Posted over 1 year ago
The New Zealand Government Common Web Platform, delivered in partnership between DIA, SilverStripe, and Revera, launched today. The launch represents the culmination of over a year's hard work and the start of something even bigger.
The ... [More] platform was created to tackle a number of issues affecting the quality, cost, and effectiveness of government websites. We've launched a solution to get us started, and it is now up to government agencies and the private sector to come to openly collaborate and re-use each other's work, evolve the platform's capabilities, and build the next generation of government websites.
We're proud that our kiwi-built software underpins the platform, but there is something vastly more satisfying: to know we're improving how a government interacts with and delivers to its citizens. This is an opportunity to create a model for the rest of the world to follow.
We’re also excited to be working much more closely with the country’s web developers, sharing code, ideas, and vision, to produce something remarkable.
We hope many people working both inside and outside of government will join us in this vision!
Press Release from Minister Chris Tremain (beehive.govt.nz)
Common Web Platform website (cwp.govt.nz) contains information and interactive demo
SilverStripe Government LinkedIn Group
Developers - join the next Wellington SilverStripe Developer's Meetup Group as we're announcing an event soon [Less]
Posted about 2 years ago
Today we are proud and excited to announce that we have been selected by the Department of Internal Affairs to build the Common Web Platform for the New Zealand public sector.
To do this, we are building a Platform as a Service version of ... [More] SilverStripe CMS targeted specifically at the needs of the New Zealand public sector. We are working with Revera, making use of their Government Infrastructure as a Service, alongside the set of open source tools that provide the best environment for creating and hosting SilverStripe websites. Development of the platform is already underway.
As well as being a great validation of our product, we see this as an opportunity to help push the envelope in the way that the public sector can make use of the web.
For more information about the Common Web Platform, please visit the ICT website. If you are from an eligible agency and are interested in making use of the Common Web Platform, please contact DIA directly. [Less]
Posted about 2 years ago
Somehow amidst the craziness of December 2012, we held an in-house app competition coined the "Jedi Challenge". The topic for the Jedi Challenge was to interact on the move. The application needed to be mobile and multi-user focussed. In true ... [More] SilverStripe fashion, there were no restraints or barriers. Entrants were enouraged to allow their actions to be "guided by whatever mystical force controls your destiny." Righto! The competition upped team spirit and allowed our designers and developers to expand their creativity and openness to new ideas and new solutions. There were really no boundaries with this competition, with entries ranging from quirky to surprisingly useful. Check out a snapshot of the top three below.
The iCook app won first place, and was created by Designer Bee Intrasuwan and Front-End Dev Saophalkun Ponlu. A seamless combination of creative thought and clean design.
Motivation behind the project
There are a lot of cooking and recipe apps out there, however they are either unpleasant to use or their contents are generated by their own experts. This is only useful if you want to pick something off the shelf once in a while. What we are missing is the middle ground. We want an application that we, passionate cooks (professionals or amateurs), can collect our own recipes, share them and easily explore those of like-minded others.
We think a good app needs good design, so we invested a lot of time up front to come up with an intuitive user interface. We spent around 20% of our time alone on sketching up the UI. We got a lot of inspiration from existing apps on the market. Interestingly, the ones that inspired our app design were not cooking or recipe related apps.
The main challenge for us was the Add Recipe screen. We wanted to make it quick and easy for users to add their recipes as a lot of information needs to go in at this stage. Our solution was to allow the user to enter ingredients in plain text and the app will turn the text behind the scene into a nicely formatted list.
After the UI was finalised, we fleshed out the skin of the app. We wanted a presentation that was as clean and simple as possible while maintaining the main elements of a recipe app. The main idea behind the design was to have a prominent photo area because, as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Due to the time constraints, as in many projects, we had to cut down on some nice-to-have features to get the app completed and polished on time. The following is the list of features we would like to add in the future:
Local cooks and recipes (using geolocation to discover nearby cooks and recipes)
Offline storage for bookmark recipes
Social sharing (Facebook & Twitter)
Inappropriate content reporting
SilverStripe allowed us to get the project up and running in just a few hours and to focus on the business logic.
