Long-Delayed Update

It’s been a long time since I posted anything about how the JavaGuys are doing.

Perhaps the simplest update is that the fellows inside have decided that they no longer want to be called the JavaGuys: now they’re the Agile Factory.  Part of the rationale for the name change is that they’re less interested in learning an isolated skill than they are in learning a way of life.  More on that later.

Another change is that we’ve made JavaScript a first-class citizen.  We’re sticking with Java, but we’re also learning to write respectful JavaScript and to test-drive it with Jasmine.  This is another driver for the change from “JavaGuys” to “Agile Factory.”

A related change is that Guy Royse, of Pillar Technology, has begun coming in about every other Tuesday specifically to help the Agile Factory with JavaScript.

Tonight, Kristen Smith, also of Pillar Technology, came in to participate.  Guy, Kristen, and I are all proficient in Java and JavaScript, so we hopped around the room from pair to pair and helped whoever seemed to need helping.

Also, Jesse Cox of Interim Healthcare has come in several times (although not with me, since our schedules don’t mesh) to talk with the Agile Factory guys about Android, and has lit a fire inside several of them that is driving them to learn everything they can about test-driving Android code, even though they don’t have any actual devices, since prisons don’t generally like to see things with radio transmitters in the hands of prisoners.  They use the Android emulator, which is painfully slow to begin with and even more so on the obsolete cast-off computers they use; but they’re committed enough to learning Android that they make it work anyway.

These days Mark Roberts is pretty much running the program on the inside, with significant help from Will Land and Dean Preston. We’ve discovered that it works much better if the fellows inside decide on the rules and enforce them than it does if we from the outside invent rules to impose on them.

Speaking of rules, the prison rules say that prisoners, whether part of the Agile Factory or part of any of the other programs that meet in there, can’t be in the Lifeline room with all the computers unless a supervisor is present. I count as a supervisor when I’m present, but I’m only there on Tuesday evenings, because I have a day job of my own. The supervisor who’s present during the day works for a non-profit organization that is funded by a government grant, and that therefore must turn in quarterly reports on its operation in order to maintain its funding.

I’ve never been much concerned with the organization, since my work with the Agile Factory is entirely volunteer, so I didn’t know about the quarterly-report requirement until tonight, when Mark Roberts offhandedly gave me a copy of the report he just finished writing.

I thought you might be interested in reading it.  Here it is:

Programmers in the Agile Factory are developing skills that will make them compelling prospects for employment in the software industry.  The men in the program work closely together to learn software craftsmanship from outside professionals and from each other.  It is a highly collaborative discipline that utilizes test-driven development, pair programming, and the study of advanced programming principles. While the Java programming language is the primary language of study, the men learn everything it takes to build a modern web application from the ground up.  They study test-driven programming in Java and JavaScript and are exposed to other languages such as Scala.

These men learn how to develop in teams by utilizing Agile methodologies. Agile development is a cutting-edge style of software creation that demands collaboration and cooperation between programmers. It is designed to provide valuable software to the customer on a regular basis. Product advancement is faster, software errors are reduced dramatically, and the program is designed to rapidly change as the business needs change.

Students spend 28 hours per week of lab time. The men are also expected to spend at least 12 hours of additional time outside of the lab reading and studying the concepts needed in the program. Men who are actively engaged spend at least 40 hours per week working toward a career as a software craftsman in Agile development. The program is designed from the ground up to be a mentoring model. Experienced programmers are expected to pair daily with men who are learning the basics. The culture of the Agile Factory is summed up in the phrase, “You must care about the guy next to you to be in the Agile Factory.” Everyone in the group is required to invest in the men around him.

The structure of the Agile Factory is egalitarian. All voices are heard and serious input is always given consideration. It is an open environment where everyone is expected to work with everyone else on a regular basis. This has created a healthy collaborative environment to prepare the participants for healthy collaboration in the workplace. Men are taught the value of taking and giving constructive criticism and exercise those skills every day. Participants are actively driven to express their ideas to the group to build the communication skills expected in an Agile workplace.

These guys are pretty hard-core.

    • Wesley
    • May 16th, 2016

    My brother will be in Prison for the next 3 years after he hit somebody while driving distracted. I’d like to help him get a jump start on learning to code (I’m a programmer and see it as the most viable path for him to catch up and be successful when he get’s out). He won’t be able to use a computer at the prison he’s in, so he won’t be able to actually write and compile code, but I’m looking for suggestions on java, data structure, and general CS books that would be good for him to get an introduction to the concepts?

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