Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BarCamp Nashville 2014 Recap: Pie, chimps, and more!

BarCamp Nashville 2014 is in the books and it was a good one.I personally had a great, very well rounded experience in that I got to attend some great sessions, met and talked to some new and interesting people, gave my own presentation, and then got to cap of the night by jamming at the after party. That was a pretty good day.

I've run a few events and conferences myself so I know how much organization goes into them and how hard it is especially with only volunteers. My hat is off to the organizers for doing such a good job. Here's a quick recap of my experience.

Special shout out to Eric Near, Chuck Bryant, and Audrey Hunter!

The Venue

I was sad about not going back to Sound Check but that is mainly for my selfish reasons of loving to play music there. Deavor was a very cool setting, truly reflecting Nashville's IT community environment. While a little cramped, I think the space was very effectively used. We were lucky with the good weather so that people could mingle and eat outside during breaks and lunch.

I was mainly in the Mud room most of the day and it was a good space for both presenting and attending a session. I was told there are plans to expand that space so that it may open it up more for next year. It would be nice to have some spaces outside of the session rooms for people to lounge and talk (maybe even some white boards and flip charts for some impromptu sessions?).

The Sponsors

With a free event like this, sponsors make it happen and there were some great companies helping out this year. It was nice that it was never an in-your-face sales pitch with any of them. While they all do want to get their brands out there and tell you about their services, they mainly just want to support the local IT community since a rising tide floats all boats.

Special note on the best SWAG of the conference. MailChimp gave away a ton of free knitted monkey caps that were a huge hit. Everyone was wearing them and sharing them on social media. Very well played, MailChimp! Other sponsors should take notice and remember that probably 80% of what attendees get in their bags get's tossed with barely a glance. Be creative in trying to get their attention and you will be surprised how well it can pay off!

The Sessions

One of the things I love most about BarCamp is the diversity of the topics. There is something for just about everyone from hard core coding, web development, social media, product marketing, etc. Tyson Cadenhead did good job showing us how to use Meteor.js and I loved Bryan Huddleston's session on the rising IT sector in Nashville. Unfortunately I had to miss some of the sessions I really wanted to see to get the band setup for the after party, but I heard lots of good feedback about all of the presentations.

The People

Networking and meeting new people is a big part of this conference and this year's was no exception. I think the smallness of the venue actually helped in that respect in that I was often just standing next to a group of people who spontaneously starting chatting.

One great experience was chatting with a guy that had attended one of my presentations about his ideas for a start up and then several people rolling by and adding their own spin to the conversation ranging from VC funding, to MVP, to hiring good developers, to getting your brand out.

I love that most of the people I talked to were starting their own business. I cannot claim to be very entrepreneurial, sticking with being the guy they call to get stuff done, but I have a ton of respect for those who risk it all to get their own idea out there. The variety of ideas was also very interesting from beauty/barber shop management to apps for behavioral change. I wish all of them luck and hope they make millions (just don't forget the guy you talked to when you just started out!). 

A thought I had for next year would be a bulletin board where some of these start ups could post something like "I need help with (XYZ)" and then some open space sessions could be organized around people who have that same need and people who might be able to help out.

The After Party

I was initially worried about the after party in the parking lot due to some threatening clouds (please do not rain on my Fender Stratocaster!), but there was no rain and it was only slightly chilly. The stage was excellent and the food and beer was delicious (Music City Pie's Cajun pot pies rule!). 

A bit of self criticism here in that the band tried some new, lesser known songs in our set which did not get everyone going initially. We will work on that for next year! Once things got going, and the beer started flowing, there were some fun moments with a rousing sing-a-long of the 4 Non Blondes "What's Going On?" and Gaines rapping to Ice Ice baby with Scott Walters laying down the fiddle (where else but Nashville?).

The Wrap Up

BarCamp continues to be a great technology event for Nashville and I am already excited about next year's possibilities. I encourage you to attend, speak (even if you think you have nothing to say), mingle, and have fun!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Interview on InfoQ.com

Ben Linders from InfoQ.com interviewed me about my "Scrum Fundamentals" video on InformIt.com. We covered why we made the video, a few of the topics covered, as well as some other resources to get a basic understanding of Scrum. Check it out here!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Speaking at Memphis Agile User Group Jan. 30th "Agile Quality Assurance: The Long Ugly Tale of How We Got Better"

I will be speaking at the Memphis Agile User Group on Thursday, January 30th. This is the same presentation I did at the Agile 2013 conference last year called "Agile Quality Assurance: The Long Ugly Tale of How We Got Better" which got a great response. You can register here.

The session covers my experience at a past employer helping them adopt Scrum over the course of 2+ years and all of our trials and tribulations during that transition. I played many roles over that span including developer, QA manager, Scrum Master, and Agile coach and the presentation covers man of those aspects but has a strong focus on QA.

I lived in Memphis for about 5 years in the 90s and always love to go back. Anyone who is up for a trip down to Beale afterwards should let me know.

See you there!

My Scrum Fundamentals Video Goes Live This Week

I recently had the pleasure of working with the crew from Pearson Publishing and created an online training video called "Scrum Fundamentals". If you are a Safari Books Online subscriber you can already access it here, and it is available for purchase on InformIt.com here.

While I have been training, coaching and speaking on Scrum for years now, it was a totally new experience filming a video of this type. My producer Irene Magafan from RHED Pixel was a huge help it getting me through the three day shoot and the rest of the team did a great job filming and editing the final result.

