Episode 145: Working Effectively with (Legacy) Code with Michael Feathers

The Agile Revolution Podcast

Craig is in Atlanta at Agile 2016 and catches up with Michael Feathers, author of “Working Effectively with Legacy Code” and they talk about the following:

  • Working Effectively with Legacy Code originally started as a book about Test First Programming but morphed into a book about the techniques for refactoring code in legacy systems
  • The Pinned Progress Curve – for many people there is no incentive to change so the mean gets larger between the status quo and good practices
  • Agile Alliance Deliver:Agile conference
  • Organisations that have technical founders have a very different character to their work internally, need to make knowledge of the quality of software more pervasive – the business need to understand more about the technical side, and the developers need to understand more about the business
  • Code that has excessive error handling typically has other design problems – benefit in thinking about whether…

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Agile 2011 Day 5 Review

Agile 2011The final day of Agile 2011 in Salt Lake City was keynote day but not before a couple of announcements. Next years conference will be organised by Mitch Lacey and held in Grapevine, Texas and a number of presentations were videoed (including one of my talks) and will be available over time on the Agile Alliance website.

Finally it was officially announced that my good friend and colleague Shane Hastie had been elected to the board of the Agile Alliance (a first for our little area of the world!). Here are my notes from the keynotes:

Keynote: Code 

Kevlin Henney (author of 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know along with a couple of other books) delivered this keynote. His slides are available here.

From Agile 2011
  • functionality is an asset, code is a liability
  • IOC (International Obsifuctaed C Code Contest) – shows that bad code can look beautiful
  • how noisy is your code – throw away comments and string literals and throw it into a tag cloud generator and see what it shows you
  • code embodies principles and values – the penal code, even the Agile Manifesto
  • typing is not the bottleneck
  • it’s not about business value – it’s not very exciting, it does not get you out of bed in the morning – it’s about passion
  • we are not very good at learning from failure – we can… but we are not wired too
  • patterns manifesto – “we are uncovering better ways of developing software by seeing how others have done it”

Keynote: The Power of an Agile Mindset

Linda Rising delivered this keynote. Some resources Linda mentioned that back up her talk were the work of Carol Dweck (MindSet and Self-Theories), The Talent Myth by Malcolm Gladwell and How to Help Them Succeed from Time magazine. Here slides are available here.

From Agile 2011
  • there are two mindsets – fixed and agile – determines everything we do – determines goals, reactions to failure, belief about effort and strategy, attitudes towards others successes
  • we can continue to grow, you can’t measure someones potential with an IQ test
  • belief about yourself affects belief about others – we are hardwired to judge and stereotype others, fixed mindsets do it on very little evidence, agile mindset still does it but are less positive/negative
  • bright little girls are typically praised constantly
  • bright little boys are typically criticized or reprimanded
  • organisations have a mindset as well
  • Enron had a fixed mindset to hire the best talent – “rank and yank” – only keep the best
  • Southwest are about people not planes – don’t hire for IQ, but for attitude and learning
  • managers have a mindset – how they view their employees affects their performance (Pygmalion in Management in Harvard Business Review and Hard Facts by Pfeffer and Sutton)
  • build teams around the agile mindset
  • the mindset is a belief, it can be changed – we can encourage others to change their mindset
  • perfect vs per-fect
  • emphasis on the effort and process

And with that, the Agile 2011 conference was over!


Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up Day 5 of the conference.