Don’t go to conference!

The title is from a pitching session in Continuous Integration and Testing -conference (CITCON18) by Open Information Foundation. The announcer of the pitch wanted to create discussion about benefits of traditional conferences versus Open Space events. CITCON itself represents an Open Space format event, which is an awesome way to share ideas and networking for IT professionals.

CITCON gathered in the spring of Vienna, Austria, this time with around 60 people, of whom six were Hedgehogs from our Software Automation Tribe. Open Space events are most effective with 50-100 people, since the sessions are organized on the spot in an agile manner. The participants are mostly software and testing specialists, but the topics contain more human sciences than you’d find in traditional IT conferences.

The event starts with a quick introduction of participants. Followed by inventing short pitch talks about the topic for upcoming discussion sessions. You are allowed to present one pitch at a time, but can you join the line of presenters again after you are done with your first pitch. People are also encouraged to ask clarifying questions if the idea is hard to grasp. Post-It notes with the topic candidate are added on a whiteboard after a pitch is made. Each session is meant to last one hour.

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Tommi Oinonen pitching his session topic

When the line of presenters had finished, the amount of Post-It notes had grown up to around 50. Next, everyone could vote on the topics their are interested in with a pencil, but only one vote at a time. There were five time slots and five rooms booked for the sessions next day. Hence, there were 25 sessions in total. When all the voters had visited the whiteboard, the most popular topics began to move to a timetable chart. This happened also in a self-organizing way, meaning that everybody could move the notes and the most voted ones found their time slots. Similar topics could end up bundled into the same session. The final timetable might not have been formulated earlier than just before the sessions the next day.

The time table is then used by people to plan their attendance to different sessions. However, the most important rule with Open Space sessions is the law of two feet: If the current session isn’t interesting, leave it.

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Agile timetable

The sessions were held in classrooms, where chairs were organized in a circular form in order to maintain best possible connection between participants. The classroom also contained a white board for demonstrating purposes. The topics varied from more technical software problem solving in IT to sea shanties (!?). The most popular topics were about communication skills in work life. These sessions were facilitated by professionals, who also solve those issues in their everyday work. The session I liked the most was one where communication related challenges were asked from the participants and then solved via a role playing style dialog.

As an example of a more technical session topic, Tommi Oinonen from Siili wanted to obtain insights about his master’s thesis pertaining to metrics of software test automation and version control. Tommi truly achieved some good philosophical conversation and opinions to bring home from CITCON.

If I had to list some negatives about this Open Space event, I felt that people were even too eager to create session topics. Some general level subjects without deeper focus on some strictly defined problem ended up leading conversations into an academic monologue.

Open Space events encourage people to create sessions of their own kind where everyone can have interesting discussions. Compared especially to lecture-liked conferences, interactions between even shyer engineers increases. As an organizer encapsulated in his opening speech: If you did not get what you were looking for here, blame the organizers, that means yourself!

Pekka Rantala

ClojureD conference in Berlin

In the end of February five Siilis took off from Helsinki to visit Berlin. ClojureD conference to be exact. Two tracks, plenty of talks and focus in Clojure. This is an overview from the talks that we visited and because Joy Clark had awesome notes on talks too I asked permission to share her notes here as well. Big thumbs up for the visual content!

Teaching Clojure

For me the first talk of the day was about teaching. We have ran our junior program with Clojure for two years as we speak so new views and how others find teaching in this domain was interesting. Mike Sperber shared his point on systematic thinking and how it affects the way we build software.

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Recap in drawing from Joy Clark

Maria: a beginner-friendly coding environment for Clojure

Next talk was about Maria by Dave Liepmann. A simple really beginner friendly place to learn fundamentals in Clojure. In his talk there was quite a few demos on how fast one can get on with coding.

Fast results are important when you start something new and Maria offers fast response to your coding and shows results immediately. Of course when you start doing bigger and more advanced stuff your pace of getting things done and ready will be different.

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Recap in drawing from Joy Clark

 Writing test that suck less

Last talk before lunch was about testing by Torsten Mangner. This talk dived a little deeper to the fundamentals of testing. Talk began wit a confession and gave us the baseline.

“Writing unit tests in Clojure is easy, since testing pure functions is trivial. But the more high-level our tests become, the more they have to deal with the state and side-effects of your application. It becomes harder and harder to write proper tests. And worst of all: they are harder and harder to understand and to maintain, greatly diminishing the value of those tests as a documentation of your software.”

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A Dynamic, Statically Typed Contradiction

After lunch we had the pleasure of diving into mathematics. As Andrew Mcveigh talked about lambda calculus and its application in a “Hindley-Milner“ based type system and how it can be mapped onto Clojure. This solution can also be used to “type-chec” a subset of Clojure code.

Unfortunately my attention was to fully hang on with the maths and our ways with Joy had departed so, no good pictures from this talk. Sorry!

Onyx, virtual machines, jokes and afterparty

Next up for me was Vijay talking about Onyx and its uses for data crunching. An overall look for the uses. Masterless systems, stream and batch processing, flow control and principles of Clojure.

After coffee we got the pleasure of seeing a walkthrough how to implement Clojure on a new virtual machine. Heavy stuff and a great idea.

Last official talk before the lightning talks (I had to skip those because I was hungry and needed a Döner 😉 ) was called defjoke. Live coding a fully compliant spec for humour.

All talks were taped and are available soon in http://clojured.de/ check it out. Other great photos and one-liners can be found in https://twitter.com/clojuredconf

Thanks from Siili to great organisers and speakers. Hoping to see you soon in other adventures!

 

-e

 

Thoughts on Tampere Goes Agile 2017

Last weekend (27th-28th October) I had the honour to attend Tampere Goes Agile as a speaker and guest. This was my first speech in agile conference and I was of course a bit nervous about it. On Friday night we met with other speakers to discuss about next days conference. We got an unfortunate information that the closing keynote will be cancelled. During our dinner we planned the ending of the conference to be a panel discussion around the topics that we found controversial among us. That decided we chose panelists and yours truly was also included. Well, I was anyways going to be nervous the whole day so why not.

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Saturday started with opening keynote from Mika Turunen on gaining speed for teams. After that I headed to hear what Artur Margonari had to say. His talk was about using and customising existing frameworks and models for agile transformation. Interesting talk how he had applied SAFe®, LeSS with bits and pieces from Spotify’s ways of working. He stated that using best fitting parts for the problem at hand. In his work that worked fine and added transparency between teams and management.

Another interesting speech was about fixed price projects by Teemu Toivonen. He underlined the fact that even within the fixed scope projects can be done in agile way. A lot of the effort goes to managing expectations. You can’t predict the future and the further you go the harder even guessing goes. Or can you tell what is going to happen in next 10 months? If you keep your time for development short your guesses have better odds to be right and responding to changes is possible.

My topic was how to turn negative emotions within the team to a positive goal. Starting from individual level. Starting with finding your problem from distant feeling that something is off. After that working our way towards a happy productive team that wants to develop and move forward. I talked about avoiding the problems that occur when going through this process. There are many of them and I cant say that I included them all to my speech. Well, it’s still a start.

 

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In total Tampere Goes Agile was a pleasant experience. I met a lot of nice folks and was surprised that many of the themes that used to be ignored were actually a subject to a true discussion. Not just for shouting opinions pro and against.

What can we expect in future? In the closing panel I said: I hope something new and better comes and clears the table. This does not mean that everything old is bad and must go. But as we are constantly changing and improving, there should be new way just around the corner. And of course, we want to be a part of it. Hopefully we can help. At least I don’t want to be the one who holds back change.