Xp Free Zone

It would seem that a number of Wiki netizens are unhappy or otherwise concerned with the fact that an increasingly larger number of Wiki pages are getting "taken over" by ExtremeProgramming (XP), or at least appear that way because that's where the brunt of the discussion headed after a while.

Some folks don't mind if certain pages they started turn out to have ensuing discussion that is primarily about XP; However based on comments in pages like MissingWikiBeforeXp and others, some people do mind, and feel intimidated or otherwise encroached upon by it.

They don't necessarily want to banish XP from the Wiki, merely create a more comfortable corner or two of Wiki where non-XP discussions can also take place without eventually boiling down to an XP-dominated discussion in the end.

So here is an idea:

If you start a page that you personally would prefer did not turn primarily into discussion about XP, put a reference on the top and/or bottom of the page to XpFreeZone that politely requests participants to do exactly that.

Something like [Please keep this page an XpFreeZone] or something reasonably courteous and respectful should do the trick.

This should make it explicit that the author would greatly appreciate it if the page didn't become dominated by XP discussion and would respectfully ask would-be participants to make a deliberate effort to be mindful of this.

That's it! No hard and fast rules about whether it is taboo to even mention XP or its various practices. Each participant will have to use their own best judgement while being respectful of the XpFreeZone request. If this proves insufficient, then we'll just have to wait and see what to do. For now, perhaps we can give this a try!


I spent several hours tonight studying wiki pages. (Obviously, I'm off work this week.)

Some irrelevant asides: There are 3700+ pages or so. About 370 of them have full-text hits for the word 'extreme'. I manually inspected 200 of these. (Sounds silly, but it was actually quite entertaining. There's some great stuff out there under the WikiIceberg.) Roughly 60% of these use it in the title. The remainder seem to divide about evenly into a) home pages, b) incidental usages of the search word, c) places like OnceAndOnlyOnce that were never not XP pages, and d) places where XP may or may not have 'converted' a page.

Some (relevant?) non-asides: The overwhelming majority of the actual XP hits I studied were dominated by threadmode discussions. YabbitsAndAntiYabbits seem to be represented equally in the thread-mode sections, though there are many more yabbit participants. (A small group of XPerts does most of the antiyabbiting.) The thread-mode sections are monstrously boring and repetitive for the most part.

MANY THANKS for your diligent research, and for sharing your observations here, and on WhyWikiWorksNot. This should prove very educational!

Note that there may be significant differences between what a page looks like now, and what it looked like when it was more "active."

My conclusion: Many pages, originally XP as well as inadvertently XP, need some serious editing.

My action: I'm gonna try some WikiMaster'ing this week. Since I'm new at the job, I'll use a two-step safety net. 1) I'll leave the original contents intact below my re-workings. 2) I'll add links to my efforts right below this paragraph so that all interested parties can help me with their comments and criticism as I go. (I want to start on some of the 'easier' pages, so if anyone has any good ideas, lemme know.)

[List of reworked pages will go here.]

The best-laid plans of mice and men oft gang agley.

I really tried, folks. But I'm just not seeing how to do the work. Too many arguments, too many signatures, too much stress. So, instead, I've launched a few pages here that I hope will stimulate an alternative approach to the discussion, including OneWikiStyle, DevelopmentStance, BigDesign, UnderstandingBigDesign, CowboyCoding, and a few others.

This page is specifically concerned with people who do want to write, and who have written in the past, but feel uncomfortable doing so anymore. The perception of XP-domination may or may not be an accurate one, but it still seems to be present. BetsyHanesPerry's well-spoken comments on MissingWikiBeforeXp are very enlightening. An XpFreeZone might be more comforting to folks wary of writing about something else. -- BradAppleton

This is hard to understand. The desires that are important on Wiki are the desire to contribute and the desire to understand. The desire to control a page simply does not seem to fly. If it did, many pages would be a lot less cluttered, but also a lot less interesting. The cleaner pages usually stay that way out of a different kind of courtesy. Authors (and there are many per page) move unrelated items to side discussion pages. See the ComponentDesignPatterns as an example. You should create space for people, never take it away.

In addition, when you are writing, ask yourself why. If there is something that you want to write, that you don't want people to comment upon or question, Wiki may not be the best place for it.

The ComponentDesignPatterns are an excellent example. They also don't have much overlap with XP regarding the problems or solutions they discuss. I think the desire here is not that people refrain from commenting or questioning, nor even that they refrain from all mention of XP. Pages that discuss problems or solutions that overlap with XP are certainly going to raise the question of comparison with XP's way of doing it. That's fine.

