Some Software Craftsmanship treasures

While reviewing some proposals for the SoCraTes (un)conference, the German Software Craftsmanship and Testing conference, I wanted to look something up in the principles statements that we came up with back in 2009 shortly after writing down the manifesto. Unfortunately I found out that Google Groups is going to turn down files and pages inside groups, and you can just download the latest versions of the files and pages now.

After downloading them, I found some treasures, which I would like to keep – even after Google took down the pages section in their groups. So, here it is.

Software Craftsmanship Ethics

I was involved in the discussion that came up to identify the principle statements similar to the Agile manifesto and principles there. It was Doug Bradbury from 8thLight who constantly tracked what the other twelve people on the mail thread were replying, and derived something meaningful out of it in the end. I don’t recall why these principles – which we later called the ethics – were never published on the manifesto page, but I think it had something to do with the discussion on the mailing list after we announced the final draft for discussion. (I obviously didn’t take the time to follow that discussion. There were too many replies for me to keep track.) So, here is the final version. Interestingly we saw the four main categories also in the four statements of the manifesto.

The Software Craftsman’s Ethic

***DRAFT*****

We Care
We consider it our responsibility
  to gain the trust of the businesses we serve;
    therefore, we
      take our customer’s problems as seriously as they do and
      stake our reputation on the quality of the work we produce
.

We Practice
We consider it our responsibility
  to write code that is defect-free, proven, readable, understandable and malleable;
    therefore, we
      follow our chosen practices meticulously even under pressure and
      practice our techniques regularly.

We Learn
We consider it our responsibility
  to hone our craft in pursuit of mastery;
    therefore, we
      continuously explore new technologies and
      read and study the work of other craftsmen.

We Share
We consider it our responsibility
  to perpetuate the craft of Software;
    therefore, we
      enlist apprentices to learn it and
      actively engage other craftsmen in dialogue and practice.

Original Software Craftsmanship Charter

In the early days we were struggling on how to get started. Back in November and December 2008 we collected together some statements from the books that we felt strong about. In the archive, this is kept as the original Software Craftsmanship charter. Later some of these statements were turned in for the manifesto and the principles. You can already see the structure of the final manifesto in there, but it’s still merely a brainstorming list. Here is the version from the google groups pages:

Original Software Craftsmanship Charter

Raising the Bar

As an aspiring craftsman/professional,

… we can say no– Do no harm

… we can work in a way we can take pride in.

… we take responsibility for the code we write

… we believe the code is also an end, not just a means.

… we follow a strict set of practices and disciplines that ensure the quality in our work

… we live and work in a community with other craftsmen

… we will help other craftsmen in their journey

… are proud of my portfolio of successful projects

… can? point to the people who mentored me and who I mentored

Here are some of my suggestions: (DougB)

As aspiring Software Craftsmen we are raising the bar of professional software development.
??? We are proud of our work and the manner of our work
??? We follow a set of practices and disciplines that ensure quality in our work
??? We take responsibility for the code we write
??? We live and work in a community with other craftsmen

??? We are proud of our portfolio of successful projects
??? We can point to the people who influenced us and who we influenced
??? We believe the code is also an end, not just a means.
??? We say no to prevent doing harm to our craft

My suggestions: (Matt Heusser)
? We take responsibility for the code we write ++
? We take responsibility for our own personal software process(*)
? We take responsibility for the outcome of the process
???? That is to say, a laborer delivers software on specification
???? A craftsman develops a solution to an interesting and ambiguous problem in a way that delights the customer

(*) – not the one owned by Watts Humphries

Suggested by Ben Rady
“We follow our chosen practices?deliberately,?to ensure quality in our work”

List of questions

Someone (I forgot who) mentioned a list of interview questions from the 8thLight office. They held some of the inaugural software craftsmanship user group meeting back in December 2008 there in Chicago, and eventually crafted together a basis for the manifesto. One of the attendee wrote down some interview questions which were floating around there. Here is the list:

List of Questions

What questions should be asked to a candidate to understand if he/she cares/understands what software craftsmanship is?
  • Do you follow a particular process to create your work?
  • What tools have you built to enhance your work?
  • When do you stop re-factoring and enhancing your code?
  • What are your training techniques?
  • How much time do you spend per week coding outside your main job?
  • How do you react when you discover a bug in your own software?
  • What are the first things you would teach a new apprentice?
  • How many languages do you know and can use consistently in the same project?
  • What are your most important influences in the programmers community?
  • Who is the best developer in the world in your opinion?
  • What makes you passionate about software?
  • Who else would call you a craftsman?
  • Do you consider your self involved with the software community?
  • Can you deliver consistent results in your code?
  • Can you define what good code is?
  • Can you point to some source code that you consider a masterpiece?
  • How do you react to something that you are forced to ship but is not consistent with your practices? (for example not tested?)
  • How do you stay current with industry standard?
  • Would you go back to a past customer project to fix your own bugs?
  • How do you define aesthetics and pragmatism in software?

