Developers only count to three

Monday, 21 January 2008

I have this theory that developers can count accurately up to three. Just like my cousin could, back when he was tiny, we all count 1, 2, 3, more, and lots. That’s it, as good as it gets, so we’d better work with it.

Back a few months ago, a team I was in was having a problem with ‘exploding cards’ – they would be estimated at the IKO[1] to 6 or 7 days, but then when played, sometimes we’d burn double or more days to complete them; however small cards would be estimated pretty accurately.

As an experiment we tried taking any cards that looked like it was going to get an estimate of more than 3 (though a little pre-IKO analysis) and slice it up in to parts. Each part was estimated in the IKO and played as a separate card. It wasn’t the only thing we did to fix the problem, but we don’t get exploding cards any more and I think this went a fair way to fixing it.

Having smaller cards did have some side effects, some of which I’ll write about in a while, perhaps..

Some reasoning?

Mind Hacks (by Tom Stafford & Matt Webb) has some commentary on counting – it says we have two way of counting, yer standard counting – where you check items off one by one, and Subitizing which allows us to almost instantly spot up to 4 items; counting comes in once this quotient is reached. Now Mind Hacks suggests that this is a side effect of the visual processing part of the brain, but it seems to me to hold up for non-visual counting also.

[1] Iteration Kick Off

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