Posts tagged ‘conferences’

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.

Do you automatically get better design with TDD? Does an otherwise average software developer produce superior designs if they write the tests first rather than afterwards? Does it make a difference what style of TDD you use?

incident #1

I was at a session at XP2012 with J.B. Rainsberger called “Architecture without Trying”. He demonstrated how he could develop a software system for Point-of-Sale terminals using TDD, and how the design naturally tended towards an MVC pattern as he did it. He claimed that purely by doing TDD, and focussing on two things, (removing duplication and improving names) that a good design would naturally emerge.

incident #2

I heard a talk by Luca Minudel at Agile Testing Days 2011 called “TDD with Mock Objects: Design Principles and Emergent Properties”. He was talking about a study he had done where he got people with varying levels of experience at TDD to do four short exercises. He also got them to answer a questionnaire about their knowledge of SOLID principles, and TDD. He then evaluated how well the designs they came up with in the exercises adhered to SOLID principles, and tried to correlate that with their TDD skill. He found that the people skilled in TDD did better in the exercises than those who only knew the theory of SOLID principles. The practice of TDD seems to help people with design. Luca also found that those more experienced with the London School of TDD did even better than other TDDers.

incident #3

I was working at a client recently when I met a developer from a different department. He came to see me several times over a period of a couple of weeks, and asked for advice about TDD. On about his fourth visit he told me he had written some code and now it was basically working, he wanted to write tests for it. He said he was having difficulty since he’d written a lot of static “helper” methods. I advised him that static methods make code quite hard to test, and can often be a sign of a not very good object oriented design.

He suggested we should invest in a fancy mocking tool that would enable him to easily replace these static methods in the tests. I told him a better investment would be for him to learn to write the tests first, get better at OO design, and not use static methods in the first place. I was probably a bit blunt, and he was quite polite, all things considered. He protested that he shouldn’t have to change the production code in order to get it under test, then left. That was the last time he came to me for advice.

Discussion

So does doing TDD guarantee better design? Well it should certainly help. I’ve presented before about the way TDD gives you early feedback on your design and plenty of opportunities to refactor. It’s less help though if you don’t know what a good design looks like in the first place. I think J.B. goes too far in his claims – if you don’t know MVC or SOLID principles then I’d be surprised if they started turning up in your code with any consistency.

No tool nor technique can survive inadequately trained developers” 

(A quote attributed to Steve Freeman). I think you do need to invest in learning good design techniques independently of TDD. If you lack basic OO design skills you probably won’t be able to do TDD in the first place, London School or otherwise.

I’ve been learning and improving my practice of TDD, including the London School, for many years now, and I was intrigued by Luca’s claims that it led to better adherence to SOLID principles than classic TDD. The London School involves an outside-in approach to design, that makes heavy use of mocks to check interactions between objects. This is in contrast to a more classic TDD style that prefers to verify the code works by checking the state of an object after an interaction.  I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in the London School of TDD, but I think I understand the basics and can adopt this style when I feel the problem is appropriate for it.

I tried out Luca’s four problems, (here on github) to see how I did. Luca very kindly gave me some feedback on my code, and I found hadn’t done as well as I had hoped to in adhering to SOLID principles. I’d got the code under test, but in a few places I could have improved the design more. I also slightly misunderstood the requirements for two of the problems, which led me to fork the repo and improve the instructions 🙂

I think in the cases where I could have done better with the design, it’s possible using the London School of TDD would have led to the improvements. I’m feeling there might be something in Luca’s conjecture. On the other hand, these problems might be so small and abstract, that I didn’t behave the same as I would in a real codebase. Certainly in one case I felt it wasn’t worth extracting an interface when there was only one implementation for it. In a real system maybe it would be more obvious that more implementations were likely, and that adding the interface would lead to a more decoupled design. Or then again maybe I’m just too used to python where expicit interface classes don’t tend to be used. Or maybe I’m just making excuses! In any case, doing these exercises has made me more interested to improve my knowledge and practice of the London School TDD style. 

