The Wonderful Wacky World of “Wagile”

Quick!  Are people “agile”?  In my opinion, I give that a resounding “NO!”.  Yet, I see companies, organizations and people using agile as a term in reference to their current operational state.  I have decided that “agile” is the new “disorganized” when it comes to organizations.  Rather than proclaim that they are in a state of chaos, it is much cooler to say “We’re being agile!”.  Ok….yeah, sure…..

Agile is most commonly used in reference to a software development process that designed to connect the software developer more closely to the customer by frequently comparing the design communicated by the customer with what the programmer actually developed.  The goal is to reduce the the chances that after months of creating detailed requirements, development plans and testing plans and THEN code and deliver the entire product you’ll  hear “Oh no!  THAT isn’t what I wanted!”. That method is called the “waterfall” method of software development where all the design and specification is done upfront, the design is handed over to development, then testing, then “Lookout below…..!”

Instead, in an “agile” process, the developer checks in frequently with the customer and says “Is this what you wanted?”,  or “Is THIS what you wanted”, or “Maybe this is what you were talking about?” with the end result of a solution that is more closely tailored to the customer’s expectation.  Theoretically, agile is faster and creates a more close-knit environment between the organization and customer.  But, the one reason that is most cited for using agile, which is to be more responsive to a changing market, is seen as successful in only 4%* of organizations that adopt agile processes.  THAT to me is very interesting.

If agile doesn’t make you more, um, agile….why not?  I think that is because even though agile practices allow software development processes to quickly “pivot”  (another cool term that is thrown about) people don’t pivot.  People like predictable change.  People like to be informed and make decisions with some reflection.  People aren’t necessarily resistant to change although 46% of organizations say that resistance is why agile hasn’t succeeded in their organization *.  People embrace change but embrace it slowly.  I think this is why agile “works” with software development.  The process is iterative over time.  There are frequent check-ins to make sure all is well.  But if your agile process is to develop people, or change a process used by people, well then, that requires a much longer process and more iterations.

Simply implementing a change in your process, a “pivot”, is easy as long as it doesn’t require changing people. But in most cases changing processes DOES involve changing people so don’t expect to be able to make a switch in your “prototype” person overnight.  We ALL wish we could change people like we can rework a software application but sadly, it is hard to update a person’s software.  Most people have firmware that is baked in so you have to accommodate older firmware as you change the software.  🙂   So, if you are a “people organization” where developing people or changing a person is your “product”,  go slow.  Even a reboot may not clear their memory like you want.

And, while I am at it with technology industry buzzwords being applied to people organizations, could you drop “fail fast” from your vernacular?  A product can fail fast, but failing fast with people is called “bankruptcy”.  If your plan is to try something spectacular and risky with people, find a willing subset of your customers who you can rely on for honesty and loyalty.  You still want them around if your new program or process fails fast.  You don’t want a warehouse full of “New Coke” and not a customer left……

Oh, what about that “wagile” remark?   Well, I was at a conference in San Francisco in July and there was a keynote about micro services which naturally landed in the “Continuous Integration-Continuous Delivery” (CICD) realm and of course, CICD is one component of agile development.  The keynote presenter admitted that some of the promises of agile have not been realized* and most development shops were more “wagile” than “agile”.  “Wagile” being a combination of the waterfall method and agile processes.  It’s true.  It’s hard to constantly work through multiple iterations.  Most developer types settle on a sizable chunk of development design, and then start checking in with the customer.  Wagile.

Yep, when it comes to people, wagile is the way.  Quite a bit of discussion and design upfront, a pilot program to see how it is received, and if all is well, increasingly rapid iterations after your people know where you are headed.  Not “failing fast”, just learning as we go…. That’s the ticket: Wagile.

* To read more about the state of agile see: The State of Agile

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Dear Google Cloud Team

Doncha just hate it when you have one of those FedEx tags on your door that says “Sorry we missed you. Your turn!”? So, I got one of those after returning from a vacation and the pickup point was the Walgreen’s a few miles away.

The FedEx pickup desk staff asks for ID and then says, “Do you have any other ID”? which immediately reminds me of the scene from the first “Men in Black” movie. In any case, I said that I also ran a business called “Value Added Software”. So, I passed the test and I am handed a “Google Cloud Kit” for an employee called “Herbert Bergmann” and two things immediately enter my mind (multi-tasking!): 1) Why would a “cloud kit” need a box? 2) WHO is “Herbert Bergmann”?

