Fri 7 Dec 2007
The last day of the Agile Development Practices kicked off with a keynote by Jutta Eckstein on scaling agile development in really big organizations (Deutsche Telekom I suspect). I have to say it wasn’t all that interesting – the delivery was not spirited and the way they did in Germany smelled of trying to make good all command&control chains sound agile. I used the time to jot down some notes before the Open Space session that I initiated.
It turned out few people were there, but there was another session started by Chris Spagnuolo on agile contracting – which was pretty much the same thing – so we merged the two and had a very good discussion with his other colleague, Zvonimir Durcevic and Rachel Weston of Rally Software. It turned out each of us were in a bit different position even though we all do outsourced agile. Chris’ clients are mostly government agencies, so sadly they are stuck with fixed bids – their clients even if sold on agile just can’t go around the straitjacket of regulations. Rally in turn does what I called “being agile wolf in sheep’s skin” – they first play their clients by the book, offering a bid etc. and then once they have them signed off try to sway them to agile modifying (amending) contract later on. That sounds like an interesting way of getting in, but there is always the risk they will have go against the fixed contract anyway – with known bad results (money lost, quality degraded etc.). Still, again, with some types of clients that the only thing you can do.
Next, I got immersed in a discussion with Richard Sharpe of Enerjy and another guy doing testing, measurement and qa analysis. Guys at Enerjy did some really cool research they are about to go public with, which will basically allow to programmatically find areas in software likely to have bugs based on certain metrics. Now, I’m a metric-skeptic but I think if they really have an algorithm that can do that it’s a big thing. In the course of that discussion I learned they have quite an interesting blog there – and a video blog too, for which Richard was making recordings there. I’d have to check it out.
We also discussed some pretty crazy stuff about how Europe is going more and more socialist – and in stupid ways too. It turns out, for example, that in Germany one is not allowed to track individual performance of employees, for example software developers. When they tried to sell some software that tracks different quality metrics in software they were not allowed to enable the part that does this per developer. Complete utter idiocy.
Because of that interesting chat I kind of missed one session – so I went to next one, which was about thing called Fit. Fit is of course an acronym (it’s US after all) for Framework for Integrated Tests and the idea behind it is to follow business rules and check whether software we build meets them. So it’s not unit test – and it’s not functional test, but rather something in between. James Shore presented all that in a rather dry, academic style which I think scared some of the audience away. I had hard time trying to stay focused as the room was so cold in the end my primary concern was staying warm. But anyway, that was interesting stuff – I’d have to point it to my team, even though I think right now we don’t do anything that we could use it for. And the tool itself is working mainly with .NET – or in other words crap we stay away from.
Last strong accord of the conference was Andy Hunt‘s keynote, which he himself called “a dessert”. It was again a broad reflection on research into generations, their characteristics and the fact, there is certain repeatability to general trends in how generations view world. The catch is that this repeatability goes on every four generations more or less – so the one entering the world has no chance to meet their grand-grand-parents and see how much in common they have. That would explain a lot of the cycles that are clearly visible in history, though it obviously opens another question: what causes this pattern to occur.
In any case Andy’s point was that surprisingly – or not so – the what is considered a good method for developing software reflects very well the outlook on life and everything typical of the generation dominant in a given time. Which means that at some point even waterfall might make sense again. On the other hand, Andy was wise enough to point out that this cozy picture of a generations wheel turning predictably through history can and probably will be disrupted by a black swan event – or a huge event no one can possibly foresee.
Well, we’ll see how it all goes. For now let’s say that this conference was a great learning and networking opportunity. I’ll do my best to return next year.