Mark Hollman and I are heading on an adventure in the city of sin. What is this adventure you may be asking yourself, well it is the 2010 Better Software Conference and Agile Development Practices Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada June 6 – 11th. The conference is hosted by Software Quality Engineering, a consultancy firm that “offers education, publications, and real-world expertise to help you advance your software practices”. Our mission is to absorb as much information while in Vegas and make sure it doesn’t stay there.
I am very excited for a two day workshop that is new to this conference in 2010. I will be attending the Business Analyst Workshop on Monday/Tuesday. This workshop focuses on knowledge and skills that make a business analyst successful. The sessions are going to be highly interactive and provide me with practical takeaways I can use as soon as I am home in Saskatoon. I also will be attending a session on “Testing with Real Users—User Interaction and Beyond” by Seth Eliot and other sessions related to business analyst work. I hope to absorb all the information I possibly can and turn it into further blog posts and presentations for my coworkers at Point2.
Mark is excited for all of the sessions he will be attending and hopes that he can bring back tools and techniques that will help Point2 improve our process’s and collaborations between teams and departments.
Hopefully at the end of a tiring, but fun filled week of learning, networking and riding New York New York Roller Coaster, Mark and I can get some sleep. If you’re going to be attending the conference, or think there is something we should see or do while in Vegas – leave a comment! 🙂
“There’s just no quiet in Vegas” ~ Barry Manilow
By: Devon McGeary
Another day eventful day has come to a close here in Vegas. For those that have missed out I’ll give you a summary of a day here at the Better Software Conference & Expo.
The morning begins at 7:30 with a light breakfast that one of the lovely hosts refers to as, “crumbs and juice.” Quite good and they had my favourite, blackberries! Then time enough to go to the wifi lounge to check email.
The day’s festivities begin with a keynote address by Tim Lister discussing Some Not-So-Crazy Ways to Do More with Less. A thoughtful dissertation about learning to make do has the tendency to create some innovative solutions to problems. Disruption can cause turmoil, but in the end we often tend to be better off – check out the Satir Change Model.
My first lecture of the day was a provocative discussion In Defense of Waterfall by Ken Katz. This was a very lively debate where Ken was actually a proponent of the Agile Manifesto but warned that there is no panacea. It is up to us to find what works best, and then improve upon it; heh, sounds very Lean to me:)
By this point in the day it is time for lunch and networking. Lunch is a fantastic Mexican-ish buffet. In the same space is a small exposition so an hour for lunch is nowhere near enough time to talk to our peers and all of the vendors. In fact, I lost track of time and missed my next presentation, oops, oh well I had a great chat with the folks from ThoughtWorks.
I then ran off to the Agile PMP: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks. I’ve done some courses based on the PMBOK but never carried through completion on attaining the PMP certification – I wasn’t sure that “best practises” would remain relevent in the software world. Michael Cottmeyer did a good job of showing how an AgilePMP is relevent.
The highlight of my day was learning Andy Kaufman’s Dirty Little Secret of Business. You want the secret, too? Relationships, nothing scandalous (what happens in Vegas, does not stay in Vegas), just that building relationships is extremely important – even for those of us who would prefer to spend quality time with our favourite Mac.
17:30, the day is done and I am drained… but wait, there’s more. There’s a reception, I am tired but the talk of free snacks and beer lures me in. And it gives me a chance to talk to Andy Kaufman a bit (BTW, I did not talk to Latka, I didn’t drink that much). Thanks for the pep talk, Andy. All right, now I’m ready to network.
As for Dave; I haven’t seen him since he entered into the high stakes poker tournement. I guess he’s networking, too.
By: Kevin Bitinsky
So, here I am in my hotel room, at the end of the second exhausting day of the Better Software Conference and Expo, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where to begin? The plane trip was good, the cab ride was terrifying, the Strip is unlike any place I’ve ever been. If you want more details about Vegas, send me a note, I’ll give you my full opinion. But let’s talk about software.
My first Tutorial was Ken Collier’s talk on Agile Modeling. Really useful stuff. I didn’t know exactly what I was jumping into here, so it was good to see that there was dialogue on a level I could participate in fully. Ken spoke well about the core principles of Agile Modeling, including the need to ‘travel light’ – no model will meet every need, so make the model that meets the particular needs of that stage in development. He went on to discuss domain modeling, architectural modeling, and usability modeling. He also gave a really useful run-through of use cases, use case personas, scenarios and user stories.
