Normally, I’d relish a mention on InfoQ

This article on InfoQ bothers me.  It seems to draw only from Dave Nicolette’s blog post [now lost due to the defacement of his old blog] and the subsequent comments.  Dave’s post is similar, in my mind, to a trip report that someone might give to an organization after a class or conference.  He goes into some detail about what happened at the first ever Certified Scrum Developer course, and muses about what he learned.  The bulk of the comments are an interchange between Dave and Tobias Mayer where, it appears to me, Tobias doesn’t think that the course comes up to the standard of the CSM course.  This is, of course, based on Dave’s description, as Tobias wasn’t present at the course.

The InfoQ article mentions me by name, but doesn’t mention other participants other than Dave.  It also misquotes Dave [now edited without any indication of doing so], and implies that the learnings that Dave got out of our retrospective conversation after the course was a list agreed upon by both of us.  There was apparently no fact checking done on this article.  Certainly no one spoke with Ron Jeffries or with me about it.  I find the article misleading enough that I need to respond.

I had planned to write about the course, but this isn’t the article I’d planned.

On Twitter, [a person who now wishes to be anonymous] took exception to Ron Jeffries’ comments on InfoQ and on Twitter about the article failing basic tenets of journalism.  [He] is an editor at InfoQ, but thinks that he (and Vikas) are not journalists.  Ryan Slobojan, Chief Editor at InfoQ, expressed a similar opinion in an email to me.

I have no formal training as an editor, I’m not a journalist, and before I became Chief Editor in August 2009 I was doing it on the side in addition to my full-time job – this is a common pattern for all of our editors, and it’s how we end up with a diverse team of experts from (literally) all over the world.

I have important information for both [Anonymous] and Ryan.  They are journalists, whether they have trained to be, or think of themselves as journalists, or not.  They are participating in the business of “the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.”  The fact that they do not realize that’s what they do, that they have not trained themselves in the basics of journalism, and that they sometimes do it badly, doesn’t change the fact that they are journalists.

In a way, that brings us full-circle on the developer training/certification/craftsmanship issue.  It’s not only developers that can benefit from a certification class to give them some basic knowledge.  When Ron mentioned “Journalism 101″ he was talking about that very thing.  Neither Ron (I checked my facts) nor I have a degree or certificate in journalism.  Clearly, though, we both think that there are some journalistic standards that should be observed.

The difference between our viewpoint and that of [Anonymous] and Ryan reminded me of Jerry Weinberg’s classification of software development organization cultures (taken from page 9 of Quality Software Management: First Order Measurement)

0. Oblivious: “We don’t even know that we’re performing a process.”
1. Variable: “We do whatever we feel like at the moment.”
2. Routine: “We follow our routines (except when we panic).”
3. Steering: “We choose among our routines by the results they produce.”
4. Anticipating: “We establish routines based on our past experience with them.”
5. Congruent: “Everyone is involved in improving everything all the time.”

It occurs to me that these same levels can be applied to individual software developers, to journalists, and to publishers.  [Anonymous] and Ryan are journalists at level 0; they don’t know they’re performing journalism.  I’m perhaps at level 1 or 2 in journalism.  Perhaps that’s enough for the depth of my involvement with journalism.

Software developers sometime do not realize that’s what they are, also.  Consider the case of the businessman who tweaks his spreadsheet.  He’s writing software, but doesn’t think of it that way.

In Ron and Chet’s CSD class premier, I would expect that everyone who participated generally operates at level 4 or 5.  Even such knowledgeable and experienced practitioners, however, can panic under time pressure. It takes time to calmly evaluate a situation and make a decision.  It takes more time to do so as a team.  If you fail to take that time, your decisions will suffer from the lack of evaluating enough of the situation.  I think that’s one of the many things that was going on in that class.

As I said, this is not the article I’d intended to post about the class.  That article will have to be written another day.  I think this one has some value, too–value far beyond the disclaimer that Vikas Hazrati’s article is not a valid representation of the CSD class.

I’ll still try to find the time to write that article.  In the mean time, if you’re writing software, I think you’ll find value in the CSD class.  If you’re reporting the news, I think you’ll find value in learning a little about journalism.

