Lab Week, July 2016

Bots were

 the theme of this summer’s Lab Week here at CSV, and as usual, people delivered. While no one ventured into VR territory during the 5-day event, we had enough bot action to go around. The week was even kicked off with a visit from our friends at Slack who gave us some first-hand tips on building bots for slack.

Many teams spent Monday grouping up and crystalizing goals, then got to work. Things were pretty quite on Tuesday and Wednesday, but a late-night tour of our three floors on Thursday revealed many CSV Nightcrawlers hard at work preparing for Fridays’s demos.

The entries were impressive. All-told we saw 7 full demos at judgement time including an automated Pokemon app, an IOT/Amazon Echo controller, home automation control with both Slack and Facebook bots, a TV “bot-ler” that would help in the recommendation process, a redesign of XFINITY’s Watchathon promotion and a stunning way to visualize latency data.

Our three judges had their work cut out for them, as did the audience. In the end, we had our three winners. The Audience Choice award went to Slack and Facebook bots and their team of 12. Second place was snagged by team Watchathon and the highest honor, first place, went to TV Botler.

What a week!

T&P Live from CSV

A few times a year, Comcast’s Technology and Product group (T&P) produces a live broadcast of T&P Live, a live internal national broadcast hosted by T&P President, Tony Werner. The July 2016 edition of T&P Live was broadcast from CSV and expertly produced by the crew from Comcast Hometown Network. These guys were amazing!

The Chn crew literally transformed our office into a television studio overnight. The set was tight, cameras locked, sound speeds, rolling!

2016 Post-it Challenge

2016 brought stiff competition in the 2nd annual CSV Post-it Challenge. Popular themes this year were Game of Thrones, animation, politics and rock starts. I mean, what else is there, really? Oh yeah, Olympics!

A Truckload of Pillows

Comcast Cares Day 2016 was a great success globally, and we were psyched to be part of it, right here in our own community. This year Comcast Cares Day brought over 100,000 volunteers out into local communities. What a showing! CSV pitched in with a whole truckload of pillows and blankets for one of our favorite local organizations, Family Supportive Housing.

Family Supportive Housing provides a full spectrum of services to hundreds of people for whom overcoming poverty, hunger, and homelessness is a daily struggle. Our programs address the needs of the whole family, including interim supportive housing, childcare, life skills classes, transitional housing and supportive services for families in permanent housing.

A HUGE thank you to everyone on the team that pitched in with their time, money and talents to help our friends and neighbors!

Silicon Valley Agile Leadership Network Meetup

Great Meetup at CSV last night with the Silicon Valley Agile Leadership Network! Our speaker was the “spirited” Pollyanna Pixton, author, Forbes contributer and expert on agile leadership. Pollyanna focused Collaborating with Non-Collaborators as the evening’s topic. What a blast!

On your Agile Teams… do you have “introverts” or people who simply don’t want to collaborate?  They can crush your team and your collaboration (think anti-Zappos behavior).
We understand the vital importance of collaboration among team members. However, how can we deal with non-collaborators—people who won’t work with us? Although we may not be able to change them, we may be able to work with them. This session describes how to identify non-collaborator and examine the system within which the non-collaborators work: their success factors, motivations and measurements. Using a Trust and Ownership Model, we considers tools and techniques to cope with each trait, building a strategy that empowers you to collaborate no matter what.

UX Field Trip Friday: Tesla

From precision welding performed by giant self-healing robots, to finish work applied through human craftsmanship, the 5.3 million square foot Tesla factory

in Freemont, CA offered everything you’d expect from a company that produces a mainstream luxury sedan that can do 0-60 in 2.8 seconds (which is faster than a Lamborghini Aventador).

Our non-disclosure agreement and Tesla policies forbid us from taking pictures inside the factory but we can tell you this: whatever you imagine the inside of a Tesla factory to be like, it’s better.

The level of energy and enthusiasm shown by our guide was incredible, and we all enjoyed story after story of innovation and the raw determination of this amazing company.

Team Comcast Crushes Waves to Wine

Team Comcast had a blast riding in the 2015 Waves to Wine MS fundraiser. Our team was small but powerful, and although it wasn’t officially a “race”, we did have fun riding past team Google, Salesforce and others (okay, they rode by us a couple of times too but hey, all in good fun)!

