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Re: [XP] Experiment on size of unit of work - how low can you go?

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  • Steven Gordon
    Hi John, I believe your idea would work well once there is some accepted, working software. However, I do not see how to get started from scratch. Would you
    Message 1 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
      Hi John,

      I believe your idea would work well once there is some accepted, working
      software.

      However, I do not see how to get started from scratch. Would you start by
      making a series of changes that went from nothing working to nothing
      working until you magically got to something to deliver?

      On Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 8:27 PM, John Carter <john.carter@...> wrote:

      > **
      >
      >
      > First, a thought experiment.
      >
      > Traditionally a "feature" was the unit of work to be planned, created,
      > integrated and tested.
      >
      > As we became more agile we broke these units of planning, creation and
      > test, and integration into smaller and smaller chunks...
      >
      > Question: How small can I go?
      >
      > What if I designed my efforts, from planning, to test, to creation, to
      > integration, to documentation, to pushed, done and dusted to _all_ be The
      > Smallest Change that will provably not break anything?
      >
      > How small can that go?
      >
      > So my experiment for the next month or so...
      >
      > Can I break _everything_ I do down to "smaller than a work day" from plan,
      > to test, to work done and documented, to pushed done and dusted to
      > repository?
      >
      > By "done and dusted" I mean if I forgot, died, or went on to something
      > else... whatever I did could remain unchanged within the code base without
      > detriment, and preferable with benefit, to the customer.
      >
      > --
      > John Carter Phone : (64)(3) 358 6639
      > Tait Electronics Fax : (64)(3) 359 4632
      > PO Box 1645 Christchurch Email : john.carter@...
      > New Zealand
      >
      >


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • George Dinwiddie
      Steven, ... I ve done this, myself. It still takes awhile for the stories to add up to something releasable, but I ve been able to start from nothing and work
      Message 2 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
        Steven,

        On 1/10/13 10:55 AM, Steven Gordon wrote:
        > Hi John,
        >
        > I believe your idea would work well once there is some accepted, working
        > software.
        >
        > However, I do not see how to get started from scratch. Would you start by
        > making a series of changes that went from nothing working to nothing
        > working until you magically got to something to deliver?

        I've done this, myself. It still takes awhile for the stories to add up
        to something releasable, but I've been able to start from nothing and
        work in tiny steps. It does take practice.

        - George

        >
        > On Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 8:27 PM, John Carter <john.carter@...> wrote:
        >
        >> **
        >>
        >>
        >> First, a thought experiment.
        >>
        >> Traditionally a "feature" was the unit of work to be planned, created,
        >> integrated and tested.
        >>
        >> As we became more agile we broke these units of planning, creation and
        >> test, and integration into smaller and smaller chunks...
        >>
        >> Question: How small can I go?
        >>
        >> What if I designed my efforts, from planning, to test, to creation, to
        >> integration, to documentation, to pushed, done and dusted to _all_ be The
        >> Smallest Change that will provably not break anything?
        >>
        >> How small can that go?
        >>
        >> So my experiment for the next month or so...
        >>
        >> Can I break _everything_ I do down to "smaller than a work day" from plan,
        >> to test, to work done and documented, to pushed done and dusted to
        >> repository?
        >>
        >> By "done and dusted" I mean if I forgot, died, or went on to something
        >> else... whatever I did could remain unchanged within the code base without
        >> detriment, and preferable with benefit, to the customer.

        --
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
        Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
        Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      • Charlie Poole
        As you go smaller and smaller, don t you reach the point where it s no longer a story? That is, no longer viewed as having value by the customer? I think we
        Message 3 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
          As you go smaller and smaller, don't you reach the point where it's no
          longer a story? That is, no longer viewed as having value by the customer?

          I think we have to keep the distinction between units of work (tasks?) and
          stories clear in our minds. Clearly, we often have to do a lot of things
          that are not viewed as valuable by the customer in order to make some thing
          that is of value. The trick is to minimize how much effort we put into such
          things and move toward value as quickly as we can.

