My findings from the 7th ACE! conference (Krakow, Poland).

They say that “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” So maybe I was ready, and ACE! appeared in the right moment to teach me a gazillion of things. Frankly, I can’t remember any other event that I finished with so many new pointers, new ideas, new things on my TODO list or inspiring quotes. I can’t possibly list them all here, but at least I will share some of them with you.

The order is pretty random. The quotes are not really quotes but close to it. 🙂 Some things were never mentioned directly, but I read them (imagined them?) somewhere “between the lines”.

  • Naomi Ceder – Antipatterns for Diversity
    • Impossible to see a problem when you belong to the privileged group.
    • If you are privileged you find ways to justify that you belong there
    • Compliments are often nicely wrapped up stereotypes.
  • Shu Ha Ri – mentioned all over the place
  • Experiments – yes, you should
    • be really crazy about it: Popcorn Flow by Claudio Perrone 
    • you experiment more, you learn more, you learn faster, you outsmart your competition etc.
    • reminds me of Mngmt 3.0 Celebration Grid (silly name, BTW)
    • You should know what you expect, how you decide whether it was a victory or a failure.
    • If you are not ashamed with your first release, it means you waited too long. Claudio Perrone
  • You and your team are parts of the system. Complaining about the system is stupid, you are part of it, you can affect it, so work towards changing it.
  • Causal Loop Diagram,  Current Reality Tree, Cynefin
  • You can copy solution, but not the context (AKA, “we are not Spotify!”). Yeah, read what others do, be inspired, but find your own solutions. Your context is different.
  • Mary Poppendieck is awesome. Can’t get enough of her lectures. 🙂
    • on a downside, her workshop wasn’t a workshop but the continuation of keynote lecture
  • The process often stands in the way of a passionate team. Forget the process. Let them work independently. They will do great.
  • The art of scrum mastering / agile coach is to disappear.
  • A team should have a mission. Easy to say when you work for NASA Moon program. But what about a team that works for normal business? How to create an exiting motto for such a team? Maybe start small, with something different. Try to find (together) some working principles, identify team values, list things the team won’t tolerate.
  • Sketchnoting is not for me. Yes, I learned that I can draw a happy guy and a tired lady, and even a grandpa with mustache, but how on earth could I use it to make notes? You gotta be kidding me! (But I will show my new skills to my kids, and I bet they will appreciate!)
  • Thing is really done when:
  • Real options – delay the commitment
  • Do not start working on a story until you know how to measure its impact.
  • Creators should be immediately connected with what they create.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. E.g. do you promote kanban boards? Fine, so where is yours?
    • …ouch! where is mine?
  • Teams should solve problems, not deliver features.
  • PO – build a hypothesis, team – build and experiment ASAP.
  • Deploy (technical) and release (marketing) are different things. Feature toggles help.
  • Constraints can be pretty helpful, they help you to do only important work. (That is why I limited the time to write this blog post.)
  • Peer coaching (peer-feedback, peer-to-peer review) should be separated from promotions, salaries etc.
  • Do’s and don’ts when you attend a conference
    • Coaching sessions are a must.
      • BTW. There were coaching sessions with some great coaches and not all were taken. I don’t understand it. You prefer to see a presentation when you can have a 1on1 conversation about your issues/problems/situation with some Guru?!
    • Open Space discussions are great. Especially when the owner is prepared.
    • Don’t take a laptop with you. Don’t bother with tweets. Be there, listen, talk. Pen & paper will be enough.
    • The food at ACE! is delicious. Prepare a box next time, take some cookies home. 😉
    • Talk with people. Talk with the speakers. Talk. They won’t bite you.
    • Write a blog post right after the event is finished. Otherwise you will never do it. (Yeah, I did it!)

During the Unexpected Meetup: 1st Open Space I had an opportunity to discuss the topic of changes with fellow Scrum Masters / Team Leads / Agile Coaches. Here are some notes (subjective and incomplete):

  • Books to read:
    • Our Iceberg Is Melting
    • More Fearless Change
  • You shouldn’t expect that your team will come with new change proposal every day. It will be rather your task to help them to discover that some changes are required and decide that they are worth the effort.
  • External experts can really make a difference. Somehow people from the same company are less credible (“No prophet is accepted in his own country’)
    • New hires – especially if they are seniors – are treated similarly to external experts. At least for some time.
  • Imposed changes are much less effective than grassroot changes.
  • No sense to order changes (e.g. “you will do the pair programming 100% of time starting today!”). Much better is to show the idea and let people use it at their own will.
    • Onboarding (especially with fresh devs) is a great time to inject some desirable behaviours.
  • A nice way to introduce a change is to run an experiment (e.g. “Let us do the pair programming 1 hour per day for 2 weeks. Then we decide whether we like it or not”.) Be prepared that people might not like the change. But this is fine.

