C. Keith Ray

C. Keith Ray writes about and develops software in multiple platforms and languages, including iOS® and Macintosh®.
Keith's Résumé (pdf)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bits and Pieces

(Originally posted 2003.Apr.12 Sat; links may have expired.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Bay Area weather was so nice that I dragged myself to work with some effort. I had previously signed up and worked on a story that I knew I could finish off by the end of the day, and I didn't want to not finish it and loose the three story points from my team's velocity. So I do the hard thing and get the work done. And today, Saturday, it is raining. Bleh.

I'm sure that the weekly traffic patterns affect the weather -- all that automobile pollution keeps the area warmer than normal, and then on Saturday the cold and rain comes in because there's little traffic. Or something like that. I've read that California gets some of the pollution generated by China, so maybe Beijing's weekly traffic/pollution patterns are at fault.

Another bit on agile requirements... XP doesn't say how to gather requirements. RUP does. I attended one of the presentations by Dan Rawsthorne of Net Objectives, a presentation called Comparing RUP, XP, and Scrum: Mixing a Process Cocktail for Your Team (Check that link for their slides in PDF form). Dan recommends combining RUP's Use Case creation techniques, with Net Objective's own "Ever Unfolding Story" technique, to create stories for XP's release plan/iteration plan. He says that a typical Use Case can create up to forty XP stories. Maybe ten of the stories are the "core" of the Use Case and can be delivered in one or two iterations. Another ten may be important for the final release but of lower priority. The other twenty stories may not need to be implemented at all -- but a typical heavyweight RUP project probably would have implemented them. If you have question about this or the "Ever Unfolding Story", please talk to Dan at www.netobjectives.com... I'm just reporting here.
I do want Dan to correct one of the slides... the one about XP and the "business levels". The slide about RUP shows RUP "touching" the business level at "kickoff", "delivery 1.0", "delivery 2.0", and so on... Dan asserted that XP doesn't "touch" the business level, and drew the slide on page 22 of the PDF file that way. That's WRONG. XP's "Small Releases" correspond exactly to the RUP process slide's "delivery 1.0" and "delivery 2.0". Those releases every three or six months are at the business level, to get feedback from actual users.

I also attended a one-day class on Project Management recently. The simulated project was waterfall, but the word "waterfall" was never mentioned. There was no mention of the possibilities for iteration, incremental development, or even feedback. I don't think any of those terms were in the vocabulary taught as part of class. The instructor had never even heard of Rational Unified Process ("Rational Who?"), much less Extreme Programming, Scrum, Feature Driven Development, etc. That's scary.

So what did I learn in this project management class? Well, the project process has Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing. No mention of maintenance. Not much about people issues.

Planning included the "Work Breakdown Structure" (a rather unfortunately overly task-oriented breakdown of features that does have some resemblance to XP's "Release Plan", sorta.) We saw a "Responsibility Matrix" correlating tasks with "do, review, and approve" columns. We learned about finding the Critical Path on a Gantt Chart. A little bit of Risk Management and mitigation planning. And of course, "resource" allocation and management. [I'm having a vision ala Solyent Green: "Resources are people!"]

The "trade-off triangle" of Time, Cost, and Scope/Requirements was mentioned. No mention of the zeroth law of software engineering: "If you do not care about quality, you can meet any other requirement."

We learned a lot of vocabulary, with emphasis on "crashing" (adding resources to decrease the project schedule -- hmm -- like getting nine women to have have a baby in one month? No mention of Brook's law.) and "fast-tracking" (defined as "compressing the schedule by overlapping activities normally performed in sequence").

My hand-out from this one-day class says "the PMBOK is the standard knowledge source for project management," and lists a bunch of books. Some of the books I've heard of -- Critical Chain by Goldratt, some of them I've read -- The Deadline by DeMarco (I wish he could go back and write an "agile" second edition or sequel), some of them sound good Customer-Driven Project Management by Barkley & Saylor, and some of them are just scary -- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Project Management.

Keith Ray is developing new applications for iOS® and Macintosh®.. Go to Sizeography and Upstart Technology to join our mailing lists and see more about our products.

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