Sunday, February 17, 2002

Ugly advice update My friend RE responded to a recent post lambasting Spolsky's cynical attitude towards producing good software by writing:
I think that he goes too far in writing off the possibility of real customer-developer cooperation - although I believe that it is possible, I agree with him that it is RARE. I think he's a little unfair to XP on this point - XP explicitly calls for an involved customer who is a (the) major project stakeholder, who is ultimately responsible for its success or failure, definitely not some dweeb from accounts payable.

I'm surprised he didn't mention is incremental development. I consider it a to be a Scientific Fact that projects that lack it are doomed, doomed, doomed. it's also a useful tactic for dealing with a less-than-well-involved customer - if you can at least get the customer's attention once a month, every time you complete an increment and start a new one, you can keep steering the project in the direction that the customer wants/needs. (no surprise that this is a core XP practice as well).

So, Archipelago asked me to propose a solution instead of just ranting. Here goes:
1) Extreme programming brings users into the development phase and builds incrementally, making it a good model for coding off behavior. Joel dismisses XP as being "too extreme"--but I think it's piteous that including users in developing the tools they're going to be using is considered "extreme" at all.

2) Develop use cases using Creative Goodstyle customer experience methodology. XP uses use cases as roadmaps for development. Non-directive, open ended, contextual user testing is a good way to nail the mission critical feature set and control scope.

3) Create an economy that values productivity. This part is tricky--the real reason technology is so hard to use is because ease-of-use often isn't critical for business success (Microsoft beat Apple for strategic reasons even though Macs have always been easier to use). Websites, particularly e-commerce, is an area where usability is critical to success--which is clear when you look at the current winners (Google, Amazon, Yahoo!). Software-as-a-service (NOT as rental) will also win in this economy. The main goal of is to understand why technology is so bad by looking at the underlying economics.


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