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I've never been a Project Manager before   25 Sep 04
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Check out the excellent Dilbert

XP style process and battle-fields   25 Sep 04
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Not that I want to promote war in any way, but these posts in the extremeprogramming-ML made me smile:


 During the planning game, you review last week's
 finished stories, and they inspire you to write some
 new cards, to edit some cards, and to toss some cards.
 Then you (the Onsite Customer) re-sort all the cards,
 and draw off the top batch for the next week.

 But another input into this system that affects the
 planning game - the competition.

 The USA occupied Iraq using an effective new battle
 technique. In traditional advances, you send a
 diversionary force against one of your enemies flanks,
 draw them that way, then send your main force against
 their other flank.

 Modern soldiers, with cell-phones and such, follow a
 more agile approach. You simply send two forks of your
 forces, probing towards both flanks. You use sensitive
 algorithms to detect the defending commander's
 decision which flank to defend. If you can rapidly
 turn one advance into the diversion, and the other
 into the main attack, you will soon collapse the
 opposition's ability to effectively make decisions.

 Agile onsite customers can play this card too. If you
 detect your competition's marching orders, in
 real-time (using either sensitive algorithms,
 good-old-fashioned industrial espionage, or just
 reading their self-congratulatory Web site), you can
 then request iteration features which provide the
 minimum amount of code needed to start your project
 towards blocking the competition's advance. This
 technique will, again, collapse the competition's
 ability to make decisions.

 Or convince them to hire an XP coach or three. So
 either way it's a win-win-win for us! ;-)

Steven’s reply: :-)

 Or you could follow the agile strategy that Microsoft
 pioneered - announcing products with your competitions'
 features before you even start implementing them.

Case stories   25 Sep 04
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Been skimming the XP-ML this morning.

About the $200M Oracle-Ford Desaster: the management did not give them enough power to go fully agile

Chet Hendrickson:

 It was a very frustrating situation.  The team asked Don and me
 to help with preventing the Oracle consutants from making changes
 directly to the production system.  This was about $150 million into the project.

 We tried to sell them on a more agile approach (as you might imagine), but by
 this time they were pretty far gone.

 It was unfortunante that we were not operating at a level in the organization
 that would have allowed us to get the plug pulled sooner.


Georg Tuparev has a nice case story, too: speak out if you are put on a death march.

 Few years ago I was called to lead a huge team stuck in one and half
 year design phase. The team was supposed to build a control software
 for a network of telecom satellites. Cannot disclosed names and
 resources, but one could imagine ...

 Three days in the project I had a phone conference with the CxO's of
 both companies involved. Told them that the way it is going no
 satellite will ever fly and that I know a better way. After getting
 green line, the design document was burned with a small celebration at
 a BBQ, and 85% of the initial team members were sent to an indefinitely
 long vacation. With the rest (15%) of the team we had the first
 functioning version 2 months ahead of the schedule and 50% lower then
 expected expenses.

 So the lessons:
 - it is never late to change direction of a project in order to save it.
 - I do not agree with Kent that this is a sad story. If you are a good
 programmer put on a death march project you should speak out! If no one
 listens - walk away. There is just one very precious life in front of
 us - do not waste it! And if these folks wasted 2 years of their lives,
 well, it is their business ... but they should not expect my

 BTW, Philip is right - the project I was telling about had a 9 months x
 40 people "Big Requirements Up Front"!!! Then the design started...

 Just my 0.02

 Georg Tuparev

What's the Second Directive?   25 Sep 04
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(Source: Ron Jeffries, aka Mr. XP) I’m been struggling for years with notions like having empathy with our mistakes, Kerth’s Prime Directive, and the like. Springing from a couple of notes on the extremeprogramming group, and a blog entry from Dale Emery, here’s my latest rant.

XPlorations: The Humble Yo   25 Sep 04
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(Source: Bill Wake) "The Humble Yo" The humble "Yo!" is a simple convention for getting help. link Nice explanation of why not asking for help can actually hurt the team.

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


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