Nov 23, 2004

IIM CAT 2004 - The wounded lion roars back

Why the big fuss? That questions carry unequal marks, we dont know the proportion of negative marks etc. CAT = Certainly Abnormal Test. CAT 2004 for sure made everyone realize what to expect "Dont expect" ;-)

Anyways a huge change was anticipated. How short our memories are? CAT 2003 was held again in Feb 2004 because some Don played Cat and Mouse with the IIMs reputation. So the lion had to roar back. And it did roar :-). This was one key factor that was conscipous by its absence on the infinite chat transcripts I read :-(

Finally coming to strategizing, the key element in CAT has always been coming up with a base plan when you get the sealed paper, and at runtime fine tuning it. So much like what a manager does and doesnt in real life. And the few who do in software turn XPers. Coming back to the point, in 2004 the fact that questions carried unequal marks zapped the ground under every candidates feet.

Till now it has been that CAT always had 1 mark questions. So strategizing was pretty simple. Thus if I have say 3 sections of 55 questions each, I could say it was 55 marks each. For 120 mins, my base plan would be 40 mins per section, saving 5 mins on easy section and using that on the other tough section. Even when the number of questions are unequal say 45, 45, 30, 35 across 4 sections, my base plan would be 35, 35, 25, 25 mins for the 4 sections and again gaining some time in easier, oops less tougher, sections and utilizing that in other tougher sections.

However this time the catch was unequal questions and unequal marks. But common sense tells me that I must allocate time primarily on the basis of marks per question. So if x mins for 1 mark question, it moves to 2x for 2 mark and 0.5x for 0.5x marks question. Remember this is only for coming up with a base plan. Thus when I get CAT 2004 in hand, first I must not panic. Thats the universal rule. Next I see there are 3 sections and 2 subsections in each. Thus at first glance base plan is 20 mins per subsection. But I see questions carry unequal marks. And total marks is 150. So for section A which has 26 1 mark questions and 12 - 2 mark questions it translates to 26 Mark subsection, 24 mark subsection. Immediately its 20 mins per subsection. And it makes sense because 20 mins for easy to medium 26 questions and 20 mins for 12 difficult questions. Also attempting 12-13 1 mark questions and 4-5 2 mark questions in 35 mins would give me a fair idea. If I know its good enough to clear the cut off I move on to section 2. ANd so on and on for other sections.

Finally the key to this CAT was alloting time not just on basis of questions but on the marks alloted also. The CAT drank your milk of wisdom and common sense eh :-)

Nov 13, 2004

Personality Types

I was going through a chapter of Norman Lewis Reading Faster. Here he talks about personality types and their reading habits. And immediately I started to think if there is a link between personality types and XP. Because what is XP but a set of habits that people on the Xp project have. Habit of writing tests first, habit of automating tests, habit of domain design, habit of integrating continuously. Habits and more habits. :-)

But the biggest habit is to be not a perfectionist. The habit of getting along, plugging ahead with whatever you have. So the immediate draw is "Dont be a perfectionist if you have to work on XP Project". But then we form our habits and then we dont want to experience the pain of changing it. And I had a first experience of explaining one of my friends about XP's TDD. He was so much habitutated of being upfront first, he could never get to the point of learning TDD. But then he may be an Xtreme example :-)

Finally the first thing before you venture into agile, you need to find out about your habits. Whether they will help you in your tryst of writing better software (I assume thats the reason why wanna XP). If you are habituated to keep it simple, move ahead, not regress then your transition may be smooth. But if not, you are a perfectionist, upfronter then work on changing your habits and then work on learning XP. I bet you will enjoy the success.

XP many times I feel is not just a way of programming its a way of life. Somewhere I See a higher from lurking, Xtreme Living probably which can be abbreviated to XL. Yes just as XP gives you the chance to XL at programming, so may XL let you xcel in your life. Happy Living. :-)

Nov 1, 2004

Is Xtreme Programming the next Strategic Inflection point?

The other day I was reading Andrew S Grooves "Only the Paranoid Survive". This book basically talks about those points one faces in career or buisiness ( I know nothing there) which do a volte-face. Everything that seemed so right till yesterday has changed completely.

Andrew talks about PC and Internet, the two inflection points which have impacted both careers and business in a profound way. And he also says that to handle these crisis points or strategic inflection points, one needs always to be on the alert and keep experimenting. That got me thinking.

All of a sudden XP dawned upon me. Is it a strategic inflection point? AS of now I cant conclude assertively but many of the observations do point to that. If XP really succeeds and takes root, its gonna change the way software is written on a large scale. Currently its limited to some courageous projects. It will be a topsy turvy, a huge change for every IT professional. It can make outsourcing look silly or make it even stronger if the Business Process Outsourcing succeeds. THen customers being closer to project team is a reality at offshore and not onsite! Whatever, only time will tell, but yes, I do think that XP may be the next infleciton point.

What then should a career professional do? And a business? For a latter I neither have the data nor the resources to predict. For a career, first thing is that each professional has to develop a learnign attitude. For most, people see an IT career as a non-learning job which is dangerous. Next you have to start learning about agile principles and the alternative way of writing software so that if the inflection point does rear its ugly head, you are better positioned to make the transition.