Features and Stories, Large and Small

Imagine you work for a company that produces a videoconferencing system. You’ve done pretty well with it, but you’re middle of the pack of competition. Then there’s a worldwide pandemic, and the market for videoconference software explodes. There’s a silver lining in this terrible event. A rising tide lifts all boats, right?

Maybe not, if the competition has more of what the customers want. It’s critical to remain a viable choice in the eyes of customers.

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Accommodating the Unexpected

As I write this, much of the world is in a state of disarray. Many businesses are shut down for fear of spreading the Covid-19 virus, and others have suddenly switched to distributed work over the internet. Most software developers are working in physical isolation. Even those accustomed to working remotely are reporting that the current situation is affecting their ability to get things done.

I think it is safe to say that no software development organization expected this to happen. No IT department accounted for the disruption in their estimates and plans. While epidemiologists could predict that there would eventually be a worldwide pandemic, even they could not predict the severity or timing of such a disruption.

How has this affected your work? Are you still expecting to meet the plans made before this happened? Have you given up planning altogether, just trying to get something, anything, done? Or have you looked at how things have been progressing in the last 2 or 3 months and adjusted your expectations?

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The Order of Tests

It’s been awhile since I’ve done much coding. That’s not my day job anymore, and I lose interest working by myself. In the past week, however, I’ve had a couple opportunities to mob program remotely with the Canton Coders. With the COVID-19 restrictions on gathering in person, people are much more likely to work with you virtually.

So last week I found myself mobbing on the Roman Numeral kata and today on the Zeckendorf kata, both on cyber-dojo. A lot of fun was had by all, and I rediscovered what I know about Test Driven Development with a bit more clarity.

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More About Development Culture

Josh Kerievsky called me to task for not following up on his third version of his story of providing a quick fix before a test-driven fix. As I said, I don’t want to be critical of Josh. I will, however, cast a critical eye on the code he has shared.

For those just tuning in, the previous installment talked about differences between the culture we espouse and the culture we practice. This installment will return to that.

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TDD, Options, and Culture

The background for this post: Gil Zilberfeld posted a link to a blog post by Joshua Kerievsky. I had some questions and Josh’s response, to me, seemed to change the story a bit. As I suspected, the story is hypothetical, and changes to support the intended conclusion. This always makes it very slippery to talk about a story. The details matter. And in this case, the change overwrites the original, without any indication of what has changed. That makes it even harder to have a conversation about it.

The Story

I’ll give a synopsis of the story here, since it may change again. In brief,

  • “A customer reports a defect. It’s inhibiting them from getting some important work done.”
  • David finds the defect and test-drives a fix, including refactoring to re-design the code around the defect. He spends two hours doing so.
  • In a parallel universe, Sally finds the same defect, fixes it without an automated test, hand-tests the fix, pronounces it good and pushes it to production. There’s no indication of how long this took, but presumably it’s intended to be less than two hours.
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Daily Stand-Up Meetings

It’s my observation from watching small groups of people working together that it’s almost universally common that some people will take charge and direct the common effort and others will get quiet, abdicating any such role.

It’s also my observation that, even in a small team working together daily, people notice different things, interpret the things they notice differently, and assign different significance to those interpretations. People often think that because they are immersed in a common experience that there’s no need to talk about it. This appears to not be so.

Groups of technically oriented people often want to optimize the work process to those activities needed for the technically oriented output, and overlook those that are focused on the needs of humans and groups of humans working together. Yes, you can have a standup and not get any value from it. You can also not have a standup and avoid providing a convenient mechanism for taking advantage of the differences in observation, interpretation, and significance made by the entire team.

If you’ve got a really good team facilitator, they’ll likely notice this and help bring it out. If they’re really excellent, they’ll convince the team to work in a fashion where it can more easily come out without them acting as a middleman to make it happen. They might use a simple technique such as a daily standup to create such an opportunity.

I Wrote a Book

You may have noticed I haven’t been writing much on my blog. That’s because I’ve been writing a book, instead.

Book: Software Estimation Without Guessing

I’ve self-published before, both solo and with co-authors. This is my first professionally edited book, though.

It’s been a lot of work, but my editor, Adaobi Obi Tulton, has helped me create a much better book than I would have created by myself.

Take a stroll over to Pragmatic Bookshelf where you can buy it. And after you read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

A Metric for Story Readiness

A friend asked for suggestions on a metric for backlog grooming. I’ve never written down these numbers, but this is the metric I use in my head.

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Audacious Salon 2018

Agile 2018 has come to an end. Once again, virtually all of my time was spent in the Audacious Salon, where I was a track chair. Once again, it was an immersive and powerful experience for me.

It‘s time, perhaps past time, for me to describe the salon to the world. To describe how it came to be, the intent, the evolution, and the magic I’ve seen flourish.

This description is, of course, the viewpoint of one man. Undoubtedly I‘m biased. Understandably, others will have different viewpoints based on different hopes and wishes, different experiences, and different knowledge. I invite you to share these differences in the comments, even if your viewpoint seems negative toward the concept. Perhaps particularly if you have some complaint, doubt, or fear about the Salon. I, or we, can learn most from a diversity of opinion from diverse people. (Continued)

Using a good tool for the wrong thing

When I first met Andreas Schliep, he told me a consulting war story with the punch line, “Well, you can paint that wall with a screwdriver if you like…” There’s no stopping people who are intent to use the wrong tool for a job, or use it in the wrong way. Sometimes it even works. I’ve seen someone successfully, after a fashion, driving wood screws with a hammer. (Continued)