The carrot at he end of the stick is a “Google Assistant” for free. So, what did I do? I bite and schedule a conference call (coming up!) I also fired off an email to my “Google Cloud Team” member explaining that unless they are running IBM i on a PowerPC CPU I’m really not a great Google Cloud prospect.

And who is “Herbert Bergmann”? The mystery remains….

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The growing problem of digital fatigue

Last week I participated in the Global Leadership Summit , a digitally streamed event from Willow Creek Church in Illinois. I learned quite a bit. I was moved and inspired. But the impact would have been even greater on me if I had been at Willow Creek, live. What I liked about the format, even if it was digital, was that it was streamed to a church where we met (in Salt Lake City as it turned out) so the impersonal-ness was mitigated by joining a hundred or so people there rather than sitting behind a screen and keyboard by myself. But besides the richer personal experience, one speaker, Craig Groeschel said something that resonated with my view of digital interaction. To paraphrase, he said something to the effect: “I have a theory that younger generation may start to reject social media.” I would say the issue is broader and more immanent. I think we are ALL suffering from “digital fatigue” and the next great “digital” wave will focus on how to engage people in-person. We have begun to tire of digital means as the ONLY means for relationship. I would challenge Craig to focus on building an app that brings people together, in-person, rather than online. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google and many others are spending billions and hiring thousands of PhD’s to wire our brains to seek digital interaction over in-person. They want to monetize “relationship” and the only way for an online organization to do that is to get you to stay online. Craig’s church, Life.Church, underwrote the “YouVersion” bible app. I would challenge them to write an anti-app app like the “Sit with Us” app that brings teens together at school so they don’t have to sit alone at lunch. How about a “Talk about God with us” app that brings us together to talk about God and study His word in-person ?

I participate in two very different organizations that are facing the same issue. One organization is the one I work for: Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF to keep it short) . The other is a technical user community: At the very simplest level, BSF is an organization that teaches the bible and is an organization that teaches technology. Both organizations traditionally “taught” their subject matter in a personal, face to face setting. Both organizations face a demographic shift from a group that values face to face interaction to a rising demographic that says “meh” to getting together in person. Or, so some have thought.

I consider anyone born in the U.S. after 1950 to be a digital native. Yeah, tech in the 60’s was pretty basic but as computers have shrunk and computing power has grown, we have a whole, now mature, generation that has grown up in a digital age. There are differences in how folks have embraced the digital world but I don’t think a 60 year old today is much different than 20-something when it comes to a digital diet. There are heavy eaters and “nibblers” but the “food” is the same.  There is a spectrum of how folks embrace digital delivery of content, but we all span that rainbow. But although we are all swimming in the digital sea, there is a great difference in how a 50-something views relationships and how a 20-something views a relationship. And, there’s the rub. When it comes to relationship-oriented activities, the over 40 demographic views a “relationship” as a personal, in-person experience much more so than an under 40 demographic. That is a broad generalization but I would say that is basically true.

WE are the problem folks! Yes, you, who were born after 1950 and before 1980! We are the source of the problem because we failed to see the warning signs that our growing focus on career, our yielding to convenience over substance caused us to abdicate our responsibility to introduce our offspring to value of in-person, real human interaction. We took for granted that the generation we were raising would naturally gravitate to face to face interaction, while at the same time we sent them text messages about how much we loved them.

There is a rising tide of evidence and discussion that perhaps we missed an opportunity to teach our children what a “relationship” really is. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Rather than sit down with a book and snuggle in together for a story, we handed our kids a Kindle thinking our responsibility was done. With that kind of “start” what did we expect the outcome to be? Technology is not the problem. Technology is not “culture”. Technology is a tool which I think we have misused in the name of efficiency. We are just beginning to see how the tool has impacted the rising generation. The impact is on relationships. The tool of technology has painted our perception of relationship with a digital patina that skews what real relationship is.

So, how do we gain back what we have lost? How do you take a digitally focused generation which undervalues real person to person relationship and teach them what a relationship is really like? You don’t do it by doubling down on the use of technology. You don’t go ‘fully digital’ to “attract” digital natives unless it is an on-ramp to real relationship. Even if you are wildly successful in “attracting” you still have the challenge of creating a real “relational” experience. Guess what? That takes a personal commitment to mentor, side by side, those we care about and want to bring onboard the “relationship bus” we know is richer and more complete than a “Facebook friend”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not some closet Luddite posing as a programmer. I LOVE technology. I am wired for it. I also know the difference between an “online” relationship and an in person relationship and I know in my heart that face to face, in-person interaction is superior to a digital connection. Do I text, Skype and call my kids? Heck yeah! They live 1200 miles away. The old AT&T tag line: “Long distance is the next best thing to being there” could be updated for the 21st century to say: “Digital connection is the next best thing to being there” but the emphasis should be “the NEXT best thing” not the ONLY thing. We settle for digital over in-person because we assume the barriers to in-person are too great. In some cases, they are. But we should always lead with and prefer in-person.

