In this week's InfoQ article, Chris covers the debate over high tech vs.low tech toolsets (what Alistair Cockburn refers to as information radiators) for managing agile projects: eg, which is the lesser evil, killing a tree and taping its carcass to the wall one notecard at a time, or clicking through an annoying heirarchical menu every time you want to see your data?
The focus of the article is a discussion thread on the Xtreme Programming Yahoo Group, where topic is being contested with a great deal of heat.
There is a natural tendency among technologists to prefer technological solutions, but many of the debaters claim that experience has shown the low tech solutions to be best. Ron Jeffries says:
the web, not in PowerPoint, but in charts on the wall that no one can
miss….A web site doesn't push information at us; we have to go look.
A slide show always comes with a meeting and a lecture. A wall chart is
there when we are, in our face, always visible.
This makes intuitive sense to me. I think there's something important about making the whole visible at a glance. Imagine how hard it would be to read a novel if there were one word printed per page–we read words in context, not in isolation. I think we experience projects much the same way, and it's important to always have a view of the gestalt.
The Agile Tools blog has an archival post that features pictures of several examples (as pictured) of both virtual and physical task boards. It's interesting to look at them and see which ones make you want to be on that project.