XP Days Benelux 2007. Day 1

XPDay FolderBefore the conference

XP Days typically start with a pre-conference dinner with those people who arrive the night before the conference. We had a nice dinner and a few glasses of the local “Carolus” beer in the center of Mechelen, before we headed back to the conference center to meet more people arriving.

Official One minute presentationsThe conference begins

At the start of the first day, our MCs Rob and Johan welcomed the participants and let the presenters do their “Official One Minute Presentations” (OOMPS). Each presenter gets 60 seconds to advertise their session, usually in a creative and fun way. On the left, Emmanuel and Bernard advertise their “Frictions/Creations” session by acting the roles of developer and customer. These wacky intros immediately set the right mood for the rest of the conference: we don’t take ourselves too seriously. At XP Day London, the presenters only got 10 seconds, which doesn’t allow you to say more than your name and session. It’s less fun.

I didn’t attend many sessions on Thursday. I spent most of the day organizing, talking and presenting the “XP Loops“. From the pictures and reactions, I missed some great sessions.

TDD RandoriMorning sessions

The “TDD Randori” is a fun way to experience TDD: participants rotate in and out and have to collaborate on developing some working code. The fishbowl discussion during the session was new to most people, but many participants indicated in their feedback forms that they would like to try it out further. Meanwhile, Yves and Ignace Hanoulle played their new “Communication Game.” I’ve participated in all their previous games, so I hope I will be able to play this one too at another event.

Stop! You’re killing me!We had scheduled a set of short presentations of beginner and advanced subjects on thursday, for those people who want to get a taste of agility. Xavier Quesada presented a case study on SCRUM in two large organisations. I didn’t attend the session, but Xavier sent me the slides beforehand. I really liked the “Zen” style of the presentation, telling a story and showing lots of pictures of the team in action. Marco Janssen presented a case study of agile, fixed price, offshore projects. Marc and Willem presented the cultural patterns of software organisations, based on the work of Gerald Weinberg.

I would have gone to Marco’s presentation if I wasn’t presenting the “XP Loops” with Vera at the same time. What poor planning by the program committee 🙂 Vera and I had to improvise a bit at the start of the session because the beamer didn’t show any red. We later found out this was caused by a bad cable. In this presentation we talk about the XP practices, but focus on the underlying values. The practices are a means to get the values. Please use any practices you like, but don’t compromise on the values if you want to be agile. This theme came back at XP Days London.

Vera and I will present this session at the “Katholieke Hogeschool Mechelen” next week. It’s important to expose agile ideas to the IT and business people of tomorrow. I already see developers who have known nothing but agile, for whom “waterfall‘ is a quaint notion from olden days. If you need someone to talk about agile or lean to IT, economics, business or engineering students, contact me.

LunchAfternoon sessions

Sven Gorts and Olivier Costa offered a welcome note of scepticism and described the “dangers of blind adoption of agile methods“. Jan Van Reusel and Ilse Dierickx have been running retrospectives in their teams for more than a year. To keep the process fresh and productive, they have distilled some useful patterns for holding retrospectives. The EMC team explained how they test their complex hardware/software product.

The surprise hit of thursday was the “Pomodoro technique“. Matteo and Federico presented this deceptively simple time-management technique. Lots of people inidcated they would try out the pomodoro at home and at work. See the slides and the OOMP promo or read the original article. The pomodoro was successfully exported to Belgium.

The programWhile Emmanuel and Bernard simulated different modes of interaction with customers in “Frictions/Creations“, the Sirris looked into ways to choose the optimal content of a product backlog. Boris Gloger and Patrick Steyaert combined Scrum and CMMi for process improvement. Lasse and Markus hosted another technical session about “Reading code without psychic powers“.

At end end of the day, we had the now traditional “POOMPs”, Participant’s Official One Minute Presentations, where participants speak about a session they attended. We had some trouble getting enough volunteers to talk, so on the next day we changed our POOMP process..

After the conference we had a few drinks and a dinner, where lots of scary plans were hatched. More about some of those later. The fun continued in the bar, where participants sampled some of the fine Belgian Beers.

Read more…

Don’t take my word for it, read what others have to say about the conference. This page also contains the results of the feedback forms. All feedback is public, you can see if we take the input into account in the next editions. We use the “perfection game” from “Software for your head” to help us get actionable, useful feedback.

More about Friday in the next post.

Thanks to Lasse Koskela for the use of his pictures.

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