          One way I've found of going smaller is to work with the Customer to expand
          what is seen as having value. So, for example, the Customer may grow to see
          value in seeing that certain high-risk tasks are done successfully, because
          it increases the probability of project success, even if the results are
          not releasable. But we can't just go ahead and make that judgement
          ourselves - it's a key insight of XP that the Customer is the definer of
          value and I wouldn't want to forget that.

          Charlie


          On Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 8:41 AM, George Dinwiddie
          <lists@...>wrote:

          > **
          >
          >
          > Steven,
          >
          > On 1/10/13 10:55 AM, Steven Gordon wrote:
          > > Hi John,
          > >
          > > I believe your idea would work well once there is some accepted, working
          > > software.
          > >
          > > However, I do not see how to get started from scratch. Would you start by
          > > making a series of changes that went from nothing working to nothing
          > > working until you magically got to something to deliver?
          >
          > I've done this, myself. It still takes awhile for the stories to add up
          > to something releasable, but I've been able to start from nothing and
          > work in tiny steps. It does take practice.
          >
          > - George
          >
          > >
          > > On Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 8:27 PM, John Carter john.carter@...>
          > wrote:
          > >
          > >> **
          > >>
          > >>
          > >> First, a thought experiment.
          > >>
          > >> Traditionally a "feature" was the unit of work to be planned, created,
          > >> integrated and tested.
          > >>
          > >> As we became more agile we broke these units of planning, creation and
          > >> test, and integration into smaller and smaller chunks...
          > >>
          > >> Question: How small can I go?
          > >>
          > >> What if I designed my efforts, from planning, to test, to creation, to
          > >> integration, to documentation, to pushed, done and dusted to _all_ be
          > The
          > >> Smallest Change that will provably not break anything?
          > >>
          > >> How small can that go?
          > >>
          > >> So my experiment for the next month or so...
          > >>
          > >> Can I break _everything_ I do down to "smaller than a work day" from
          > plan,
          > >> to test, to work done and documented, to pushed done and dusted to
          > >> repository?
          > >>
          > >> By "done and dusted" I mean if I forgot, died, or went on to something
          > >> else... whatever I did could remain unchanged within the code base
          > without
          > >> detriment, and preferable with benefit, to the customer.
          >
          > --
          > ----------------------------------------------------------
          > * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
          > Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
          > Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
          > ----------------------------------------------------------
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • George Dinwiddie
          Charlie, ... Clearly, it depends. It depends on the people involved, and how they perceive value. It also depends on the amount of overhead you have in a
          Message 4 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
            Charlie,

            On 1/10/13 11:49 AM, Charlie Poole wrote:
            > As you go smaller and smaller, don't you reach the point where it's no
            > longer a story? That is, no longer viewed as having value by the customer?

            Clearly, it depends. It depends on the people involved, and how they
            perceive value. It also depends on the amount of overhead you have in a
            story. If you're collocated, and just scribbling titles on index cards,
            the overhead can be very low. If you've got a lot of people, and you're
            estimating effort on stories, then the overhead is a lot higher.

            - George

            --
            ----------------------------------------------------------------------
            * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
            Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
            Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
            ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          • John Carter
            ... break, no dependencies, no legacy code... Fortunately or unfortunately, this late in the history of the industry, there is almost no green field coding
            Message 5 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
              On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 4:55 AM, Steven Gordon <sgordonphd@...> wrote:

              > I believe your idea would work well once there is some accepted, working
              > software.
              >
              > However, I do not see how to get started from scratch.
              >
              > In a sense it is easiest to do in Green Fields programming. So little to
              break, no dependencies, no "legacy" code...

              Fortunately or unfortunately, this late in the history of the industry,
              there is almost no green field coding left...

              (So why is it that Green Field coding is almost the only sort that
              academics teach?
              Surely they must know there is not an entry level job on the planet doing
              that stuff?)


