Monday, December 10, 2007

Back from the Rome Java Day 2007

… So I am back also from the Java Day, in Rome. It was my first time ever, there. And I was also a speaker (and obviously I was late with my slides…) so I feel like I missed quite a big part of it.

I followed Luca Garulli's presentation about the Roma Framework, which in some ways is a competitor of Grails (the subject of my speech) . Roma has some interesting features, like the built-in user profiling module, and a fancy Echo2 based web interface.

Even if I was dead hungry when I had my speech, I manage not to think about the food and to keep the speech reasonably enjoyable. Anyway, Grails is such an effective tool and full of good ideas that, even in a 10 minutes demo, the audience caught the tools potential, and getting to the end was a piece of cake.

This was one of the closing event, after that we went eating out with all the staff end the speakers in a typical restaurant nearby, and had some good time together. This made the perfect ending for a nice day: despite being a free event and basically based on volunteers the result was absolutely good (thanks to Mara and all the staff that made a hell of a job), with more than 1000 attendees this year.

By the way, presentations slides are already online, and mine can be downloaded here

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Doing Agile In Italy: Paperworks

In the last Agile Day in Bologna we had quite a few demonstrations of how to make Lo-Fi tools (such as Post-it, StoryCards, etc.) work, to master an Agile development process. Fascinated by Tim McKinnon's presentation, I then went to a local office supply shop to find some tools to play with. Unfortunately, when I started describing Tim's nylon attachable pocket board, the girl at the shop started looking at me quite …oddly (ok… if I describe it this way, nobody could understand, except the few that attended Tim's speech, but I assure you I did my best. I also looked for pictures of "the thing" in the 'net but I couldn't find one – …maybe because I don't know the name).

Anyway, I went to the shop. And what I asked for seemed odd. There was something similar, like cork boards – in this case you need some pins to attach story cards to the wall – or something else that could contain, buy not show the story cards. I then shifted on Post-It papers. Which are cool as long as you have the right board to stick them on. They also have some drawbacks: since they're sticky, you do not write anything in the B-side (while you do that in story cards or CRC cards). I also bought some Super-Sticky post it. They stick everywhere. But there's a smaller choice of colors so it feels like you're in Coldplay's "Yellow". I felt a bit frustrated but also eager to try to squeeze the best from what I had.

In a couple of days I had a chance to play with my Post-Its. My task was to define a development process that was suitable for a SOA environment, agile enough to be productive, formal enough to be used in a Banking Institute. We started playing with our Post-It and … worked. We were able to spot contradictions and missing pieces in a very short time. Writing the document will be the long and tedious stuff, but I guess in this case it's unavoidable: agility still has to cope with the suit-and-tie mismatch.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dilbert on Agile

Agile is really making it to the mainstream! Also Dilbert now is talking about it...

Back from the Agile Day 2007

Quite a busy decade, I just came back from the Italian Agile Day in Bologna, and I started preparing myself for the following Java Day, so I didn't have so much time left for blogging.

I was pretty satisfied with the Agile Day overall. The idea of "open" conference, with free subscriptions or Paypal donations, but no official sponsors gave the whole conference, a cozy feeling. Paying for lunch allowed for the best buffet ever seen in a techie meeting (and this is heavily related to the conference location).

I attended Tim McKinnon speech, and I liked the idea of the Star tasks. Too many times good ideas from the team are dropped or censored because "we've got to finish the job", ignoring possibilities to just finish earlier. Antonio Terreno presented eventually another type of "Star Ideas", like the definition of a meta-engine to handle all the workflow in the application Antonio's team was working on, but in this case it was one of Martin Fowler's on a ThoughtWorks project, so censorship it's a little bit difficult to apply. But basically the underlying problem it's the same: the balance between doing one thing over and over, or finding a way to do the same thing fast is often too biased towards simply doing. Making job not only tedious and frustrating, but also less productive.

I then was in a small Open Space lead by Luca Minudel, about self organizing teams, where he dropped some hints about where to learn more. Marines are an example of a self organizing team (you can't wait for orders when you are behind enemy lines), and surprisingly Luca showed a book I had at home about how to raise kids by saying "no". Actually, my wife is reading it. I'll be next shortly…

Francesco Cirillo from XPLabs pointed out that many teams are focusing too much on Agile practices, ignoring that fundamental skills are needed. He challenged the audience with his no-if campaign, backed up by T-shirts. I couldn't agree more. A vast majority of companies focuses on training only on the language side, asking for "Java Programming" or "Java Web Programming" and completely ignoring the OOP side. Unfortunately, agile practices, such as refactoring, require strong OO skills that neither university or a Java class will ever provide. As an architect, I suspect that Object Orientation is a complicated stuff, so we've got to acknowledge that we can't have complex systems completely OOP, but some procedural part will always be there. As an "agilist", I do agree that a heavy OOP shakedown is sometimes probably better that playing with the process.

Probably the most intriguing happening was the "Futurespective" held by Marco Abis, which was demonstrating a twisted way to handle project retrospectives by shifting them in the future. This creates a shared metaphor that reduces team and self-censorships allowing for more ideas and suggestions to emerge which was pretty effective. All was held with post-it with an Agile/"lo-fi" feeling, that actually eased spontaneous comments. "Paper Agile" was also one of the topics of Tim McKinnon's speech. This boosted some ideas in my mind, more about that in the next posts.

Apart from being in Bologna, and being cheap. It was absolutely a valuable experience. Given that half of my job is teaching, I have to look for all the possible chances to learn new things and this was definitely worthwhile. Thanks to all.

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