[Hack] – Use Skype for Agile Teams

Skype rules. I simply love the way you can easily use it to connect with other people. In my house, the Grandparents love it because they can see their grand daughter. So how can you make the most of Skype for your decentralized Agile team?

The guys over at Skype journal let us in on a list we just had to write about.

Using Skype for Agile Teams:

  1. Dial in video conferencing – For team cohesion, offsite team members video Skype to the daily standup meeting. Extend this for other meetings too!
  2. Remote pair programming – In pair programming, two programmers work together at one screen. Turn on Skype desktop screen sharing during a voice call with your programming partner.  You’re both seeing the same things and can talk to each other. I believe that @joem uses this with his programming with Pivotal Labs.
  3. IM team backchannels – Skype has persistent chat: This means your conversations continue, even when other people are offline.
  4. Language translation – Take advantage of the free Chat Translator and Speaker for Skype, which pipes your IMs through Google for live machine translation.
  5. Be connected to other offices – Open up a full screen video call on a large monitor (or television) and just leave it on. It offers for a sense of being connected and the opportunity for chance conversation.
  6. IM notifications and alerting. The Skype Public API makes it easy to write apps that will pipe notifications from code repositories, test frameworks, and work tracking into Skype text chats.
  7. Avoid distractions. Skype offers the ability to turn off bells, beeps, and bloips for each chat room. The /alertsoff and /alertsoff IM commands give you control. Skype says:

“/alertsoff” Disable message alert notifications.

“/alertson [text]” Allows you to specify exactly what needs to appear in a chat for the chat to pop up. For example, /alertson London will only alert you when the word “London” appears in the chat.

Full of #win! Watch @joem below in an example of utilizing Skype for pair programming:

[VIA: Skype Journal]

8 Replies to “[Hack] – Use Skype for Agile Teams”

  1. We were also doing it with our romanian team to do daily meetings, peer review, pair programming, knowledge transfer and Sprint Retropspective and meeting with our clients.

    Work out correctly, but I agree have it on a TV screen as a window on the other office team would be quite nice!

  2. Glad you prefaced this with [hack]. I love Skype, and I think it has some awesome features that are useful in the circumstances you describe. And yet I worry. All these workarounds continue to serve the belief that its okay to have off-shore development. When it really isn’t. I wish someone would find a way of measuring productivity loss with remote communication, and all the required management overhead. I’ve racked my aging brain on this, and although I instinctively, experientially, and anecdotally know it to be true, I have no hard evidence.

  3. This reminds me about my post regarding other tools such as teamspeak, ventrilo or mumble for open communication across distances – http://agileforest.com/2011/10/18/distributed-teams-what-can-we-learn-from-online-multiplayer-gamers/

    The benefit of just a VOIP tool is that the bandwidth taken is considerably smaller and from experience bandwidth is an issue (well at least in Australia it is). I would recommend a blend – VOIP for a continuous open channel (with added benefits of having virtual rooms, but effectively all in the one virtual building); and then use skype when you do need to see someone or their computer. I.e, use the right bandwidth for the right situation.

    @tobias – Unfortunately as much as we all believe that offshoring is counterproductive it is going to be a reality for the next 10 years until China’s standard of living catches up. This is despite any proof of it’s viability (or lack thereof). I have seen a report, it was about five months ago, disproving the value of offshoring – but can’t remember the name or link to it.

    What IS important is that we do start collecting metrics on this. I am aware of one such project happening at the moment that is just about to establish detailed metrics in a split team.

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