But sometimes the XPerts, in their zeal, may not realize when their passion appears combative, or perhaps the tone is perfectly well-mannered, but the non-XPert can feel beleaguered by the number of XPers participating. Sometimes, the result seems an intense competition of XP's way vs <something-else> which looks to demand a winner rather than a peaceful coexistence.

This can be very unpleasant and detract from the original issues intended by the author. What if the author welcomes questions and comments that challenges thoughts and assumptions, but prefers peaceful coexistence rather than heated competition? Does this mean that Wiki is not an appropriate forum and the author should go elsewhere?

I hope not, but I think that is happening to a large extent. Various folks have admittedly refrained from Wiki contributions which might be seen as competing with XP because they don't want to expend the time and energy debating with XPerts over which is better, even though they're still interested in discussing relative strengths and weaknesses of their ideas (but without the competitive element).

I for one would like to see some of these folks contributing again, and hope there is some way (be it XpFreeZone or something else entirely) they can do so, giving a gentle request that folks make a deliberate effort not to turn it into a competition (which is substantially less than an all-out gag order). One might say "Just ask (nicely)", but that may be far easier said than done.

If folks have other ideas how this might be done with courtesy and respect, and without offending others, by all means, please let them be known! -- BradAppleton

I've noted the winner-take-all attitude on both sides. -- KielHodges

That is imminently possible. But it seems the vicious cycle is often first entered by an uncompromising viewpoint on one side which throws the other on the defensive instead of making room for it; Might this have been avoided if more thoughtful effort was made not to head down that path in the first place? Could an explicit non-competition request possibly help achieve this? -- BDA

Or we could just play. WikiWikiWeb is alive. We can see SystemsAsLivingThings. Wiki has DramaticIdentity, built from ConstructiveInterference. It has its own sense and personality. Like the weather it changes, but it is futile to try to predict or control. It is more fun to cuddle up and enjoy the WikiNature.

"Some folks don't mind if certain pages they started turn out to have ensuing discussion that is primarily about XP; However based on comments in pages like MissingWikiBeforeXp and others, some people do mind, and feel intimidated or otherwise encroached upon by it."

It is an interesting dilemma. Some people like it when a page turns to XP and other people don't. If someone makes it an XpFreeZone, he or she could just as well be infringing on people who want to make it more than that. Interestingly, originators of pages on Wiki do not have any special rights. A page is no more theirs than anyone else's. I agree with the anonymous poster above.

The cases where pages have ended up cleaner have been when there are strong benevolent enablers, WikiMaster-s, who reorganize and spawn new pages so that everyone can have their say. Brad did just that with this page, but what the page describes doesn't seem too Wiki to me. It is far better to DigChannelsInsteadOfRaisingDams.

-- MichaelFeathers

Say that you want to explore ideas about code reviews. So you start a page CodeReviews?. Some people express the opinion that formal reviews are the way to go. Others say that an informal approach is best. Then out of nowhere, an XPert pipes in with the insane opinion that separate reviews shouldn't be done at all. (The nerve of some people!) Just when the discussion was getting down to the fine points of formal vs informal, it's taken a turn down a completely different path. Now you've lost the opportunity for a meeting of the minds.

What to do? Well, here's an idea that seems to me to have WikiNature: refactor the page to move the XP related discussion to a new page and leave a note in place in the original stating that such considerations were "branched" to a new page. Be sure to put "Xp" or "Extreme" in the new page's title. (It's kind of like warning labels on CDs.)

Really, this approach is just good factoring. Suppose that next month fans of transformational methodologies invade Wiki. (Uh oh. Now I've pissed off a whole new group! ;->) Brad's approach would lead to tags for the TransformationalMethodologyFreeZone?. With my approach, you just refactor that stuff to a new page. -- KielHodges

What if you've tried this (perhaps even more than once) and it didn't seem to solve the problem?

Examples might be educational. (I fear they would prove more confrontational than educational.)

There is a Wiki etiquette that has kind of evolved. I see people crunching words together to ask questions, creating new pages in advance, but rarely if ever, splitting a whole page into several subpages based upon opinion. Having contrasting opinions from section to section on a page is one of the things that makes Wiki special. This is a very collaborative place. If anything, the idea that anyone's intention for a page is somehow more important that someone else's seems pretty un-Wiki. When I make a page, I know that my intentions for it don't matter as much as the chance that others have to play off my ideas. I had no idea that TheSourceCodeIsTheDesign would become such a bear, but the comments are there by the grace of other people who took the time to contribute. They are as important as mine. The fun in creating a new page is in seeing what everyone else does with it. -- MichaelFeathers

Thanks, Michael. I lost a key part on the way from the brain to the page! I've now added the missing piece. (Course, it may still not be worth saying! :->) KielHodges

There seems to be a misunderstanding that I am suggesting other points of view be quashed. Rest assured I'm not. What Im suggesting is that maybe they could make room for one another, and that when that seems to be hard to come by, a gentle request to be mindful of this and try to make room for each other might work. And perhaps a nice and convenient way to do that could involve putting a short+sweet Wiki-reference to a page that explains that request in more carefully worded detail.

