Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

Currently Consuming
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

It's Not A Mess, But The Rest Seems Accurate

Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed, my life’s a mess
But I’m having a good time

—Paul Simon, “Have A Good Time”


Things I Think I Think About LARP

After playing in five LARPs this weekend — three of which were not games in which I had a pre-existing character — I got to thinking about what makes certain games or scenarios work for me. What “handles” on the character or situation am I looking for that help me have fun? I came up with a short, almost assuredly incomplete, list.

  1. Connections: LARPs are social games, an order of magnitude more so than tabletop RPGs are. A LARP should first and foremost connect me to other players. Coming in the door, who do I have my first interactions with? Where do I go when I need help? Where is the friction going to be? I want to have at least one group I feel a part of, one person I can trust, and one person who I am at odds with.
  2. Goals: My character is here, now, for a reason. Why do I care about what’s happening, and how does it affect me? What it is important that I accomplish right now? And why do other characters care about that?
  3. Reasons to Change: Those things that I came here to accomplish? What would cause me to not just give up on them, but to pursue their opposite? Those secrets that I need to keep? What would make me reveal them? (I think this is a highly-overlooked aspect of pre-gen character design.)
  4. Knowledge/Power/Secrets to Reveal: It’s important that what’s going on matters to me. It’s just as important that I matter to what’s going on. What do I know about the current situation? What do I have that makes other characters care about me? What does my presence make easier or harder?
  5. High Concept/Schtick: When my character talks to someone, within the first three sentences they should know that it’s not Paul they’re talking to. How do I get a picture of who this person is so can I drop into character in two minutes or less?

That’s in roughly descending order of importance to me. I’ve played in games where I had unachievable goals, no built-in connections to other characters, and no real connection to plot — and still enjoyed myself because I invented connections to players I knew and played my schtick hard. But I’m happiest when the system and the scenario give me those — or the tools to create them — from the starting gate.


Community Building

Last Thursday was the second get-together of the Santa Barbara Agile Meetup group. Like the first time, we had a dozen people, though half new attendees and half were repeat offenders. There were some excellent discussions, and the energy in the group was palpable. When the end of the evening came, I could feel that no one was ready to leave.

I’m excited to see where this could go. When Heidi and I kicked off the group, we wrote this mission statement:

Our goal is to create a living, self-sustaining, Agile entity that provides people with inspiring new ideas about Agile to apply in their daily work, and fun opportunities to connect and network with like-minded professionals in the Santa Barbara area.

I believe very strongly in that “living, self-sustaining” idea. I’ve been part of a number of different volunteer groups that lacked that energy, in large part because it was not an explicit part of those groups’ mission and because the initial burst of energy that created the group had faded away. I want to build a community, one that can shift and adapt over time, one that fulfills its members’ needs, and one that doesn’t need its founders in order to thrive. And I’m excited that we might be on the path to doing that.


Improv and Agile on the Brain

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting alongside my partner-in-crime Jake Calabrese at the Scrum Gathering in New Orleans. For ninety minutes, we walked twenty or so folks through a series of improv exercises that they could use in an Agile context. Stephen Starkey captured it nicely:

Paul Goddard ran a similar session right before ours, and on the last day of the conference the three of us teamed up to run another impromptu session. This set my brain to spinning, and when I got home, I found that one of our participants wanted me to come and run a series of workshops on these topics at her company, which happens to be in the Los Angeles area. I don’t think its going to work out (I’m not really set up to do that kind of thing right now), but it reinforced that there is real interest in this area.

One of the promises I made to myself at the conference was that I would continue my exploration of these topics. Here’s my short list of possible future conference session topics:

  • Complexity, Improvisation, and Agile
  • Improv Games for Scrum Ceremonies
  • Status Work for Managers and Coaches

Side Effects of Poetry May Include...

The last week has seen a revitalization of my poem-a-day project. I’ve been slowly increasing the complexity of the poetic forms I’ve been tackling, and for April I decided to go after sonnets (the Petrarchian variety, specifically). They’re tough, in no small part because they have a fixed meter, rhyme scheme, and length, which means you have to make the pieces fit just so. Unlike I can with, say, octosyllabic rhyming couplets, I can’t sit down and write a sonnet in one go; I need to chip away at it. Finding time to do that during a single day is a bit of a challenge, particularly if I don’t get started early. I seem to have figured a way that works for me: Before getting out of the shower in the morning, I have to have a subject for the poem and at least one line finished. That lets me stew on it all day, which is the trick that has gotten me through the last week’s worth of sonnets.

There’s been an unanticipated side effect of this: I have a lens that I see much of the day through. I’ve found that, because of their structure, sonnets work best when they present a point of view. Like models, they contain a piece of the truth. (My sense-making brain has been having a field day with this idea.) I write my best poems when I take a stand on something, and as I’ve been consciously doing that first thing in the morning, it’s been shaping how I experience the day.

It makes me wonder what else I should be including in my morning ritual.