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Boston Post Mortem Video Game Developers meeting: December 8th at 7pm, The Skellig Pub in Waltham November 30, 2009

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The Skellig Pub - Waltham

The Skellig Pub - Waltham



The December Boston Post Mortem Video Game Developers meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 8th at 7pm at The Skellig in Waltham. In addition to the usual year-in-review (or Post Mortem Post Mortem), it has been announced that IGDA (Independent Game Developers Association) Executive Director Joshua Caulfield will be the special guest speaker! He’ll be providing an update on the IGDA in general, what to expect for the coming year, and will be taking any IGDA-related questions attendees may have.

Logistics:
Tuesday, December 8th
7pm-10pm @ The Skellig, Waltham

So please show up with your best questions and comments about the IGDA or about the Boston Post Mortem. If you see me there, please come up and introduce yourself!

What is Theory Y? How is it used as a management style? November 29, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Management, Project Management.
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What is Theory Y? How is it used as a management style?

As I have said on these pages before, I needed to write a few short pieces on some of the different management styles I have encountered in my corporate and professional travels. I want to define each of these management styles so that I can compare and contrast them, as well as serving as reference points for the longer articles on this topic which I am in the process of drafting.

As I have previously stated, the purpose of this litany of alphabetic management styles is not to promote one over another; in fact, I don’t recommend adopting any of these naively. But nevertheless, many individual team members and managers will exhibit some behaviors from one of the above styles, and it is helpful to know what makes them tick. Finally, certain individuals may prefer to be managed as a Theory X or Theory Y type (Theory Z, which I will write about at a future date, is less likely in this case), and it is good to be able to recognize the signs. Moreover, some companies might be implicitly based on one style or another.

The second management style about which I will write is one which will be perhaps less recognizable to many people than the aforementioned “Theory X“: “Theory Y”.

As opposed to Theory X, Theory Y holds that work is a natural and desirable activity. Hence, external control abd threats are not needed to guide the organization. In fact, the level of commitment is based on the clarity and desirability of the goals set for the group. Theory Y posits that most individuals actually seek responsibility and do not shirk it, as proposed by Theory X.

A Theory Y manager simply needs to provide the resources, articulate the goals, and leave the team alone. This approach doesn’t always work, of course, because some individuals do need more supervision than others.

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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

What is Theory X? How is it used as a management style? November 27, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Management, Project Management, Staffing & Recruiting.
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I needed to write a few short pieces on some of the different management styles I have encountered in my corporate and professional travels. I want to define each of these management styles so that I can compare and contrast them, as well as serving as reference points for the longer articles on this topic which I am in the process of drafting.

I will begin with some of the “Letter Management Styles”, of which there are several. The purpose of this litany of alphabetic management styles is not to promote one over another; in fact, I don’t recommend adopting any of these naively. But nevertheless, many individual team members and managers will exhibit some behaviors from one of the above styles, and it is helpful to know what makes them tick. Finally, certain individuals may prefer to be managed as a Theory X or Theory Y type (Theory Z, which I will write about at a future date, is less likely in this case), and it is good to be able to recognize the signs. Moreover, some companies might be implicitly based on one style or another.

The first management style about which I will write is one which will be recognizable to every person, regardless of professional or personal background: “Theory X”.

Theory X is perhaps the oldest management style and is very closely related to the hierarchical, command-and-control model used by military organizations (of which I am intimately familiar).

One thing I can personnally attest to in regards to the Theory X management style is that it maintains the military organizations’ faith in the fact of the necessity of this approach, as (in the view of Theory X proponents) most people inherently dislike work and will avoid it if they can. Hence, in the Theory X management style, managers should coerce, control, direct, and threaten their workers in order to get the most out of them.

A statement that I recall from a conversation with a prototypical Theory X manager with whom I worked (in a prototypical Theory X organization) with was “people only do what you audit”.

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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

What is Scrum? How is it used to manage projects and teams? November 25, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Management, Project Management, Software.
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As I continue to move in the Boston software development / high tech job market and talk to more and more people in the area, I not only come across the term “Scrum” in many job descriptions, but it is a word that is frequently bandied about by both recruiters and hiring managers. It is clear that there is alot of confusion in the Boston area about what “Scrum” really is, and how it relates to Agile.

There is no substitute for the experience of running Scrum daily for years, as I have done. My heartfelt advice to anyone looking to adopt Scrum in their organization is to be flexible, take it easy on the cutsey names, and keep the daily meetings very brief. If you are the “ScrumMaster”, stay organized and lead the conversation around the room, notating all limiting factors, as that becomes your to-do list. Drop me a line with your own insights or comments on Scrum!

