Ravi Mohan's Blog

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cracking the GRE

Update: Analytical Score updated.

I wrote the GRE a few days ago.

Scores -

  • quant- 790/800
  • verbal 800/800 (heh!)
  • Analytical Writing - awaited (I am not too worried about this).- 6.0/6.0

I am going through the annual "Should I apply for this year or next year, MS or PhD, Applied mAths or CompSci? " dance.

Choices .. choices ..

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Listening to Steve Yegge (and skirmishing with Obie)

Steve Yegge's blog post titled "Good Agile, Bad Agile" seems to have ignited one of those periodic feeding frenzies in the blogosphere. The comparison he makes between Agile and Scientology seems to have touched a nerve in many "agilists". The comments on Steve's post reveal a good deal of defensiveness, google envy and the occasional reasoned response.

Summarizing Steve's "anti agile" points (from a very long post), he says

  1. The Chrysler Project, which was the exemplar for agile projects failed badly.
  2. Mandatory 100% pairing sucks bigtime.
  3. Agile isn't scientific. (at best, any proof for "improved productivity" is anecdotal).
  4. There are a lot of flaky "agilists" trying to be "coaches" and sell books and seminars.
  5. These "seminar agilists" create an artificially polarized world where any process that isn't Agile(TM) is "waterfall" or "cowboy".
  6. Agile is very date driven, ignoring the human variations in productivity.
  7. If anyone puts forward an alternative process , the "defenders" of agile use one of two responses to oppose it
    1. "all the good stuff he described is really Agile"
    2. "all the bad stuff he described is the fault of the team's execution of the process"
Now all of this is true and valid, thoughtful criticism. And reasonable people can disagree and debate rationally. So why do people react so violently?

I believe this massive reaction came about because Steve called Google's development process "Good Agile" and what we know as "standard Agile", "Bad Agile".

More than the "truth" of these assertions, what is highly amusing is the outraged reactions of people who make a living selling "Agile solutions", either as individuals or as consulting companies. Like Islamist radicals opposing the "Islam is a violent religion" meme by burning embassies, issuing death threats and destroying public property, anyone who calls Steve names and say things like "but we have waaay dumber developers than Google so we have to make do with Agile" really undermine their own cause.

I was very much on the sidelines (I love watching a clueless mob tear itself apart as much as anyone else) till a blog entry by (ThoughtWorker) Obie Fernandez claimed that the "real benefit" of Pairing was

"... pair programming is one of the only effective ways that a lot of us have ever witnessed keeping average developers from pissing away 95% of their productivity engaging in non-work such as reading and writing blogs, instant messaging, personal email, shopping online and otherwise wasting time on bullshit. When you're pairing, you simply HAVE to work all day...."

and "As far as I'm concerned, all the other benefits you get from pairing like continuous review and knowledge-sharing are just gravy."

WTF?!!! And when I commented that "If the key benefit of pairing is that it keeps otherwise lazy developers' nose to their keyboards, the company needs to look more carefully at the type of people it hires than at its development methodology." Obie said I was "sniping" and that the comment upset him.

Whoops! I didn't mean to "snipe" or otherwise upset anyone, least of all Obie. I was just saying that "you'll waste a lot of time unless you are pairing" is an incredibly feeble argument for the practice.

In my own experience, the benefits of Pairing (which does have benefits and drawbacks, like any other development practice) come from what Obie says is "gravy" - continous review and knowledge sharing.

In his latest blog entry Obie makes an even more exotic claim - apparently Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)is rampant in our workplaces and most of us suffer from it without knowing we do. And "pairing" apparently serves as an antidote. Whoa!!

"It's not about laziness -- it's about the predominance of ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER, whether diagnosed or not, acknowledged or not, ADD is affecting almost all of us, probably as a result of the tons of distractions that we are subjected to on a constant basis. Working on something with a partner works miracles for postponing non-essential distractions such as IMs and checking emails and blogs. Don't suffer from ADD at all? Well, good for you. Your type of people will be in the minority soon if you aren't already."

yes, Obie, you are right - partially. I don't suffer from ADD. :-) .That's the part you got right. Thanks for the concern! I can focus for however long I want on my work without being compelled to "check email or blogs".

"...Ohhh the temptation ... all those mails and blog entries ... They are CALLING to me .... can ... not ... resist ... I still have to another 10 minutes to finish my "daily Solid Eight Hours"... All these distractions .. Help meeeeee!! ...[voice fades]..."

Yeah right!

In my opinion, anyone who is seduced by these apparent "distractions" to the point where you can't get work done unless a "pairing partner" keeps you on your toes is in the wrong profession.

And oh, according to wikipedia , "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (sometimes referred to as ADD) is thought to be a neurological disorder, always present from childhood, which manifests itself with symptoms such as hyperactivity, forgetfulness, poor impulse control, and distractibility.[2] In neurological pathology, ADHD is currently considered to be a chronic syndrome for which no medical cure is available. Both children and adults may present with ADHD, which is believed to affect between 3-5% of the population."

So, anyway, I (as in "your type of people" :-) )am not in "the minority" after all. Most people in the world do NOT suffer from ADD. Thank God!


"ADHD is today generally regarded to be a non-curable neurological disorder for which, however, a wide range of effective treatments are available. Methods of treatment usually involve some combination of medication, psychotherapy, and other techniques".

Hmm we should probably add "pairing" to that list? :-) "The Agile Psychotherapist"... sounds like a killer book title.

Yeah Ok . Enough "sniping" at Obie.

Ok folks, listen up. Agile/XP is no panacea. It is just what worked for Kent Beck in certain contexts. The fact that there are a whole bunch of "agile consultants" both individuals and companies, out to part you from your money in exchange for the arcana of "True Agile" does not absolve you for thinking for yourselves.

lookup "Scrum" for an extraordinarily cynical MultiLevel Marketing scam. "Certified ScrumMaster" indeed! This is where the comparisons with Scientology gain traction.

Repeat.There is no silver bullet. The nearest to one is "hire good people and let them work the best way they can" . What they come up with will often look very different from "True Agile". If that is "Googlism" then so be it. Nuff Said.

And Oh, Steve, keep writing!