by Esther Schindler

Plone Sprint: Quietly Making Noise

Jun 27, 20073 mins

At the end of the day, yesterday, the #getpaid team compared notes about what each person had accomplished. They went around the circle: Kapil had set up the workflow for finance and fulfillment, and was experimenting with a checkout wizard. Eric spent Tuesday working on Doctests, trying out interfaces to set objects as buyable, shippable and premium. Veda and Donna did mockups of the user interface, and planned to tackle the admin UI today. And so on. (If you’re interested in the development of the e-commerce system, you can follow along on the detailed progress of the #getpaid team and the #docsprint.)

So, plenty of work is underway. Several people have been toiling away writing documentation. The white boards are full, now, with scribbled notes about software architecture and copyediting rules (we use “plugin,” not “plug-in,” I asserted). One entire wall is covered with Post-It notes, the result of the “card deck” exercise I mentioned yesterday. Largely, everyone was surprised by how much plone documentation already exists, but much of it is for previous versions. This morning, the team is starting the second pass on those cards: refining categories. The goal is to identify 10 to 20 top-level categories (probably with subcategories), each of which has no more than about 20 top-level items. I’m pretty impressed with the card deck process, as it’s a way to find the order hidden inside of existing chaos (rather than trying to force a structure that doesn’t quite work).

But all that is about people getting things done; that’s not too unusual from most office environments. There are a few unique characteristics of the sprint. One is that everyone is working on a very short-term deadline: how much can be finished by Friday. Another is the cameraderie of people who, until Sunday night, only knew each other by their IRC handles. Over the years, I’ve met dozens of people whom I’ve known only online, but I rarely needed to work with them. It’s very cool to see how quickly everyone sorts out the “who’s doing what” roles that can take some teams weeks, and to observe how quickly everybody gets down to business.

I had my first experience yesterday with “lightening talks,” 5-minute presentations that quickly show a technique or explain a viewpoint. I’ve heard of these for several years in the development community, but I (and I suspect you) had never seen one before. How cool! I got a five minute demo of how to create screencasts (including an overview of the tools available for each OS platform); an experienced documentation guy gave an overview of writing to a specific audience; and so on. Each was short enough for me to grasp and remember the key points, and it wasn’t so much of an interruption that my attention veered back to my email. Plus, it was a perfect mental break for that brain sag at 3pm.

Plus, there’s plenty of social time, primarily over dinner—though geeks being what we are, many people pulled out their laptops while waiting for the appetizers to arrive. (How could I fail to keep up with the Diamondbacks scores?)

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