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RE: [agile-usability] incrementing vs. iterating

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  • White, Jeff
    I took it to mean this: say you know upfront some product you re working on will have 5 features. Those 5 features could be built incrementally - 1 sprint for
    Message 1 of 21 , Aug 9 6:05 AM
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      I took it to mean this: say you know upfront some product you’re working on will have 5 features. Those 5 features could be built incrementally – 1 sprint for feature 1, etc. That doesn’t mean that each feature was subjected to iterative design – design, test, refine, test, refine, etc.

       

      Jeff

       

      >>  

      Sorry Jeff, but I re-read your post twice and I still don't get the
      distinction.

      Can you provide a concrete example of a particular story and what it
      might mean to iterate vs increment over it?

      Alain

      >>

      .


    • Desilets, Alain
      ... In other words: incremental = one complete and finished feature at a time iterative = start with version 0.1 of a set of features, and improve them as a
      Message 2 of 21 , Aug 9 6:49 AM
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         >  I took it to mean this: say you know upfront some product you’re working on will have 5 features. Those 5 features 
         >  could be  built incrementally – 1 sprint for feature 1, etc. That doesn’t mean that each feature was subjected to iterative  
         >  design – design, test, refine, test, refine, etc. 
         
        In other words:


        (Message over 64 KB, truncated)
      • Jeff Patton
        Clearly I ve asked the wrong group. You re all too smart to simply do one or the other – or to be unaware of which you re doing. I hear everyone saying
        Message 3 of 21 , Aug 10 10:30 AM
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          Clearly I've asked the wrong group. You're all too smart to simply do
          one or the other – or to be unaware of which you're doing. I hear
          everyone saying they do both – and alternate between each at different
          times and for different reasons.

          June: iterating and incrementing are too combined to pick apart.
          Emphasis on organic growth. Great Alexander reference. June thinks
          on a higher plane than I do. ;-)

          Faith: This is where I think ICD/IxD/Ux people run into trouble with
          some Agle folk who have the bias for delivering index cards with "as a
          shmo I want manage widgets so that I can…" stories written on them.
          These clearly defer interaction design till late – and consequently
          defer iterating UI to immediately before construction – and defer
          iterating the /whole/ UI till after some construction – till after we
          see it together as working code rather than as a prototype.

          I really your the layering suggestion. I'll try this. When
          delivering /rough/ UI I always need to explain – using big hand
          gestures – how things will eventually look once we confirm this bit is
          good. Using an overlay to show a possible visual design would help.
          I hate premature elaboration. ;-)

          Mark: The comments that stick in my head are around the tension
          between quick turn around and keeping quality standards high, and "is
          good enough what we're really after?" You sorta get at the heart of
          what I'm talking about. Of course most people want things as good as
          they can be. For commercial software, certainly better than
          competitors'. And, "good enough" is both a subjective and relative
          term. Many people's "good enough" is my "stinky sub-standard."

          For me quality is something I iterate toward both in prototypes and
          later in code. Early iterations would clearly be too rough to release
          to users – later iterations – the one's before the release – I'd
          expect quality to be very high. Basically I want to start with
          stories that are "not good enough" and keep adding stories till I get
          to "really really good." You're observation is correct that in many
          agile environments they use stories that are "good enough" and
          continue with those all the way through – never building to anything
          better than "good enough." And when you add a pile of just "good
          enough" stories together, you often end up with "not so good" – the
          whole being less than the sum of its parts.

          So, on your comment regarding scrutinizing agile process and asking is
          "good enough what really after?" – I'd encourage you to scrutinize the
          agile /practitioners/ a little harder. As I practice Agile, I usually
          fish for something better than good enough.

          Alain: I think you get what I'm saying – and like everyone else you
          don't easily separate the two strategies. You're "do the simplest
          thing that could possible work" comment is a good one. That was a
          mantra I used to hear a lot years ago – and less so today. Don't know
          why, or if I've been hanging around in the wrong circles lately. But,
          when I do hear it – it's with developers talking about code – not the
          people writing user stories using it as a strategy for putting simple
          stories in first and following them up with stories that improve those
          stories.

          The simplest thing that could possibly work at iteration 1 is
          different than the simplest thing that could possibly work at
          incremental release 1. By that I mean on iteration 1 I might want a
          simple story that helps me learn something about what I eventually
          need – "the simplest thing I could possibly learn from". The quality
          may be too low to release – but, it'll help me learn. By the last
          iteration of the release, I'd like the user experience to be high.
          I'd like it to be the "simplest thing I could possibly release."

