Go, Do, Be.


09/01/2023  — 

Wishing a good Labor Day weekend, calling out blog posts

By: Chris Greacen

Hope everyone is all set for a good Labor Day weekend. I wanted to share some updates from the Lab Zero Innovations Inc. team. A couple new posts on the blog hint at some of the recent work that the team has focused on: application modernization, performance improvements, managing technical debt. Take a peek:

I shared some thoughts about the two most common sources of technical debt: https://labzero.com/blog/two-most-common-sources-of-technical-debt

Jeffrey Faden shares his experience in modernizing a React.js application: https://labzero.com/blog/upgrading-an-ancient-react-application

Travis Gaff shares a great way to get server performance data into your browser's developer tools: https://labzero.com/blog/server-timings-rails-performance-metrics-in-your-dev-tools

Let's stay in touch!


#technicaldebt #reactjs #applicationmodernization #developertools #applicationperformance #blog #fricassee

08/28/2023  — 

Two Most Common Sources Of Technical Debt

By: Chris Greacen
People say "technical debt" like it's a bad thing. But those who are serious about software development know that this game is all about managing technical debt. Technical debt is a natural part of the landscape in any software development team’s world. It's neither good, nor bad. Yet when trade-offs are mismanaged, technical debt is likely to cause your productivity to grind to a halt. For people who hit that point and wonder why - there should be no mystery about what causes technical debt, the answer is right in front of you.

What is technical debt?

We can thank an early agile-manifesto-ist Ward Cunningham for the term"technical debt" which is a fantastic metaphor for this dynamic. Technical debt, code debt, or design debt functions the same as financial debt: a team can take a shortcut to deliver something quickly, but the short-term advantage of that short-cut can make future work harder. The team gets a convenience in the short run, but has to pay it down with some interest later.

Not all technical debt is equal

Every team at every company regularly makes trade-offs about incurring debt to get something done, then hopefully cleaning it up and refining it afterward. You get a quick win, then you do the work to strengthen or refine your short-cuts. Where this gets dangerous is when it's not a conscious or intentional choice - a team can stumble into a situation where previous decisions they've made have a disproportionately high impact on the work they're doing today. They've built to their best understanding, done their best efforts, but somehow they are still bogged-down. If you find that your team seems stuck in firefighting-mode, unable to deliver new features, facing quality challenges, you may have unintentionally ended up with technical debt.

Where does technical debt come from? (spoiler alert: it's your team)

If you're deep in it, you may be wondering how did we get here? There's a lot of writing online about the causes of technical debt. I'm sure you've read them already. But when you boil it all down, unintentional tech debt comes from two sources: your engineers and your product managers.

Your engineers contribute to technical debt

If your engineers lack the experience and skills to manage complexity, to refactor effectively, to advocate for refactoring/automation/re-architecting, they will build more than you need and have a hard time maintaining it. They may not have the discipline to regularly review, refactor, test, and remove the junk.

  • No standards
  • Not reviewing code
  • No test automation
  • No regular refactoring
  • No regular re-architecting
  • No evaluating new tech or libraries
  • Not helping product managers understand what's needed
  • Not advocating for process

Your product managers contribute to technical debt

If your PMs aren't effective with stakeholder management, if they engage in deadline-driven prioritization, if they have poor collaboration with technical roles, lack of clarity in what customers need, lack of clarity in what the business needs. These all conspire to let your teams write code that does't serve the business.

  • Saying yes to your CEO's hairbrained idea
  • Setting a string of date-driven milestones
  • Being unclear on what your customers really need
  • Not working to solve a measurable problem/solution
  • Saying no when your engineers advocate for time to refactor/rearchitect
  • Saying yes to big bang change

But wait, there's more: technical debt == design debt

Designers face challenges of managing complex technical assets (Figma), contributing to product development, and driving learning efforts to get closer to users. In our experience helping companies develop and deliver software products, we've seen how this kind of trade-off can create a similar compounding-interest with the design effort for a product. People love to start building as quickly as possible and inevitably build something based on assumptions. Maybe they get lucky and their assumptions are good enough to work with - more likely they will miss the mark with their customers. When they get around to learning what their customers really need, they will begin to understand the real effort that's needed.

