Agile2018

So this was my 3rd Agile Alliance conference and my 2nd in a row as a volunteer and every year is quite a bit different.

The location of the conference hotel worked out really well. It was a quick walk to get to the Gaslamp district as well Embarcadero Park. Last year at the Orlando there just wasn’t anything close to the resort.

In terms of attendees, it was great to see familiar faces from this and other conferences. Of course there were opportunities to make new acquaintances as well. In all the total attendance didn’t deviate much from last year and was around the 2500 mark.

There were some different tracks compared to prior years. It is simply impossible to attend all of them but the one that stands out the most is Audacious Salon. These type of talks go very deep and can be theoretical. It definitely isn’t for everyone but those that stuck around seemed to enjoy it.

I will be giving a formal Conference Debrief presentation at the Calgary Agile Methods User Group (CAMUG) next month which I am really looking forward to.

Next year it’s in Washington, DC. I hope to be there!

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What makes us happy/unhappy?

Money:

What you may find surprising is that money doesn’t make us happy. Disagree?

According to Daniel H. Pink (author of ‘Drive’), as long as we’re compensated adequately, more money won’t incentivize us to work harder. People want autonomy in their jobs as well as more time off. However, for those that are under compensated they will likely be demotivated. So if you’re working a job that doesn’t fulfill you but you’re adequately compensated chances are you’ll eventually leave even if you are rewarded with a significant raise/bonus.

Relationships:

According to TIME magazine (The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries For A More Joyful Life), people in relationships are happier than those that are not. However, those that are in an unhappy marriage are worse off than being divorced.

In terms of holding grudges, Robert Waldinger indicated (in a TED talk) that grudges eat away at us and affect us negatively in many aspects of our lives. Relieving ourselves of grudges can go a long way in repairing relationships.

Material things:

We all look forward to buying new things whether its a new car, a new house, or maybe a new suit. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last. We quickly become bored of material things. In fact, they never truly satisfy us because the more we have the more we want. It is often the case that the best part of the whole ordeal is the act of buying the item itself.

Spending money on more meaningful things tends to lead to more happiness. For example, taking a vacation provides us with stories that can retold over and over (even if it isn’t 100% true). For some people, the majority of enjoyment is felt in the anticipation of the vacation. So the lesson learned is, plan your vacations as soon as you can. You’ll enjoy it more!

ICGSE 2018

I was pretty excited when my submission for this conference was accepted. I’ve been trying for the last few years without success. One of the reasons I’ve been trying to get accepted is due to the ‘global’ aspect of this conference. This was a large focus in my Master’s thesis and I felt this would be a good way to leverage some of the research I’ve already done.

Since ICGSE was collocated with the ICSE suite of conferences, a proper conference facility was needed. The Congress Center Gothia Towers provided an excellent venue.

I gave my presentation (Effective Distributed Pair Programming) on May 28th which was less than week after I had given my presentation at XP 2018. My presentation was followed by talks from Google and Samsung. At the end of the entire time slot, each presenter was required to take a corner of the room to answer any questions. There was some excellent discussion and I did receive some requests for my presentation slides.

XP 2018

If you’re a fan of Port, this year’s venue for the XP conference in Porto, Portugal was definitely a treat.

The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto was an excellent compliment to the conference. As we get older and busier in our daily lives it’s easy to forget where we came from. Watching students go from class to class and take breaks in between was an excellent reminder of that.

Even though I didn’t get an opportunity to meet him, it was great to hear Kent Beck speak in person. Aside from his keynote, he also took part in a panel discussion around Mission Critical Agile. This definitely piqued my interest as I’m currently working on a Defence project.

It seems like the Agile Alliance organization has taken over the XP conference which was a surprise to me. That was not the case when I attended XP 2016. The merging of the two will likely make each other stronger.

I gave my presentation (Multiple Roles: Scrum Master as a Team Member) at the end of the day on May 22nd. Overall, I think it was well received. There were excellent questions and some of them turned into a discussion. Hopefully, I’ll have another opportunity to attend (and present at) an XP conference.

Constantly changing project delivery dates

Whether you’re doing Waterfall or Agile, it can become almost second nature to adjust delivery dates especially when key milestones are missed.  Most of the time it’s wishful thinking because the developers have told us they’re really close to solving the problem.

In the Waterfall world, deliverables largely go unnoticed until the end of phase. At that point, the only real option is to insert a sub-phase, adjust the timelines, ask for more money, and hope nobody gets fired.

In the Agile world, teams that miss their sprint end deliverables just roll those deliverables into the next sprint. This may seem like a minimal impact but sometimes this trend continues onto further sprints.

What does this mean?

If you find yourself constantly changing delivery dates it could mean you’re working towards a fictitious date and compromising quality at the same time.

Chances are the team is stressed out and the stress continues to build because they know they can’t deliver on the next fictitious date imposed on them.

What can you do?

STOP! It’s not ideal but sometimes necessary.

Try to figure out the root cause. Is the team simply taking on too much work? Do you have the required expertise?

When teams get into this situation they sometimes feel the need to divide and conquer. So they work in silos so that if they don’t deliver on the key areas they’re still able to show some progress in other areas. Instead, they should look at the #1 and possibly #2 priorities and just focus on that. In other words, minimize work in progress (WIP).

Also, focus on quality. Chances are the reason you’re in this predicament is because you didn’t focus on quality to begin with. Adopt XP practices such as Test Driven Development (TDD) and Refactoring.

What you shouldn’t do

Don’t come up with more fictitious dates. You’re only making the problem worse and the client will only get more dissatisfied every time you promise to deliver and don’t.

Don’t continue to stress out the team. If you do people will leave, maybe not all but some. That doesn’t mean they’re no longer accountable. If overtime is needed, encourage them to put in extra time at the start of sprint so that they can get ahead. You also need to incentivize them to do so and show that you’ll support them along the way.

California Wineries

I was finally able to experience Napa Valley (and others) and it was amazing.

Let’s start with the wineries I visited:

  • Artesa
  • Domaine Carneros
  • Mondavi
  • Jordan
  • Frog’s Leap
  • Beringer
  • Silver Oak
  • Peju
  • Thomas Fogarty
  • Concannon
  • Wente

Each winery offered a completely different experience.

For example, the tour & tasting at Jordan was incredible. I really enjoyed their Cabernet Sauvignon’s. It’s definitely an experience I would do again. You can even make it a weekend stay if you want.

Even though I’m quite familiar with Beringer wines, I had no idea that their Private Reserve Chardonnay was so good. Had I not tried their tasting, I would have never known this.

Concannon & Wente are wineries in Livermore, California. But don’t let that distract you. They produce excellent wines.

Overall surprises:

  • Wineries producing Meritage & French Colombard
  • Jordan uses egg whites in their fermentation process

Volunteering at Conferences

Volunteering at conferences can be a rewarding experience. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and learn a lot of new stuff.

Here are some things you should be aware of:

  • Look at conference program ahead of time and make sure you’re not scheduled to work during a Keynote or session you’re really interested in.  If so, ask to swap with someone.
  • Don’t get too consumed with trying to attend all the sessions you want.  Some of the best sessions I’ve seen were the ones where I had no expectation.
  • Help others out.  If they want to swap, volunteer to do so.

Pros:

  • You will increase your chances of getting selected in the future
  • It’s a great way to offset the cost especially if your employer isn’t paying for it
  • You’ll make instant connections
  • Likely to be inspired to contribute to the community in other ways
  • A sense of accomplishment

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to attend certain sessions (e.g. Celebrity Keynote Speaker)
  • There are times where it can be exhausting
  • There’s likely to be chaos in the beginning