LowComDom Performances Presents
The Crapolla According to Fek'Lar
You know you're screwed when...
Occupy Wall Street refuses to come to your city.
You've stumbled onto another issue of The Crapolla, a journal written for software professionals. No not the managers; I mean the people who do the work.
This Crapolla is sponsored by...
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
In This Issue...
Noting, Protesting, and Telling Stories
What VP's like to see every morning are metrics. They want a simple, easy-to-read report that won't throttle their brains. To that end, I'm required no-less than twice a week to update a field of every record in the primary application I work in so the VP will know what I'm doing without actually knowing what I'm doing.
The process of updating all of the records I'm working on takes a significant amount of time. So instead of worrying too much about it, I've compiled some fun update sentences I use, just to see who is reading.
"Don't read this. Read the Tolstoy novel inside!"
"We're in the deep, dark recesses of this project, when I wait around for the customer to yell at me for no rational reason."
"OMFG the damned thing worked!"
"You have been eaten by a grue."
This year, across North Africa, we saw governments toppled by uprisings of common people who had no sanctioned method of bringing their grievances to their governments. Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt have uncertain futures, but they have gotten rid of their oppressors. Now we are seeing protests all across America. But we are not a North African country. Truth is, protest is an important part of America.
Occupy Wall Street is an unorganized group of people from many walks of life. Each has their list of grievances, mostly with large corporations who, in the eye of the protestors, have wronged the American people. Whether it's the credit collapse, your 401k, your job, or the bail outs, a lot of people have a lot to complain about right now. Things might be different if we saw anyone from Wall Street go to jail for tanking the economy. But according to El Presidente, tanking the economy isn't illegal. Mr. President, that might be so, but fraud is! Now do a Claude Raines and go round up the usual subjects!
I grew up in the 60's (before you were born). I watched black people peacefully protest for their dignity and equality. I watched women peacefully protest for their equality. I also watched the young people of this country end a Presidency by peacefully chanting outside the White House. I'm all for peaceful protests in the streets. I think it's one of America's strengths. After all, the Declaration of Independence is a list of grievanaces. Since the American colonies couldn't get their grievances addressed by either the crown or Parliament, an armed conflict, just as we saw in North Africa, was our only recourse.
Peaceful protests have changed America for the better. Protesters take their grievances to the people, who vote. Protests are the Republic flexing its muscles, reminding those in power from where they draw that power. If you've got a beef with the corporations who think this world is theirs, you need to be in the streets reminding them where the power really lies in this country.
We also have presidential campaigning happening right now. I've noticed the Republicans are telling us that corporations are people. Legally, a corporation is a group of people acting as one. Legally, a corporation is a person. But is a corporation people? The dictionary says that people are humans. A corporation is formed by humans filing a piece of paper and paying a fee. People are formed by two other people in the back seat of a car. Big difference! Corporations are not people, nor are they citizens. They are not officially allowed to vote. Instead, many citizens feel the corporations buy politicians, and the Supreme Court has decided that a corporation can buy all the influence it can afford. You... you only get to vote. There's no way you can match dollar for dollar what a multi-national corporation can spend. (By-the-way, did you know that President Bush (41 not 43) was a registered lobbyist representing the People's Republic of China after he left office? I guess they really did buy him.)
I don't have any tolerance for violent protest. As I've said, this is not a North African country where violence became the only recourse. We have constitutional guarantees which make violence unnecessary. The 60's were a violent time. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. we had the Watts riots and fires. This was caused because people lost faith in Dr. King's peaceful method. If the riots and fires hadn't been stopped, we might still be a divided nation. To win, you have to convince the common people that your cause is just. If you scare the common people with violence, they will not back you.
Agile is an idea where development is divided into "stories". Stories are short development durations, typically just a couple weeks, in which at the end of the story, certain features have been developed. At this point, the product could be released because the two week story was inclusive to this set of features. The product is revised in the production environment very often.
The opposing method is known as the Waterfall method. Let's say you are going to release the 2.0 version of your product. You need to define everything the new version will require. Then you start a long development cycle. The reason it is long is all of the new features need to be complete and tested before release. Whereas in Agile, the features trickle out a few at a time, the Waterfall releases all of the features at the same time.
