Traditionally, Agile development has used the terms chicken and pigs to delineate two types of people involved in the development process. The cliched Agile fable goes:
A pig and a chicken are talking to each other. The chicken says, “Hey pig, we should open a restaurant!”
The pig replies: “What would we call it?”
The chicken says: “How about ‘Ham-n-Eggs’?”
The pig thinks a bit and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”
Most people think that engineers are pigs and writers are chickens. At least, that’s was the feeling when Agile started replacing other micro-development frameworks, like eXtreme Programming.
Like other development frameworks, Agile doesn’t really account for documentation. Writers usually have to impose themselves into the schedule. No coding involved? Then you’re a chicken.
Well, bother, I say. Writers might not be full-fledged pigs, but we have deliverables. We should at least be accorded the status of piglets. Sure, our source repository might not be compiled, but we are responsible for a deliverable (whether generated through Maven, ANT, or just a printed Word file). Our deliverables might be small, compared to the number of lines of code in the product. But our content is necessary and (hopefully) actually useful.
So, who best to show us the power of our perceived insignificant contributions but Piglet himself. Piglet, the A. A. Milne character in the Winnie the Pooh stories, the tiny character noted for his great heart, as so wonderfully depicted in Benjamin Hoff’s book, The Te of Piglet.
Piglet, embodies the Taoist concept of Te, or virtue. I’m not going to make the connection that writers are virtuous. (Thanks, Hemmingway and others, for ruining that path for us.) But, as Hoff noted, Te is the material of which heroes are made. “Nobody reads documentation,” goes a current cliche. And bad documentation doesn’t deserve to be read. However, like a hero, a great narrative can save folks from blowing away databases, or from spending hours deploying a five-minute installation. Great writing can be heroic in that it can save someone’s day…or save someone’s ass.
So fret not, my fellow piglets. Sit with the pigs, make your contributions, add to the product, and know that you are valuable, vital, and possibly heroic.