"Street Wars" is a real-time, multi-player, online game, created by senior developers Mark Stephens and Normann Lou. The entry aimed at using the most advanced technologies, frameworks, and concepts, such as SilverStripe Express, Responsive Design, WebSocket, Backbone, Bootstrap, and of course, CSS3 and HTML5. After hours. Not trying to do too much at all.
The game has two teams, representing the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, fighting it out on the streets of Wellington in a capture-the-flag style game. Players use their mobile phones to figure out the location of their opponents' base, and the first team to reach it wins. All the while, the admin can watch the whole war on a Google map, with real-time player location.
The game has four phases:
Forming: waiting for players to sign in and select a team.
Preparation: waiting for one player from a team to set-up the team’s base location.
In process: while the game is active, players walk the streets and try to get as close as possible to the opponents’ base to win. If two individual players from different team come too close, the central server puts them into hand-to-hand combat - the first player to respond wins, and the other one will lose ability to get location updates for a while – frozen.
Completed: When any player from a team is close enough to the team’s opponent base, the whole team wins and game is over. All the players will be updated with the game over status at once.
The cool features
The whole application uses only one template - it contains different views - according to the game status, which will be updated on the fly using a web socket connection to the game server. The client side of the application is written using backbone.js.
The game logic is implemented in the web socket server within a SilverStripe application. The ORM is used for recording game and player state.
The Landing view uses CSS3 technologies, such as scrolling 3D text for its flash-like branding.
After a player login, online messaging is available for player/admin to send message to one another, which is also implemented by WebSocket. Geolocation is used for each team, setting its base location and updating individual location during game in process. The player’s location information is sent to the server and propagated to all players every five seconds.
As an admin, all players location and their movement is captured in the Google map.
As an admin, some debugging actions are available, e.g. force team players from different teams are able to kill opponent by sending conflict.
Using Bootstrap framework for the games template makes it responsive to any browsers/devices.
Watch the screencast.
Retronaut is a developer diary designed to assist developers using Scrum to record and prepare data for their retrospective at the end of their Sprint, so that they may create meaningful and SMART actions to improve their productivity in future sprints.
Retronaut was developed by Robert Curry, while Project Manager Luke Percy took care of, well, project management, testing and a little code!
Here at SilverStripe we use the Agile Scrum methodology, which breaks projects up into deliverable cycles called ‘Sprints’.
A ‘Retrospective’ meeting is held each Sprint, which allows developers to review the past Sprint to ascertain ways to improve their productivity in the next Sprint. This relies on remembering and communicating what went well and what didn’t go so well, which can be difficult as some sprints can be as long as three or four weeks.
Our Jedi Challenge concept was to make an app for recording and collating the necessary data in an intuitive and easy-for-all manner for every developer in a Scrum Team.
At the end of each day, a developer can log on to record how they felt the day went. First, they would sketch their mood during the day by using their finger to draw a line on a mood graph: the higher the line, the happier the developer.
At the end of the sprint, it’s time to have our retrospective! Each developer can view the collated mood graph to see how the whole team felt during the different parts of the Sprint, as well as which tags were most common among the team.
From here, the team can vote towards which group of ‘Sad’ tags they would like to discuss further. From this discussion, the team can attribute meaningful actions to take away from the Retrospective. [Less]
Posted about 2 years ago
Guest writer Diana Hennessy is a Senior Project Manager at SilverStripe. As someone who is passionate about business, Diana has a diverse background in many industries. Mainly in a marketing capacity she's worked in finance, real estate, contemporary ... [More] New Zealand art, and the beauty industry.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about project negotiations, both from a vendor side and from a client’s perspective. It’s a lot like being married.
