XPday 2006 – Love in the age of Software – James Noble & Robert Biddle

These notes are taken from the above talk on 28th November 2006, given by James Noble and Robert Biddle. Pretty much free-form soundbites, which was the manner of the talk in some ways.

We now best now. Order is best. Modern is best. Perfection – Repetition – Iteration.

BUT Why do the robots lose to the humans? (There was a brief Kraftwerk tribute around this point).

“We did it right, but the customer didn’t get what they wanted”. A technical success, but a business failure.
The fault lies with us, not the customer. Like Narcissus, we fell in love with our own image, our technologies, our methods, our knowledge. We couldn’t bring ourselves to look to them, so glorious are we.

In the postmodern age, Agile is Love. The danger is that it becomes self-love, in whatever sense you wish to read that.
Acceptance means more than just passing tests. Agile does have human tests. Planning Games, User Stories, System Metaphor, the On-site Customer. However these are in danger of being overridden by our love of the more empirical, definable, understandable. Automaton, tests, only looking to see the green bar of success for our tests which we have written.

New ideas too! One day iterations! Whole team (no customers)! Executable user stories! Automated acceptance! 80 hour week! 3 Month Crisis! Career Change Counselling! All in action, all inaction, too automated, not human.

The Modern Language of Love – points to Shannon’s model of communication. That communication is information being transferred from the lips to the ear.

The Post-modern Language of Love – we’ve learnt to how to communicate from developer to developer. The information isn’t always getting delivered to its final destination. The job of translation is a trial and error process, almost akin to bartering. Ideally, recourse to a grand narrative should be forbidden, small narrative is a far better form. Our tools should aid the translation between developer and user.

We should meet each others needs:

The customer knows business and wants software. The developer knows software and wants business. It can be a beneficial relationship. The customer also holds a lot more knowledge than we sometimes recognise, sometimes ignore in the appreciation of our own reflection.

If you do not love your customer, you are not doing Agile.

So what did I think?

I’ve read colleagues and other blogger’s views on this keynote speech, and going on those and other views I heard on the day, it would be fair to say it got a mixed reaction. The presentation style was loud, and disorientating. If you’ve read any of the Head-First & Head-Rush books by O’Reilly, well it was a bit like someone reading one of those and all the sidebars and speech bubbles at once. Repetition and reinforcement of their points through a variety of means. It was interesting they used Shannon’s model for communication, as it also indicates that the main barrier to verbal communication is noise. I think this was the case in getting their message across to everyone in the room.

I’m interested in how they are identifying some of the pitfalls and problems of modern development, and applying methods of literary criticism to analyse approaches such as Agile and XP. It shouldn’t just be technical and project management views driving how these methods develop, in order to achieve their goals of providing the right product effectively, they need to ensure they are keeping the knowledge of the customer involved, and that they are being sense-checked in a wider sense.