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Monday
Jun062011

The Checkered Flag on Appfire’s Sprint to Summit

In this Dukes of Hazzard meets Cannonball Run adventure, Appfire's Randall Ward and Mick Flanigan provide a front-row seat to their adrenaline-fueled sprint to Atlassian Summit 2011. Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit for all Appfire's exciting updates from the road. See you at Summit!


 

Story 6 - Reno Baby!

We left Winnemucca just after dusk. Remaining between us, and Reno, was a 145-mile stretch of straight, flat, open road … our favorite!

It was around 9pm by the time the car was re-fueled and at this point we had been traveling for about 15 hours straight. Not all of that was driving time, but having started with only 3 hours of sleep the night before, Mick and I were pretty spent and absolutely famished. It took just about everything we had left to convince ourselves not to stay the night in Winnemucca.

We set a new goal: Push one last Story and make Reno our stop for the night.

This was our first stretch of road driving through the pitch-black during our #SprintToSummit. Outside of Alaska, this particular road is known as one of the most remote and deescalate locations in the entire country. There are no street poles to light the way. There’s no traffic in front of you to help by acting as directional beacons. (During the entire stretch, I can remember only two on-coming vehicles.) Complicating matters, it's common in this part of the country for random herds of deer and antelope to blindly dart right across the road. We both had to be on high-alert! Instead of keeping my eyes on my laptop, the navigation or the other instrumentation, I focused intently on the road ahead with Mick. Luckily, only a few stray rabbits and a single (very unlucky) bat wandered across our path.

We arrived in Reno around 11pm on our first day. Tired and hungry, we parked, found some quick food and then slept.

Story 7 - A Long Pass

Our last stop before California: Donner Pass. We woke to a pretty gloomy day.  It was raining hard and the temperatures were unseasonablly cold (hovering around 45 degrees). Donner Pass sits just above 7,000 feet in elevation, so we were nervous that the rain at the base in Reno would turn to snow (or worse) at the top of the Pass. Instead of pushing to get on the road early in the am, we elected to stay and have breakfast at an un-sponsored location (see previous post). Donnor Pass certainly has a dark past already and neither of us wanted to be part of updating the history books.

Extra time would allow the temperatures to climb and would hopefully fend off any weather at the top. So, we took the opportunity to review and uploaded our pictures and to process some of the amazing video captured from our window-mounted GoPro camera. Watching some of the incredible high-speed lane changes and cornering in those videos was just what we needed. Just like that we were re-energized!

Filled with tons of caffeine, we decided it was time to get on the road and tackle the last real challenging portion of the trip. Harnesses back on, gear and gadgets all powered-up, we were on the road again!

Our sights were now set on our pit crew: the fine folks over at JHMotorsports in Lathrop, CA. They’re the amazing pit crew team that kept us safe throughout our journey and who helped Mick get his car tuned up and prepared for the onslaught that we’re now putting it through.

Though it was extremely wet, Donner Pass thankfully was not the snow-bleached frozen pavement that we had feared. Our plan to wait it out was definitely the right strategy. At this point we could feel ourselves getting closer to out Sprint’s finish line. Our focus was back and our energy levels were high.

At that moment we just knew that our Sprint was going to end with a success!

Building on the confidence that came from our handling of prior impediments, we started to push harder than we had in the previous 6 Stories. We arrived at JHMotorsports around 2:30pm. Dan, our tech lead, already had the garage bay open and was ready for our arrival.

What an awesome extension to our team!

Story 8 - Destination Summit

Story-8, originally called for us jumping on the Caltrain and taking it all the way into San Francisco.

However, after seeing all the bags of electronics gear, clothing and prizes (details to follow) that we had picked up along route, Dan offered to drive us directly to our hotel. What a guy!

We officially arrived in San Francisco around 4:30pm on day two. Looking at the trip computer, we had been driving just over 14 hours.

Mick and I decided to spend some time at the hotel reviewing our trip results, the data, and the pictures and videos we captured along the way. What truly amazing adventure filled with majestic views, rich in history. What a build up for Atlassian's Summit 2011!

