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How is Agile in a Flash different from other Agile books?

 
Mohamed Sanaulla
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There have been lot of books on Agile related areas and this one's written in a way that it uses Set of cards? How is this approach going to help in the learning process? Are the cards descriptive? Are they portable- Like detachable from the book?
 
Tim Ottinger
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The most obvious way is that they're not a book at all, in the traditional sense. Agile in a Flash is a deck of 5x7 Cards!



Each one is a reference card on the front (suitable for sticking on walls, sharing, etc) and a short article on the back to
help explain the practice or principle. With AgileInAFlash and Google you can actually go pretty far toward learning
agile practices. They are even better as teaching aids for coaches and trainers.

Tim Ottinger
 
Mohamed Sanaulla
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Thanks Tim for the clarification. A different approach indeed. Just curious: What made the authors, and publishers come up with a different form for the material? I have seen the Card like material with people preparing for Vocabulary based exams.
 
Tim Ottinger
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Mohamed,

I am the originator of the concept. Here's my writeup of the lightbulb moment: “One day a developer had to miss a morning training session, and asked me if I could help him catch up. Flashing on an idea, I told him to bring three index cards and meet me in a conference room. Sure enough, we condensed a morning’s training session to three cards and a fifteen-minute conversation. He was able to join the rest of the team effectively, and I developed an appetite for brevity.”

I realized that developers like George S. are at least as smart as I am, and don't really need four hours of hand-holding to learn a concept. Seeing how well this crazy idea worked, I got quite excited about it. From there I vetted the idea with some other coaches and friends (Hi Austin) and decided to go with it. I had worked with Jeff before, and he and I are both contributors to Robert Martin's Clean Code. Jeff had a couple of solo books under his belt already, so I asked him to jump into it with me. From there we have the web site, and eventually the deck.

And there you have it.

Tim Ottinger
 
Mohamed Sanaulla
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Sometimes being concise is useful and there's always an option to learn more if something is interesting.

Thanks a lot for the information.
 
Joy Rose
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Do you expect it to be purchased by people teaching Agile as opposed to developers themselves? That's what it sounded like. A coach's tool.
 
Tim Ottinger
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It is particularly useful for coaches. It was developed by coaches, and with an intent of making it a coaching tool initially, but we found that the cards were well-used by agile teams as reference cards. I don't have demographic information on our sales, but I suspect we're selling more to non-coach agile team members.

For instance take a look at one of our free samples on properties of unit tests. This is something that is useful to have on your wall as you're writing the test, moreso than in a training situation.

Personally, my wall has "Stay Valuable", "How to Be A Team Player", "TDD Process Smells", and "Information Radiators" cards on it even as I type this. I added one hand-written card on Theory of Constraints too. These are quite useful in the workplace.

We are also finding that many teams are doing a daily or weekly card reading and discussion. These cards are small enough that you can read and discuss them in only a few minutes, making continuous learning easier (at least until the cards run out).

One of our readers has mentioned that just having the cards on his desk serve as a reminder to do his best work.
 
Jeff Langr
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My hope was to see good managers buy a separate set for everyone on a team. I like the idea of having reminders around--in my office right now, I have cards tacked to the wall, to one of my machines, to the monitors, sitting atop my desk.

I love books (I have about 150 books on software development, and that's after discarding about 100 out-of-date books a year and a half ago), but our goal was to avoid the need for people to dig around through stacks of books in desperate attempts to find answers. And I honestly don't think most people nowadays have the time or want to take the time to read through lengthy tomes. So we designed the Agile in a Flash card deck to be concise and immediate.

Jeff
 
Tim Ottinger
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Clearly "brevity" and "immediacy" are our killer features.
 
Mohamed Sanaulla
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Tim Ottinger wrote:Clearly "brevity" and "immediacy" are our killer features.


Agree with this. I would prefer to quickly go through the cards and go deeper into topics I want more information rather than reading through each and every topic only to leave it half way
 
Jeff Langr
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Sounds good, thanks Mohamed!

