Monday, August 23, 2004

New Project : Drofnats

Started the next project in, let's call it, Drofnats. Compared to the SFD that I visited two weeks ago, this one is just the oppsite. The IT department, at least that ones that we have been talking to, are very much open-minded, after being bitten by a bad project management.

It is quite interesting that according to the switches of scope, time, cost and quality, they are very willing to achieve high qualty, less likely to cut scope, and flexible on time and cost. I am really very happy that they picked us than the other two companies, one of which is IBM, because they could be used if not careful. It is such a good candidate for Agile development, and I really hope we can have a great success.

Today is mostly spent on preparations. The pilot inception deck power point is the most interesting. It reminds me of the design document that we had at Cysive. It is very powerful but yet not to be abused. However, I especially like the slide of "Is and Is-not". It clearly specifiies what is to be covered and what is not, in a simple two-column table. This means that it did not take too long to produce, it will be easy to change, and yet it clearly defines the scope so that everyone will be on the same page.

It is also my first agile project from beginning. In Yabe, they have already planned it by the time I came in, and it was not by a ThoughtWorker. Even though this is not from the very beginning, I still get to see the iteration zero, or the equivalence. It is hectic at certain angle, but it is being handled very well.

The project estimate chart is the next thing I should check out. I also like espeically the way priority/rick/scope is being presented by a two dimensional chart with dots whose size match the scope.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Another Day at the Beach

Another day at the beach. It does give me a lot of time to check out the CruiseControl and its competitors AntHill and DamageControl. CuirseControl is a great open source project that can play a big role on agile development, however it still needs quite a bit work on usability and features.

However, the tests cannot run together because they are affecting the state of some singleton. Interesting, I would think that all ThoughtWorkers, at least those involved in the OpenSoruce project would have an IDE and run tests through IDE. The whole tests take only 1 minute to run using Ant even with fork turned, though. I fixed the tests but too bad that the sourceforge is down, I cannot submit any changes.

Once I submit it I'll get the .Net CD from Dave and take a look into notifications in DamageControl. BTW, the MX4J and JMX are somehow more complicated to understand than I thought they should be.

More notes on notification. Ran into these two open source projects that seems to make IM very easy.
GAIM: A IM just like trillian (
IMTask: A IM library (
We can make CruiseControl server sending out messages through IM about building status, and we can also make a CruiseControl bot that start the build, etc. (On the bot part, maybe should start with an IRC bot)

Still looking at China IT, found quite a few IT related website. Now I just need to go through them and get a feeling on the general knowledge and conception.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Finished Two Projects

Just finished two projects of a client, let's call this client Yabe for potential legal issue.

Yabe is a big client, brought to us by friend of ThoughtWorks. They use ClearCase and Eclipse. I have to say, the set up of the ClearCase and Eclipse is very anti-agile. (I'd like to say it is the products themselves but I have met some other developers that argued that it is the setup instead of the tools themsevles). Everytime I work on this environment, time just fly by while I am staring at the screen waiting for something stupidly long to finish, and before I know it, it is already past 9pm. I cannot imagin how in-hourse developers live their lives, but I sure hope their stock options are well worth it.

(Ok. Here is a good example of how screwed up these tools, or their settings, are. I renamed a private static method that takes no argument and returns void, and it tooke Eclipse 2 minutes to come back. Auuuuuuuuugggggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh)

Here is another testimony of ThoughtWorkers' ability. Dave and Alex (An independent consultant) pulled the subsystem and its library over to a CVS repository, and use IntelliJ to build upon it. CruiseControl is set up. Periodically we sync. up to the Yabe world using a script that Alex wrote. So with CVS and IntelliJ, we were able to happily write programs using test-driven development. Yabe has a document that supposely contains all the requirement of the new application, similar to the use case document. We divided it up into story cards, gave them numbers and came up with our estimates.

So from our team's point of view, we are doing pure XP. We pair, we track, we test, we refactor. The resulting application stays healthy wihle we continue adding more and more compilcated features (BTW, writing web application without using session tracking is not a trivial task). It is my first XP project since the one for Novell in year 2001. And it just felt like an place I belong.

One problem is that as far as the customer concerns, this is just like any other project that they have done. Throwing the document into a blackbox and hoping something good will come out of it by the time of the contract. We didn't realize that ANYTHING different from the document, we were supposed to get approval from the customer. Of course being an XP team, we simply shot an email to the client project manager, asked the question and did the change. At the end, we did more than what the document said, and yet the customer thought we were two-week behind.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Let's Get Started


After four months settling in, I finally start writing my blogs.

The reason for this blog is because I have a good vibe about this new company that I recently joined: ThoughtWorks.

There are three main reasons that made me want to leave my rewarding JBuilder career and start a career that requires traveling, talking, dealing with new environment all the time.
  1. Extreme Programming and Agile Development: I believe this is the future of the software development. Or at least this will be a very good alternative of RUP. However, I also see frustration during adaptation of XP methodology, to a point that I almost think this is a ideal goal that can never be achieved. However, ThoughtWorkers seem to have done it very well and are up to the challenge of making it into a medium to large size team. If this methodology can be applied to a bigger size project, I defenitely want to be part of it.
  2. Career growth: Again and again, Borland management has disappointed me making me realize that there is nothing left for me in Borland. I could talk about the reason for a whole day but I am really tired of it and I'll save my breath here. ThoughtWorks honor developers very much and even though time still has to tell how much I can grow my career here, I feel much more confident in working here. I could learn the art of project management of agile development, and understand what it takes to deliver a good project. There are OpenSource projects launched by ThoughtWorks that I can get involved into. China is also a very good market for software development.
  3. Martin Fowler. I have read most of his books and have been up to date on his websites. I believe if he chose ThoughtWorks out of all the possible companies, it must has done something right for him.