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My Extreme Feedback Device

Posted by nidaley on August 14, 2007 at 10:04 AM PDT

It's a simple thing -- but it does wonders to inform management and motivate developers!

For that last 9 months I've had an Ambient Orb connected to my Hudson continuous integration server. When one of three critical software builds fail (including any of the tests that they automatically kick off), the Orb turns red and throbs in intensity:


When all three critical builds (and associated testing) are successful, the Orb throbs green:


In geek parlance, this kind of device is called an extreme feedback device -- and the single bit of information it provides has proved to be a fantastic reporting tool. It provides a single bit of useful information that management can see, and take action on, every time they walk onto my floor.

For those that want to set one up, here are the basic steps:

  • get a super simple-to-configure continuous integration server (Hudson)
  • setup your builds
  • buy the Ambient Orb ($150) and it's HDK ($45) -- any manager that won't spring $200 for this simple management tool maybe isn't worth working for
  • connect the Orb to a PC's 9-pin serial port (ya, no USB) using the HDK, ensuring that the Orb is as visible as possible to coworkers (mine's on top of my cube wall)
  • setup a build on your continuous integration server that run's frequently and sets the Orb color based on the status of one or more builds (you can email me for the small bits of Java code and scripts that make this happen with Hudson: ndaley at yahoo-inc dot com)

Voila! "It-works-for-me" developers will revile you, test driven developers will love you, management will want want to promote you, and your significant-other will want to...well, you get the picture.

Want a fun job testing open source? Passionate about software quality? Have great testing and coding skills? I'm hiring! Send your resume to: ndaley at yahoo-inc dot com

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