Here’s a quick note we just received from the event organizers – over $2 million raised!
“Thank you for participating in Bike MS: Waves to Wine Ride 2015. From Northern California and beyond, cyclists and volunteers came together and pedaled towards a world free of multiple sclerosis. As of today, the fundraising thermometer is at $1,953,062.92 and will continue to climb until the fundraising deadline on November 9.”

“Our impact will be felt far beyond event weekend; money raised through Bike MS: Waves to Wine funds innovative programs, services, and groundbreaking research, which helps the National MS Society fulfill its mission to create a world free of MS.”

“We would like to extend a very special thank you to our dedicated volunteers and generous sponsors! We would also like to recognize and applaud the extraordinary contributions of our top fundraisers and our team captains. They led us and inspired us, and we are profoundly grateful for their commitment and involvement with Bike MS: Waves to Wine Ride 2015 and the National MS Society.”

Toastmasters Area 4 Event at CSV

Comcast Silicon Valley hosted the Area 4 Humorous and Evaluation Speech Contest on 9/22/15. Despite our club being only a year old this October our own Kevin Shea took first in Humorous and will go on to District! Kevin’s topic centered around an epic fishing trip as a 7-year-old that lead to a self confidence that persists today.  While not finishing “in the money” Joanne Bonoan amazed the crowd in the Evaluation Contest with a very good evaluation despite having been in Toastmasters for only a couple of months.

Our Area director was impressed with our facilities and accommodations. In his own words, “Thank you for hosting the event at Comcast. The facility is sleek and you did a great job making sure we had ample signage which was creative as well 🙂 Please convey my thanks to all those who helped. And yes, thanks for providing plates/cups etc.”  And the signs were so good some folks took them home as souvenirs!

 A special thanks to Sarah Sprague and Ruth Dawson for helping us with the facilities for the event  and Gennady Lobendze who helped us get familiar with theTV/audio/video . Thank you to our Comcast volunteers for helping run a smooth meeting. Volunteers included Kevin Shea, Trevor Gattis, Lyn Morse, Alicia Fremling, Tina Zhu and Sohi Balwinder. Special thanks to Daniel Hastings, Erica Franco and the UX team who created meeting signage in and around The City.

UX Field Trip Friday: Computer History Museum

What an amazing evolution we are all a part of! And no better way to understand what’s happening than by time-traveling at the Computer History Museum.

We were all impressed with the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the earliest engineers. Their physical work seemed so much more complicated than what we do today with code. But that may be just it – perception.

When looking at machines of earlier times we can relate their physical nature and physical movement in a very fundamental way. We may not know how to use an abacus but we can imagine how it works just by looking at it. And this leads us to make certain assumptions about the experience of using such a device. Our physical perception molds our expectations.

As you move through time, things get more complicated. The massive electronic digital computers of the 1940’s – 1960’s can make your jaw drop. Their enormity and physical complexity can leave us feeling overwhelmed and slightly confused. We’re left somewhere between being impressed and “what did this thing actually do?” Our minds automatically struggle to make a connection between the what we’re seeing and what we’re imagining. And we’re somewhat content to walk away feeling justified in our puzzlement.

Now enter the digital age. Machines morph into “devices”, physical things get flat, small and sleek. Process becomes undetectable. We can no longer make any logical connection between how a thing looks and what it does. Function simply becomes… magic.

Which, I think, brings me to the point. The new standard is invisibility. A trip to the Computer History Museum helps one to understand why.

Scala Bay Meetup at CSV

Last Thursday evening CSV hosted a Scala Bay Meetup with conversations centering around Akka at Comcast and presentations by one of our development teams. What an awesome group!

There were over 80 guests and nearly 20 more Comcast attendees. Companies represented in the audience includedf Box, Netflix, HP, Twilio, Samsung, Stumbleupon, Apple, quite a few start ups and many others. Over pizza, beer and wine talks included Val Apgar welcoming folks and introducing the team, Brendan O’Bra speaking on “Continuous Delivery at Comcast” and Vikas Rangarajan covering  “The future of continuous delivery at Comcast – Microservices and Containers”. David Bolene headlined the event with “SOA on Steroids”. David’s talk presented the Actor Service Registry for Akka which was open sourced just that day (github.com/Comcast/ActorServiceRegistry). A great Q&A session followed the talks along with informal discussions that would have gone on much longer if we didn’t have to clear the floor and go to work the next day.

Thanks for a great event, everyone!