The text at the beginning of this page tried to make it clear that the intent is not to suppress all mention of XP in an XpFreeZone, but to request that such discussion make an effort not to dominate the page in a competitive XP-vs-<your idea here> contest. It may seem like its about restriction on the surface, but its really about inclusion and going out of one's way to make room for the other points of view rather than facing-off against them in mortal combat.

No one is suggesting anyone's ideas are somehow more important than someone else's. Only that they make a concerted effort to be more tolerant rather than uncompromising. Are people really concluding that the intent to embrace more points of view in a respectful and uncompetitive manner is downright un-Wiki-like?

Perhaps XpFree? was a bad name, and XpPeace? or XpCoexistence? could have been clearer. I agree that splitting off subpages for each differing opinion seems un-Wiki like. However splitting off subpages for subthreads that diverge from the original focus seems to be common Wiki-practice (particularly when the subthread seems to get large and take on a life of its own). -- BDA

I see your concern and agree with you. I'm "lucky" that it hasn't taken over a project that I'm currently involved with (I'm afraid to mention it for fear of poison ;-0). One par for the course is that when discussion gets too big or becomes tangential it gets moved off to a discussion page or another page is specialized for that specific tangent that allows people to continue the discussion without killing the original intent of the page (or pattern). So if XP did leak into them, I'd be naturally proactive about it.

One thing I keep remembering was words from a talk on DesignPatterns by JohnVlissides in New York. He said, "patterns are additive, not invasive" upon OO methodologies. Perhaps people sometimes feel defensive about the "XP invasion" upon Wiki because it's controversy forced down your throat. That's why I am hip to your suggestion. Why not try it before we lose more very capable and wonderful folks?

-- PhilipEskelin

I am not hip to this suggestion. I am hip to the notion of keeping off certain people's pages. But it's hard to hold back from trying to contribute.

Here's a random thought as an alternative to Free Zones: DispassionateParaphrase.

Flash: Maybe we just need more energy and support for WikiMaster(s) to spend time refactoring. Is it possible we've reached some critical mass where there are more posts from more folks than there are WikiMaster(s) to massage the result?

A very interesting thought indeed.

Sorry, it's me again. I'm going to try to keep contributing wherever I feel that I can. I will try even harder to express my ideas clearly and without contention, and at the same time I'm neither afraid nor ashamed of passion. My postings are based on lots of experience and lots of thought, and I'll try to keep them sounding that way. This place is about community, openness, sharing, the ConstructiveInterference of ideas. It is possible to piss me off, but it is not possible to piss me away. -- RonJeffries

All contributions should be welcome! We certainly don't want anyone to be afraid or ashamed of their passion, just mindful of it so ideas can be expressed without strong contention. Lots of us post based on lots of experience and lots of thought. If we can manage to do so more constructively, then this place will continue to be about community, openness, and sharing.

I find XP very interesting, even exciting, but sadly, the discussion of XP on Wiki has become a little boring IMHO. It seems to me a lot of XP discussion is concerned with answering FAQs or paraphrasing statements (pro and contra) already made elsewhere. Among all that redundancy, I have a hard time finding out which insights are really new.

XpFreeZone wouldn't resolve these forces for me. Instead, I suggest we (everybody, not just rj and kb!) spend some time refactoring to achieve OAOO. Two pages I would especially like to see are XpFaqs? and XpWhatsNew?. To get some fresh viewpoints, why don't we discuss selected aspects of XP on, say, comp.object.moderated, and consolidate the results back into Wiki? -- FalkBruegmann

And not to sound like I'm advocating kicking XP out of Wiki, but have Ron Jeffries and others participating in XP thought about creating their own wiki server specifically for XP? I think there's enough content about XP on Wiki to warrant an entire Wikibase focusing on it. Then you can address all topics related to XP and not have anybody complaining about it. In fact, people might be even more inclined to contribute stories and additional things if it had its own home.

