Good Agile vs. Bad Agile

28 09 2006

Steve Yegge: “Up until maybe a year ago, I had a pretty one-dimensional view of so-called ‘Agile’ programming, namely that it’s an idiotic fad-diet of a marketing scam making the rounds as yet another technological virus implanting itself in naive programmers who’ve never read ‘No Silver Bullet’, the kinds of programmers who buy extended warranties and self-help books and believe their bosses genuinely care about them as people, the kinds of programmers who attend conferences to make friends and who don’t know how to avoid eye contact with leaflet-waving fanatics in airports and who believe writing shit on index cards will suddenly make software development easier.”

You’re not pulling any punches, eh Stevey? I’m glad that your workplace at Google is like heaven on earth, but you must realize that not all the world can be like Google.

Googlers are in the fortunate situation of being able to milk the profits coming from the incredibly smart mix of search and text ads, but honestly most of their recent launches look like the outcome of a process based on throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks.

Open source projects and grad school projects are probably even less constrained than Google projects, but most of us are working in startups, or as consultants, or—god forbid—are employees of mammoth corporations based on the old command-and-control system.

For the those of us that are in one of these situations, many agile practices make a lot of sense. Apart from the emphasis on rigorous testing practices, what I like about agile is the realization that estimates must be the result of a process of continuos refinement based on feedback and the emphasis on people over processes.

I think all this can be classified as “good” agile. As for making a religion out of Agile, (with a capital ‘A’), I think I’ve been so lucky to never meet one of those overpriced and overzealous Agile Consultants, so we can probably agree on labeling it “bad agile”, but it doesn’t bother me that much.

I also very much like the idea of a queue-based system. Wouldn’t it be great if Google released that software as Open Source, so we all could use it? It would probably much easier for me to sell this kind of process to customers who are still slaves of the “tyranny of the calendar” if I had a tool like that to manage my queue.

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