Thursday, August 23, 2007

Project Proprioception

In the latest issue of Wired Magazine, there is an interesting article in defense of Twitter. One thing he says is that you can't really understand Twitter unless you actually do it (which might explain why I don't really understand Twitter.)

He goes on to say that the benefit of Twitter is "social proprioception":

When I see that my friend Misha is "waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop," that's not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me.

It's like proprioception, your body's ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.

Aha! That makes a lot more sense to me, and also suggests the following hypothesis:

Hackystat's fine-grained data collection capabilities can support "project proprioception": the ability for a group of developers to have "a sense of themselves" within a given software development project.

I think that DevEvents and Builds and so forth support a certain level of project proprioception without any further interaction with the developer. But, what if Hackystat had a kind of "Twitter sensor", in which developers could post small nuggets of information about what they were thinking about or struggling with that could be combined with the DevEvents:

  • "Trying to figure out the JAXB newInstance API"
  • "WTF is with this RunTime Exception?"
  • "General housecleaning for the Milestone Release"
  • "Pair Programming With Pavel"
  • "Reviewing the Ant Sensor"
  • "Upgrading Tomcat"
Now imagine these messages being combined with the other Hackystat DevEvents and being visualized using something like Simile/Timeline. Further, imagine the timeline being integrated into a widget with a near-real-time nature like the Sensor Data Viewer, such that you could see the HackyTwitter information along with occurrences of builds, tests, and commits scrolling by on a little window in the corner of your screen. Would this enable "weird, fascinating feats of coordination" within a software development project?

Sounds cool to me.

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