J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Experience-Driven Development


    Features don’t necessarily aggregate up to “experiences” and I would argue that today’s winning approach is …

    … Experience-Driven Development

    … Where experience means user’s can perform their goals successfully… the software makes them feel good and succeed at their goals.  It’s an integration of scenarios + experiences … and persona-based scenarios with goals.

    This shifts the focus to lighting up experiences over just shipping features or scenarios.  It also means a focus on “Experience Step-Throughs” to model and prioritize what you ship.  It seems like today’s software success is about shipping the vital few experiences that make an impact.  I know it seems like a subtle shift, but I still come across too many glitches that get in the way of great software … … I think we need “experience-first” … or more “experience-driven.”

    Experiences are the differentiator ... you can have scenario parity or feature parity, yet miss the boat on experience.  It's beyond user stories and scenarios with acceptance tests (though that's a good start.)  It's about measuring efficiency and effectiveness of the user experience.

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    The Power of Patterns and Practices


    I wrote a post, The Power of Patterns and Practices, on Sources of Insight to summarize some of the benefits of using patterns and practices as a way to organize and share knowledge.  For simplicity, I think of patterns as a way to share problem and solution pairs in context.  I think of practices as a way to share methods or techniques.   When you combine them, you effectively have an efficient way to share strategies and approaches for success in a given domain. 

    While sharing patterns and practices has been effective in software, I think other industries can gain from finding ways to more effectively share patterns and practices.   Christopher Alexander, father of the pattern language movement, set a great example by creating a catalog of patterns for towns, buildings, and construction in the architecture space.  Along those lines, Michael Michalko, a former Disney imagineer, put together an amazing catalog of patterns and practices for creative thinking, in his book, THINKERTOYS.  The meta-point is that when you frame and name things, you simplify sharing knowledge in a meaningful and scalable way.

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    Sources of Insight is One Year Old


    It was a year ago today that I wrote my first post on Sources of Insight, where I focus on patterns and practices for effectiveness and skilled living.   I wrote up my learnings and highlights in my post, Sources of Insight is One Year Old.  My goal with Sources of Insight is to scale myself and to share my lessons learned in effectiveness more broadly.  The key theme on Sources of Insight is, “stand on the shoulders of giants!” and I draw from books, people, and quotes , as well as my own experience leading projects, building teams, and writing prescriptive guidance at Microsoft. 

    I’m a big believer in skills as a way to level the playing field and give everybody a chance at their best life.  Sources of Insight is my main clearing house for insight and action for work and life.  This way, I can focus my MSDN blog more on my adventures at Microsoft, including my project information, and technical insights.  I mentor a lot of people at work, so Sources of Insight is also a way for me to consolidate and share knowledge, while turning it into reusable nuggets.  I like to think of it as gems of insight, a post at a time.

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    Time Management Quotes


    Time management is a key skill for work and life.  I’ve posted my collection of Time Management Quotes on Sources of Insight.   While organizing my collection of quotes, I got clarity on a handful of lessons for time management:

    • Time is what you make of it. 
    • You don’t have time, you make it. 
    • It’s your most valuable resource. 
    • Invest time.  Investing in your time is investing in your life. 
    • Don’t dwell on the train you missed.  Catch the next train.  
    • Time changes what’s important. You can’t buy time. 
    • Time is all we have.  
    • Time is a teacher.
    • Time is a judge. 
    • Time is a healer. 
    • Time is a friend.
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    Cloud Security Frame


    I posted a draft of our Cloud Security Frame at Shaping Software.  This frame is especially important because we’re using it to help us map out the Cloud security space for our patterns & practices Cloud Security Guidance project.  It’s helps us scope our project.  The frame is basically a set of Hot Spots.  We use the Hot Spots to find, organize, and share principles, patterns, and practices.  We also use the Hot Spots to find pain points and opportunity or to organize key engineering decisions.  Here is our current set of Hot Spots:

    • Auditing and Logging
    • Authentication
    • Authorization
    • Communication
    • Configuration Management
    • Cryptography
    • Exception Management
    • Sensitive Data
    • Session Management
    • Validation

    In this case, since it’s a security frame, we’re using the Hot Spots to organize threats, attacks, vulnerabilities and countermeasures.  This helps make the information more actionable and relevant.  We’re sharing this early and often so that you can give feedback and help us shape it as we go.

    If you’re familiar with any of the following guides, this Hot Spot approach should look familiar:

    Check out our evolving Cloud Security Frame and provide your feedback in the comments.

