Learning with Peter

Last week I was lucky to host my good friend Peter Kofler in his visit to Gran Canaria, where he came to facilitate the Glodal Day of Code Retreat and also to work together a couple of days in our biggest project at the moment.

We've been working in the same project for a year now, our team joined the client's team to play several roles, from mentoring to developing features ourselves. Peter's visit was a fantastic learning experience and also a way to bring back principles that wear out as we face recurring issues over time. Even though we started as external consultants, the fact that we've been a year immerse in the project sometimes leading the development ourselves, changes our vision and focus. Peter's fresh vision reminded me of myself a year ago, when the gig started and reinforced my willingness to stick with my principles. Thank you Peter!

Notes that I wrote down during working sessions:

  • Code metrics is exactly what we need now to show everyone the health of the code base. We have enough code already and we must improve the readability of some tests, reorganise dependencies, clean up namespaces and some other things we know are important. A tool like Sonar of something like that will provide us with metrics to measure the improvements over time. It's definitely the time to visualize code metrics
  • Dependencies diagrams are another type of metric that we should use now that. A quick overview of how the various namespaces are related to each other.
  • There are certain areas of the hexagon suffering from "primitive obsession" code smell. We want more objects within our business domain, and less primitives.
  • More information in commit's comments. Apart from the refactoring we apply or the name of the tests turning green or red, I'll try to explain shortly what is the benefit of every single commit. The reason to change the code. I've found myself searching for particular design decisions in the commits' history and realized that the information in the comments was not enough to find out what I wanted. Example: why I moved a method to a class, extracted a class... the "why" is not in the code so it's a good idea to add it in the form of comments in the version control system.
  • I want to learn how to work with Visual Studio without the mouse, because it's faster with the keyboard only. This is an old resolution that I want to approach now.
  • I realised that our style of "mob programming" is different to the original style proposed by Woody Zuill and his team. In the original proposal, the driver is mostly "keyboarding", focusing on typing what the navigators tell him to do. Our approach is different, we have the discussion and the person who clearly sees how to translate the idea into code jumps in the keyboard and expresses it in code, no one says to the driver what should be written. The driver leads the session when he is at the keyboard. It's sometimes easier to express an idea writing some code or pseudo-code, than trying to explain how the code is going to look like, and I think this has to do with the fact that talking constantly exhausts me. It also has to do with focus, the driver is the person who can implement the discussed idea faster, who knows the code better. Whenever the driver is stuck, the navigator who knows how to carry on, asks for the keyboard and becomes the driver. I find dictating awkward and sometimes irritating. So we are not following their rule: "for an idea go from your head into the computer it MUST go through someone else’s hands.". We try not to talk whilst the driver is typing just like in pair programming, because we want the driver to be able to listen what navigators have to say, and I can't type and listen at the same time. Perhaps we are not doing mob programming at all. But it works for us.
  • In order to keep the good energy and motivation in a mob or pair prog session, it's better to give up or take a break than working without feeling like it. I need to feel that my colleagues feel like working and thus I must feel like doing so too.
  • I really like the way Peter summarized the Hexagonal Architecture, focusing on the direction of the dependencies. A simple diagram with two boxes joined by an arrow pointing from one to the other, was enough for people to understand it. Also the onion was a good idea.

Regarding the Global Day of Code Retreat, there are a bunch of things I learned from Peter and from the day itself:

  • If there are no sponsors buying food, I want to buy food myself for me and for all the participants. This year I brought the food in the afternoon but I should have brought it in the morning, when people were hungry. Next time I'll arrive in the morning with breakfast for everyone. I missed the relaxing moment of the morning break sharing some fruit and coffee or tea.
  • Whenever I talk very serious aiming to remark something important, I look like I am rude. I don't realize that until I see people's faces and by then I feel bad about it. To avoid this situation I'll think twice before sending the message. I must be quiet, talk more slowly, think from a positive angle and use positive words. Words like "no" or "not" or "don't" may be negative. I want to read about Non Violent Communication and practice it.
    As an example, during the retreat in one iteration's retrospective I said that the facilitators (Peter and me) were not there to teach. My aim was to encourage people to learn from themselves rather than expecting some kind of master class or demo from our side, but the way I said it was understood as ... "I am not here to help you, or I don't care about you" as some people told me afterwards. It had a negative impact in some people's motivation.
  • At the end of the day, after the final retrospective, in the pursuit of feedback and appreciation I talked in such an unfortunate way that made people feel in debt with us. But again I didn't realise until I saw people's reaction. My aim was to discover what benefits did participants find out during the day, what did they take away so that next time I could maximize it with specific actions or exercises.
    When it's obvious that I've dedicated time and energy working for others, I must be very careful not to express that explicitly because it will make people feel in debt which is not what I wanted.

Several friends have spoken to me about Non Violent Communication (NVC) in the last 5 years or so, I believe Diego Rojas was the first one, working with Peter was a trigger point for me to really start digging into the subject. Thank you for the recommendation Peter and for this excellent video by Marshall Rosenberg, the father of NVC:

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  • Suui

    Hello Carlos,

    I have a question regarding the commits’ comments. You mentioned it would be good to add more info to them, answering the why question for each one. However, although I agree with it and I have also struggled finding some reasoning in past commits, I believe having to express such a meaning in the comment would add up to take quite some time.

    I don’t have much experience on this so how beneficial do you consider spending some time on writing those commit comments against the troubles you may experience as a result of not writing them?

    Or more clearly, how much is it worth it?

    Thanks, it was a really nice post!

  • http://www.carlosble.com/ Carlos Ble

    Sorry for the delay mate. I value flow over everything else, so although I try quickly to express the benefit of the commit, it’s usually just one line or two and I spend just a few seconds thinking of it. If the comment doesn’t come up to my mind quickly I just commit and proceed coding. Thanks for reading!