Event notes from Agile War Stories held at ustwo

I went to the London office of ustwo to listen a panel talk about introducing agile to big business. I enjoyed the event, good drinks and food and friendly staff were around to chat. The panel was a good mix of people who worked with agile in startups, large organisations, government and traditional businesses that use waterfall.

Below are notes that I took during the panel discussions

  • Agile doesn’t have to be done strictly as one style, take the best
  • You are not agile or agile, you only become more agile
  • Adopting agile is not easy and it doesn’t guarantee anything
  • Changing how people think and work… Can be hard
  • Is agile for everyone? -> Yes but different personalities of people can require adjustment
  • Agile can be something that builds the wrong thing quickly
  • Q: What does agile means? Ability to change, communication
  • What is the least we can do to get most learnings.
  • The only certain thing is time
  • Agile requires building trust
  • Build it, show it. Then decide to either go forward or scrap
  • You are not locked to a bad idea/concept with agile
  • Workshops can help build trust at the beginning. Share your learnings by playing back to stakeholders

Pace vs quality

  • You can either be agile at the start or at the end.
  • Choose where quality matters
  • Do less better

How do you iterate existing vs delivering the roadmap

  • Deliver needs over features
  • What is the rationale for iterating? Value of it
  • Iterating has diminishing returns

Other notes

  • With agile your status my start in the red zone. This transparency helps reflect reality
  • How to start with agile: You don’t need to wait. Start small, ground up. Ground up hits a limit of adoption within organisation. To make agile stick, everyone needs to be involved

In the questioning period there was a discussion on how to manage senior stakeholders who have expertise and want to deliver their vision even if these features do not resonant well with users.

  • Take them along the journey
  • Use data and research to back up your decisions


Building things with user needs alone you can miss the big picture.  If you ask what people want then they want more efficient versions of reality. Instead of making a knee jerk reaction, we want to find out the why they want that – analyse their needs. Otherwise you could end up building the Homer car.


Multiple levels of done and design

The definition of done is core to agile but can you have multiple levels of done? I came across this blog article that expresses this idea.

Seems like if you don’t know exactly what you are building then this method works. With development you have clear criteria of what needs to be done but design can be more subjective. Not every task with the design process results in the same output. Sometimes it is exploration and it is the learnings that are results. Sometimes it is design assets and it is the actual assets that are the results.

How can you apply a single definition of done to such different outputs?

Most of the comments from the blog article didn’t agree with Mike Cohn (the author) but I agree with him.

Controlling alcohol consumption through apps

Drinking is a common thing to do while living in London. Too much of it can be a problem. It can take a toll on your bank account and it is a slippery slope to binge drinking. NHS has a recommendation on how much you should be drinking. I don’t really think that this is the best way to approach drinking because if you go out for beers will you stop at 1.7 units? Who only drinks 70% of a beer at a pub? So how can you control your drinking? One way to approach this problem is to use an app to track your alcohol consumption. Most apps count up on the number of drinks, the problem with this is that as the night progresses and you are counting up your drinks it creates a different mentality. The mentality may change from cautious to competitive. With fitness trackers encouraging you to hit/surpass your targets. My approach to this problem is to do the opposite – counting down.

I noticed that when things of limited resources you cherish them more. With limited money you can only spend so much. With limited time you can only do so much. With limited drinks, you potentially could drink only so much.

I created an app called Drinksy to accomplish this. Rather than doing math to figure out the drink limit, the app depends on the user to set their own limit. Setting your own limit allows for realistic limits. Testing it out in real life, I noticed when people knew when they were drinking too fast. To offset this, the app suggests you to drink water to pace yourself. Also knowing that you have one drink left for the night allows you to make it count so instead of just a beer one may enjoy a nice whiskey.


Contributing on Github: Sass to SCSS

I am a firm believer that if you want learn how to do something, you need to do something. In the past year I have been working mainly with the web as an UX designer. Lately there has been a move to design in browser. This has forced me to up my knowledge of how to code for the web.

