The Drive To Help

Have you ever noticed how much children love to help? Modern motivational theory offers us a triplet: purpose, autonomy, and mastery. (PAM) children helping surely excites P and M there. As adults we’re all slightly less desirous of helping. I attribute this to two factors. First, there’s a lot less M in it for me usually nowadays. I already know how to, say, sweep the floor, and I’m less driven by mastery. Second, we bring more of our own P …

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Test It Where It’s Easy

Test It Where It’s Easy A basic mantra: don’t test things where they’re hard to test. A very basic application of this mantra comes up for almost every noob TDD’er: "How do I test this complex private method?" The answer is simple: make it not private somewhere else and test it there instead. If your private is truly complex, it’s truly interesting, and needs testing. But ask why it has to be private? The most common answer: "I don’t want …

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Standardize-By-Problem, Live Vertically

The Problems with Enterprise Standards I’ve been thinking lately of how much "enterprise standards" ruin our lives. When I coach in VBCA environments, I confront this problem more or less constantly. The standards can be enterprise tools, enterprise negotiations, enterprise processes. I see two factors in this. 1) solution-locking definitions, and 2) inadequate coaching reach & action. Solution-locking Definitions Improper solution-locking definitions is my best (bad) phrase for this: we specify standards by solution, not by problem. Let’s take an …

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Scaling Software

I spoze we should talk about scaling. There are a bunch of branded solutions to the puzzle of how to organize development of large apps with large teams. I don’t know of one that is worth the bits consumed in its logo. Yesterday I mentioned assumption-boxing, that’s when we express a problem in such a way that we bind ourselves to one or a small family of possible solutions. The assumption in all the scaling brands I’ve seen: that effectively …

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Pain And TDD

“We were doing TDD just like we’re supposed to, but at some point it started hurting, so we not only quit, we told everyone else on the interwebs that TDD doesn’t work.” I met Kent Beck after a couple of years reading and writing around him, at the first ObjectMentor Extreme Programming (XP) Immersion, a wonderful week I’ll never forget, where I met so many awesome geeks and coaches. (Kent Beck, Mike Feathers, James Grenning, Bob Martin, Ron Jeffries, Martin …

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Making Complex Changes

It happens that there are sometimes very complex changes you want to make to your code. These might involve changes to dozens of existing classes, and to the heirs of some of those, too. How do we approach this kind of situation? Recall that managing mental scope is the very heart of programming well. But any such change is sure to blow all hope of narrow mental scope right out of the water. We can only manage mental scope if …

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How Much Design? When To Start & When To Stop

Alright, pre-coding design. By that, I mean, the serious thinking one does before one starts typing code into the computer. The first puzzle of pre-coding design is to identify when to start & went to stop. Start When You Have A Story When to start: when a story has been selected for implementation. That starting condition will be tricky for noobs, so let me blather for a minute. There’s no time to discuss stories in general, but in short, by …

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Getting Them To Do X

How to Steer a Horse Coaches come to me and ask me questions that start with "How can I get them to …" There’s a quote, I’m having a hard time finding a reference, but it’s something like this… (reference appreciated) "The easiest way to steer a horse is to want to go where the horse wants to go." I find that the easiest way to "get them to do X" is to find them wanting to do X and …

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Estimating: Stop Trying Harder

(Note: Lightly edited and adapted from a twitter thread, where I’m @GeePawHill. Noobs be advised, I speak freely there.) Accuracy in estimating software development times is a powerful example of forty years of "try harder" not producing any positive results. Now, given some small change X and some substantial knowledge of the current state of my software, I can usefully estimate short-term work, from a few minutes up to a 50% hit-rate around about a week. This is because I …

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Information <-> Behavior Isn’t Simple

Information and Behavior The most common difficulty confronting young coaches may be their oversimple grasp of the relationship between information & behavior. In this oversimple version, behavior derives primarily from the information possessed by the behaver. It’s quite alluring then to treat info as a surrogate for behavior. That leads to thinking every situation can be resolved by applying more/different/better info. (this is hardly unique to coaches, of course, but most of us aren’t focused on behavior to nearly the …

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