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Comments (11) to “Normally, I’d relish a mention on InfoQ”

  1. I think both camps have good arguments.

    My issue is with the premise of the whole thing. Why does it have to be a certification? Why can’t it just be a course? Period.

    I was talking to a former colleague the other day who recently did the CSM course and he beamed “So, I guess I’m a Certified Scrum Master now!”

    God love him, but this guy knows next to nothing about Agile. After some probing, what he got from the course was enough to be dangerous. :s/CSM/CSD/g

    Sorry, but it sounds like hipster bs to me.

  2. Hi, Sandy,

    Yes, the certification issue is a different thing. I’ve written about that before.

    Just for the record, I’ve not (yet, anyway) received any certificate. I did give out Agile Merit Badges, though. :-)

  3. Thanks George.

    FWIW, I like the approach the Software Craftsmanship google group seems to promote: regional craftsmanship groups (not unlike regional agile groups).

    http://groups.google.com/group/software_craftsmanship?hl=en

    No endorsements required. Not “blessed” by the pundits. Just get together and talk about the art with like minded people.

    As I’ve said before “Here’s your software craftsmanship certification … show people your code.”

    It’s like learning a martial art. The first thing you learn is that there’s always someone bigger and badder than you, so don’t start a fight, even if you have a black belt.

  4. Just to be clear, this post and the comments I posted on InfoQ are not attacking any person or InfoQ. Several people associated with InfoQ have used that term in communication with me, though they’ve yet to point out where I’m doing so. I think they’re just over-reacting.

    And lest anyone think that InfoQ as a whole is represented by that, or the remarks above, I had a private comment from another InfoQ staffer that “of course” they’re journalists.

  5. Now you’re doing to me, what you and Ron objected to. You’re taking what I said out of context.

    Lets be clear 140 chars on twitter shouldn’t be quoted. There isn’t enough context and information.

    All I tried to do was move the focus of Ron’s anger from the human (Vikas) to the problem (the news item). For my pains I’ve been accused of needing use “editorial independance” and more. All I wanted was for you and Ron to remember that Vikas is human.

    As for journalists – we’re somewhere in between journalists and bloggers. Again quoting twitter and personal email isn’t fair game. We strive to be neutral, objective and bring to light all of the sides of story but we do mistakes. However we’re not paid as full time journalists, we do this because we love the community and not because it pays well. As a result its not a full time job.

    My lessons learned, don’t twitter with George because there is a chance that you will be quoted in a blog. Sad.

  6. How is this blog post any better than what you accused Vikas of? You said he should’ve contacted Ron.

    Perhaps you should have asked me to clarify my very short comments on twitter. 140 chars isn’t enough to clearly express ideas. Yet you thought it enough to quote me.

  7. Mark, I’ve removed the links to Twitter at your request. I put those in to provide context, not to take it out of context. (I also suspect you underestimate the privacy of Twitter.)

    I don’t know why it has become such a personal fight for you that I don’t like Vikas’ article.

    I realize that stringers for InfoQ are not doing it for the income. Nor do I write this blog for the income. Yet clearly we are both publishing for mass consumption, and are therefore journalists. I don’t label mine as “news,” however.

    As for contacting you before writing this blog post, I did that. You refused, at that time, to discuss it any more.

  8. Again you’ve taken something out of context. I asked to be removed from a private email thread. I didn’t say don’t contact me before writing a blog post. BTW the contents of the post still grossly misrepresent my position.

    I intervened in the first place because I thought that Ron had attacked the human and not the problem.

  9. Sorry Mark, since you said in a private email just to me that you didn’t want to be contacted again, and repeated it when I tried to verify some information, I interpreted it to leave you alone. I can forward you all the email if you’d like to review them.

    I have removed your name from the blog posting, as you requested.

  10. Quoting private emails, contradicting your comments about not contacting people. I don’t remember being asked if I have a degree in Journalism. And, talking about Journalism 101.

    Some how things do not match up.

  11. No, Vikas, I didn’t ask if you had a degree in journalism. That’s just a certificate, you know.

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