All posts by Markus Gärtner

A tale of history

Disclaimer: The following story might be disturbing to some of you, especial if you happen to live in the United States of America right now. It’s more on the political side of things, rather than dealing with my more professional life. The sole reason for this is that I cannot keep my mouth (or blog for that matter) shut to the things that are happening around us today.

Hitler’s Signature

About nine years ago, my family bought a house that we hopefully will own directly at some point. It’s a rather old house, built in 1938, so I knew what we were setting up for when we made the deal. I knew I’d need to add new isolation, maybe new windows, and eventually replace the heating system that was roughly 20 years old at the time.

Step forward a few years, and it became clear we needed to replace the heating system. Not because it was failing, but because the chimney was getting wet to the point where the water came back into our living places. The chimney was pretty small, so a fix by a pipe was not an option. We didn’t have the means to buy a heating system right from our pockets, so I seeked to get a support program for replacing the old heating.

In Germany, that meant to get an assessment from an energy consultant. I made an appointment, brought the documents from the house construction with me, and let her dive through them. At one point, she called out: “Omg, the Führer signed this one.” And indeed, right on the first set of construction documents, there was Adolf Hitler’s signatory on it. I couldn’t believe it.

Then the consultant explained the circumstances to me. Back in 1937, the regime wanted to set up a military training ground in a village nearby. That military training ground still exists as of today. However, there was a small settlement of people in that area, so they relocated them. It turned out, that we bought one of the houses that were built for that matter. The houses left and right to ours have the same basic construction and were built for the same reason.

But this isn’t a story about our house or the neighbors’ houses.

Military training ground

There are public opening hours for the military training ground. As of today, German and British tank divisions use it for training purposes. At my first job, I found that the way to work was way more efficient when driving during public hours over that tank training ground rather than using the public roads around it, so I have been on that property a couple of times. You can still see the old village structures on there. And I will never forget the day when I found myself in my small car among 20 tanks, 10 in front of me, 10 behind, and got quite scared.

The German military base nearby isone of the largest – if not the largest – and according to Wikipedia, serves 4.300 soldiers. The British division is located closer to Paderborn in Paderborn-Sennelager, while the German troops are located in Augustdorf.

The name of the German barracks is indicated as “Gfm Rommel Kaserne” on road-signs, and I regularly drove by those signs for many years on my way to work. A few years back, I watched a piece on TV about Third Reich area military names still in use today. That’s when it clicked for me. General Field Marshal Rommel refers to no other person than Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, probably one of the most evil leaders during the Nazi regime in Germany.

My parents visited with us the close-by Nazi concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, and I remember how sick that made me as a teenager to go through that part of our history. It’s a piece of our piece that I won’t deny, but also a piece of our past that I hoped would not exist. Back when I was in my 20s, my father consumed TV stations with the history of that area. At some point, he told me, that he was doing that because he never got to know any of that from his parents. They were outright silent on it, so as an adult he was still curious. Both my grandfathers served in World War II, and one of them even went into captivity in Stalingrad.

With all that in mind, I was disgusted to find out, the close-by barracks were named after such a leader from the Nazi regime, and even worse, the naming took place in 1961, several years after the Nazi regime had fallen. The name is controversial and has been debated for decades, according to information on the website of the Bundeswehr (German). Personally, I think they should rename it, but it seems to be decided by our military leaders whether that’s going to happen.

But this is not a story of renaming the local military barracks.

What this story is about

Now, suppose chancellor Angela Merkel or President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier were publicly announcing to keep the name of the military barracks to someone with a central role in the Nazi regime. A regime that killed several million people for reasons we consider outright wrong today. Don’t get me wrong, I think Field Marshal Rommel did do some achievements during his career. Is he worth remembering in this manner? I don’t think so.

Now, especially my American readers, go back to the moment where you read about me suggesting Angela Merkel would publicly announce to keep the name of the barracks, and your reaction to that. Go through this state of emotion one more time. How does your stomach feel? How does your throat feel like? What is going on in your mind?

This is the type of reaction that black Americans feel every day once they ride past a military barrack named after a military leader from your Civil War time. The is the feeling any non-white American has during an interview with your President when he puts renaming your military bases off the table. That is the feeling every black American has when being stopped by the American police force.

I don’t want to tell you what to do about it, as I think you probably already know.

Informed-consent workshop on LeSS with Craig Larman

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to join Craig Larman at a client for an informed-consent workshop on Large-scale Scrum (LeSS). Ever since I took his class in 2015, I was interested in how he starts off a LeSS adoption – or potential LeSS adoption, I should say. He asked me to do a write-up.

