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Author Archives: Jim Bird

Jim Bird
Jim is an experienced CTO, software development manager and project manager, who has worked on high-performance, high-reliability mission-critical systems for many years, as well as building software development tools. His current interests include scaling Lean and Agile software development methodologies, software security and software assurance.

Software Development Metrics that Matter

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As an industry we do a surprisingly poor job of measuring the work that we do and how well we do it. Outside of a relatively small number of organizations which bought into expensive heavyweight models like CMMI or TSP/PSP (which is all about measuring on a micro-level) or Six Sigma, most of us don’t measure enough, don’t measure the ...

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Building security into a development team

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Getting application developers to understand and take responsibility for software security is difficult. Bootstrapping an Appsec program requires that you get the team up to speed quickly on security risks and what problems they need to look for, how to find and fix and prevent these problems, what tools to use, and convince them that they need to take security ...

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Application Security at Scale

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This week’s SANS AppSec conference in Las Vegas took on Application Security at Scale: how can we scale application security programs and technologies to big organizations, to small organizations and across organizations to millions of programmers world wide. You can find the presentation slides here. Lots of hilights for me: The conference was kicked off by Jeremiah Grossman from WhiteHat ...

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You don’t need Testers – Or do you?

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I talk to a lot of people in both big and small software development organizations about how they manage software development, how they’re organized, what practices they follow and what practices actually work. Most people working on small teams that I talk to can’t justify having someone to just test their apps, because testers don’t actually build software, so they’re ...

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Can you get more out of Static Analysis?

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When it comes to static analysis, Bill Pugh, software researcher and the father of Findbugs (the most popular static analysis tool for Java), is one of the few experts who is really worth listening to. He’s not out to hype the technology for commercial gain (Findbugs is a free, Open Source research project), and he provides a balanced perspective based ...

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What Refactoring is, and what it isn’t

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Sometimes a programmer will come to me and explain that they don’t like the design of something and that “we’re gonna need to do a whole bunch of refactoring” to make it right. Oh Oh. This doesn’t sound good. And it doesn’t sound like refactoring either…. Refactoring, as originally defined by Martin Fowler and Kent Beck, is A change made ...

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Is Copy and Paste Programming really a problem?

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Copy and Paste Programming – taking a copy of existing code in your project and repurposing it – violates coding best practices like Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY). It’s one of the most cited examples of technical debt, a lazy way of working, sloppy and short-sighted: an antipattern that adds to the long term cost of keeping a code base alive. ...

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Defensive Programming: Being Just-Enough Paranoid

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Hey, let’s be careful out there. Sergeant Esterhaus, daily briefing to the force of Hill Street Blues When developers run into an unexpected bug and can’t fix it, they’ll “add some defensive code” to make the code safer and to make it easier to find the problem. Sometimes just doing this will make the problem go away. They’ll tighten up ...

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Technical Debt – How much is it Really Costing you?

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The idea behind the technical debt metaphor is that there is a cost to taking short cuts (intentional technical debt) or making mistakes (unintentional technical debt) and that the cost of not dealing with these short cuts and mistakes will increase over time. The problem with this metaphor is that with financial debt, we know how much it would cost ...

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Agile’s Customer Problem

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Agile methods like Scrum and XP both rely on a close and collaborative relationship and continual interaction with the customer – the people who are paying for the software and who are going to use the system. Rather than writing and reviewing detailed specifications and working through sign-offs and committees, the team works with someone who represents the interests of ...

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