          Thanks everyone for commenting.

          -Jeff
        • Desilets, Alain
          ... Actually, this mantra was originally coined in the context of code, not UI. But I think it applies to both. Note that the mantra does not say to Stop
          Message 4 of 21 , Aug 10 12:06 PM
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            > Alain: I think you get what I'm saying - and like everyone
            > else you don't easily separate the two strategies. You're
            > "do the simplest thing that could possible work" comment is a
            > good one. That was a mantra I used to hear a lot years ago -
            > and less so today. Don't know why, or if I've been hanging
            > around in the wrong circles lately. But, when I do hear it -
            > it's with developers talking about code - not the people
            > writing user stories using it as a strategy for putting
            > simple stories in first and following them up with stories
            > that improve those
            > stories.

            Actually, this mantra was originally coined in the context of code, not
            UI. But I think it applies to both.

            Note that the mantra does not say to "Stop after the simplest thing...".
            It just says start with that and re-evaluate from there.

            I find having quickly a minimal working version of a feature helps me
            identify the pressure points that matter most.

            > The simplest thing that could possibly work at iteration 1 is
            > different than the simplest thing that could possibly work at
            > incremental release 1. By that I mean on iteration 1 I might
            > want a simple story that helps me learn something about what
            > I eventually need - "the simplest thing I could possibly
            > learn from".

            I like that. It exactly captures what I was talking about above.

            > I'd like it to be the "simplest thing I could possibly release."

            In my case, that releasable thing is always very different from what I
            initially envisaged, and the quick initial build is a necessary step for
            me to find out.

            Alain
          • Jeff Patton
            ... That s _exactly_ what I mean by iterative development. And you d be surprised at how often in agile environments I ve observed people considering that a
            Message 5 of 21 , Aug 10 1:26 PM
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              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
              <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
              >
              > > I'd like it to be the "simplest thing I could possibly release."
              >
              > In my case, that releasable thing is always very different from what I
              > initially envisaged, and the quick initial build is a necessary step for
              > me to find out.

              That's _exactly_ what I mean by iterative development. And you'd be
              surprised at how often in agile environments I've observed people
              considering that a failure. And in particular people in the customer
              or product owner role not letting a user story be written or
              considered complete until it is exactly the way it should be at
              release time - even if the story is played on iteration 1. (I suspect
              my bias is showing through again.)

              thanks,

              -Jeff
            • Jeff Patton
              ... step for ... The question for me - from an agile interaction design perspective is /where/ does the iteration occur?
              Message 6 of 21 , Aug 10 1:31 PM
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                <sorry - clicked send to soon....>

                --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Jeff Patton" <jpatton@...> wrote:
                >
                > --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
                > <alain.desilets@> wrote:
                > >
                > > > I'd like it to be the "simplest thing I could possibly release."
                > >
                > > In my case, that releasable thing is always very different from what I
                > > initially envisaged, and the quick initial build is a necessary
                step for
                > > me to find out.
                >
                > That's _exactly_ what I mean by iterative development. And you'd be
                > surprised at how often in agile environments I've observed people
                > considering that a failure. And in particular people in the customer
                > or product owner role not letting a user story be written or
                > considered complete until it is exactly the way it should be at
                > release time - even if the story is played on iteration 1. (I suspect
                > my bias is showing through again.)

                The question for me - from an agile interaction design perspective is
                /where/ does the iteration occur? Outside of code in prototypes, or
                in code as working software?

                As I've been saying, I've seen an unusual resistance, particularly
                from those in a customer role, to iterating in the working software.
                This forces it to occur before. And for me is sometimes problematic.
                There's only so much I can learn from paper - and for my money higher
                fidelity prototyping quickly approaches diminishing returns when
                compared to working code (at least for the domains I often work in).
                But, when I say working code - I mean working code that's not much
                better than a prototype. I don't mean releasable working code. For
                some it may be crystal clear - for others it all seems to confusing
                and ad hoc to live with.

