A few things Mark Wallace

Month: July 2015

Minimum Viable Hypothesis

I was reminded today of the idea of the Minimum Viable Hypothesis. I think I first saw this on the blog of James Shore, an early practitioner and proponent of Agile Development (he wrote the book back in 2007, after all).

On his blog, James talks about devising a test that you’ll trust if it comes back negative, as a way to see whether your product idea is viable for a certain market segment. Then figure out the cheapest and fastest way of performing this test. This is your MVH. There’s slightly more to it than that, but not much.

Essentially, he’s just asking you to find a way to validate your riskiest assumptions about a market before you start building product. It’s surprising how often people fail to undertake anything like this. Instead, they go for low-hanging fruit and figure we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. I am of the opinion that low-hanging fruit is more or less poisonous. (More on that in another post.)

Devising a MVH helps derisk whatever you’re working on, by helping you to either locate a market that needs your product, or better understand what a particular market’s needs. It puts the hard questions first, and lets you start out with a couple of big strides, rather than baby steps (at least as far as market validation is concerned).

And it’s good to extend this idea to whatever development you’re doing. Even having specific hypotheses in mind as you’re planning each sprint or release can bring a lot more insight to your process. I think this is pretty basic stuff for a lot of agile practitioners, but it’s surprising how often teams (even those that consider themselves agile) neglect to do this.

Today’s Interesting Thing

Here’s an interesting challenge (at least, as framed in this recent mini-Tweetstorm from yours truly):

I’m pretty sure I’ll have a hard time doing this day in and day out, but I’m gonna give it a shot for a while and see how it goes. I’m not even sure it’s the best use of my time.

So what’s today’s interesting (to me) thing? Stay tuned.

Storytelling Together (Not Bowling Alone)

I’ve always been really interested in the kind of collaborative storytelling that emerges from tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons and the like, and I keep enough people in my Twitter feed to occasionally notice new stuff going on in the space. At the moment, things seem particularly rich, with a ton of interesting Kickstarters and other stuff popping up:

  • Microscope is what I think of as a “historytelling” game, which lets you “explore an epic history of your own creation, hundreds or thousands of years long, all in an afternoon.” Ben Robbins, the game’s creator, is now Kickstarting an expansion set. Worth the $10 for the pdf, I say.
  • Downfall (currently being Kickstarted) sounds like a very interesting historytelling game. You don’t so much create a society as briefly describe and define it — and then narrate its collapse. Awesome.
  • The publishers of Fiasco, a really cool take on tabletop roleplaying (catch Wil Wheaton playing it here), are now Kickstarting The Warren, which essentially turns Watership Down (one of my favorite novels) into an RPG. Such a great idea.
  • There’s a new edition of the Blue Rose role-playing game of “romantic fantasy,” a loosely defined genre that focuses more on character development and interaction than on swordplay and dungeon crawls. Its Kickstarter reaped more than $85,000.
  • A Patreon from Tracy Barnett, who created the School Daze role-playing game about being an awesome high schooler a la Buffy, or whatever other kind of awesomeness you can think up.
  • I noticed Cheat Your Own Adventure via this blog post and this Tweet (or maybe this one), complete with a fun after-action report. It’s a collaborative storytelling take on the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my childhood. Definitely want to play this with my stepkids, who are 13 and 16. Grab the two pages of rules here.
  • Plus, a game about life with migraines.

One of the things that’s interesting to me about this is that, like board games, these are experiences that all but require people to be in the same room at the same time. (You could, of course, play these games via Skype or the like.) That’s one of the things I love about analog gaming, and it’s also part of the reason I think it’s important: It’s an activity that brings people together at a point in history when technology makes it ever easier to remain in our own little orbits, talking to and seeing each other less and less and less. (Not that it requires that, it just makes it easier.)

I have a hard time envisioning tabletop roleplaying games becoming popular in a really significant, mainstream way, a way that cuts across generations, genders, and class divides. (I could be wrong.) But in a world where people are still afraid of bowling alone, it’s nice to see so much activity around a pastime that requires participants to build and engage with their community.

The Writing’s on the Blog

A while back I tweeted that I’d enjoy reading some “returning to blogging” blog posts:



Well, here’s another such post for my collection. I’ve felt for some time that I needed to get back on some kind of writing, somewhere. (There are a lot of great choices these days.) But I’ve been stopped by all the things that stop people: what will I focus on, do I have the time, can I commit, why can’t I get this damn WordPress theme to work right (not this one, actually), etc., etc.

None of that’s a good excuse. And even if it’s many months between this post and the next, at least I’m scratching some kind of itch. The writing’s been on the wall for some time — time to get it out there. See you soon (I hope).


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