Lights... Camera... Arrrgg!

  1. Posted on April 28, 2007 7:52:PM by Earl Beede to Practicing Earl
  2. Technique, humor, increments, defects, planning, Management

There seems to be a third thing certain in life besides death and taxes. That thing seems to be the fact that the moment some moron uses the product or software that I have been working on, they are going to do something stupid. My brilliant work of pristine intellectual purity which functions just the way I want it to will behave like a brakeless car in the hands of a drunken driven; it is going to crash.

I don't know about you but when I release a product I have been working on, I want it to work. I want it to work so well that people say things like, "How did the human race survive without out this. Why, there has been other attempts at doing this, but this, oh my, it really puts everything thing else to shame." Of course, I don't tell anyone I want them to say that. I also admit they probably won't say that because I know there is some moron out there and they will do something to make me go "Arrrgg!"

I often try to outwit the morons. You'd think it would be easy. I develop the product. I test it all sorts of ways. I try to think of the things that the morons will do and make it so that they can't. It is much like the amateur play I recently was in. For the two public performances to raise money for a charity, we rehearsed for months. Some of the other cast members didn't remember their lines the same way the playwright wrote them nor the same way more than once. To deal with that, I came up with witty and clever things to say when they wondered into the script of moron creativity. Then the big night arrived. Lights came on, curtains went up, and Arrrgg! I forgot one of my lines. I became the moron.

It is somewhat similar with my projects. More often than I desire, what I get is something like, "Well that is nice, but did you know that 'X' is not working?" A line somewhere was forgotten. You would think I would be more prepared for an initial Arrrgg! There is usually at least one. A smarter person may even try to get to the Arrrgg! as quickly as possible to get it over with. Maybe that is one of the best things of developing in short increments. You get the Arrrgg!s more quickly and they tend to be smaller. Increment, moron... uh, demo, Arrrgg!; increment, demo, Arrrgg!; increment, demo, Arrrgg! Of course in that situation we don't actually say "Arrrgg!", we say, "Oh, we will put that in the backlog (you moron) and you can prioritize it."

We can't, however, rely on short increments alone to solve the Arrrgg! problem. I know that if my play's cast had not rehearsed, it wouldn't have been just one Arrrgg! but a complete disaster. We had to do some up front work. Even improve groups work together for a long time before they are any good. So some amount of planning, some amount of up front work is required to at least limit the Arrrgg!s. Can I get the Arrrgg!s to zero with enough up front planning? Has there been a moratorium on the making of morons?

The Arrrgg!, therefore, is here to stay. The only question left then is, when do you want to experience your Arrrgg! and how big do you want it to be?

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Earl Beede

Earl Beede, CSDP is a Senior Fellow at Construx Software, where he designs and leads seminars and provides consulting services on early project-lifecycle practices, estimation, requirements, quality assurance, contract management, and software methodologies.

With more than 20 years experience as a quality assurance representative, systems analyst, process architect, and manager, Earl has designed and written software development processes for companies across a wide variety of industries. Prior to joining Construx, he held quality assurance and systems analyst positions at organizations that include the Department of Defense, Boeing Computer Services and Verizon Wireless.

Earl has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington. He is a member of the IEEE Computer Society and a past coordinator of the Seattle Area SPIN (Software Process Improvement Network).

 

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