How can an application or language be agile?

Speech bubble with question marks

I’ve just read Chris Clarke’s post “How can an application or language be agile?”

I predicted a few years ago “agile” would follow “object-oriented” into the buzzword lexicon, right around when Microsoft started using the word. What happened with OO is that for a while everything was object-oriented. In some ways it was a step forward – lots of people got to hear about it and started trying to do it – but the meaning got so watered down that in the end there are a lot of lessons that most people haven’t really internalized. Hence we get some second-wave attempts to reconnect to the root concepts like Eric Evans’ book “Domain-Driven Design”.

“Agile” is a label that is being applied to a lot of things right now because it makes people take notice of them. In other words, it’s primarily a marketing term. Other people notice the “Agile” label and take an interest in it, but their experience of the term is guided by what it’s been attached to. If you’ve only been exposed to agile document management systems for agile teams to keep their huge design documents in then clearly some of the meaning of the term will be lost on you. And so it becomes less and less attached to its original meaning – a meaning defined by the few signatories of the agile manifesto.

Should we be annoyed about this? Personally, I think no, because:

  • No-one has the right to a monopoly on that word.
  • By creating a banner for disparate methodologists to march under, the Agile Alliance also created a large unified market and that was bound to attract the attention of marketers, including some of its own members.
  • It’s pretty inevitable for anything that crosses the chasm to mainstream consciousness that the tight conceptual integrity maintained by a few pioneering individuals will be lost, and usually I manage to avoid getting too upset about inevitabilities.

(Not that I’m suggesting Chris is annoyed either, but I’ve met a few people who definitely are)

I’ve said this a few times. Thanks Chris for prompting me to write it down.