Worthwhile automation

In many situations, software exists to automate what would otherwise be done manually in business. For example, calculating interest on bank accounts. It also enables us to do things we’d never be able to do by hand. By investing in automating the mundane, we’ve created tools that open up new opportunities. Things not possible, nor fathomable before. Between manually doing…

The mythical developer bias

Every once in a while someone brings up the subject of developer bias. This usually happens in the context of a conversation about software verification. How do we verify the software does what we need it to do? By developer bias, these individuals are referring to their perception of some universal law that developers can’t ensure the software actually works.…

Progress isn’t that complicated

Task counts, burndown charts, measuring velocity, estimates, backlog size, estimated hours, completed hours, use cases remaining, number of stories done, number of stories being tested, etc. There are so many ways people try to measure and quantify expended effort and compare it to estimated remaining effort. Often in an attempt to convey some indication of progress. Most of the time…

The cost of dead code and the only technique you need to know to clean it up

Vestigial features are a common plague in software. There’s a special type of this that often goes unnoticed. Vestigial features are usually usable features that simply aren’t used. But under the hood, every system has some code that isn’t even exposed. It doesn’t support a feature users can access. It’s often the result of experimentation, or perhaps a vestigial feature…

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Islands of value

Waterfall has a bad rap, likely deserved, of over-committing to the minutiae of what it will take to create or modify software over the course of many months and years. For this, and many other reasons, agile development favors change over following a plan. Unfortunately, this often results in a severe degree of under-commitment, the polar opposite of over-commitment. Both…

Hoarding features

A few weeks ago I stumbled on an article about clutter. Apparently hoarding is now considered a psychiatric disorder. I wonder what took so long to come to that conclusion. The article referenced the DSM-5, released in 2013: hoarding, is now a distinct psychiatric disorder, defined in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 as “persistent difficulty discarding possessions, regardless of…

So that shouldn’t be optional

User stories are a popular technique to organize software development. While many use them to record future work, they’re much more valuable as a means to enable effective communication. By using the As A, I Want, So That format, we capture three important things: who, what and why. The latter is what matters most. We can alter who and what,…