Saturday, January 31, 2009

First month of work done!

So! As I blogged about previously, I've begun working at a new company right after New Year's. I figured I'd get some thoughts out on how the first month has been.

Usually, when someone begins in a new job they're excited, nervous and above all very humble towards the existing practices that exist in the new workplace. Of course, I had these feelings, but being an agile fanatic, I was pretty sure that I would be able to find some improvement points. Here are some of the specific steps I took during my first weeks.

Step 0: Start writing a diary

I don't think an honest worker was ever harmed by being transparent in his work. A practice I've been doing ever since I started working is The Diary. Basically, just a personal wiki-page where you note down a few lines each day on what you're working on. Apart from being a good way to keep focus throughout the day and being a nice place to paste notes and code, it sends out a message: that you're interested in letting others know what you are working on. I'm going to be asking people what they're doing a lot, so being transparent in my own activities is a good start.

Step 1: Get Continuous Integration set up

One of my first reactions when I went to work on the code was a certain sense of claustrophobia. Here there were about twenty developers working on the same code base, and I really didn't have any feeling of who was committing what when. I first tried to get commit-mails set up, but due to some issues with commit-hooks in their Subversion setup, we couldn't get that working right away. So I turned to set up continuous integration with Hudson. My hope was that the CI changeset pages could work as a temporary commit-mail replacement, and since there already was a ViewSVN installation running, this worked out quite nicely.

From Drop Box
Note that the screen shot is not from our place, but from Sonatype's CI farm (tip o' the hat to Alf!).

Not long after that we were able to also get a nightly deployment of the build to the testing server, so now testers and designers can always experience the latest running on some local servers.

Note that getting this far in a couple of weeks would never had been possible in a traditional company (in my experience). The credit of this smooth setup belongs to some of their developers and admins, who put together the necessary scripts and server setup in record time. They actually had a continuous integration already, running the build each night as a cron-job. All I did was drop in the idea of using Hudson, and running the build on every commit.

Step 2: Do some agile preaching

I wanted to give the other developers some agile 101 very early, and luckily a slot opened up in our second weekly team meeting. I did this somewhat critical presentation on Scrum, so now when I accidentally throw terms like velocity and backlog around, they will have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Step 3: Whiteboards, whiteboards, whiteboards!

One of the things I did the first week was to get some large whiteboards ordered. I am of the opinion that you can never get enough whiteboards, and management agreed to spend a small fortune on this (again, something that wouldn't be easy in a traditional company). They finally arrived last week, and on Friday we finally got our team-lounge set up:

From Blogger-bilder
It's quite neat, I think. My plan so far is to use the far-left one for backlog stuff, the two horizontals for Sprint-charts, and the one on the right for anything else people would like to draw, be it architecture or obscenities ;)

It will be quite interesting to see how this works out. Some of the developers were speculating that the setup will be working for the first few weeks, and then fade away and people won't bother any more. Well, if people don't need this amount of communication in order to work efficiently, we will of course not force people to participate. I think everyone is better off if they spend 10 minutes of their day with the rest of their team on a daily standup in front of these whiteboards, but if people still don't like it after giving it an honest try, we'll remove the practice. After all, that's what being agile is all about.