The Parkinson’s Limit and agile team size

In the January issue of New Scientist, there is a article about Parkinson's Law and how researchers in Austria put the law in a more scientific footing via mathematic. The essence of the law is, "work expands to fill the time available for its completion", which is intriguing  but I am more interested in the second half of the article where Parkinson's limit is discussed.

Parkinson conjectured that there is a limit to any working group/committee size (20) beyond which no consensus would be reached no matter how the group is structured. I am curious whether this is also the limit of an agile/XP team size since an agile team tends to be of a flatter structurally (verses the traditional hierarchical nature).
Parkinson also noted that there is an anomaly around group with 8 members. He noticed that, for example, no nation has cabinet of 8 members. I have the good(?) fortune of working with teams sized on either size of 8 so I can't verify this claim. I wonder what are the proportion of previous failed or not so successful projects had exactly 8 team members. Then the question of how would one define team members. Would only developers, testers, BA count as a team member and not PM because they work very closely together day-in and day-out, whereas PM less so?
If you have previously (or currently) worked with team of 8 or larger than 20, what is your experience? Does the group dynamic change when the group size hit 8 or grew larger than 20?

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Save the paper

When the Amazon first announced the Kindle, I was not that interested. Partly because of its 'retro' design compares to the iPhone, but also because of its high price. However, recently I am getting more interested in getting a Kindle to save me from carrying books on the train every week to work.

One of the big selling points of the Kindle is long battery life and that is mainly because of the use of e-ink. E-ink only uses power when it changes the text, not while the text is displayed. While the contrast level of the e-ink display is fine for displaying text, it is not so good at showing graphics. Text heavy magazine (with some simple graphics) like Time or Reader's Digest would be fine on the Kindle but others such as Entertainment Weekly, which relies fairly heavily on pictures, would not. One solution would be for publishers to provide specially formatted version to Amazon but this would increase costs, which either Amazon has to absorb or pass on to the consumers. Another solution would be for Amazon to convert the full color magazine data to suit the Kindle. Again there would some cost involve and possibly copyright issue due to the nature of modifying content. Perhaps this is the reason I think why there is not more magazines in the Kindle store. Right now there are exactly eight, that's right eight, magazines on the Kindle Magazine store.

However, if Amazon starts providing many more magazines than what they currently offer I would not hesitate to order one tomorrow. I have two magazines that I consume weekly so I am throwing away a fair amount of printed-paper every week. Not to mention the carbon emission 'cost' of the printing process and the transportation. I would love to have New Scientist and Autosport (both of them are available on Amazon as regular magazine subscriptions) delivered wirelessly to me because while using the Amazon Kindle to read books would definitely save paper as well as fuel to transport the heavy books, I think the most saving would actually come from reading periodicals. This is because even though books use a lot of paper we generally keep them around after we finish. On the other hand, we tend to treat magazines as consumables and throw them away as soon as we are done with them or when the next weekly edition arrives.

So just like the high-definition DVD battle or the digital music distribution, it would be content that decides the fate of the Kindle. Amazon has already won the e-book battle against Sony because of its much larger book library (more than 100,000 vs. 20,000) despite having a less beautiful hardware design. But to win over the general consumers Amazon would have to make much more content be available so that people would worry about what is not available on the Kindle store than think about what is today.

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Sleepless in NYC

I've been trying to finish this book for about 4 months now. I even packed it in my bags when I flew back to the U.K. last Christmas, hoping I could get some traction on it as I travelled. Alas, life has been very busy what with being paid to blog, tennis, ecto, moving apartment in March, weekly magazines (New Scientist and Autosport) to read, podcasts to listen to, et al.

More hours of the day, or decrease the number of hours of sleep I need will be very welcomed.

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QotD: Check the Mailbox!

What magazines do you subscribe to, and why?

I've been subscribing two magazines for a very long time (think decade).

First, one of the best source of science news: New Scientist. I've been reading New Scientist uninterrupted since 1991, and it served me well all these years. Many times when the media broke a story about some scientific breakthrough, New Scientist had already reported it the week before hand.

Second, another good source of motorsport news (as far as European racing is concerned anyway): Autosport.

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The Truth Hurts

Leah and I watched the An Inconvenient Truth on 4th of July with a couple of friends. It was both nothing new and revelation to me. Nothing
new because all the facts Al Gore presents in the movie, I've
previously read in New Scientist
over the course of perhaps a decade. Revelation because having Al Gore
summarised all the facts and evidences in a coherent argument brings a
much greater impact than each individual items.

Definitely a must see movie of this decade, along side Syriana, and Fahrenheit 9/11.

As for how carbon neutral we are, using the Carbon Calculator,
Leah and I are both emitting less than the national average (9900 for
me, 13000 for Leah, US national average is 15000 pound/year). This is
still much higher than I thought we are emitting, taking into account
of us not owning a car and having a very small electricity bills. The
majority of our emission is from the trans-Atlantic flights that we
take to UK every year. I guess we just have to cut down our European
visit in the name of saving the planet!

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