Xtreme Programming / Agile Development and Documentation

Subject: Xtreme Programming / Agile Development and Documentation
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 09:12:45 -0500

I have no direct experience with this, but my relatively shallow reading about Xtreme programming (see, for instance, www.extremeprogramming.org/) suggests that when it works, it works because the designers are using yet another variant of Alan Cooper's "personas" concept to carefully figure out what they want to do rather than making it up as they go. Among other things, this focuses more direclty on the user and limits creeping featuritis.

This is not rocket science: it's akin to telling your architect that you want one bathroom on each level of the house, then providing details (e.g., the upstairs one should be an ensuite) rather than the traditional software development model of "house building" which might be akin to the following architectural instructions: Here are a bunch of cool things we want that nobody will use. Oh yeah--put in the usual house stuff. Like we should probably throw in at least one bathroom somewhere, but if we run out of time, don't worry; it's expendable. The important thing is that it looks cool.

Another key characteristic of Xtreme programming is that programmers work together to examine algorithms and code before, during, and after implementing the code, which makes the code come together faster because there's quality control (reality checks) at every step in the process, so that many (perhaps most) bugs are eliminated early on rather than being left to fester. The goal is to make it work, then figure out elegant optimizations later. Again, not rocket science.

Needless to say, like any simple and sensible approach, it now has a new name and the gleam of shiny new stainless steel. (Think "Information Mapping" and you'll get the idea: common sense that most educated professionals already know, but packaged in such a way that it suddenly becomes easy to follow that common sense. That's arguably a very good thing.) Like most other great ideas, Xtreme has undoubtedly been widely misunderstood by pointy-haired managers and perverted by ill-informed and ill-considered marketing schemes. But the principles seem very sound, and are worth investigating.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
www.geoff-hart.com
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References:
Xtreme Programming / Agile Development and Documentation: From: HSC Italian
Re: Xtreme Programming / Agile Development and Documentation: From: Edwin Skau
Re: Xtreme Programming / Agile Development and Documentation: From: Peter Neilson

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