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17 April 2014
How XDSD Is Different
eXtremely Distributed Software Development, or XDSD for short, is a methodology that differs significantly from working in traditional software development teams. Most XDSD methods are so different (yet critical) that many newcomers get confused. This article should help you bootstrap once you join a project managed with by XDSD principles—either as a developer or a project sponsor.
We Pay Only For Closed Tasks
Unlike with many other projects, in XDSD, we pay only for closed tasks and the agreed upon time budget. Let me explain by example. Let’s say, you are a Ruby programmer and you get a new task that requires you to fix a broken unit test. The task has a time budget of 30 minutes, as is the case most of the time. Sometimes, though, tasks may have time budgets of fifteen minutes or one hour.
In our example, we agree upon a contract rate of $50 per hour. With the broken test, you will receive $25 for completing the task—30 minute tasked billed at $50 per hour.
It does not matter how long it actually takes you to fix the test. Your actual time spent on the project may be five minutes or five hours. Nevertheless, you will receive compensation for 30 minutes of work only. If you fix the broken test in 5 minutes, you receive $25. If the task takes you an hour, or even a month, to complete, you still receive only $25.
Furthermore, if you fail to fix the unit test and close the task altogether, you will receive no pay at all for the assignment.
You can view more details about this principle in the following articles: No Obligations Principle or Definition of Done.
As mentioned above, this is one of the most important differences between XDSD and other methods. Many people get confused when they see this principle in action, and some leave our projects because of it. They simply are used to being paid by the end of the month—no matter how much work they actually deliver. In XDSD, we consider this type of approach very unfair. We feel that people who deliver more results should receive more cash. Conversely, those who don’t deliver should get less.
We Deliver Unfinished Components
Since most of our tasks are half an hour in size, we encourage developers to deliver unfinished components. Read more about this concept in the article below: Puzzle Driven Development.
No Informal Communications
Unlike many other projects or teams you may have worked with, XDSD uses no informal communication channels. To clarify, we never use emails, we never chat on Skype and we don’t do any meetings or phone calls. Additionally, XDSD maintains no type mailing list. Our only method of communication is a ticket tracking system (which in most projects consists of GitHub Issues.)
Moreover, we discourage horizontal communications between developers regarding the scope of individual tasks. When assigned a task, your single and only point of contact (and your only customer) is the task author. You communicate with the author in the ticket to clarify task requirements.
When the requirements of a task are clear—and you understand them fully—deliver the result to the author and wait for him to close the task. After the author closes the task, the project manager pays you.
We’re very strict about this principle—no informal communications. However, it doesn’t mean that we are not interested in your opinions and constructive criticism. Rather, we encourage everyone to submit their suggestions and bugs. By the way, we pay for bugs (see the next section for further details about bug reporting and payments.)
Since we have no formal communications, members of project teams are not required to work at specific times. Instead, team members work at times convenient for them in their time zones. This includes weekdays and weekends.
We Pay For Bugs
Unlike many other software teams, XDSD welcomes bug reports in all our projects. Therefore, we ask for bugs openly and expect team members to report them. Review the following article for complete details on XDSD bug reporting: Bugs Are Welcome.
We expect everyone involved with a project to report every bug found. Additionally, we encourage team members to make suggestions. In XDSD, we pay team members for every properly reported bug.
XDSD makes payments for reported bugs because we believe that the more of them we can find, the higher the quality of the end product. Some new developers are surprised when they receive tasks such as “you must find 10 bugs in class A.” Often, the natural reaction is to ask “what if there are no bugs?” However, we believe that any software product may have an unlimited amount of bugs; it is just a matter of expending the time and effort needed to discover them.
Only Pull Request
We never grant team member access to the
master branch—no matter how
long you work on a project. Consequently, you must always submit your changes
through pull requests (most of our projects are done in
We enforce this policy not because we don’t trust our developers, but simply because we don’t trust anyone :) Read this article: Master Branch Must Be Read-Only.
No Compromises About Code Quality
Before merge any changes to the
master branch, we check the entire code base
with unit tests and static analyzers.
Unit testing is a very common component in
modern software development, and one by which you should not be surprised.
However, the strictness of static analysis is something that often frustrates
XDSD newcomers, and we understand that. We pay much more attention to the
quality and uniformity of our source code than most of our competing software
Even more important is that we never make compromises. If your pull request violates even one rule of the static analyzer, it won’t be accepted. And, it doesn’t matter how small or innocent that violation may look. This merging process is fully automated and can’t be bypassed.