Chris Gagné

Delight customers. Create value. Do good.

A Mural from Fred “NoOne” Padilla

Here’s a mural (bigger, please don’t use this for anything commercial) that I commissioned from Fred “NoOne” Padilla.

In the upper-left-hand corner, an art car (“Charlie the Unicorn”) can be seen riding off in the distance. Beneath that, a representation of the cluster of condo buildings I’m living in at the moment and rooftops from a distance. A circle around a fire with elder ones, younger ones, and familiar spirits. Beneath that, a fruit and vegetable stand outside of the Ferry Building. A food stand in the Mission, a view over Bernal Heights to Sutro Tower, a truck and VW bug on 280 South, the docks along the Islais Creek Channel. Broken Glass waves as an homage to The Slanted Door, a map of Golden Gate Park, a nicely set table. A picnic in Dolores Park. Finally, the cosmos represented as a galaxy, but if looked at carefully is a night-time view of the Playa on the night of the Temple burn in 2009.

Mind-blowingly beautiful, Fred. Thanks again. :)

If Walmart Paid Its Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up?

In the series “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp,” Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark traces how big-box stores make billions from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. What’s more, the wages of many workers at these stores are so low that the workers themselves qualify for food stamps—which the employees then often spend at those big-box stores.

This video crunches the numbers on how much Walmart, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp economy, might have to raise prices across the board to help a typical worker earn a living wage.

A note on methodology: Eligibility for food stamps varies according to income, number of dependents, and other factors. This estimate of Walmart’s potential cost from raising wages is based on wages for a Walmart employee with one dependent working 30 hours a week, a typical retail worker based on federal data.

Beautifully presented.


A Response to Marty Cagan’s “Product Management vs. Product Marketing”

Although over 6-1/2 years old, Marty Cagan’s “Product Management vs. Product Marketing” remains the Silicon Valley Product Group’s top blog article. (It’s entirely possible, of course, that it’s popularity is self-reinforced due to its prominent position on the SVPG home page…) While I generally agree with Marty’s premise and proposed solution, I believe that the article was written primarily from a Waterfall perspective and that an Agile perspective offers a better way out.
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The Decelerator Helmet: Slow Motion for Real Life

The Decelerator Helmet offers an experimental approach to an essential subject of our globalized, fast moving society. The technical reproducible senses are consigned to an apparatus which allows the user a perception of the world in slow motion. The float of time as apparently invariant constant is broken and subjected under the users control.

A “Breathing” Piece of Optical Art Made from One-way Mirrors

Three out of six surfaces of the cube are made of flexible membrane (foil mirror) with air tank and a compressor connected to it and the other three mirrors are semi transparent spy-glass. By inflating or deflating the air tank, the membrane turns convex or concave, deforming the reflections.

Gorgeous! Instead of using a compressor, I think it would have been interesting to add linear actuators to each of the three flexible membranes so that more complex patterns could have been created. Alternative lighting schemes would have been interesting, too.


Congrats to the StubHub Labs team!

I’ve been coaching the StubHub Labs team on Agile, Scrum, and Kanban principles and practices since last July ’13. They got a nice shout-out on eBay’s corporate blog yesterday…

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We’re cutting food stamps by $8.6B over 10 years but continue to offer the top 1% $10B a year in handouts

“Each year, the federal government hands approximately $10 billion over to the richest 1% of Americans — mainly to rich retirees — according to an IBD analysis of data on various federal transfer programs.”

—  “The Richest 1% Get $10 Billion A Year From Uncle Sam”, Investor’s Business Daily

There are 120 million households in the US, so let’s just say that the 1% is 1.2 million households. Diving $10 billion by 1.2 million and you get $8,333 in average yearly payouts to each ultra-rich household.

Compare this to the fact that the average yearly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, e.g., food stamps) annual benefit is $3,300 year.

Before we start cutting food stamps, we should start means testing Social Security and Medicare.

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Strongly Recommended Agile Learning Resources

One of the things that I think holds Scrum teams back from being successful is that they often learn about the Scrum process but don’t learn about Agile culture or infrastructure. Because Scrum is a system that relies on all of it’s parts, failure to master Agile culture and infrastructure means that companies will also fail to master Scrum. This failure is unbelievably costly for companies and teams: “average” teams deliver only a 35% improvement over Waterfall, while properly coached teams deliver 300-400% improvements. I’ve seen this myself in my time working with Scrum teams at Atomic Online: once a team got properly coached and running, we were at least 3-4x as fast as when we started. This is rare, too: I have not yet worked with a team that has outperformed the teams I worked with at Atomic Online.

I think we owe it to ourselves as members of Scrum team to learn about and embrace Agile principles. This is hard to do without a “sensei” (a well-experienced Agile leader) who can can conduct gemba walks with incumbent leadership to bring about organizational transformation. In lieu of that, though, here are some resources that I hope can help to at least illustrate the difference between a true Agile/Scrum/Kanban environment and a waterfall environment that has adopted a few Scrum processes.

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Having Trouble with the Rich Text Editor on WordPress? It Might be mod_pagespeed

I updated to WordPress 3.8.1 about a month ago. Since then, I’ve been having nothing but issues with the rich text editor. For instance, clicking on the hyperlink icon brought me back to the Posts page and none of the links worked in the Publish box.

I tried enabling different themes, disabling plugins, and reciting various voodoo incantations to no avail. I saw some errors in my console that appeared to have been related to the mod_pagespeed extension I’m running on my server. So, I added “ModPagespeed=off” to the URL for the post edit page. That fixed the issue!

To “permanently” resolve the issue, I added the following to a .htaccess file located within my /wp-admin/ directory:

That’s all that was needed. Come to think of it, this is probably a reasonably good idea for anyone running WordPress and mod_pagespeed. I hope this is helpful to you!

Update Mar-03-14: It was mod_pagespeed.

@jmarantz on Twitter helpfully remarked:

@chrisgagne What MPS version were you using? We fixed that a few versions back and it should be resolved as of 1.6:the latest stable release

So, there you have it. Thanks, jmarantz! If you’re running into this, update your mod_pagespeed to 1.6. If you can’t do that, add the directives above.

Creative Commons photo from Wikipedia

A Donkey in Agra

I shot this photo in Agra, India, just a few minutes before I saw the Taj Mahal for the first time since I was a child. In color (below), there’s a irony in the bright colors of the bag and the donkey’s seemingly forlorn expression. This photo has haunted me since I’ve taken it. Perhaps it’s because it feels like a perfect snapshot of a particular time I felt my heart pouring out with compassion for a fellow sentient being. It also reminds me a bit of Au Hasard Balthazar.

Donkey, original color file

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