Agile Mumbai 2010 – A Review

It is difficult to review a conference objectively, if you are also a volunteer organizer. Also, most of the people who were other volunteers are people I meet daily too. I will try.

First of all, I must say that this was definitely the best Agile conference I have been to. It is right at the top in my list of best conferences as well. There was a strange fluidity to the way the program went – there was hardly a moment when nothing was happening – one talk followed by another followed by activity followed by discussion followed by more talks and so it continued for the 2 days. It was also one of those conferences where the things just kept getting better. The best part of the conference was the intimate and close [and refreshingly candid] Q&A session with the 4 Gordon Pask Award winners. The food was nice and the breaks were lively with people coming together in huddles and discussing their experiences. I am sure every attendee went back with new acquaintances. We had a hard time bringing everyone back for the talks and once a speaker had to actually go to the tea break venue to let people know that his talk was starting. “Discussions” – that was the key take away from this conference. Unlike previous conferences, where most of the audience fell mostly into two slots:  skeptical or zombie; here everyone was brimming with ideas, thoughts and opinions. Probably, years of implementing Agile have now given the community a voice and the voice a community.

My thoughts on the talks I attended:

  • Outside the Code: Using Agile Ideas to Drive Product Success by Jeff Patton: This was a good start to the conference. Jeff Patton started the conference by focusing on “Product Success” and doing things which can help discover, identity and lead to success. Some of these things are not even related to coding. I thought this really set the pattern.
  • Monkey See, Monkey Do by Naresh Jain & Sandeep Shetty: I thought this was the best talk of the conference. It came from the heart and I liked it how Naresh was being provocative and Sandeep tried to then temper it down a bit 🙂 I liked the provocative part of it – at presentation was WTF [way to fail I mean :D] but after about the first 30 minutes, everything started ringing a bell and then it was belling all over.
  • Adding Sanity to Your Agility: Doing What Works Over Doing What You are Told by David Hussman: David touched on several examples of how doing something that experts tell you, can be doomed. As he told story after story, you could see nodding heads in the audience – almost confirming what they have been waiting for someone to confirm. David also has a nice way to simplify what could be radical thoughts – to an extent, that you treat those as obvious and not radical.
  • Analysis Anti-Patterns by Tarang Baxi from Thoughtworks: Excellent. Each of the patterns came from experience and not from text book. They even challenged the audience to come up with names for some anti patterns [and there were gifts too]. I thought this was nice and the second best talk of the conference for me 🙂
  • Transcending Cultures, Timezones and Countries by Mahesh from Thoughtworks: Mahesh was patient and methodical. I thought he could have moved a bit faster, but it was a nice compilation nonetheless.
  • Using ToC and JIT to coach Agile Teams by Naresh Jain and J.B. Rainsberger: Sometimes college professorial, sometimes challenging and sometimes corporate workshop-like, this was one talk that had it all. I was a touch disappointed because it deserved more time. Maybe, next time they can do this over 2 consecutive sessions. However, what we saw was nice – practical to the core.
  • Stop It Or I will Bury You Alive In A Box by J.B. Rainsberger: This was another of the “shake you to the core” talk. I liked aspects of it, did not agree with others – but it was definitely the most energetic and lively talk of the conference.
  • Evolutionary Architecture and Design by Pradyumn Sharma: A simplistic and effective presentation for beginners. I thought there could be more depth, which I am sure would be added by the presenter for his next talk, based on Q&A round at the end of the talk.

I loved Programming with the Stars. It was fantastic. I thought all the teams were very brave and judges were honest and cool at the same time. Bengaluru promises to be even more fun 🙂 Unfortunately, I did not attend any of the product demos. I don’t think they are recorded either. The sponsors : Xebia, Thoughtworks and BNP Paribas, participated enthusiastically in the conference and it was good to see actual people from sponsors rather than just their boards. As already mentioned, the panel at the end was superb. Topics like “Do employees really care about Agile”, “What do you think about Director of Agile Software Development titles”, “Are story points scalable” and “Is TDD for everything” started great discussions.

P.S. One of the highlights of the conference was the talk by Captain Planet. It was short, compelling and insightful. I am switching off one monitor already, abstaining from plastic and trying to do my bit by walking as much as I can. Do your bit too!!!

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