Squeak is one thing that has its own wiki server. I've thought about doing one for ComponentDesignPatterns as well. And you can find lots of other wiki servers listed in RecentChanges. -- PhilipEskelin

That could happen, but in some ways I don't think it is that easy. First of all, ComponentDesignPatterns and Squeak are rather circumscribed topics. XP pretty much alters your approach to many aspects of development. For instance, RefactoringReviews and FullStaffRedundancyWhileProgramming are two pages which originated today. They have a bit of XP flavor, but are they about XP? I haven't seen anyone complain about them yet. I'm pretty sure that as long as people who use XP practices visit Wiki, XP will be discussed directly or indirectly.

It is easy to overestimate the amount of control that people have in these situations. Communities are fragile things. Wiki is a community in a sense, and there are overlapping communities of people who want to hear about XP or ComponentDesignPatterns. It is hard to design or transplant communities; they just happen. They don't last forever, and it is good to enjoy them while they last. I can't think of any of the WikiClones which have the same feel and velocity of WikiWikiWeb.

-- MichaelFeathers

They have a bit of XP flavor, but are they about XP? I haven't seen anyone complain about them yet.

I for one certainly wouldn't complain simply because they were about XP. That's not an issue to me. Neither of the aforementioned pages have anything particularly combative on them. If that remains to be the case, then I wouldn't have any complaints. -- BDA

Okay, so it really isn't XP that bugs you as much as combative discussion? Perhaps CombatFreeZone? or DemilitarizedZone?? In truth, while I have seen people make points emphatically, I haven't seen ad hominem or personal attacks. Perhaps many people see emphatic posts as combative? -- MichaelFeathers

Feathers, you tiny little fool, you wouldn't recognize a personal attack if it bit you on the behind! -- RonJeffries

Who is "feathers?" :-) -- MichaelFeathers

I toldja rj was evil, but nobody listens to me, and Brad made me take it back. -- MichaelHill

In an earlier life, I exerted BrutalSarcasm after an extremely frustrating session with a new young QA person that culminated in the assertion that I could not have quality software if I did not explain virtual functions (a new concept to her) in exquisite detail in my design document:

"The thing you have to understand about me is that I am evil, perfectly evil. Once you understand that I am evil everything else makes sense."

Another life; not terribly proud of it now.

-- MichaelFeathers

Okay, so it really isn't XP that bugs you as much as combative discussion? Perhaps CombatFreeZone? or DemilitarizedZone??


I have seen people make points emphatically, I haven't seen ad hominem or personal attacks.

Agreed. I rarely perceive ad hominem or personal attacks. But I do perceive what feels to me like an almost overeagerness to so mercilessly challenge ideas that seem contrary/alternative to XP, that it comes across (to me at least) as more destructive than constructive. Challenging of ideas is welcome, even quintessential to deep analysis and understanding. I wish we could do it in a way that feels more accommodating, making room for each idea to be "right" in its own way, place, & time.

Too often it feels to like room simply isnt afforded for both possibilities; the rationale posited for one is so emphatic, it appears to demand the destruction of the other. This is my meaning when I say "combative" or "competitive." It may well be that it certainly was not intended to come across as quite so unyielding and uncompromising, but that is the recurring perception to me. I don't want to feel like I'll have to throw down gauntlets and draw battle-lines whenever I post something that raises a potential XP issue or alternative.

I really and truly do not mean that to sound harsh! If anyone sees a kinder and gentler way of expressing this, by all means, please edit the above to do so. I sort of feel like we're all here on Wiki, in part, to help each other communicate more effectively. I think combative expression stifles communication. I want to be constructive and receptive to other's ideas; and Id like them to be equally constructive and receptive to mine. The sentiments described in ExtremeHarmony, impartiality, compassion, and acceptance, seem to fit here. -- BDA

I agree about the redundancy. Some XpMasters? take every question as an opportunity to rephrase their answer in a new and hopefully better way. (I think Ron states this explicitly somewhere.)

Wiki is about ConstructiveInterference, but it is also about links. Sometimes it would be better to make a point with a short link to a existing page, rather than start a new page or add to the current one. If appropriate, polish the phrasing on the old page first. -- DaveHarris

Very good reminder, Dave, and it'll be helpful for pulling together a coherent document at some future time as well. Thanks! -- RonJeffries

Reflecting on the failed attempt to bring order out of thread mode referred to by our anonymous interlocutor above, I've felt the same. But many of those threads have me in them. I'm trying to revise XP pages to include what I've learned - but feel reluctant to remove others' objections as if they never happened. Just dunno. -- rj

Continued in ThreadModeCorrected. -- DaveHarris

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