So, let me just “go biblical” on you for a minute and reflect on how God interacts with his people. We see throughout the Bible that God repeatedly shows up “in person” at key moments in history. And when He isn’t showing up physically, He animates a man or woman to speak to us: a.k.a prophets. He could have just as easily put all His messages inside our heads like a Vulcan mind-meld, but He repeatedly shapes us in person or through a person. We deal with God as relational humans in-person. The ultimate instantiation as a person is that God shows up in the Person of Jesus. Again, God is God. He can do whatever He wants to interact with us, but He consistently chooses to do so as a person. Why does he do that? Because He knows humans need other humans (Genesis 2:18) We learn from other humans and learn to BE human by interacting with humans. The digital chasm allows us to function as the “next best thing” but it isn’t the best. We should strive for the best.

So our digital fatigue should drive us back together. Not by using cooler, more interactive technology but by leveraging our God-given desire to interact human to human, in person. We know innately that this is the best way and we also know that human in-person interaction is messy and difficult. But that shouldn’t dissuade us for seeking it as the best method for humans to interact. There are no digital shortcuts to a rich, flourishing relationship with people. Put down those digital tools and instead use the tools you were born with: A kind smile, a warm touch, tears that come with joy and sorrow, a voice of encouragement and love, hugs that communicate that you care. THOSE tools will transform us from digital avatars back into humans and restore us to real, flourishing lives.

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Where’s Waldo…um, Pete!

Nothing like a move from a monolithic, easy to maintain gem of a framework like Liferay to a distributed, micro-service based bespoke solution to suck the very life and free time out of your schedule. The whole of the IBM i community knows the beauty of a single, integrated operating environment and how that can reduce complexity, boost productivity and make troubleshooting issues easier. Now I get to deal with “where did it fail” mysteries of databases in one cloud, applications in another cloud, services from who knows where connected by a service bus in yet another cloud. I have been spoiled by living in a single ecosystem running on bullet proof hardware for decades.

So I have been scrambling and getting ready for a big move to higher complexity and stress. But I am looking forward to sharing what I have learned as the PowerUp18 conference comes to San Antonio in barely a month. MORE stress to get those presentations done!

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Common spring conference 2017 – AWESOME!

I hope you are kicking yourself as you read the title. “Dang! I should have gone!”  Yep. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.. Just sayin’ you missed another great week with the IBM i family. I probably had the greatest session load I have ever carried and yet, I can’t say that I have been to a better conference. I saw many new faces and *younger* faces, in case you think this is just the wrinkled masses migrating to the sunny climes of Florida to scout retirement homes.

Best part, making new friends! Also, having some time to sit in on some refreshers in Python,Orion, Node.js, Bottle, Watson, testing strategies, how to manage and leverage credit cards (! – RECon),  talk to vendors about new products…I came with more ideas than I usually have and I can’t wait to give them a whirl.

So sign up for the Fall Conference you laggards! Even if you have to pony up your own cash, your career will thank you!

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Common sense

I finished the book I have been working on for the past 4 months and just about the time I pushed the big button to send it off, I got a call from my wife letting me know that the A/C seemed to have been running constantly all day and yet the house wasn’t getting any cooler.  For you folks up north in the fall season, I am quite certain that you’d say to yourself “No big deal!  I have 9 months to get it fixed!  RELAX!”  In south Texas, a non-functional A/C unit in September is a 4 alarm emergency.  So the euphoria of “book finishing” led to a quick check of checking account balances and the looming knowledge of a weekend $ervice call adding up to the cost of a vacation trip to the Cayman Islands.  Better take a look first, when I get home…

Now, you are probably thinking that a guy who would attempt an A/C repair is right up there in insanity with a guy who would do his own brain surgery.  You are probably right, but after fixing things by making simple repairs, I operate under the assumption that a look a problem with some common sense can often save money and time in getting a broken thing running again.  Most of the time, I am rewarded with success, and, even when you include trips to the emergency room,  I am money ahead.