A special thanks is due to the team back at Appfire who were constantly supporting and encouraging us throughout the trip. Also, another big thanks to JHM for their pit crew support, coming in on a Saturday, and the direct ride into the city! Thanks to the A3 groupies (Appfire, Atlassian and Audi) who we met along the way and to all our followers on Twitter for their RTs and DM messages. Your encouragement and support kept us sprinting forward! We would also like to thank the countless truckers who ate our dust, who only saw a blue flash of light passing by.

Atlassian Summit 2011 officially kicks off in a few short hours. Mick and I will take the opportunity (and some much needed downtime) to reflect on our trip and run a retrospective on our Sprint. We will post the results in the coming days.

Over and out!

Inside the Car

During our entire #SprintToSummit, Mick and I regularly recorded our own emotional "moods". The goal was to evaluate how our collective mood or "emotional tone" had been affecting our Velocity throughout the Sprint. Let's not forget, the Audi wasn’t the only complex machine that needed to stay in tune for our Sprint to succeed. We obviously needed to make sure that we stayed in tune and motivated as well! We did this using Appfire's new Niko-Niko Plugin for JIRA.

With Story-1, our mood started off "happy". Our energy was high and the car was operating at peak performance. During Story-2, we experienced mechanical issues and had to stop to have our rear tires re-balanced and spacers removed. At that point, both of our moods changed from "happy" to “worried”.

With Story-3, Mick returned immediately to "happy" having resolved the issue quickly, but my mood remained "worried". I questioned whether the mechanical issues were fully resolved. It was difficult for me (not being in the driver’s seat at the time) to evaluate the vehicle’s operating condition.

By Sprint-4, my mood normalized and returned to a "happy" state. The two of us then remained "happy" until the end of Story-5, where we started to doubt our planning. Here we logged our moods as "sad". Once we completed Story-6, arriving in Reno, we again returned to "happy". Our moods then stayed relatively consistent for the remainder of the trip (minus a little rain-induced malaise to kickoff Story-7).

When you look at this data, you can clearly see a correlation between our emotional tone, our behavior and our output. Usually it was when we felt "sad" or "worried" that we were not operating at peak performance.

We had the performance data captured, we had mechanical data captured, and we had our emotions logged. Effectively, we had a 360-degree view of the vehicle and on our human performance at all times while driving. This rich set of data allowed us to monitor our trip and helped us to adjust our Sprint plan as needed.

 

Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit to follow our route, our activity and our speed!

Saturday
Jun042011

Mid-Sprint Review on our Sprint to Summit

In this Dukes of Hazzard meets Cannonball Run adventure, Appfire's Randall Ward and Mick Flanigan provide a front-row seat to their adrenaline-fueled sprint to Atlassian Summit 2011. Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit for all Appfire's exciting updates from the road. See you at Summit!



We’ve officially made it to the halfway point on our #SprintToSummit!

In this, our mid-Sprint review, we'll look back at the three latest Stories on our adventure:

Story 3 - The Bend

I’m excited to report that we actually made up time between the completion of Story-2 and Story-3, and we’re now only 40 minutes (clock time) behind our original schedule!  I’m not exactly sure how we pulled that off, but I’ve got an idea. (See Story-3’s Inside the Car below.)

This Story definitely delivered on its promise of spectacular views. Entering the Deschutes National Forest we passed Lava Butte then quickly moved on towards Mt. Bachelor. Over the years, I've seen plenty of pictures of this snow capped extinct volcano on the web, but none of them truly do it justice! ... especially from our vantage point with the Deschutes river in the foreground.

We then completed Story-3 by picking up some of Oregon's finest from the infamous Dechutes Brewery. With a long day still ahead of us, we unfortunately were not able to partake, ... but we did line our trunk with Dechutes’ best and we’ll be awarding some to a lucky attendee at Summit. Stay tuned!

It's a shame that we couldn't take a full day to hang around The Bend. Maybe fly fish, or river raft, or maybe just take in some more of the scenery. Set a waypoint, this is must return spot! 

Inside the Car

Earlier this week, Mick put four new "Hankook" tires on his car. Having awesome tires like these has been allowing us to attack corners with confidence. Here's to the guys over at "Hankook" who contributed to our increased Velocity!

