Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some fun agile observations

1. I attended a proposal meeting yesterday. There was a guy there from Axis Point explaining agile software development to some of the people there. I was surprised that there are people nominally working in the IT industry that haven't ever heard of it, 7 years on from Snowbird. I am not surprised that many of the people who think they knew what Agile is have no idea whatsoever and just equate it with "going faster".

2. I think proposing software concepts like Enterprise Service Catalogs seems decidedly un-agile. No one really wants that crap. Just publish, document, and version some HTTP APIs for your apps. 100% of real developers would take some sample code that uses your service API over a catalog.

3. I was reading "The Toyota Way" this morning. Just the foreword and the preface while my kid was at Lil' Kickers. Some choice paraphrasing- Page xii: Embrace change. Page xv: None of the individual elements are special, but system as a whole is important. Success derives from balancing the role of people in an organizational culture that expects and values their continuous improvemnts, with a technical system focused on high value added flow. Did Kent Beck ever work there?

4. I've been getting some flak from one of my business partners because I can't get agile implemented in any useful fashion on the current project that I am working on. We're dealing with multiple several hundred page requirements documents that are written into the contract. And they all suck. Agile has to start earlier- in the contracting phase, as Alistair Cockburn (pronounced "Coe-burn") pointed out. Regardless, there is mandatory scrum training- we must be able to pretend that we are agile.

5. As I recently twittered, my Wii Fit thinks I'm a "yoga master" but in reality I can't touch my toes (without bending my knees). I think there is a good analogy for agile there- I love it, I just don't live it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What do computers want to do?

I remember reading "What Computers (Still) Can't Do" by Hubert Dreyfus a long time ago. It was a sequel to his earlier book, unsurprisingly titled "What Computers Can't Do." (Well, it's unsurprising if you'd seen the sequel. I suppose the title might have been surprising initially. There is a huge difference between the two titles though. When I read the first title I think that maybe computers are never going to do these things. Then, when you get to the sequel, you sort of feel that computers might not be able to do these things now, but then again, they used to not be able to do other stuff. It's funny what a "still" does to the overall impact of the message. I suppose a pessimist could interpret that "still" as meaning- a lot of people though computers would be able to do things Dreyfuss said the couldn't through this or that mechanism, but now, they still can't. So maybe I'm wrong and the "still" is actually a stronger endorsement of his position. Still (hah), I think there is a world of difference between "I am right" and "I am (still) right.")

What if there is a book someday called, "What Computers Won't Do"? This of course would mean...that they want to do something. What would they want? When I was young I thought...power? (not in the megalomania sense, more in the megawatt sense) This is before I knew about Maslow. ("Honey, would you please fix the computer? It needs to be self-actualized again.")

But then again, what is "wanting"? Rocks don't want to roll down hills...but Sisyphus wants to push them up.