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Re: [agile-usability] Inside Steve's Brain

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  • Ron Jeffries
    Hello, Robert. On Tuesday, June 10, 2008, at 8:03:31 AM, you ... With all due respect, I m not at all sure that you do understand, not entirely because we
    Message 1 of 140 , Jun 10, 2008
      Hello, Robert. On Tuesday, June 10, 2008, at 8:03:31 AM, you

      > Ron Jeffries wrote:
      >> I meant that Agile Software Development is about software
      >> development. It begins when the project begins, with software pretty
      >> much that day. If someone wants to spend time dreaming or designing
      >> or such prior to authorizing the software project, that is, in my
      >> opinion, outside Agile.

      > So I guess this is a similar resolution to another recent discussion
      > on this list. I can understand the distinction you want to make, but
      > I don't think it's very helpful, especially on this list.

      With all due respect, I'm not at all sure that you do understand,
      not entirely because we don't agree, although that might be playing
      into it, since I suffer from that disability where one thinks that
      smart people must ultimately agree. :-)

      > I understood "software development" to be a broad inclusive term, and
      > so covered, for example, UI designers: but you seem to be using it
      > simply to mean "programming". Is that right?

      No, not just programming. But I do mean the term to refer to the
      course of actual development of software according to Agile

      One of the essentials of Agile Software Development is "early and
      continuous delivery of valuable software." As such, it seems to me
      that while there might be lots of usability activity going on, and
      that would be just wonderful, there //must// be software being
      developed, or it isn't an Agile project at all.

      Suppose that software is not being written now, but we are doing the
      envisioning of software, the creation of fantasies about software,
      imagining software, deciding whether or not to write software or
      what software to write, or other just plain thinking about software.
      What is that activity? I'm not sure. But it isn't Agile Software
      Development because No Software.

      Mind you, those may be important, even critical activities prior to
      actually starting the project. It's just that since Developing
      Software is a sine qua non to doing Agile Software Development,
      activities like this, in the absence of Developing Software can't
      possibly be part of an Agile project.

      Now more to what I take to be our purpose here, these activities
      certainly are also vitally important /during/ the project.

      In my opinion, until a team is producing "Done" software at the end
      of every iteration(*), it cannot claim to be doing "Agile Software
      Development", or at least cannot claim to be doing it very well.

      So what might go on before that could be incredibly wonderful and
      valuable, and it could be a critical precursor to the project, but I
      don't see how it can be Agile Software Development without ...
      Software Development.

      > It seems unreasonable to
      > me, as UI design work strongly affects the software.

      Yes, of course UI design work strongly affects the software. No one
      is denying that. UI design might be critical to its success. Done
      //inside// the Agile cycle, it can and should be a key part of Agile
      Software Development.

      Done //outside// the Agile cycle, I don't see how UI work could
      possibly be part of Agile Software Development, nor why we would
      want it to be.

      > It also seems unhelpful to put designing in a group with dreaming
      > and authorizing.

      Part of designing is often done prior to authorizing the project,
      and prior to actually initiating the project. As such it //is// in a
      group with envisioning, authorizing, dreaming, and anything else we
      do before we start actually doing the project. I don't have anything
      against dreaming: I just distinguish it from other forms of work,
      notably production of software.

      Perhaps we have some disagreement on when an Agile project starts? I
      suggest that it starts N days before the first delivery of software,
      where N is the length of the iterations. (And no, I don't favor a
      long zeroth iteration.)

      Now "The XYZ Project" might be deemed to be started a year
      beforehand, with people figuring out business models and wonderful
      designs of all kinds. But that ain't Agile. With Agile, there
      //must// be software. I don't see any way out of that without
      completely redefining what we said at Snowbird.

      > Further, it seems silly to put UI design outside of
      > "Agile", when it has a process that is agile, and had it long before
      > that was common in programming.

      This argument seems to me to be specious. UI design may be "agile",
      although it isn't always. But if we are talking about "Agile", it
      seems to me that we need to talk about what was set forth in
      Snowbird, and that includes the delivery of software.

      > In a group on "agile usability", you seem to be suggesting that the
      > main element of the process should be programming. I don't see how
      > that makes sense, when you have not addressed how usability happens.

      No, no, no. I am amazed at my apparent inability to express a simple
      idea. A //critical// element of Agile Software Development is the
      Development of Software. If there is no Software Development going
      on, then there is no noun phrase for Agile to modify and therefore
      there is no Agile Software Development.

      The programming has an interesting aspect. The product cannot exist
      without it, and in that sense it is a sine qua non. However, a great
      idea or great design, or even a market blitz can sometimes transcend
      a cruddy implementation. (Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:
      Microsoft Windows!)

      We must have programming (in one form or another). It's critically
      important -- and yet it does not o'ershadow other critical elements.

      > I still see this area as new, and I don't think there is a widely
      > accepted way to bring UI design and usability testing together with
      > programming in an agile process. You seem to want to some strong
      > distinctions, yet I haven't seen any evidence that your approach leads
      > to good software that includes good UI design.

