I’ve just been appointed to the role of Industry Programme Chair for XP2011, which will be held in Madrid in May. I’ve been to 7 of the previous 11 XP conferences and I am so pleased to be asked to contribute to the success of the conference this year by doing this role.

Rachel Davies is the general chair, and I am really looking forward to working with her and the other organizers. Rachel is one of those people I have met repeatedly at conferences and always has something interesting to contribute. More recently, I read her excellent book on Agile Coaching. I can’t remember exactly when I first met her, but I do remember meeting her former colleagues from Connextra, Tim MacKinnon and Steve Freeman. I can still picture them in the small minibus that picked us up from a tiny Italian airport in 2002. It was a hot summers day, and we were driven at high speed along small Sardinian roads to the lovely hotel Calabona by the sea and the historic walled city of Alghero. I remember being so impressed to meet some people who were actually doing eXtreme Programming for real.

There were so many inspirational people at that conference, it was really a turning point in my career. I just found the old conference programme online here, and it brings back so many memories!

I remember sitting by the pool discussing subjects like how to test drive refactoring with Frank Westphal and Steve Freeman. There was a firey keynote from Ken Schwaber encouraging us to start a revolution in software development world. I remember Joshua Kerievsky asking Jutta Eckstein to explain all about how she was doing XP with a team of over 100 people. Following David Parnas’ keynote about using a formal test specification language to define requirements I remember Martin Fowler opining about its usefulness or lack of it, (do read his blog post about it).

The colourful personality of Scott Ambler demonstrated his ability to break a plank of wood in two with his bare hands, as some kind of lesson to do with dedication and focus. The conference dinner at Poco Loco really was a little crazy, with a bunch of uncoordinated geeks going for it on the dancefloor while the local band played very loudly. The morning after everyone was rather subdued when listening to Enrico Zaninotto reading his keynote in halting English, relating XP to the history of manufacturing and modern lean ideals. Half the audience was having trouble staying awake which in no way reflected the quality of what he was saying. It was truly inspiring, and Mary and Tom Poppendieck in particular were listening in rapt attention.

Michael Feathers wore a T-shirt saying “Save the LSF”, and Geoff and I asked him why he was so interested in platform computing’s Load Sharing Facility. It turned out Alan Francis had recently become unemployed and Mike was helping in the campaign to “Save the Lightly Scottish Fellow”!

Laurent Bossavit was going round trying to attract people to his Birds Of a Feather session on the writings of Gerald Weinberger. Erik Lundh was taking about his team in Sweden who had done a complete XP iteration in 2 days when faced with an unexpected deadline. Steven Fraser seemed to be videoing everything and anything, including someone demonstrating the correct way to twirl Italian Spaghetti on a fork. Mike Hill was (as ever) being loud but friendly. Charlie Poole seemed to be full of insightful analogies and comments. Dave Hussman was really friendly too.

It was just fantastic the way the XP community welcomed us in, and particularly Kent Beck’s attitude was instrumental in that. My husband Geoff and I presented a poster at the conference with title “One suite of automated tests” based mainly on Geoff’s experiences with the tool that was to become TextTest. We turned up on the first day for a workshop about “testing in XP”, and Geoff was immediately controversial by saying that he didn’t do any unit testing, only this weird text-based testing thing using log comparison. He said he found it so successful that he used it instead of both the XP practices of functional and unit testing. I remember several people being quite dismissive of his ideas.

Later in the conference, Kent Beck made a particular effort to talk to us and we took our picture standing by our poster. Apparently he had been asking people to try to be inclusive and friendly to us after the somewhat negative reaction to our ideas. I think he wanted the newly-forming XP community to be welcoming and to embrace diversity of opinion.

So now I should turn this around and look instead to the future. I’d love it if even half the people I’ve mentioned in this post found time in their diaries to come to Madrid in May for XP2011. I wouldn’t want them to come alone though, there are so many fantastic and inspirational people who have joined the ever-expanding agile community since 2002.

I am every bit as keen now as Kent was then to see that the agile community embraces newcomers, and that the XP conference should provide a space where researchers and practitioners can freely discuss the state of the art. I hope we’ll make new friends and business contacts, learn loads, and have fun. Would you like to join us there?