Kiwis programmers get into extreme programming

Auckland software developers are getting together over extreme programming -- a development methodology that has been gaining momentum overseas.

Auckland software developers are getting together over extreme programming – a development methodology that has been gaining momentum overseas.

Extreme programming, or XP, is a lightweight methodology which emphasises constant communication and feedback between programmers and the customer often being on-site, simplicity, planning and testing. One of its more unusual practices is pair programming – having two software developers working together on the same piece of code.

Software developer Ian Mitchell, who runs Auckland-based Customer Information Technologies, is coordinating a meeting on the practice, which so far has attracted about 25 people from 15 firms. Large development houses Terabyte, Internet Associates and Advantage Group are among those showing interest. Auckland University is also planning to introduce extreme programming to its software engineering course next semester.

Last year Mitchell, a former Computer Society president, used extreme programming to manage the development of a shrink-wrapped print management product with customers here and in the US. During that project 20 developers used pair programming, XP standards and refactoring, a technique to restructure code in a disciplined way. Although the development team could not literally have a customer on-site, they created a nominal customer group comprising people with regular customer feedback.

Compac Sorting Equipment, an Auckland company which makes and exports fruit sorting machines, already has seven programmers using the methodology.

Exponents say that by following the methodology programmers communicate with their customers and fellow developers, keep their design simple and clean, get feedback by testing their software starting from day one.

Mitchell says among topics to be discussed at the meeting will be objections that managers might have to extreme programming; for example, whether peer programming is cost-efficient, if collective ownership is practical and whether XP coding standards can be followed.

Mitchell has set up a website at explaining extreme programming and its relevance to development in New Zealand. Anyone wishing to attend the meeting can contact him at Ian@Mitchell.co.nz. It takes place on Thursday, June 7 at 5.30pm at Terabyte, level 2, 235 Broadway, Newmarket.

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