Saturday, 28 September 2013

Agile Cambridge 2013 Day #2

Conference Cold. Every conference I attend seems to result in me getting ill. If you see me turning up next time in a mask, then you'll know why.

Conference Protection

Anyway, back to the writeup.

Change or be changed

Change. The ever-present moment of opportunity or terror that's been a staple of every company I've ever worked at. Janet Gregory explored the various types of change that occur in life.

Do you need or want to change? Sometimes you want to change (wouldn't it be great if I was fit?), but sometimes you have no choice(Your health is suffering, you have to get fit). Change can often bring new opportunities (Ford made cars, others wanted faster horses).

Towards the end, Janet highlighted some of the change models. I caught most of them, and I'll push them on my unbounded stack of reading material.

Making Sense of Systems Development

Cynefin. Kee - ne - fen. This is a word I've heard much about. And now I can pronounce it. It's a non-sense making framework (that was a cheap shot, sorry).

The workshop was well-run, and we classified situations as either:

  • Simple (the answer is clear, no need for analysis)
  • Complicated (solvable by an expert or process)
  • Complex (might know what to do better next time, hindsight)
  • Chaos (totally new, no idea how to do things)

There's something about this classification that feels familiar. Learning a new subject traverses from chaos (I've no idea what I'm doing!) to complicated, through complex and then finally simple (unconscious competence) and I can see how it would be a useful tool in the armoury. I didn't see anything that fundamentally changed my opinion (maybe something will click later?)

I'm very sceptical of things you have to pay for to understand (see ScrumMaster courses, Agile certification, Scientology and from the looks of it Cynefin.). I coin Jeff's law:

Blurring the Lines

Chris George presented on blurring the lines. The central premise is that by putting walls between dev and test, we've suffered. By breaking down these walls, we can produce better software.

Chris references one of my favourite papers, the 1968 NATO Report on Software Engineering and starts by introducing a quote by Alan Perlis along the lines of "testing is a process best undertook throughout the product life cycle".

Dedicated testing departments split this process, introducing artificial communication barriers which (due to Conway's Law) resulted in a split between development and test. Chris looked at breaking down this wall and merging the roles of test and development and the positive effects it had on his team.

This was a theme revisited by Chris Matts in the next days key-note. There's something I don't quite agree with from both talks, namely that it assumes that people are fungible resources. More to come on this, once I get my thoughts together.

The Open Session

Due to the conference flu, a number of speakers dropped out at the last-minute. Huge kudos to the organizers for managing to fill sessions at the last minute with interesting and relevant content. The final session of the day was an open session organized by Simon and Ryan.

Our group discussed controversial opinions.

I'm not sure we tried hard enough to rock the boat!