(This was originally published on Playwell, Alan’s personal blog.)
Elisabeth Hendrickson has recently opened a new test-and-development training facility in Pleasanton CA called Agilistry. It’s bright and airy, well-lit and well-stocked, and it feels like home the minute you walk in. In order to publicize her new facility, she very generously hosted a week-long intensive learning exercise.
She invited eleven different people with widely varied skill sets, backgrounds, and interests. She challenged them to build a website in five days using the best practices of interaction design, agile programming, and test-driven-development. We christened it “AgileUpToHere” (#au2h) and it exceeded everyone’s expectations (you can see our results here).
Since it was my 15-year-old homophone web site that was being rebuilt, I nominally played the role of product owner, but I was an observer, an instigator, a goad, and a participant. It’s hard to remember when I had so much fun or learned so much. If you want to learn to be great, I strongly recommend Elisabeth and Agilistry.
Things I learned:
- After 25 years, it’s time to lose the Windows computer and get a Mac.
- Good agile developers are self confident; confident enough to trust interaction designers to do interaction design without distrustful oversight.
- There are lots of programmers who understand that relational databases are not the only approach to solving problems.
- It is time to build software.
- Test-driven-development isn’t fully understood. In fact, software testing isn’t fully understood.
- When even the leanest developer in the room sees really high quality BDUF (big design up front) for the first time, they get all woo-woo and want some for themselves.
- Getting good software built demands the contributions of many different personalities, competencies, and roles, most of which are new and as-yet ill-defined.
- Two programmers pairing can create more and better code in less time than one programmer can (I already knew this, but it’s always good to see it in action).
- Even this jaded old fart can still get excited about changing the world.
- There are many undiscovered and unfilled product niches on the Web, and one of them is “quality”.
- People want a leader with a vision.
- Elisabeth Hendrickson (@testobsessed) is a magical woman. To paraphrase Tom Robbins, “she’s been around the world eight times and met everybody twice.” Like a great chef or symphony conductor, Elisabeth knows how to combine the unexpected to create the sublime. She brought together a dozen people from all over the country, each with different skills, background, desires, and expectations, and then she blended them together into a cohesive, happy, effective team.
- The pre-written code I arrived with was called “legacy” with a grimace, and was quarantined until discarded. Moral: Non-TDD (test-driven development) code is properly regarded like a ticking time bomb.
- For interaction design, you can’t have too many white boards, made from porcelain-coated steel, firmly mounted to the wall. For agile development, that isn’t such a big deal.
- Story-mapping is a major component of the bridge between interaction design and agile development.
- Story-tracking software isn’t quite there yet.
Alan Cooper is the co-founder of Cooper and a pioneer of the modern computing era. He created the programming language Visual Basic and wrote industry-standard books on design practice like “About Face.”