The impact of technical debt

Each of these things in isolation might not have a big impact on your planning or your business. But in aggregate they'll start to show up. Have you seen something like this: defects piling up, poor application performance, poor UX, reduced customer satisfaction, your teams spending time on manual tasks rather than automating their work (driving up operating costs), simple work carrying too much risk (which nobody wants to take), customers preferring to talk to someone on the phone rather than use your website. The obvious end result is massive waste from friction in delivery and lack of capacity while everyone is fighting fires.

A less obvious casualty is your understanding of the cost of development. My personal peeve about the software development world is that very few teams have clarity on the value of what they're working on. The value of our work needs to incorporate the costs of development. When the costs of development are obfuscated by technical debt, it's very hard for a team to establish clear priorities and make effective tradeoffs.

Solving technical debt challenges

There is no one-size-fits-all solution - everyon's situation is different. We often hear teams lament that they are too busy to get help, so solving this isn't going to be straightforward. Without getting too deep into the weeds, you can see that the only way out is by changing practices that your product and engineering roles lead. A healthy approach to managing these trade-offs include regular reviews and refactoring, prioritizing this work that incorporates learning, maintaining high visibility into debt- generating trade-offs, and relying on partnership between engineering and product management in building your roadmap. Want more specifics to help tame and manage technical debt more effectively? Re-read the bulleted lists above and change all the "nos" to "yesses", and vice versa.

How are you managing these two common causes of technical debt in your org?

This post originally appeared on labzero.com.

Hero photograph by Sergei Gussev via CC BY 2.0

Meme photograph from "When A Stranger Calls (2006)" the internet 

03/08/2023  — 

Lies we tell ourselves: the 10xEngineer

By: Chris Greacen

The Lab Zero team has seen plenty of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the years we've been working in the software development world.

In this and the next couple videos, I'll talk about the 'bad' highlighting some of the lies we tell ourselves. First on my list is the 10x engineer/developer - a mythical creature sought by many.

Have you worked with a 10x engineer/developer? What was your experience?

#10x #heroics #ugly #10xengineer #10xdeveloper #productivity #lieswetellourselves #lies #experience #engineer #developer #softwaredevelopment #team

02/13/2023  — 

Reflecting on the project that started it all

By: Chris Greacen

One of our first big engagements still serves as a model for all of Lab Zero Innovations Inc.'s highest impact work. Our client was able to unlock a huge victory by bringing in a small #team capable of #designing and #delivering a high quality #software #product. Great things can happen when you pair a high #performing team with a huge opportunity and a solid rationale.

#productdesign #productdevelopment #strategy #ipo #wallstreet #genealogy

02/08/2023  — 

A vision for Lab Zero

By: Chris Greacen

Lab Zero Innovations Inc. started in 2008 with a #vision of our small team making a big impact for our #clients . We've been able to bring our own vision to life by assembling an extremely talented and capable team and connecting them with our clients toughest challenges.

Over the next few weeks I'll share a few insights and anecdotes from the things we've seen and learned along the way.

If you visited us in the early days, what are your enduring memories? What challenges are you and your teams facing today?

#productdevelopment #productdesign #teamwork #pier38 #startup #consulting #ipo #labzero #softwareengineering #innovation

01/02/2023  — 

Trip Down Memory Lane: Black Market Music

09/08/2022  — 

Outdoor Doodles

08/22/2022  — 

Austria Trip

10/05/2021  — 

New Day Undone

10/04/2021  — 

Blert album release: New Day Undone

03/09/2021  — 

Song-A-Day 2021: Mile On Ice

01/02/2021  — 

This damn site

12/07/2020  — 

New Blert Song: Escape

11/22/2020  — 

Bump Doodle on Instagram

09/09/2020  — 

New blert song: CTRL-Z

08/23/2020  — 

Blert - For Obvious Reasons

07/17/2020  — 

Doodles 2020

04/28/2020  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Build To Learn

04/21/2020  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Self-Healing Teams

04/05/2020  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Embrace Risk

04/05/2020  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Are You Agile?

04/04/2020  — 

Chris On The Bridge: What is Essential?

04/02/2020  — 

Chris On The Bridge: Trust From Home

01/22/2020  — 

Why is Agile Popular?

12/07/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 5: Other Shows

12/06/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 4: Doodles (something New)

12/05/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 3: Open mics and other gigs

12/04/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 2: Song-A-Day 2018

12/03/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 1: Doubleplus Alright

06/29/2016  — 

Missing 1963 Bing Log

05/10/2015  — 


03/06/2015  — 

Om One

02/19/2015  — 

Music is all around us.

