Saturday, February 12, 2011

I've noticed an interesting link between art and software, specifically a parallel to the Scrum process and the existence of Certified Scrum Masters: there are ZenTangles with a specific process for creating art or doodles, and Certified ZenTangle Teachers.

Besides the terminology, both ideas are about regulating and confining what are normally considered open-ended, unbounded problem areas. In ZenTangles, there are arbitrary rules: how many strings to start your ZenTangle with, precisely what fine-tipped pen to use, and the most emphasized restriction, the size of paper is 3.5" by 3.5". Scrum often fetishizes details like planning poker, estimate roshambo, and post-it notes (full disclosure: I've participated deeply in the fetishization of stickie planning).

Then, both approaches have the practitioner routinely break down work into small manageable units and focus on completing units. Breaking down even further, Scrum has recipes for small parts of scrum (like this recipe for a retrospective) and ZenTangles have recipes for line and space doodles. Finally, both approaches celebrate the fact that the "finished" output (a sprint, interval or doodle) is small and done quickly.

Are Zentangles art? Does Scrum produce good design? When do you follow the limitations and when do you depart from them?

Updated: here's my first zentangle, doodled while I was writing this post! Not on 3.5 square paper, nor with the right pen, nor did I follow the "string" process first -- I was always bad at staying within creative bounds.

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