Scrum, as some people already know, is a project managemnt methodology named after a contentious point in a rugby match. The Scrum project management method enables self-organizing teams by encouraging verbal communication across all team members and project stakeholders. At its foundation, Scrum’s primary principle is that traditional problem definition solution approaches do not always work, and that a formalized discovery process is sometimes needed.

Scrum’s major project artifact is a dynamic list of prioritized work to be done. Completion of a largely fixed set of backlogged items occurs in a series of short (many of 30 days duration) iterations, or “sprints”.

Every day a brief meeting or “Scrum” is held in which project progress is explained, upcoming work is described, and impediments are raised. A brief planning session occurs at the start of each sprint to define the backlog items to be completed. A brief postmortem or heartbeat retrospective occurs at the end of each sprint.

A “ScrumMaster” (my advice is to never call yourself this in actual human life in an office of programmers and IT personnel…but know the job well and do it well nevertheless if you are the individual who finds themselves in this role) removes obstacles or impediments to each sprint. The ScrumMaster is not the leader of the team, as they are self-organizing, but rather acts as a productivity buffer between the team and any destabilizing influences.

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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

2009 Dice Technology & Engineering Career Fair in Boston Thursday, December 10: 11am-3pm Marriott Burlington November 24, 2009

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2009 Dice Technology & Engineering Career Fair Boston: Event at Marriott Burlington, Burlington, MA

Thursday, December 10

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Marriott Boston Burlington • Rt 128 & 3A (One Mall Road) • Burlington, MA 01803

Admission is FREE

Meet recruiters and hiring managers from these companies: Cambridge Interactive Development Corp., e-Dialog, •Raytheon, Research In Motion, Tufts Health Plan.

Register for this event online by clicking here!

The Twenty Laws of Testing Computer Software September 24, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Project Management, Technology, Uncategorized.
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As a software development project manager, I conduct, plan, organize and cajole the software engineering efforts in companies large and small. During the course of this work, I have never ceased to be amazed at the lack of understanding of both the importance of properly testing a software product or products, and the lack of knowledge around how to correctly conduct the testing effort.

This holds true in corporations both large and small that I have worked for during my fifteen year professional career. In my opinion, a Project Manager should have a complete understanding of the software testing process, and should also have experience not just scheduling and planning the resources conducting the testing effort, but actual personal testing experience.

It occurred to me earlier on in my career as a Project Manager that in order for me to be a better Project Manager, I was going to have to learn and research everything I could get my hands on about testing computer software. I took courses, I bought books and read them; I related the information I gathered to my experiences as a developer and in some of the ecommerce companies I had worked for and built early on in my career.

I found that this desire to learn the ins and outs of testing was over half the battle towards becoming a more accomplished PM. The Project Manager who appreciates the importance of testing, has been a tester, knows and respects the testers on the team, and has a deep seated, fundamental respect for testing is a Project Manager who commands respect from his project team.

One of my favorite books is “Microsoft Secrets”, by Michael Cusomano. In the book, he describes how early on in the history of the company, testing became a career path on the same level as programming. Knowing, from my extensive reading about Microsoft and Bill Gates, the high altar upon which programmers are placed at Microsoft, I found this to be extremely significant.

Great software development teams and great software engineering companies take the testing of their software seriously. They don’t cut corners, and they don’t have to, because they began with the end in mind.

So without much further adieu, here are my twenty laws for testing computer software. Look for me to expound upon each of the twenty laws in more detail on these pages very soon:

