Jun 05 2012


Where to Find Relevancers: June Edition

Want to meet a Relevancer in person? Here's where you can find us during the month of June:

Durham, NC Every Tuesday - 7pm @ Splat Space
Splat Space Open Meeting
Attending: Alan Dipert, Splat Space founder and Meetup organizer

Cleveland, OH 6/8-6/10
Weapons of Mass Creation
Speaking: Jen Myers
Talk: How to Change the World with a Girl and a Computer

Stockholm, Sweden 6/15-6/16
Nordic Ruby Conference
Attending: Kevin Altman, Jared Pace

Richmond, VA 6/20
Clojure Presentation at Richmond JUG
Speaking: Stuart Sierra

Santa Clara, CA 6/25-6/27
Velocity Conference
Attending: Larry Karnowski
Speaking: Michael Nygard; Talk: Stability Patterns

Durham, NC 6/26-6/28
Clojure Training
Trainers: Alan Dipert, Chris Redinger

Durham, NC 6/29
Free Datomic Workshop
Trainer: Stuart Halloway

Edinburgh, Scotland 6/29-6/30
Scottish Ruby Conference
Speaking: Jen Myers
Talk: Developers Can't Design (And Other Completely Untrue Design Myths)

May 22 2012


ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 012 - Craftsman Swap

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One of the core principles we hold to at Relevance is the idea that we should always be striving to get better. A big part of that is recognizing that we can learn a lot from others, especially when those others have the same attitudes about continuous improvement. That's certainly true at Bendyworks, which is why we were happy to do a Craftsman Swap with them recently, where we sent them Jared Pace for a week, and they sent us Chris Wilson.

On this episode, we talk to Jared and Chris and their pair partners Alan Dipert and Devin Walters about that experience. We also talked about accidentally taking the ferry and whether exposure to radioactivity makes you better at using project management tools. It was a fun and interesting conversation that made me want to try a Craftsman Swap myself! Perhaps you'll feel the same. If so, give us a shout - we'd love to spend some time learning from you! And I know the same goes for Bendyworks.

Download the episode here.

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May 04 2012


ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 011 - Jen Myers

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I've heard several developers at Relevance comment on how much they like working with our designers. I totally agree. The one I've been fortunate enough to work with the most often is Jen Myers. So I welcomed the chance to talk to her about what she's been up to lately... which is a lot! In this episode, we chat about her efforts with Girl Develop It Columbus, responsive web design, conference speaking, and CSS nerd wars.

Jen was an extremely interesting, thoughtful, and humble guest, and I enjoyed talking with her. I know you'll enjoy listening just as much!

Download the episode here.

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May 02 2012


Why Retrospectives Should Get Personal

What do you get when you cross a bunch of passionate, self-directed engineers with an agile, iterative approach to both software and personal development? Predictably, you get continuous delivery of customer value and solutions to really hard problems. Additionally, as a nifty bonus, you get a new kind of discussion forum that brings all the best qualities of agile software development to individual improvement: the Personal Retrospective.

Before your imagination goes too far, let me assure you this does not require hugging, silly hats, or revealing favorite brands of underwear. Nor is there screaming into a mirror or "Fight Club" activities of any sort. The Personal Retrospective is an undertaking at Relevance that forms a cornerstone of our company culture and a critical ingredient to our goal of continuous improvement at all levels.

Great Feedback in 60 minutes or Less

The key ingredients for a Personal Retrospective at Relevance are five or so team members who have first hand experience with the subject's recent performance and another Relevance employee who serves as a neutral facilitator for the discussion. During the meeting, the individual is provided with an hour of open and honest feedback which validates and appreciates areas where they are providing their best value to their team and clients, and calls out ways they may not be meeting the mark or have the greatest room to grow.

An agenda is set ahead of time by the subject (with the help of the facilitator) to focus the feedback on areas and goals most important to them. The experience can be extremely positive, giving deeper insight into the impact your actions have had on those around you, as well as deeply emotional as you hear the negative effects even your best intentioned actions have had on the team.

Sometimes there are surprises, though often the subject has at least some notion of where things are not going great, and a critical component of a successful Personal Retrospective is a list of clear action items and mechanisms to encourage and monitor improvement once the meeting concludes.

I Never Thought it Would Happen to Me...

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in my own Personal Retrospective to evaluate current performance as an Agile Project Manager and Coach. Although I had requested the meeting and chose the attendees, it was still quite intimidating to hear several people who I respect greatly talk about me both positively and critically (and often in the third person as guided by the facilitator to ensure the messages are clear and actionable). In the end though, it worked wonders to quiet the distracting internal voice of insecurity by hearing where my efforts are helping the team. Additionally, it helped me understand where I have been dropping the ball, along with recommendations on how to get on the right track.

The guesswork has been largely eliminated in the form of a group of trusted peers stating "This set of things you do, they are really good; keep doing them. This other set of things, you're doing okay, and here are some tweaks to make them better. And this set of things, these actions are having a negative effect on us and the project; here are examples of them and some clear ways to change these behaviors."

Bringing the Love Home

This isn't a review. No money, position, or responsibility changes are made as a direct result of what is said. It is a safe forum for enabling feedback to help folks at Relevance along in their journey. Such a personal and sometimes difficult meeting may not be for everyone nor for every organization, but it is an option you and your team should consider when looking for additional ways to get to the next level of individual and group performance. If you'd like more specifics on how the process works, give us a shout and we'll be happy to help. If it doesn't work, you can always go with the silly hats and underwear stories.