02/17/2015  — 

Leftovers from MP3 Compression

01/13/2015  — 

Favorite Friends Episode

10/29/2014  — 

A Wave

08/22/2014  — 

OMG Even More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (The Art Department)

08/21/2014  — 

Holy Crap Even More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (Peggy Olson)

08/20/2014  — 

Even More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (Ted Chaough, Pete Best)

08/19/2014  — 

More Artwork From Mad Men, Season 7 (Don Draper, Jim Cutler)

08/18/2014  — 

Artwork Seen In Mad Men, Season 7

05/06/2014  — 

Chrissy Tomasco and the 2014 Overnight Walk

02/20/2014  — 

Observed: Scat/Rap Counterpoint

01/16/2014  — 

2013 Overheards and Observeds

12/27/2013  — 

A wave

10/22/2013  — 

A wave

09/25/2013  — 

Instagram Embed Test

09/25/2013  — 

Manatee gig 9/27/2013 at Hemlock Tavern!

06/25/2013  — 

Manatee gig 6/28/2013 at Thee Parkside!

06/05/2013  — 

Manatee gig 6/6/2013

06/04/2013  — 

CTA- the most important part of your page.

06/03/2013  — 

All web apps

05/06/2013  — 

Manatee KXLU session

03/28/2013  — 

Surfing on Easter Sunday

12/20/2012  — 

2012 Overheards and Observeds

03/16/2012  — 

RSS Feeds To Follow

03/06/2012  — 

Viral Widgets

03/06/2012  — 

Content Widgets

02/29/2012  — 

Strata Conference

02/22/2012  — 

Song-A-Day In-Progress

06/29/2010  — 

And Boom!

02/25/2010  — 

Song-A-Day what a difference 25 days make

12/15/2009  — 

Rubicon Project Ad Network Sloughs-off Small Publishers

10/23/2009  — 

Shopping for Used Surfboards

10/19/2009  — 

HELL -- Your Soundtrack For Halloween

09/28/2009  — 

Story of a Surfboard: SF Green Ten-Footer

09/08/2009  — 

Story of a Surfboard: 1963 Bing

09/05/2009  — 

Dings With Stories

08/18/2009  — 

Absurd Film/Foodie Moment

06/24/2009  — 

Allspaw talks at Velocity Conf.

04/05/2009  — 

Menu and Wines from Dinner at Cyrus

03/29/2009  — 

Twitter-Based Blog Syndication Flowchart

03/26/2009  — 

Twitter-Based Surf Report Flowchart

03/09/2009  — 

Top 10 things to do now that Song-A-Day is done:

03/02/2009  — 

Song-A-Day 2009: DONE

02/23/2009  — 

Song-A-Day Notes From The Studio

02/15/2009  — 

Song-A-Day Week 2: Still truckin'

02/09/2009  — 

Song-A-Day Week 1: Awesome

01/26/2009  — 

29 Again: Song-A-Day

01/19/2009  — 

GoFish Becomes Betawave

01/17/2009  — 

Song-A-Day Shopping List

01/07/2009  — 

Espresso. Pulled, Not Stirred

12/25/2008  — 

Merry Christmas!

12/19/2008  — 

FOTC Season II

12/15/2008  — 

Darwin's moth: a survey of behavioral targeting solutions

12/12/2008  — 

100k Pageviews For Free

12/06/2008  — 

Mad Scientist

12/05/2008  — 

The Magic of Surf

12/04/2008  — 

The Darjeeling LTD. Tunes

12/03/2008  — 

Blert, A Zeen

12/01/2008  — 

The End Is Near

10/31/2008  — 

A Great Pumpkin

10/09/2008  — 

New Crop of Food TV

10/02/2008  — 

Time To Take A Stand

09/22/2008  — 

Seth Adds To His Music Store

09/18/2008  — 

Skate or die

09/03/2008  — 

A day on Chrome

08/21/2008  — 

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

08/20/2008  — 

Digsby will change the way you communicate online

07/29/2008  — 

No Effing Way

07/16/2008  — 

twitterfountain, fun stuff!

06/27/2008  — 

Post 1000

06/26/2008  — 

The horror of AOL

06/25/2008  — 

Fun with Wordle

06/16/2008  — 

RIP tastespotting.com

06/13/2008  — 

twitpic, kinda cool...

06/12/2008  — 

Ryan & Chris score surfings hat trick.

06/05/2008  — 

Matt Freeman to GoFish

05/29/2008  — 

Even More Shrimps...

05/28/2008  — 

Drunk Goldblum Meme

05/15/2008  — 

Linda Mar Extreeeem #2

05/14/2008  — 

Double Surf-Swap Happiness This Weekend.

05/08/2008  — 

Super Foodie

05/07/2008  — 

Hello, my name is Stud

05/01/2008  — 

Geo Quiz

04/24/2008  — 

All-Time Favorite Commercial

04/21/2008  — 

Foody Weekend

04/18/2008  — 

April in Carneros

04/17/2008  — 

AdTech: Widgets and Gadgets

04/17/2008  — 

Greacens in the news again...

04/17/2008  — 

Effing greatest video effer.

04/16/2008  — 

All time favorite video

04/15/2008  — 


04/15/2008  — 

Robert Greacen Dies at 87

04/09/2008  — 

SF's fleaflicker works, crowds duped

04/09/2008  — 

bashWebTest Lives!

03/24/2008  — 

Simple Rss Widgets

03/19/2008  — 

COPPA, friend or foe?

03/17/2008  — 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

03/05/2008  — 

Social Widgets

03/04/2008  — 

29 done...

02/28/2008  — 

Song-a-day almost done!

02/25/2008  — 

I can see the light!

02/19/2008  — 

Still playing catchup

02/18/2008  — 

GoFish, For Reals

02/14/2008  — 

More Lack of Engineering

02/13/2008  — 

Engineering... and lack of

02/10/2008  — 

Surfed, not rocked

02/09/2008  — 

Sifting through some stuffs on kodak

02/08/2008  — 

KodakGallery FINALLY integrates with the web

02/07/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 4,5,6:

02/05/2008  — 

James Blackshaw, wow

02/05/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: More To Come

02/05/2008  — 

QA Interviewing: The Phone Screen

02/04/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: If Yes, Then No

02/02/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 2: On The Other Side

02/01/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 1: Took To The Air

01/31/2008  — 

29 Songs Starts!

01/31/2008  — 

Jon Brion on Eli Somethingoranothers

01/30/2008  — 

2005 Directors Cut Russian River Charonnay

01/30/2008  — 

Unwhined: Wednesday: OK

01/29/2008  — 

GoFish spilled, again...

01/29/2008  — 

108 Votes for NetScrap.com

01/28/2008  — 

Break-ins at Lafayette BART Station

01/25/2008  — 

Seeqpod sued by Warner Music

01/25/2008  — 

Unwhined: Friday: OK

01/25/2008  — 

js-kit comments on greacen.com

01/24/2008  — 

Unwhined: Thursday: NOK

01/24/2008  — 

February 2008: Song-a-Day a.k.a 29 Songs

01/23/2008  — 

Chasing the blue dragon: Blue Bottle Coffee Opens

01/23/2008  — 

The horror of the Hayward fault

01/22/2008  — 

Unwhined: Tuesday: OK

01/21/2008  — 

34 million lattes on Howard St.

01/21/2008  — 

What's the Greacen?

01/18/2008  — 

CC, the Casual Carpool

01/15/2008  — 

Macworld today

01/13/2008  — 


01/13/2008  — 

Technorati? Well, ok.

01/13/2008  — 

Netscrap top queries

01/12/2008  — 

Mavericks today!

01/10/2008  — 

Tuesday night covers

01/10/2008  — 

Today, I am Sven

01/09/2008  — 

Gofish, spilled...

01/09/2008  — 

Caffe Trieste in SOMA is the place

01/08/2008  — 

Vizu Survey on Netscrap.com

01/07/2008  — 

Netscrap's birthday

01/01/2008  — 

Happy 08!

12/26/2007  — 

A letter to Michael Cimarusti

12/26/2007  — 


12/25/2007  — 

Merry X-Mas!

12/16/2007  — 

2005 Falcon Ridge Lodi Zinfandel

12/12/2007  — 

ruby, python, or php?

12/10/2007  — 

Zombie Technology

12/06/2007  — 

Hello World, From the phone

11/26/2007  — 

Daniel Boulud on Mojo

09/23/2007  — 

Long time no blog.

09/10/2007  — 

Is it the weekend?

08/05/2007  — 

Carneros loop

04/25/2006  — 


04/24/2006  — 

Startup moments

04/10/2006  — 

Salento Primitivo

04/05/2006  — 

Sonoma Bikeride

04/02/2006  — 

Selenium: Neat!