              --
              John Carter Phone : (64)(3) 358 6639
              Tait Electronics Fax : (64)(3) 359 4632
              PO Box 1645 Christchurch Email : john.carter@...
              New Zealand

              --

              ------------------------------
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              damage or interfere with recipient data, hardware or software. The
              recipient relies upon its own procedures and assumes all risk of use and of
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              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • John Carter
              On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 5:49 AM, Charlie Poole ... It s one of the many blessings of distributed version control systems... you
              Message 6 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
                On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 5:49 AM, Charlie Poole <charliepoole@...>
                wrote:

                > As you go smaller and smaller, don't you reach the point where it's no
                > longer a story? That is, no longer viewed as having value by the
                > customer?
                >snip<
                >
                > But we can't just go ahead and make that judgement
                > ourselves - it's a key insight of XP that the Customer is the definer of
                > value and I wouldn't want to forget that.


                It's one of the many blessings of distributed version control systems...
                you suddenly realize there is no real coupling between committing a
                changeset and publishing your work to the rest of the team as "fit for
                consumption".

                So as soon as you realize that... you start committing all the time.

                Every single time the write test / test fail / write code / test pass cycle
                goes green.

                Commit.

                The point about version control systems is they make you brave about
                changing things. (Because you always know _exactly_ what you changed, and
                you can always revert it if it was A Bad Idea.)

                Having got that insight... you suddenly start wondering what else you can
                decouple.

                Yup, as soon as I "push", I have declared my changes as "fit for
                consumption by the rest of the team".

                But I haven't declared it fit for consumption by my customer.

                So what if I shift my "done done" point forward and decoupled that from
                "showing it to the customer".

                ie. The point where it is all Tested, documented, review(ed or
                reviewable...preferably pair programmed, or if I can't do that... the diff
                in a web base
                collaboration tool http://www.reviewboard.org/), integrated, smoke tested,
                pushed to central repository.

                Sort of makes sense really... 90% of what I do to get anything to the "done
                done" point is not really understandable by a customer. It's only when I
                tie a whole bunch of stuff together with a vast bunch of existing stuff
                that the customer goes "Oh cool, I needed that!".

                I want the customer feedback ASAP... but I need (and can get) the feedback
                from the build system, smoke test suite, other developers even faster.

                If every changeset I push is so small "there is obviously nothing wrong
                with it" I will be in a better state than if the answer is "there is
                nothing obviously wrong with it".

                The aim of the experiment is to find out whether it is feasible to decouple
                "done done" from "get customer feedback", and what are the costs and
                benefits.

                I agree with you... anything that would decreasing the feedback from a
                customer would be A Bad Thing.

                How ever, sprint overruns happen sometimes... Priorities change. Shit
                happens both internally and externally. Wouldn't I be in a better state if
                I could point to a pile of "this stuff is done and dusted and I can go on
                to other things if you really want and come back to it later, and this
                other stuff isn't done at all." than sitting with a mouthful of teeth
                mumbling... "Well, it's not done done yet".

                The view of Scrum I'm starting to take is this.... "A Story is a Unit of
                Bidding (amongst competing customer interests and values) for the Team's
                attention."



                --
                John Carter Phone : (64)(3) 358 6639
                Tait Electronics Fax : (64)(3) 359 4632
                PO Box 1645 Christchurch Email : john.carter@...
                New Zealand

                --

                ------------------------------
                This email, including any attachments, is only for the intended recipient.
                It is subject to copyright, is confidential and may be the subject of legal
                or other privilege, none of which is waived or lost by reason of this
                transmission.
                If you are not an intended recipient, you may not use, disseminate,
                distribute or reproduce such email, any attachments, or any part thereof.
                If you have received a message in error, please notify the sender
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                attachments are free from computer viruses or other conditions which may
                damage or interfere with recipient data, hardware or software. The
                recipient relies upon its own procedures and assumes all risk of use and of
                opening any attachments.
                ------------------------------


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Steven Gordon
                ... Easier to do, but less clear how your proposal applies. ... There are many new Android and IPhone apps put out every day. There might be more greenfield
                Message 7 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
                  On Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM, John Carter <john.carter@...> wrote:

                  > **
                  >
                  >
                  > On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 4:55 AM, Steven Gordon sgordonphd@...>
                  > wrote:
                  >
                  > > I believe your idea would work well once there is some accepted, working
                  > > software.
                  > >
                  > > However, I do not see how to get started from scratch.
                  > >
                  > > In a sense it is easiest to do in Green Fields programming. So little to
                  > break, no dependencies, no "legacy" code...
                  >

                  Easier to do, but less clear how your proposal applies.


