16 Oct 04

Lights, Camera, Action!

Lava lamps are visual feedback devices. But what if you can’t see your project’s lamps because they’re connected to a build machine that’s halfway around the world? Bruce Johnson relayed how one of his company’s clients share the warm glow of their lava lamps across a dislocated team:
Because the development team is located both in Canada and in Europe, they not only set up the lava lamps here. They also hooked up a web cam pointing at the lamps so that the European developers could be kept informed of the build status. (Picture)

The funny thing is, whether coincidentally or not, the state of the build seems to have improved since the lava lamps were added to the picture. The green lamp is boiling at the time the picture was taken. That’s not as obvious in the picture because the lights behind appear to be reflecting through the lamp.

For some reason, I’m now picturing completely virtual teams of developers using centrally located lava lamps and web cams. ;)

This might seem like just more eye candy on a project, but it’s actually an effective way to synchronize work across dislocated teams. Imagine you’re on the team in Europe. You show up for work in the morning about the time the Canadian team is watching hockey after a long day at the office. Before you start crafting more code, you want to see a green lamp bubbling in Canada. That means all the code in version control is compiling and passing its tests. It gives you confidence that you’re working on solid ground.

And, of course, at the end of the day you want to leave the lamps just as they were at the beginning of the day… green.