Recently I took a trip to Madrid in order to attend the CAS (Conferencia Agile Spain) 2015, celebrated the days 3 and 4 of December. I went hoping for it to be an inflection point in my career, and it was, but not just because of the event itself.
The event is supposed to focus on Agile, in a general way. Tracks were divided into 5 sections: Developing People, Improving Software, Creating Teams, Delivering Product and Transforming Organizations. My main complaint about the event was its low emphasis on Improving Software. However, I believe this is because of my actual position.
As of today, I’m focusing on learning how to be a better developer and I’m concentrating on improving my code, its design, readability, scalability, etc. It’s all code. The event however had a lot of talks related to improving your organization, your team, and basically yourself in other ways not related to the software itself, which is great, but not my main focus now.
Anyways it would have been great if the software tracks had been really nice, but I found that nearly half of them were too weak. Again, this may also be because of where I am now. Modesto said that it would be very nice to specify the level of each track in the Agenda so that we could have an idea about it being useful for us or not. This is a suggestion I would really like to be implemented.
Agile is flying away
Agile Software Development. The Software Development part is kind of flying away. I had the feeling that a lot of the attendees didn’t know about the Agile Manifesto.
When I search in Google for “Agile values” Scrum is already appearing in the first page. What? Google even suggests “scrum values”. Agile is way more than Scrum, however Scrum may become the new name for it in the following years. What I want to express here is that people is forgetting about the software when talking about Agile, and just thinking about the ways to organize the team (and there are also more ways to do so than just Scrum).
I missed a talk that expressed the Agile problem, similar to the beginning of the Sandro Mancuso’s one in the CAS2014 (too bad I didn’t attend in 2014).
This is also affecting the CAS, I would like the event to give the Software Development part a good slice instead of the little tracks it had. Of course I think that having a good project management, evolving as a team and bringing developers and managers together is also very important and this last statement was I believe one of the main reasons the Agile Software Development emerged.
The event is still great
Okay, despite the comments on the Agile evolution, which I think is more of a general problem and doesn’t necessarily has to deal with the CAS, the event was great.
First of all, there were some problems at the beginning of the first day, but other than that the event ran fluently, it was nicely organized and I’m thanking the organization team for it. I wasn’t able to talk with them but they made a great work, I’m sure that preparing an event for 700 attendees must be really tough!
The tracks on Improving Software were good, it’s just a matter of personal opinion whether they were too basic for me or they were actually really useful for others. As of me, I found some of them great.
Improving the Software, by Carlos Blé, was a really nice opening for the Improving Software section. He suddenly started dancing, made everyone laugh and brought up everyone’s attention. If someone was sleepy, what a way to wake them up! Even though he spoke about basic things, I feel the way he did it was great. Talking on stage requires the speaker not to lose the attention, not to let the attendants go sleepy. Great speakers are able to maintain your attention over the whole presentation, and I feel Carlos did it right.
Building Resilient Integrations, by Dave Moore, was my favorite one, especially because I am about to start a project requiring (maybe a lot of) third party API integrations, and Dave made me really conscious about the problems that may come up if you don’t protect yourself. Wrapping the API was the obvious solution, however I’m still trying to get further knowledge on Hexagonal Architecture before starting the project. It was also great because it was practical. We teamed up in a few people groups and made an http client from scratch. I had the chance to participate on great debates and check out our approach for the kata. I’m totally repeating it, as we asked Dave if we could do it afterwards and he had no problems about us doing so. Thanks a lot!
The Niggle’s syndrome, OOP and the family of Juan Carlos I, by** Jorge Uriarte**. I liked the metaphor and comparison of the software in relation to art and the Niggle’s syndrome story. The message was basically to be careful about the code granularity, having the same amount of detail everywhere, not a mix of very detailed and poorly detailed parts, regarding software instead of art, but it is also applicable. Unfortunately he did not dive into a solution for it.
The art of giving Feedback (Non-violent verbal communication), by Alberto Gómez. He talked about ways to give feedback without offending your teammates and stressed some key points for it. I agreed on pretty much everything he said and will try to provide some nicer feedback from now on.
I also assisted some others, like Continuous Integration in CartoDB, by Juan Ignacio Sánchez Lara (pretty interesting but I’m still not into Continuous Integration, I need to study and practice it), Giving love to tests, by Joaquin Engelmo (was a bit basic but nice) and Effective UI Testing, by Enrique Amodeo.
I missed some great ones as told by my friends and I will surely watch the recorded videos.
After talking with some of my friends that were also attending, I concluded that a keynote should make you think. Keynotes were not that great in the event, with the exception of the one presented by Leo Antoli, which really uncovered a lot of debate. I liked the closing keynote by Corinna Baldauf about retrospectives, took note on the way she did them, but though it was more of a talk rather than a keynote.
Leo Antoli’s message in his keynote was basically not blindly believing everything they tell us and use some practices because there are “studies” out there that state that they work. We have no means to demonstrate those studies were done right, round numbers are usually believed to be right (the 80 – 20 rule on percentages). This keynote made me think, and raised a lot of debate afterwards, between us and in twitter. I really liked it, but I find that his keynote was not presented in the right place.
He first had 5 minutes where he exposed they were doing TDD, pair programming, Scrum, and all the basics in his company. He then declared all he said was a lie, they were not doing any of those.
He mocked on the ideas he previously exposed. TDD? Pair Programming? Scrum? And even Software Craftsmanship? Not useful at all, don’t believe they are right because others tell you so! The problem with his talk was declaring those as not useful, instead of only transmitting the message: don’t believe they are useful just because others tell you so. The way he spoke about the common practices made me think he was against them. He was actually exaggerating a bit, but I believe a lot of developers which were not totally into practices and non-developers got the bad message.
The true value of the event
Attending such an event with 700 people is a huge thing. The most exciting one is reuniting with friends, meeting new people and getting to know different perspectives and points of view about things you may be doing every day.
I was able to meet two great friends I hadn’t seen in months, Juan and Miguel, and spent the whole event with them. I was able to meet the entire CBA team and have long talks with every single one of them. There were some that I already knew and that I know better now. I shared dinner with them, and had an amazing talk with Luis Rovirosa. I also had a great debate with Juan M. Gómez about the future of programming and new programming paradigms. Talked with Modesto and Alfredo for hours, and happily sacrificed a lot of sleeping time to continue the great talks we had. Carlos was really busy, but I also had the chance to further know him.
Carlos presented us to Enrique Comba from 8th Light, we had a great talk with him and he gave us some rockin’ 8th Light stickers!
Going to Madrid also gave me the opportunity to spend an extra day to visit the city and meet a friend that lived there. When you add up all of these to the already nice benefits provided by the event, I can’t but say it resulted in huge profit!
I don’t know if I’ll get into another CAS, this CAS was undoubtedly a great experience for me, but I will probably focus on more technical events from now on.