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PAYGO stands for “Pay As You Go“. It’s the name of the personal process that I use to create or maintain software. There are five operational states in PAYGO:

  • Design A Little
  • Code A Little
  • Test A Little
  • Document A Little
  • Done For Now

Yes, the fourth state is called “Document A Little“, and it’s a first class citizen in the PAYGO process. Whatever process you use, if some sort of documentation activity is not an integral part of it, then you might be an incomplete and one dimensional engineer, no?

“…documentation is a love letter that you write to your future self.” – Damian Conway

The UML state transition diagram below models the PAYGO states of operation along with the transitions between them. Even though the diagram indicates that the initial entry into the cyclical and iterative PAYGO process lands on the “Design A Little” state of activity, any state can be the point of entry into the process. Once you’re immersed in the process, you don’t kick out into the “Done For Now” state until your first successful product handoff occurs. Here, successful means that the receiver of your work, be it an end user or a tester or another programmer, is happy with the result. How do you know when that is the case? Simply ask the receiver.

Notice the plethora of transition arcs in the diagram (the green ones are intended to annotate feedback learning loops as opposed to sequential forward movements). Any state can transition into any other state and there is no fixed, well defined set of conditions that need to be satisfied before making any state-to-state leap. The process is fully under your control and you freely choose to move from state to state as “God” (for lack of a better word) uses you as an instrument of creation. If clueless STSJ PWCE BMs issue mindless commands from on high like “pens down” and “no more bug fixing, you’re only allowed to write new code“, you fake it as best you can to avoid punishment and you go where your spirit takes you. If you get caught faking it and get fired, then uh….. soothe your conscience by blaming me.

The following quote in “The C++ Programming Language” by mentor-from-afar Bjarne Stroustrup triggered this blog post:

In the early years, there was no C++ paper design; design, documentation, and implementation went on simultaneously. There was no “C++ project” either, or a “C++ design committee.” Throughout, C++ evolved to cope with problems encountered by users and as a result of discussions between my friends, my colleagues, and me. – Bjarne Stroustrup

When I read it on my Nth excursion through the book (you’ve made multiple trips through the BS book  too, no?), it occurred to me that my man Bjarne uses PAYGO too.

Say STFU to all the mindlessly mechanistic processes from highly-credentialed and well-intentioned luminaries like Watts Humphrey’s PSP (because he wants to transform you into an accountant) and your mandated committee corpo process group (because the chances are that the dudes who wrote the process manuals haven’t written software in decades) and the TDD know-it-alls. Embrace what you discover is the best personal development process for you; be it PAYGO or whatever personal process the universe compels you to embrace. Out of curiosity, what process do you use?

If you’re interested in a higher level overview of the personal PAYGO process in the context of other development processes, you can check out this previous post: PAYGO I. And thanks for listening.

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  1. July 30, 2011 at 1:04 am
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