Luke Melia

software dev

November 12, 2007

Chris Donnan on Agile and Humilty

Part of agile is acknowledging that building software is hard and human beings (including yourself) are fallible. Chris Donnan has a blog post about his recent run-in with this truth:

So – last monday (it is now Saturday), at around 8PM – I found a troubling bug in the software I was about to go to QA with. I worked on it till midnight. I worked on it with an excellent collegue the next day from around 830 AM till around 130 AM (the next day…late)…. same thing the next day, and the next… and the next… We thought we had fixed it!! We stayed till around 10pm packaging a build for QA … we were wrong, before we sent it to QA, we found the bug elsewhere…. bad. sad. un-good. did i mention bad? Today – saturday, I found the bug. It was in an area of code I had written some hundreds of unit tests for.

The rest of the post is an interesting retrospective and public re-examination of his beliefs about software development. Since Chris’ comments system seem to be broken, I’m sharing my thoughts here.

At one point in his writeup, Chris notes that this was the “YEARS MOST IMPORTANT deliverable for many, many people”. This is a big neon warning sign. Part of the strategy of iterative delivery in Scrum is to avoid this situation. In a well-functioning scrum organization, releases are a non-event. In fact, Jeff Sutherland was recently telling Ken and I about his weekly releases at PatientKeeper, where there is little fanfare, just an automated deployment, and if the phone doesn’t ring from the customer, the release was a success.

There are plenty of reasons why iterative delivery might not have been viable in Chris’ particular situation, of course. Still, when a situation causes you to re-evaluate your approach to building software, it’s a good idea to look again at the decisions where you strayed from the ideal and ask yourself what you can do differently moving forward.

One Response to “Chris Donnan on Agile and Humilty”

  1. Luke on Chris Donnan on Agile and Humilty « turnings chimed in:

    […] Luke on Chris Donnan on Agile and Humilty 12 11 2007 Luke says: […]

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