Final words

So, having put these artifacts from the early days of software craftsmanship on my blog, I hope they won’t get lost. I still hope that the ethics statements we came up with will make it to the manifesto page one day, but until then I can reference this blog entry.

Pomodoro Testing

In the past week I was asked whether could test something. As of my curious nature, I took the challenge to learn something new. In this case it was an iPhone application. I own an iPhone myself, but I never tested an application on the iPhone purposefully – I tested some of them in terms of the banana software that seems to get shipped despite (or maybe just because?) Apple’s checks before an app reaches the App-Store. But I digress.

I planned a whole day – Thursday – for this. I knew I was going to explore the app in sessions influenced by the Bach’s session-based test management paper, and I knew that I had to take a closer look into the specialties of an iPhone application like memory management and stress testing. Prior to Thursday I had already taken a look into the application, and seen some of the features. My colleagues shared the current feature backlog with me covering the features that were already implemented.

Another thing I knew was the fact I was about to deal with some customers during the day in order to arrange some new consulting gigs. So, I was rather that I won’t be able to deal the whole day with testing of the application.

Taking all these considerations into the context of my testing approach, I felt that a test session of one hour was too long to test the application and deal with interruptions during the day. Additionally one hour seemed too long to cover one aspect of the application. I could easily go for multiple features in that one hour. A year back I had crossed the Pomodoro Technique to manage my time, and I decided that a combination of session-based test management and Pomodoro Technique looked promising to me. In the Pomodoro Technique a time slot is usually 25 minutes long, – called a Pomodoro – interrupted by 5 minutes of break for mails, fetch a new coffee or go on a body break. This seemed to be just the right time frame for my testing sessions. That’s when I coined the term Pomodoro Testing.

So far, so good. I took my Time Timer with me that day to cope with the session time frames. In the morning I took a first pomodoro to plan my work for that day. I quickly identified that I needed a brief overview of the application in order to learn more about the sessions for the day. So I planned a first session of 25 minutes of inspectional testing followed by a debriefing in order to lay out the additional sessions after I gathered more information. Having learned some things about iPhone application testing a few days before, I also planned sessions for special behavior on the iPhone. I also planned the work I had to follow-up on besides my testing activities for the day.

I started my first testing pomodoro following the mission to find out as much as possible about the application. I identified several areas of the application, that I would like to see more about. There were ten or so main categories which I wanted to conduct. In the first pomodoro I initially took some notes on paper, but collected them together on a mindmap in the debriefing. For each of the ten main categories I planned a pomodoro, and realized that this probably will be too much for a single day.

After the first two testing pomodoros I got more and more familiar with the application. I noticed some things in the settings, and some things in the UI which seemed confusing to me, but there was nothing serious for me to note down. The application was pretty straight forward.

On the afternoon I noticed though that I was able to pull in more than one session that I had planned into a single pomodoro. I think this was caused by me getting more and more familiar with some aspects of the application. I planned on a very granular level for this application, but still I made fewer progress in the beginning, and could easily deal with 2-3 topics that I initially planned for later.

At the end of the day I had collected many things in my mindmap which I then shared with the product owner and the whole team. I annotated bugs that I found and stuff that I found inconsistent with little icons to grasp quickly, and put some more lines about my major findings into that email.

Pomodoro Testing for me is the opposite of thread-based test management. In thread-based test management there are things of an application that may take more than a single session of focused testing. For an iPhone application it seemed right to me to limit the session length down further since there were not as many aspects I wanted to explore. In addition it seemed the right level to plan my testing activities for a whole day.

In reflection, I wouldn’t want to further cut down the session length than that. 25 minutes was pretty short for some things, and I also extended that time frame in one or two sessions to finish up what I was dealing with rather than stopping my curiosity forcefully.

Since I worked alone I didn’t do many debriefings over the day. I took one in order to plan additional sessions after the first pomodoro, and I talked to a colleague later for a complete debrief about my findings. That’s pretty much it. If I would have applied this in a team, I would experiment with debriefing times in order to achieve between one and two debriefings over the course of the whole day.

I think there are some smaller application – like mobile apps – where Pomodoro Testing is the right practice to apply in that context. For the majority of web applications and desktop application though this technique is probably too time constraint to serve the purpose.