Questioning Extreme Programming

Questioning XP Book Cover

Questioning Extreme Programming (ISBN 0-201-84457-5) is part of Kent Beck's XP Series. Pete McBreen is the author of Software Craftsmanship : The New Imperative which was also published by Addison-Wesley.

This book is somewhat dated now in that is addresses many of the questions related to adopting XP, comparing and contrasting XP to some of the alternatives to XP. Unfortunately not all of the alternatives are that common any more, eight years has been a long time in the software methodology world.

Foreword by Kent Beck

Pete and I go way back. I can't remember exactly when we met, but I do remember being impressed with his experience and ability to communicate. When I heard that Pete was writing a book that takes a critical look at XP, I was glad — another set of eyes, particularly those of a thoughtful and self-professed outsider, could only help all of us as we try to improve our own development cultures.

Pete pulled it off. Some of XP's critics fall into shrill, reactionary jeremiads: "It'll never work. You have to design my way, or you'll die. Listen to me. I know how to yell." This book is thorough, thoughtful, and conservative. Pete only makes claims he can back up with experience.

This is not to say I agree with his conclusions. I absolutely do not. XP started out with a fairly limited audience in mind — small teams working on business software. Adventurous pioneers, to use Ken Auer's picturesque metaphor, have carried XP far from its roots:

Pete claims that the more he looks at XP, the smaller he sees its scope. I see just the opposite. I won't refute his argument point by point — this is a foreword and I'm supposed to be polite. I will suggest that as you read this, you keep in mind one mistake of early XP thinking for which I am entirely responsible — "the customer" doesn't mean one person. It means a team, as big as or bigger than the development team.

I trust you will make your own conclusions about the contents of the book. If you agree with Pete's conclusion, you will find here evidence and reasoning aplenty. If you disagree with Pete's conclusion, you will find tough questions that will force you to reexamine your own experience and conclusions. If you don't have an opinion about XP, you will find here a program for coming to your own conclusions. That's why I'm delighted to welcome this book to The XP Series. It's a "make-you-think" book, and XP is supposed to be a "make-you-think" development culture.

Kent Beck
Three Rivers Institute

From the Preface

Extreme Programming sounds great - can we do it without changing our process?


This book sets out to question Extreme Programming in an attempt to understand and explain the controversy that surrounds Extreme Programming. My goal for this book is to allow you, the reader, to determine if Extreme Programming is applicable and appropriate for your projects, to investigate what lessons can be learned from Extreme Programming and to enable you to be more reflective about your software development practices.


As much as is possible I have tried to present both sides of the debate surrounding Extreme Programming without getting into the continual flame-fest that discussions on usenet newsgroups and email lists often contain.

I have written this book as a practical guide for four different audiences:

As a practical guide this book is focused on identifying issues surrounding software development and discussing how Extreme Programming interacts with these issues. As this is a practical guide, you will not find much in the way of detailed studies and experimental data. This book focuses on clarifying the issues so that you, the reader, can determine the fit between Extreme Programming and your specific circumstances.

From the Epilogue

"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." William Shakespeare, 1599. "Julius Caesar. Act 3 Scene 2"

This has been a very interesting book to write. When I first heard about Extreme Programming I was very excited because I actually enjoy programming. Over time my questioning of Extreme Programming has lead me on a journey that is practically the opposite of Anthony’s eulogy for Julius Caesar as told by Shakespeare.

At the end of Anthony’s eulogy, the mob is on Caesar’s side and are lusting for revenge on the conspirators who killed Julius Caesar. In my case I started off very enthusiastic and over time became much less so because of the very narrow applicability of Extreme Programming. Sure XP teams have managed to do great things, but suitable projects are few and far between. I have yet to work on project that was really suitable for XP and I suspect that few other developers have.

Some Interesting Ideas to play with before you read this book

Some reviews