If you want to learn how to do something, you need to do something

I have benefited a lot from the openness of web community. There is a lot of sharing of code snippets, how-to videos and frameworks to help make it easier to get started. In the past year I have learnt the following concepts: responsive web design, atomic design patterns, CSS3, HTML5, Sass and build tools like Gulp/Grunt. One project byTravis Neilson called DevTips Starter Kit was updated recently. It is a small project that was created to help get started with creating a website. He is a big fan of Sass over SCSS (it’s Sass not SASS). I am familiar with SCSS for preprocessing CSS. This exercise of reverse engineering Sass to SCSS will help me see the differences between both syntax. What I did:

  • Convert Sass to SCSS
  • Restructure the project to separate CSS and SCSS
  • Add variables for fonts
  • Extract colours used in project out to variables

You can check out the code here on Github https://github.com/lifeofmle/SCSS-DevTips-Starter-Kit

Shooting my first wedding video

My friends allowed me to capture their wedding day in Hawaii. I had no experience doing this but the bride and groom had faith in me.

A wedding is a special day for the couple. However the whole day can go by quickly for the bride and groom. Photos will capture the beauty of the day but not the motion. Below are some tips and pointers that I learnt during this process.

Getting help

I got offered help from friends for my task. How I was going to use this help was hard because I didn’t want to use a lot of people’s time because they were there to be part of the wedding not work at the wedding. I turned down most of the help in the end. I asked for the friends with GoPros to capture the day and I would collate it all after. I had one friend who is a photographer who really wanted to try filming, so I said sure why not.

Know your equipment

To be honest, I had no clue how to use my camera on the day of the shoot. Due to this lack of knowledge, I didn’t focus the shots in the morning. Luckily by the time the ceremony rolled around I got the camera focused but I forgot to adjust the lighting to adapt to the bright Hawaiian sun. This caused some of the video to be saturated. Although you can fix some of it in post-editing, try to capture the best video you can to make your life easier later.

The sound captured from cameras is not the best. There can be ambient noise and wind if it is outdoors. It is best to have a microphone and recorder on the day to capture sound. I borrowed a Yamaha Pocketrax C24 from my friend and got a lav microphone for input. For the ceremony if you only have one mic, you can hook it up to the groom as it should capture both the celebrant and the bride’s speaking.

Backup batteries are key because you won’t have time to recharge your batteries as the day moves on. I had to switch the batteries once on all of the cameras.

Get in position

As the videographer you need to be on your A-game on the day. Unlike a normal movie, shooting a wedding is tough because you only have one take. You can’t ask the bride and groom redo their first kiss or vows because you were not in position. It is best to be as ready as you can be and shoot what you can.

Shooting a wedding is tough because you only have one take

To prepare for the day I watched this video from Wedding Film School to understand how to get in the best position for the ceremony. I brought a tripod so that allowed me to take stationary video. I used the second camera while moving to get action shots. With my friend helping out as a camera I was fortunate to get three positions (left, right, back centre) for the ceremony. This paid off in editing to have the option of different angles during the ceremony.

Try to get the wedding run sheet from the bride and groom before the day. This will allow you to understand the timing and pace of the events during the day and where you will need to be.

Being in position doesn’t only mean focusing on the bride and groom. Try to get around the crowd and get candid footage of people enjoying the wedding.


Editing is where everything comes together. I had footage from the three cameras and four GoPro cameras. Altogether this equated to hours of video to go through. Condensing it all down to a trailer(3:11 mins) and full video (1 hour 48 mins) was a tricky task. How do you filter out key moments but keep enough to have the spirit of the day still there.

The sequencing for the wedding trailer should allow you to tell a story in a short period of time. The trailer is not a teaser for the full movie because not everyone will watch the full movie. The wedding trailer should capture the day, tell a story and be fun enough to share with friends and family.

I recommend going through the videos quickly before starting the editing. This will give you an idea of what kind of video you have. There will be some key moments or themes that stand out.