      For our purpose here, I do want a single strong distinction: Agile
      Software Development is characterized by the regular iterative
      production of software.

      I'm not here to offer evidence. I don't know the answer to the
      question. I'm just trying to keep us focused on a key question,
      which is how to get good UI design //into// Agile Software
      Development, rather than (for example) how to do it outside the
      loop. To the extent that UX people try to do their work outside the
      loop, I think we and they will lose.

      > Have I missed something? Or is this word-play?

      My answers here are: "Yes, I think so. No, emphatically not."

      It is common in specialty groups like this one (and in groups with
      names like "agile modeling" and "agile testing") to fall back into
      looking at a way of doing these specialties "outside" the Agile
      iterative cycle. The real value will come from those who recognize
      that to use one's special expertise best in an Agile Software
      Development project, one has to get //inside// the iteration.

      Do you want to do UI in an Agile project? Super! If the Agile
      project starts today, then two weeks (**) from today, and every two
      weeks after that, we need real, value-bearing, software. "Agile
      Usability" needs to get on board with that. Some folks, notably Jeff
      Patton, are on board with that. Keep it coming!

      Ron Jeffries
      Speculation or experimentation - which is more likely to give the correct answer?

      (*) There are branches of "Agile" who think that iterations are not
      necessary. They agree that frequent delivery of value-bearing
      software is necessary, and generally deliver more frequently, not
      less so.

      (**) Or one week, or a month. Some short regular cycle. Shorter
      generally better.
    • Desilets, Alain
      ... I agree totally. Ethnographic user research should aim at understanding the user THROUGH understanding how they work today. The aim is not to just
      Message 140 of 140 , Jun 25, 2008
        > But I am against research just been done at the before the project starts and then that is it, and
        > totally against design been fixed before the project starts.
        > The challenge is that the research is descriptive and not predictive, and is often used in a
        > prescriptive manner. I have been involved in some projects where there has been the assumption that
        > the consumers behaviour remains fixed.

        I agree totally. Ethnographic user research should aim at understanding the user THROUGH understanding how they work today. The aim is not to just replicate the way they work today.

        Here's an example taken from my contextual inquiries with translators.

        We noticed that NOT ONE OF THEM used collaboratively built linguistic resources like ProZ, Wiktionary and OmegaWiki. That's not necessarily to say that collaboratively built resources would not be useful to them and that you should not build them. It may be that collaboratively built resources have just not made it into their world right now.

        However, the CI observation gives us many useful information about how a collaborative resource should be built to serve the needs of translators. For example, we noticed that translators at least pay a lot of lip service to "trustworthy sources". So you know that with a collaborative resource where pretty much anybody can write content, you are up against a perception of lack of trustworthiness. At the same time, we noticed that when translators can't find a solution in trusted resources (ex: the terminology database of the Gov of Canada), they have no qualms about looking in less trustworthy resources, for example by doing a search on the internet. So, it could be that translators will be willing to use collaborative resources if they have more coverage than "trusted" ones. As the translators use the resource more and more, they will notice that they quality is high, and may get over the lack of trust barrier.

        But all of that is of course hypothetical. They are hints that help you narrow down the search space. But a case like this, those hints are particularly important, because a wiki cannot be tested with individuals. It can only be realistically tested with a large community. It's like the WWW. You couldn't test the concept of the WWW without having a network of millions of interlinked pages already (although you could test the concept of a web browser on individuals). So, the only way to realistically test a wiki is to deploy it and see what happens. So the turnaround time for validating your decisions is longer. Hence the importance of having good a-priori data to guide your initial choices. Of course if you deploy something and it doesn't work, you should listen to what the community is telling you through their actual use of the real thing.

        > There is research that uses sweeping statements like from Broadbent and Cara's NEW ARCHITECTURES OF
        > INFORMATION Paris 2002.
        > "During the past four years, we have carried out hundreds of observations of people using the Web."

        > which leads them to a conclusion that
        > Most light users have very stereotypical behaviours: after six months of usage of the Internet they
        > stop even trying to do searches through a search engine and consult systematically the same six or
        > seven sites.
        > Broadbent and Cara's observations tell us about the time before google.

        I agree that behaviour which is specifically tied to technology can change rapidly, hence the need to conduct this type of research continuously.

        However, CI will also yield information that is pretty much independent of technology. For example, we have noticed that translators do not blindly trust ANY sources (even official ones like Gov of Canada terminology database), and will systematically consult at least two different resources to resolve any given translation difficulty. The only exception to that is when the translator hast the proper translation at the tip of his tongue, and uses lookup in a single resources to remember it. I'm being told that this behaviour was there already when translators used paper dictionaries only.

        > My argument is that any new product changes the user behaviour, and therefore you need to get the new
        > product in front of the user as soon as possible, so that you can feed back the users behaviour back
        > into the next iteration.

        Yes, you should do that.

        > Research needs to be carried out before so that you can set up the goals of the project, and the
        > stories. It needs to be done during development so that you can feed back the user behaviour back
        > into the product,  and then after to find out when you need to make the next version.


        Alain Désilets
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