Sunday, December 16, 2007

Agile and Iterative Development, by Craig Larman

Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager’s Guide, by Craig Larman

This is one of those books that is useful as both an ongoing reference and as an introductory text. It provides not only a walk through of several iterative software development techniques, but targeted resources for further reading at the end of each chapter and a FAQ and bibliography at the close of the book. The topics are presented in a narrative fashion with many illustrative examples, making for both easy reading and high retention; knowing Larman’s history of developing and presenting training courses this is no surprise. Much like Rothman’s Manage It!, one of the great things about this book is that it delves into things needed for success outside the development methodology at hand; for instance, wikis and mind-maps get mentions here even though they aren’t specific to any particular technique. Larman also does a good job of discussing both the positives and negatives of various approaches, where many competing books tend to avoid the trouble areas and stick to the party line. This holistic view of the world is what makes this text rise above its brethren.

Another reason I enjoyed this book is my connection with the author: we used to work together a decade or so ago at ObjectSpace. In fact, I was one of the guys that interviewed Craig before he joined. At the time I was working in C++ and Craig had mentioned that he had a brief acquaintance with the language. He was being considered for creating and teaching OOAD and Smalltalk courses as I recall, but as an excuse for Craig to meet more people in the company we were asked to get together. Craig had flown in from Canada for a day of interviews and the word in the halls was all positive going into our session. After introductions I started in on the standard C++ language questions and we quickly discovered that he was exactly accurate with his self-evaluation of “vague familiarity.” As the session petered to an awkward close, Craig suddenly perked up and reached into his bag, pulling out a small bottle (think hotel liquor sized) of Canadian syrup saying, “I brought this for you!” Turns out he brought syrup for everyone, but the timing of remembering a gift at the end of a clumsy discussion was priceless. Of course he was hired and went on to great things, but that remains one of my favorite interview stories.

First Sentence:
What value will you get from studying this book, an introduction to iterative and agile methods?

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