At the beginning of any project, you generally start with all parties happy and confident of pending success, just like a new romance. It has been said that this stage ‘is the dumbest you will ever be in a project’ - meaning by the end, you will know it all due to experience.
With any new 'partnership', there needs to be firmly established rules around, if anything were to go off track, how we would deal with it together, so that ‘no one goes to bed angry’, so to speak.
As part of my project kick off, I typically introduce the equivalent of a ‘pre-nup’ - our Project Plan and RICD register. This tool helps to put right up front how we will deal with any foreseeable issues. RICD stands for Risks, Issues, Changes and Decisions, and this is a place we store our initial project information, which will be a working document throughout.
For someone who has had both failed projects, (and a divorce), it is very clear to me that this is a vital and constant area that needs attention. Complacency is the death of many happy assumptions. Adding risks into a register, with the client, at the beginning of the project, and including proposed mitigations for dealing with them, help keep everyone on the same page. An understanding of what we face as a team is key to later negotiations, as if this is not fully understood by one party or another, then there will come a point when negotiation is needed, and you find yourselves on opposite sides of a very long table.
We use agile techniques to control our projects, typically Scrum, to ensure the right thing gets built at the right time, to provide the best value for our clients. As part of this, the client can change their mind. It's okay and expected. We handle that by showing the impact of the change. If they need to either reduce other scope to fit that into the original budget, or add more budget to increase the scope, it can be clearly demonstrated.
The problem comes when a client wants both. ‘More scope, no more budget - but I still have promised my boss the other stuff’. This often results in the ‘marriage’ getting a bit rocky. Hopefully, there was a clear mitigation we had discussed at the beginning; it could have been as much or as little as ‘someone outside of the project team needs to talk the options out’. My rule is: always present at least two feasible options, and remind the client what the original goal was, and if it is still valid. It's completely okay to reassess business focus as we go within the given constraints.
Being transparent means that we all know where we stand, what the options are, and the next steps. No one needs to feel cheated or taken advantage of in this relationship.
We are definitely the marrying type here at SilverStripe. Moving on with our relationship analogies, the project itself is a lot like a first pregnancy. So many unknowns once you sign up for it, but you are both in it till the end, with a lot of learning along the way. It's a journey that both parties are responsible for, regardless of the role.
Early stages of the ‘project baby’, there is often little to see, while the initial setup and base for growth is bedded down. Everyone is excited by the prospect of the end result, as it feels so optimistic. Both sides get on with getting as prepared as possible, so as to ensure the early stages are well structured and as healthy as possible.
By the time you reach the second trimester, loads of exciting things are taking place, visible changes, and your focus is growth of functionality. The first signs of how it may look are there and it’s starting to be recognisable as an actual website.
Around the end of this time, I call it the 70% freak out, things start getting shakey. No matter how good it has been up until this point, the reality of ‘launch’ hits, and you just can’t imagine how it will all come together. There seems so much left to do, or decisions not made, or things not fully complete. But like any pregnancy, it does come to an end, there is no choice really, and things do come together for that big day. Your creation makes it into the world, in one piece, with all of its fingers and toes. It may not be exactly as you imagined it in the beginning, but it is yours to take care of from here.
There is still a lot of growing to do, and in most cases, the launch is just the beginning. I guess just like a child, the more attention you show it the more rewards you will see.
Okay, enough with the analogies. Really, all we need to worry about with a relationship, and a project, is; be frank and honest (even if it may not be something anyone wants to hear), commit to doing it well and stick with it, get through the low points to the highs, and communicate constantly. [Less]
Posted about 2 years ago
2012 has been a fantastic year, and 2013 promises to be even better.
Since January, we have launched some major websites,including mylotto.co.nz and westpac.co.nz. As well as new launches, we've continued to work with clients such as ... [More] aa.co.nz and metlink.org.nz to help them make the best use of the web that they can.
As well as the continued growth of our Melbourne and Wellington offices, 2012 saw us open for business in Auckland. Our team there is growing rapidly and we look forward to meeting many more of the locals in 2013.
