Friday, November 23, 2007

What is Important (Warning: Disconjointed Thoughts abound)

Well, It's been a while since my last me I've been busy!

I've been reading quite a bit about Agile Developmet trends. Always ready to learn some new nugget of goodness. I always find myself asking, "What is really, really important to an agile project?" Is it simplicity? Test Driven Development? Pair Programming? Evolutionary Design? One of so many other values and practices?

Of course my first response is, "it's all important, XP requires a tempered application of ALL the values and practices."

We have so many around us that don't like this answer. They wonder, "where are the controls? What is the process?" My answer is, inevitably, "the team is the control and the process. They are guided by a coach and a good faith effort to provide regular software releases."

I must admit that, in business, we need to"know". Know when the software is going to be done. Know when the software is not going to be done. Here, I argue that most methodologies fail to effectively predict these things. So, why not select the methodology that wastes less time on fruitless planning and more time on fruitful development?

I am a huge fan of pair programming. Actually I am a huge fan of many of the more painful practices;TDD, Integrate Often, Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work, etc. I think they force us to do the right thing. I've also found that most of the practices hinge on pairing. Navigators always seem to be sticklers for doing the right thing.

As usual my thoughts always return to simplicity. I like to think of simplicity as the "golden value". It's importance can never be overstated. Everything that goes wrong in software development can somehow be traced back to some complexity. Simplicity makes the code easier to write. Simple requirements require less time to design. Simple designs require less time to implement. Simple code is easier to integrate and maintain. Easier means faster and faster means a quicker and greater return on investment.

So what makes something simple? Is it simpler to just drop a datagrid on a webform or to use MonoRail views and Brail? What about IoC containers? Is dependency injection complex or simple? I bring up these points for a reason. I read a blog with a pretty half-hearted flame about these same things. I must tell you that I am easily side-tracked by these sorts of discussions. I want things to be simple! Shouldn't WebForms controls be simpler? Or why go through the through the trouble of implementing an IoC container? I'll try to answer....

I could just say, "these are the patterns we choose to use and it makes the code simpler to maintain and refactor (remember refactor mercilessly)." This works academically, but the real truth is that it "feels" better. The WebForms designer still has a cludgie feel to it. The code it generates is nasty. Also, the MVC framework takes away 90% of the design decisions and, as a framework, is simpler to wrap your mind around. The IoC containers simplify the bulk of the coding...the IoC container is complex...but it's done already! Finally, Dependency Injection really supports "once and only once" and allows you to design objects that do or express ONLY what they are meant to...that's simplicity.

My next post I hope to expand on some of the "big words" and ideas above. Please comment on what you believe is most important!

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