We had overall four days at the client. The first day was half Legacy TDD and half Impact Mapping. For day two and three we were off-site from the client with about 30 employees from different departments including finance and controlling, organizational development, and the CEO. The final fourth day we spent back at the client answering questions, and a three hours all-hands introduction to LeSS.

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Data-driven tests in Junit5.0.0-SNAPSHOT

It’s been a while since I wrote code these days. Back in late April however I found myself in a Coding Dojo at the Düsseldorf Softwerkskammer meet-up working on the Mars Rover Kata. I have a story to share from that meeting. However, since I tried to reproduce the code we ended up with that night, and I decided to give JUnit5 (and Java8) a go for that, I ended up with a struggle.

Back in the days with JUnit4 I used the ParameterizedRunner quite often to use data-driven tests. I never remembered the signature of the @Parameters function, though. The Mars Rover Kata also includes some behavior that I wanted to run through a data-driven test, but how do you do that in JUnit5? I couldn’t find good answers for that on the Internet, so I decided to put my solution up here – probably for lots of critique.

Please note that I used JUnit 5.0.0-SNAPSHOT which is a later version than the alpha, but probably not the final one.

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State of Testing 2016 – My view

Usually I don’t write many promotions for other’s contents on this blog as I try to keep it personal and focused on my personal views. Recently I was contacted on the International 2016 State of Testing report, and whether I would like to do a write-up about it. I asked whether it would be ok to post a personal view, so here it is.

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Testing inside one sprint’s time

Recently I was reminded about a blog entry from Kent Beck way back in 2008. He called the method he discovered during pairing the Saff Squeeze after his pair partner David Saff. The general idea is this: Write a failing test on a level that you can, then inline all code to the test, and remove everything that you don’t need to set up the test. Repeat this cycle until you have a minimal error reproducing test procedure. I realized that this approach may be used in a more general way to enable faster feedback within a Sprint’s worth of time. I sensed a pattern there. That’s why I thought to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh – in a pattern format.

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Save Our Scrum – Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Teams in Trouble

During the Agile 2014 conference in Orlando, I talked a lot with Matt Heusser. Over the conference we bounced back and forth one or another idea. In the end, we had an idea for a new book: Save Our Scrum. A self-help book on many of the troubles we see out there happening with this wide-spread approach. We had the vision to base some of the lessons we learned in our consultant work, and see how we may help others with this. That’s the whole vision.

Skip forward one year, and we made some progress. We finished off the first few chapters with a more general introduction to Scrum itself alongside with some of the problems we are seeing. At one point we decided to put out what we had created thus far, in order to receive feedback from the people that are seeking such help. That’s why we recently put it up on LeanPub, so that folks can get access to it, and help us continue the momentum with great feedback.

Matt and I are pretty busy in our consultant work. That slowed down progress a bit in the past months. Right now, though, we seem to be in a writing burst with new content created constantly throughout the week. We started work on getting down the nuggets – that’s what we call the little lessons from all over the world with teams struggling with Scrum.

That said, if you get the book now, you will receive weekly updates – that’s what we promise you. Every week we publish anything that we have created throughout the week. We hope to keep progress flowing. I think this week both of us each worked on getting down at least four nuggets. That’s eight new lessons for you to read. If we can maintain this progress, we expect a good draft finished by end of September.

But, wait, there is more. You can get famous by helping us. We opened up feedback channels. We created a Slack team for open discussions. This is not limited to typos and missed commata, but you may also leave us your thoughts on nuggets that we forgot there, or share struggles that you have to improve our book.

We really look forward to your feedback and ideas and suggestions to advance our book. Hope you will enjoy it. And if not… well, at least you know some channels now to let us know.

Working in a distributed company

In my courses, one or more of the participants almost always raise a question like this:

How do you set up a team across many sites?

Almost always when digging deeper I find out that they are currently working in a setting with many sites involved. Almost always they have a project organization set up with single-skill specialists involved. These single-skill specialists are almost always working on at least three different projects at the same time. In the better cases, the remote team members are spread across a single timezone. In the worst cases I have seen so far, it had been a timezone difference of ten hours.

I will leave how to deal with such a setting for a later blog entry. Today, I want to focus on some tips and tricks for working with remote team members and remote colleagues.

Tripit reported that I was on the road in 2012 for 304 days. I hardly believe that since I stayed at home for our newborn son Nico the whole June back then. (I think they have had a bug there.) But it was close. I have worked with remote team members and remote project teams in distributed companies since 2006. I hope I have some nuggets worth sharing.

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