Sunday, March 24, 2013

Low and High Intensity Learning

Paul Graham in his essay Wealth says startups are a way of compressing a whole working life into a few years. You work at a very high intensity for a short period of time (say four years) instead of the normal low intensity for a long period of time (say forty years), in other words startups are a way of increasing your productivity exponentially. In my experience there is a correlation between high intensity working and high intensity learning.

The potential relationships between high-intensity work and learning have a lot of appeal because it provides a chance to leapfrog our understanding of several domains in a short period of time.

In his essay Startup = Growth Graham defines a startup as “… a company designed to grow fast". My last company was small, we considered ourselves a startup (although according to Graham’s definition we were not) but we worked considerably faster (higher intensity) than a larger company would have. I can say that with some certainty now because a 15,000-person company acquired our small (maybe 10-person) company and the differences are pretty dramatic.

To be fair there is a difference between the learning that occurs when a person is working for a high intensity company as opposed to doing their own high intensity work. With a high intensity company people learn whatever they have to in order to solve the problems in front of them, then they move on. A person working intensely on their own has the freedom to focus on what they want but they run the risk of never finding focus.

I’m struggling with the second part. I’m back to a low-intensity company but I don’t want to be pulled into a low-intensity learning situation. Part of me says that won’t happen because of my own internal drive but another part of me is worried the low-intensity rhythm of the company will make it hard to find focus. (I’m not saying my small company was a good example of a high intensity work / learning environment but as of right now it seems better than the corporate world.)

One solution is to create my own startup – something designed to grow fast which would force fast learning. It would be amazing for many reasons including getting back to a higher-intensity learning situation but I don’t know where to start. Another solution is to find a person or person(s) with the same interests or goals as I have and work together to learn. Maybe the small team size would have the effect of pushing each other into a higher intensity work and learning environment? Now where do I begin? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Export iBooks to your PC for reading

As I consider switching from an iPad to a Nexus 7, one of the main things I do on my iPad is read books. I try not to purchase media, like Books and Music, through iTunes because Apple is overly restrictive in terms of DRM and accessibility - why isn't there an iBooks Windows or Mac app? Naturally I want to migrate the books I've purchased to a format I can read on another device. (It's a shame this option isn't provided).

So how do you export iBooks purchases to your PC? It's quite simple:
  1. In iTunes, go to your purchased items
  2. Click Books
  3. Download the books you'd like
The downloaded content will be dropped into the default iTunes folder which for me was Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Books; you can then browse your downloaded book(s) and grab the .epub file. If, like me, you are considering moving to a new device you can then use Calibre to change the format from a .epub to a .mobile or PDF. 

Naturally some of the books I've purchased have DRM on them so you'll have to work around that. Personally I find it quite frustrating to spend more than $10 on an ebook only to have it locked into one format so I scoured the net and found a way to remove the DRM from the books I've purchased. If you are interested in doing the same this worked for me.

With my iBooks purchases transferred into .mobi formats I can read them on my desktop, laptop and other mobile devices. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Taking the RTI Online

In February I attended an online training course where participants test a software product using the Rapid Testing methodology called Rapid Testing Intensive (RTI) Online taught by James Bach. I found it to be a great way to test a product, get feedback on your work, build a software testing portfolio and learn about the Rapid Testing methodology.

Last July I took a similar in person training course appropriately called Rapid Testing Intensive Onsite. I meant to write about my experience but never did so allow me to describe it now:

The onsite version was an intense four and a half days of lecture, learning, testing and other team activities. From survey testing, to group stand up presentations, to the occasional after hours (with beer in hand) dice game it was a week of mental challenges with quite a bit of fun mixed in. After some encouragement from a few twitterers I shared my notes in the form of a live blog: (day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5).

During that time I was the “lone tester” in my company and taking a week to work on a team with other testers from around the world was a welcome change and an enjoyable experience. When a team member found something interesting or became confused the rest of the team became involved in the discussions which lead to new ideas about where to test. If someone didn't clearly understand something someone else in the group could help. All this team work lead to some exciting discoveries.

Coming back to my original story I can do a little bit of comparison: