As some of you may have noticed, I don’t have a chance to update the site often. That’s because earlier this year, I joined a group of people that are writing a book on how to use Scrum in a distributed environment. This has been a great experience for me up to now. In this blog entry, I’ll share some of the joys and pain I’ve had since I joined this group of people.

How I got myself into this adventure

The truth is, writing a book has had a special “to-do” list for years, but it was always a challenge finding the time and motivation to take on such an endeavor. Earlier this year during a conference call, I heard about a group of people that were working together to write a book on how to do Scrum in a distributed environment. Some of you may not be familiar with Scrum, but the general view on Scrum is that it is best to use it with a group of people working in the same location. At IBM for most teams, this is just not the case but we still want to use Scrum with the project teams.

So anyways, I signed up for the weekly meetings and started sharing as much as I could in the brainstorming sessions. Then, Elizabeth, our fearless leader got out some of the early chapters based on the brainstorming sessions. Being the shy type, I read through these chapters and didn’t give much feedback. Let’s go with the truth… I read through them and reworked some of the sections of the chapters to help make them better. The interesting thing for me in one of those chapters is I was writing my developerWorks article at the same time, so the subject matter was fresh in my mind.

Anyways, after a few late night editing sessions, Elizabeth recruited me to be one of the three authors of the book, which was really nice of her. I’m not sure I ever told her this, but in a way, it was fun to be able to just edit what was there. There was no blank page to deal with, no hard commitment for dates. “Just do this for fun Stef and enjoy the ride!” Is what I told myself at the start. πŸ™‚ I working with a canvas full of words that I just needed to shuffle around or rework. But editing the work also gave me the taste for writing. I could see that my dream of getting a book published was now within my grasp.

Here’s my list of joys…

I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience already. Let me list out some of these things…

  • Learning from others: The brainstorming sessions that we do for the book allow me to interact with a lot of amazing people Β It’s one thing reading about a topic in a book, it’s another hearing how teams are actually doing this in practice and learn what’s worked for them and what has not.
  • Making new contacts: The brainstorming sessions have also been good for building new relationships and contacts with people I otherwise would never have known about
  • Teaching others: I’ve had the opportunity to share this new wealth of knowledge with a lot of people around me already without having the book out. Each time I teach someone else, it reinforces my own knowledge of the subject matter and makes it easier for me to write about. I’ve also been mentoring a few people around me in writing technical articles.
  • Improved my writing skills tremendously: I’ve been doing a lot of writing this year for the book as well as for the developerWorks article I wrote. I have some new tools in my arsenal that helped me improve my writing skills tremendously.
  • Working with my co-authors: Matt and Elizabeth are both great people! Both have a wealth of experience to draw upon and I find we are working well together.

Here’s my list of pains…

There have been many challenges as well in this experience. Let me list out some of these as well…

  • The time commitment: This is the biggest one. And don’t get me wrong here, I enjoy doing this, but doing this can eat away at my evenings pretty quickly. When in writing mode, I can spend a few hours each evening on this after everyone goes to sleep at home. This is time I used to use to unwind. Now, I sometimes go to bed after writing and my head is still thinking about the chapter for an hour after I go to bed… πŸ˜‰ And time spent on this is time not spent doing a home renovation job or updating my website! πŸ™‚
  • The fear of the blank page: I find starting a new chapter is really challenging. If I don’t have a clear path in mind when I start for a chapter or section, it is quite painful!!! I’ve been getting into the groove of doing an outline with bullet points for each section and then, I go back and write rough content… Any content… Just to get that darn blank page dirty! πŸ™‚
  • The Ego: It can be really humbling writing something and putting it out there for others to read and critique. Especially with three authors, we have different points of views on some things and compromise is the name of the game. I also found that it’s important to understand the reason behind the comments. Because sometimes, we may have a different viewpoint on something and there’s value in explaining both of those viewpoints as both people are right. And sometimes, some comments also mean that I’m not explaining something properly so my message isn’t getting through.

All in all, it’s been truly amazing though and it still is. I’m looking forward to getting the book out of the door so that I can start chasing after my next dream, giving conferences! πŸ™‚