Sometimes attendees say a conference changed their life.
If you changed your life as a consequence of participating in an an event, it is you who changed it.
Investigators, on TV at least, look for motive and opportunity for a crime.
For something positive it can be much the same.
Who had the motive? You had the motive to attend the conference, ask questions, perhaps propose a session around something you wanted to share, and you had the motive to do something with it after the fact.
The conference may have provided the opportunity.
In fact, you also supplied part of that opportunity for others, by bringing your questions, interests, observations and puzzles.
Tag Archive for 'conference'
Sometimes attendees say a conference changed their life.
Semi liveblogged on the train home to Bath. Dissent, ritual or not, welcome.
Beforehand I thought the CALM conference was an interesting attractor, but I was not sure what the boundaries were. I was hoping to meet new interesting people, get to know others better and maybe see the space of agile and lean move forward (or die, also good).
Chatting with Jim Benson and Steve Freeman on the way out, I said I left, because I didn’t feel I was learning or contributing. Jim came with a nice bastardization of ghandi: “be the learning you want to see in the world”. I should have made it more specific – I felt I was about to stop learning or contributing because I was tired.
Outcomes were reached: I met interesting people, learned, and went home with things to explore and exploit.
In the goldfish bowl discussion after lunch, I spoke up – meta – as I was about to nod off, and requested we’d spend some time mashing up stuff. I felt we were not using the experience in the room well. Yes, you can participate in a goldfishbowl, and most of the time most people are listening. Steve suggested I could have done that earlier. I hesitated to do that. There was a fair amount of presentation going on. I know I have less patience with presentations than other people. So I decided to sift for nuggets and do some writing in the meantime. There were already enough organisers, and other people butting in on conference structure does not always a better conference make.
After the goldfishbowl Jon Kendall was kind enough to show how he uses the cognitive edge sensemaking tool on an actual job. Which helped me put the pieces Marc Evers gave me together.
Steve wondered why there was not more debate during the goldfish bowl after lunch. At SPA there used to be heavy debate during goldfish bowls. I guess the timing after lunch wasn’t great, and before lunch we had had a couple of presentations / case studies which for me was tiresome after an interesting evening in the bar. I loved the ritual dissent exercise though.
Another explanation for the lack of debate might be that this is one of the few places I’ve been to in recent years where everyone present can hold strong opinions loosely. People and authors checked there egos at the door, and everyone freely shared how they worked and, more importantly, what had not worked out as they wanted.
I didnt’ feel like debating, because I did not hear much (except during some of the presentations yesterday) that struck me as shortsighed or bad use of metaphor. Which may of course be due to limited understanding on my part. Unlike say at conferences where a certain agile methodology prevails, and people believe long term planning is filling a backlog or if something doesn’t work well ‘the product owner or fill-in-cookie-cutter-rolename-here should do this.
Instead there were seasoned practitioners of various things, and most discussions were more like ‘what do you do’ ‘I’ve done this, and the effects of it are like this’. ‘Oh, interesting I’ve done a variation of it and the effects where like this’.
Personally, I am glad the organisers did not try to cram discussing the whole of complexity science in two days. Instead we had people who had applied practices from cynefin, agile and lean and were willing to be frank about what had worked for them and what not, as well as bring in things they didn’t quite understand.
In order to show that I care, As a Cynic, I’ll say that this Cynefin Lean Agile Mashup is never going to amount to a hill of beans. Please move along. Nothing to see here (while some skunks go off into the sunset and do interesting works).
As a frustrated and puzzled skeptic I went to the Agile Lean Europe conference to work on my frustration and puzzles. As a frustrated and puzzled skeptic I returned. To my delight with different frustrations, puzzles and some highlights.
Regardless of what I say next: creating a pan-european agile/lean event that is not tied to one of the schools of thought, nor any functional silo (looking at you, coachcamps and testing days!) is a major achievement. I tried to pull it off with about twenty other folks a couple of years ago, and failed (early, but nevertheless. It is not something I bake cake for ).
First highlight: I found a community that welcomes skepticism without suffocating it. Thanks, amongst others, to @OlafLewitz and @ojuncu for open discussion on twitter beforehand, and to those who offered help instead of rotten tomatoes after I threatened to put trainers and coaches out of a job in a lightning talk . And those who took my call for more coaches combining hands-on work with coaching (too?) seriously. More on that in follow up posts.
Although many of the scheduled talks rehashed things I hoped would have vanished from agile / lean conference agenda’s to make place for new things, I was pleasantly surprised by a number of talks. (See below in talks)
Building a car using a distributed team.
