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RE: [agile-usability] Re: incrementing vs. iterating

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  • 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 1 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
      > 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 2 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
        --- 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 3 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
          <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 4 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
            > > > 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 5 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
              > 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 6 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                --- 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 7 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                  > 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 8 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                    > 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 9 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                      --- 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 10 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                        --- 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 11 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                          > > 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 12 of 21 , Aug 10, 2007
                            > --- 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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