About Duncan Pierce

My name is Duncan Pierce. I work as a principal consultant for Amarinda. I have a BSc, an MSc and a PhD, all in computer science.

My hobbies include open source programming, running, rock climbing, walking, not watching TV, reading and playing the guitar (surprisingly poorly given that I’ve been doing it for 15 years). Here are a few more things which might tell you a little more about my background and what I like to do professionally.

Early interests

Like many people of my age in IT I practically grew up programming. I was lucky to be there at the time when computers were cheap enough to be easily affordable to most people, but not powerful enough to run really good games. If you wanted entertainment out of the things you had to provide it yourself! I started programming on a ZX81 way back in 1981 when I was 10 years old. It took 3 weeks to exhaust the full possibilities of BASIC, and from that point the search for better ways of working began for me. I was once able to list 35 languages I could program in, though to be honest I’ve never since been able to list more than about 20, which makes me suspect I was being a bit optimistic the day I thought I’d used 35. I’m competent in perhaps 10 of those: Java, C#, Scheme, Smalltalk, Kew, Pascal, Prolog, Miranda, C and Z80 (I can still tell you how many clock cycles are required for any Z80 instruction).

Effectiveness

My interest in languages and tools for software development continues. I now work on my own open source programming language Kew. Kew is really an attempt to make things easier on the programmer without forcing him or her to jump through too many hoops to get things done. Wanting to make software development better and easier eventually took me into Extreme Programming (XP). I joined Connextra back in 2000 after meeting Tim Mackinnon and Matt Cooke at the OT2000 conference, where I had been presenting a session on bugs as emergent phenomena in software systems. We were one of the first XP teams in the UK, started in 1999.

At Connextra we invented all kinds of process innovations: the “release cow”, gold cards, the gold-card-o-meter and MockMaker and we were one of the first to introduce retrospectives as a standard part of our process. I became interested in the process that surrounds the programming, and from there, how people interact with others around them, the tools they use, and the software they work on, and how their effectiveness varies with all these factors. I’ve been interested in psychology and cognition for many years, and increasingly find myself facing organizational problems that are very little to do with technology and very much to do with people. So there’s been a lot of convergence between my interests and my working practices.

Career

This lead me via a stint in a training company to start teaching XP and other agile techniques to other teams through mentoring and training. And from there I went on to found my own company Amarinda to provide broader-based help for anyone from a single small team to the whole of a large company in evaluating and migrating to more agile ways of working. Over the years, my adherence to XP has diminished, and the growth of a broader Agile movement has helped others see the significance of the principles rather than focussing only on the practices of XP. I’ve been helping people improve their IT effectiveness since 2001.

Photos

You can find some photos of me (and plenty of other people besides), taken by Tom Poppendieck at XPDay 3. Sadly, my favourite one (me introducing Martin Fowler in my usual animated way, complete with motion blurring) has disappeared, but there’s a nice view out over the audience, which has me (left), and the other organizers Rachel, Peter and Will standing at the front on the right.

There are also some great photos taken by Chris King at XPDay 2, including Paul Simmons and me doing the first run of our Xbots workshop. We still use that on the front page of the XPDay conference website.