Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: Agile is bad, but “Wagile” is worse.
Plus: This prod is even worse than yours.
1. Malificent Manifesto
First up this week: People are still raging against Agile. Three months ago, I talked about how commentators blamed toxic workplace culture—sexism, racism, burnout, micromanagement—on iterative project management. This time, let’s dig more into it: Trying to blend Agile with traditional waterfall methods is doomed to failure.
Analysis: Wagile—the Worst of Both Worlds
Why do people try to mix the two and expect success? It doesn’t work like that. Never underestimate the power of ritual, I guess.
But it raises a painful question: Could it be that successful Agile is simply impossible in the real world?
Ben Hosking: Agile Projects Have Become Waterfall Projects With Sprints
“Never will be a magic formula”
Currently, agile projects are turds rolled in raisins and called roses. Any developer with half a nose can smell these are … late projects or failed projects waiting to happen. … Agile in name but chaos in reality.
Developers are busier and lonelier than ever before. Burning out in higher numbers and continuing to move jobs in the hope the next job is better. … These days agile is a slow, frustrating, meeting fueled trudge—like swimming through peanut butter: Lots of effort for little reward.
People are the reason for success or failure. Project methodology, technology and programming languages are the tools used to create software. There is not and never will be a magic formula to deliver projects.
Sometimes, people do this on purpose. Break out the fish’n’chips, u/DigitalPoet_:
I did some consultancy work for a major British bank. Household name.
They described the process they had developed as “waterscrumfall.” Not ironically—proudly. The guy who explained it to me sounded like he was ready to publish a book on it.
Oh, but this is just “doing Agile wrong.” bmitc disagrees:
If the number one answer to we’re using Agile but it’s not working is “you’re doing Agile wrong,” then maybe Agile isn’t the solution? … People are so into Agile [but] it simply doesn’t work all by itself. How many books, conferences, certifications, practitioners, evangelists, etc. does it take to make [it] actually work?
Every company I have worked for that used Agile basically had broken processes and were not productive. The one job where we did not explicitly use Agile was actually a place where I produced the most useful work.
What use is a great idea that can’t be implemented in the real world? Here’s u/Leading-Bottle6134:
Technically there is nothing wrong with Waterfall—aside from the fact that the only time you have all the required requirements in the start is if you’re rewriting an existing system. But [Wagile] always ends up being, “We don’t understand why neither of the two approaches worked, so we made a third that also didn’t.”
What’s old is new again. BFLpL0QNek:
10–15 years ago, I was at a small Thoughtworks event where Martin Fowler was speaking. … Back then he was using the term “Water-Scrum-Fall,” saying most Agile projects he’s seen are waterfall projects wrapped into two week sprints.
Today, everywhere I work is now “Agile,” doing scrum or similar. It’s all lip service—it’s just … ceremonies over the actual spirit and ethos of the original manifesto.
How does this happen? Don’t disregard Dick Dowdell:
Humans have a disturbing tendency to put form over purpose—ritual over comprehension.
2. Is This the Scariest DevOps Environment Ever?
You think you’ve got problems? How do you fancy pushing to prod when the metal is 150,000,000 miles away? That’s what NASA’s doing.
Analysis: Latency 800 seconds
The Curiosity Mars rover is old, but still going strong. However, a weird piece of technical debt has limited its speed, due to NASA’s inability to reproduce a bug. Finally, after seven years, JPL has cracked the problem and is ready to deploy.
Matthew Sparkes fly: Mars rover gets 50 percent speed boost from software update
“Potentially dangerous bug”
A new software update will soon [let] NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover … cover a greater distance and complete more science. But the update very nearly didn’t happen because of a mysterious bug in the software that eluded engineers for years.
The new software will be uploaded to Curiosity early next year and marks the end of three years of thorough testing. Development began in 2015, but during the first test on an Earth-based rover … a potentially dangerous bug was found. Engineers couldn’t replicate it in simulations … and the update eventually stalled as other priorities took over.
The updated software will allow Curiosity to take images of its surroundings while stationary, but then check its prior resting position as it travels. It can subsequently compensate for any errors. … This brings a small drop in accuracy, but allows the rover to move almost continuously.
Here’s an impressed-sounding MightyMartian:
They are incredible technical feats. I’d hate to be the programming team having to do the update.
“What do you mean it froze when we flashed the BIOS?” I know there’s a lot of redundancy and safe modes, but I used to stress out enough doing BIOS-level updates when the damned computer was right in front of me. I don’t think I’d have the ****s to do it when the computer is 300 million miles away.
It’s been a long time coming, notes u/rusyn:
A rover that has already been on the surface of Mars for ten years … just got a software update that makes it [faster]? Hooray NASA and keep up the good work!
The Moral of the Story:
Summer’s lease hath all too short a date