Archive for September, 2005

More about making the program

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Nat Pryce wrote me about the previous entry:

I just read your blog post about the review processes for XP Day Benelux and London. I just want to assure you that all submissions will get feedback. If the review process doesn’t provide feedback to some sessions the programme committee members will write three (or more) reviews for those sessions before deciding the final programme and informing the presenters of acceptance or not.

I’m glad to hear that all sessions will get feedback. In the past, feedback on session descriptions has helped me improve both the session itself and its description. See e.g. the differences in the way we described Balancing Act the first edition written more from an organisers perspective and the second edition more compact and focused on tangible outcomes for the attendees.

How and when to involve the program committee in the review process was/is a puzzle for xp days benelux. This year some of us waited for the other reviewers to get started, and then the committee reviewed the remaining sessions. For next year, we’re toying with the idea on starting first, to encourage other reviewers to also start early.

XP Day Benelux program online

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

After a fairly open review process and animated discussion in the program committee, the XP Day Belenux 2005 Program is now online.

The only ‘regret’ I’m having about the program, is that I’m not going to have time to attend many sessions, since I’m co-hosting three fun-filled active sessions myself :-) :

I’m proud of our more open review process this year, where we invited every session organiser to participate in the review process. We did the reviews on a wiki, so that everyone who bothered to review could see how others were working on reviewing sessions.

We were also happy to have plenty of sessions to fill two days instead of one. I’m hoping the program has a bit more air, and the participants have more time to meet each other (e.g. during the conference dinner on Thursday night).

XP Day London is taking this a step further, they are experimenting with a voting system (everyone who sends in a session gets five votes) and have made reviewing obligatory if you want to have a session accepted. I applaud their courage and am curious to find out how this worked for the program committee.

Sending in and reviewing was fun anyway. The program is not finished yet, reviews have closed yesterday. So far it looks like Balancing Act and The Agility of Domain Specificic Languages seem to stand a good chance of being accepted, since they each attracted five votes. Temperature Reading got three votes so far.

As a session organiser, I see one drawback in the voting approach – the Gummibears session description didn’t attract votes in London. It also didn’t attract any feedback, so it’s difficult to learn something for a possible next description.

Some sessions seem to have attracted feedback without votes, possibly because they are more controversial, or don’t fit well with the theme of the conference.

Anyway, exploring what works and what not in sessions, their descriptions and creating a conference program remains fascinating. I hope to write soon about how Rob Westgeest and I use mini-retrospectives to incrementally improve the eXperience Agile course.

Why smart people defend bad ideas

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Keith Ray wrote about Scott Berkun’s essays . I am particularly drawn to why smart people defend bad ideas . It describes some common ways of bad idea defenses, and some countermeasures. And it’s fun to read.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with having bad ideas. I know I’ve had plenty. If you try to have only good ideas, you’ll be blocked. Generating many good and bad ideas, and deferring determination of their goodness or badness is key to

techniques like brainstorming, working in iterations and pair programming.

I believe the key is in defending bad ideas. I know I’ve done that too… Once you find out, through ruminating or feedback from the real world that an idea might be bad, you need to reconsider, or generate new ones. At least you have to be open to the possibility that an idea might be bad.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of other people defending bad ideas. I guess it’s a bit more obvious if you receive the “defense”. Actually the “defending” often feels more like an attack in disguise. It often goes through manipulation. Scott describes several manipulations, some of which I’ve encountered often. I may have used them as well, but I’m not really aware of that – manipulation works best if the one who manipulates isn’t aware of it…

If you’re not convinced about reading it yet, let me offer this quote:

[..] Worse, if they got away with it when they were young (say, because they were smarter than their parents, their friends, and their parent’s friends) they’ve probably built an ego around being right, and will therefore defend their perfect record of invented righteousness to the death. Smart people often fall into the trap of preferring to be right even if it’s based in delusion, or results in them, or their loved ones, becoming miserable.

So, the next time you’re attacked by someone defending a bad idea, have pity on them. It probably hurts them much more than it hurts you.

The next time you feel miserable defending an idea, think again… It may be a real bad idea to defend this one…