Friday, May 13, 2011

Feeling the Rhythm

This week has seen our team embark on a major piece of new functionality for our legacy system.

Our progress has been relatively slow up until today, this might be due to the stories being epics, or it might be that we are doing all the right stuff! 

Test first (although probably not true TDD), pairing, getting existing code under test before modifications, improving the design of the existing code base.

We have two pairs who are working together on two stories.  Two of the people have swapped mid-week, Russell and I, have “owned” a story for the week. 

The two stories we are working on are quite different, the first story (which I fortunately picked) was to create a new page for the legacy system.  The code for this has been written using TDD; the new page interacts with the legacy system through the Model.  You might question why I stated “not true TDD” earlier – the reason is that we are lacking the automated acceptance tests to ensure that the outer ring of the TDD cycle is correct.  This is something I’ll be feeding in to the next sprint.

The other story is updating an existing page.  Essentially this job is three fold – get the code under test, improve the design (change to MVP), and make the functional changes.  This has been a huge job.  Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to fit everything in to this sprint; however, we will be able to leave the code in a better state than when we started!  We are forcing ourselves to pay back the technical debt that has been accrued – this is quite painful and time consuming!

The pairing has been extremely beneficial – it’s made the team focus on getting the job done.  I can’t say whether it’s improved the code quality, my gut feeling is that it’s caused conversations about the design of the code, which has simplified it (the tests also help with this), and also caught some things which are just plain wrong.  We even had a CRC session to flesh out some of the details of the classes and to ensure that they had the correct responsibilities (thanks Sam & XPMan!).  Pairing also seems to add energy to development or maybe that’s the caffeine!

It’s felt like we’ve not moved much for most of the week, but this afternoon the team’s feeling was that we were eventually getting somewhere!  The team decided to add a couple of hours to our afternoon – something which I’m not always too keen on – I’m a believer of a sustainable pace.  However, I also believe that if the team is agreed then this rule can be bent a little.  So we stayed for a couple of hours, and managed to get a couple more tasks off the list, and now we are pretty close to completing the two stories. 

This week has had a really good rhythm to it.  The Red-Green-Refactor cycle lets you get in to an amazing flow, of sadness then happiness, then more happiness as the code is refactored.  The team has been trying to apply what we’ve learnt from the cleancoders.com webcasts to the code base.  Especially the Boy Scout rule.

It’s important that we ensure that we deliver business value, but also improve the code base to work with, and have fun!

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