Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Tools of the Trade II

Erin Hoffman | 20 Jun 2008 17:00
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Tools Philosophy

Implementing a new tool, or even considering its implementation, is often a time- and energy-intensive process in and of itself. It's also difficult to measure a tool's effectiveness, when you don't have a major publisher like Microsoft invested in funding research behind your methods. It can be difficult, therefore, to estimate what would improve your process, and what's going to be worth the investment in learning curve and process change. Particularly with the speed and pressure already inherent in the development process, even thinking about a new method can seem a luxury, and introducing a new required tool midway through production can be destructive.

The important takeaway from the subject of tools is one of philosophy. If developers are staying focused on what's important and taking time to analyze the effectiveness of their production - through Critical State Analysis or even post-mortem - the integration of new tools can make the development process smoother, more pleasant, and ultimately higher-reaching in the quality of its end product. As with all aspects of quality of life, the trick is to keep seeing the forest for the trees, and not get sucked into a deathmarch loop that keeps our eyes focused on our feet, on managing the next crisis instead of envisioning the future.

The other important element in exploring tools use is communication. Often developers come up with ingenious simple ideas that have great effect on their projects - and they keep them to themselves. With the exception of developer magazines, which tend to have a mild bias stigma due to their connection with professional tools advertisers and industry conferences, which are both intense and a narrow slice of time once a year at best, tools communication isn't great around these parts. By sharing ideas and simple process tricks we can more rapidly iterate the evolution of development methodology and tools integration. And we could probably use a communication tool to get started...

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