Story 4 – Ancient Volcanic Plains

Leaving the Deschutes National Forest, we took a 90-degree left-hand turn onto the Christmas Valley Highway. What we experienced next was an instantaneous and radical change in both climate and terrain. The Ponderosa Pine Forest literally disappears and turns into a full-blown desert. All of a sudden we were surrounded by scrub grass! Story-4 also brought us to the base of Ft. Rock, which leaps out from the desert floor. What a truly amazing and ancient sight!

Next up was the town of Burns, OR where we finally stopped for a much needed car wash. Our "Sprint Blue" car was now shades of bug and ground up pumice stone. While washing our rig, we met a retired State Trooper who was infatuated with our ride, it's top speeds and the cool camera's mounted inside and out. But the best was when he asked Mick for the specs on our radar detector. He left promising a purchase of his own. We left with a few tips from a 30-year veteran ... but I can't blog about those. ;)

Leaving Burns we turned due south towards Frenchglen where we captured a ton of video. (Stay tuned, as we’ll be posting those soon.) This was an unbelievably fun part of the drive! The roads were filled with 90-degree hairpin turns, and I can tell you that the G-forces were in full effect!

Inside the Car

Mick has a giant grin on his face. He's been watching his oil temperature all day, which was vital on this portion of the trip. We had been pushing the rig hard for 8 straight hours at this point. Cruising upwards of 90-100mph we’ve been seeing oil temps of around 200-212 degrees, which according to our crew is absolutely perfect! Dropping gears and parting with a little rubber from the new tires, we've still only seen oil temps hovering around 240, which is also within acceptable range. Mick was concerned during our pre-trip planning that some of the prior modifications (mods) he made on the car may increase oil temps. Negatory!

Story 5 - Steering the Steens

Story-5 hit us with our next impediment. We arrived at the base of the Steens, but the road we had plotted was still closed due to 20-30 foot snowdrifts! Normally by June, these roads are wide open. We stopped to briefly speak with some locals and they said that there was still 93 inches of snow at 7,000 feet. Bummer! The pass that we had originally mapped out has 20+ switchbacks and high-banked turns. They wrap around the entire range. In few parts there are 3,000+ foot vertical drops right off the edge of the road.

But all was not lost. We met the impediment head-on and quickly remapped a route around the Steens to the southeast basin of the main summits. There, we captured some more amazing photos.

We then stopped at the base of the Steens for another bug cleaning. Bugs impacting our Velocity… how appropriate!

From the Steens, we turned south for 20 miles to the Nevada border. During the entire trip Mick and I have been on the lookout for a "rabbit" (e.g., a vehicle we could trail behind, drafting). We finally found one on this stretch. Traveling at an average speed of 105mph, we followed our rabbit for almost 85 miles towards Winnemucka.

Story-5 officially ended with our arrival in Winnemucka and another fueling. Although we were now only 28 minutes off our planned arrival time, Mick and I were seriously fatigued and felt like we failed in the planning of this specific Story. So, we decided to step away from the car for a few minutes to have a quick retrospective on Story-5. Here at Appfire, we’re pretty big on retrospectives.

Looking back at our Sprint plan, we really should have broken Story-5 out into a few smaller Stories. We clearly had bitten off more than we had imagined while mapping the route during our planning sessions.

Inside the Car

Inside the car, the long push has started to take its toll on our focus and general mental state. To be honest, Story-5 was a bit of a grind. To take our minds off of the effort still left ahead, Mick and I began swapping strange facts. My personal favorite: Mick informed me that Kansas is literally "flatter than a pancake". Understandably, I was pretty skeptical. So, I woke up early this morning to research the claim and I actually found some corroborating evidence. I still say "plausible" at best!

Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit to follow our route, our activity and our speed!

Friday
Jun032011

Twisted Sisters - On the Sprint to Summit

In this Dukes of Hazzard meets Cannonball Run adventure, Appfire's Randall Ward and Mick Flanigan provide a front-row seat to their adrenaline-fueled sprint to Atlassian Summit 2011. Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit for all Appfire's exciting updates from the road. See you at Summit!


