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Mark is a graph advocate and field engineer for Neo Technology, the company behind the Neo4j graph database. As a field engineer, Mark helps customers embrace graph data and Neo4j building sophisticated solutions to challenging data problems. When he's not with customers Mark is a developer on Neo4j and writes his experiences of being a graphista on a popular blog at He tweets at @markhneedham. Mark is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 553 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Distributed Agile: Physical Story Wall Still Useful

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When I started working on my current project there was no physical story wall, instead the whole project was being tracked on Mingle. The current state of the Mingle story wall was sometimes visible on a shared monitor and sometimes wasn't, depending on whether or not the monitor had been turned off.

There was also a small wall used to track which stories were in development but after that there was no physical visibility of the status of anything.

The advantage of this approach was that there was no need to have the overhead of having to maintain a physical story wall and an electronic one.

The disadvantage was that it was quite difficult to see what people were working on and there was a very definite split between development and testing.

Mingle and similar tools are useful in distributed teams but they are information refrigerators in the sense that you have to put in some effort in order to get information from them – it's not immediately available to you.

The physical story wall on the other hand is an information radiator which is what we want!

In the case that we get around that problem by using a projector to beam the web page onto a wall I still don't think it's as effective because it's less human to deal with a projection than a real card wall.

I find it's much more effective for people to be able to move cards around with their hands and then move people in between those cards depending on what pairings make sense at any given time.

The collaboration on my team seems to have increased quite dramatically since we made the card wall physical and I'd be surprised if the overhead of updating Mingle and the story wall was more than 5 minutes per day.



Published at DZone with permission of Mark Needham, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Shawn Crosby replied on Thu, 2010/10/21 - 3:55am

I agree completely, the postit-note/whiteboard on the wall is a must...a permanent physical connection between the team and the project.

Igor Laera replied on Thu, 2010/10/21 - 9:48am


The parent company in our last project got a nice deal on a bunch of 40" monitors.
We could secure 4 of them and two were set up in the development floor to show
the current trend in bugs, rfes and test-proceeeding (and sometimes, music videos ;)

We took two into the main meeting room and showed the current "cards & process"
via a hacked RIA interface made in flash by some crazy interns. Since the monitors
wheren't touch screen types, the project lead moved the cards around on his laptop.

It worked well, even if it was 15x more expensive then two whiteboards and paper notes .)

Since I left I heard they have now three of those sets spread around the dev floor for
multiple projects. The software itself running the RIA was boosted quite a bit. Nice
environment if your CIO is a tech geek :)


Stefan Lecho replied on Wed, 2010/10/27 - 3:21am

Which solution would you propose for geographically distributed teams that are unable to work on the same physical wall ?

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