As an Agile coach, I tend to have a lot of index cards handy. I glommed onto a habit of teaching by having a student (or class full of them) bring three index cards and a marker to a session. I would explain enough information to fill three index cards, and the meeting was over. They left with a good reminder of the information I had explained.
I blogged about my TDD reference cards at Object Mentor's blog and a little while later found that a reader produced the same blog, but with pictures. I found his because it got a great reddit score, much better than the reddit score on my own original article. The pictures matter (though it may also be that Brian Di Croce is a more entertaining writer).
Another ingredient came when my friend Glen introduced me to Brian Eno's concept of Oblique Strategies. These are little cards that provide some advice out of context. Eno and Peter Schmidt
... tended to keep a set of basic working principles which guided them through the kinds of moments of pressure - either working through a heavy painting session or watching the clock tick while you're running up a big buck studio bill. Both Schmidt and Eno realized that the pressures of time tended to steer them away from the ways of thinking they found most productive when the pressure was off. The Strategies were, then, a way to remind themselves of those habits of thinking - to jog the mind.
I found that when I was facing difficult times or pressures or sleeplessness, I could pull out a card that explained the canonical way to do something. The brief explanation would anchor my thinking and remind me of the essential simplicity I need to approach difficult tasks. This is because it is as General Carl Von Clausewitz said of war:
"In war everything is simple, but it's the simple things that are difficult."
The final ingredient for the index card mania is that I picked up a gig working with Jeff Langr, the author of Agile Java. I immediately enjoyed the way we argue, discuss, work, and learn together. I decided to pair up with someone who has been through book publishing (more than just my chapter of Clean Code) before and Jeff was my first choice of collaborator.
After working under the radar for a while, we decided to open up and start getting content in front of developers. Here you will see the results of our efforts, and be able to contribute via comments and tasty arguments.
I hope you'll join us.
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