2013

This is Big! (Data) :)

Today in my inbox, I found an email with a link to this article on 'waiting for Big Data'

As a consultant for an Australian consulting and technology firm, the article reflects a lot of my own thoughts and the key point for me is the one about the 'maturity of the market' at the moment with the industry being likened to 'a collection of tools that are not really integrated and are very technical in nature'.

A friend asked me the other day what 'my company' was doing with regard to Big Data and my response was that we were currently partnering with technology partners, such as Microsoft, to assist clients do a Proof of Concept (PoC) and also, where appropriate, helping them move these through to 'production'

but , me personally, its still just an area of great interest and something I am educating myself on with the view to moving into this area over the next few years e.g. Big Data strategy, architecture, road-mapping.... it's a WIP but I am working on it :)

Some of the questions I am trying to answer for myself at the moment include...

  • is Big Data just a BI/DW thing?
  • is it a new capability or just incremental?
  • are existing IM tools and techniques useful? e.g. data modelling or does Big Data require new approaches? (as people seem to indicate)
  • are there patterns of requirements? and corresponding patterns of solution types?
  • what would a 'domain architecture' comprise? and how could it be leveraged for strategy, architecture and road-mapping purposes?
I'm sure others will arise but these are the main ones in my head at the moment.

I'd love to hear anyone's ideas on this topic... the lines are open, call now! ;)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is BYOD really about BYOA?

So here's a question for you: Is BYOD really about BYOA?
BYOA = BYO Application
You want to BYO Device so you can use an application or applications you have on that device but not others.  e.g. you iPhone, iPad, or Andriod equivalent has lots of Apps that are sometimes unique to the device (or class of device) and you just can't run them on your work's SOE device.
In my case its certainly a good part of the reason I BYOD, there are lots of Apps that I use every day in my work. The reasons I don't or can't install the same Apps on my work's SOE device include:
  • they won't run on Windows
  • I don't have a license to install on multiple machines (its already installed on my BYOD), and possibly
  • its against your work's IT policies regarding installing non SOE software on work equipment
 So here's my straw poll: What's your main reason for BYOD? (where BYOD includes the OS part and anything essential to running the device, Apps are on top of that)
  1. I love my BYOD over the work SOE alternative
  2. I need the Apps
  3. Its a 50/50 split between BYOD reasons and BYOA
  4. Some other reason - please share :)
p.s. with the recent trend towards cloud Apps, BYOA may only be a fleeting concept as may Apps are available on just about any device. If this trend continues, maybe BYOA will become more about the legal right to use your Apps accross any device you have access to

Friday, February 1, 2013

Year of living paperlessly

With apologies to Christopher Koch (Year of Living Dangerously) I am trying a bit of a 'science experiment' this year, an attempt to live as paperlessly as I can this year, at least for my work as an IT consultant.

Here is an except from a Q&A post I published to LinkedIn a few weeks ago when embarking on my experiment...


Year of living paperlessly**

** as far as possible at least

Just looking for some new ideas on how to live as paperlessly as possible this year - mostly from a work point of view but will also try out at home.

My ideal use case is:

When I come into contact with some paper I need, I 'scan' or take a pic and dont need the paper any more.
... be able to make notes on scanned/photo'ed paper I receive.
... tag the content I create/ capture and make search, discovery and retrieval easy where ever I am (assuming I have device with me or connection to 'cloud')

My current devices include an iPad, iPhone, Mac at home and PC laptop at work so anything cross device, cross OS would also be good.

The apps I currently use include:
- Evernote - plan to keep this but also looking for companion apps to collect and use content I collect
- Notetaker (for iPad) - ok, but looking for better ability to annotate and also 'tag' my content
- Dropbox - plan to keep for storage but would like to be able to tag content easier and search it better

Open to any other ideas on how to improve things, especially in apps that make it easy to scan/ take a pic of paper and then file it electronically. Currently I use Evernote for this and its ok but looking for ways to make it better.


Here is a link to some of the replies I have received so far...

I'll be following this blog up with a 'so far so good' post to share some of the ideas I have tried, some that have worked and some which Im still working on.

In the meantime, I thought I would also share this interesting site that I came across...

Its a very interesting site that uses WordPress to provide the digital hub for the classroom and how the students and the teacher interact with each other and, as a by product, cut down on their paper usage.

Im using a Wiki to cut down on my own paper usage but so far its just a local one that uses TiddlyWiki ...

TiddlyWiki is great but I have aspirations to upgrade to Confluence so I can easily share my info with others and have others contribute as well