 

Story 2 - Twisted Sisters

What an adventure!!

We had an unexpected stop in route towards the completion of Story-2: "Twisted Sisters" (see Inside the Car below).

As a result, our velocity dropped.

It's ok though. It was expected.

As with any project where you don't control all the variables, you need to plan for these unexpected events to occur. You need to plan for them in your schedule. While working with Agile teams that experience frequent disruption in their Sprints, Appfire encourages them to plan for "business as usual".

In preparation for this trip, Mick and I anticipated that the risk of mechanical error was quite high. Equally high, was the expectation that this vehicle had to operate at peak performance for three consecutive days, ...with few rests, ....and at varying altitudes.

By far, this was our biggest risk and liability and we have little control over it. The best we could do was to discuss alternate plans, alternate routes and to make sure we were close to expert technicians and tethered to our support teams back at Appfire the entire trip.

Early identification and action are the keys to controlling the unexpected. Sound familiar? It should. It's analogous to software development Sprint planning.

We arrived in Sisters, Oregon a few hours behind. However, we were fortunate to find a quaint little coffee shop in the downtown area that had a solid WiFi connection ...and we didn't even have to blur out the coffee cups this time! (See previous post). While there, I took the opportunity to have a quick video call with Chris Kohlhardt - CEO of Gliffy.

If you haven't checked it out, Gliffy is a very powerful application that allows you to quickly create great looking diagrams. At Appfire, we regularly recommend Gliffy to our enterprise customers. For me personally, it's been a complete "Visio killer". The Gliffy team is a Gold Sponsor at Atlassian Summit this year ...and stay tuned, because Chris told me during our call that we're a few days away from some awesome Gliffy announcements! We'll post a follow-up including the full Gliffy interview in the days ahead.

Inside the Car

After driving for while, we felt a shimmy from the rear tires. As I mentioned earlier, we're traveling at high rates of speed on this #SprintToSummit so any vibrations seem to be heavily magnified. We decided to stop briefly for the pit crew to evaluate. Another instance where our pre-planning was key.

The Diagnosis: We "threw a few rear wheel balances". These are half-ounce led weights which are fastened with sticky tape.

Mick joked that "the glue was bad".

My non-professional opinion: "We're driving waaaay too fast for sticky tape!"

Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit to follow our route, our activity and our speed!

Friday
Jun032011

And They're Off!!

In this Dukes of Hazzard meets Cannonball Run adventure, Appfire's Randall Ward and Mick Flanigan provide a front-row seat to their adrenaline-fueled sprint to Atlassian Summit 2011. Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit for all Appfire's exciting updates from the road. See you at Summit!



Appfire's Mick Flanigan with fellow Atlassian fan, Audi aficionado and Appfire #SprintToSummit groupie Linus.Story 1 - Priorities

It's official folks! Team Appfire is off and running for the #SprintToSummit!!

...and we already have groupies!!

During the overnight we received word that an excited Atlassian fan, and fellow Audi aficionado, Linus (pictured) would be joining us for our Sprint's Story 1 titled "Priorities". He actually told us he was trying to figure out a scheme to drive with us all the way to Cali, ...but it was his anniversary.

Wow, tough call!

It was amazingly cool to have an unexpected send off from someone who fully appreciates the top-speeds we'll be hitting on this trip. Thanks again Linus!!

Remembering back to our first post, "Story 1" takes us 9 miles from Mick's garage to the nearest coffee shop. Quick update: We've made zero progress trying to drum up a Sprint sponsorship from said coffee conglomerate, ...so the ridiculously expensive coffee cups featured in our photos will continue to remain nameless and "blurred" out! Ha!

All caffeinated, our next step is to race towards the cascade mountain range, where we'll try to connect via a video chat with Petur Agustsson who's the Product Manager of Tempo. Petur and the Tempo team are Gold Sponsors at Atlassian Summit this year and they just announced the release of their plugin's version 6.2. We're all excited to talk to Petur about their latest release and Tempo's plans for Summit!

Inside the CarAppfire's Randall Ward and Mick Flanigan with the Audi's ...and some coffee cups that will remain nameless!

