stpBA Storyboarding: Best Rookie Product I’ve Seen In Years

The easiest Jolt vote I’ve made in years was for stpBA Storyboarding, a product which every architect and team lead owes themselves to evaluate. I would say it is revolutionary, but it is better than that — it simply makes the way you probably already work vastly more efficient.

Essentially, it is a product that transforms screen-based storyboards into requirements and work-items. Based on (and in) Microsoft Office, you mock up screens using Visio and link them together using arrows. And then it transforms that into work-items. That’s it. Simple. Obvious. Just works.

I could say that storyboards are one of the few diagrams that are universally comprehensible and producible by designers, users, and developers. I could say that usage-centered design, as laid out by Larry Constantine & Lucy Lockwood, is the most efficacious way I know to elicit requirements. I could say that the downside of storyboards has always been tracing their detail to and from work-items, and so they’ve traditionally been a “write once” work product. But I don’t need to say that, because it’s all so obvious.

It’s really an eye-opening product — download it, install it in a VM, you’ll be happy.

The only rub being that I really do mean “install it in a VM.” That it is essentially a Visio plug-in is both a strength and weakness of Storyboarding. Today, it only works with Office 2003. An Office 12 version is in development, but this is the type of product that, once you’ve tried it, you don’t want to be without. Like all Jolt judges, I make extensive use of virtual machines (the awarding of a Jolt to VMWare Lab Manager was no shock) but Storyboarding was one where I felt that tuning up a dedicated virtual machine was very much the “way to do it.” Perhaps due to the opaqueness of Office as a plug-in host, getting Storyboarding up and running took a little tweaking. If I recall correctly, before I attached the VM to the Internet to register/validate Office, there was some silent error that led to features not being enabled. Also, the workflow within Storyboarding was not immediately obvious, since it relies on its own pane within Visio and the potential is not quite unleashed by “press the buttons left to right.” It’s not a long learning curve, but it’s longer than learning Peggle.

Highly recommended. (Storyboarding, not Peggle. If you wish to ever have a productive day again, I advise you not try Peggle.)

2007 Jolts Awards

The Jolt Awards were announced last night. The list of winners is below. We had some particularly competitive categories this year (in Technical Books, I advise you to simply fill your shopping cart with the finalists). Most delightful, this was a year where there was some real innovation, which I’ll highlight in some individual discussions.

1. Books General

Jolt Winner:

    • Agile Software Development by Alistair Cockburn (Addison-Wesley Professional)

    >

    Productivity Winners:

    • Catastrophe Disentanglement by E. M. Bennatan (Addison-Wesley Professional)
    • Practices of an Agile Developer by V. Subramaniam and A. Hunt (Pragmatic Bookshelf)
    • Software Estimation Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell (Microsoft Press)

    2. Books Technical

    Jolt Winner:

      • Head First Object-Oriented Analysis & Design by B. McLaughlin, G. Pollice, and D. West (O’Reilly Media)

      >

      Productivity Winners:

      • Code Quality by Diomidis Spinellis (Addison-Wesley Professional)
      • Refactoring Databases by Scott W. Ambler and P. J. Sadalage (Addison-Wesley Professional)
      • CSS: The Missing Manual by David Sawyer McFarland (O’Reilly Media)

      3. Change and Configuration Management

      Jolt Winner:

        • AccuRev 4.5 with AccuWorkflow (AccuRev)

        >

        Productivity Winners:

        • AnthillPro3 (Urbancode)
        • Perforce SCM (Perforce)
        • Team Foundation Server (Microsoft)

        4. Collaboration Tools

        Jolt Winner:

        1. Confluence (Atlassian Software Systems)

        Productivity Winners:

        • Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional (Adobe Systems)
        • NetBeans IDE (Sun Microsystems)
        • TeamCity (JetBrains)

        5. Database Engines and Data Tools

        Jolt Winner:

          • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals (Microsoft)

          >

          Productivity Winners:

          • Coral8 Engine (Coral8)
          • Dbdeploy (ThoughtWorks)
          • SQL Refactor (Red Gate Software)

          6. Design and Modeling Tools

          Jolt Winner:

            • stpBA Storyboarding (stpsoft)

            >

            Productivity Winners:

            • Corticon Business Rules Modeling Studio (Corticon)
            • MagicDraw UML (No Magic)
            • Stylus Studio 2007 XML Enterprise Suite (DataDirect Technologies)

