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31May/120

Too much of a good thing?

I was listening to Predictably Irrational (an audio adaptation of Dan Ariely’s eponymous book) on my way to work. The chapter was about how added burden of social pressures influences our performance. One psychological experiment described stuck in my mind – that of a cockroach performing certain tasks first alone, and then in a company of a fellow sufferer.

When presented with a simple task of running, the cockroach performed much better while under observation but given more complex task – like traversing a maze –showed exactly the opposite: the cockroach solved the maze puzzle much faster being on his own, without a witness to his struggle.

The similar experiment albeit in different contexts were repeated with MIT students, poor Indian villagers and a bunch of professional bankers. The results of over-stimulation – be it outsized bonus, or fear of failure – were always opposite to the intent (getting better results)

This brings me to the one of the most cherished tenet of Extreme Programming paradigm – namely, Pair Programming.

Can creativity flourish under constant observation of a fellow programmer? Would the added stress of being under observation while crafting code be beneficial or detrimental? My money is on that, with exception of extremely rare circumstances where programmers are also best friends, paired programming is disadvantaged by the constant self-censorship, and best ideas are never tried for the fear of an appearing stupid to your paired co-worker.

I would be interested to see if there is any quantified research on the subject (my internet search brought up none to date)

13Apr/1014

Agile Calculus

One of Agile tenets is cycle shortening : development cycle, communication cycle, integration cycle… It had occurred to me that taking these to the logical conclusion results in the cycles becoming continuous.

Continuous development, continuous integration, continuous peer review (think XP)...All discrete activities meld into continuous processes.