Thursday, July 23, 2015

The #NoEstimates Hashtag

I'm not writing about #NoEstimates today, so I recommend the writings of Vasco Duarte, Neil Killick, Woody Zuill, and various publicly-available videos for that.

I'm only writing about the arguments that we see around the #NoEstimates hashtag itself.

Why? Because I think that the hashtag has been a great promotional device, but with some drawbacks. Hopefully by discussing this now, I can be guided to make intelligent choices about any hashtags I decide to create in the future.

The success of the hashtag in drawing attention is great. Heck, a lot of people are already sick of it.

Having recently experienced some of the argument recently after appearing in a podcast (see "poo-shoe effect"), I have a few observations:

  1. Arguing the literal hashtag will get us nowhere.
    When you want to talk about a thing in an online community, you have to have a searchable name for it. For better or worse, #NoEstimates is the term. We can argue how apt or unfriendly it is, but that ship has sailed.  It is the name that you use in Google (or the like).
  2. It's not a debate.
    In a debate, there is a motion or proposition (rule #1), and the debaters begin by agreeing on the motion and the definition of terms. Then come pro- and con- arguments about the proposition.
    Most of the #NoEstimates arguments exist because every attempt to reach an agreement has broken down.
    Either the people or the topic are not ready for a debate.
    Rather than two sides of a single issue, we seem to have a variety of different people with different experiences and thought processes and intentions.
  3. The most hotly contended part? The first two letters of the hashtag.
    It says "No" and there is confusion over what that mean. NoEstimates.org blog's subtitle is "Settle down, it's just a hashtag" but apparently it seems to be much more than that.
    Is it a command? An observation? A preference? A hope? A moral imperative? A war cry?Just a hashtag?
    Does it mean "WE DO not use estimates" or  "YOU MUST not estimates?" 
  4. The other hotly contended part? The term 'estimates'.
    Does this mean that you never do any kind of sizing, estimating, or forecasting?
    When you decide "small enough to do today" isn't that estimating? What kind of estimating are we saying NO to/about? What kinds are we not doing?
    If we do any kind of forecasting, guessing, or sizing does that make the entire "movement" a lie? 
The above are pretty much the soul of controversy. There is always a swirling word-cloud of confusion about it, and I think we can't look to the hashtag to fix it. The hashtag is a term in a context and its meaning must be contextually decided. 

I propose that those who are working in "estimate-free" models are the only ones must provide a definition that will unify the ideas and build a proposition that can be debated.  

But until then, I suggest that we pick through the links to articles posted under the #NoEstimates banner (pro, con, or neutral) and look for the ideas behind the tag. Merely arguing one interpretation of the tag over another is getting us nowhere.