CS and the City Sean Lynch

Much Ado About Agile Conference ’06

My very first tech conference has come and gone. Agile was about as good of a subject as any to start with. We use Scrum at work, but I walked into it by accident; I don’t have any formal Agile background, so it was great to get a little more feel for the depth and breadth of the area.

We don’t follow Scrums practices religiously, instead we concentrate on the principles. We’ve adopted the daily stand-up meetings and the concept of a product backlog, but we have tweaked it quite a bit to allow us to scale the team to the size it is now. I was comforted to hear that most people are using their own version of Agile rather than big bang adopting one laid out by the book.

For the most part, I stuck to the “People trump Process” track, which concentrated mostly on project management. A lot of good war stories, especially by Carl Schmidt (Riptown Media), although maybe it was just his fancy Mac presentation.

I was a little bit disappointed by the amount of concrete value of some of the presentations. For example, Linda Rising gave the Keynote for the second day on The Power of Retrospectives. Now, I’ve never heard of Retrospectives as a software technique, but it took me about half the presentation to realize all she was talking about was reflecting on past projects. She did talk a bit about a technique for using timelines to help, but I would have like to get more information on all the concepts that fall under the Retrospectives umbrella. If there are two books on it, then there’s got to be more meat to add to her presentation. I found Mary Poppendieck’s “Why Agile” was also a bit light on the concrete tools stuff, although the history of software processes was very interesting.

My first exploration of the “Tools and Techniques” track wasn’t until the second day with Scott Ambler’s “Agility in the Database” which I thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t done a whole lot of database work, but I’m considering picking up his Refactoring Databases book as an idea of what sort of problems I may want to watch out for when I do any simplistic design.

Scott’s talk on “Time to Address the Uncomfortable Issues We’d Prefer to Avoid” was good, although I disagreed with a few points he had. I’ll address them in a separate post though.

All in all, well worth the student rate. Next year, maybe they’ll have more comfortable chairs.