I think these exercises are interesting little code katas in their own right, quite apart from Luca’s study on TDD. I think you can use them to learn about the SOLID principles, and practice some of the refactorings you often have to do to get badly designed code under test.

I’m working on a python translation of the exercises so we can try them out at the Gothenburg Python User Group meeting next week. Feel free to fork the repo and have a go at them yourself.

Scandinavian Developer Conference will be held in Göteborg in April, and last week we launched the detailed programme on the website. I’ve been involved with the conference ever since the first event in 2009, but this year I’ve taken on increased responsibilities, acting as Programme Chair.

When P-A Freiholtz, the Managing Director at Apper Systems*, (the company behind the conference), approached me about taking this role, I jumped at the chance. My business is all about professional development for software developers, and a conference in Göteborg is a really good opportunity for a lot of local people to hear about what’s going on in the world outside. Many of the developers I meet in my work don’t often get away from their desks, spending the majority of their time caught up in the intrigues and deadlines of a single project and company environment. SDC2012 will be a chance for a lot of local people to broaden their horizons without it costing their boss a fortune, or disrupting their usual schedule too much.

I wrote an editorial on the front page of the conference website which explains more about what’s on the programme and who should come. Everyone involved in software development, basically 🙂

These days, we compete in a global marketplace for software development. I’m hopeful about the future, I’m enthusiastic about Swedish working culture, and I think Scandinavian Developer Conference is helping Göteborg grow as a center of competence. Please do join us at the conference.

* formerly named Iptor – now under new ownership.

At XP2011 we introduced a new kind of presentation – the tech demo. The idea was to give people 30 minutes to demonstrate a new tool or technique. For example, some people performed code katas in diverse languages, and others showed various productivity-boosting frameworks.

For XP2012 we want to continue with these kinds of demos, but with an additional rule. You can’t touch the keyboard yourself when you present. We want you to co-present with someone else, drawn from the audience, who will do the typing and demonstrate the tool or technique. Your job is to coach them into doing the demo you’ve planned, and to explain to everyone what’s going on.

Your co-presenter could be someone drawn from the audience who you’ve never met before. You’ll have to expertly coach them into demonstrating what you aim to show to the rest of the audience. If you choose this route, it will certainly be a big test of your skills of coaching and pedagogy.

Alternatively you can come to the conference and find a volunteer in advance of the presentation. You could make time for a practice run or two before the presentation. Again, you’ll be showing not only your tool or techique, but also how easy it is for a good programmer to learn.

If you’re thinking this sounds like an awfly scary way to do a demo, then you may be right. We think it’s also a very good way to have demos that engage the audience and really show off what you’re capable of.

If you know someone else who’ll be at the conference you could of course prepare the demo with them well in advance. You’d be able to work out exactly what pitfalls they will fall into, and have a slick commentary ready. Just having one person typing and the other talking is a great advantage in a demo, and this would probably still be good to watch. It might not be quite as challenging though 🙂

Will you accept the XP2012 Tech Demo challenge?

The Call for Papers for XP2012 is currently open, and this year we’re doing things a little differently*. I’m one of the co-chairs responsible for programme design, and also involved in reviewing session proposals. (You might be interested in my post about XP2011, which I was also involved in organizing)

Most proposals are going through what will hopefully be a more transparent, agile and effective review process than we’ve had in the past. The idea is that everyone sends in a first draft proposal, and then receives feedback from reviewers who want to help them to improve and refine their ideas. When everyone has had a chance to act on this feedback, the review committee will select the proposals that will be put on the programme for the conference.

More information, dates and benefits of speaking are listed on the conference website. My next two posts contain more information about a couple of the session types we’re looking for: Tech Demos
and the Team Challenge.

*Academic papers have a separate review track, and proceed much as they have done previously. The demands of academic rigour and peer review mean we won’t change a formula that clearly works for this kind of submission. See the call for research papers.