Building apps? Sweatbox them. We just started doing this, and it works.

Andy Parkhouse - January 23rd, 2013

WTF is sweatboxing?
Film production technique from Disney, also used by Pixar. Animators gather every morning with the film’s director to review previous day’s work (rushes).

  • animation is time-consuming
  • changes are costly and painful
  • many many people are working on a film at once
  • the work needs to fit together so that the vision and story flow

Linky linky

Called Sweatbox because…

  • the room Disney used was hot
  • work people have slaved over is ruthlessly, brutally scrutinised

Why use Sweatbox when building apps?

  • all the same production problems as animation, but with user experience, usability, support and maintenance added for Extra Fun Times
  • quickly find what isn’t working (team-sized variant of hallway testing)
  • find opportunities for plus-ing (Pixar’s technique for adding more to good ideas)
  • you want to build an outstandingly good artefact, right? So critique what you’re building, honestly and relentlessly

Things Sweatbox isn’t:

  • this is not the standup meeting for whatever agile methods you’re using (standup is not a place for critique)
  • not testing with end users against their actual needs
  • not a planning meeting
  • not tea and biscuits meetings
  • not a beasting session for individuals on the team

How are we doing it?

  • big TV – not the real environment an app is used in, but big = easier to see (grouping around a single laptop is terrible, and is even less like using the real app)
  • standing up, creates freedom to move and think, to enter into or withdraw from confrontation, and to move to point at things
  • done on the floor where the rest of the team (account managers, sales consultants etc) work, so they can be drawn in quickly for testing + opinion

Do these or you’re doing Sweatbox wrong:

  • no holds barred – total honesty
  • BUT critique the artefact not the person
  • “did you consider [xyz]?”: good
  • “this is going to cause support issues”: good
  • “you should have done [xyz]”: bad
  • “that flow sucks because [xyz]”: good
  • “you have completely screwed this up”: bad
  • “would [xyz] work better?”: good
  • “you are a dumbass”: bad

Wot no picture?
Nah, it’s just us standing round a TV. Imagine it if you must.

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