                Thanks,

                -Jeff
              • Desilets, Alain
                ... I m quite puzzled by that. I would think that a team that a team that opted for an Agile approach would consider reworking a story as a normal and
                Message 7 of 21 , Aug 10 1:35 PM
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                  > > > I'd like it to be the "simplest thing I could possibly release."
                  > >
                  > > In my case, that releasable thing is always very different
                  > from what I
                  > > initially envisaged, and the quick initial build is a
                  > necessary step
                  > > for me to find out.
                  >
                  > That's _exactly_ what I mean by iterative development. And
                  > you'd be surprised at how often in agile environments I've
                  > observed people considering that a failure. And in
                  > particular people in the customer or product owner role not
                  > letting a user story be written or considered complete until
                  > it is exactly the way it should be at release time - even if
                  > the story is played on iteration 1. (I suspect my bias is
                  > showing through again.)

                  I'm quite puzzled by that.

                  I would think that a team that a team that opted for an Agile approach
                  would consider reworking a story as a normal and desirable thing. If
                  anything, if you never need to rework a any stories, you are probably
                  consitently overshooting and wasting money on gold plating.

                  But it sounds like you have seen many teams where people (even including
                  developpers by the sounds of things) interpret the need to rework a
                  story as a sign that something was done wrong?

                  Makes you wonder if those people really understand Agile development
                  altogether.

                  Alain
                • Desilets, Alain
                  ... . Alain responds: Yes, I can imagine that. How do *developpers* feel about iterating in the working software? Another common bias is developpers who are
                  Message 8 of 21 , Aug 10 1:50 PM
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                    > Jeff wrote:
                    >
                    > The question for me - from an agile interaction design
                    > perspective is /where/ does the iteration occur? Outside of
                    > code in prototypes, or in code as working software?
                    >
                    > As I've been saying, I've seen an unusual resistance,
                    > particularly from those in a customer role, to iterating in
                    > the working software.
                    > This forces it to occur before. And for me is sometimes problematic.
                    > There's only so much I can learn from paper - and for my
                    > money higher fidelity prototyping quickly approaches
                    > diminishing returns when compared to working code (at least
                    > for the domains I often work in).
                    .

                    Alain responds:

                    Yes, I can imagine that. How do *developpers* feel about iterating in
                    the working software?

                    Another common bias is developpers who are against iterating outside of
                    working software at all. Those are the ones who believe you should start
                    coding as soon as you can write a couple stories on napkins. I see a lot
                    more of that kind of bias myself.

                    I think you need to do both, as you very justly point out.

                    I'm a little puzzled by what you mean by this part of your post:

                    > But, when I say working code - I mean working code that's not
                    > much better than a prototype. I don't mean releasable
                    > working code. For some it may be crystal clear - for others
                    > it all seems to confusing and ad hoc to live with

                    Do you mean that for example, it's OK to produce code that is buggy
                    while you are iterating in software?

                    My own experience is that it's better to write good quality code
                    TDD-style all the time. Even when I am spiking code that is meant to be
                    throw-away, I will do it TDD style because I truly feel it allows to
                    move faster than if I just hack away. The easiest time to find and fix a
                    bug is right at the moment when you introduce it.

                    The same goes with refactoring. I don't think it's a good idea to
                    accumulate a large design dept in your code while prototyping, and hope
                    that once you are done iterating, you will be able to clean up the code.
                    It's much easier to clean up as you go.

                    I think what you mean by "not releasable" is code that is not function
                    complete, or whose usability is embarassingly bad so that you would not
                    dream to put it in front of an end-user (even a very sympathetic and
                    understanding one). Is that correct?

                    Alain
                  • Jeff Patton
                    ... I should also point out that I get called on to work with UX people new to agile - and one of their biggest concerns is that as well. They generally want
                    Message 9 of 21 , Aug 10 2:02 PM
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                      --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
                      <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > But it sounds like you have seen many teams where people (even including
                      > developpers by the sounds of things) interpret the need to rework a
                      > story as a sign that something was done wrong?
                      >
                      > Makes you wonder if those people really understand Agile development
                      > altogether.

                      I should also point out that I get called on to work with UX people
                      new to agile - and one of their biggest concerns is that as well.
                      They generally want more time to iterate their design so that it can
                      be "more right" before it gets passed to developers as a "user story."
                      And, in my opinion, they often want too much time to get it way too
                      right.

