Thursday, September 10, 2009

Becoming More Useful

This is an article about writing articles.

I get to relearn lessons from time to time. An example is the discussion that went on behind the scenes while producing the Stop The Bad Test Death Spiral card at Agile In A Flash.

I saw Ben and Phil speak at Agile2009, partly because I know Ben and expect him to someday have a large impact on the world of software development, based on his intellect and personality. Ben and I were coworkers briefly at Object Mentor, and I got to work with him a very little. I don't know Phil, but enjoyed meeting him. They are at Improving Works now, the commercial entity behind Infinitest (a Continual Testing tool). I asked if I could borrow the death spiral steps for an InAFlash card, and they graciously agreed.

I produced the card and my spin on the points and turned it over to my partner Jeff Langr for review. Jeff pointed out that it was interesting enough, and true enough, but as an extract from the context of the talk it is not particularly helpful.

I've had similar remarks about my blog posts from Bob Koss. He suggested that an article is good to the extent that it helps people do their jobs. I realized that he was right still, and Langr was channeling that same wisdom.

Jeff suggested that we provide remedies for each of the steps along the way so that people can get some real benefit from the card. While I am not crazy about violating the boundaries of the single 3x5 card (bleed-over) I realized that there is value in the idea.

Jeff started the remedies list, I joined in, and Jeff reproduced the cards. I thought I liked the Daniel Black font, now am not so sure. Either way, the new cards are far more useful than the old one was alone.

As a blogger, tweeter, writer, coder, email correspondent I need to be more focused on whether I'm actually helping people do their job instead of providing sparkling commentary and a personal touch. I've been working on that, and will work harder in the future to make it so.

While we all have personalities, this Agile stuff is about delivering value frequently.