Today somebody posted a very interesting comment on my recent article about my experience with XP. He (or she) linked to an article called Extreme Deprogramming. The comment's author said it was "The most insightful take on XP", in his opinion. Well, the article is very entertaining indeed, so first of all I recommend that you read it if you promise to come back when you're finished...
The article finds that XP is a cult. Well, I totally agree. But than again - so what? All great movements that come to my mind started as small cults. For example <insert your preferred transcendent association>. I don't really know about anything but Christianity, but I believe that other religious leaders had a hard time being accused of cult leadership, too, when they started their business. Now of course I counter polemics with polemics - but hey, I'll flagellate myself later with my cult-colored whip.
Speaking about movements, don't forget emancipation, civil rights or the Internet. In the beginning it's always a few nerds with some crazy idea who build up a cult. And in the beginning nobody can say if it's going to be the next big movement or just an other flash in the pan that didn't beat Metcalfe's Law.
The article doesn't have a single argument against any XP practice. Funny, eh? The value of XP is judged purely by the author's perception of XP in the media. Can you tell if an apple is sweet without taking a good bite?
Apart from tagging XP a cult, which is true, the article raises some claims that are - let me put it bluntly: wrong. For those of you who favor polemics over reasoning, stop reading here.
Cited from Extreme Deprogramming.
This is definitely a group of people who think they have got it, and that anyone else not similarly enthused is a laggard.
That knowledge of what is and isn't OK is seen to be held by a central authority and is not in the hands of the practitioners themselves [...]
Those citations give the impression that XP's great ol' ones are arrogant know-it-alls, who just want to make a lot of money. OK, they probably want to make a lot of money, but if you get involved with the extreme programming yahoo group, you'll see that they answer your questions patiently. Especially Ron gives away a lot of consulting time for free (or he is a quick writer). The community behind XP is caring, open-minded and welcoming, always reflecting upon their own flaws.
All or nothing
This all-or-nothing thinking is typical of cults. Members must display total dedication to the cult and its objectives, or they are labeled impure and expelled from the community.
I don't know where this insight comes from, but when I read the yahoo group for XP many people advice you to try to implement a practice only if you think it addresses a problem you have.
Most of the author's knowledge about XP seems to stem from the newsgroup comp.software.extreme-programming. I can only do some guesswork: Mayhap there are many agile zealots who don't have a clue of what XP is about and they manage to build up some weird image in open newsgroups. I can only recommend to take a look at the archives over at the XP group and lean more about the community.
The long term success of XP will probably depend a lot on whether it really works. To get the answer you can try it out for yourself. Apart from that only time can tell if XP will be a movement that changes the way we implement software systems or yet another hype.