Reflections about the development after the launch of Tractis Beta

We’ve already sent the first beta invitations. Few beta testers will discover many things to improve. The idea is to solve them rapidly and, once the feedback decreases, invite more people.

Screenshot Beta.png

1. Test as soon as possible

There are things that, once developed, don’t convince us as they are and we want to change them. This is the main reason why we follow an agile methodology (rinse & repeat or whatever you want to call it). Until you “experiment” with the development, you don’t know whether or not it will work. Even before starting the beta, we were aware that there were still edges to smooth and some bugs, but we prefer to let people enter now and give us their opinion as soon as possible.

2. Embrace changes

And why didn’t you think it better before starting to develop? We did. But there are no perfect specifications. We don’t believe in creating the perfect, unmovable document during 5 months and developing it during 10 more months…and then discover that you’ve forgotten/mistaken/misinterpreted something. We prefer to launch 15 versions, 1 each month, and receive feedback each time. Many of the decisions we’ve made in the last few days could not have been made two months ago. We needed to see, touch and decide. Changing times are coming. Great! Some parts (e.g. the contract editor) will be completely rewritten.

3. Perfection exists

A comment that may seem stupid but which is not: Perfection exists, another thing is to attain it. It’s hard. If it didn’t exist, it would be like admitting defeat beforehand. “Nothing is perfect!” is the usual excuse by the average person. Some parts of the application are “perfect”. At least that’s what I believe. Sometimes it’s a page, other times it’s a text, an error message or a workflow. There’s still a lot to be done but a lot has been achieved. When you browse the application, you’ll find little details and nooks which, I’m sure, will transmit all the passion that was employed. With your comments and suggestions, many things will improve and we’ll be one step closer to perfection.

Important warning for future negonators

Develop and demonstrate. And accept the feedback and respond and convince…every day if possible. Those are the people we want and we believe that, if we can achieve this, we will have a “fundamentally superior architecture” to that of any other competitor. Going through that process is NOT wasting time. It is (very valuable and useful) research that will help us find the best or most perfect solution. We don’t measure success in terms of the amount of Tractis’ functions or the number of its code lines. We measure success in terms of its quality. The best thing is to have few code lines (fewer bugs) that reflect everything that we’ve learned and why it has to be done that way. Pure distilled code.

Negonation cappuccino: a touch of patience, plenty of ill-feeling

Having said that, we’re very serious about this. I sincerely believe that a developer who likes to receive perfectly clear specifications, work silently without interacting with anybody and who, two months after, presents the code to everybody else with a look of triumph (“Here you are!!!“)… does not have a place here. If you’ve got a problem with developing a fast code, showing it to users and throwing 90% in the rubbish afterwards, then you’ve got a problem with the way we work at Negonation.

A hidden Beta

This is the phone conversation the night before launching the Beta, after a tiring day:

David: “Manolo, what else do we need? In your opinion, what’s the biggest bug with which we cannot launch the beta until we resolve it?
Manuel: “I think the one where the contracts disappear when publishing them…”.

I remember that we started laughing and stayed like that for a while. There have been harsh times, tiring days, emails with “I thought you were in charge!“… Viewing the contracts in the various browsers has been a real nightmare, as testified by Ernesto Jímenez, David Calavera and Diego Lafuente. Yet, nevertheless, everybody (Juanse Pérez -Pootle-, José Gordo -Systems- etc.) put their shoulders to the wheel and weathered the storm. Even the “new” collaborators, Juan Lupión -GetText-, Juanjo Bazán -Settings-, Pelle Braendgaard -Digital signatures- etc., did their best to help us with whatever was needed. Thanks to everybody because we would not be here without you! Of the twentysomething developers listed in, 6 or 7 have shown what they’re made of. It’s an honor to work with you. In the most stressful times, nobody has gone backwards or deserted…and that’s when my fear has gone and I thought: “We’re going to achieve this. No other result is possible“.

How come people from different countries, with different stories, abilities and family situations, worked with enthusiasm and dedication in return for an uncertain long-term return? The hidden beta is not only what can be seen in but everything that has to do with Negonation. And it’s been a complete success. There are still many things to polish but it shows that this modus operandi is possible. Was Yochai Benkler right?…

By David Blanco
Saved in: Empowerment, Hacking, Tractis | 1 comment » | 2 August 2006

One comment in “Reflections about the development after the launch of Tractis Beta”

[...] At Tractis we understand this well. This is why we refactor continually – not just the code but also the methodology, the process, the manner in which we organise ourselves. In many aspects, we’re probably at level Shu. We’ve chosen to be agile and chosen Rails as means of reaching our ambitious objectives. Therefore we are trying to learn, apply and memorize the agile techniques (TDD, Refactoring, Continuous Integration etc.) and the “Rails way”, following our ‘masters’. [...]

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