After that was Jeff Patton’s talk on User Story Mapping – building a better backlog. Jeff’s talk was good also – covering some of the same material as Ken did around user stories. One of the refreshing things about a conference like this is that you get to hear how different groups are using the same Agile methodologies. Or put another way, over dinner last night (a quiet little spot near the hotel that had slot machines right in the restaurant, imagine!) I remarked to Kevin that I’d heard two different definitions of a user story in the course of a single day.
One of Jeff’s excellent points was writing out a use case scenario and then making stories based on every verb in your scenario. This is a point that I as a Business Analyst sometimes miss – that we’re not trying to enable our users to be something, we’re enabling them to do things. This is one of those little shifts in approach that I know will make my work a lot easier when I get back home.
Today started with Julie Gardiner’s talk on risk-based testing. Immediately she explored how risk management involves three steps – identification, analysis and mitigation. She then walked us through four different approaches to risk management – the TMap approach, heuristic management, the STEP approach and an approach pioneered by Paul Gerrard. The latter was particularily enlightening, as it includes a means of factoring in existing testing capability as a means of prioritization. Definitely lots to take away.
As it was yesterday, lunch at the Venetian Hotel was a subdued and somewhat spartan affair. This place puts itself up as ‘The Italian Vegas Experience’ and yet, there was only one course of appetizers. Amateurs. You know what they say though – the problem with Italian food is that four or five days later, you’re hungry again. I couldn’t help but feel sorry, however, that I had to miss the Point2 Tuesday lunch meeting. Nobody back in Saskatoon ever gets after me for using the wrong fork. I guess I’m just homesick.
The high point of today, however, was Dan North’s presentation on Behaviour Driven Development. Really enlightening. A couple of points to consider – One is the simple point that we use all of these construction metaphors – builds, architecture et cetera – for an industry that’s inherently different and much, much younger. He summed it up with ‘The thing about software is, it’s soft. ‘ With that, he went on a fantastic rant (Now I know where Aidan gets it!) about moving towards a stakeholder-centric process that ensures just enough work to get just the right results.
…and yet another definition of what makes up a user story. As a conference participant I need a consistent definition of a user story so that I’ll know what the heck to put in my Jiras when I get home!
Well, I’m off. The sun has set on the Strip as I write this. If you’re in Vegas, look us up – we’re at the Imperial Palace. Kevin’s the one with the cane and the feather boa at the craps table. I’m the one writing the blog posts.
By: Dave Kellow
Kevin Bitinsky and I have a somewhat challenging and unconventional task to accomplish starting this June. When we return from the 2009 Better Software Conference & Expo, it will fall to us to make sure that what happened in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. The conference is hosted by Software Quality Engineering, a consultancy firm dedicated to helping companies ‘improve their software practices all along the development lifecycle’.
So why is Point2 going? Well, going through the conference schedule, it looks like a lot of the talks will deal with how to properly pick up Agile development practices – something we’re already doing. The conference will provide an excellent opportunity to find out what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and what we can improve on.
I’m particularly interested in the QA and Testing streams. Dawn Haynes will be giving a talk on ‘What your QA Program is Missing’. I’m hoping that her insights will help bring focus to how we’re readying our work for release.
Not all of the conference will be technical. A great deal of the material looks to cover team leadership and management in an Agile environment. To this end, Kevin hopes to attend Michele Sliger’s tutorial session, ‘Expanding Your Discussion Toolkit for Better Communication’.
My goal will be to bring back as much information about the conference as possible, so we can decide if future attendance will continue to help what we’re trying to accomplish here at Point2. If you’re at the conference and you see me without my laptop, ask me just what I think I’m doing – it’s my hope to come back with several rough-copy presentations in the works, based on what I learn there.
I haven’t been to this sort of a conference before – and I know many of my colleagues here at Point2 are in the same boat. So one of the talks I’ll be working to put together is ‘How to Attend a Technology Conference’. From garden-variety travel tips to what to expect at the start and end of every session, it’ll all be there.
And finally, I’m hoping to see some of the stark, desolate beauty of the Nevada desert in early summer… ah, who am I kidding? I’m going to hit the Star Trek Museum and get my picture taken with as many Elvises as I can find. It is in Vegas, after all! If you’re going to be at the conference, or if there’s something you think I ought to see or do while in Vegas – leave a comment!
In Vegas, I got into a long argument with the man at the roulette wheel over what I considered to be an odd number. ~Steven Wright
By: Dave Kellow