 

When listening to talks during the last conferences I attended – ACE! Conference and GeeCON – I have noticed that there are some books which titles reappear here and then. I guess this is because they are worth reading. And I plan to read them in 2015 (omg, need some extra time for this!). I have added a short note to each of them to give you idea of what to expect of them.

  • Kahneman Thinking Fast and Slow – probably the most often mentioned book. Definitely a must-read! All kinds of cognitive biases brilliantly illustrated. (BTW. Now that I’ve read the book I still have no clue what to do with this knowledge, but that is another story).
  • Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational – we are not as rational as we think. Surprised?
  • Linda Rising Fearless Change – so you have this great, revolutionary idea? Cool, but how you gonna make others see it and follow you?
  • Laurie Williams, Robert Kessler Pair Programming Illuminated – seems simple but how to do it right?
  • Teresa Amabile The Progress Principle – you can make your work place more enjoyable (for you and others).
  • Giff Constable Talking to Humans: Success starts with understanding your customers – master the interactions with humans and the sky will be your limit.
  • Brian W. Fitzpatrick, Ben Collins-Sussman Team Geek A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others – coding is a team activity, so maybe we could improve our soft skills?
  • Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams – oldie-goldie about the social side of IT work
  • Daniel Pink The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – the days of carrot & stick motivation are gone. Our motivation is of different kind. We are driven by mastery, autonomy and purpose. Read the book to find out more – you won’t be disappointed!
  • Tom DeMarco Slack – creativity can’t be rushed so you better add some slack, so it can happen.
  • Kotter Our Iceberg is melting – the fear of (inevitable) change is paralysing us, so how can we take action?
  • Chris Guillebeau The Art of Non-Conformity – be yourself and prosper
  • Ed Catmull Creativity Inc – add some creativity to the life of your organization – written by one of Pixar’s founders
  • Nancy Kline Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind – attentive listening as the key to your business and social success

Last, but not least, there are also my books. I do not plan to read them, but maybe you will. See the links below.

cover_kanban_150_pl cover_junit_a4_150 cover_btgt_a4_150

P.S. You can read the follow up of this post here.

ACE! Conference 2015 is (unfortunately) over. Great time, great people, great event!

It was the first time I attended an agile conference, and I have to admit, I enjoyed it. I listened to few really interesting talks, and I had some interesting conversations with other attendees. There were also some very interesting discussions during the Open Space Market.

Some comments and things to remember:

  • Talk with people during breaks. Choose random victim and start the conversation. 🙂
  • Badges / achievements seems to be a cool idea (not sure if the link is right: http://signup.badgerbadger.io/)
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow was probably the most often mentioned book during this conference. All kind of biases were also mentioned many times.
  • Some conferences do WiFi right – ACE! did.
  • 250 people is a very reasonable number. The rooms and corridors were full but not overcrowded.
  • It seems there are at least few (small) companies in Cracow getting quite well with flexible working time, flat hierarchy, netflix-like culture, and some ideas taken straight from Jurgen Appelo’s books. Good!
  • You are very lucky if your team is collocated.
  • Some people like to work with stars programmer, while others would happily get rid of them (cause they harm company’s culture).
  • Many teams start with http://hipchat.com and then move to http://slack.com Never heard of any team moving in the opposite direction.
  • Do not build cool products but rather solve problems of your customers.
  • Feedback – important thing! https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychology-writers/201206/giving-good-constructive-feedback
  • I loved the fact, that the organisers were able to improve some things the 2nd day, after reading feedback from the 1st day. Kudos!

My ugly slides are available at Slideshare:

It was good to see you there! Thank you all!

So you are a geek? And you want to present a technical topic on JUG or maybe some conference? Ok, here comes some anti-patterns that will help you to ruin your talk. 🙂

The anti-patterns presented here were gathered during many JUGs and conferences that I attended over a span of few years.
Because I see them occurring here and there, I decided to publish my thoughts. Hopefully you will find them useful.

