Archive for February, 2007

nominative determinism

Naming teams, project or initiatives is an important part of determining the successful outcome of the project. Although apparently trivial, naming in part helps steer and determine the outcome of something. Being sure that you can succeed breeds confidence, being optimistic breeds success, positive naming breeds positive outcomes.

How many times have projects given ‘failure’ names failed to deliver?

Nominative determinism (ND) is a term popularized by the magazine New Scientist. It refers to amusing instances where people’s names coincidentally reflect some aspect of their jobs, professions or lives. (


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fighting knock on bugs


Knock-ons happen at virtually every stage of development of a software product and are a hidden yet expensive problem. They manifest themselves as feature creep, as slippage and as bugs. Every decision & piece of work has the potential to cause knock on consequences. Sometimes the consequence can be a benefit, more often than not it is unexpected problem.

Focusing on implementation specifically, there are 2 potential knock on points; before & during implementation. After implementation a knock on is more likely to be noticed, and this is when knock-ons are considered, although this is the furthest point down stream and is the most expensive and least effective place to deal with them. The cheapest and most effective point to tackle knock on is before implementation starts. And the best prevention of knock-ons is thinking; carefully, critically and collectively.

Software is almost always developed under a degree of pressure. Pressure is a fact of life, be aware it can eat in to your ability to think critically (the tendency under pressure is to slip in to reactive & emotional thinking). Switching back to fix bugs created as a knock on of previous work, has a overhead cost of re-familiarising or multi-tasking, making it more expensive for you to deal with than the cost of the original implementation.

Implementing or releasing software that causes knock-ons, will cost significantly more in time (yours and/or other’s) & money, than the extra time & care taken to think it through and improve your chances of getting it right 1st time.

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bad decision-making common errors

Bad decisions are made for many reasons, these are some common errors;
Sunk cost bias
Taking sunk costs, time, money, or other resources which have already been spent and can’t be recovered, into decision making.
Egocentric bias
Putting yourself in another person’s shoes is harder than it seems
Confirmation bias
Allowing your existing opinions, to influence the way that you interpret information – simply confirming what you already know without due consideration.
That’s easy…
Endowment effect
People tend to place a higher value on things that they own relative to objects they do not.
Biased by recent events
Recent and memorable events have a greater relative influence, so much so, that we think that these type of events are more likely to happen than they actually are.
If everybody else think so…
Illusion of control
People know gambling doesn’t pay on average, yet gladly gamble their own money. In the same way, people who say they will hit an aggressive deadline even though there are many factors out of their control.
Generalizing personalities
Most people tend to over-emphasize personality-based explanations for the actions of others.
Competitive relative comparisons
‘Happiness’ is often seen as a function of what you have relative to other people.

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kids start younger and last longer


Kids start younger and last longer = great design opportunities & some unique challenges. The age range & market is growing for toys & games, and at the same time is more segmented and interested in sexy or tech led experiences.

We are not evolving as fast as fashion changes, so underlying each of the kids marketing categories are really the same kids wanting compelling experiences. Marketing is a key part of creating an experience (creating anticipation & desire), and a significant limitation on the types and selection of products played (fads, trends and fashion).
Finding ways to offer engaging experiences for a particular market is a key design challenge.

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people creep

Resource plans change in response to significant change or in reaction to a failure to meet an agreed plan. Plan also change due to ‘people creep’.
People creep happens when a team gets comfortable with the work that they have to do, and with the number of people in the team & by just starting to believe that they need more. When teams don’t want to leave their comfort zone, and where in a large team, there is a feeling that adding one more person can’t break the bank. It is a cultural change that can happen in large teams.
Feature Creep is a well known risk, People Creep is less known but as a phenomena has an impact on project delivery and budgets.

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bored with your lot?

When not engaged with a project, team or company there will be a tendency to look for distractions, pet projects or play pathological politics all of which are counter productive.

Our natural tendency to seek outside stimulation and distraction when we’re bored is the wrong solution; as our inner emotions & disquiet is more likely to be the root of our problem. Focusing on and considering your emotions would alleviate the boredom (symptom) more effectively that looking for stimulation.

“Like the trap of quicksand, such thrashing only serves to strengthen the grip of boredom by further alienating us from our desire and passion, which provide compass points for satisfying engagement with life”, they said. Instead the researchers suggest treating boredom as an opportunity to “discover the possibility and content of one’s desires”.

and on the impact of boredom at work;

(,,2020075,00.html )

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blindness to gorillas


Inattentional blindness; if you are concentrating on one static task, you often fail to notice dynamic movement.

In tests using a video of a group of basketball players catching a ball, 50% of observers do not see the gorilla wandering through the scene, and 25% of people don’t see the woman with the umbrella. When they are concentrating on counting the number of throws between the players.

“We feel like we’ve got all the details of the things going on around us,” Daniel Simons observes “But my bet is that most of the time people are really focused on one goal at a time.”

Also change blindness; finding that people often fail to detect change in their visual field, as long as the change occurs during an eye movement or when people’s view is otherwise interrupted.

detailed further reading…

great video demo

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