But perhaps the most exciting milestone this year was the release of SilverStripe 3.0 in June. Since then, we have seen a number of sites upgrade to SilverStripe 3 and the results have been great. Throughout the year we have seen a huge growth in the number of contributors to the SilverStripe project, and for that we are truly grateful - a huge thanks to anyone who helps make SilverStripe even better!
After the first 3.0 release, we have 3 point releases and, just last week, a beta release of 3.1! The inclusion of support for te reo Māori in 3.0.2 was a nod to our New Zealand roots, and a great demonstration of SilverStripe's internationalisation capabilities.
Next year, we're going to keep making the SilverStripe platform more powerful and to keep working with everyone who builds SilverStripe sites to make sure that they are rock-solid.
Thanks to everyone in the SilverStripe community, to all our clients, and to all our staff. Have a great Christmas break, and let's all make the web even more awesome in 2013. [Less]
Posted over 2 years ago
SilverStripe Ltd worked together with NIWA (National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research) on setting up the Ocean Survey 20/20 portal. The website displays results and data from the OS 20/20 programme. The OS 20/20 programme is a government ... [More] initiative, which aims to provide a better knowledge of New Zealand's ocean territory and to make this knowledge available to the public.
The website and its data currently gets used by environmentalists, conservationists, scientists, commercial & recreational fishers and recreational divers. The site displays environmental data in a user friendly way via mapping applications.
A couple of weeks ago, Rainer Spittel, Head of Development at SilverStripe, worked with Brent Wood, consultant at NIWA, to extend the current website and add a few new features. This offered a good time to have a chat with the two of them and find out what it's all about.
What are the changes we made on the Ocean Survey 20/20 Portal?
Rainer: “We added the results of other OS 20/20 surveys to the existing projects and published the data in a reusable way. We also implemented two new projects, the Chatham Challenger and the New Zealand IPY-CAML project. We added a data map to the Chatham Challenger project in which we included a tool to query species observations and modelled distribution. The website user is now able to choose different styles, such as icons and colours for the map, which gives the website user the ability to change the default appearance of data on the map.
The map data is also linked to search tools which enables the user to query additional data sources, relevant to the information shown on the map. This way, the website user can search for reports, or raw data directly by using the query tools via the map.”
The mapping function in all the projects looks quite advanced. Is that a SilverStripe application?
Rainer: “SilverStripe developed a component for the CMS that, once it is installed, allows you to add mapping capability to the website without the need of any development skills. The SilverStripe CMS supports various web service standards and formats which allow the content editor of the site to add new datasets easily without any need to redeploy the site or do code changes.
The map data is provided by open source back end services, which can be consumed by the CMS and presented to users.”
What data are the maps shown on the OS 20/20 website based on?
Rainer: “NIWA performs surveys around New Zealand and creates large datasets. This site publishes the dataset of the Ocean Survey 20/20. The maps present selected data-sets of those surveys. Detailed reports or other data sources have been made available for direct download via a catalogue service, which is part of the OS 20/20 portal website.
The map data used for the OS 20/20 portal are processed data-sets of observations and surveyed data-sets, such as bathymetry datasets or species observations.”
What are your favourite new site features and why?
Rainer: “Being able to query data and show the results on the map directly is a great add-on. This functionality allows the website user to search a great amount of data. Each record shown on the map provides a ‘drill-down’ feature to retrieve more information about individual species.
The drill down feature allows users to look up more data that is linked to the map, such as photos and reports. An image server provides photos from the seabed taken with the NIWA underwater camera set DTIS. Linking the different datasets and presenting them in a user friendly way is a challenge, but the result is exciting.”
The application allows users to choose the style for different species and stations. How does that help when using the map?
Rainer: “As a website user, you have the capability to change the styling of the layers on the map. This gives the user the flexibility to choose styles as they desire. Some project maps do provide a large number of species data which challenges the design aspect of the map. Giving the map user options to style the map will help the user to create a map which presents the data in an even better way.”
