Eden of Things – Day 2

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Making good progress

First task of the day was swapping out the Raspberry Pis from the sensors team and replacing them with x86 based machines. The compiler for the ESP8266 is x86 based and there is no Arm-based version that we could find, we could have rebuilt it, but it was more effort than pulling apart my office and bringing in my home computer and a spare that was being built as a Pi-Net server.

So we didn’t quite fit everything we wanted to into day 1.  It was really important that the teams had a chance to play with the technology and try a bit of coding, that meant we dropped on session on understanding source control using Git.  What better way to start a Tuesday than with a deep dive into source control, commits, merges, branches and detached heads. That is once we got started, we were slightly late today, as day 2 on the job and some of the teams rocked up late.

Once everybody was completely lost with git terminology, me included, the teams got into their respective tasks under the guidance of their mentors, Byran on Sensors, Ben on Core Systems and Paul on User Interface.  The teams had a steep learning curve, with most members having never experienced C, arduino, ESP8266, php, javascript, jquery, REST, etc, etc.  The mentors have been amazing, patiently leading and training the teams in everything from configuring a linux webserver, to building breadboard circuits and initialising SMART TVs. One problem I’ve experienced with teams is our culture doesn’t encourage enough celebration or recognition of achievement.  The teams here were no different.

One problem I’ve experienced with teams is our culture doesn’t encourage enough celebration or recognition of achievement.  The teams here were no different. As the teams started on their quests to master their allocate sub-system, little victories were silently occurring all the time, but you couldn’t tell.  The UI team had a little shout when then got the Smart TV to connect to their web server and display a page, but the sensor team managed to get an LED to flash on and off via the ESP8266 and there was nothing, not a whisper. This little victories are so important to celebrate, they enable the whole team to realise that we are making progress, they add an element of fun to proceedings and they make us feel good and bond as teams.  So with a little encouragement and praise we are making progress, there are more cheers happening all the time, we are starting to generate a buzz.

After a intense day of work we had our first show and tell at 3pm.  The UI team kicked off the presentations with a great looking screen with imagery they had created earlier in the day from around the biomes and some dummy data.  Finally, a round of applause and laughter, we’re making real progress, technically and socially.

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The Core systems team followed up with a visual less impressive but fantastic technical achievement demonstrating a working php based REST server and an agreement API architecture – no small feat.  More applause.

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Finally, the sensor team keep up the run of success, having moved on from the impressive display of a flashing LED, they showed how they had deployed a websever onto the ESP8266, connected to our sometimes flakey wifi and were able to get a reading from a light sensor on demand with a simple REST call. More applause and cheering!

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All teams have proven the fundamentals of the system architecture, now to pull it together.

A review meeting decide the next steps, now we know that all the basic concept could work, was to look into the realities of the physical environment we want to deploy into.  Is there a wifi signal, how strong is it, where should we place the sensors.  We don’t want to continue developing new features until we can prove that we have a working architecture from end-to-end – a walking skeleton.

And that was pretty much it for day 2, everybody disappeared into the biomes, smart phones out measuring wifi signals and seeing how high up into the biomes that could get. The good news is they found wifi, whether it’s strong enough for the ESP8266 we’re not sure, we’ll find out tomorrow……..

Oh, and git, we’ve had some commits! https://github.com/TheEdenOfThings

Great work everybody!!!!

Eden of Things – Day 1

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After 6 months of planning (honest there has been some planning), the first day of the Eden Of Things has arrived!

The Eden Project’s horticultural technologist, Michael Cutler, provided an idea based on measuring various aspects of the Eden Biomes with the aim of providing visitors with a different perspective on the Biomes lifecycle.

The Big Plan

Software Cornwall and Cornwall College are colloborating to provide a pilot solution for the Eden Project and work experience for students studying a computing degree.  We’ve setup a base room on site and will be here for 1 week creating a solution.

The solution comprises of three components:

  • a number of sensor stations that are free standing (no wires) based around an ESP8266.
  • a data collection and cataloguing server
  • a data presentation system able to consume the data from the data collection server and display it in interesting ways on a smart TV.

Day 1

The first day is all about induction, admin, team building and understanding the customers goals and context for the tasks. Not to mention getting all the base tech in place to enable the week to happen.

