Skip to main content

Book Review: Practices of an Agile Developer

Software development is widely known as having the largest gap of any discipline between the best known practices and the actual practices utilized in the field. The most depressing part of that statement is how inaccurate the qualifier of "widely known" probably is, because if the gap was as well and widely known as it should be, the gap would be shrinking much faster than it is. Is the gap even shrinking at all?

One of the things on the good end of this gap is the collective practices known as Agile Development. The creation of software is fluid and must be adaptable at a moments notice, defined as it is created, and grown rather than built, says the mantras of the agile development proponents. They contrast to the traditional and aging mentality of designing everything before writing anything, following a walled path to the goal, and building monoliths of code. The differences between the old side and the new side are great, and this is the gap we need to wade across to solve the ever growing problem of software quality nightmares.

Practices of an Agile Developer does a fantastic job of taking you across that gap, step by step, and bestowing the benefits of engineering yoga. First to last page is packed with excellent tips, techniques, proven methodologies, and stories of horror and salvation by the blessing of a better way to create software.

There is a lot in this book that I was not aware of and a lot I was well aware of, and even some things that I tried actively to practice. I didn't know how much of the practices I used were part of the "agile" moniker, but they worked. Because I knew a lot of my favorite practices had something to do with this strange movement I kept getting glimpses of, I picked up a copy of the book at Borders and decided to fill in the blanks between what I knew.

I found most of the book to be a reinforcement of things, but there was a sizable number of completely new thoughts to ponder. Iterative development, unit testing, small and non-breaking changes, and utilizing the tools like bug trackers and source control, were all related to my real world experience, which made them even more mentally valid.

For anyone who can program and wants to become a better developer, this is a great volume to pick up. At 178 pages before the appendixes, you can run through and absorb the content quickly and begin putting it to good use. I've seen improvement in my own work, and it takes will power to put the things you learn to common use by yourself, but its worth the effort. If you have heard of agile development, learned some things about it, or know nothing at all of the issues, you will find this a good read if you want to be better at what we love to do: create good software.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Pruning Your Passions

We live in a hobby-rich world. There is no shortage of pastimes to grow a passion for. There is a shortage of one thing: time to indulge those passions. If you're someone who pours your heart into that one thing that makes your life worthwhile, that's a great deal. But, what if you've got no shortage of interests that draw your attention and you realize you will never have the time for all of them?

If I look at all the things I'd love to do with my life as a rose bush I'm tending, I realize that careful pruning is essential for the best outcome. This is a hard lesson to learn, because it can mean cutting beautiful flowers and watching the petals fall to the ground to wither. It has to be done.

I have a full time job that takes a lot of my mental energy. I have a wife and a son and family time is very important in my house. I try to read more, and I want to keep up with new developments in my career, and I'm trying to make time for simple, intentional relaxing t…

The Insidiousness of The Slow Solution

In software development, slow solutions can be worse than no progress at all. I'll even say its usually worse and if you find yourself making slow progress on a problem, consider stopping while you're a head.

Its easy to see why fast progress is better: either you solve the problem or you prove a proposed solution wrong and find a better one. Even a total standstill in pushing forward on a task or a bug or a request can force you to seek out new information or a second opinion.

Slow solutions, on the other hand, is kind of sneaky. Its insidious. Slow solution is related the Sunk Cost Fallacy, but maybe worse. Slow solutions have you constantly dripping more of your time, energy, and hope into a path that's still unproven, constantly digging a hole. Slow solutions are deceptive, because they still do offer real progress. It is hard to justify abandoning it or trying another route, because it is "working", technically.

We tend to romanticize the late night hacking…

Finding "One Game A Month"

I was really excited about the One Game A Month challenge as soon as I heard about it.
For about two years I've struggled in fits and starts to make my way into game development. This hasn't been productive in any of the ways I hoped when I started. Its really difficult to be fairly experienced as a developer, which I believe I am in my day job as a web developer, while struggling really hard at an area in which your experience just doesn't exist.
Its like being a pilot who doesn't know how to drive.

But this challenge provided a new breath to this little hobby of mine. It gave me a scaffolding to experiment, to learn, to reflect on finished projects. I had spent far too much time on game projects that stretched on far past their exciting phases, bogged down by bad decisions and regret.
And it has worked.
I have a lot to learn. I have a lot of experience to gain through trial and error and mistake and discovery. I have a lot of fun to be had making more small games t…