  1. The sole goal of testing software is to find errors. Software testing is defined as the method of running a computer software program with the intent of discovering errors in the computer software program.
  2. The definition of a good test case is that a good test case is one that has been written in such a manner that it has a great chance of discovery of previously undiscovered errors.
  3. A successful test case is one that has been used to discover a previously undiscovered error.
  4. Only a high quality software testing process will result in a high quality software testing effort.
  5. Testing computer software is a professional discipline that must include skilled and trained professional computer software testers.
  6. Someone must assume full responsibility for the improvement of the software testing process.
  7. It is vital to foster a 100% positive, inclusive and team-oriented approach with a “test to break” mental attitude.
  8. A test case for testing a computer software program must include a definition of the expected result of the computer software program being tested.
  9. A computer software programmer should not test the computer software program they have coded themselves.
  10. By extension, a computer software programming organization or engineering department should not test its own programs; This is the work of an independent testing organization.
  11. The results of each test case should be reviewed with great care.
  12. Test cases should be written in order to include unforeseen and invalid user inputs, as well as foreseen, valid user input.
  13. Testing a computer software program to insure it performs as it should is only fifty percent of the testing effort. Another fifty percent of the testing effort should be expended in order to insure that the computer software program does not perform in ways in which it should not be performing.
  14. Avoid one-time, spontaneous, disposable test cases.
  15. A testing effort initiated under the assumption that no errors will be found will not be a successful computer software testing effort.
  16. The proliferation of errors in a computer software program can be prevented through the employment of testing during the early stages of the software development lifecycle.
  17. Software testing tools can be and should be a key element of a software testing effort.
  18. Although perhaps counterintuitive, the probability that more errors will be found in a section of a computer software program in which errors have already been found increases with the number of errors discovered in that section of the computer software program.
  19. Testing computer software well is an extremely mentally challenging exercise that requires creativity and perseverance from the testers in order to succeed.
  20. The perception (oftentimes forwarded by management) that “not enough time exists to test the product properly, so let’s just ship it anyway”, because the “rewards of shipping the software outweigh the risks of shipping the software with undiscovered errors” may still be common practice in many software development and engineering organizations, yet such an attitude will lead to catastrophe, as software quality is intrinsically linked to customer requirements and customer satisfaction.

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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

What is the “n body problem”, and what does it mean for software project management? June 23, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Project Management.
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It can be shown that for n project team members, there are [ n (n-1) / 2 ] possible working relationships. These working relationships grow with increased project team size as the aforementioned polynomial function shows. Of course, any of these working relationships are in danger of deteriorating, and the ones that are working out great are not necessarily transitive. For example, just because Tom and Wendy work great together, and Wendy and Susan work well together, it does not follow that Tom and Susan will work well together.

Further complicating these working relationships are externalities such as intercultural differences and outsourcing of project resources and pieces of the project work.

As bluesman Robert Cray would say: “Too many cooks are gonna spoil the stew” – or, as Fred Brooks of The Mythical Man Month has said in the central thesis of this classic software development text: “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”.

The above factors are important to consider as a Project Manager. Poor team chemistry can ruin your chances to overcome the traditional project constraints of time, budget and resources even if your project team has at its disposal high quality technical talent.

The success of your project depends on both the quality of the talent on your project team and the manner in which that talent is engaged on your project.

It is currently fashionable for employers to surmise that a project’s success is only dependent upon the technical skill of the project team members. This is far from the truth, although a pleasant fiction for human resources and senior management.

As a Project Manager, you need to possess a wide range of people skills including team building, negotiation techniques and natural affability, you must be a master communicator, you must understand human behavior and team building and dynamics, you must be a great motivator and have innate knowledge of how to create and enhance esprit de corps.

Even the most highly technical situations are governed by human relationships and human nature. Your technical abilities and credibility as a technician carries weight with management and your project team members, certainly, but it is not your primary purpose as a Project Manager to serve as a technical resource, and all the technical skill in the world won’t save you if you can’t “Herd cats”.

The special challenges of software development will  rear their ugly heads in the midst of this, imposing their will upon the challenges of management of human teams. Only a skilled team, skillfully managed, can achieve success in most software development project situations.

“Good bow, hard to bend. Good horse, hard to ride. Good man, difficult to lead well”


Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

Steve Meretzky Boston PostMortem Keynote Video from Jan 16th, 2008: ‘The Most Perfect Video Game’ + Interview from 1994 April 17, 2009

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Speech by Steve Meretzky at Boston Postmortem. Title of talk: The Most Perfect Video Game. Jan 16, 2008.

Interview with Steve Meretzky, 1994. Interactive Entertainment CD-ROM magazine (IE) conducted a video interview with Steve Meretzky during his Boffo Games years; presented on the CD as a series of short answering videos to clickable questions, this video reassembles them in a linear fashion. The original video was roughly 240 pixels across, hence the quality of the recording…

Double Tap Games: Nintendo DS-oriented game studio sprouts up in Cambridge April 16, 2009

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Two primary executives formerly of THQ’s now-defunct Helixe studio have formed an exciting new game company in Cambridge, oriented to the white-hot Nintendo DS platform. Helixe created the movie-themed DS games Wall-E and Ratatouille, among many others including a Star Wars-themed game, The New Droid Army, for the Nintendo GBA. Double Tap Games, headed by Kurt Bickenbach and Richard Corredera, is aiming for “new games and franchises” with a fresh approach, appearing in the second half of 2009.

The company has a developer staff with over nineteen years and 10 million units of collective experience on the Nintendo DS and Gameboy Advance, having worked in such outfits as Sony Online Entertainment, Looking Glass Studios, and obviously, THQ.