Music can make or break a trailer. One tip that was said to my wife and I when we had our wedding trailer video done was that the song shouldn’t be a mainstream song. Why? When the song is not well known people don’t have an existing association already in their mind. It becomes more personal this way. Choosing a song can be challenging. It requires some knowledge of the genre or you can use MusicBed to search for songs.

Once you have selected the song the rest comes easier because you are fitting the video to the song. When editing I like to edit by moving the unused video/audio to an invisible/muted track respectively in so that I can revert or change my edits as I go along. It is tempting to use cross dissolve as a video transistion but use it in moderation (if you are going to use it at all). Getting the perfect edit requires patience and timing to get that perfect slice.


When it was all done, the video editing took me one night after work each day for a week plus a Saturday. There was also a moment when I deleted the video by accident. I have much respect to videographers who do same day edits.

In the end it was all worth it when I delivered the video to the happy married couple and they were thrilled with the result.

This originally posted on Medium.

Exploring inspiration

In spring of 2014, I had the opportunity to take some time off work and explore the city of London during the daytime.

I was working in Canary Wharf since 2008 but in all time I didn’t get a chance to see central London during the day. I took this opportunity to walk around and just see what London had to offer during the day.

The vibrant start up scene was something that I wanted to get involved with. I went to a co-working space at Campus London. I also got a chance to visit other tech co-working spaces like Central Working to work with a startup. Everyone had a strong hustle work ethic to them. Unlike the popular belief there wasn’t free coffee and beer flowing at these working spaces.


Walking around London I got to visit markets and food stalls that I wouldn’t have been able to go to working Canary Wharf. I got a chance to slow down a bit, visit a few museums and find new inspirations. Below was a photo I took at the Paul Smith exhibit at the Design Museum, “every day is a new beginning”. For me my new beginning was changing careers from being a full time UI developer to UX designer. One day I will write about that process.


How can improv comedy help with your daily work?

A few years ago when I was working at a software consulting company and we were sent to improv comedy classes. If you had reservations about public speaking this was one way to get over it with comedy. To push the group, we even had a date to perform in central London. Teamwork is a necessity to achieve success with improv comedy because it is done as a group. The form of improv comedy that we did was the Harold. This is a long form of improv comedy that involve three teams who perform in 3 phases or beats.  But does improv help you with your daily work in a professional environment?

Clover leaf pattern

The clover leaf pattern is a group game in the Harold of coming up with 3 topics and then as a group you generate different ideas about the topics. You go around the group and say different words in related to the topic. The group will go on different tangents and arcs about the topic. The goal is trying to tie it back to the original topic before moving onto the next topic.

This is useful in work when brainstorming ideas. It is very easy to get side tracked but having a focus and the ability to bring ideas back to the central point is useful.

“Yes and”

To succeed in improv, the secret is that you don’t deny someone else’s reality. This was something hard to do at the start. Someone could say “look at the purple elephant next to me”, instead of “umm no” we were instructed to start with saying “yes and”. This was effective because using “yes and” we could incorporate someone else’s story into our own storyline. “Yes there is a purple elephant and I have a flying car”, the possibility for this story about an elephant just expanded.

How many times in a meeting do you get pushback or disagreements? Do you stop these comments head on? Using the “yes and” technique, you give yourself the ability to emphasise with their point of view. This could give you an opportunity to reframe your argument with this person in mind. You are now being collaborative rather than combative.


In the harold, you start of with 3 different stories in the first beat and hopefully by the third beat, all of these stories sync up. This works by the teams picking up cues and themes that happen in the first and second beats. In the third beat, all of the teams come together with their separate stories and join on the common themes. This happens only if you pay attention to the other teams acting.

Listening to others is a necessary skill to succeed professionally. How do you adapt your state based on others? Can you help them out with their story? Sometimes meetings can go off the rails when tangents happen but like the clover leaf pattern game, can you find the common themes to bring everyone back together?

This blog article was something that I thought about writing about 3 years ago when I first got introduced to improv. Since then I found that the techniques used in improv helped me deal with tricky situations in consultant when someone throws you a curve ball in their comments or questions. So if you are looking for a team building exercise that requires a bit of fun and creativity, improv comedy is a winner.