My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Susan K. Land, IEEE 2nd Vice President and key contributor on the America's Army project, visited the University of Houston yesterday and gave a talk about how the AA project went from complete chaos to having a major successful release in seven months.

In a nutshell, they went from zero process (CMM Level one) to a repeatable success, CMM Level Two. This was especially impressive because the game is being developed for both public and government use, and by several different development centers around the US (I remember counting more than 10, I think). She mentioned that at one point it was so bad that when one of the companies who hosted the source repository wasn't being funded, they shut off access to it. I wanted to ask why they did business with such a company, but I thought it prudent not to seem like a jerk. (We have a government client and they just renewed their contract about four months too late, but we didn't shut down their service. We just know they work slow.)

All in all this release took seven months.

I was interested in knowing how the developers and managers responded to going from no structure, to one complete with requirements gathering, detailed analysis, coding and testing (all in separate phases, from how she described it). She said the managers were weary at first, but if the project was a success, they would be happy (it was a success). Regarding the developers, she said they actually loved it - and I can certainly see how that was the case, having worked ad-hoc before. However, I'm not a big fan of how they went about the process. She said they spent about one-and-a-half months getting the requirements down, 2.5 on detailed design, 1.5 in coding, and the rest in testing. I don't know if she meant it to sound like waterfall (she said they were more in a spiral, but it didn't sound like it), but I wondered what the "coders" were doing in the rest of the time. Were they designing?

I meant to ask if she thought it may have reduced some risk by designing some, then coding some, and so forth, but time was running low and I didn't want to be offensive. In the end, the project was a success, and if the new process got them there (which, it certainly sounds like it did), then you certainly have to tip your hat.

So hat's off to America's Army!

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