You also added the New Zealand IPY-CAML project to the site. What is that project about?
Rainer: “This project publishes the data and reports of a biological survey of the Ross Sea. The data has been made available via reports and raw data-sheets. As a website user, I have the ability to view all reports and download datasets for further processing.”
What were the biggest challenges that you faced while working on these website improvements?
Rainer: “The entire portal is built on open standards and all key data services and back end systems have been integrated via standardised APIs, such as OGC (Open GeoSpatial Consortium) standards.
The species picker created a few challenges as the underlying data needed to be linked to different data sources that all had to be OGC compliant.
The species picker, that was originally created for the Chatham/Challenger project map, queries data-feeds from an OGC Web Feature Service and links the data to additional map data, such as the modelled distribution maps. All those data-feeds need to perform well and fast which creates specific challenges regarding caching and aggregating those feeds.
We built all the enhancements in a reusable way, the logic and relationship of those datasets can be managed in the CMS and we can also reuse the features for new projects and different datasets.
A similar feature will also be part of the SilverStripe open source geospatial module.”
Why is SilverStripe a good partner to work with on this website?
Brent: “Silverstripe has staff with a good understanding of spatial data issues and web mapping technologies, as well as metadata catalogue systems. They also have an open source CMS, enabling redeployment of the site for other purposes with no licence issues. They are a stable and successful company that we expect to be able to maintain a long term relationship with."
What is coming up next for os2020.org.nz?
Brent: “The site is being rebranded as a NIWA rather than OS 20/20 site, and is having its scope expanded to deliver data from non-OS 20/20 coasts & oceans projects as well as OS 20/20 ones.”
Thank you very much for this conversation. We are looking forward to seeing what’s coming next. [Less]
Posted almost 3 years ago
On Monday and Tuesday last week Sig and Pete met Lee Tong at ALGIM 2012 in Roturua. This offered a good opportunity to catch up and exchange experiences and ideas.
Lee works as web developer and administrator for Napier City Council and ... [More] maintains 21 council websites, databases and the corporate intranet. Since Lees time with the Napier City Council, he has taken their website from a static site to dynamic user interactive site. He has built many sites on the SilverStripe CMS and is an experienced user. He came to ALGIM to talk about SilverStripe and share his work regarding the “Website Standards and Guidelines for Web architecture, Design and Content” for the Napier City Council. The Napier City Council site has won ALGIM Web Awards in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
How did it come that you started looking for a new content management tool at Napier City Council?
We only had a CMS system that was built by me and it was not allowing our users to change everything that they required, it also did not give us the flexibility to design and build sites really quickly.
How many other CMS's did you evaluate?
I had look at a few CMS systems before deciding on SilverStripe, we looked at Joomla, Sharepoint and sitecore.
Do you think there is an advantage for government in using an open source tool?
I am a big believer of government using open source. The information available and the rapid development that you get from open source is amazing, you can’t get it from anything else, I don’t think.
Was the fact that SilverStripe is ‘Made in New Zealand’ a reason for you to choose it over other content management systems out there?
It was not really a consideration but it is certainly a benefit for getting questions answered and having the ability to be able to visit staff if we need to, and it is good for NZ to help a local business.
You created Website Standards and Guidelines for Web Architecture, Design and Content. What was the purpose of the document?
The purpose of the document was to provide a way for the facilities to understand how we could better work together as one organisation. It allows us to build on one platform and spend money more wisely. The document also allows us to work with other companies very easily as they know what is required.
What do you think are the most significant advantages of having such guidelines?
Faster website re-builds, saving council money and advancing our facilities with the latest web technology.
How is this document different from the New Zealand Government Web Standards?
It is more about creating a way to handle the large workload that most councils face with the large number of websites they look after, rather than actually what the standards are for the website.
Who uses the guidelines document you created?
