It takes courage to be funny, and Sarah Cooper can tell you all about it. She left a comfortable position in management at Google to become a writer and a stand-up comedian. But she took inspiration from her work, sharing a series of comics and blog posts with her observations about office behavior that eventually led to a publishing deal and her first book, “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings.” In this episode, Sarah will tell us about how she drew on her childhood dreams to validate the difficult choice to change careers, the value of sharing imperfect ideas early instead of waiting to refine them, and how she’s adjusting to the transition from employee to entrepreneur.
I first came across Daniel Coffeen when I listened to his popular 2008 Rhetoric class after the entire semester of lectures was made available online for free by UC Berkeley. His powerful and enthusiastic approach to teaching a traditional academic subject impressed me, and I’ve been following his career ever since–or at least I thought I had been. As I found out in this interview, there’s more to this philosopher, blogger, writer, podcaster, and teacher than I ever knew. In this episode Daniel tells us how he stays motivated after more than a decade freelancing, and how he knits together the seemingly unrelated strands of his successful and distinctive career.
I’m having a blast working on my new book about scrum for web and mobile development for SitePoint. I decided to take a slightly offbeat approach to the subject, and incorporate a little fiction into the work.
It’s easy to list out the details of how scrum works, and explain abstractly why it’s such a useful system for supporting web and mobile development teams. It’s something else to make the process come alive for the reader. So I decided to dust off my fiction writing skills and give the team in the book a little color.
I’ve created a set of characters derived broadly from the interactions of engineers, product managers, designers, executives, and others I’ve worked with or coached over the years. I’m trying to show how real people work together, what problems they face, and how they can use the tools of scrum to deal with them.
Scope creep? Covered.
Technical debt? Covered.
Unrealistic expectations? Covered.
So far the editors seem to like what I’m doing.
By showing realistic situations, fears, challenges, and accomplishments, I’m hoping to make the subject more concrete. I also want to address some of the concerns about scrum that I’ve read from people who may have had strong negative experiences.
I truly believe that scrum, properly applied by people who don’t think that it’s either going to magically give them the team they always dreamed of having, or that it is a management plot to steal an engineer’s freedom, can be powerful and effective.
Don’t read yourself into any of the characters; more than the names have been changed….
I was really excited when my publisher, SitePoint, contacted me and asked me to write a book about scrum for mobile and web development teams. I’ve been writing articles about web development and scrum for SitePoint for a little over a year now. And when I did the math, it turned out I have over 10,000 hours of experience leading and participating in scrum engineering teams doing web or mobile development.
What really impressed me was the way the process was structured to make sure the book got written and edited efficiently. SitePoint uses Github to track changes and manage feedback. The entire manuscript is written in markdown and submitted through pull requests for each chapter. Editors for content, copy, and overall project management are assigned at the start, and an agreed schedule breaks down the writing time separately from the revision time.
Writing long-form pieces is always challenging, but a structure like this seems more likely to result in a finished piece and a predictable timeline. Every chunk is clearly defined before starting, and seems do-able.