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Agile Context Switching

I had the pleasure of trying to work on 3 separate agile projects last sprint. I typically get 40-50 story points done in a sprint. I like to take on more than I think I can do to keep myself from letting work expand to fill time. I also had the issue of having to take on another developer’s work. Total, we promised ~80 story points.

Now, when my kid was new and I wasn’t allowed to sleep nights, I was able to cram 70-80 sps into a sprint. But sleep has made that level of productivity very hard.

I was also tasked with working offsite, organizing a community of practice, and trying to learn a very large project through “osmosis”. Which is to say, learn as much as you can without reporting time spent on it.

I have to admit, all of the work is interesting and the clients are all people I personally don’t want to let down. So it’s hard to say “forget project X”. (Which is hard to say generally when there actually is a project X.)

So with many things pulling me in many directions, my completed story points for the sprint was 33. A significant decrease in general productivity.

Context switching needs to be allocated for in sprint planning. Duh?

The trick is how much? Some people say it takes 15-30 min to effectively context switch. That’s part of it. I think the larger part is when you’re focused on one-two items, you can finish things effectively. The more items, the more you end up with partial work. Partial work is the worst time killer. You get 50% into a feature and if you have to stop and start again it magically turns into 30-40% done.

Solution? Don’t switch contexts.

Har har. Work on something to completion before switching contexts. Be strict about it.

Posted in Agile, ATG, Development, Flashcards, Harmony Lab, Quizmo. Tags: , . Comments Off on Agile Context Switching »

Flashcard Gamification

With our Flashcard application, I am trying to make gamification a focal point. I want the games to be modular so anyone can create new games and I want games that are multiplayer. Friendly competition within the class would be ideal.

Competition among a scoring system is too antisocial. The score scroll at the end of a game of donkey kong doesn’t make for a lot of interest in this day and age.

I have a couple of ideas.

A “card” game. Each student is dealt the same 5 cards from a “deck”. They see only one side of the 5 cards. The reverse of one of those cards is displayed and the first student to select the correct card gets a point. That card is then replaced with a new one. Having them both have the same cards takes any chance out of the game. It is time based, which means it is reliant on students being on at the same time.

So a variation of the previous could be one student plays and waits for the other student to play and they don’t lose a point unless they get it wrong. Players could be matched based on how much they’ve studied.

But is that fun? I think after a while, most people would just get bored of it.

Word games on phones are quite popular, but they’re all just variations of word scrambles, word finds, or crosswords. These are simple and not very applicable to a flashcard framework.

I stopped writing this and don’t have the motivation to continue, so I’m just going to post what I have.

Posted in ATG, Flashcards, Gamification, Trends. Tags: . Comments Off on Flashcard Gamification »

Making Money With MOOCs

The New York Times continues to explore MOOCs, this time with an article about how MOOCs, particularly those run by companies like Coursera and Udacity, have yet to become a lucrative business. Although millions of students have enrolled in classes and although millions of dollars have been invested in MOOCs, a stable and profitable business model for offering free, online courses has yet to be established. The current, most promising model involves licensing course content or entire courses to other Universities so that they can fulfill their online desires. Additional ideas abound, including charging small fees for certificates of completion, for more advanced courses or follow-up courses,  or for one-on-one instruction. And, of course, there’s always the possibility of  incorporating advertising.

To me, it’s interesting that these online companies are insistent that their courses remain free, and that they believe the bulk of their revenue stream will come from licensing models as opposed to charging for courses outright. I admire their desire to have free content online, but that seems at odds with traditional education, which requires steep tuition fees. It’s also at odds with extended schooling; all night schools that I have known charge for admission. So I don’t see the harm in Coursera or Udacity taking the approach of offering some courses for free, but then asking $0.99 for other courses. With hundreds of thousands of students per course, that’s a lot of money trickling in. And with some online courses costing Universities over $50,000 to create, that money needs to come from somewhere.



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