I have cracked our A/C unit open before for a little preventative maintenance.  I have fixed two furnaces, simply by replacing a $50 igniter, so, foolhardy or just plain lucky, I feel pretty comfortable cracking open things and “taking a look”.  I wish I would have taken a picture of what I saw in the control box of the A/C unit that was non-functional.  I HAD turned off the power (foolhardy yes, stupid no) and and almost immediately noticed a wire, burned at the end, that seemed to be going nowhere.  Now, just because there is an un-terminated wire in an electrical circuit, it doesn’t mean that is the issue.  Sometimes a wire is clipped off because of an “engineering change” to accommodate a non-original part so I don’t immediately assume that a loose wire is the culprit.  In my case, I have TWO identical units, so I disassembled unit #2 so I could compare the wiring.  Sure enough, the burned wire *should* have connected to the big honking capacitor and somehow had come loose.  I called Debbie out to watch and call 911 in case the capacitor chose my tinkering as an opportunity to discharge, and pulled the now orphaned connector off of the capacitor and re-crimped the burned off end on the connector and re-connected it.  I closed my eyes, I threw the big switch, waited for smoke and the unit rumbled back to life.  Life-giving cool air was now flowing from the ceiling vents.  Success!

When asked how I knew what to fix, I said “It was just common sense” but as I thought about it, I realized some folks have no common sense, especially when it comes to simple repairs.  Yeah, I am a geek and I admit that I was in electronics class in high school: That is where I developed a healthy respect for capacitors which jokesters would fully charge and then toss back into the parts box, just *waiting* for someone to rummage through and find it the hard way…. But you don’t have to be an electronics geek to be able to figure out simple stuff like I did in comparing the two wiring layouts.  You don’t have to be a licensed HVAC engineer to look at a furnace and notice that the “little thingy” in front of the burners isn’t doing any thing and looks burnt out. What it takes is “common sense”.  To me that is having a way of evaluating things logically.  You don’t have to fully understand everything, you just need to be able to logically walk through how something works.  That is usually enough to identify the problem, even if you don’t have a damaged frontal lobe like I do that doesn’t prevent you from proceeding to attempt to fix it.

Technology is working against humanity developing common sense because so much of the world’s operation is now hidden in “black boxes”.  When I was a mechanic, long ago, most repairs to engine problems involved tweaking or replacing tangible items.  Points, condensers, distributor caps, spark plugs were the items I worked with.  Now my Chevy Volt is plugged into a computer that evaluates the computers in the Volt for software updates that may fix an engine issue.  I may be a programmer, but hacking into my Volt to fix one of a million lines of computer code is beyond my capabilities or interest.  Give me tangible hardware any day!  But it brings about a bigger question and that is:  Are we losing our ability to logically think through simple repairs because we have handed off “logic” to the “black boxes” in our lives?  Is “common” sense becoming extinct?  If so, I’d recommend a job in the “trades” like HVAC, electrician, plumber.  Although I “robbed” my HVAC guy of $250 in fixing my A/C unit, I’ll just be handing it over to the Chevy mechanic to update my Volt’s software….zero sum, I guess.

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Updating 5733OPS on IBM i

Sounds easy you say? There are already instructions elsewhere you say? More power to you!
So here are my curated instructions:

1) Obtain the latest version of the 5733OPS licensed program through ESS. There are some good instructions on Club Seiden for getting the image and mounting it (but stop at the installation step!).

2) To install the licensed program, I just took option 11 on the LICPGM menu. Following the good Dr. Franken’s advice, I added install options 3-15 BEFORE I pushed the big button to install. Then I installed from the image catalog.

3) Download, install and apply group PTF SF99223 (V7R2M0). This is where the instructions are all over the deck, suggesting different individual PTF’s for each feature. Bite the bullet and install the group. You added a bunch of new options, might as well get them installed.

That group PTF acted like a TR (maybe it is) It took a LONG time to install and IPL. Fortunately I am the only one using this partition so I didn’t care.

After those three simple steps, you should be good to go. I am going to say *should* because I didn’t do those three steps in the correct order. I installed the massive PTF first, thinking that it would magically put the stuff on for me. So, after installing the PTF and getting nothing for the effort, I then installed the updated 5733OPS, thinking that would fix it. It didn’t. So then I re-applied the PTF thinking that it would fix it. It didn’t! So I went back, re-installed 5733OPS, this time adding all 15 options and THEN applied the PTF (again). Still no joy until Buck point out the need to shoot the HTTPSVR subsystem and the magical “call qsysdir/qinavmnsrv *STOP” incantation plus re-apply the group PTF (was getting REAL good at applying the PTF!)

