09 June 2009

User Story Tweets

Try Tweeting your user story as if conciseness mattered.

Hosea Ballou, first President of Tufts University and the father of American Universalism, said
Brevity and conciseness are the parents of correction.
--Hosea Ballou
The Twitter Constraint is a 140-character limit Twitter imposes on Tweets. If you constrain yourself to follow the first tenant of DUA (i.e., Don't Use Abbreviations), LOL, and you experiment with the 140-character limit, it might make you write better user stories.

But don't carry brevity to extremes. Ballou also cautions
Never be so brief as to become obscure.
--Hosea Ballou
It's a sure bet you'll weigh in under a buck forty if you use the standard agile template
As a [user role], I want to [goal], so I can [reason].
But don't let something like a template constrain you. It's a guide; a starting point. Don't be dogmatic - about anything.

There are zillions of posts advising you about Writing Good User Stories.

Discover the language what works for you and your team. For example, I like personas, like Help-desk Hector, that encapsulate the user role.

Laura Brandau's Bridging the Gap has an imformative post about the 140-character Twitter Constraint and writing good requirements. She asks
  • Do you incorporate ambiguous words like “adequately”, “timely”, or “high-quality”?
  • Do you use a long phrase when a single word conveys the same meaning?
  • Do you combine multiple requirements into one long sentence?
  • Do you include lengthy introductory statements that add little value such as “The ability to” or “The system shall”?
To paraphrase William Strunk, the senior author of the legendary The Elements of Style (1919):
Vigorous story* writing is concise. A story* should contain no unnecessary words...for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
--William Strunk, Jr.
* The word story was inserted by me.

I don't advise you hold yourself to an arbitrary limit of 140 characters per story, rather I am suggesting you consider the 140-character limit as an exercise.

Perhaps you'll discover you can cross-cut your way to the crux without sawing off the scaffold of meaning.

I leave you in the capable hands of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965):
This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.
--Winston Churchill

03 June 2009

When Did Agile Jump the Shark?

I am bullish on what agile has taught us. I am bullish on the productivity gains realized by agile teams around the world.

I groove on discovery; that is, the discovery that happens by having working software at iteration one. Discovery is fun.

But I use a lowercase "a" in agile. "a" signifies pragmatism. And, there are smells.

I invite you to have some fun considering that critical flash in time when agile Jumped the Shark.

I see Fonzie rapidly approaching across the lake on water skis.
Which option in the LinkedIn poll would you select?

Do you have an option I missed?

Dessert Only, Skip Vegetables

Dessert Only, Skip Vegetables is inspired from James Shore's post The Decline and Fall of Agile
"...teams say they're Agile, but they're just planning (and replanning) frequently. Short cycles and the ability to re-plan are the benefit that Agile gives you. It's the reward, not the method. These pseudo-Agile teams are having dessert every night and skipping their vegetables. By leaving out all the other stuff--the stuff that's really Agile--they're setting themselves up for rotten teeth, an oversized waistline, and ultimate failure."
--James Shore
Dogmatic Bandwagon Traction

When colleagues start splitting hairs about what is and what isn't agile, and when colleagues counsel against something, saying you should, or you shouldn't, watch out! It might well be that the Method-ists are gaining traction and it could be time to get out of Dodge, or at least gallop off to the city limits.

Scrum Licenses User Groups

Does having the Scrum Alliance issue licenses to users groups strike you as regressive, or just plain silly?
If I hand you a gun, does that guarantee you'll shoot yourself in the foot, or does it only increase the probability?
See Scrum User Group License.

Brand-Aware Conferences

Branding is cool, but branding around an open-minded approach is a sticky wicket. Brand-ism refers to an ideology, a sentiment, a form of culture, or a social movement focusing on the brand.

Brandism breeds over-zealous partisanship - like Nationalism. And authoritarian Brandism begets brand Fascism.

Software Replaces Post-It Notes

Agile software tools are a hindrance. Why?
  • Critical information is frequently obscured;
  • Several popular tools have serious usability issues;
  • They're frequently the wrong fidelity or weight; and
  • While admittedly helpful to PMs and Scrum Masters, they're confusing to product owners and they're counter-productive for developers.

02 June 2009

100% Coverage is a Crock of Clam Juice

Marking, a kindred spirit from a faraway place high above Point Defiance near Old Town Tacoma, was in the Twin Cities for a visit last night. One of Marking’s quirks is that he’ll passionately engage you with various topics from non-violent conflict resolution to single-payer health care, but if you ask him about his profession, he instantly becomes a clam with lockjaw.

But last night, while dodging rotten tomatoes at the Artists' Quarter poetry slam, I cracked the calcified exoskeleton of Marking's professional ennui.

Like shucking clams with a catcher's mitt, I tried my best to explain what I learned about Black Swan theory from Nassim Taleb's influential book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Marking is a radiologist. When Marking is not marking time day-dreaming about his next day off, he uses imaging technology, like x-ray and radiation, to evaluate the likelihood of disease.

Marking grinned like a giddy mollusk when I laid out Nassim Taleb's Round-Trip fallacy like this
You can tell your patient there is No Evidence of Disease (NED), but cannot tell him that there is Evidence of No Disease (END)
Sadly, END is probably how the patient prefers to hear the diagnosis, but NED is what the report says.

Marking intimates that his profession is a crock of clam juice because the reports radiologists produce, after examining a chest film that falls within a normal range, have marginal clinical value. Many of his colleagues will order an ongoing series of baseless tests to confirm what they know for fear of litigation (e.g., Taleb calls this the Confirmation Fallacy) .

Marking's colleagues remind me of software professionals like us who make Zero Defect Pledges, or who shoot for 100% Code Coverage. We mindlessly pad our tests with meaningless test assertion after meaningless test assertion to confirm the obvious.

Coverage numbers give false security. In The Fallacy of 100% Code Coverage, Andrew Binstock says the raison d'être of unit testing is two-fold:
  1. validate the operation of code; and
  2. create sensors that detect when code operation has changed; thereby identifying unanticipated effects of code changes.
Beyond that, please ask yourself, am I full of clam juice?

The Fallacy of 100% Code Coverage

The fallacy of 100% Code Coverage is this
Just because you have attained 100% code coverage does not make it significantly more certain you haven't forgotten to test some critical chunk of code.
No Evidence of Defects (NED) is not the same as Evidence of No Defects (END). Sometimes a meaningful conclusion from test coverage is downright Rumsfeldian:
I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started. --Donald Rumsfeld
The (END).