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Going to Extremes : Page 6

Developers should be fully aware of the risks of the extreme programming methodology.




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So why in the world is there such hysteria over something so seemingly sedate as a development methodology (see Egroups.com), and from where is it coming? The answer to the second question may give us the answer to the first: It's coming from developers. Programmers who are burned out by heroic efforts to save poorly managed projects, isolated in cubicles where they are fed gruel through a slot in the modular wall, then castigated for not satisfying customers they never see. Programmers in the new dotconomy who have seen the balance of labor power tilt in their direction, and now see themselves as inmates with the chance to run the institution.

For project managers, deciding to use Extreme Programming on your next project may in fact feel like bungee jumping off a bridge with a laptop. As a manager, you must be confident enough to give up a large amount of control. You no longer get to say: "I want these features by this date completed by this staff. Make it so." But convincing upper management that two programmers working together on one task can produce more than two programmers working separately will be difficult.

XP does not cost anything in and of itself, but you must be prepared to make some up-front investments in your project. You have to recognize that quality means more than writing with different colored markers at meetings. It means taking the time to write test cases and refactor code whenever necessary.

The temptation is to pick and choose the features you like about XP—to use the short release cycles, for instance, but not pair programming. To this, XPers give a vociferous "No way, dude." It's all the way or not at all.

At first and perhaps even second blush, XP seems dogmatic and fanatical. It espouses lifestyle changes and attitude adjustments and elicits strong responses from its proponents. It demands rigid conformance to all its principles. It would be a mistake to dismiss XP for those reasons. XP is grounded in the hard realities and pitfalls of software development and offers many common-sense solutions. It may not be the final word in the evolution of software development methodology, but it is certainly a big step in the right direction.

Bruce Abbott is a Java developer and free-lance writer currently working on a dysfunctional software project for vision training and therapy.
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