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    What’s Your Favorite Thinking Technique?


    Have you thought about your default thinking patterns?   I wrote a post on 3 Thinking Techniques to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower at Sources of Insight.    I use these 3 techniques fairly regularly.  If you think about thinking as simply asking and answering questions, then improving your questions, can improve your answers.  That’s the power of these 3 techniques; they are simple ways to improve your questions to improve you results.

    What’s your favorite thinking technique?

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    Cloud Security Survey Results


    As a follow up to our earlier patterns & practices Cloud Security Survey, here is a quick summary of the results.  Note that the the bulk of our respondents said they spend most of their time in architect roles.  The next biggest buckets were developers and testers.

    Key Take Aways
    Here are some highlights from the survey:

    • As far as cloud adoption, there is fairly even spread in adoption from evaluation to testing to engaged migrations, with a slightly heavier emphasis on testing.
    • There is significant interest in data handling within the cloud, such as confining data to geographic regions.
    • There is significant interest in infrastructure and process related security issues such as SLA’s, policies, and intellectual property.
    • There is significant interest in threats and countermeasures.
    • There is some interest in OpenID as an authentication / authorization approach.
    • There is some interest in ingress/IP filtering.
    • There is some interest in eDiscovery.
    • There is some interest in HIPPA.

    App Scenarios in Rank Order
    Here are the top application scenarios in rank order based on respondents:

    • A cloud-based service used by different Enterprises (federated scenario).
    • An internet facing web application, deployed on the cloud.
    • An enterprise specific web application, deployed on the cloud.
    • An enterprise specific web application, deployed on premises using cloud-based services.
    • An enterprise specific web application, deployed on-premises using cloud-based services and cloud storage.

    Authentication in Rank Order
    Here is are the top authentication mechanisms in rank order based on respondents:

    • Windows Authentication
    • Forms Authentication
    • Cert Authentication
    • Windows Live

    I think one of the most interesting things we've done as a result of the survey is we started to collect and organize relevant industry standards.  We'll try to find any relevant technical intersections (our focus is on technical guidance.)

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    Communication Isn’t the Only Source of Conflict


    I wrote a post on how Poor Communication isn’t the Source of Most Conflicts at Sources of Insight.  The gist is this: rather than blame communication as the source of conflict, explore other sources as well.  For example, conflict can also stem from how your group is organized, to personality conflicts, or conflicts in values.  When you know what the source is, you can use the right tool for the job.

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    patterns & practices Assets Survey


    If you take our patterns & practices satisfaction survey, you can let us know which patterns & practices assets you use and how satisfied you are with the assets, as well as how satisfied you are with overall patterns & practices results. 

    To browse patterns & practices, here are some key links:

    patterns & practices Catalog
    For easy reference, I’ve shared a simplified view of how I look at our patterns & practices catalog:

    Category Items
    Enterprise Library Enterprise Library


    Deployment / Production





    Reference Implementations

    My Related Posts

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    A Language for Your Strengths


    I wrote a post on A Language for Strengths on Sources of Insight.  It's my attempt to consolidate and share the best information I've found for learning and talking about strengths and talents.  I'm a big believer in focusing on your strengths.  I know that when I spend more time in my strengths, I have more energy, I get more done, and I improve my impact.  It's about giving my best where I have my best to give.  It sounds simple and obvious, yet, before I had a lens for strengths and talents it was more hit or miss.  Now, I can more effectively zoom in on my strengths because I have a vocabulary for them.

    As I've been helping people find jobs, write their resumes, find their passions, and unleash their best, I've been relying heavily on first helping them find their natural strengths and talents.  This gives them the drive and the staying power to deal with whatever life throws at them, as well as gives them a competitive edge.  The key in today's landscape, is to bring your unique combination of strengths to the table.  I think that while it's a skills-for-hire economy for the short-term, it's a play-to-your-strengths life for the long term.

    To learn the map of the 34 strengths and get started on your strengths quest, read my post, A Language for Strengths.

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    Cloud Security Survey


    I'm inviting you to take our survey at http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB229GHH4CD36 for our Microsoft patterns & practices Cloud Security guidance project.  It's brief (11 questions on one page), and it gives you a chance to influence our priorities and focus for building prescriptive guidance.

    We’re in the early stages of planning and exploration.  During exploration, we do the following:

    • Survey customers for their pain points.
    • Frame out the hot spots and opportunities.
    • Build a prioritized backlog based on customer input.
    • Map out end-to-end application scenarios.
    • Identify the key technical challenges and tasks.
    • Identify the key technical questions.
    • Identify the key risks for arch spikes and prototyping.

    Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Top 10 Lessons in Happiness


    I have a guest post from bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin on The Top 10 Lessons Learned in Happiness on Sources of Insight.  Gretchen is a former lawyer from Yale, turned writer.  What’s interesting to me about Gretchen is that she studied happiness by making it a project.  During The Happiness Project, Gretchen spent a year test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study on happiness she could find.  Her guest post is a summary of her top 10 lessons.


    Read Gretchen’s Top 10 Lessons Learned in Happiness.   If you like that, also check out Keys for Skilled Happiness.

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    How To Be a Successful Individual Contributor at Microsoft


    I wrote up my top 10 lessons learned in how to be a successful individual contributor at Microsoft on Sources of Insight.  Really, these lessons apply just about anywhere, and they especially apply in our new skills-for-hire economy.  Here is a quick summary of my lessons:

    • Lesson 1. Focus on strengths, limit liabilities.
    • Lesson 2. Scale yourself.
    • Lesson 3. Know what’s valued.
    • Lesson 4. Follow the growth.
    • Lesson 5. Model the best.
    • Lesson 6. Balance the hot spots.
    • Lesson 7. Manage your plate.
    • Lesson 8. Stay in the game.
    • Lesson 9. Drive or be driven.
    • Lesson 10. You’re the sum of your network.

    For elaboration on these lessons, check out my post Proven Practices for Individual Contributors.  If you like the post, be sure to check out my related posts:

    1. Patterns and Practices for New Hires
    2. Lessons Learned in patterns & practices (Shaping Software)
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Discover the How to Your Why


    I have a guest post by Janine de Nysschen on how to Discover the How to Your Why at Sources of Insight.  This is a follow up to Janine's previous guest post, Discover Your Why.  It's basically about putting your purpose into action.  When you lead with your why and your how, you can bring your best game wherever you go.  What you do is simply a channel for unleashing your best why and how.  You’ve probably noticed this in the movies you see, or the stories you read.  The context for the story might change, but you connect with the underlying themes.  It’s the journey and the destination.  This post is about leading your journey with your why and how for getting results at work and life.

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    Lessons in Software from Mike de Libero


    I have a guest post, Lesson in Software from Mike de Libero, on Shaping Software.  Mike was a security tester on the Microsoft Office team and has a variety of experiences under his belt.   Here is a summary of his lessons:

    • Lesson 1. All software is flawed.
    • Lesson 2. Check-in often.
    • Lesson 3. Tests, gotta love them.
    • Lesson 4. Refactor, check-in and repeat.
    • Lesson 5. Coding is easy, humans are tough.
    • Lesson 6. The more eyes on your code the better.
    • Lesson 7. Keep learning and improving.
    • Lesson 8. Simple is beautiful.
    • Lesson 9. Learn software development not coding.
    • Lesson 10. Think about your audience.

    You can read an explanation of the lessons in his post, Lesson in Software from Mike de Libero.

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    PM Skills for Life


    I wrote a post on PM Skills for Life on Sources of Insight.  PM is short for “Program Manager.”  I’ve been a PM for the past several years, and learned a ton along the journey.  I attempted to do a roundup of some of the key skills and how they help with skilled living.  Enjoy!

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Discover Your Why


    Do you know why you do what you do?  Your why defines the difference you want to make in this world, and it inspires everything you do.  For example, I originally joined Microsoft to help change the world and improve the quality of life for people through software.  In fact, a lot of fellow Softees, joined Microsoft with the hopes to build a better world.  When you live your why, a lot of other things fall into place.  Sounds great, but how do you actually discover your why …

    Well, I have a guest post from Janine de Nysschen on how to Discover Your Why on Sources of Insight.   Janine is the founder of Whytelligence and has more than 25 years of experience in the strategy and intelligence arena.

    Even if you already know why you do what you do, check out Janine’s advice to be sure you don’t fall into the logic trap – you should be emotionally connected to your purpose.  So put on your curiosity cap and read discover your why with an open mind.  Discovering your why, just might change your life.

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    Proven Practices for Getting Results


    My other blog, Sources of Insight is focused on effectiveness.  I launched it as a way to put more focus on getting results and to help give my mentees a more focused path (I’m a mentor at Microsoft and regularly carry ~8 mentees.)  One of the mantras on Sources of Insight is “Stand on the shoulder’s of giants!”  The idea is that I share the best insights and actions I can find for work and life, from books, people, and quotes, along with my experience both inside and outside Microsoft. 