This video has over 3 hours of content from my "Agile Software Development with Scrum" training class we deliver at Holland Square Group and covers the following topics:

  • History of Agile and its values and principles
  • Basics of Scrum including roles, artifacts, and events
  • Starting a Scrum Project
  • Managing your Product Backlog
  • Writing good User Stories
  • Agile Estimation and Planning
  • Prioritizing work
  • Working as a Scrum Team
  • Planning for a Sprint
  • Executing and tracking work in a Sprint
  • Agile engineering principles and practices
  • Integrating QA into Scrum
  • Dealing with bugs
  • Delivering a product increment
  • Inspecting and Adapting your process
I am very happy with how it came out and I think it gives a solid overview of implementing Scrum. It's a great option for educating team members new to Scrum where sending them to instructor led training is not an option. You may also want to incorporate it into your onboarding process and is something you can use with off-shore teams as well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Agile 2013 Recap

So the Agile 2013 conference is in the books and we could not have asked for a better experience for my home town of Nash Vegas. I heard multiple comments from newcomers as well as the veterans that this was one of the best and I have to wholeheartedly agree. Here's a quick recap from my personal experience:

The Sessions

Estimating Business Value (Chris Sims)

This was a very fun session with some good, hands-on exercises. I came away with some validation of techniques I have been using previously and some new ideas on how to train and coach on the subject moving forward. I had a forehead slapping moment as I realized his primary technique was almost exactly like what we do with sizing stories and I wondered why I have never translated that over to assigning business value. Chris is very engaging and made it a fun experience.

The session I was headed to got cancelled and I popped into this presentation with a friend. I have seen Mike present on this material before and while there were a few new twists, it was basically the same information. While this was not new to me (I am a big Cohn fan already), it was a great session for anyone new the idea of User Stories, Story Points, Planning Poker, and Release Planning.

Enterprise Product Owner's Challenge: Managing Networks of Backlogs
(Alan Goerner)

While he never said it in the session, much of this content came from the much contested Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). And while Ken Schwaber blasted it (and those who seek to sell it), I was validated in that some of the techniques for taming an enterprise backlog that he suggested were ones I have reached organically with multiple clients. I understand the mistrust of big frameworks promising the world as long as you use their software and services (I have been bit by that snake a time or two before..ahem..RUP), but I hate that it seems the good was thrown out along with the bad as the whole thing was often entirely dismissed. To say this was a sore subject among the attendees is an understatement. While chatting about it with some friends and Arlo Belshee (here let me pick up that name you dropped) at the Valtech conference party, a SAFe supporter stormed off from our table. 

Agile at scale at Spotify (Joakim Sundén, Anders Ivarsson

I had already read the excellent white paper on this, but it was nice to hear it direct from the source and there was plenty of "between the lines" content. They basically implemented a more Agile friendly twist on the matrix organization with a focus on the product and features. I've done variations of this in larger organizations, but this is definitely a go to example. Who wouldn't want to be on a squad as part of a tribe in their particular guild? I also love their office setup with each squad having its own development area along with a dedicated meeting space as well. This video by Anders has some of the same content.

Bryan Beecham's (with special guest Mike Bowler) session was the most fun. We were separated into tables with bags of LEGOS and he totally Miyagied us by having us make stuff with them and before you knew it, you were practicing TDD. It was an excellent exercise for non-developers (but there were several developers there as well and we all had a great time). I sat with Bryan and Tim Ottinger while they tweaked the exercise and it was very cool to see it evolve. Here is a link to Bryan's slides for the session.

While this session was not what I originally thought, it was definitely interesting and informative. I have used mind mapping techniques for eliciting stories and to help slice them into small, workable components before. This was a new technique with a bit more structure that I am looking forward to trying out. This video is fairly close to the content David covered. He used a product called CardBoardIt that was an online version of how he did story mapping that might be something for distributed teams to try.

The Open Jams

Sometimes the best stuff you get is not from the presentations, but from the ad-hoc sessions called Open Jams. In the middle of the conference area was a big space with tables, chairs, flip charts, and white boards where groups could get together and talk about anything that tickled their fancy. If it strays from what interests you, get up and go to another one! I popped in a few of these.

This open jam was all about how to get teams and companies to be more collaborative. The guys from Spotify, Arlo Belshee, and Diana Larsen were there just to name a few. It was a very interesting discussion that I wished I had videoed. Each time we talked about some goal, impediment, or action around collaboration we kept coming back to trust.

As I mentioned before I sat with Bryan Beecham and Tim Ottinger while they were tweaking the TDD LEGO game and Tim kept rattling off study after study that applied to the various topics we covered. He has a wealth of knowledge that I wish I had had more to talk through with him. One that stuck with me was SCARF which is about how people interact with each other. Guess what it all started to boil down to? Trust. (Hmmm, I sense a theme.)

I walked into another group midway through their discussion about the language of learning. Diana Larsen was holding court and it was very enlightening how she mapped some of the higher concepts to concrete Agile practices. I asked her if the content was online somewhere and while he particular topics were not, she pointed me here


Another great part of the conference is getting to unwind and hang out with everyone. There were some great events ranging from a simple dinner with a few new friends to an epic party on the Shelby Street Bridge hosted by LeanKit.

Online Content From Agile 2013

Big Visible interviewed a ton of the speakers and other thought leaders at the conference and you can find those videos and podcasts here.

Most the pictures in this post came from Steven List and are posted here.