May 01 2012


Where to Find Relevancers: May Edition

Want to meet a Relevancer in person? Here's where you can find us during the month of May:

Durham, NC Every Tuesday - 7pm @ Splat Space
Splat Space Open Meeting
Attending: Alan Dipert, Splat Space founder and Meetup organizer

Columbus, OH 5/4
Stir Trek, Conference & A Movie
Speaking: Jen Myers
Talk: Developers Can't Design (and Other Completely Mistaken Design Myths)

Cincinnati, OH 5/10-5/11
QC Merge Conference
Speaking: Jen Myers
Talk: Design for Developers

Floyd, VA 5/11-5/13
Code Retreat
Attending: Jason Rudolph, Lake Denman

London, UK 5/21-5/23
EuroClojure, Clojure Training
Trainers: Stuart Sierra, Luke VanderHart
Training Description: Intro to Clojure

London, UK 5/24-5/25
EuroClojure Conference
Speaking: Stuart Halloway
Talk: Evident Code, At Scale (Keynote)

Copenhagen, Denmark 5/21-5/23
GOTO Conference
Speaking: Michael Nygard, DevOps/continuous delivery
Stuart Halloway: Real Life Clojure & The Impedance Mismatch is Our Fault

Durham, NC 5/24
Refresh the Triangle, Project Management Panel
Speaking: Marc Phillips
Panel Discussion: More Fun, Less Stress: What You Should Know About Project Management

Amsterdam, Netherlands 5/24-5/25
GOTO Conference
Speaking: Michael Nygard
Talk: Failure Comes in Flavor: Stability Antipatterns

San Francisco, CA 5/29-5/31
Fluent Conference
Speaking: Luke VanderHart
Talk: Intro to ClojureScript

Apr 26 2012


ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 010 - Stu Halloway

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One of the hardest things about working at Relevance over the last couple of years has been keeping quiet about Datomic. So when we heard that Datomic was being released, I immediately sent an email to Stuart Halloway asking if he'd be willing to do a podcast episode, not just because he had such a big hand in Datomic, but because as one of the founders of Relevance and as an all-around interesting guy I knew it would make for a great show.

I don't think I was wrong. So have a listen as we talk about Datomic, simulation testing, a capella music, and what makes Stu want to drop-kick a gorilla, and see if you agree. Thanks for listening!

Download the episode here.

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Apr 09 2012


ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 009 - Alan Dipert

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If you've looked at our website lately, you might have noticed that it's a lot easier to see that we do training. Of course, we've always done training, but lately we've realized that we needed to be a bit more obvious about the fact - hence the new info on the website. So I thought it would be a great time to bring Alan Dipert onto the show, as he had a big hand in both reshaping the website and the courses that we offer.

Of course, we didn't just talk about training. We also hit on the topics of the importance of data, criticisms of the Lambda Calculus, and famous hackers turned dance club owners. I certainly enjoyed my conversation with Alan - have a listen, and I think you will too!

Download the episode here.

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Apr 04 2012


Big Data Reference Model

A project that approaches Big Data as a purely technical challenge will not deliver results. It is about more than just massive Hadoop clusters and number-crunching. In order to deliver value, a Big Data project has to enable change and adaptation. This requires that there are known problems to be solved. Yet, identifying the problem can be the hardest part. It's often the case that you have to collect some information to even discover what problem to solve. Deciding how to solve that problem creates a need for more information and analysis. This is an empirical discovery loop similar to that found in any research project or Six Sigma initiative.

Diagram of the Big Data Reference Model

Handling the data itself is a technical challenge, and it can be a big one. Still, those other aspects of empirical learning, human decision-making and problem identification must also be addressed.

This model depicts a schematic form of the different aspects to consider, including both human and technological components. It helps discussions by guiding the team to consider the problem space first: the business context, needs, and decision cycles. Then it moves into the solution space: collection, analysis, visualization, and feedback mechanisms. Using this model, projects and project teams are encouraged to pause before implementation to make sure they understand the problem to be solved. They may find that the problem has yet to be identified.

The model is divided into three areas with mutual dependencies and feedback loops. The following sections will discuss each of these areas.

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Mar 30 2012


Where to Find Relevancers: April Edition

Want to meet a Relevancer in person? Here's where you can find us during the month of April...

Kalamazoo, MI 4/21
The KalamazooX No Technology Technology Conference
Speaker: Jen Myers

Durham, NC 4/21, 2PM Splat Space
Arduino Hack Afternoon
Attending: Alan Dipert, Splat Space founder and Meetup organizer

Austin, TX 4/23-24
Attending: Lake Denman

Mar 29 2012


Datomic services

For almost two years, we've been working with Rich Hickey to realize his vision for a next generation database: Datomic. If you haven't looked into Datomic yet, check out the videos at the end of this post, and read the whitepaper.

Now that Datomic has launched, we are excited to make it an option for our customers. We have a limited number of development teams available as they roll off other projects; two slots are currently available, on April 30th and May 21st. Our teams can help you get started, or take your project all the way to the finish line (read more about how we work). If you think you have a project that Datomic is a fit for, and you would like to apply for one of these slots, contact us at

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