CITCON: The Culture of CI: Before Installing CruiseControl & Beyond Installing It

I had suggested a topic covering “Beyond Installing CruiseControl – CI Culture with Management and Developers”. It actually got merged with “Social Impact of CI”, suggested by Michael, and “How to introduce CI”, from Jeffrey. Jeffrey had, in fact, a presentation that he had already discussed in a previous conference, so most of the session ran around it.

Michael reported that he had witnessed situations where the developers distrusted their management so much that they were quite opposed to CI in general, figuring that it would be used to identify and fire people that break the build often. It could be said that the culture of blame was already there, though.

Jeffrey’s presentation argued that changing habits is extremely hard. He quoted a sociologist who wrote that “familiarity exerts a powerful force”. Essentially, people rather do something that is painful, but that they know about, rather that something better that they do not know.
To leave this vicious circle, one solution is to give small bonuses to the developers. For example, give one sticker per unit test written. The personal impact of this is important; people would probably not do it for money (which would have to be small amounts anyway), but they would do it when it makes them feel good. Douglas commented that he couldn’t imagine doing this sort of things with his team, as it would be perceived as childish (maybe giving tickets for a beer at a company party who work better?).

I think the root of the matter is that constant vigilance is paramount. Basically, it is not possible to simply tell people to write unit tests, or to install CruiseControl. Some will probably start doing so, but precious few will keep on doing for good. Those that do, however, should probably be used as relays to remind the other developers to keep on writing tests, and add new techniques and tools.

That reminds me of a study on productivity. A consultant had realized that, in a factory, productivity would go up when the light is stronger. However, he also noted that, when the light was dimmed, productivity would *also* go up! The point is that productivity increases when people feel that someone is paying attention to them. Or maybe it is the simple fact of changing something in their environment which prevented them from sinking in monotony.

Notes on the session are available on the CITCON website.

I have older posts on CITCON.

Update: quoted sociologist is Virginia Satir.

About Eric Lefevre-Ardant

Independent technical consultant.
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