    Given my history on the patterns & practices team, my blog is heavily geared towards principles, patterns and practices to help people make the most of what they’ve got.  I don’t care whether you’re an architect, an engineer, a tester, or whatever … we’re all in this together, and life throws curve balls.  The purpose of the blog is to give you an unfair advantage, by sharing the world’s best insight and action for work and life.  It’s ultimately a collection of patterns and practices for skilled living.

    One of the things I haven’t been happy with is my tag line on Sources of Insight.  I’ve tested several flavors but they didn’t resonate for one reason or another.  My latest one seems to be working out pretty well.  It’s simple and to the point:  “Proven Practices for Getting Results!”  It was actually a challenging exercise to find a tag line that actually worked for my readers.  I bounced it against a broad set of people for feedback, from marketing experts to developers to you name it.  I wrote up some of my lessons learned in designing an effective tagline in my post, The Design of an Effective Tagline.

    Be sure to stop by and say hi.   Feel free to introduce yourself and let me know any hot issues you’d like to see information on and, if it’s on topic, I’ll see if I can work it in.  The main focus in the blog is a set of hot spots for life: mind, body, career, emotions, financial, relationships, and fun.

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    Lessons in Software from James Waletzky


    I have a guest post, Lessons in Software from James Waletsky, on Shaping Software.  James is a Development lead at Microsoft, with several years of coaching teams on Agile practices and software engineering under his belt.  Here is a summary of his lessons:

    • Lesson 1.    Keep it simple.
    • Lesson 2.    Define ‘done’.
    • Lesson 3.    Deliver incrementally and iteratively.
    • Lesson 4.    Split scenarios into vertical slices.
    • Lesson 5.    Continuously improve.
    • Lesson 6.    Unit testing is the #1 quality practice.
    • Lesson 7.    Don’t waste your time.
    • Lesson 8.    Features are not the most important thing.
    • Lesson 9.    Never trust anyone.
    • Lesson 10.    Reviews without preparation are useless.

    You can read an explanation of the lessons in his post, Lessons In Software from James Waletzky.

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    Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee


    I have a post on Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee on Sources of Insight.  Bruce Lee was one of my early inspirations.  He was a patterns and practices kind of a guy.  In fact, Bruce influenced my software engineering approach.  Rather than lock into a single style, he took the best techniques from various martial arts and measured against effectiveness.  For example, he took a boxer's hands and a wreslter's grappling skills.

    Here is a summary of my lessons from Bruce:

    • Be YOUR best.
    • Absorb what is useful.
    • Keep an open mind.
    • Aim past your target.
    • Stay flexible.
    • Focus on growth.
    • Master your mind and body.
    • Apply what you know.
    • Make things happen.

    My favorite Bruce Lee quote is "Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”  It's all about finding what works for you and not blindly adopting things.

    I've included a more exhaustive list of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes in my post, Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee.  Whether you're a Bruce Lee fan or on a path of personal development, I think you'll enjoy the tour of Bruce's insight and words of wisdom.

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    Acceptance Test Engineering Guide Beta 2 Now Available


    Our patterns & practices Acceptance Test Engineering Guide, Volume 1 (Beta 2) is now available on CodePlex.  The working definition that the team is using for acceptance testing is the planned evaluation of a system by customers and customer proxies to assess to what degree it satisfies their expectations.

    Common Scenarios
    Here are the key scenarios the guide addresses:

    • How to Plan for Acceptance Testing
    • What Kinds of Acceptance Tests to Run
    • How to Create and Run Acceptance Tests
    • Defining What “Done” Means
    • How to Justify Your Approach
    • How to Streamline Your Acceptance Process


    • Part I - Thinking About Acceptance
    • Part II - Perspectives on Acceptance
    • Part III - Acceptance Software


    • Chapter 1            The Acceptance Process
    • Chapter 2            Decision-Making Model
    • Chapter 3            Project Context Model
    • Chapter 4            System Requirements Model
    • Chapter 5            Risk Model
    • Chapter 6            Doneness Model
    • Chapter 7            Business Lead’s Perspective
    • Chapter 8            Product Manager’s Perspective
    • Chapter 9            Test Manager’s Perspective
    • Chapter 10          Development Manager’s Perspective
    • Chapter 11          User Experience Specialist’s Perspective
    • Chapter 12          Operations Manager’s Perspective
    • Chapter 13          Solution Architect’s Perspective
    • Chapter 14          Enterprise Architect’s Perspective
    • Chapter 15          Legal Perspective
    • Chapter 16          Planning for Acceptance
    • Chapter 17          Assessing Software
    • Chapter 18          Managing the Acceptance Process
    • Chapter 19          Streamlining the Acceptance Process

