Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Morgans Raid: Sprint 10

Last Friday was the end of Sprint 10 for the Morgan's Raid team. Here's the burndown:

In Sprint 10, the Sprint Planning meeting was held while I was away at the administrators' retreat, so the students had complete authority. There were a lot of small user stories this sprint, and there was confusion between me and the team regarding whether certain stories were committed but not on the sprint burndown, or whether they had brainstormed some tasks for non-committed user stories. I'm not sure that the burndown chart is accurate: the first dramatic dip may have been a miscalculation. The real lesson here, then, is one of communication: I don't think we talked about the phenomenon adequately until two weeks later at the Sprint Retrospective.

Speaking of the Retrospective, I think the team continues to do great work. I feel that there is a real team identity and that they trust each other. They're really a fun group to work with, and I am saddened when I am called away from them to work on mundane tasks such as committee meetings or advising.

Today, we're heading out to an Indianapolis-area elementary school to do some end-user testing with our current prototype. I'm quite excited about it, and word is that there will be press from both BSU and the Indy Star there. The only downside of the story comes from my efforts this morning to clean up just a few loose ends before the playtesting. There is still a lot of cruft in the codebase, things that should be embarassing but I fear the students still either (a) don't see as ugly or (b) don't consider it worth fixing. Here's an example: there are four different cinematics in the game and they are all driven completely by YAML configurations. Despite the fact that each only differs in which configuration is loaded and what follows the cinematic, folks last semester implemented four different classes for these features via copy-paste coding. In each one, mouse clicks were incorrectly handled by polling in the update method rather than by overriding mouseClicked. To fix the bug wherein mouse clicks were sometimes not recognized, I had to go change this in four places. Since we are literally hours away from end-user testing, the last thing I wanted to do was introduce any risks into the system, but you can bet that before the weekend, someone is going to fix this.

I was inspired by Martin Fowler's recent article on the Tradeable Quality Hypothesis, which can be summarized by the statement, "You cannot trade quality." In the Sprint 10 Retrospective, we talked briefly about how I felt that the students were developing some sense of programming aesthetics, a skill or perspective that I have been contemplating for some time. Working side-by-side with students on design, analysis, and development still seems to be the best way, although it does not scale, and my other job responsibilities are not always conducive to this end.

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