Along the way, we decided to add this short "Inside the Car" section within some of our posts to feature a few quick bits of fun and general randomness going on inside the Audi!

For example, riding along side all these massive trailer truckers today, we started to feel a little inadequate. Yes, we're certainly much faster, ...and much better looking (IMHO), ...but they have cool CB chatter!

So now we do too!! Our newly adopted CB radio call signs are:

  • Mick: "Crunchy Frog"
  • Randall: "Whisky Bravo One Charlie Alpha Tango"

 

Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit to follow our route, our activity and our speed!

Thursday
Jun022011

Buckle Up for Appfire's Sprint To Summit

In this Dukes of Hazzard meets Cannonball Run adventure, Appfire's Randall Ward and Mick Flanigan provide a front-row seat to their adrenaline-fueled sprint to Atlassian Summit 2011. Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit for all Appfire's exciting updates from the road. See you at Summit!



I've been having trouble sleeping the past few nights. As the excitement around this trip builds, so too has my adrenaline level. As I mentioned in our last post, I'll be traveling with my Appfire colleague Mick Flanigan. Mick is officially the captain and navigator of our racing vessel, and I will be equal parts gadget guy, amateur photographer and keeper of the "Posted Speed Limit" throughout the trip.

I'm sure Mick and I will argue over music, though we do have a playlist that I'll be posting here soon so you can groove along with us. Mick's job is to get us both to San Francisco as quick and safely as possible. My job is to chronicle how quickly and un-safely Mick is getting us to San Francisco.

Flowing in and out of my stream of consciousness these past few days, are thoughts of the first time I met Mick in person. It was early 2009 while he was heading up Quality for a research project joint-ventured by MIT and Caltech. At the time, Appfire was contracted by the universities to assist with an exciting program called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) which is trying to detect the ripples between space and time in an effort to validate Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Some seriously deep stuff! For LIGO, Appfire was developing a new Inventory and Process Management System using Atlassian's JIRA. More specifically, it was a custom parts-centric system that allowed their teams to create unique records for each part (by serial number) and attach images, design documents and purchase orders. Appfire turned JIRA, which is mainly marketed for tracking defects, into an enterprise-scale Asset Management System. It truly was an incredible project and I was fortunate to have been part of it ...and to have been introduced to Mick!

"Buckle up" he said after pulling off the cover of his (and I kid you not) "Sprint Blue" colored Audi RS4. The LIGO facility was located in the middle of a desert in eastern Washington state, surrounded by former US military and government nuclear facilities (and now a "storage facility"). The winds can get vicious during the day, stirring up storms of tumble weeds that can shred cars ...but Mick had his covered. Before I met Mick, I considered myself an Audi fanatic. I've owned three since college and have been fascinated with them since I donned my first drivers license. To me, Audi was the "Apple" of car manufacturers. However, after meeting Mick, I can now consider myself only an "enthusiast" ...at best. Mick bleeds Audi circles!

I'm not sure what came first, the 1G push against the window of his car, or the clip of my buckle? I immediately reached for the "oh shit" handle at the top of his door frame, but I quickly learned that motor control at those speeds suffers significantly. As Mick let out a very sinister laugh, we were a cloud of desert dust.

Mick is no amateur driver. In fact several times a year, he meets friends and fellow fanatics in locations around the US to put their cars through their paces. It's difficult to find a location where you can legally reach top speeds in these cars, so the few times that these groups can have turned into their own mini-events. The spots are typically in the northwest, and from the pictures and videos I've seen, the locations only rival in beauty what the owners have committed in time and resources.

I know what some of you are thinking. How fast? How much horse power? What modifications has Mick made to the stock RS4?

Look... I'm a software architect. I make software (specifically Atlassian software) run faster and more efficient. All I can tell you is that he's put some amazing stuff in his car, to make it run really, REALLY fast! I'll leave the details for a future post.

So, buckle up! You're about to join us for the ride of our lives to Atlassian's Summit 2011!

Stay tuned here at HotOnCollaboration.com and on Twitter with the hashtag #SprintToSummit to follow our route, our activity and our speed!

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