A rambling, regurgitated thought on process

Elevator pitch: I’ve found that if you want to divert a productive team into an hour or two of semi-fruitless banter, ask how the team should use Git, Pivotal Tracker, and Capistrano to manage incoming work, verify it, and deploy it to production. In reality, you should ignore all the corner-cases and figure out what will enable you to push really small chunks of work with great frequency.

Ed. What follows isn’t novel, but it was a useful change in perspective for me, so I decided to share.

I’ve been thinking a bit about software processes lately. Despite great variation in telling you how to do so, most processes seem to focus on to do more stuff faster.

Lately, the notion of doing less has a lot of interest. Lean startups are the new-new thing and Getting Real is the old new thing; both preach getting more done and delivering value by doing less and analyzing the results more.

There are two kinds of “do less” a software developer can engage in. In the past I’ve been a little too focused on how I can take on fewer responsibilities from other parties. Literally doing less by scoping down features, putting off decisions, and focusing on things that seem like they really matter. I sometimes feel like I’ve become too eager to do less, making myself something of a cranky coder/slacker. But I digress

Recently, I’ve been trying to tackle doing less in my habits of creating software. How can I write less code to implement a feature, not in the minimalist sense, but in the “how do I just get it to kinda work sense”? How can I take less time between starting something and getting some form of it out in the wild? How can I make my code less coupled so there are fewer changes to make when I decide it needs to do something else? How can I make this less coupled to data storage so that putting it out requires less deployment effort? How can I make changes that are less likely to cause long-term regressions? How can I make it less effort to rollback bad changes?

When I look through the lens of accomplishing more by doing less, a lot of popular software methodology seems like dead weight. Rather than trying to find a process that addresses every team member’s own scars and affections, both perceived and imaginary, it seems most useful to imagine the smallest ruleset that won’t result in uncontrollable entropy and put it into action. If something starts to hurt, imagine the simplest new rule and put it into play.

The goal, as stated above, is to get to the point where you make really tiny, maybe imperceptible changes, and push them really frequently. Everything that stands in the way is the enemy.