Decentralized Databases – Enabling Pragmatic Travel!

Decentralization is the new buzzword in the database technology and almost all tech companies are exploring how they can jump on to this bandwagon. Blockchain, as the technology is known, came into limelight with the advent of ‘Bitcoin’, one of the most popular cryptocurrency that the world has as of 2018.

What is Blockchain?

A blockchain can be seen as

  • an  ever growing public database, that is
  • distributed and decentralized, is
  • always synchronized, and is
  • secured using cryptography

All of the above features make blockchain unique and hack proof.

History and Adoption

The first chain of blocks secured using cryptography were defined in 1991 to utilize in Digital Timestamp. Though, the first blockchain was conceptualized by Satoshi Nakomoto in 2008 and post that blockchain technology was used to develop Bitcoin.

If we go with the Diffusion of Innovation Theory,  developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962, blockchain is definitely moving beyond early adopters towards early majority phase in the financial domain. A recent example is Germany announced that it will not impose tax on users for using Bitcoin as a mode of payment.

Though, in the areas other than finance, the blockchain technology adoption can still be termed as an “early adopter” phase as organizations explore the possibilities. One such domain is “Travel” where companies have started adopting blockchain to change the way we travel.

Blockchain in Travel

In the world of Travel, some of the areas that are being targeted using blockchain by technology savvy companies are

  1. Loyalty Programs – Loyyal is a company that is building loyalty program based on blockchain and smart contract technology. It is working on the multi branded reward program where the 2 way flow of rewards will be just a matter of click. With this universal loyalty program, in future we can see we can earn points as soon as we checkin into a hotel and we can spend them instantly at some nearby restaurant to to buy food; or we can earn points as soon as we board a plane and spend the same to buy something inflight. Such things will not only add to customer satisfaction but will also boost the overall travel ecosystem.
  2. Travel DistributionWinding Tree is a blockchain-based decentralized open-source travel distribution platform provides the inventory on the public blockchain and API’s that can integrate with any of the POS system. They also have backbone token ‘Lif’ that allows “Fee free” national/international transations on the platform. This type of distribution will help small companies to provide competitive pricing against the big organizations and will provide a benefit to both supplier and consumer.
  3. Decentralized Ride SharingLazooz is a crypto alternative to Uber and enables ride sharing without any centralized platform. It is based on a crypto alternative to bitcoin that they call ‘Zooz’ that can be earned while driving and spent for future rides.  The data is mined in realtime with the number of people driving and using the app in a community area.
  4. Local Travel GuideCoolCousin is building a decentralized ecosystem where traveler can directly connect with locals to find information and in turn enabling locals to earn money based on the information that they have. All transactions are secured using Smart Contract and stored via “CUZ” the cryptocurrency defined by the platform and based on “Ethereum”.

Conclusion

Everyone needs a safe, cost effective and comfortable travel. With long waits and fragmented information that travelers are used to, blockchain based solutions are challenging the way information is currently being controlled and distributed by intermediaries. Though it is too early to say how the new solutions will be adopted in the real world, but these definitely looks promising.

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Testing Zombie – Are you becoming one?

Slowly and steadily, with reasons or without, deliberately or out of innocence, many of us are becoming the Zombies of the testing world. Some people become part of this immediately after college when they start the job and some become as they grow up the ladder and start losing interest as they lose the aim and motivation.

Who is a Testing Zombie?
A Testing Zombie is a person that has been turned into a creature capable of testing without any rational thoughts.

How to find a Testing Zombie?
It is easy! To find a zombie around you, just look for the following symptoms/ characteristics

  • Is (s)he just coming to work as (s)he has to and does not take any ownership of actual testing?
  • Is (s)he hiding behind processes instead of testing?
  • Is (s)he pointing fingers on others instead of owning the failures?
  • Is (s)he does not understand the product functionality under test?
  • Is (s)he does not understand the technology behind the product under test?
  • Instead of owning the release and working in collaboration with product stakeholders, does (s)he wants to block the release to avoid future failures or blames?

Though, the above is not the only comprehensive symptoms list that can help you identify a Zombie in testing, you can add more negative behaviors to this list. But, if the answer to any of the above is “Yes”, you have potentially found one around you.

Types of Testing Zombies
These zombies can be found at any level in hierarchy. I have defined only the 2 broad categories below and will leave rest of them onto you to define.

