I attended for the third year in a row the XP Day Benelux.
I arrived on Wednesday 19 early, so I spent the whole afternoon in my cozy hotel room, working on my presentation. I was worried that it would not be a success, and rightly so, as I will explain later.
At about 19:00 I moved downstairs to the hotel pub. Now, northern European are true masters of the art of the Drinking Tavern. The tavern in question was beautiful, comfortable, with huge old tables of solid wood. I had some great Belgian beer (Brigand). I met Olivier, an acquaintance from last year edition, a really nice guy to talk with. Later I met Pascal, Vera, Portia and some more people I didn’t know before. We had a nice dinner at the hotel.
The next day, I was still in a hurry about my slides. Had them printed at the hotel (well organized!) Then I presented my talk at the Official Half Minute Presentation (ohmp), where presenters have a half minute each to entice people to come to their session.
I attended first Marc, Willem and Rob‘s presentation on interaction-based testing. I was a bit disappointed that there was little interaction in this session; I was hoping for some hands-on training, because I always end up with some new insight then. It was basically a demo of the ideas in the excellent Mock Roles, Not Objects paper. They concluded with a list of potential problems in interaction-based testing.
One interesting opinion came from a coach I don’t know the name of, who said that he likes to use mocks heavily as a design tool, then he usually throws away the tests and write new, state-based tests, because they are more readable and less brittle. I have no idea if it’s a sensible thing. I’m still not sold on the mock everything thing (I *love* my value objects.)
Next I attended Agile Metrics, by Dave Nicolette. This also was not hands-on, except that Dave kept the audience engaged by asking us questions. It was a nice recap of the agile thinking with regards to metrics. I always hear that you should measure the outcome of actions chosen in the retrospective; only I don’t do that in practice. I guess it’s one of those things you should just start doing; there’s no secret ingredient. One nice thing about Dave’s presentation was that the use of metrics was linked to principles from the Agile manifesto. For instance, the velocity and burndown metrics are of interest because “Working software is the primary measure of progress”.
Next the nice session by Portia and Pascal. It was mostly about thinking about the people around you, about their strengths and weaknesses (the magic mirror), and what our perception of these strengths and weaknesses tells us about what we fear and what we value (the mirror again). And to decide one simple action that will improve our relationship with these human beings. I got some food for thought, like how different personalities contribute to teamwork. They concluded by revealing the Two Secrets of Teamwork, which, being secrets, I will not divulge :-)
And we get to my session. I’m afraid the material I tried to present was too difficult. As usual when you’re beginning to teach some material, you tend to try to cover too much ground. This was an interactive session, but the exercises were a bit too tough for the audience (except for one). If there is a single thing that I think was a success, is the suggestion that there’s a vast space of learning that most developers, agile or not, are not aware of. I don’t think I succeeded in giving the participants a useful tool to bring home.
I still want to make progress in applying math to make programming more effective. Someday I will find out how.
Olivier organized a demonstration of Aikido with his master, a kindly looking man who is probably quite deadly with his hands. It was nice to relase the tension and do something with my body.
We had a fine dinner; I had a nice chat with my friend Philippe. Then I took the train to Amsterdam with my Sourcesense collegues Marijn and Amelia, and another participant. Amsterdam by night is beautiful: the clean air over the dark water in the channels; the Christmas lights decorating the arches of the bridges; the Dutch houses with large windows without curtains, so that you see nice paintings and bookshelves from the street. I’m sad I could not stay the whole two days. I’m puzzled why my session was not so useful. I’m happy I was breathing again the energetic atmosphere of the Benelux Agile community.