                      It's understandable since many of them have been conditioned by past
                      experience that once they give it to development, not only does
                      development often screw it up, but they rarely get another iteration
                      to fix or improve it. It looks a little like post-traumatic-stress
                      disorder. And, I think a lot of folks with years of experience in
                      traditional software development suffer from it. Not just the UX
                      people. That's why I think I see so much "incrementing" and so little
                      "iterating."

                      thanks,

                      -Jeff
                    • Desilets, Alain
                      ... Yes, I can see how this kind of past experience would condition your get it right the first time reflexes. Do you find that as they work more and more on
                      Message 10 of 21 , Aug 10 2:09 PM
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                        > It's understandable since many of them have been conditioned
                        > by past experience that once they give it to development, not
                        > only does development often screw it up, but they rarely get
                        > another iteration to fix or improve it. It looks a little
                        > like post-traumatic-stress disorder. And, I think a lot of
                        > folks with years of experience in traditional software
                        > development suffer from it. Not just the UX people. That's
                        > why I think I see so much "incrementing" and so little "iterating."

                        Yes, I can see how this kind of past experience would condition your
                        "get it right the first time" reflexes.

                        Do you find that as they work more and more on a true agile environment
                        they start relaxing more (assuming of course that developpers ARE
                        responsive to their requests for changes)?

                        One thing I do notice is that while agile developpers ARE open to
                        changes in terms of adding new functionality or scenarios of use, they
                        tend to be less open to changes in the kind of "details" that makes the
                        difference between a barely usable system, and a system that is a
                        pleasure to use. You know, things like: this should be a picklist
                        instead of a text box type of thing. So maybe that kind of reflex is not
                        completely uncalled for even in an agile context.

                        Alain

                        Oh, and I'll echo your thanks.
                      • Desilets, Alain
                        ... Actually, a better example is something like: The list of images that the user needs to pick from should be displayed as a list of thumbnail images with
                        Message 11 of 21 , Aug 10 2:15 PM
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                          > One thing I do notice is that while agile developpers ARE
                          > open to changes in terms of adding new functionality or
                          > scenarios of use, they tend to be less open to changes in the
                          > kind of "details" that makes the difference between a barely
                          > usable system, and a system that is a pleasure to use. You
                          > know, things like: this should be a picklist instead of a
                          > text box type of thing.

                          Actually, a better example is something like: "The list of images that
                          the user needs to pick from should be displayed as a list of thumbnail
                          images with the file name as opposed to just a list of file names, so
                          that the user does not have to guess or remember what the image is from
                          its file name".

                          Lots of developers (including some agile ones) would see that change as
                          an unimportant detail whose implementation cost outweighs the gains in
                          ease of use.

                          Alain
                        • Jeff Patton
                          ... This reminds me of another weird dead-lock I often see. Developer wants to start work as soon as we have a few lines of text. Asks to know what the UI
                          Message 12 of 21 , Aug 10 2:16 PM
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                            --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
                            <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Yes, I can imagine that. How do *developpers* feel about iterating in
                            > the working software?
                            >
                            > Another common bias is developers who are against iterating outside of
                            > working software at all. Those are the ones who believe you should start
                            > coding as soon as you can write a couple stories on napkins. I see a lot
                            > more of that kind of bias myself.

                            This reminds me of another weird dead-lock I often see. Developer
                            wants to start work as soon as we have a few lines of text. Asks to
                            know what the UI should look like. Analyst or UI person hastily
                            sketches something. Developer is generally happy to refactor their
                            internal design to improve it -but screams "scope creep" or "bad
                            requirements" when the UI needs to change. Basically very willing to
                            iterate internal design, and very unwilling to iterate external design.

                            Again, understandable. They're more comfortable iterating over the
                            parts they understand - because I believe they can better understand
                            when they design is improving. Less willing to iterate over the parts
                            they can understand - because they can't tell if they are or aren't
                            making positive improvements.

                            > I'm a little puzzled by what you mean by this part of your post:
                            >
                            > > But, when I say working code - I mean working code that's not
                            > > much better than a prototype. I don't mean releasable
                            > > working code. For some it may be crystal clear - for others
                            > > it all seems to confusing and ad hoc to live with
                            >
                            > Do you mean that for example, it's OK to produce code that is buggy
                            > while you are iterating in software?

                            Nope - I mean that it's OK to produce software I wouldn't put in front
                            of the consumer. For instance I may leave field validation, some
                            optional fields, and some visual design elements out of the first
                            iteration - but definitely not out of the release.

                            > My own experience is that it's better to write good quality code
                            > TDD-style all the time. Even when I am spiking code that is meant to be
                            > throw-away, I will do it TDD style because I truly feel it allows to
                            > move faster than if I just hack away. The easiest time to find and fix a
                            > bug is right at the moment when you introduce it.

