Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Returning to Who is agile

A few months ago I wrote a review of the Who is Agile set of interviews compiled by Yves Hanoulle. Time has passed now as Yves has been back in touch and as the book has evolved I'm writing this follow up.

I think that any community has its fair share of navel gazing and it seems that the agile community suffers especially from this. Too often the Agile manifesto's signatories are put up on pedestals and listened to without question. Too often are practicioners sat around telling each other "didn't we do well". When I first came to read "Who is agile" these were the biases that I was laden with and consequently I had some reservations of the underlying purpose of this book and the value that it would bring to those not in the circles of the contributers. I also think that this behaviour is why there are such strong opinions still over agile and I think that some of the criticism is valid.

(It's probably worth reflecting on at this point that this cynicism may be saying more about me that it is about any community)

So inspite of the review Yves has continued on with adding to the book and I've continued to read it.
After grumpily dismissing the format I think I've now think I've worked out at least one way to read it. This book is not about names, nor agile. It's a book about people. If you forget the names and bio bits and just read the questions and answers you get a fantastic insight into how these people tick. Some of the best interviews are where the interviewees talk less about software development and more about the other stuff that defines them. I believe in that to be a good software developer you need to have experience in other 'stuff'. Some stories are very personal too and it's fascinating the influence that some of those incidents have on those people.

I normally read the book on the kindle but that is only half the fun. As the book has become to big to email to the kindle (via gmail at least its > 20mb) I've found I read it less but when I do there's added value. Each interview is scattered with lots of hyperlinks, some go to just some strange places, others infomative distractions, or just plain definitons. You could get lost for hours just reading through some of the links and if you are stuck for ideas for books each interview will suggest a new one. This is really Who is agile's strengh. It's a cornucopia of information! (or a yak-shaving utopia).

The other criticism I had originally was that the book had a narrow geographical focus. Yves has done well by getting a more diverse (geographically) set of people. Yes the book still is predominatly a euro-us set of interviews but there's more from futher a fields. This feels more like a truly diverse publication.

I'm impressed with how the book has progressed. For its current minimum price ($9.49) there is so much in there. Don't be put off it you don't know (or like) agile. This is not an agile book, it's a book full of stories about software people.

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