XP Days Benelux. Looking back.

XP Days Benelux is over

The 2006 edition of the XP Days Benelux was a success: the conference was sold out, lots of people from all over Europe (Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Switzerland and Poland), lots of people frowning when they had to decide which session to attend, lots of people smiling during and between the sessions.

We’ll post session materials and results on the conference program page and you can read what people are saying about XP Days Benelux, but it’s not the same. You had to be there.

What happened on wednesday?

Philippe De Bruycker took Matteo, Uberto and me on a tour in Brussels. I’ve lived and worked in Brussels for many years, but I discovered some things I didn’t know. Thank you, Philippe!

We went out for a pre-conference dinner in Mechelen and introduced our guests to the excellent “Carolus” beer.

And on the first day of the conference?

I arrived a bit late due to traffic (and maybe the effects of Carolus…). We set up the session materials and the WIFI internet connection. This didn’t go very smoothly, we couldn’t access the network. Later on, Hans Keppens managed to get us access by some “unorthodox” reconfiguring of the router 🙂

After the opening, Vera and I presented the “3 XP loops“, an introduction to extreme programming. The presentation is structured around a picture of XP with three nested loops: the release loop (where you decide what you will build and evaluate if it’s ready), the team loop (where the team daily coordinates their work) and the coding loop (where pairs work on the code). I think the anecdotes and jokes went over ok, but the session could have been more energetic.

In the afternoon, I attended Vera’s “Is JUnit overdesigned?” session. This was a mixture of presentation and workshop, where we evaluated the unit testing framework one of us used to see which features we wanted from it and which were supported by the framework. The results were quite similar across teams: most of us used the basic features, didn’t use the more advanced stuff and missed features related to reporting, history of test runs or coverage.

The last session was Rachel Davies‘ “Agile Factors” workshop. Rachel had put the XP practices, two by two, on flipchart sheets. We had to add post-its to each practice, with questions and variations about the practice. We did this in several rounds, moving from group to group, from practice to practice. In the end, all of the sheets were covered with post-its with questions. Upon which someone exclaimed “And they told me XP was simple… This is anything but simple!“. In the XP loops session, we did tell people that XP was simple. We also said that XP wasn’t easy.

The questions were really of two types:

  • tailoring parameters for the practices: e.g. if you do standups, how often? Who takes part? Where? How long can it take? What are we expected to say? These are the “agile factors” the session was about, the things you should agree on before the project starts and keep on updating as you progress.
  • what to do when things go wrong, when there are difficult situations: e.g. what do you do when people don’t turn up at the standup? What do you do when someone doesn’t follow the rules? That’s a whole different topic, that’s where leadership, team dynamics and coaching come into play. Luckily, we had several sessions about those subjects.

Relay race

The day ended with drinks offered by Sabine from Atmoz Consult (no Carolus this time, but Westmalle) and dinner, with a lot of discussion and some weird beer mat folding. More about that later.

More on Friday’s session tomorrow…

And now, we pass the baton to XP Days Germany.

Maybe I’ll see you in London or Paris, the next stops on the “European XP Day tour”.