BT Java Web21C

BT’s Java SDK

As I mentioned recently, I now work in the Web21C SDK team. The SDK provides a simple API for programmatically accessing various web services that BT provides, including SMS, conference calls and location services.

The SDK is in public beta, and is currently free (with daily usage limits). Up to now it’s only been available for those crazy .NET folks, but the next release (on Monday, all being well) will extend that to Java, PHP and Python. Rumour has it that Ruby’s in the works too.

I’ve been having a play with the Java version – here’s a sneak preview…


A gentle nudge

…to Alkesh “the one without a blog” Vaghmaria to get a real post up :-)


I’m now on the SDK team

It looks like Paul Karsten has succeeded in making the case for more developers: Paul, Alkesh and I are now part of the Web21C SDK team (they assure us there’s plenty of Java as well as .net, and if we’re really good they might even let us play with Ruby).

This is good news on several fronts – Paul’s team seems to be one of the few remaining places in the company where in-house developers are still valued, they’re as keen all things XP and agile as we are, and as far as I know this is the first time anyone’s succeeded in moving an established team to a new project en masse since the new ‘resource management’ strategy was introduced.


Rating a company by its coffee provision

Marc McNeill makes some interesting observations on how you can judge a company by the coffee facilities it provides its employees. He lists, in order of decreasing clue:

  1. Vending machine that serves [quality] coffee on free vend.
  2. Kettle and filter coffee / Cafetiere to make my own.
  3. Kettle. I buy my own instant coffee.
  4. Vending machine that serves [quality] coffee that I have to pay for.
  5. Vending machine that serves [tasteless] cofee that I insert coins into.
  6. Vending machine that serves [tasteless] coffee that I insert a vending card into.

Where I work, we have a choice of options three or six. We also have another, that slots in one side or the other of number four:

  • Coffee bar that serves [quality[ish]] coffee that I have to pay [through the nose] for.

At the training centre where I’ll be on Wednesday (formerly a BT site, now run by Accenture), they’ve managed to find another option, which I guess ranks (and having tasted the coffee, I choose the word rank advisedly) at around 4.5:

  • Vending machine that serves [tasteless] coffee on free vend.
Agile BT

I guess we’re now a cool international telco

Overheard last night at XtC:

“I work for Dresdner.”

“Ah, they used to be a cool international investment bank.”

“What are we now then?”

“An international investment bank.”

“Why aren’t we cool any more?”

“Because you lost JP.”

BT Software

Bookmarklet to convert intranet URIs for connection via VPN

It’s quite common these days for organisations to allow external access to their intranets using an SSL VPN, but it can be a bit of a pain if you’re trying to follow a ‘normal’ intranet hyperlink (eg from an e-mail) – you have to paste the URL into a box on the VPN homepage and have it converted.

To make it easier I’ve created a bookmarklet to do the conversion. It may not work for all sites, as I’m only constructing the new URI based on a simple inspection of a couple of pages.

Agile BT

The death of the Big Blue Notebook

No lab books!
Ever since I started work, people have had big blue (or more recently black and red) books that they wrote stuff in. I’ve always called them lab books, but that seems to cause amusement to some people, presumably because I don’t work in a lab.

Some of the things that were written were notes from meetings, to do lists, or rough design notes. The most important ones though, the ones that you kept referring back to (if you could find them), were the little snippets of secret knowledge that everyone accumulates as they learn the intricacies of their particular job, whether it’s useful unix commands or instructions for using a particular build system.

Agile BT Rants

Agile in the enterprise: don’t try to steer the supertanker

When people talk about large organisations making major changes to their core processes or values, sooner or later someone will compare the process to steering a supertanker – if you turn the wheel now, you’ll have travelled quite a distance before there’s any noticable change in course.

This analogy falls down when you’re trying to introduce agile software development. If you want to be agile, a supertanker just won’t do the job any more. It’s time for small teams to jump into the lifeboats and set off in their own directions, leaving the heavy old legacy systems to continue their progress on their predictable course. The lifeboats are far nimbler and can react much quicker to changing conditions. Of course (and that sound you hear is the analogy stretching close to breaking point) they would still be in radio contact with the captain, so you wouldn’t lose sight of the overall strategy.

Personally, the lifeboat I was in until Christmas now has a new crew and is sailing under a flag of convenience out of Mumbai. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in the new year, or whether we’ll remain as a team, but at the moment it feels very much like we’re being dumped back on the supertanker, and while we’ve been off charting new territories, the ship’s only turned by a degree or two.

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Agile BT

BT agile awards (2)

Hot on the heels of the presentation for ‘best overall application of the agile manifesto’, we’ve just heard that we won ‘best overall application of the agile values’ for quarter two. BT’s agile values, incidentally, are the same as the values of of XP, ie communication, simplicity, feedback, courage and respect.

Agile BT

BT agile awards

We had a team trip down to London yesterday to pick up our BT agile award for ‘best overall application of the agile manifesto’. We got a certificate each, a trophy for the team and a card signed by the top bods in BT’s IT division.