  • Zombie Tester: These are the people who, land a job in testing just because they did not get anything else to work upon. There is no inbuilt motivation in them to work as a tester. They start working on the project as they are assigned one, execute the test cases that are written by others, word by word, point to the test case author for any missing step and reasons why they missed anything during testing and try to look good as a tester. They only have one mastery and that is to how to blame others for their misses.
  • Zombie Test Manager: These people, though have grown up the ladder in the organisation based on the years of experience, but do not understand the basics of the need of testing. Test Strategy and Test Plan for them means to fill up the information in  the templates. They are highly diplomatic and use their team(s) to run the show till the things mess up. They do not understand the complexities involved in the product, both at technical or non-technical front. They have the mastery to hide behind processes and create a hidden trap which is hard to break. These are mainly “Yes Boss” kind of people and do things mainly to please their bosses.

These kind of people are increasing in numbers at an epidemic rate in the corporate world and the time is not far when we all might be surrounded by them and it might lead to the end of the world for “Testing”! With time, we might also be bitten by one such Zombie and  will be pushed to become part of them.

It is a high time and imperative for each one of us to do some retrospection and see if we want to correct our paths so as to save ourselves in becoming a ZOMBIE!

What a Leader can learn from the current Kapil Sharma Show Saga

One of the most popular comedy shows of all times “The Kapil Sharma Show” is under huge controversy today. As the name suggests, it is named after it’s host and program lead actor and comedian “Kapil Sharma”. Personally, I was too tied up with this show and never missed a single episode since the days it was called “Comedy Nights with Kapil”. The popularity of this show can be understood from the fact that Sony TV coughed up 110 Crore INR for 1 year contract to Kapil Sharma for 2017.

There are multiple discussions happening everywhere, from social media to Bollywood gossip channels, about the failure of the show post the differences emerged publicaly among the costars on the show, but this whole episode has taught some very important lessons to follow for the leaders in the corporate world

  1. Never bring team fights in Public: There is no relationship in the world that can be termed as perfect, including teams. We have conflicts and fights, but it is better to keep them under the cover or else it can spoil the party.
  2. Never build too much dependency on a single team member: Though, this is easier said than done, but too many dependencies on a single team member should be minimized or one should not try to mess with the team.
  3. Leader Attitude counts more than Aptitude: Kapil is a great artist and comedian. As a leader of the team if he had restrained himself from making public accusations and later making fun of it in his own show, things might have been different.
  4. A-Team members needs to be handled delicately: The team was no wonder the A-Team of the comedy world in India, but the leader has the responsibility to handle the A players with humility. Any chance given for intrusion will be welcomed by all.

With all these learnings, I wish the team to get back together for another inning of a great comedy show for Indian viewers.

Latency and it’s importance during Performance Tests

What is Latency?
Suppose a request is sent from the application to a server. There is a certain time lag before it reaches the server and before it starts the actual processing based on the received request. This time lag is called latency or network latency.

In other words: Response time of a request = Processing time + Latency

Why consider Latency?
The majority of performance tests that are conducted within organizations are run from a local load source using performance testing tool like Jmeter, LoadRunner etc. in the same availability zone. As the tool resides in the same network, the latency is extremely low or negligible, probably in some milliseconds. But, in the real world scenario, any application will never have this kind of latency as the networks will be different. As observed in multiple projects, such things can add event up to 750 ms depending on the mix of traffic received by the application from global hits. With such things, the application can perform awfully wrong per the user expectations resulting in the SLA non-compliance.

Normally, a Webserver spends less time waiting for a response when the latency is low say 1 ms and hence allows it to handle a much larger volume of traffic that is spread over a much lower number of threads. Now let us consider that we change the latency to 300 ms. If the application has a 1:1 ratio of thread:Transaction, this will cause ideally around 300% increase in concurrency at any given point of time. And this will definitely lead to the performance box running out of threads or memory and will never reach the actual performance levels seen during low latency.

Latency issues could also highlight probable bottlenecks in the code where the application blocks processing while waiting on other threads to complete.

How to Introduce Latency during Tests
One can mimic production latency in the performance testing environment to ensure that the application is not only tested for the ideal performance, but also stress production similar concurrency levels under low latency. To mimic the production like environment one should generate the load for the tests remotely using cloud like AWS or mimic various bandwidths inhouse.

There are tools in the market that can help mimic the various bandwidths during the performance tests. Some of the tools are

How to Monitor Latency and Impact during Tests
There are multiple tools that can help monitor the application while the performance tests are being run. Some of them are

  • Dynatrace  can be used to perform application monitoring and identify the bottlenecks arising due to latency
  • Latencies Over Time JMeter plugin – Can help in identifying latency at development level

Do share your experiences encountered with and without considering latency on your performance tests.

KISS Agile Standups

Almost all the IT organizations across the world are in some kind of a race to adopt Agile. Post decision and Agile is selected as the process, the first challenge that anyone faces is to broadcast who is doing what in the team. To meet this challenge,  the best defined solution is to have a daily standup scheduled.