                            I separate quality of code from quality of user experience. So, while
                            I always expect code quality to be high, I'm iterating so that I can
                            improve quality of user experience. For instance my first version
                            with no validation, missing fields, and rough visual design may have
                            high quality code - but have a quality of user experience level I
                            can't live with.

                            The word "quality" is a tough one. To some it means no bugs. To
                            developers it might mean no bugs, and good maintainable design. To UX
                            people it applies to the quality experience. Of course all are right
                            and important.

                            > I think what you mean by "not releasable" is code that is not function
                            > complete, or whose usability is embarassingly bad so that you would not
                            > dream to put it in front of an end-user (even a very sympathetic and
                            > understanding one). Is that correct?

                            yup. I guess I mean non-releasable software.

                            -Jeff
                          • Jeff Patton
                            ... Sadly that true Agile environment seems to be hard to find lately. As Agile has arrive at the other side of the chasm - I see lots of companies adopting
                            Message 13 of 21 , Aug 10 2:22 PM
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                              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
                              <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
                              > Do you find that as they work more and more on a true agile environment
                              > they start relaxing more (assuming of course that developpers ARE
                              > responsive to their requests for changes)?

                              Sadly that "true" Agile environment seems to be hard to find lately.
                              As Agile has arrive at the other side of the chasm - I see lots of
                              companies adopting practices from Agile development, but keeping their
                              traditions software development lifecycle values firmly in place.
                              Even when developers are happy to make changes, the project manager
                              often pushes back after realizing that this will have impact on the
                              project plan.

                              It's tough to get everyone in a big team, particularly in large
                              organizations, to take their waterfall hat off.

                              -Jeff
                            • Desilets, Alain
                              ... This is very much in line about how I think about the code too. I make sure the code is good enough that I can send it out to test users. That means bug
                              Message 14 of 21 , Aug 10 2:34 PM
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                                > > I'm a little puzzled by what you mean by this part of your post:
                                > >
                                > > > But, when I say working code - I mean working code that's
                                > not much
                                > > > better than a prototype. I don't mean releasable working
                                > code. For
                                > > > some it may be crystal clear - for others it all seems to
                                > confusing
                                > > > and ad hoc to live with
                                > >
                                > > Do you mean that for example, it's OK to produce code that is buggy
                                > > while you are iterating in software?
                                >
                                > Nope - I mean that it's OK to produce software I wouldn't put
                                > in front of the consumer. For instance I may leave field
                                > validation, some optional fields, and some visual design
                                > elements out of the first iteration - but definitely not out
                                > of the release.

                                This is very much in line about how I think about the code too.

                                I make sure the code is good enough that I can send it out to test
                                users. That means bug free, and doing something useful. But that does
                                not mean that it can always be deployed in a real use setting. For
                                example, often there is a new feature that I know it is too slow and
                                would crumble under the weight of the traffic.

                                Alain
                              • Desilets, Alain
                                ... There are two ways to read what you said. Interpretation 1: Teams that started using Agile in the early days and did it right are still doing it right.
                                Message 15 of 21 , Aug 10 2:39 PM
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                                  > --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Desilets, Alain"
                                  > <alain.desilets@...> wrote:
                                  > > Do you find that as they work more and more on a true agile
                                  > > environment they start relaxing more (assuming of course that
                                  > > developpers ARE responsive to their requests for changes)?
                                  >
                                  > Sadly that "true" Agile environment seems to be hard to find lately.
                                  > As Agile has arrive at the other side of the chasm - I see
                                  > lots of companies adopting practices from Agile development,
                                  > but keeping their traditions software development lifecycle
                                  > values firmly in place.
                                  > Even when developers are happy to make changes, the project
                                  > manager often pushes back after realizing that this will have
                                  > impact on the project plan.
                                  >
                                  > It's tough to get everyone in a big team, particularly in
                                  > large organizations, to take their waterfall hat off.

                                  There are two ways to read what you said.

                                  Interpretation 1: Teams that started using Agile in the early days and
                                  did it right are still doing it right. It's the late adopters who are
                                  having difficulty taking off their waterfall hat.

                                  Interpreation 2: Even early adopters of Agile are now leaning back
                                  towards a more waterfall approach.

                                  I guess what you are seeing is interpretation 1, right? If so, I am not
                                  that surprised, although I would have thought that agile was so
                                  obviously effective that even late comers would "get it".

                                  Alain
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