Let Your Project Speak for Itself

Your project probably has a version control system in place. Perhaps it is connected to a continuous integration server that verifies correctness by automated tests. That's great.

You can include tools for static code analysis into your continuous integration server to gather code metrics. These metrics provide feedback about specific aspects of your code, as well as their evolution over time. When you install code metrics, there will always be a red line that you do not want to cross. Let's assume you started with 20% test coverage and never want to fall below 15%. Continuous integration helps you keep track of all these numbers, but you still have to check regularly. Imagine you could delegate this task to the project itself and rely on it to report when things get worse.

You need to give your project a voice. This can be done by email or instant messaging, informing the developers about the latest decline or improvement in numbers. But it's even more effective to embody the project in your office by using an extreme feedback device (XFD).

The idea of XFDs is to drive a physical device such as a lamp, a portable fountain, a toy robot, or even an USB rocket launcher, based on the results of the automatic analysis. Whenever your limits are broken, the device alters its state. In case of a lamp, it will light up, bright and obvious. You can't miss the message even if you're hurrying out the door to get home.

Depending on the type of extreme feedback device, you can hear the build break, see the red warning signals in your code, or even smell your code smells. The devices can be replicated at different locations if you work on a distributed team. You can place a traffic light in your project manager's office, indicating overall project health state. Your project manager will appreciate it.

Let your creativity guide you in choosing an appropriate device. If your culture is rather geeky, you might look for ways to equip your team mascot with radio-controlled toys. If you want a more professional look, invest in sleek designer lamps. Search the Internet for more inspiration. Anything with a power plug or a remote control has the potential to be used as an extreme feedback device.

The extreme feedback device acts as the voice box of your project. The project now resides physically with the developers, complaining or praising them according to the rules the team has chosen. You can drive this personification further by applying speech synthesis software and a pair of loudspeakers. Now your project really speaks for itself.

By Daniel Lindner

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