                  >
                  > Fortunately or unfortunately, this late in the history of the industry,
                  > there is almost no green field coding left...
                  >

                  There are many new Android and IPhone apps put out every day. There might
                  be more greenfield projects today than ever before, but most of them are
                  tiny.


                  >
                  > (So why is it that Green Field coding is almost the only sort that
                  > academics teach?
                  > Surely they must know there is not an entry level job on the planet doing
                  > that stuff?)
                  >

                  You won't get me to defend what academia teaches. I left academia for what
                  it teaches, as well as how research and the university mission has
                  evolved.


                  >
                  > --
                  > John Carter Phone : (64)(3) 358 6639
                  > Tait Electronics Fax : (64)(3) 359 4632
                  > PO Box 1645 Christchurch Email : john.carter@...
                  > New Zealand
                  >
                  > --
                  >
                  > ------------------------------
                  > This email, including any attachments, is only for the intended recipient.
                  > It is subject to copyright, is confidential and may be the subject of
                  > legal
                  > or other privilege, none of which is waived or lost by reason of this
                  > transmission.
                  > If you are not an intended recipient, you may not use, disseminate,
                  > distribute or reproduce such email, any attachments, or any part thereof.
                  > If you have received a message in error, please notify the sender
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                  > Unfortunately, we cannot warrant that the email has not been altered or
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                  > attachments are free from computer viruses or other conditions which may
                  > damage or interfere with recipient data, hardware or software. The
                  > recipient relies upon its own procedures and assumes all risk of use and
                  > of
                  > opening any attachments.
                  > ------------------------------
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Charlie Poole
                  ... might imagine. Even centralized VCSs used to let you do that - although with much more work - by use of what some call promotion. ... Yes, I definitely
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jan 10, 2013
                    On Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 1:29 PM, John Carter <john.carter@...> wrote:

                    > **
                    >
                    >
                    > On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 5:49 AM, Charlie Poole charliepoole@...>
                    > wrote:
                    >
                    > > As you go smaller and smaller, don't you reach the point where it's no
                    > > longer a story? That is, no longer viewed as having value by the
                    > > customer?
                    > >snip<
                    > >
                    > > But we can't just go ahead and make that judgement
                    > > ourselves - it's a key insight of XP that the Customer is the definer of
                    > > value and I wouldn't want to forget that.
                    >
                    > It's one of the many blessings of distributed version control systems...
                    > you suddenly realize there is no real coupling between committing a
                    > changeset and publishing your work to the rest of the team as "fit for
                    > consumption".
                    >
                    > Indeed, although that notion isn't as strongly coupled to DVCSs as one
                    might imagine. Even centralized VCSs used to let you do that - although
                    with much more work - by use of what some call "promotion."

                    > So as soon as you realize that... you start committing all the time.
                    >
                    > Every single time the write test / test fail / write code / test pass cycle
                    > goes green.
                    >
                    > Commit.
                    >
                    Yes, I definitely do that locally. Makes it much easier to go back than
                    pushing ctrl-Z 500 times.

                    >
                    > The point about version control systems is they make you brave about
                    > changing things. (Because you always know _exactly_ what you changed, and
                    > you can always revert it if it was A Bad Idea.)
                    >
                    > Before distributed version control, I used to advocate just deleting your
                    changes.
                    Braveness in deleting code is an important value for agile programmers.
                    Version control gives you a better way to keep track of how far back you
                    need to erase.

                    > Having got that insight... you suddenly start wondering what else you can
                    > decouple.
                    >
                    > Yup, as soon as I "push", I have declared my changes as "fit for
                    > consumption by the rest of the team".
                    >
                    > Pre-XP, I worked on a project where the first level of commit meant the
                    code was good for me, the next level meant it was good for the team and
                    the third that it could be used by testing. When we introduced XP, the
                    third level became "for the customer." I've never heard anyone else
                    enunciate this distinction before! (BTW, we did this using Visual
                    SourceSafe,
                    probably the worst VCS ever written!)

