QCon San Francisco 2008: Day two

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: QCon 2008 |

I had better hopes for day two of QCon. With a DSL track, and Agile, things couldn’t get wrong here, now could they? Yes, ehhm,…well…

Okay, day two, which is still in progress, is quite a disappointment. Again. I don’t know, maybe it’s me or something (it probably is), but the things I heard today were all centered around the ‘open door’ theme: I already knew them, or they so obvious, it was hard to miss, and the presentation didn’t add much to that knowledge!

The presentations I’ve visited were the following:

Cultures Where Agile Emerges, by Pollyanna Pixton
In contrary to the above: this one was great. It was excellent! It was a really good start of the day, and it provided a lot of insights in great leadership and excellent teamwork. Pollyanna gave an inspiring talk with a lot of new and refreshing information! When I left the session, I felt truly inspired about the things told, like the decision making process of teams (I liked the quote that manager who knew less, usually decided more (this is a bit taken out of context, but it means that the higher you are in an organisation, the harder it gets to keep track of all the things going on around you. Having people who know those details make the decisions is therefore a logical result, which is the approach Pollyanna proposed. But, to be able to do that, trust is necessary). Well, a lot was told, and I left the presentation happy. I think there wasn’t a single yellow (nor red) note in the basket, so I guess I’m pretty safe to call this one of the best received sessions of the show!

The Joys and Pains of Long-lived Codebases
I’m always interested in long lived codebases. When you work with a team on a codebase, different opinions, ideas, techniques get into the codebase over the years, and you have to manage this complexity. This presentation was about the pittfalls, and how to overcome them, and even though it was in .Net, it should prove to be useful, right?
Well, instead of a batch or webbased application with tens of interfaces, deployment descriptors, developed by distributed teams, we got a presentation about Structuremap, an IoC container developed by a single programmer. Not necessary bad, but this didn’t really match my expectations. Furthermore, the talk proposed some solutions which aren’t bad (at all!), but which I/we already do, like internalizing testdata (since XML or SQL in tests are hard to maintain). Not a bad talk, it just didn’t match my expectations.

Groovy DSL’s, by Scott Davis
I like Scott Davis. I’m a real big fan of his Grails series at IBM, and I love the way he explains. Not during this talk though! The promise was a presentation about Groovy DSL’s. 20 minutes of the talk was spent on explaining what a DSL was (come on, this was the 3rd or 4th presentation in the DSL track!), after that, a introduction to Groovy (argh!!! If you don’t know Groovy, you’re not in that session!), a way to use Groovy in shell scripts (a DSL? Come on!), and after that, finally, a DSL….about time calculations!! NOT AGAIN! After that, I left the session. If the description of this sessions was something like: ‘An explaination what DSL’s are, an introduction to Groovy and using Groovy in the shell’, it would have matched my expectations (not that I wouldn have visited the presentation then..). But this was totally different from the description. A big disappointment.

After this, I went to another talk, about Agile in the Enterprise, but this wasn’t Agile in the Enterprise, this was a bullet point presentation about implementing Lean. I don’t want to write anything about that. Like before: not a superbad presentation, but not what I expected, nor what was written down in the description of the session. A waste of my time.

What I discovered during most talks is that a lot of the talks were not bad in itself, but just didn’t match my expectation. A lot of the sessions were at a beginners level, and didn’t match the description is the programme at all! I would say: fix that, and remove the beginners level sessions. My epxerience is that most programmers attending the sessions have at least 5 years of programming experience, and are also (a little) experienced in the subject of the session. If you’re a presenter, and you’re unsure what kind of audience you have in front of you, simply ask! If no-one is a beginner, then skip the intro. Easy as that, right?

Well, let’s see if the next and final day of QCon 2008 will bring some more indepth sessions. I certainly hope so!


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