It takes a surprising amount of equipment to run the week, about an S-MAX full.  Luckily, although the Core building at the Eden Project is at the bottom of the site, we could get right to the door.

With a few last minute withdraws we ended up with 13 ready to start at 9.30am.  The day starts with the obligatory introductions and health and safety, then we get into the fun stuff.  Scrum tennis gets everybody talking and interacting.  It’s a great game, everytime I run it different things happen. What happened this time:

  • Individuals became a team.  They talked, interacted, focused on a problem.
  • We learnt that failure is OK.  The team tried different approaches don’t always work, but don’t discount ideas, give it a go, but be sure to limit it, control the risk by monitoring and discussing after a defined trial period – a sprint!
  • When we try something new, it should be expected that we will fail first time.  Round zero, the number of points produced was zero. Acting as a team, not allocating blame, but inspecting and adapting the process is key.
  • Look for the bottlenecks, externally motivation doesn’t make the machine work faster.  No amount of encouragement or pressure can make the team work faster.  We need to look at what is slowing us up and work out how to remove or reduce it’s effect.  In scrum tennis we moved closer together, formed a circle, etc.
  • Don’t be bullied into accepting unrealistic targets.  Calling them aspirational or anything else doesn’t make them achievable.  The team need to agree and set it’s targets based upon experience and knowledge of the task.  When pushed, don’t just accept a bigger target to please the customer, be realistic and set expectations at the beginning.

What a great list, learnt through experience, no amount of lecturing could have got these messages home with the effectiveness of this simple game.

Next up, after team allocations and setting up workstations, was a session on how to code.  The key messages were focus on testing, strive to do TTD and work as a team, use mob and pair programming.  The session was based upon the excellent http://cyber-dojo.org, testing Bluefruit’s Head of Development, Byran, by using php rather than his preference of c++.

With all the induction training done, the team earned the much coveted Software Cornwall polo shirt!  A spot of lunch and then a customer brief from Edens Horticultural Technologist, Michael Cutler.

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The facts about what we – humans – are doing to our planet are stark, we’re all in this together and need to work together to look after our fragile planet and ensure it remains hospitable for our species.  This project’s real aim is to help with education, demonstrate the fragility and effect of variations upon the eco-system in the Biomes; ultimately to contribute to helping change visitors behaviour and make them more aware of they’re actions and choices and the effect this has upon our planet.  It’s a grand aim, but the team is looking forward to the challenge of using technology for good and seeing what insights can be gleaned and how we can help with the Eden Projects mission.

And they’re off!  The thinking and coding begins. Most of the day has already based, so there is only an hour or two left for getting the ground work done, links to GitHub established and user stories reviewed and plans produced.

Just enough time and the end of the day for our first retrospective.  The 4 L’s approach was taken to complete a 10 min retrospective.  Key findings:

  • We liked getting to code
  • We liked creating the team
  • We learnt about linux
  • We learnt about Raspberry Pis, Smart TVs and breadboard
  • We lacked tea and coffee
  • We lacked knowledge of PHP, linux
  • We longed for Raspberry Pis to be able to deploy code to the ESP-01
  • We longed for a tour of Eden

Some bits to fix for day two for the mentor and support team! Tea and coffee being number 1.

It was a great first day, many challenges cropped up, nearly all technical, but with a great mentoring team we managed to get everybody going.

 

Scenarios

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“A scenario is a concise description of a persona using a product to achieve a goal” (Cooper).

concise : short but complete; breadth instead of depth

product : assume the product (software or physical device) exists, even if it doesn’t

goal : the reason why we perform a task

Used to validate design, check assumptions.

Create a shared understanding of end users.

Prototyping

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Some useful tools – not tried all of them

Personas

Aside

http://www.computing.dundee.ac.uk/projects/utopia/utopia.mov

Personas

http://www.interactionbydesign.com/presentations/olsen_persona_toolkit.pdf

Name Generator – http://www.namegenerator.biz/random-name-generator.php

Persona templates – http://aarronwalter.com/design-personas/

http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/agile-product-innovation/persona-template-for-agile-product-management/

Nice template from here http://www.premiumdw.com/case-studies/a-website-project-workflow-that-works/

Tons of templates:

https://sites.google.com/site/superuserfriendly/templates/persona-template

THe Book – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0672316498/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=