I’ve subscribed to my first podcasts: Agile Toolkit and The Sound of Vision. It really is nice that I can enter the URL for an RSS feed into iTunes and it will go and fetch new shows for me. And the iPod is definitely the right place for this sort of thing: if the podcasts were just music, maybe I’d be willing to listen to them on the computer, but those podcasts are spoken word, and the verbal part of my by brain is already quite busy enough when I’m using the computer.

I found both podcasts because they were interviewing bloggers that I respected. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep on listening to them – in the former case, I don’t get the impression that there’s a huge backlog of stuff to be added, and the latter one is more business-focused than I’m really interested in. But I’m interested in business issues enough to give it a try for a while, certainly.

One interesting thing about the Bob Martin interview in the Agile Toolkit: he says that there’s a minimum set of agile practices such that, once you have them, you’ll naturally start adopting the whole kit and caboodle. His candidates are:

  • Very short cycles.
  • An open office.
  • Test-driven development, both at the unit test and automated test levels.

Once you have those, he says, the rest will follow: TDD naturally leads to automated integration, an open office naturally leads to pairing, short cycles with automated tests naturally lead to the planning game. (Though later on he says that maybe the planning game is a fourth necessary seed.)

I really would like to experience an open office at some point. My group is still not completely sold on pairing all the time, though we’re moving in that direction, in a healthy fashion (more on that soon, I hope). I can see how upping the chatter level and having more colleagues in your field of view would help: if you can see somebody, it’s easy to ask them a question, and if people are talking about something that you have something useful to contribute to, then it’s easy to jump in, and both of those could naturally lead to pairing.

And, on a different note, in a noisy room it’s a lot harder to concentrate when working alone than when working with somebody else, so you might as well pair just to get any work done! In Peopleware, DeMarco and Lister talk about how cubicles are bad because people need a quiet place to get into a state of flow, so people should have offices. I tend to think that cubicles are indeed bad, but that there are two stable situations: an open work area or offices. In the former, you get the benefits of free information flow; in the latter, you get the benefits of quiet and privacy. But cubicles don’t satisfy on either count.

Not that our current layout is so bad: there are cubicles, but they only have walls on two sides, leading to more open feel and encouraging more communication. (And less claustrophobia.) But I would like to try an open work area at some point. (With small rooms on the fringes for times when you need privacy.)

(On an unrelated note: lice are not my favorite of animals.)

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