Presenting this far from home is still a thrill for me and, providing I can hold up against the jet lag, I’m very interested to see how our material will be received.
This is my first post on the new site after my move from Truemesh.
Let me know if it doesn’t work on your desktop.
It seems there were some problems with the RSS feed. I think to do with running out of memory. Please try again
We weren’t at the ceremony (since we weren’t expecting to win), but we wrote a response for the event:
We are pleased and very honoured to receive one of this year’s Gordon Pask awards. We really didn’t expect it which is why, unfortunately, neither of us is here. The spirit and message of the Agile movement is so important to us because it’s a way for us to practice our trade that is humane and that actually works.
Whatever we have achieved, we have done so because we belong to a fantastic community based around the London eXtreme Tuesday Club, a truly anarchic organisation that has now been going for nearly eight years. There are so many lively, inventive, and committed people there that it’s hard not to do well. So, we accept this award as representatives of our colleagues in the XTC.
Once again, XpDay went well. We sold out and, as far as I can tell, people had a fine time. Glaziers’ Hall isn’t quite as memorable a building as Ironmongers’, but we needed the extra space and they have a view of the river.
I missed a lot of sessions that looked interesting because I had things to do that clashed, but did manage to get to “Dealing with conflict”, run by Matt Bonetti and Dave Leigh-Fellows. They had some nice role play exercises for those occasions when you have to tell someone that you’ve just trashed the production database.
Both keynotes were excellent. Tim Lister, entertaining as always, explained his notion of projects where the Dead Fish of Failure is lying on the table from the first day, but no-one wants to admit it. He’s on a campaign to introduce realism into the software industry so we’re not always scraping by on near-impossible projects. After all, if no projects are ever delivered early then that means the estimation data are severely skewed. As Tim pointed out, it takes a martyr to be a great team mate on a projects that�s going down. He had some great images: a pilot project is not like building a ship, it’s like building a ship in a bottle; and software is Magnificent Gossamer (or should be). Tim stayed around for both days to talk and take part in sessions.
Bill Gaver (who I knew in my EuroPARC days) caused quite a stir. We’re developing a tradition of “off-the-wall” keynotes at XpDay to keep things lively. He showed some very enticing gadgets, such as the Drift Table but they had a deeper point which is to get beyond work/recreation/consumption and address the playful side of people. If you’ve ever seen children play, you’ll know that it’s a serious business that helps us understand the world.
Bill’s point is to recognise that people are first-class participants in a system’s meaning, the designers can never really know how something will be used. Bill’s group are relaxing the designer’s hold on what things are for, or even what they are, which why they are designing objects that have no obvious meaning.
Although this seems obscure (though entertaining), this play is again serious business for us and, I think, a justification for Agile development. If we cannot truly know how a system will be used (ask anyone who works with Enterprise systems), then we’d better be adaptable: try a little, see what happens, adjust for the next cycle. (I’ve just noticed that this maps directly onto the Cynefin approach to chaotic situations: Act, Sense, Respond. Time for another article.)
The fourth XpDay London is fast approaching (25/26 November). Book before it fills up.
We have another hot programme this year, with one presenter coming from as far away as Australia, and attendees coming from Scandanavia. I’m very pleased that we have two high-powered keynote and masterclass speakers: Tom Gilb is a pioneer of incremental development, and Dave Snowden is a very major player in the world of Knowledge Management and Organisational Change.
Dave is not well known in the software development world, but has a lot to say about organisations that’s very relevant to the Agile Community. Here’s a taste of his style from the AOK_K-Net yahoo list:
[...] “resources” and “capital” represent a view of humans as disposable cogs in a mechanical process who can be sorted and controlled based on measurable competences. An absurd and dangerous notion that leads to sacrificing human effectiveness, innovation and curiosity on the altar of mechanical efficiency. When we have all been six-sigma-ed to death and everyone is applying best practice, then expect entropy death.
Brian Marick is collecting stories from the history of the discipline. He asked Guy Steele to talk about the writing of the Lambda papers. Guy talked about how he and Sussman just kinda did a few things, noticed a couple of simplifications and came up with Scheme. He reminded me of Robert Nagel, the head of the brass department when I was at music college. Nagel had been a virtuoso since childhood, and you got the impression that he couldn’t quite understand how people made mistakes when playing; why would you want to?
Listening to Ward Cunningham talk, I’m struck by how much just plain common sense he talks. The sad part is that this degree of common sense is so rare in our industry. He talked about how some of his experiences lead to XP and other Agile techniques, but so many people miss the true spirit when they try to do it. For example, he talked about the critical importance of managing Technical Debt on a project so that you can keep moving at speed. Lots of wannabe-XPers do the “easy” part (not writing documentation, simplistic solutions, etc.) without balancing it with the rigour of refactoring to maintain consistency within the codebase. This resonates nicely with a recent conversation I had with Rachel Davies.
Ward says Stay Receptive to Discovery
- Use what you know
- Feel it work
- Share the experiecne
- Wait for insight
- Refactor to include it
Alan Kay’s Turing Lecture was entertaining, as expected. He’s concerned to maintain the vision of computing as a medium that is liberating and fun, rather than the daily morass many of us find ourselves in. This is just the begnning of computing as a discipline, so we shoud set our sights high. It’s frustrating just how long ideas take to come through. Sutherland invented GUIs, objects, constraints, clipping, and a whole bunch of other things with Sketchpad in 1963, watch the video. If we look at the lag from the ideas coming out of Xerox PARC we should be heading for a peak in the next few years. Once again he reminded us of the absolute value of simplicity: Metcalf and Boogs came up with a dumb, stupid protocol for networking that wasn’t anywhere as efficient as IBM’s, but everyone uses Ethernet nowadays. (Ward had the same message, are they trying to tell us something?). Then there were the usual Squeak and Croquet demos, which are still pretty impressive compared to the tools most of us use.
Steve McConnel is talking about Simplicity too! Code is read much more often than it’s written, so focus very hard on making it obvious. (Ward’s Technical Debt, again).
Alan Vermeulen , CTO at Amazon, talked about the nature of innvation and made a couple of nice points. First he emphasised simplicity as a critical feature of succesful inventions — I think I’m detecting a theme here. Vermeulen also talked about loose coupling. The early electricity grids were built to provide lighting, and the manufacturers had to provide light sockets to allow people to replace dead light bulbs. This allowed other people to invent electrical applications, such as the iron, and plug them into the light socket, which was not something the manufacturers had anticipated. It was years before the introduction of specialized power outlets. He also pointed out how long it can take for the real breakthrough ideas to happen. For example, the killer app of eletrical appliances was the washing machine, but they were pretty dangerous if you got caught in the wringer. It was years later than someone else invented the off switch.
NIce to see that someone else thinks that embedded Domain Specific Languages are a good idea.
I’ve just discovered that my current client occupies a building on a site that used to be Cadby Hall, headquarters of Lyons and Co, where the Leo computer ran the first business program in the world (Bakery valuations, 25 September 1951).