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Agitating Thoughts & Ideas
On Java Lava Lamps and Other eXtreme Feedback Devices
by Alberto Savoia
August 26, 2004
Summary
eXtreme Feedback Devices (XFDs) are a fun and effective way to help your entire development team to know about and pay attention to the project status and metrics you care about.

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A few months ago, on April 1(!) 2004 to be precise, I posted an article on eXtreme Feedback on DeveloperTesting.com: http://www.developertesting.com/managed_developer_testing/000036.html.

The article was on a relatively serious subject: "How do you get your team to pay attention to the software/project status and metrics that you care about?", but one of my solutions for getting the team to pay attention was to "invent" and implement eXtreme Feedback Devices (XFDs) that would be very visible, fun, and hard to ignore.

One of these XFDs consists of a pair of Lava lamps (one green and one red) remotely connected to our build and test system in such a way that a successful build (all tests pass) turns on the green lava lamp, and a failed build (or failed tests) turns on the red one.

The original Java Lava Lamps have been glowing red and green for the past several months in our offices, and have achieved something of a cult status (e.g. they are included in Mike Clark's excellent book Pragmatic Project Automation, and have recently received a fair amount of buzz on Slashdot.com.)

The interesting thing, for me, is that something that I started as something of a joke (it was April 1st after all) actually turned out to be a very useful tool in more ways than one. Sure, I could go to our CruiseControl page to see if they build is broken, or set-up email alerts, but keeping track of the lamps (which are centrally located in our development area) is easier, faster, and gives me an ongoing view into the current status and ebb-and-flow of our build and test cycles.

If you are amused by the idea of the Java Lava Lamp and would like to build your own, you are in luck. Mike Clark just posted instructions, HW requirements, and links to the software you need on http://www.pragmaticprogrammer.com/pa/pa.html.

Have fun.

Alberto

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About the Blogger

Alberto Savoia is founder and CTO at Agitar Software, and he has been life-long agitator and innovator in the area of software development and testing tools and technology. Alberto's software products have won a number of awards including: the JavaOne's Duke Award, Software Development Magazine's Productivity Award, Java Developer Journal's World Class Award, and Java World Editor's Choice Award. His current mission is to make developer unit testing a broadly adopted and standar industry practice rather than a rare exception. Before Agitar, Alberto worked at Google as the engineering executive in charge of the highly successful and profitable ads group. In October 1998, he cofounded and became CTO of Velogic/Keynote (NASD:KEYN), the pioneer and leading innovator in Internet performance and scalability testing. Prior to Velogic, Alberto had 13-year career at Sun Microsystems where his most recent positions were Founder and General Manager of the SunTest business unit, and Director of Software Technology Research at Sun Microsystems Laboratories.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2004 Alberto Savoia. All rights reserved.

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