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fit   25 Sep 04
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Ward Cunningham has released an acceptance testing tool called fit fit is about tests that people can read.

The Cook’s Tour offers an excellent howto to get yourself and your customers into the test-writing mode.

An intro article by Bill Wake.

Software for your head by Jim and Michelle McCarthy   25 Sep 04
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What Ron Jeffries says: if you read this book, really study and consider it, you will think thoughts you haven’t thought before, and you will likely learn something about yourself, your colleagues, and your projects. I read a lot of books and recommend a lot of books. This one is special. Do yourself a favor: buy it, read it, and give it deep consideration.

Succinctness is Power!   25 Sep 04
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(Source: Paul Graham)

"The quantity of meaning compressed into a small space by algebraic signs, is another circumstance that facilitates the reasonings we are accustomed to carry on by their aid."

  • Charles Babbage, quoted in Iverson’s Turing Award Lecture

The first person to write about these issues, as far as I know, was Fred Brooks in the Mythical Man Month. He wrote that programmers seemed to generate about the same amount of code per day regardless of the language. When I first read this in my early twenties, it was a big surprise to me and seemed to have huge implications. It meant that (a) the only way to get software written faster was to use a more succinct language, and (b) someone who took the trouble to do this could leave competitors who didn’t in the dust.

Brooks’ hypothesis, if it’s true, seems to be at the very heart of hacking. In the years since, I’ve paid close attention to any evidence I could get on the question, from formal studies to anecdotes about individual projects. I have seen nothing to contradict him.

Advantages of Extreme Programming   25 Sep 04
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(Source: Kevin Smith post to After a couple years of pitching XP, it became very clear to me that XP has different key advantages for different audiences. You’ll have to decide whether to pitch to a single audience, or try to cover several.

For developers, XP allows you to focus on coding and avoid needless paperwork and meetings. It provides a more social atmosphere, more opportunities to learn new skills, and a chance to go home at a decent hour each night. It gives you very frequent feelings of achievement, and generally allows you to produce code that you feel good about.

For the Customer, XP creates working software faster, and that software tends to have very few defects. It allows you to change your mind whenever you need to, with minimal cost and almost no complaining from the developers. It produces reliable estimates so you can coordinate your schedule easier.

For management, XP delivers working software for less money, and the software is more likely to do what the end users actually want. It cuts risk in a couple ways: 1) It allows you to "pull the plug" on development at almost any time, and still have highly valuable code, and probably even a valuable working (if incomplete) application. 2) It reduces your dependence on individual superstars, and at the same time can improve employee satisfaction and retention.

The biggest disadvantage: It’s hard. It’s difficult to get many developers to accept the practices, and it takes a lot of discipline to keep doing them all. Customers may not like the idea of having to be so involved. Management may expect fixed-cost, fixed-scope estimates, which XP teams often refuse to create (because they are usually incorrect with any methodology).

Also, certain people may feel their jobs are being threatened, particularly architects, testers, and project managers. "Cowboy" coding "superstars" may dislike the reduction in fame, attention, and adreneline from "saving" the project at the last minute.

How to Construct Bad Charts and Graphs   25 Sep 04
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(Source: Gary Klass) A short but good article in the style of Edward Tufte, the big guru when it comes to displaying data in a meaningful way. Fundamental rule of efficient graphical design: minimize the ratio of ink-to-data The three fundamental elements of bad graphical display are these: Data Ambiguity, Data Distortion, and Data Distraction. link Make sure you check out these classic bibles about envisioning information by Tufte: Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

When Should We Test?   25 Sep 04
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Kent Beck, one of the people that invented extreme programming (XP) offers an economic model. The financial risk management community and the software development community can learn a lot from each other. Think of this article as: When should you put Risk Management into place?

Amongst other things this article tells you when best to have children :-).

Only hire people who pair?   25 Sep 04
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(Source: Chad Woolley posted this to the extremeprogramming-ML) Here’s an interesting experience I had when interviewing for an XP shop, and one I will definitely keep in mind in future interviews, whether I am the hirer or hiree.

As part of my interview, I was required to sit and pair program for about half an hour. We worked on an writing a unit test for an actual defect that currently existed on the project (although it could easily have been a real user story, or a contrived scenario if the project had not yet started).

I thought this was a great idea, and a great source of knowledge for both sides. I was able to show that I did indeed know how to program, write unit tests, knew my way around an IDE, had acceptable interpersonal communication skills, etc. I was also able to get a different perspective on what the team dynamics were like, which I could not have gotten from a formal interview setting.

The interesting thing is that both me and my partner (one of the interviewers) taught each other about some tools and approaches that we were not previously aware of.

Even though I didn’t get the job (the position was withdrawn), I kept in touch and became friends with the interviewer/partner, and the things we taught each other came in useful in our future development work.

This company also asked for code samples and a mini-presentation, which I also thought was a great idea for separating the wheat from the chaff.

Since I have had responsibility for helping interview, select and recommend job candidates in the past, I know for a fact that the best resume and interview performance in the world is inconclusive. You can still get a lemon, even though the lemon may be very good at piling on the BS.

From my perspective as a job candidate, I am confident in my skills and my abilities. I know that I can quickly adapt and excel in any position within my skill set. However, its very frustrating when I cannot convince the potential employer of this through only a traditional resume and interview.

In future interviews that I go for (which will hopefully only be with XP/Agile shops), I am going to suggest this as a way for the hiring company to get a better idea of my skills, knowledge and abilities, both technical and interpersonal. If I am ever part of a hiring team in the future, I will definitely propose that code samples and a pair-programming session be part of the interview process for candidates who make it to the final stages. This is admittedly very time-consuming, but probably much less net investment than being forced to live with (or try to get rid of) an employee who looked much better "on paper".

Thanks, Chad

Communication is the Transfer of Emotion   25 Sep 04
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Seth Godin has put together a nice pdf about how todo decent powerpoint slides. By the way, his new book "Free Prize" is out, too.

I always enjoy reading his weblog.

[ANN] DataVision 0.8.2 released; upgrades to JRuby 0.7.0   25 Sep 04
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DataVision 0.8.2 is now available from SourceForge at

DataVision is an Open Source reporting tool similar to Crystal Reports. Reports can be designed using a drag-and-drop GUI. They may be run, viewed, and printed from the application or exported as HTML, XML, PDF, LaTeX2e, DocBook, or tab- or comma-delimited text files. The output files produced by LaTeX2e and DocBook can in turn be used to produce PDF, text, HTML, PostScript, and more.

DataVision is written in Java and uses JRuby to add Ruby scripting.

Visualising wikis   25 Sep 04
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been surfing to get good ideas about visualising knowledge.

The pics shows "history flow" from IBM research. Tons of other good links can be found in the c2-wiki.

Visualising is really interesting and up for a major change. I am totally sick of all these boring search-engines out there and yeah, grep -r is still my best friend. Another reason why I despise MS-Word, he, he and use LaTeX. It took me years to fall in love with that programming-language, which happens to be a word-processor, too.


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