Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Open Agile Romania

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to speak at the first Romanian Open Agile conference. Maria Diaconu invited me to come over and talk to their conference about Software Craftsmanship, including how it relates to Agile. I gave two talks: on the role of a tester through the agile lifecycle (slides); and, how Software Craftsmanship relates to the inherent problems with Scrum and XP (slides).

All-in-all, I had a great time, and I'm honored that Maria invited me to talk. The Romanian development community is lucky to have someone like her. I look forward to seeing where things lead. The conversations I had with the people there really sparked a lot of thoughts in my head, and I look forward to exploring them further with people.

Maria, with help from her husband, Alex, is putting a lot of effort into organizing the Romanian agile community, starting 3 different user groups in Bucharest, Brasov and Cluj. She also organized this conference and is starting to talk about the next event. We talked briefly about possible getting sponsorship enough to bring a couple people over to organize a Code Retreat over there, as well as other possible events to further solidify the community there.

I arrived on Tuesday, May 19th, after a rather uncomfortable Air France flight (somewhere between purchasing the ticket and getting on the plane, the 'vegetarian' request for my meal got lost). From the airport to Maria's house was possibly the most...ahem...interesting taxi ride I've ever had; while there are definite lane markers on the road, the drivers in Bucharest don't seem to actually know what they are for. Someone told me that this was because they didn't have lane markers for so long, they just ignored them when people finally put them down.

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Bucharest agile user group, then going out for a beer, or two, with them. We had some great conversations with topics ranging from agile all the way to the American education system.

On Thursday night, we had a speaker dinner, where I met the fellow speakers: Ovidiu Negrean, Jurgen Appelo, Lucian Parvu, Razvan Gliga. Mihnea Giurgea and Mircea Pasoi couldn't show up, but I met them on Saturday. The speaker dinner was very nice, and I got the opportunity to argue with Jurgen about Scrum and its adoption patterns. I can say that this discussion was very enlightening, because it sounded exactly like the one I had with Cory Foy less than a week earlier. The idea is that Scrum makes an implicit assumption that developers are responsible enough to change their practices to fit into the iterative, incremental model. I really enjoyed talking to Jurgen, and I'm eager to catch up with him again at the Agile 2009 conference.

The conference was at a university and part of a larger open-source-oriented one called eLiberatica. I had definite flashbacks of being in school.

Friday went well, with just a few hiccups. Sadly, one of the hiccups was poor bandwidth during Ken Schwaber's video conference/presentation. At times, it was a bit difficult to hear what he was saying, but enough came through to get the main points of his talk. One main point that rang true with me, and also segued really nicely into my own talk, was that a major surprise to them was that developers didn't handle incremental delivery very well. This realization has led to the development of the Scrum Certified Developer program. Talking to Cory and a couple other people, this 'certification' sounds like the developer side of an XP training.

My talk on Friday was about the role of a tester on an agile team. I based it a lot on person experiences mapped through Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory's Agile Testing book. Lisa was kind enough to send me 2 copies of the book to take to the conference, so we handed one out at the end of each day during the panel session.

On Friday night, we all went to a restaurant to continue our conversations from the day. Maria's friend, Paula, had come up from Brasov to the conference (she's a developer at Siemens), and, being a native Hungarian speaker, she was kind enough to let me spend some time speaking it again. I haven't spoken Hungarian that much for many years now, and it was great to switch over into it for a while.

My talk on Saturday was about 'How Agile Can Fail.' The main point of the talk is that Scrum alone leads to crappy code bases (Ken Schwaber's point was re-iterated), while XP has the practices but can kill productivity in the short- to medium-term while the developers learn to use them effectively. And, of course, in swoops Software Craftsmanship as a way to minimize the effect of learning on the organization through a focus on directed practice. I thought the talk went fairly well, although I could feel my energy level a bit low, having only slept around 4.5 hours the night before (no, it wasn't because of drinking).

I was leaving early Sunday morning, so I decided just to go to the airport at midnight and spend the night there. Ugh! That was a bad move. Bucharest has an incredibly uncomfortable airport. Plus, when I finally was able to checkin, they told me that they didn't have my ticket marked as vegetarian, and they couldn't change it. GRRR!!! I was tired, uncomfortable, hungry and a bit sad about leaving. I bought a small sandwich with the last of my money, and watched Jim Weirich's talk from Scotland on Rails, which cheered me up a bit. I was settling in for an unpleasant 14 hour, or so, trip back to Miami.

Whoa! The flight back was really nice. The flight from Bucharest to Paris was uneventful, but Paris to Miami was a dream. We were flying a 747, which meant that there was an upper deck. Somehow, I ended up there (no, not business class, or anything, just kind of overflow). The seats were more comfortable, the place was less crowded, the stewardesses were cute. I drank whiskey and watched movies (read: slept through movies) the whole way home. The meal was a very tasty spinach lasagna, and did I mention the free whiskey?

Two great things from the movie, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist:
- You guys are one arm short of a Def Lepard cover band
- The Beatles had it right. Most bands sing about sex, but the Beatles just sang 'I want to hold your hand.' In the end, we just want to someone we can spend the rest of our lives holding hands with.