Todd Sedano

Software Engineering, Improv, Craftsmanship

Rethinking SEMAT Card Affordance

A possible solution

While I’m an avid player of card games and board games, the SEMAT card format does not reflect how I think about the alphas, which are a collection of states.

Here is a mock prototype of an alternative physical format for the SEMAT alphas.

Each alpha is a strip of cards folded much like a scroll with the “highest” state on the inside, and the lowest state on the outside. Starting with the “lowest” state, the user of SEMAT, can incrementally unfold the strip comparing the current state with the next possible state. If the next possible state is achieved, then the user can continue to unroll the strip.

Now it is impossible to accidentally loose a state in the alpha, and displaying the current state for all alphas in a project takes up roughly 1/6 of the room of the SEMAT board.

So what do we call these new SEMAT cards? SEMAT strips, SEMAT rolls, SEMAT scrolls? I’m open to suggestions.

Background — the problem

When I first saw a set of SEMAT cards, my instinct told me something wasn’t quite right. I collect playing cards. I like unusual cards sets such as my agile estimation cards, XP training cards, improv feeling cards.

When I laid out six cards for an alpha, it felt messy. I could easily get these out of order, and the order matters in a single alpha. If I piled up several alphas without a rubber band, I could easily mix them together.

I pictured myself introducing this at a training session. With agile estimation cards, I just hand out a deck, yet for SEMAT I would want to hand one alpha at a time. If SEMAT cards were printed in a deck, taking out one alpha at a time would be time consuming.

I do think agile estimation cards work well. There are four sets in one deck, just like regular playing cards. Assuming that my five year old daughter found the deck and randomized it, sorting it wouldn’t take too long with four sets. However SEMAT cards, there are many alphas, and sorting it would be tedious.

Abacus as an alternative metaphor

I stared considering an abacus. Each rod of the abacus could represent an alpha. Each bead on a rod could represent a state card. The space between the beads on the left and the beads on the right could represent the current state. Yet creating an abacus for SEMAT seemed unfeasible. Then it occurred to me, I could tape the SEMAT cards into a strip.