Run before they ask!

I have seen this one so very often! It goes like this. A speaker ends his talk and switches the last slide with “Q&A” written with big letters. He says quickly “any questions?”, scans the audience, says “no question? So thank you blah blah blah” and dashes off as though he was being chased 😉
Now this is ridiculous. If you act like this you will never get any questions. You need to wait around 15 seconds after you asked for questions before some people will dare to say something.
So, start counting it in your head. Slowly.

1,
2,
3, slowly, don’t rush,
4,
5,
6,
7,
8,
9, be patient they will ask
10,
11, AH, HERE IS THE FIRST ONE!

People are shy, people feel uncomfortable when they are to speak in public, they need time. Make it easier for them. Show them that you really await their questions. And if your talk had any sense someone surely will ask.

Of course, sometimes the audience does not need time nor encouragement and will ask immediately or even interrupt you with some urgent questions. Good for you!

And one more thing. Q&A session is very important and it looks really pathetic if you try to avoid it. Your talk was fully controlled by you, which means you could omit some weak points. During the Q&A part you will have to face your fears, because they will ask about real problems and probably will touch stuff that you wouldn’t like to discuss at all. This is the moment that you can gain a lot or loose a lot. But running away is not an option.

Have a private chat with first row people

A guy in the first row asks a question. you are so proud that you know the answer that you reply to him right away.
WRONG! The rest of the audience has no clue what the question was because they simply did not hear it. The guy in the first row spoke quietly so only first three rows had a chance to understand him.
Remember, you should always repeat (paraphrase) the question aloud. It will make all the people hear it so they can benefit from the discussion that will follow.
Also remember to reply loud enough so the whole audience can hear you. You are not replaying to this one person who asked – they all want to hear the response.

Talk about your mistakes

Oh, so you made a mistake. Maybe you switched slides too quickly and now you would like to go back, or maybe you forgot to show them one example, or whatever. How terrible! Now you feel that you have to tell about it, that you have to explain what you should have done, what you did, why you did it and so on.
Remember you are the only one that knew what was planned and that it didn’t go as expected (unless you show it with your face). The best thing you can do is to pretend that everything is in order

Instead of apologizing and explaining (“oh, I forgot to show you X because blah blah but now I will blah blah”) simply say “there is one more thing that I would like to show you” or “let’s go back to the previous example and discuss X and Y”. It is much better than to elaborate on your feelings.

Tell about the things you won’t do

(This anti-pattern is very similar to the previously described one.)
So for some reason you are not able to show everything you have planned. Maybe the net was down or you have less time than you prepared for or for whatever other reason. The bad thing to do is to talk about this. For some unknown reason you feel you need to explain it, to tell them what was planned and what they won’t see because of A and B and C and …. What is the result of this? Well, the audience will feel as they were robbed from the best parts of your show.
Even if this is true you should not concentrate on this. Simply go on with what you can do and what you can show. If you feel that this “missing part” is so very important then you should think about the way that you can deliver it to them on some later time. Something like “because it is an interesting aspect I will prepare and online demonstration of this feature” or something. But cut it short, don’t make them feel that they missed the best part!

Talk about yourself

Sure, they all came here to listen about your great achievements. Put at least 3 slides about yourself, your company and your hobbies. They will surely love it. 😉

Make it hard to read or boring

Some anti-patterns related to visual aspects of your presentation.

Put everything on a slide and read it

Yeah, your audience can’t read.

Make it hard to read

Some often seen anti-patterns.

  • put things on the very borders of your slides – some projectors will nicely cut off the borders,
  • use the default font setting for your command line and IDE,
  • use not very contrast color which look very nice on your LCD,
  • spent first 10 minutes configuring your desktop so it works with the overhead projector.

Ok, now for real. You should set font size before you start or at least you need to make sure that you know how to do it. For a command line it happens that white background and black fonts are better visible with overhead projector.
The best thing you can do is to present an example of command line and IDE screen before you begin your talk and ask the audience if it is readable.

As for colors they will look different on the wall than on your LCD. Use black, white, read and avoid very thin lines.

And if possible you should try your desktop settings long before your talk starts. It saved me once at Geecon 2009 – I plugged in ~3 hours before my talk and it didn’t work. Thanks God I had so much time to fix it!

P.S. If you spend some time browsing the internet you can find some valuable resources, like this one.