All council facilities and contractors that are doing work for us or one of the facilities.
Does that mean that all Napier City Council sites have to run on SilverStripe in order to integrate with each other?
It does not mean that all facilities have to use SilverStripe but it is shown through the document what the benefits of using it are. So far we have only had great feedback and more facilities wanting to come on board.
What’s the most exciting thing for you when you think about using SilverStripe?
How easy it is to customise. [Less]
Posted almost 3 years ago
Gisborne District Council is a client of ours and their website has just been named the top council website in the country at this week's local government web symposium. ALGIM, who organised the event, produces a list ranking the country's 80 council ... [More] websites on a variety of criteria including web standards and accessibility. Gisborne has done particularly well given their size and resources are considerably less than major urban councils. Karen Hadfield (pictured with me below), won a ticket to Webstock 2013 for her hard work!
ALGIM has also released a report into council websites this year, which continues to show council sites typically run on a closed source Microsoft .ASP-based platform, for example SharePoint. SilverStripe CMS is the second most popular platform used overall, and is well ahead of any other open source choice in local government. Lee Tong from Napier City Council initiated a user group at the symposium event, which will enable users of SilverStripe CMS in local government, such as Gisborne and Napier, to more richly collaborate.
At the symposium, I gave a presentation about current themes for council websites. This provided both a retrospective into ideas we spoke about two years ago (video), and what's new in 2012, such as using responsive design to present content better on smartphones within a modest amount of budget and energy. It's also clear that, for the most part, councils are getting their content under control, and can increasingly focus on the services, online payments, and consultation processes they can offer online. If councils can collaborate on approaches and platforms more than they have in the past, these complex offerings can be created without cost duplication and be built to be user friendly and to a much higher calibre.
In the two days of talks, a common theme surrounded social media and engagement with communities. This was either in the context of consultations, but also around disasters and emergencies that councils have faced recently in New Zealand. Amelia Loye was one such example, who discussed connected government (video). As a consequence, I changed my other presentation, which was at the end of the day, into an open panel that generated great discussion that would have productively lasted for hours.
ALGIM do a great job at getting council staff from all over the country talking with each other. We thank them for putting on the event and look forward to supporting them and another initiatives that support collaboration and progress across government. [Less]
Posted almost 3 years ago
It was a leap year, the year 2000, that saw 29 February become the day that CMS history was written and SilverStripe officially incorporated. Two years ago we did a little retrospective to see how it all began with Sam, Tim and Sig. There were three ... [More] fearless young guys fresh out of college who knew the world was their oyster; the world was waiting for them to create something awesome. Tim’s life savings were spent on some equipment, they built their first website with ASP 2.0 from their bedrooms at mum and dad’s, and named their company Totally Digital, which is today known as SilverStripe. Luckily they soon discovered the beauty of PHP and matured into serious businessmen who today have the trust of some multi-million dollar organisations.
Last week, I met with these, still fearless but slightly older, guys to speak about the beauty of being young, innocent and taking advantage of opportunities.
How did it all start?
Tim: At the beginning, Sam worked with ASP from Microsoft as a technology. Then Sig introduced PHP to the game.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you started your business?
Sam: Going from hobby to business. We were young and had no experience. Coming fresh from college we had no experience from previous jobs. And sometimes we had to make expensive learning curves.
Did you start with a big vision?
Sam: We were focused on the technology, making the business side of it up as we went along. We pretty much did what was in front of us.
Tim: At the time it was dotcom boom, all the hype and craze and a lot of energy and passion, but it was unfocused.
Sam: We saw the case by case individual needs and a client needed to be looked after in a certain way. So building them a website and a CMS from scratch was mostly in response to individual needs.
Sig: We had the idealism of doing something really wonderful with the web, but really; we had no plan.
Tim: We knew we wanted to take over the world, but we didn’t really know how. We saw and took the opportunity to build the tools that would eventually shape the future of business.