Our recipe for use of Agile in a Flash:

  • Pick a card that's relevant and read its front
  • Read the back.
  • Re-read the front to help ingrain the short list.
  • Consider tacking the card up, so that it's in your face, helping you ingrain the concepts
  • Seek and re-read related cards to get a more complete picture of the topic
  • Visit the corresponding post on our blog site (http://agileinaflash.com) if you seek more detail on the topic and why we said some of the things we did
  • Visit the links on many of the cards and at the blog site if needed


  • Regards,
    Jeff
     
    Tim Ottinger
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    jeff:

    I just blogged that at AgileInAFlash.com. Nice work.

    Tim
     
    Sunny Bhandari
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    Thanks for sharing the blog link...

    On the similar tone, can you also share the official link to publisher's site where we can probably see the index page (or download sample chapter).
     
    Augusto Sellhorn
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    The flash card approach seems like a series of slides in a way, is there an electronic form of the book (or cards) for group discussions on a projector (or training session)?
     
    Tim Ottinger
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    Sunny Bhandari wrote:On the similar tone, can you also share the official link to publisher's site where we can probably see the index page (or download sample chapter).


    Happily: http://www.pragprog.com/titles/olag/agile-in-a-flash

    There are four sample cards there, one from each section.
    Enjoy!

    Tim Ottinger
     
    Tim Ottinger
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    Augusto Sellhorn wrote:The flash card approach seems like a series of slides in a way, is there an electronic form of the book (or cards) for group discussions on a projector (or training session)?



    It is handy for a coach or CSM or trainer to have one PDF copy for just this purpose.
    Our publisher offers both paper copies and .pdf files at http://www.pragprog.com/titles/olag/agile-in-a-flash




     
    Jeff Langr
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    Augusto Sellhorn wrote:The flash card approach seems like a series of slides in a way, is there an electronic form of the book (or cards) for group discussions on a projector (or training session)?


    Greetings Augusto,

    You can buy Agile in a Flash in printed or e-book form. Check out the publisher page: http://pragprog.com/titles/olag/agile-in-a-flash.

    Regards,
    Jeff
     
    Tim Ottinger
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    Hey Jeff:

    FIRST!!!

    Tim Ottinger
     
    Jeff Langr
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    Nuts.
     
    Mohamed Sanaulla
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    Did Jeff and Tim mention the advantage of Flash cards? One can circulate it among friends easily, and carry along to read while waiting in queues.

    A disadvantage? People might loose the cards which they borrow
     
    Jeff Langr
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    Good thoughts on advantages and disadvantages Mohamed.

    Other advantages: They can be carried anywhere easily, and you don't need the whole deck. You don't need to take them out of your pocket when you go through the airport scanner. You can fold them into meaningful origami. You can make paper airplanes out of them (I actually had designed an airplane card that showed how, but we had to keep the number of cards to a minimum). You can add meaningful notes to them. They're cheap enough that if you lose or give away some, a replacement copy is painlessly obtained.

    Other disadvantages: They don't usually survive the washing machine's rinse cycle.
     
    Tim Ottinger
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    Mohamed Sanaulla wrote:Did Jeff and Tim mention the advantage of Flash cards? One can circulate it among friends easily, and carry along to read while waiting in queues.

    A disadvantage? People might loose the cards which they borrow


    Yes, which is another reason we pushed the price so low. You shouldn't have to buy new decks every other week, but when you do it is good to know that it's $15.00 or less (depending on quantity and retailer).

    Mind you, it would not make me up$et if you purcha$e $everal deck$ every week.
     
    Mohamed Sanaulla
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    On a lighter note: I have seen Tim and Jeff providing in depth replies to the queries here. And they yet managed to put their ideas in a concise form on the Flash cards
     
    Tim Ottinger
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    Mohamed Sanaulla wrote:On a lighter note: I have seen Tim and Jeff providing in depth replies to the queries here. And they yet managed to put their ideas in a concise form on the Flash cards


    Yes. It was HARD WORK. Worthy work, really.
     
    Jeff Langr
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    It killed us to be so brief for a full summer of writing, but it was a great lesson. Most difficult was after we pared down a card to fit perfectly on a card. We would look at it, think "that's great!" ... but then someone would say, "Oh, you're missing this topic!" To which we'd respond, "But there's no way to get rid of any more text!"

    Often it became an exercise in finding shorter synonyms.

    As you see here, slapping out answers without much editing results in rather prolix text. :-)

    Jeff
     
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