Shipping Greatness – How to build and launch outstanding software – #bookreview #projectmanagement

Shipping Greatness
Chris Vander Mey
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

The subtitle of this excellent new book deserves its own paragraph, so here it is:

“Practical lessons on building and launching outstanding software, learned on the job at Google and Amazon.”

Back when I worked in software development, we never shipped “greatness,” nor anything that resembled “outstanding.” We shipped software that was overdue, incomplete, and inadequately tested. Then we followed up, always in panic mode, with patches, dot releases, and releases that had multiple dots.

Everyone – from our customers to our sales force, managers, and finance department— hated us. (Indeed, more than once, I was a tech-writer minion in a software-development group that was thrown out an employer’s door en masse.)

Anyone who works in software development today or manages software development teams should consider reading Chris Vander Mey’s spirited and eye-opening project management guide.

“Shipping,” he writes, “is about meeting customer needs well and quickly, in addition to becoming rich and famous. Your mission, therefore, is to solve a customer problem. Your strategy is your unique approach to meeting a need that a group of people—a market segment—shares. It sounds pretty simple, and it is, in theory.”

In reality, of course, it is also fraught with crises, gotchas, unwanted surprises, management squabbles, and corporate-wide earthquakes, to name just a few distractions.

With this book, his goal is to get you beyond management theory and into the rapid, real-life flow of software creation and shipping, with the skills and knowledge necessary to both survive and thrive.

Shipping Greatness is organized into two parts and contains a total of 215 pages, 13 chapters and three appendices.

Part One: The Shipping Greatness Process

  • 1. How to Build a Great Mission and Strategy
  • 2. How to Define a Great Product
  • 3. How to Build a Great User Experience
  • 4. How to Achieve Project Management Greatness on a Budget
  • 5. How to Do a Great Job Testing
  • 6. How to Measure Greatness
  • 7. How to Have a Great Launch

Part Two: The Shipping Greatness Skills

  • 8. How to Build a Shipping-Ready Team
  • 9. How to Build Great, Shippable Technology
  • 10. How to Be a Great Shipping Communicator
  • 11. How to Make Great Decisions
  • 12. How to Stay a Great Person While Shipping
  • 13. That Was Great; Let’s Do It Again

The three appendices are: Appendix A – 10 Principals of Shipping; Appendix B – Essential Artifacts Your Team Needs; and Appendix C – References and Further Reading.

Chris Vander Rey’s new book offers a wealth of how-to discussions, techniques to consider, and tips to adopt. One of my favorite small bits of advice is: Never have a launch party during a software launch. “It’s really demoralizing when your team members can’t go to their own party,” he says. Instead, many of them likely will be hunched in their cubicles monitoring server traffic or watching for user problems with the release.

You can’t get a degree (yet) in this kind of shipping. But Shipping Greatness is the textbook that can help you graduate to greatness in the ever-changing, ever-challenging world of software.

Si Dunn

Practical Computer Vision with SimpleCV – ‘Seeing’ with Python – #programming #bookreview

Practical Computer Vision with SimpleCV
Kurt Demaagd, Anthony Oliver, Nathan Oostendorp, and Katherine Scott
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

SimpleCV, or Simple Computer Vision, is “an easy-to-use Python framework that bundles together open source computer vision libraries and algorithms for solving problems,” according to the authors of this useful and informative how-to book.

The subtitle is “Making Computers See in Python,” and the codes examples require Python 2.7.

Why learn computer vision? “As cameras are becoming standard PC hardware and a required feature of mobile devices, computer vision is moving from a niche tool to an increasingly common tool for a diverse range of applications,” the authors note.

Indeed, cameras and computer vision now are being used in everything from facial recognition systems and video games to automobile safety, industrial automation, medicine, planetary exploration, and even agriculture.

“The SimpleCV framework has compiled installers for Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu Linux, but it can be used on any system on which Python and OpenCV can be built,” the authors state.

Practical Computer Vision with SimpleCV shows how to use the framework and simple application examples to get started toward building your own computer vision applications. The 240-page book has 10 chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Getting to Know the SimpleCV Framework
  • Image Sources
  • Pixels and Images
  • The Impact of Light
  • Image Arithmetic
  • Drawing on Images
  • Basic Feature Detection
  • FeatureSet Manipulation
  • Advanced Features (focuses on optical flow)

The book also has three appendices: Advanced Shell Tips, Cameras and Lenses; and Advanced Features (deals with advanced segmentation and feature extraction tools).

Practical Computer Vision with SimpleCV provides a good overview of computer vision basics and shows, using simple but effective examples, how you can put them to work.

Si Dunn