Killing Zombies

Around our office, the product owner and I have started to use the metaphor of “killing zombies” to discuss moving tickets through our issue tracking system.  It makes the discussion a lot more fun, and it turns out to be a very good metaphor.  Sometimes you think a zombie is dead and it isn’t.  Sometimes they’re really hard to kill.  Sometimes they just wander off into the woods.  And it’s just more fun to ask “Which zombie should we kill first?” than “What’s the relative priority of these two stories?”

I found a zombie wandering through the woods today, and it turns out it’s been there quite a while – 2 1/2 years in fact.  The initial case was to address an inconsistent spelling of something in one menu item in our application, and an incidental question about the tooltip and whether the item was in the right spot anyway.  It was classified as high priority.

This case has bounced around since then between no less than 5 managers and 4 developers, for 2 1/2 years.

The irony is that I renamed the menu item, fixed the tooltip, and moved it to the right location over a year ago without even knowing about this ticket.  The last year’s worth of comments and activity all note this fact.  But still the stubborn zombie just won’t die.

I am not sure, but I think it might be a decent idea to just close any case that’s over a year old, as it’s obviously low priority.  Carpet bomb the woods to kill any lingering zombies.  In any case, this demonstrates how important it is to have a streamlined process and a well groomed backlog so that zombies get dispatched fairly quickly.  Otherwise, like this one, they’ll come back over and over to eat your brains.