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Mar 28 2012

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ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 008 - Michael Fogus

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Anyone who's been around Clojure for a little while will have heard the name Michael Fogus, who is our guest on this episode of the podcast. Fogus (as we call him) is a hacker, author, and all-around nice guy. He has recently launched Himera, a web service that compiles ClojureScript to Javascript. I've wanted to interview Fogus for quite a while, and that was all the excuse I needed.

While we were talking, we touched not only on Himera, but on pair programming, Datomic, music, and a bunch of other stuff. I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed recording it!

Download the episode here.

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Mar 26 2012

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ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 007 - Clinton Nixon

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On this episode, we talk to Clinton Nixon, about his sweet Ruby on Rails setup, amongst other things. We work with a lot of different technologies at Relevance, but Rails has been and continues to be one of the most important for us. So it was fun to hear how a real expert gets his Rails on. I hope you'll agree!

Download the episode here.

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Mar 19 2012

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Relevance Makes the B Corp "Best for the World" List!

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We are thrilled to be included in the annual B Corporation "Best for the World" list in the Best for Workers category. Relevance has been a B Corporation since 2009. Being a B Corporation means we're dedicated to using the power of business to create value for our community as well as for our customers and employees. Our employees are at the heart of our business, so we're delighted to be recognized as a great place for them!

For more information about becoming a B Corp, visit the B Corporation website.

Feb 28 2012

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Where to Find Relevancers: March Edition

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

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

Columbus, OH 3/7-4/11
Girl Develop It Newbie HTML/CSS Class
Trainer: Jen Myers

San Jose, CA 3/13-3/15
Clojure/West Training
Trainers: Alan Dipert and Stuart Sierra

San Jose, CA 3/16-3/17
Clojure/West Conference
Speaking: Stuart Halloway, Craig Andera, Alan Dipert, Michael Fogus, David Liebke, Stuart Sierra, Luke VanderHart
Attending: Chris Redinger, Brenton Ashworth, Clinton Nixon

Louisville, KY 3/15-17
CodepaLOUsa Conference
Speaking: Jen Myers

Reston, VA 3/23-3/24
RubyNation Conference
Speaking: Justin Gehtland (Keynote), Russ Olsen

Feb 27 2012

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ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 006 - Larry Karnowski

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On this episode, we talk to Larry Karnowski, one of our most senior employees, about Relevance culture. Along with his other duties, Larry works with all our new hires to make them aware of the many awesome and unusual practices and resources we have here at Relevance. Larry does a great job of talking about retrospectives, buddies, sponsors, tokens, and guitar lunch, to name just a few.

It was a true pleasure speaking with Larry. I think you’ll enjoy listening to him, too!

Download the episode here.

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Feb 15 2012

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More Creative Chaos

One of the best parts of working at Relevance is that things never, ever settle down. Name the task and if it has to do with software development, helping the customer or gathering the lunch order, there is probably some Relevancer hard at work trying to find a new (maybe even better!) way of doing it. Of course there is a limit to how much positive chaos a given number of people can inflict, so we are always looking to find great people to join us and inflict more.

Case in point is newly minted Relevancer Kevin Altman. Kevin began his great adventure in life with nothing but a pen and a stack of discarded printer paper. Kevin's overactive imagination made him a natural for a life of design. Kevin gets uncontrollably excited when presented with the opportunity to help someone turn their vision into something real. Illustration, animation, front-end development: these are all weapons he's been known to bring to battle. We have also caught Kevin venturing into the back-end depths of a number of applications. Kevin washed up on Relevance's shore at the end of a two year quest at EA Games. Completely blown away by the culture, the team and the free lunches, Kevin accepted his greatest quest yet: supporting the design team at Relevance.

Also new to the Relevance family is Jen Myers. Jen is a web and interface designer out of Columbus, Ohio. Jen is interested in the user experience, teaching innovation and using design as a tool for communication. She spends the rest of her time writing, watching good movies and raising a future geek girl (no pressure!). Jen also teaches HTML/CSS and organizes the coding education program Girl Develop It Columbus.

Along with Kevin and Jen, we have been lucky enough to land Brenton Ashworth. Brenton wrote his first program on a Commodore 64 to solve math homework problems. After getting distracted for 14 years by an obsession with surfing, he found his way back to his true calling, using computers to solve problems and create things. Brenton has written programs to do everything from predicting the levels of ethyl carbamate in wine to helping companies deal with U.S. Customs claims. Brenton worked on his own for eight years but gave all that up to join Relevance in spreading even more happy chaos.

We would also like to welcome Kat Goetz who, as our accounting manager, makes sure that we know where all of the profits of chaos are going. Good thing that Kat has more than 20 years of accounting experience in industries ranging from telecommunications and construction to public accounting. Kat first came to Relevance as a contract accountant in 2010 and, since she seemed extremely skilled at herding cats armed with credit cards, we just had to bring her on as a regular employee. Kat likes to upholster furniture (really!), read, sew and she spends a lot of time cheering for her kids at various sporting events.

We have also recently sent off a couple of our friends who have decided to try something new. Jess Martin and his wife Elizabeth are moving to Swaziland, Africa to serve for a year with a non-profit called Africa Revolution. They will be living on a farm designed to care for just a few of the 200,000 AIDS orphans in Swaziland. To read more about their journey, check out their personal site.