These  Daily standups have become a trend in project teams. The team has an awesome feeling when Agile starts as it seems to be connected. Though some projects master how to organize these meetings, but many of such meetings become a status call and slowly as the projects progresses, team starts losing the steam. People start ignoring it as it becomes time eating meeting, as other ones, and people prefer to complete work rather than giving status.

To resolve this challenge, the only way to keep the momentum going on for this meeting is to “Keep It Short Stupid”.

kiss

Do not let it become just another status call!

Meetings – Attend/Schedule Responsibly!

meetings

Disclaimer: This post is completely based on fiction. Any resemblance to any company, living or dead, is coincidental and author does not take any responsibility for the same. The figures used to demonstrate are just for reference and to get the exact costs for your company, it is highly advisable to change the figures as per your company policies.

This post will provide an insight how to calculate a cost of any meeting. The meetings, that are intrinsic part of the corporate world, and that are key  to bring in collaboration between stakeholders and teams, needs to be arranged and attended with a sense of ownership to avoid wastage.

Let us take an example from a live scenario in any IT services company where 10 stakeholders (3 management, 4 solution consultants, 2 reviewer, 1 coordinator) are required to drive a proposal. We will use the below scenario to calculate the costs

  1. Meeting 1: Initial meeting to broadcast the information is called for 30 mins in which all 10 people are present
  2. Meeting 2: To identify and align on the team members, a 60 mins meeting is called
  3. Meeting 3: To check if we are on track, a 60 mins meeting is called
  4. Meeting 4: To check if we are on track, a 30 mins meeting is called – 4 out of 7 participants do not turn up, hence meeting gets cancelled after 15 mins
  5. Meeting 5: To check and review the proposal, a 60 mins meeting is called – all required people come as there were escalations last time, there is a lot of hue and cry and amidst discussions, meeting gets extended to 90 mins.
  6. Meeting 6: To review the solution, a 60 mins meeting is called; changes suggested in the solution and next review meeting is planned for next day
  7. Meeting 7: To review the solution, a 60 mins meeting is called; 2 solution people got stuck in another meeting and hence not able to join, meeting cancelled after 15 mins
  8. Meeting 8: Review meeting called to review the complete proposal ; a 90 mins meeting is called
  9. Meeting 9: Final review and closing; a 90 mins meeting is called

If we look at the above meetings, here is the overall cost of each meeting that company incurred

Duration (in hrs) # of Management Personnel # of Consultants # of Reviewers # of Coordinators Total Cost (in USD)
Meeting 1 0.5 3 4 2 1 420
Meeting 2 1 1 3 2 1 560
Meeting 3 1 1 3 2 1 560
Meeting 4 0.5 0 2 1 1 150
Meeting 5 1.5 1 3 2 1 840
Meeting 6 1 1 3 2 1 560
Meeting 7 0.5 1 2 1 150
Meeting 8 1.5 2 3 2 1 990
Meeting 9 1.5 3 4 2 1 1260
Total Cost 5490

Please note that the above costs only include personnel costs. If you add infrastructure costs as well into it, this will definitely double up.

This simple scenario can be related in any organization, but will leave on to you to utilize this information to calculate the cost of the meetings and see how they will be looked after that!

Implementing Agile – Understand your ‘Team’ first!

After so many years working and implementing Agile practices in various organizations, I have found that Agile is still new for many. Everyone wants to adopt it, but still.. is not able to adopt it! There is one major piece that people miss and i.e. “The TEAM”. The team that will be responsible to implement it. The team that will make it either success or failure.

Before we decide on to implement Agile, we need to look at the team that we plan to implement it in. An agile team does not consist of just any random set of people. It is not a group of developers, testers, project manager who meet for 15 mins to perform daily standup rituals. It is not the team that plays poker to do product sizing and then do sprint planning. It is not a team that has individuals supporting multiple agile teams.

Let us understand what makes

The Agile Team

An agile team should consist of members with cross functional skill sets that makes the team independent to deliver without waiting on external teams to certify it’s success or failure. These members are dedicatedly allocated to one team, and as a rule, work together to deliver the common goal without moving in and out of the teams.

The team should also understand the core principles of agile very clearly and it should be ready to go beyond rigid organizational boundaries. It should understand very clearly that the software delivered at the end of the sprint should be a working software, that works not at the unit level, but also at the integration level. Above all, it should feel empowered to be Agile.

Once one understand the team and forms an independent team to deliver, then comes the next steps – Team Activities beyond Agile standards. I will cover this in my next post.