Archive for the ‘Conference information’ Category

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.

The programme for DynCon has just been published, and the whole conference is about dynamically typed languages. There are talks about all sorts of languages, old and new, and I think it’s going to be really interesting to get people together from all these different communities. I’m giving a talk with title “A Test-Driven Introduction to Python” where I’m hoping to show off some of the best features of Python. I’ll also be demoing a new testing tool called “CaptureMock” which my husband Geoff has invented. I’ll be interested to hear what all the afficionadoes of other languages think of both it and python.

The programme for Scandinavian Developer Conference has been up for a while now, and I’m very pleased with the way its looking. The conference will be held in Göteborg in April, and I’m responsible for a whole track called “Conversation Corner”. I’m delighted so many people have agreed to take part, and I think we’ll be discussing some really interesting topics. I’m hoping it will be a really interactive part of the conference, as a complement to the other 10 tracks which mostly comprise presentations.

The programme for XP2011 also came out last week, although it is not yet complete. I’m Industry Chair for this conference, which will be held in Madrid in May, and I blogged before about my long association with this series of conferences. For this year, I’m still talking to people about putting together panel debates and discussions, and we also have space for more demos and lightning talks. The programme of tutorials and workshops is pretty much complete though, and I think we’ve got a great lineup of people leading them.

So I’ve got a very busy spring ahead of me with all these fantastic conferences coming up, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to all of them 🙂

I travelled to Oslo last weekend, to take part in Agile Coach Camp Norway. This was an open space conference organized by some enthusiasts, not for profit. I became interested in going to the conference when I heard some other agile coaches tweeting about it. I’ve just started my career as a kind of agile coach, and I’ve always enjoyed the open space parts of other conferences I’ve attended. I hesitated though, since I have quite a technical focus. What clinched it was when Johannes Brodwall signed up – an excellent programmer who shares my interest in using Code Kata for teaching and learning Test Driven Development.

I was surprised to see Bob Martin in the hotel reception when I arrived – he had come on a whim since he was in Oslo that day. He spent some time on the first evening telling the story of how the agile manifesto came about, and his involvement. He’s an impressive speaker, even when improvising. Bob didn’t stick around for the rest of the conference, and he missed out on some really good discussions.

We began the main part of the conference with a “coaching dojo”, which Rachel Davies invented by analogy with a coding dojo. It was fun practicing coaching one another, and getting feedback from people who are used to giving good feedback. It really set the tone for the whole weekend.

After lunch, we had the open space opening session, and loads of sessions were proposed. I suggested 4, and ended up being very pleased I’d done them. I got some great feedback about a short coding dojo I ran – being coached in my facilitation skills was very valuable for me, and the participants seemed to appreciate learning more about the coding dojo format I use.

It turned out that Johannes and I weren’t the only technically-focused people there, and we shared lots of ideas about code katas and teaching TDD. Everyone agreed that success with agile needs developers to change the way they work, and most struggle with TDD. “Parachuting” a trainer in for a couple of days might help developers understand they could work differently, but getting them to actually make changes is much harder. I’m hoping for some success with repeated regular coding dojo sessions with a team. I’ll have to report back when I have more experience of actually doing this.

Another highlight was discussing using games for teaching agile, and in particular teaching agile engineering practices. Jon Jagger has his “cyber-dojo” collaborative programming game that he has released open source, and a “Kanban 1’s game” which he uses for teaching teams about limiting work in progress, and keeping work items small. We talked about the fact that many games are released under the creative commons attribution license, and coaches share them with each other. The games in themselves may take time and effort to create, but Jon and many of the other coaches there felt they don’t lose by sharing them, quite the opposite. They get feedback from others and help to improve the games. I wondered if they were worried about losing business to cheaper rivals who just took their materials, but people seemed confident that the skill of the facilitator is so crucial in the success of a game in achieving learning goals for the participants, that they would not lose out.

It was an intense weekend, with a couple of lovely walks in the snow, and good food together with interesting company. I learnt a lot about coaching and made new friends. I’ll be looking out for similar conferences in future 🙂

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?

On the wednesday of Agile Testing Days it was my turn to speak, and together with Fredrik Wendt we presented “The Coding Dojo as a forum for teaching Test Driven Development”. The talk was mostly aimed at developers, and the basic idea is to encourage them to learn TDD, and that going to a coding dojo might be a good way of doing that.

Michael Bolton
The first keynote of the day was by Michael Bolton, someone I’ve never met before. His talk really made me think. He presented himself as an “agile skeptic”, and had some criticisms of agile practices like automated unit and functional testing. He talked about testing as something that humans do – it is a “sapient activity” requiring an engaged brain. He said “Automated acceptance tests do not answer questions about value” – that is whether the software will be valuable to the people who are going to use it. He preferred to call them “rejection checks” – that is they check whether the software will be rejected, but do not test whether it will be accepted. Only a human can do that. Michael went on to question the large level of investment that agile teams make in these kinds of tests. He thought that effort could perhaps be better invested, when studies show only 6-15% of problems are regression issues.

Michael emphasized the role of testers in projects as “skilled investigators” who provide a service giving you information about a software product. He drew on an analogy with a film critic – they don’t tell you if the film has passed or failed, they tell you about the attributes of the film that will appeal more or less to certain audiences.

I liked the way Michael talked about testing as an investigative activity, and the role of testers as intelligent humans. I think he undervalues the feedback developers get from automated functional tests though. Agile teams do a lot more refactoring than other kinds of teams, and I think without automated tests they would have a lot more than 6-15% regression issues. I do think it is useful to evaluate investment in automated tests against other investments though. Some of the tools we have, particularly for functional/system level testing are not very cost effective to use.

I also think that testers can only start doing a “film critic” kind of role when the software is largely free of basic defects. These should be caught before a skilled tester gets their hands on the software, by developers properly checking their work, and automating those checks.