Tangential comments about Software Development

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yagni and Wisdom

I ran an Open Space session entitled YAGNI and Wisdom at the XP Day Conference

In this session I wanted to explore what happens when a strong You Arent't Gonna Need It (YAGNI) attitude meets insufficient wisdom for the attitude to be safe.

I introduced the sesssion by giving an informal experience report about how my YAGNI attitude caused some problems in a website development. Specifically, I wrote a very light database connection piece of code which turned out to be insufficient. When problems arose I spent my time providing fixes and only later found the time to rewrite enough of the database code for the site to be sufficiently robust.

The audience then took over, asking me pointed questions about why I'd done what I did, what I should have done instead.

On the specific subject of wisdom, we synthesised our views to the realisation that a team dynamic, when it's going well, provides that wisdom. When I suggested the aphorism "Together, we're wiser than we are individually" it was improved to

Together, I'm less stupid

We continued with this thought, looking at the reasons for my mistakes. For instance, we saw that I was not rational in one of the decisions.

Together, I'm less crazy

One issue was why did I not roll back a change when it started failing. Others observed that that it was a financial decision or that it may have seemed just as hard to go back as go forward. I then admitted that it was probably my ego that stopped me retreating - I was going to fix this! Others recalled times where their teams had stopped that happening.

Together, I'm less egotistical

So thanks to Paul, Jason, Pete, Dolan, Ben and the others whose badges I couldn't read.

Jonathan Clarke
11 December 2008