This morning attended an

This morning I attended an agile development seminar in London hosted by Agitar Software and Exoftware and featuring Kent Beck and Mary Poppendieck. I’m pleased to say I’ve taken away some great ideas from all of the speakers.

Kent Beck concentrated on developer testing (a podcast from a previous talk can be found here and a webcast here). He has a great view on quality – quality is an instantaneous measure, it isn’t an ongoing measure. Instead he prefers the idea of the health of the software – how does it perform under stress and respond to changes in stress (increased load, increased usage, team changes, requirements change, business focus change etc). Going a stage further, if individuals within a team can’t respond to stress well, then their software won’t either.

Agitar demonstrated two of their tools – Agitator and Dashboard – both of which are very java focussed, but gave a few ideas to take away. One great quote was “Good QA people are devious – in a good way”.

Mary Poppendieck talked about lean software development. How lessons can be learnt from the comparison with the lean manufacturing processes introduced by companies like Toyota. She has 7 principles, and obviously explained those. I felt that she was a bit rushed, and didn’t really get enough time for her material. I’d be interested to hear/read more, so maybe I’ll take a look at her book at some point. I was particularly interested in hearing about one of the vicious circles relating to QA testing. So, the problem is that the QA team are overloaded with things to test, the result is that QA aren’t available to look at development code early, which results in development getting delayed feedback (and potentially making a problem worse), which results in there being more bugs introduced, which results in QA having more releases to test…

Exoftware talked about user stories, and it was interesting to see the detail they go to, the fact that they produce imaginer users for the various roles in the system, and role play to work out the requirements – this seemed like a great, and very simple idea. He pointed out that a good use story should be Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimatable, Small and Testable (INVEST for those who like mnemonics). Some of their presentations are available online.

At tonight Cafe Scientifique

At tonight’s Cafe Scientifique Daniel Nettle talked about happiness. Not in a hippy self-help way, but in a psychological, physiological, sociological, behavioural way.
Happiness, though tricky to measure, hasn’t increased since the ’50s despite the over-wehelming increase in wealth and health. There seems to be a distinction between wanting things and liking things, supported by the difference in our brains response to addictive drugs such as cocaine (want) and non-adictive pleasure drugs like ecstasy (like).

We learned a new concept tonight, that of Flow. We’re probably flow junkies, and not-coincidently (?) our snowboard bindings are made by a company called Flow. We also learned Switzerland (or possibly Norway) is the happiest country. Either way, they both have snow. 😀

We picked up a copy of his book: it has a happy yellow cover.

We met up with

We met up with some friends from Aspect days yesterday, something which seems to becoming a bit of an annual event. One of them, Jules, has spent the last year or so starting up a new business, and has just launched Anagram Works in time to appear in a couple of the Open Houses in Brighton during this year’s Brighton Festival. She’s made a series of greetings cards, as well as a Brighton mug (I’m now the proud owner of one of these which will be going into the office tomorrow to replace my previous, rather dull, black mug).