Tuesday, 22 December 2009

XPDay UK 2009

For the last few years I've been attending a cosy little community-run conference in the UK called XP Day. This year it was held in Church House which is a stone's throw away from Parliament.

As the slogan on their website says it was "more than XP. More than one day." The "more than XP" part of the slogan resulted in a surprising number of sessions about Lean and Kanban. Since these seem to be replacements for, the increasingly reviled, Scrum it got to the point where there was an open space session asking if we could have XP back.

The conference began with Google's Mark Striebeck giving an interesting keynote on the massive data collection and analysis effort his team is undertaking in order to turn testing "from an art into a science." Unfortunately I was constantly distracted by his usage of the word "art" in contexts where "craft" seemed more suitable. Since the relationship between art, craft and science is important to me, for obvious reasons, I was disappointed to see that Mark didn't give definitions. This meant that I couldn't work out if he'd truly confused craft with art or whether he was just using different definitions to the ones I prefer.

Gojko Adzic had a blog post out with the details of Mark's talk before the applause had died down. My own attempts at using the XP Day Jaiku channel for note-taking eventually faded away due to the sheer number of interesting talks, workshops and open space sessions going on.

This year's conference was heavily focussed on experience reports. Anna Shipman ran a couple of brutally honest and insightful sessions on situations where an Agile adoption goes wrong. There was also a large contingent from 7Digital who shared the difficulties and benefits of adopting Agile in a start-up. This was especially illuminating because their CEO participated in the experience report and gave us the customer's perspective. I especially liked his focus on using Agile as a competitive business advantage rather than merely as a way of fixing broken software processes.

My favourite session was probably Gojko's workshop on Building Software That Matters. It gave a roomful of people a chance to talk about some of my favourite topics: feature partitioning, creating quantifiable feedback loops in the software development process by testing with real users and developers focussing on helping to create value rather than just blindly implementing the requirements they're given.

I hope next year's XP Day is as interesting.

Apprenticeship Patterns at XPDay