We have also bid bon voyage to Aaron Bedra who, when he discovered that Relevance was not actually Groupon, decided to give the real thing a try. Lucky for us it took Aaron four years to figure it all out. We did manage to get an interview out of Aaron before he left for the wilds of Chicago.

Jess and Aaron, remember we take the same attitude as the Marine Corps and certain organizations involved in the restaurant linen business: There is no such thing as an ex-Relevancer. Make us proud!

Russ

Feb 07 2012

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Agile Reboot: Putting the Man back in Manifesto

“Individuals and interactions over process and tools. Working software over comprehensive documentation. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Responding to change over following a plan.” That's the entirety of the Agile Manifesto, by the way. Seems simple, doesn't it? Yet there are flotillas of books and courses with detailed instructions and steps for "doing" Agile, as if it were a thing with specific rules and regulations. Hogwashery! Hear me now, the road to hell is paved with book covers and exam notes, it's time to rise up and put the 'man' (and woman) back in 'manifesto'. Spoiler alert: getting the 'fest' back in as well will be the topic of a future post...

Great teams do not "do" Agile, great teams "are" Agile. Being agile is not about burn-down charts, or attendant posture during some meetings, or not having other meetings, or some other "official rule" you must follow to pass a certification test. Being agile is a state of mind, a frame of reference from which to make decisions. If you are in the business of delivering software solutions and your strategy for success is adopting formulaic "Agile Processes", you are costing everyone a lot of extra money. Stop it. Stop it now, and let the healing begin.

Here's a quick test to see if you are a member of an agile team. Does the team trust each other and communicate frequently and honestly? Give yourself a point. You're moving faster towards clear, shared goals with less hesitation and fewer missteps. Individuals and interactions - sound familiar? The Speed of Trust can be measured, don't waste your client's money on avoidable drag.

Are team members (regardless of employer) passionately focused on overcoming hurdles blocking the path to shipping as a cohesive unit? Collaboration! That's the spirit! Is the team focused on building effective solutions that make people smile, or on how closely the product matches the original specification? Hint - you should be making people smile.

Teams are not formed to create documentation (not agile development teams anyway), they are formed to do magic, to enable people to do things not previously possible. Never forget that. Real agile teams do not start projects without first mapping a path, but they do not hesitate to adapt when market forces and other realities shift during flight. Respond to change, don't just follow a plan. Seeing a pattern here?

If your team is struggling to ship products on time, or continually ships products that fail to move the ball forward, or is constantly duplicating work due to miscommunication and misunderstandings, simply changing toolsets or making new rules is not going to save you. If every one of your team members cannot clearly state what success means for a project, why the project has been undertaken, and what risks and challenges stand between them and a solution, you're not going to cross the finish line (at least not when and where you want to). Forget the charts. Forget the rules. Talk, trust, learn, adapt. The tools are just that, tools. Use the ones that work for you. On this project. With this team. Success does not hinge on whether you use Jira, or Mingle, or Pivotal Tracker, Google Docs, or Excel, or sticky notes, or hand signals and a series of grunts.

Successful agile teams are characterized by quickness, lightness, and ease of movement. They are mentally quick and alert. They have a resourceful and adaptable character. They are well-coordinated in movement and have the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly. That's the entirety of the dictionary definition of “agile” by the way. Seems simple, doesn't it?

Feb 03 2012

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ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 005 - Michael Parenteau

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Ever since I began thinking about doing a Relevance podcast, I knew that I was going to want to have Michael Parenteau on the show. Michael is head of our design department, and a designer himself. He has a great attitude, and brings both that and his considerable talent to everything he does. I happened to be down in Durham the week that we released the new website, which Michael had a big hand in bringing about, so I knew the time was right to have a conversation with him about it.

In this episode, we talk with Michael Parenteau about being a designer at Relevance, Sanskrit, the importance of remembering the human part of software, and washing feet at Burning Man. Enjoy!

Download the episode here.

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Jan 27 2012

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Where to Find Relevancers this Month!

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

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

Baltimore, MD 2/1 - 7:30pm @Revelytix
BaltimoreFP Presentation/Hack Night
Speaking: Alex Redington

Aruba 2/6-2/10
SpeakerConf
Speaking: Michael Nygard and Stuart Halloway

Durham, NC 2/6/2012, 7pm @ Splat Space
Monthly TriClojure Meeting
Speaking: Brenton Ashworth, ClojureScript One
Attending: Chris Redinger, TriClojure Founder and Meetup Organizer

Atlanta, GA 2/23-2/24
We're proud sponsors of Lessconf
Attending: A dozen Relevancers

Jan 25 2012

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ThinkRelevance: The Podcast - Episode 004 - Aaron Bedra's Valedictory

Aaron Bedra on ThinkRelevance: The Podcast

When I heard that Aaron Bedra was leaving Relevance, I was surprised and a bit saddened. But I also thought, "Hey, we should have him on the podcast." And that's just what we did. I think it's great to work at a place where it's cool to record an interview with someone who has decided to move on.

In this episode, we talk to Aaron about what brought him to Relevance, some of the things he's worked on while he was here and even a bit about what the future holds for him.

Download the episode here.

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