Sam: It’s much easier to be idealistic when you’re young. We had no sense of limits, and were arrogant enough to think we could achieve anything. We started very broad - we did everything from building databases to websites and CMS’s, right through to building a scoreboard system for an indoor sports centre.
Sig: Then we found what we liked doing and what we could make money on. We had no mortgages or kids; so we had nothing to lose. It was low risk. Some monthly income in the early days allowed us to experience and dabble in what was going on in the Internet.
What’s the advantage and disadvantage of starting a business when you are quite young?
Sam: The younger you are, the bigger risks you can take. You might not have money, so you don’t have to worry about losing it. One of the good things about the software industry is that the amount of capital you need is very low. This enables young people to start out and gives them that extra opportunity, especially those trying to start out with skills in the IT space.
Is there anything you would do differently today if you could start over again?
Sam: I would choose carefully what I want and focus more on that. We went in many directions, and it helps a lot to focus on what’s important, and really hone in on that.
Tim: We had a good lot of lessons learnt. We had a lot of bad experiences and bad clients. So you should really define for whom you want to work. But in saying that; you learn from bad experiences, too.
Sig: Either direction, it probably would have just been a different set of mistakes. Something we could have done is actually set our sights higher, set the goal and really channeled that.
Can you name a couple of lessons learnt?
Sig: The matter of funding your business through cash-flow, as opposed to taking large investment, is a worthwhile process that constantly refines everything you do. You can’t go the wrong way for too long, or you get into trouble. But focusing on the cash-flow helps you to quickly learn if you’re heading the right way.
Sam: Aim to create a company you’re proud of and passionate about. Its not enough to follow a good idea; you need to deeply care about what you are doing.
Tim: The range of different personalities and opinions among the three of us has been a learning curve in itself. We have our conflicts, but it is always constructive and we always come to an agreement.
Is it difficult to be friends as well as business partners?
Tim: The business was first, the actual friendship came later.
Sam: I met Tim around the time that we started the business. The most significant similarity in your relationship is that you’re doing business together. It becomes the substance of the relationship, and although it doesn’t necessary diminish the other side of the friendship, it by sheer volume it can come to dominate it.
Tim: It would be difficult to work together if you didn’t like each other...
Sam: ..you are sort of getting married, you’re spending half of your life together, your deeply reliant on each other, and if you were to leave, the others would be screwed. You’re committed, and tied to each other in a meaningful sense. You can’t just hand in your notice.
Sig: There needs to be an element of loyalty and respect, too; we try to row in unison. We need to be in sync and heading in the same direction.
What do you like most and least about your job?
Sam: I like watching this company growing into something that is bigger than every one of us. It stands alone. The tough part is when you have to make a decision that is best for the company, but you know you will disappoint someone. But I have to take the responsibility of the consequence of my decisions.
Tim: I like the ability to indirectly touch half a million businesses, then all of their clients too. That’s the beauty of the net. What I don’t like is to see so many opportunities out there and not to have the time or resources to take advantage of them.
Sig: I see web as the major medium in which the world’s humanity is interacting. It is rapidly changing and rapidly increasing its influence in the world. It’s a fun area to be in and to even contribute to. My dislike is the same as Tim’s; all those missed opportunities. How often have I thought: “If only someone built this iPhone app”.
How much of SilverStripe is driving revenue and how much is ideology?
Sam: It is both; ideology and profit. Have your cake and eat it too. We see open source as that opportunity.
It is important to create a business that makes money, otherwise it won’t last. I like Tim O’Reilly’s analogy: “Profit in a business is like gas in a car. You don't want to run out of gas, but neither do you want to think that your road trip is a tour of gas stations.”
Tim: We commercialise the open source tool by using it for our clients. The CMS and Framework give us the USP we need to be ahead of the competition. This is how we grow and why we have an international brand.
Sig: It really is a strong mix of both. If it were just one or the other, we’d either have no customers or no community.
Sam: I would say that we’re socially conscious capitalists.
