MF Bliki: FlaccidScrum

There's a mess I've heard about with quite a few projects recently. It works out like this:

  • They want to use an agile process, and pick Scrum
  • They adopt the Scrum practices, and maybe even the principles
  • After a while progress is slow because the code base is a mess

What's happened is that they haven't paid enough attention to the internal quality of their software. If you make that mistake you'll soon find your productivity dragged down because it's much harder to add new features than you'd like. You've taken on a crippling TechnicalDebt and your scrum has gone weak at the knees. (And if you've been in a real scrum, you'll know that's a Bad Thing.)

I've mentioned Scrum because when we see this problem, Scrum seems to be particularly common as the nominative process the team is following. For many people, this situation is exacerbated by Scrum because Scrum is process that's centered on project management techniques and deliberately omits any technical practices, in contrast to (for example) Extreme Programming.

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Posted at on 4/23/09 by | 0 comments | Filed under:

Crap Code Inevitable? Rumblings from ACCU.

In my keynote I attempted to show the historical trajectory that has led to the emergence of the software craftsmanship movement. My argument was that since the business practices of SCRUM have been widely adopted, and since teams who follow those practices but do not follow the technical practices of XP experience a relentless decrease in velocity, and since that decrease in velocity is exposed by the transparency of scrum, then if follows that the eventual adoption of those technical XP practices is virtually assured. My conclusion was that Craftsmanship was the “next big thing” (tm) that would capture the attention of our industry for the next few years, driven by the business need to increase velocity. (See Martin Fowler’s blog on Flaccid Scrum) In short, we are on a trajectory towards a higher degree of professionalism and craftsmanship.

Nicolai’s thesis was the exact opposite of mine. His argument was that we are all ruled by marketing and that businesses will do whatever it takes to cut costs and increase revenue, and therefore businesses will drive software quality inexorably downward. He stipulated that this will necessarily create a crisis as the defect rates and deadline slips increased, but that all attempts to improve quality would be short lived and followed by a larger drive to decrease quality even further.

Josuttis’ talk was an hour of highly depressing rhetoric couched in articulate delivery and brilliant humor. One of the more memorable moments came when he playacted how a manger would respond to a developer’s plea to let them write clean code like Uncle Bob says. The manager replies: “I don’t care what Uncle Bob says, and if you don’t like it you can leave and take Uncle Bob with you.”

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Lessons Learned: Validated learning about customers

The problem stems from selling each customer a custom one-time product. This is the magic of sales: by learning about each customer in-depth, they can convince each of them that this product would solve serious problems. That leads to cashing many checks. Now, in some situations, this over-selling would lead to a secondary problem, namely, that customers would realize they had been duped and refuse to re-subscribe. But here’s where a truly great sales artist comes in. Customers don’t usually mind a bait-and-switch if the switched-to product really does solve an important problem for them. These salesmen used their insight into what their customers really needed to make the sale and then deliver something of even greater value. They are closing orders. They are gaining valuable customer data. They are close to breakeven. What’s the problem?

This approach is fundamentally non-scalable. These founders have not managed, to borrow a phrase from Steve Blank, to create a scalable and repeatable sales process. Every sale requires handholding and personal attention from the founders themselves. This process cannot be delegated, because it’s impossible to explain to a normal person what’s involved in making the sale. The founders have a lethal combination of insight about what potential customers want and in-depth knowledge about what their current product can really deliver. As a result, potential customers are being turned away; they can only afford to engage with the customers that are best qualified.

Another great article from

The key phrase if "This approach is fundamentally non-scalable."

This reminds of every company I have ever worked at. But, one in particular stands out. If you know what I am talking about, holla!

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Posted at on 4/17/09 by | 0 comments | Filed under:

DiggBar Stories - All negative - My view

DiggBar Blockers:
Editorial comment:

I cannot believe the amount of bad press this is getting.  Is it really that big of a deal?

Personally,  I think the DiggBar is a bad idea.  But, it is no different than any other shady method of increasing page views.

Is it really that surprising?  Digg's entire survival is based on always increasing page views.  By default, something like this was always going to happen.

The way I look at it is if Digg wants to do this, then so be it.  We don't have to use Digg.  And, over time, the "market" will either let Digg live or die.  And, mistakes like this will cause it to die.

I don't use Digg.  I have an account.  But, it is pretty much unused.  I have never found Digg to be useful in any way.

I do not use Digg for the following reasons.

* Crappy content.  Seriously.  Some of the stuff that makes it to the front page is utter trash.

* Way too much noise.  By "noise", I mean that Digg is completely useless for trying to find information.  The categories mean nothing.  And, the popularity of the article means nothing.  Relevance is apparently irrelevant.  When is the last time you went to Digg to find information about that programming problem?  Just saying . . .

* Too many immature users.  I know this cannot be controlled.  Regardless, it does lead to the uselessness of Digg.

* The concept of "Digging" is flawed.  How so?  What are you digging?  The article?  What if the article is something that people should read, but you are opposed to its content?  Do you "digg" it?  By "digging" it, are you saying that you agree with the content of the article?  Or, are you digging the title that the Digg user's added?  Do you go read the article, then read the title and summary, and then decide to digg it?  Maybe as a non-Digg user, I am missing the point.  If so, please put me in my place. 

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Posted at on 4/13/09 by | 0 comments | Filed under:

Yes! Kuyt to stay at Liverpool!

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has signed a two-year extension to his Anfield contract, tying him to the Merseyside club until at least 2012.

The 28-year-old Holland international's current deal was due to expire at the end of next season and manager Rafael Benitez is delighted Kuyt has joined captain Steven Gerrard in committing his long-term future to Liverpool.

We all knew that there was no way Gerrard was leaving Liverpool. So, it was only a question of whether others we be resigned. Kuyt is a huge signing. He is like Park Ji Sung. Only better.

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Posted at on 4/3/09 by | 0 comments | Filed under:

A Paul Walker movie can't be bad, can it?

FAST AND FURIOUS left me annoyed, bored, and eager to get the hell out of the theater and see something better right away. If you go in with the lowest possible expectations, you might have a good time at all the glitzy cinematography and occasional scantily clad female. And director Lin certainly has an eye for making Diesel's straining pectorals look shiny and lumpy on film under a host of tight shirts, but beyond those few high points, there's really nothing here to recommend.

Still seeing this. But, maybe, I'll Netflix it.

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Gmail: If a sender and recipient both have Autopilot on?

What happens if a sender and recipient both have Autopilot on?

Two Gmail accounts can happily converse with each other for up to three messages each. Beyond that, our experiments have shown a significant decline in the quality ranking of Autopilot's responses and further messages may commit you to dinner parties or baby namings in which you have no interest


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Posted at on 4/1/09 by | 0 comments | Filed under: