This past Monday my colleagues and I went to 37 Signals’ Getting Real workshop. Overall I give the workshop a thumbs up. They seem to be a good groups of guys.
I’ll summarize by saying that the workshop is about how 37 Signals works. How they make decisions, how they build software, how they design software, and how they sell it.
They were very candid about everything and that was refreshing.
At the end of it all, my colleagues and I begged the question: what did we learn? We all agreed that we didn’t really learn anything except that our philosophy is very similar to theirs.
However, there were a few points of contentions.
37 Signals builds their own software and they have a system that suits their purpose perfectly. 8th Light develops software for clients and that means we have to do things differently. One difference was acceptance tests.
During the workshop, Gilberto asked what 37 Signals’ opinion was on FIT and acceptance tests. David (DHH) responded by saying that they don’t use or need acceptance tests because acceptance tests can’t capture the design and usability aspects of their software.
I actually had this conversation with DHH a year back or so at a Ruby gathering in Chicago and he was of the same opinion. I agreed with him then and agree with him now. If I was building my own software and was essentially my own customer, I wouldn’t use acceptance tests either.
But when building software for clients, acceptance tests become a critical tools for communication. Clients have expectations and no matter how many words they use or gestures they make, their intent does not become concrete until you put it down in an executable format.
I would not dare to engage in a contract development arrangement with out acceptance tests.
There were a few other strategies that work for 37 Signals but wont work for 8th Light, such as hiring strategies and distributed workforce. Mostly this is based on 8th Light’s apprenticeship model.
If you get the chance to go to their workshop, check it out. And keep your eye on these guys. Their tools are pretty sharp and I trust they’ll impress us plenty more.