What’s special about SilverStripe?
Sam: We are kiwis, we’re not very good at listing the reasons that we are special. (laughs)
Tim: We have a good, fun work environment.
Sam: SilverStripe has a culture that focuses on the things that matter; like giving people the freedom they need to create great work. We don’t want to create a bunch of prima donnas. People here are talented, they listen and learn. We are problem solvers, we help businesses and we need our knowledge and talent for that.
What is open source for you?
Sig: It’s partially creator of good will, marketing, and deriving satisfaction for our developers, as well as a billboard for our customers, so that prospective customers are able to fall in love with something real. They can try it before they invest any money. Broadly, its a much improved software. Without open source, it’s too easy for a software to get stuck in the hands of one vendor.
Sam: We wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t open sourced. Industries that focus on capitalising intellectual property directly are struggling. Open source in the software space is an attempt to grow a software businesses without locking down IP, and in that sense, I see open source as the future.
Tim: We give value away for free. We make good profit, but not mega profit. We are not capitalised like other companies, which keeps the playing field level. Software is a way of codifying ideas and thinking. Ideas get more actionable, and open source keeps that knowledge on the table.
What would you do if Google knocked on your door tomorrow?
Sam: What is the outcome going to be? What we’ve created is pretty special. If someone was going to help make that even more special, then maybe we’d consider. But if it was to be swallowed up and consumed by another big ecosystem, then we wouldn’t be keen on that.
Tim: Our vision for SilverStripe was always to create long term value rather than something we’d sell overnight. We’ve had offers in the past, but we never seriously considered them.
Sig: Buying a company usually means buying the customers and sunsetting the product. That is entirely against the idea we had when we founded the company.
Thank you very much for this interview. Congratulations to 12 years at SilverStripe! [Less]
Posted about 3 years ago
Guest blogger Sandy Mamoli:
This is part two of my three-part interview series about the adoption of Agile and Scrum at SilverStripe.
Last week’s interviewee was SilverStripe’s CEO Sam Minnée, and today I will talk to Scrum Master ... [More] and Project Manager Aleksandra Brewer. Alex works with one of the Agile teams at SilverStripe and has likened working with me with a visit to the dentist.
Alex, what was the most surprising thing that happened during the transition?
Some of the surprising (although maybe obvious) things were that (1) it's possible for more than one person to work on the same user story, (2) work goes faster when people collaborate, (3) sprint planning that results in greater understanding of stories and tasks necessary to complete them really speeds up the work during the sprint - everyone knows what needs to be done and can pick up a simple task and complete it.
What's different now?
I love being able to see the day to day progress of the team - it's so visible on the board, plus the work seems to be going faster, with several people going through small tasks all the time. With the acceptance criteria being defined and discussed before the start of a sprint, and with the Product Owner being available to answer any additional questions and provide feedback throughout the sprint, there is virtually no possibility for any team member to go off on a tangent.
What are you more confident about now?
Talking to clients is easier now, as they are much more involved and ultimately responsible for making decisions about priorities. We (the team) make recommendations, share our knowledge and inform the client about pros, cons and consequences of the different options, but in the end it's up to them to make a final decision.
All along the course of a project clients know exactly where we're at, what's being built, etc., which they love. The transparency of Scrum, although scary at the beginning, is really beneficial for both the team and clients.
What did you have to learn? What was the hardest to learn?
The hardest thing to learn was to give up the control over what the individual team members were doing from day to day.
How do you think you benefitted from working with a coach?
Working with you has been a bit like going to the dentist - painful at times, but all along I knew it was good for me, and I'm in better shape now than I was before. It's been good to have you keep us on track, and point out things that now seem obvious, and yet were not at first.
Would you recommend Scrum and Agile to others?
Definitely. I couldn't imagine going back to the old ways, negotiating "resourcing" among Project Managers, developers being on several different projects at the same time, and not knowing when a project would end because of the uncertainty of developer availability. [Less]