Ok, its’ a bit late, they have been online for some time. I hadn’t gotten around to selecting my favourites from the photographs I took at XP Day Benelux 2004 so far. Pascal van Cauwenberghe categorized and commented selected pictures on the XP Day Benelux website. I’ve also put up all photos without comments. This is one of my favourites:

ducky the chicken
The chicken Marc Evers and I used for the Systems Thinking workshop taped to the conference retrospective wall.

At XP Day Benelux we learnt that it is more like a Duck (have you ever seen a yellow chicken with feet made for swimming?). This came out of the Chicken Talks session. Originally, in the timeslot of the Chicken Talks, there was a session planned called Lightning Talks. As with any conference I guess, there are risks in the program. One of the risks for 2004 was that there would be no presentations submitted for the Lightning Talks. The Lighting Talks was intended as a session with brief five or ten minute presentations, presenters had to submit their talk before the start of the conference. The idea being, this would enable people to put last-minute ideas into the program, as the remainder of the program is already fixed several months in advance.

We did a risks analysis before the conference. Most risks did not materialize, the one for the lighting talk did. Since we had an overview of possible risks, it was easy to switch to mitigation actions for the few risks that do materialize.

As a mitigation action for the Lighting Talks Pascal van Cauwenberghe worked with session organiser Bernard van der Beken to invent an alternative session. The evening before the conference they had about three different ideas for a replacement session. To remain agile with respect to the program, we have no printed program leaflets. Instead, we put up the sessions on the conference website, and on a wall in the conference centre:
wall in the Elewijt Centre containing the conference program.Onwall Conference Program

I printed out the program the day before, and took a printer with me to print last-minute changes to the program and session handouts if need be. We decided to keep the new session description hand-written, so it would be more clear that the session had changed.

Pascal and Bernard came up with the name Chicken Talks, because attendees chickened out sending in lightning talks submissions, and the chicken plays an important part in the session.

The session centered around a variation of the Talking Stick Protocol (also known as Circle Talks ). The chicken was used instead of a talking stick. The other variation was, that instead of asking for the stick, the chicken is thrown around. The person holding the chicken must speak (he or she is also the only one allowed to speak, as with the talking stick). When the speaker is done, he can throw the chicken to anyone else in the group. As the chicken is softer than a stick, this is safe to do. This variation of the protocol ensures that everyone gets to speak, which is quite useful with a group of technical people, as they are often quite introverted. I could not attend this session, judging from the reports of those who did, it was a great success. One of the outcomes of the session was, that the group decided the Chicken was more like a duck… So from now on, it shall be known as Ducky the Chicken ;-) .

We’ve used the Chicken Talks at the newyears’ reception of our extreme programming users’ group two weeks ago, which also was a great success. I’ve added it to my facilitation toolkit. It was fun to see people throwing the chicken around, and observe how different people hold the chicken. It was especially good to hear people who are usually a bit on the background. If you try the chicken talks out, I’d be interested to hear how it worked for you!

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