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Agile development: Collaboration tools for learning

In this response, Agile expert Lisa Crispin explains how Agile developers can benefit from training materials made possible with social media and collaborative tools.

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You have often mentioned the importance of collaboration tools like wikis in Agile development. As collaboration tools and social media sites continue to evolve, what do you see as the current and future benefits and features of these platforms for Agile developers?

The biggest advantage I see from collaboration tools and social media for Agile teams is for learning.

We recently hired a new tester for our team. We have an extensive wiki documenting much of the system, but it’s hard for a newbie to navigate, so we created a page for training new testers. This page lists what a new tester needs to learn on the first day, in the first week, in the first month, in the first quarter. It has pointers to other wiki pages that document essentials such as how to set up a test environment, how to deploy a build of the application, where to find documentation about the database schema, how to install various test tools. We have a page listing “go-to” people both on the development team side and the business side. We ask the new tester to update the wiki as he learns, so that it will be more clear and helpful for the next person.

Wikis are well established in Agile teams, but I think the role of social media is newer and still evolving. I personally get a lot of ideas for new tools or techniques for my team to try from articles and blogs that I found via the people I follow on Twitter. When we’re looking for ideas for how to solve a particular problem, I often post a question on Twitter, which gets useful information. For example, if we’re having trouble integrating a particular tool with Jenkins, a tweet usually turns up several people who have already solved the problem. Mailing lists also serve this purpose, but I get quicker feedback on Twitter.

Several of my teammates post on Facebook, purely for social reasons. I’m not sure what this means in the long term, but I think it helps us get to know a different side of our teammates, and appreciate some of their other talents and interests. I’m fascinated to know where social media will take us over the next few years.

This was first published in December 2011

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