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Metrics.

2012/02/03

Metrics are challenging. (Grammar fanatics; weep, and begone.)

Experts beware: this is beginner stuff.

When properly applied, they can shed light on relationships or help to convert data (what happens in a system) into information (insights that inform decisions or actions.)

However, they can also become a performance target. Take, for example, the case of team velocity; that is the capacity of the team to reach objectives over time. If the expectation of a business or company is that velocity will continually increase, or, if this is put forth as a goal, the team in charge of that expectation is well positioned to fail. Some teams, however, in an effort to show or prove value will try to consistently improve their velocity number; by inflating estimates on a story level, or doing the unthinkable. The unspeakable.

Taking shortcuts in the code. Yep. That’s right. Accumulating technical debt like a wasted socialite on a shopping spree accumulates paparazzi.

Folks, just say no to shortcuts.

The point is, any metric can easily be gamed or somehow manipulated to prove a point for either side of just about any argument I can think of. They’re pieces of a picture, not the whole thing.

With the goal of using them more constructively, I propose the three following questions as a test for determining whether a metric is worth an investment of time:

  1. What facet of the business or system will the metric explain?
  2. How will an understanding of the measured aspect benefit your stated goal?
  3. What is the set of data being studied?

The reasoning behind numbers one and two should be self explanatory. The third item is important because a metric which cannot be constrained to a finite set of dimensions, as far as I am aware, is very difficult to understand, let alone to apply constructively. That said, my expertise is minimal in this regard, and certainly someone more qualified could better elucidate the idea of how to measure an infinite number of dimensions.

Let’s agree to be less frivolous with our metrics, shall we?

Great. Now, some frivolous Metric:

Also, Solomon made this for you:

a.chunk{|n| n }.map{|n| n.first }

it will remove subsequences from an array. Like this:

ruby-1.9.2-p290 :056 > a = ["a", "a", "b", "a", "a", "c"]
=> ["a", "a", "b", "a", "a", "c"]
ruby-1.9.2-p290 :057 > a.chunk{|n| n }.map{|n| n.first }
=> ["a", "b", "a", "c"]

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