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Letter from Kenneth Lefebvre
Received December 15, 2002


I have enjoyed your articles for some time now. Thanks for interesting and thought-provoking installments!

I, too, have been reading a lot about the agile methodologies lately, though I've been focusing mostly on the XP story--not because I've decided I like it better than the others, but because there was more material readily available to me about it.

You mentioned that you have particularly liked the Crystal family of methodologies. Have you done any comparison between Crystal and XP? Can you share some of the reasons why you prefer Crystal to XP?

Ken LeFebvre

Harrisburg, PA

Daniel Read Responds:

Hello Kenneth,

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you have enjoyed the essays and other writings.

What I really like about Cockburn's outlook on the agile thing is that he recognizes explicitly that each project is a unique situation, and no methodology, no matter how good, is one-size-fits-all. This general philosophy just fits more closely with my own general philosophy--not just in terms of methodologies.

A simple example: I have a hard time working with document templates that are too prescriptive. I like a document template that has a fairly loose structure that I can mold to my needs each time I sit down to write a document of a particular type. Each time I start a design document, there are some things the structure of that document will have in common with almost any other design document, but a particular design document has it's own unique needs, and I hate having to fill in or strip out a bunch of sections that don't have any use.

(Speaking of documents and Cockburn, this "respect for looseness" is also what I like about Cockburn's approach to use cases. I like some basic structure in a use case, but I also like the freedom to use prose to explain the subtleties of esoteric concepts.)

I should qualify my opinions regarding agile methodologies by saying that I have never explicitly used XP or Crystal on any project--though I have read a great deal about the agile phenomenon since it started. That said, I do believe that I have been using agile methodologies for years--just not methodologies that have a name. Instead, in each unique situation, I have worked to develop (or help develop, depending on what position I held on a project) a unique process and methodology to fit that project. I believe that these processes have always been "agile" in nature, even before I had heard that term used to describe a methodology/process. This is why I gravitated so naturally to Cockburn's "roll your own methodology" idea, which, if I am not mistaken, is at the heart of the Crystal concept.

So is Crystal better than XP? I would not presume to assert one way or the other. All I can say is, based on a lot of reading and talking to other technologists, Crystal appeals to my sensibilities, experiences, and style. I am also attracted to DSDM and SCRUM, and I very much like Jim Highsmith's ideas and writings about agile development.

Take care,