            7. Development Environments

            Jolt Winner:

              • NetBeans IDE (Sun Microsystems)

              >

               Productivity Winners:
              IntelliJ IDEA (JetBrains)
              IronPython (Microsoft)
              Wolfram Workbench (Wolfram Research)

              8. Enterprise Tools

              Jolt Winner:

                • Cape Clear ESB Platform (Cape Clear Software)

                >

                Productivity Winners:

                • Liferay Portal (Liferay
                • Appistry EAF (Appistry)
                • Pentaho Open BI Suite (Pentaho)

                9. Libraries, Frameworks and Components

                Jolt Winner:

                  • NetAdvantage for .NET (Infragistics)

                  >

                  Productivity Winners:

                  • JViews (ILOG)
                  • .NET Framework 3.0 (Microsoft)
                  • Intel Threading Building Blocks (Intel)

                  10. Mobile Development Tools

                  Jolt Winner:

                    • Carbide .c++ Professional Edition (Nokia)

                    >

                    Productivity Winners:

                    • Crossfire (AppForge)
                    • NetBeans Mobility Pack and Sun Java Wireless Tookit (Sun Microsystems)
                    • Qtopia (Trolltech)

                    11. Project Management

                    Jolt Winner:

                      • Rally Enterprise (Rally Software)

                      >

                      Productivity Winners:

                      • 6th Sense Analytics (6th Sense Analytics)
                      • Teamwork (Open Lab)
                      • V1: Agile Enterprise (VersionOne)

                      12. Security

                      Jolt Winner:

                        • AppScan (Watchfire)

                        >

                        Productivity Winners:

                        • DevInspect (SPI Dynamics)
                        • Fortify Source Code Analysis (Fortify)
                        • Metasploit Framework (Metasploit)

                        13. Testing

                        Jolt Winner:

                          • AgitarOne (Agitar Software)

                          >

                          Productivity Winners:

                          • Mindreef SOAPscope (Mindreef)
                          • Parasoft SOAtest (Parasoft)
                          • TestComplete (AutomatedQA)

                          14. Bug and Defect Tracking

                          Jolt Winner:

                            • TestTrack Studio (Seapine Software)

                            >

                            Productivity Winners:

                            • JIRA (Atlassian Software Systems)
                            • OnTime 2007 (Axosoft)
                            • Software Planner Professional (Pragmatic Software)

                            15. Utilities

                            Jolt Winner:

                              • VMware Lab Manager (VMware)

                              >

                              Productivity Winners:

                              • Adobe Captivate 2 (Adobe)
                              • ElectricCommander (Electric Cloud)
                              • Textmate (MacroMates)

                              16. Web Development

                              Jolt Winner:

                                • Adobe Flex 2 (Adobe Systems)

                                >

                                Productivity Winners:

                                • IntelliJ IDEA (JetBrains)
                                • Mindreef SOAPscope Server (Mindreef)
                                • NetBeans Visual Web Pack 5.5 (Sun Microsystems)

                                17. Websites and Developer Networks

                                Jolt Winner:

                                  • Sun Developer Network (Sun Microsystems)

                                  >

                                  Productivity Winners:

                                  • CM Crossroads (CMC Media)
                                  • Koders.com (Koders)
                                  • Krugle (Krugle)

                                  HALL OF FAME

                                    • IBM developerWorks (IBM)

                                    >

Version Control Patterns?

I started to write a post on version-control patterns (“How to pack your trunk”) when I realized what a can of worms it was. Essentially, every time I wrote down “the way I’ve always done it” I realized that there were always trade-offs — that what worked in some situations wouldn’t be appropriate in others. In other words, that there really was a need for a pattern language for discussing version-control / change-management.

I’m not talking about “use version control,” which has (thankfully) become standard. I’m talking about the organizational memory of your software development team. For instance, I generally organize by deployment task — /Web, /App1, /App2, /Utilities, etc. But in a more service-oriented environment, it might definitely make more sense to organize in a more use-case driven manner: /admin, /tradingpartner1, /tradingpartner2, /internalclient1, etc.

Umm… Am I missing a well-known resource on this issue? Basically, the post quickly grew towards article length while hardly scratching the surface. I could throw up a Wiki on the topic easily enough, but I don’t want to duplicate effort. Thoughts?