Wikispeed is a collaborative, distributed effort to build a fuel efficient car (one that is also efficient at high speed, unlike some other fuel efficient car). Thorsten Kalnin described how they use whatever works to get there. At this moment that includes for instance aspects of kanban, scrum, using object oriented principles for mechanical engineering and finding storage boxes that can be rented for cheap, while still being suitable to do engineering work.
The inside wikispeed video is worth watching if you want to see more:
Your baby is ugly
Seeing Stephen Parry in action again, during his talk and afterwards during dinner. Olaf Lewitz has described other aspects of Stephens’ session. What I particularly liked was ‘your baby is ugly’ – get employees to analyze the companies performance as seen through their customers’ and describe that to their peers and managers (also mostly employees, lets’ not forget that). This is probably a lot more effective than outsiders saying that (e.g. Yours truly tweeting about how SAP is going lean but their products prevent their clients from evolving), and I guess it takes a lot of time and patience. Something I would like to try, nevertheless.
I stayed out of the Claudio Perrone’s A3 presentation after seeing the intro slides from outside which looked so heroic (Big Agile Transition), that I was afraid I would not be able to shut up during the presentation and heckle ehm excite. Turns out the rest of the slide deck is a lot more to my liking, including a pragmatic use of the satir change model somewhere in the middle. So I was wrong. Looking forward to see the video of it.
In the meantime I would recommend reading Toyota Kata by Mike Rother. I took it on the road this week and am pleased by how it does not try to make this kind of open ended coaching look easy, and uses storytelling plus questions to you, the reader, to show how this might work in your practice.
One more for the skeptic
It was only talks. Tip for next years’ organisers: if you want more hands-on sessions make some space for scheduled sessions that last longer than thirty minutes, some sessions that require preparation don’t magically happen in open space. Stephan Eggermont and I enjoy the challenge of seeing what of a three hour session we can meaningfully cram in thirty minutes, but we may be the exception. It seemed most people were watching as opposed to downloading the zip and following along.
I was looking forward to ‘exciters’, Walldorf and Statler from the muppets were given as example, and bar tables were placed in front of the presentations for people to heckle from. I haven’t seen that happen, and didn’t dare to either, preferring the safety of my twitter feed instead . I asked Stephan Eggermont to heckle during my lightning talk, which he did, but I was so focused I didn’t hear him do it…
It seems the open space explanation left out the butterflies. When I described my open space experience to another participant at the end, he stared blankly at me. It also seemed mostly open space veterans where butterflying and bumblebeeing around, as well as applying the law of two feet (sorry, the politically correct wording used in the opening was so complicated I failed to remember it . Shorter PC versions I’ve seen include ‘the law of motion’ or ‘when in doubt, move out’ ).
So I butterflied, mostly, except to host an open space session because someone wanted to pick my brain about session selection processes. The best suggestion in that session came from @LLillian, who stated the obvious thing I’d missed before: besides playing a perfection game, encourage session organizers to Ask for Help, to lower the barrier for new session organisers. Duh. Why didn’t I think of that before! Other than that, it struck me that few of the open space topics were original. It seems we have been struggling with the same problems for a couple of years. Maybe it is rotation of participants, maybe we are asking the wrong questions. Of course, I could have taken responsibility by posing a question as a session. It seems the stuff I’m struggling with right now is in a stage where I don’t know how to formulate the questions yet. It seems grumpy tweets, responses to that and hallway discussions help me move forward .
It will probably take a week or so to pinpoint my newfound frustrations and puzzles, at least I feel my time in Berlin was well spent. Especially now the QWAN Learning Community has some more first followers, I got over the scariest two minutes presenting I’ve done in quite a while, and I got useful feedback on the idea from various people. So thanks everybody for making it happen.
I’m co-programme chair for the Software Practice Advancement conference in London on June 12-15, together with Rob Bowley. The call for sessions is open until February 28. Read Rob’s “a quite unique conference” to see why attending SPA is fun, and amazing value for money.
Why is running a session at SPA a good idea? Because you will lay awake at night after having a nightmare of rowdy SPA regulars tearing your session apart? Not only that Running a session here is an excellent way to learn, and since the conference is relatively small, there is ample opportunity to continue working on your ideas after hours. SPA attendees are critical, curious and have lots of experience, which can make your session interesting in various ways .
In case you have not organized a session at SPA before and are interested in running one, I’d like to highlight some things that are different compared to most other conferences:
At SPA2010 Rob Westgeest, Marc Evers and yours truly hosted the workshop “Flying horses, Cleaner code in other languages”. This is a quick writeup accompanied by the flipcharts that were created by the groups to summarize what they learned.