On the surface, Agile looks attractive. You're able to get to market with new features sooner. If you have a customer who will not sign a contract unless a feature is included, you can get that feature into production quickly, and get the ink wet on the contract many quarters earlier. (In fact, you may be able to stop a competitor from jumping in and poaching the customer.)
But there are down-sides to Agile, not the least of which is the short-sightedness it encourages. When you ask a Product Manager why they aren't going for the more ambitious feature which better solves a problem, they'll tell you it can't be done in a single story. Product Mangers like features that are easily fitted into single stories when Agile is the development method.
But... the best features are the ones which take more work to get them right. Very few market-shaking releases have been done in a single story. Development of real features takes a lot of market research, talks amoungst architects, and sometimes, a lot of trial and error. Yes, sometimes you do the development, and what you made is a pile of crap. In the agile method, you would release this pile of crap. In the waterfall method, there is time to look at the steaming pile, and decide there's a better way.
As an example, I was at Big A Software when Photoshop got the layers feature. We as a company had talked about this for a long time. There were daily builds being handed around the company. I started a large project which used layers, and had really figured out the interface. Then one day, it was completely changed. The new interface (the one you know) was way better than the original. Only the better work was released. That's because Photoshop was using the Waterfall method, and doing a major release only every 18 months.
This 18 month cycle also allowed the company to write, review, edit, re-write, re-review, and re-edit the documentation. It's important to understand that documentation is not in any way part of the Agile method. What does that mean? Simple, the docs of an Agile product are much crappier than that of a Waterfall project.
The other advantage of the 18 month cycle Photoshop used was the time given to the Support organization to learn the new product. There is little or no time to learn new versions in an Agile environment when the releases are so close together. Since all software have both feature and bug sets, Support people must learn both, and then they have to keep them straight as the versions continue to roll out. If there was substantial documentation, this would be do-able, but since documentation is not part of the Agile deliverable, it will not be substantial. Result: Support barely knows the product at the version level.
Agile is a very popular method these days, but you need to remember who it serves, those who like to pick low-hanging fruit, and not those who truly want to change the world. People who get paid by the release love Agile. Their Gant charts are nice and short, and executives are impressed about how much is getting "done".
Since I've only worked at one company doing Agile, it's very possible that WTHAIS is just doing it wrong. I say this because I think of many of my IOS apps, and a few on my Macs. They are constantly being upgraded. But since these applications tend to be simple (including the one I'm writing this with) I never bother reading the docs. I just figure it out. The WTHAIS product is complicated, under-thought in many respects, and doesn't force the customer to take the automatic upgrades, Agile is just a source of post-release confusion.
Perhaps I've just figured it out. Perhaps Agile is a better method when you have a simpler product, it's well designed so the customer doesn't need release notes, user guides, and admin guides. And perhaps it's best to have a product that forces upgrades upon the user so everyone only needs to understand the last version of the product.
I'm interested in your thoughts. Is Agile a dumb-ass idea, or manna from heaven?
Chevy Volt Self-Destruct Easter Egg Unveiled
Automaker says This Should Cut Down on The Number Stolen
Heard in the halls of various software companies.
"If you go to a parent/teacher conference, and light up a joint, suddenly, your kid's not the problem."
"Sometimes, lies are just more interesting."
"We're going to eat at Sizzler because my father doesn't have any digestive organs."
"A man is judged by the enemies he keeps."
"I have satisfied your metric. However, it had nothing to do with getting the job done."
I need to flush my phone.
They pay me to think. These are my thoughts. Do you think they are getting their money's worth?
Remember: The Crapolla contains my personal opinions. That's right they're mine, so get your own! And you kids get off my lawn!
Although written with the software professional in mind, my mind tends to wander all over the place, and I sometimes write about politics, mass stoopidity, dumb things I saw, and whatever else comes to mind.
From time to time, I use salty language, thus The Crapolla is not intended for children, or certain people from the Christian Right.
This whole mess is copyright © 2011 by LowComDom Performances, all rights reserved. Wanna send this to your friends? Go ahead and pass out the URL.
feed available from http://www.lowcomdom.com/crapolla/index.xml