Rapid prototyping makes usability testing easier

In an article over at Dancingmango Marc McNeill writes about how new web development frameworks such as Ruby on Rails will have an impact on usability testing practices (“What’s the point of usability testing”). The only real reason to test a mockup instead of a real application is of course that it used to be more expensive and time consuming to create an application. With Rails there is no such barrier anymore and usability tests can (and should) be using the real application instead. It is likely that this will lead to a better understanding of how users behave in e.g. a task based system.

Coupled with the extremely short feedback cycle realized by using dynamically typed languages such as Ruby, Rails may have a deeper impact on software development practices than I previously thought.

Scrum, Lies and Red Tape

Philip Su from Microsoft gives us a glimpse of the inner workings of one of the most complex software projects in the world. It is interesting to see that the same problems that sometimes plague small waterfall projects (lies, red tape) exist in an organization that have put a lot of effort into their development methodology.

At a recent Scrum training session Ken Schwaber said “it’s all bout telling the truth”. Philip’s post contains some interesting quotes related to this topic:

“When a vice president in the Windows [Vista project] asks you whether your team will ship on time, they might well have asked you whether they look fat in their new Armani suit.

“[…]the intrepid managers finally understood how to get past the dilemma. They simply stopped telling the truth. -‘Sure, everything fits. We cut and cut, and here we are. Vista by August or bust. You got it, boss.’ Every once in a while, Truth still pipes up in meetings. When this happens, more often than not, Truth is simply bent over an authoritative knee and soundly spanked into silence.”

Didn’t Microsoft adopt Scrum a year go? Maybe they skipped the part about transparency. Granted, the Windows Vista project may be one of the more complex software projects to date, but how many VP:s do you really need? And even if you do the waterfall dance, there must be some insight into real progress, even for pointy haired bosses?

Update: Apparently too many readers turned his blog post into the standard Windows/Linux shootout which made him remove the interesting parts. Google cache currently has the original.