So again, I think the correct sequence is the 1,2,3 above. And, if you don’t get an IPL out of installing the group PTF, then shoot the HTTPSVR subsystem and run the magic incantation and then apply the group PTF. That is what worked for me.

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Living the Open Source life on IBM i

I realize that I have taken Open Source on IBM i for granted.  Having run open source applications on IBM i for over 15 years, I just assume everybody knows that IBM i on Power is a great Open Source platform.  I mean, the “i” is for INTEGRATION…uh, duh!  But, it seems that there is only a subset of IBM i folks who realize that in many ways, they, too, have been running Open Source on i.  For a decade even.

Let’s start with web serving.  The early HTTP server was based on the CERN open web server.  Apache Tomcat has run almost forever on IBM i.   PHP has been on i since 2006.  Apache has been the HTTP server on IBM i since, what, 2002?  Regardless of whether I got my dates right, the truth is IBM i has been running Open Source software (commonly referred to as OSS) forever in ‘technology years’.

IBM upped the ante in the past two years by adding a new licensed program (free to those on SWMA) that contains a few, and soon, many open source packages that used to take a “real” bit-twiddler to configure and compile.  Now it is all done for you in a nice, clean package and there is more to come.  So what is the holdup in getting the community behind it?  I am not exactly sure.  Bill Gravelle, admittedly new to open source, happened to be in San Antonio this week and we sat down and had lunch and talked about Open Source and the IBM i community.  I think we are on the same page (he’ll let me know if I am not) in thinking that:

  1. Information about the open source community might be a bit fragmented.
  2. Information about how open source can be used in an IBM i enterprise might be lacking.
  3. Even though open source has been on IBM i for many years, there is still low visibility in and outside of the community.

There are multiple sources for open source information in the IBM i and I will be completely forthcoming in my interest promoting a more consolidated forum for finding solutions and sharing knowledge in the community.  Bill thinks that the fragmentation is a naturally occurring and will eventually coalesce into a more manageable few over time.  I am not sure who is right because I have tried multiple times to start a “central repository” of open source information (Open source on i was one such attempt) and I am trying again with the website.  Will this next attempt work?

Well, it will work if we contribute, so that is what I ask.  Just send me an email about stuff you find helpful in your open source efforts (send it to opensource at the domain).  I’ll take a look and post it up if it is helpful.  We need to start somewhere!  You can contact me either here at  (send it to pete @) or at the opensource email address at  Either will get to me.  And, don’t be shy…..

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Heading to NOLA

I love it that Common is heading to NOLA for next week.  It has been a long time since I have been in NOLA and it looks like attendance will be very strong.  If you have had a chance to dig into the schedule a bit you will quickly see how deep and wide the IBM i has grown.  I am not talking only about raw computing power, and not only about the variety of open source software that now runs on i (LOVE it!) but the community as well.  There will be students who will be presenting on what they have discovered the IBM i can do, and “more mature” (ahem) folks like myself also showing off the new and exciting capabilities of IBM i.  It is nearly guaranteed to be a very good conference and if you haven’t already registered, it is NEVER too late!

If you will be there, check out my two sessions: JavaScript and JSON and Developing Defensible web applications

See you in NOLA!


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The death of the IDE?

Every since I first played with Eclipse and marveled at how efficient and useful it was, I have been using it.  I use MyEclipse (which I have become less enamored with over time) and RDi (Rational Developer for IBM i – or whatever they decided to call it this week).  I use RubyMine, Eclipse for Android development, and on an on.  I always enjoyed being able to do everything from within the IDE. It was always much more than just a text editor.

But, recently, I have noticed more and more frameworks are departing from the “one environment to rule them all” experience and are adding command line scripting to get the job done.  You can no longer just build a Rails project from within the IDE.  You can no longer create a PhoneGap project from within the IDE.  Lately even some Java tooling I use requires I jump to a command line to run Gradle, or NPM or some script that “builds” the skeletal framework first.  THEN you can use the IDE.

What is UP with that?  The “I” in IDE is for “Integrated” not incidental.  When I am using a framework I expect everything to be generated from *within* the IDE.  I am not sure if it is just laziness or lack of understanding of the IDE tooling but I am getting a little tired of jumping from command line to IDE and back again just to get a project built.

Come ON you IDE and framework providers.  Get your game together…..

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