Director of Business Development Richard Corredera, formerly of Sony Online Entertainment in San Diego and most recently Technical Director at Helixe, has stated that the new company is working on a few titles that have been slated for development, although no specific details or release schedules have been announced. From the company’s website:

“Based in Boston, Massachusetts, the DoubleTap team carries extensive experience in crafting online games of varying scale, as well as movie and TV licensed based games such as WALL•E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Tak, Jimmy Neutron, Fairly Odd Parents, Scooby Doo, Star Wars, and many others, with an understanding of a licenser’s ever-changing properties.

DoubleTap Games is committed to redefining online multiplayer experiences available on the Nintendo platforms. DoubleTap is confident the online Nintendo market will continue to grow and transform, and strives to speak to its audience in an uncommon way, with uncompromising quality.”

An exciting aspect of Double Tap’s intentions in the marketplace appears to be their emphasis on the online gameplay component of the Nintendo DS. This burgeoning new point of emphasis for Nintendo DS games, which as a platform has been relatively slow to adopt the online gameplay approach, could indeed deliver big success to the Cambridge-based Double Tap Games.

Click here for information on Double Tap’s Boston-based Development Team

Click here for information on Double Tap’s Development Team’s History in Nintendo Gaming

GamerDNA.com : New Gamer Social Network Site Opens in Cambridge April 15, 2009

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A new social networking site for Gamers has opened in Cambridge. The site is called GamerDNA.com, and they are funded by Flybridge Capital Partners of Boston. From the site’s ‘About’ page:

gamerDNA is the place to build and express your unique gamer identity. We want to help you discover, extend and better enjoy games from wherever you play online.
At the core of our company is the gamerDNA Discovery Engine, powered by a database of gameplay patterns and passionate feedback from gamers like you. By applying the collective intelligence of our community, we’re able to understand why you play the games you do, so:

* You can uncover new games you’ll enjoy
* Game developers can design better games with the features you’ll want
* You gain a powerful new voice in the world of games

Getting started is easy… Just let us know where you play (Console, PC, Mobile) and well automatically update your achievements, scores, characters, etc. and transport your gamerDNA anywhere you want to go on the Internet, including popular social media sites like Twitter.
Beyond social media sites, gamerDNA is also working with popular fansites, blogs and gaming communities to make gamerDNA a part of your experience elsewhere on the Web. Our Alliance Network of over 4 million gamers includes some of the largest gaming communities around the world including, WoWJutsu.com, ElitistJerks.com and MapleTip.com.

Our mantra is to know gamers better than any company in the world so we listen carefully to what you have to say about games and are constantly striving to learn what you love about them.”

Boston Game Developer’s Meeting Tonight (Tuesday, April 14th) in Waltham! 7-10pm @ The Skellig Pub April 14, 2009

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There will be a meeting tonight (Tuesday, April 14th) of the Boston Post Mortem Game Developer’s Group in Waltham, at the Skellig Pub on Moody Street, from 7pm to 10pm. http://www.bostonpostmortem.org

From Their Web Site’s Post regarding tonight’s event:

“For our April meeting, we have Steve Meretzky doing his talk, “Bring Back the Fun”:

“Is game development less fun than it used to be, and if so why and what can we do about it? The answers, it turns out, lie in the birth of the American industrial revolution and the Australian wine industry. Intrigued? No? Well, then stay home and work on your taxes, you last-minute slackers.”

As a side note, Steve will soon be moving out of our great state of Massachusetts, so this will also be your final chance to throw rotten vegetables at him for the foreseeable future. Don’t miss out!

Logistics:

Tuesday, April 14th @ 7pm – 10pm
The Skellig, Waltham

Our sponsors are the Independent Game Conference East, which is coming to Boston May 7-8, and Mary Margaret Network! We’re not completely finalized on whether it’s food, drink. or both being sponsored, but we’ll keep you in the loop.”

In order to sign up for the Boston Post Mortem Group’s Email List, Click Here

If you loved, as I did, the 80’s text-based adventure games from Infocom like Planetfall, Zork Zero, and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, then you won’t want to miss this event:

Some quotes regarding Steve Meretzky, most recently of Blue Fang Games, creators of Zoo Tychoon, and headquartered in Waltham’s Reservoir Place office park on Trapelo Road:

“Meretzky’s resume reads like the contents of a ‘Best Of’ compilation.”
— PC Gamer

“The funniest man in the business.”
— Zero

“Seeing the words ‘Steve Meretzky’ on a game box is akin to seeing the words ‘The Beatles’ on an album.”
— Compuserve Online Reviews

“The Steven Spielberg of adventure games.”
— Compute’s PC & PCjr

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