                    > But I haven't declared it fit for consumption by my customer.
                    >
                    > So what if I shift my "done done" point forward and decoupled that from
                    > "showing it to the customer".
                    >
                    > ie. The point where it is all Tested, documented, review(ed or
                    > reviewable...preferably pair programmed, or if I can't do that... the diff
                    > in a web base
                    > collaboration tool http://www.reviewboard.org/), integrated, smoke tested,
                    > pushed to central repository.
                    >
                    > Sort of makes sense really... 90% of what I do to get anything to the "done
                    > done" point is not really understandable by a customer. It's only when I
                    > tie a whole bunch of stuff together with a vast bunch of existing stuff
                    > that the customer goes "Oh cool, I needed that!".
                    >
                    > I want the customer feedback ASAP... but I need (and can get) the feedback
                    > from the build system, smoke test suite, other developers even faster.
                    >
                    > If every changeset I push is so small "there is obviously nothing wrong
                    > with it" I will be in a better state than if the answer is "there is
                    > nothing obviously wrong with it".
                    >
                    > The aim of the experiment is to find out whether it is feasible to decouple
                    > "done done" from "get customer feedback", and what are the costs and
                    > benefits.
                    >
                    > I agree with you... anything that would decreasing the feedback from a
                    > customer would be A Bad Thing.
                    >
                    > Yes, that could be a potential cost of this approach. But not necessarily,
                    I think.

                    > How ever, sprint overruns happen sometimes... Priorities change. Shit
                    > happens both internally and externally. Wouldn't I be in a better state if
                    > I could point to a pile of "this stuff is done and dusted and I can go on
                    > to other things if you really want and come back to it later, and this
                    > other stuff isn't done at all." than sitting with a mouthful of teeth
                    > mumbling... "Well, it's not done done yet".
                    >
                    > The view of Scrum I'm starting to take is this.... "A Story is a Unit of
                    > Bidding (amongst competing customer interests and values) for the Team's
                    > attention."
                    >
                    > I don't want to over-generalize, but in my own experience, Scrum teams
                    (that I've worked on) were a bit more removed from the customer than
                    XP teams. It wasn't as easy to push the notion of customer value lower,
                    by spltting stories, so more attention was paid to (what we used to call)
                    tasks. Others may have had different experience, of course.

                    There is a further level beyond "ready for the customer" and that's
                    "ready for release." Just because the customer has learned to see value
                    in some piece of work that's accomplished does not necessarily mean
                    that the work can be released yet - some minimum level of incremental
                    value may be needed first or some other stories may need to be completed
                    before we reach a "minimal releasable feature."

                    Charlie

                    Charlie

                    > --
                    > John Carter Phone : (64)(3) 358 6639
                    > Tait Electronics Fax : (64)(3) 359 4632
                    > PO Box 1645 Christchurch Email : john.carter@...
                    > New Zealand
                    >
                    > --
                    >
                    > ------------------------------
                    > This email, including any attachments, is only for the intended recipient.
                    > It is subject to copyright, is confidential and may be the subject of
                    > legal
                    > or other privilege, none of which is waived or lost by reason of this
                    > transmission.
                    > If you are not an intended recipient, you may not use, disseminate,
                    > distribute or reproduce such email, any attachments, or any part thereof.
                    > If you have received a message in error, please notify the sender
                    > immediately and erase all copies of the message and any attachments.
                    > Unfortunately, we cannot warrant that the email has not been altered or
                    > corrupted during transmission nor can we guarantee that any email or any
                    > attachments are free from computer viruses or other conditions which may
                    > damage or interfere with recipient data, hardware or software. The
                    > recipient relies upon its own procedures and assumes all risk of use and
                    > of
                    > opening any attachments.
                    > ------------------------------
                    >
                    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    >
                    >
                    >


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