Archive for January, 2013

One of the great privileges of being the programme chair for Scandinavian Developer Conference is getting to choose the keynote speakers. This year, I’m delighted to present Dan North and Janice Fraser, both thought leaders in the field of software development. Although from different backgrounds and perspectives, they’re both accomplished at building software that delivers great business outcomes. I’d like to tell you a little about each person, and why I’ve invited them to Göteborg for SDC2013.

Dan North – a man full of intriguing ideas

I first came accross Dan North at a conference in 2007, talking about a topic I was very familiar with – unit testing – but using a whole new set of words. Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) intrigued me then, and still does now. How can switching the word “Test” for “Behaviour” and “AssertEqual” to “Should be” make such a difference to the way you end up designing your code?

In his famous article from 2006, “Introducing BDD” Dan explains that he found when he stopped talking about “Testing” and started instead used the word “Behaviour”, “… a whole category of coaching problems disappeared”. People understand more easily that defining the behaviour of the software is an important activity for the whole team, not just testers. It also changes the way you as a programmer think about your code, and helps you focus on what’s important.

BDD as an approach to software development is still being actively developed and written about, although Dan himself has largely stepped aside in favour of other thought leaders like Elizabeth Keogh, Chris Matts, Olav Maasen, and of course Gojko Adzic. Gojko wrote the hugely influential book “Specification by Example” which is all about having useful conversations about software behaviour, and expressing that in terms of executable examples – ie a lot like BDD. At about the time that book was being written, Dan himself chose a different road. He actually stepped out of the consultant life entirely for about two years, taking up a full time position developing software at a financial trading firm.

His latest ideas around “Accelerated Agile” to a large extent come from his experiences working in that high-powered trading environment. He wrote in his blog: “This team was the most insanely effective delivery machine I’ve ever been a part of”, and I find that particularly intriguing. He says that standard agile practices like Continuous Integration and maintaining a Product Backlog weren’t being used! So what exactly did they do in order to be so effective?

Dan has also famously opined that “Programming is not a Craft”, and argues that the “Software Craftsmanship Manifesto … [is] a spectacularly easy bandwagon to jump on”. He says he’d rather see, “…a call to arms to stop navel-gazing and treat programming as the skilled trade that it is.” So there. Dan certainly has some strong opinions, and when I’ve met him, he always seems to express himself with wit and intelligence.

I’m really looking forward to Dan’s keynote address on Tuesday 5th March. I’m intrigued to find out what “Patterns of Effective Delivery” is all about, and to hear his latest opinions on the practice of software development.

Janice Fraser – a pioneer of Lean User Experience

To a large extent, Silicon Valley is the epicenter of our whole industry. Many of the biggest and most influential software companies in the world are based there, and as an incubator with a friendly climate for startup companies, it is unparalleled, despite the efforts of many other regions around the globe to imitate their success.

Janice Fraser has been working in Silicon Valley for over 15 years, and she says in her CVI’ve seen a lot — bubbles, bursts, and fantastic acts of collaboration that have transformed literally billions of lives.” Yes, that’s right, billions of lives.

The latest trend coming out of the Valley is “Lean Startup”, a term coined by Eric Ries, and documented in his bestselling book “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business”.  I first heard about it in 2011, when Joshua Kerievsky, an early adopter of eXtreme Programming and successful entrepreneur, published an article “Agile vs. Lean Startup”. He says, “[Lean Startup] rocks. It rocks far more than Agile.” If it rocks far more than agile, then I find that pretty intriguing!

Janice Fraser is of course also an early adopter of “Lean Startup”, and has pointed out that the ideas in it are not all new. She saysThe Lean Startup, is a rediscovery of user centered design… [it] gives UX teams an unqualified mandate to make products customers love.

Janice herself is a serial entrepreneur, having led several startup companies. She says in her CV, “My proudest success is Adaptive Path, a leading product design firm. I was a founder and served as the company’s first CEO”. Adaptive Path is still successfully in business.

Janice is not shy about recounting her failures either, she’s written a candid report of how she started “Emmet Labs” in 2007 intending to change the world, right through to when she laid off all the staff in 2009. I think her article “7 things I did right with Emmet Labs” shows how much courage and determination it takes to build a company, and how resilient and clear-thinking Janice herself can be in a crisis.

Janice’s business these days is helping other startup companies to succeed: “Before you build anything, find customers, learn their needs & goals, and measure your progress towards your vision” – an extract from the marketing materials for her company, Luxr. She’s also just about to publish a book “The Lean Product Book: How Smart Teams Work Better”, which I guess will document the kind of advice she gives to her clients – all about Lean User Experience.

All this talk of startups and product development in Silicon Valley might seem a long way from chilly Göteborg and our IT industry, dominated by a few huge corporations. I think it’s just the kind of thing we need to hear about, though. Companies of any size need to renew themselves and develop great new products in order to flourish, and this is clearly an area where Janice is innovating and leading the world. I’m really looking forward to hear what she’s going to say in her keynote “Lean Startup Product Teams: Principles of Success”, on Monday 4th March.

The Cyber-Dojo tool was designed by Jon Jagger as en environment where you can practice your coding skills. I’ve used it a few times now with groups at coding dojos and code retreats, and I think it’s a pretty useful tool for those contexts. (See also my last post which talks about using Cyber-Dojo during Global Day of Code Retreat).

One of the advantages of Cyber-Dojo for a Coding Dojo, (or Code Retreat), is that you don’t waste much time at the start of a coding session setting up a coding environment. The session facilitator creates a Cyber-Dojo instance in advance, and puts the practice-id up on a whiteboard or projector where everyone can see it. Participants just point their browsers at, enter the practice-id, and very quickly get coding.

Cyber-Dojo supports about a dozen programming languages, and has starting positions set up for about 30 code katas. What is less known, is that it also allows you to set up any kata or starting position you like. I thought I’d take this opportunity to create some documentation for this feature:

  1. create a new cyber-dojo instance by going to and pressing “setup”
  2. Select the programming language you want to use
  3. Select “Verbal” from the list of katas
  4. Click “OK”, then make a note of the “practice-id” – it’s also in the url. Press “Start” to enter this cyber-dojo instance.
  5. Edit the code files with your starting position, and update the instructions with the details of the kata exercise. Basically get the cyber-dojo instance set up to the position you want people in your Coding Dojo to start from. Run the tests as often as you like until you have everyting as you want it.
  6. Click on the “fork” icon on the left hand side to create a new cyber-dojo instance starting from this position, and note the new practice-id. You can give this id to your Coding Dojo participants.
  7. You can also publish a url that will automatically create a new cyber-dojo instance from this position, so people can create their own cyber-dojo instances. The form of the url is: animal)&tag=(number of the traffic light to fork)

I’ve used this feature to set up a number of Refactoring katas in cyber-dojo, for example the Tennis kata:

Perhaps sometime Jon will add a page on that lists these kinds of additional available starting posistions, (hint!), but for now, you’ll have to keep track of them yourself.

By the way, do let me know if you try out this Tennis Refactoring Kata in Cyber-Dojo and how you get on with it. I welcome comments on this blog or on my github repo.