Metrics: 50 degrees warmer

One area where I know I could improve is what to measure and what metrics to communicate.

This paragraph contains some terms that some of you might want to google. I will put those in bold. I would like to measure burndown, as is typical if one is using Scrum project management techniques. We are using trac for requirements, design, construction, and bug-fix tasks.

There is a plug-in for trac that probably makes sense at There is also a trac plugin for Scrum at 

To give you a sense of how I think about such decisions as whether to put a plug-in in place for a burndown report, I will tell you that in spite of knowing about the first of these two plug-ins before writing this (the second I just found when looking for the first, showing me again how writing might help a project), I have not requested it.

Sierra Bravo, who hosts our server and does system administration as an angel hosting site for SnupNow, has been very good to work with and right now I am paying them only a percentage of this company, current valued at zero dollars. So I do not want them to mess around with anything unnecessary, and I know I have done that already. I have root access but don’t want to add that plug-in myself, because I want it done right, to keep from having too many cooks, and because every time I use a linux editor or type the characters :q! in a row, it subtracts a day from my projected lifespan.

Summary: I really do want to be sure it is important and that I will use it before I put in a request for this trac plug-in.

In spite of my resonance with data and information, project metrics have been problematic for me. It is important not to measure the wrong things. It can be easy to focus on some detailed metrics and miss the bigger picture. “Yes, she has 10 fingers and 10 toes” is not necessarily important if she has no heartbeat, for example.

It is even possible to measure something that tells you something relevant, and that seems to be very relevant, but really does not make much difference. It was 20 below zero Fahrenheit here this morning. My husband told me that the good news was that it was supposed to warm up 50 degrees in the next two days, but the bad news was that it would still be below freezing. If it were to warm up 50 degrees from 20 degrees to 70 degrees, now THAT would be fantastic. From -20 to 30, well sure, it is relevant, but when it is below freezing, I am outside as little as feasible. It just isn’t as big a deal to me that it will warm up 50 degrees in the next two days, in spite of what the numbers might lead one to believe.

I would like to measure what a user can do with our software at any given point in time, and how much more they can do at a later time. 29 and 129 do not seem like answers to that question. But having no numbers seems even less helpful. Even if we could measure this, however, that doesn’t quite get at how much more likely a person or company would be to use the software in light of new features, nor how successful they would be in using the software, nor how satisfied they would be in having us as a vendor.

Are project metrics important? Sure, I definitely think they are. Which metrics are important? I dunno. Maybe something is simply better than nothing, although that brings up the fingers and toes example. I like that burndown report, however. It seems like a good idea. At least it makes me feel 50 degrees warmer.


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