    Here is the authoring team:

    • Grigori Melnik
    • Gerard Meszaros
    • Jon Bach

    Contributors / Reviewers
    Here are the key contributors and reviewers:

    • Michael Puleio
    • Rohit Sharma
    • RoAnn Corbisier
    • Hakan Erdogmus
    • Dennis DeWitt

    Key Links

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Lessons in Software from Alok Srivastava


    I have a guest post, Lessons in Software from Alok Srivastava, on Shaping Software.  Alok is a solution architect at Microsoft with several years of experience in large scale, distributed systems.  In this post, he shares his lessons learned in software.  Here is a summary of his lessons:

    • Lesson 1. Software development is a team sport.
    • Lesson 2. More lines-of-code does not mean better software.
    • Lesson 3. The Cloud is an inflection point.
    • Lesson 4. Scalability, performance and diagnostic ability are better achieved at design time.
    • Lesson 5. User experience and user expectation change continuously that is why UI projects are never done.
    • Lesson 6. Software maintainability is a key to longer life for any software.
    • Lesson 7. Development process should help development produce good quality software, if it comes in your way change it.
    • Lesson 8. Take agility with a grain of salt; result –oriented software development is what agility should help you gain.
    • Lesson 9. A great software engineer never stops working.
    • Lesson 10. Know the keys to writing great software; magic isn’t one of them.

    You can read an explanation of the lessons in his post, Lessons In Software from Alok Srivastava.

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    Six Sources of Influence


    If you need to be a change agent at work, or make things happen in your life, Six Sources of Influence is for you.  I wrote up a post on Six Sources of Influence on my Sources of Insight blog.  The Six Sources of Influence was my favorite part of my Influencer Training here at Microsoft.   The focus of the training was to improve my skills at analyzing and executing change, especially for persistent or resistant problems.  I'm a fan of the model and I'm using it almost daily.

    The power of the Six Sources of Influence is that rather than get stuck in a default pattern or a one-trick pony routine, you can get a better lens on the situation by evaluating the six sources.  To visualize the model, think of a simple two-column table of motivation and ability, sliced in 3 parts: personal, social, and structural.  You can then walk the model to figure out the key leverage points or centers of gravity.  Instead of lucking into success, you can target your time and effort to actually produce more effective change and get results.

    Check out my post on Six Sources of Influence and take it for a test drive.

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    Patterns and Practices of Lean Software Development


    I have a guest post on Shaping Software from Corey Ladas on Patterns and Practices of Lean Software Development.  This is a follow up to Corey's previous post, Introduction to Lean Software Development.   Several readers had ask for more information on the principles, patterns, and practices of Lean Software Development.  Corey's latest guest post is in response to this request and provides a map and narrative of how some key principles, patterns, and practices can help support Lean Software Development.

    Read Corey's post, Patterns and Practices of Lean Software Development.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Sources of Insight is 10 Months Old


    My other little blog is growing up so fast ... Sources of insight is 10 months old.   I originally started it to improve my blogging skills as well as to put more focus on personal development.  I mentor a lot at work, so I used Sources of Insight as a channel to share patterns and practices for improving effectiveness.  I named it Sources of Insight because I draw from books, people, and quotes, as well as other sources (such as movies.)  It also reflects a lot of my learning on the job and experience from the school of hard knocks.  I try to keep the tone less technical so more people can enjoy it, while still providing deep insights.

    I've learned a lot along the way.  The biggest lesson I've learned is that working on a blog is working on your life.  It's like getting up to bat and each post is a chance to hit the ball out of the park, or maybe get a single or double, or maybe just strike out.  There's a definite ebb and flow to it, just like life.  I think that's what I like about it.

    If you stop by Sources of Insight, be sure to say, "hi."  Tell me what you like, don't like or want more of.  The key goal on Sources of Insight is to share the best patterns and practices for personal development.   If you don't know where to start, I recommend starting with the About, then You 2.0, and then Living Your Process.   If you need a boost of motivation, cherry pick your favorites from my list of Motivation Quotes.   If you want to fill your quiver with some of the best techniques for getting results, then be sure to read Rituals for Results.   It's a fast tour of some sure-fire ways to improve your results.

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