Pedestrian Crossings, Continuous Integration and Culture

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You have just arrived into a new country, checked into your hotel and ready to head out exploring the area. Soon after leaving the hotel you will face your first challenge; the Pedestrian Crossing.

I’ve been lucky to visit a few different countries and not so lucky to experience some of the world’s wildest Pedestrian Crossings (Could make a great TV Show!). I live in the UK where Pedestrian Crossings are, at least to me, well signposted and generally observed both by pedestrians and drivers(with exceptions).Across the rest of Europe you’ll find experiences, in particular Italy. My strategy when i visit; Step out onto the pedestrian crossing, hope the driver notices you and stops, if he doesn’t get ready to run! Seems like i’m not alone! Other parts of the world such as India, Thailand, Vietnam introduce other examples of even riskier behaviour to cross the street.

Japan is one of the most fascinating countries i’ve visited. Incredible cities, beautiful countryside and very obedient pedestrians. Late one night, at around 3am, i was returning to my hotel. The roads were empty and not a vehicle in sight. Regardless to the apparent lack of danger, if the “Wait” sign was shown, pedestrians did not cross.

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Pedestrian Crossings and Culture

As you travel the world you realise culture has a huge impact on pedestrian behaviour. An international research team did a study into the impact of Culture; Different risk thresholds in pedestrian road crossing behaviour: A comparison of French and Japanese approaches.

“The group set up observations posts at various crossings in the French city of Strasbourg and the Japanese city of Inuyama. The results were both clear and striking. At the legal crossing in Strasbourg, France, about 67 percent of pedestrians crossed against the red light. Only 7 percent of walkers in Inuyama did the same. At the unmarked crossing, the researchers measured how much time between cars a pedestrian needed before deciding to walk. In Strasbourg that time clocked in at 9 seconds, on average; in Inuyama, walkers felt free from risk at 16-second gaps.”

These findings match my anecdotal experience across Europe and in Japan.

Continuous Integration

After reflecting on a near death experience at one crossing in Bangkok recently, Continuous Integration came to mind. Continuous Integration is a practice now widely adopted across the industry. Join a development team and they will probably be using tools such as Jenkins, Bamboo and Team City to monitor the build process. All these tools use indicators very similar to a Pedestrian Crossing.

Lets take Jenkins for example:

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Blue Ball = Everything appears Good.

Red Ball = Something went wrong.

These coloured indicators look simple but in the same way as pedestrian crossings, they influence behaviour in different ways.

Lets take the following two teams:

Team A

The build fails and a Red light is shown on the Jenkins dashboard. The team stops, identifies the source of the failure, perhaps by nudging the last person who checked in. The source of the problem is identified, rectified and build is run returning to normal.

Team B

The build fails and a Red light is shown on the Jenkins dashboard. The team ignores the failure, continues checking-in and the builds continue to fail. Later that day, a developer in the team identifies a compile issue locally, checks-in a fix. The build returns to normal.

How do you cross the street?

What actions we take based upon the build indicator is influenced  by a number of factors. I’ve seen teams confidence of build indicators eroded by false positives/negatives leading to ignorance of builds. However, the biggest factor in my experience is team culture.

In the example of Team A, they are clearly influenced by their CI tool and a culture to investigate problems quickly and implement solutions. However in the example of Team B, their culture is to ignore the build failure potentially with the view that it will be resolved at a later date.

So what is your teams behaviour towards your Continuous Integration tool?

Are you like the Japanese? Do you stop when the build goes Red?

Or…..

Are you like the French who in most cases ignore the warning signs?

In a perfect world we’d all agree that if the pedestrian light says stop, we would all agree thats the best action to take. However, i’m sure we have all crossed the road, ignoring the sign.

Maybe it’s the same for build indicators, if the build is Red, maybe its OK to ignore……….sometimes?

Ignorance is bliss

Ignoring builds might be ok in some cases but the danger comes when we grow a team culture that blindly ignores the warning signs. The occasional ignored failed build can often develop into a culture where build failures are always ignored. This culture might yield some good results but it’s likely to result in some near misses, like this gentleman:

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