We brought one exercise, to be carried out by pair programming. A pair can choose what ever programming language they want to use. We try of course to get an interesting variety of languages to learn from. We ran three 40 minute timeboxes. Each timebox consists of 25 minutes for actual work, and 15 minutes reflecting (about three different solutions presented on the projector accompanied by discussion). Some people switch pairs from one timebox to the next, so they can get hands-on experience of trying to solve the same problem in different languages. The goal of the exercise is not to finish first, or have the cleverest solution, but develop a solution that is idiomatic in the language one is solving it in, so that we could compare notes afterwards.
A few pairs wrote examples using Rspec or Scalaspec, most pairs wrote ‘classic’ XUnit style tests. Some worked completely outside-in, other bottom up, and quite a few from the middle outward (me and my pair amongst others).
Some things that struck me:
- at least one of the smalltalk solutions I saw did not strike me as very idiomatic smalltalk (admittedly, the presenter said it needed refactoring, so they went for make it work/make it right).
- Nat Pryce noticed that collections were processed easier (and with less code) in the Haskell and Smalltalk solutions than in Java.
- The smalltalk pairs were the first ones to finish setting up their development environment and getting to work (Rob did a timecheck, the smalltalkers were the only ones working on the problem already). Having an environment that contains almost all the tools and libraries that you need gives a big speed boost at the beginning. What was more striking still was that all smalltalkers used environments they just installed and had not used before; I installed squeak last weekend, the others were using a fresh beta version of their environment.
- Many people had not seen (much of) haskell/ruby/smalltalk style of iterating over collections using blocks/closures, luckily these idioms seem to be trickling down to Java and C#.
As with the previous instance of Flying Horses, the Haskell pair was moving towards a complete solution the fastest. This may be because the exercise we use seems to find itself in Haskell’s sweet spot (parsing and manipulating data).
On the whole, the level of engagement was pretty intense (about half the participants continued working through the breaks, even though we emphatically tried to get them to stop ), participants said they got to see some very different ways of solving a problem from what they knew, so they came out of the workshop with puzzles to investigate further.
As one participant mentioned, code presentations work up to a point. They show what a pair has done, but it is hard to see what steps they have taken to get to the solution. Seeing the sequence of steps (and experiencing it) when you are part of a pair (especially with someone you don’t know) is very valuable. I’m interested in suggestions for getting more of the sequence of events (rather than the solution) out into the presentations.
We have tried letting people work with task lists and presenting from there (works somewhat, but may cause pairs to loose to much time on their small design up front).
Let a thousand languages bloom Below are the flipcharts summarizing some of the things people learnt from the workshop.
I planned to write individual posts about new and upcoming workshops, but the rate at which we get invited and accepted to conferences this fall outstrips my ability to post new entries I have to post now, before the conferences themselves are over… I hope you’ll join us for at least one of these. We’ll be doing some hard-core programming workshops as well as more enterprise and facilitation oriented sessions this fall.
Retrospective Hero is a new simulation / role playing workshop I’m developing with Nicole Belilos of Task24. The goal is to let facilitators experience several situations that can happen in real life, and let them experiment with facilitation techniques to make the most of a situation. This is a report of the trial run we held at Agile Open Holland 2009, with an explanation on how the workshop works.
If you believe corporate politics is something for ‘those dirty managers’ think again. Everybody behaves in a political way when a limited amount of resources has to be divided over groups of people. Come play our game and experience firsthand how dirty a politician you are!
It has behooved the XP Days Benelux conference to allow playing of devious political games in its program. Join Emmanuel Gaillot and me on November 23 or 24 so that you can (re)find the (dirty?) politician in you.
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It’s cool to see more spaces opening, the spanish agile user group is hosting Agile Open Spain, 23 & 24 October 2009 .
Xavier Quesada Allue tells me this will be mostly in Spanish. My Spanish stops around ‘donda esta el bano’ and ‘hola’, unfortunately. If yours goes further, this might be for you. Madrid as a location is attractive, and should be easy to reach. No doubt the organisation will be very good as well, and the event is for free!
In the meantime, if you speak english, why not attend Agile Open Holland – my named cloud is bigger than yours, or is it?, September 10 & 11? Registrations are going fast. At last count we had over 50 participants, with space for about 80. As in previous years it’s looking to attract a good mix of old & new faces, all equally fanatical about uncovering better ways to develop software. It’s not free, but we kept registrations low enough – we hope the value for money makes it a no-brainer; the fee covers part of the costs, but its’ main purpose is to prevent no-shows, so that everybody who wants to attend, can attend. I hope to see you there!