Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Software Craftsmanship North America Conference Coverage

Last updated at 5:42PM

I am at the Software Craftsmanship North America conference in Chicago, USA.

I will be doing live coverage of the conference in this blog post, so do not be jarred if the content gets updated often.

Here is a twitter stream about it too:

Ken Auer kicked off the conference with a spectacular story about his upbringing both in and out of the software industry. He then proceeded to transition it to software craftsmanship and how he concluded that it is his favorite model for excelling in improving software development skills.

The first talk I attended was "There and Back Again" by Dave Astels, who recently left Google to join EngineYard, a very promising Rails hosting enterprise. His talk kicked off with a Software Craftsmanship version of the Star Wars rolling movie intro. The main emphasis of the talk is for developers to stick with technical work no matter how many ranks they ascend. Those who turn into complete managers cross to the dark side. In fact, that was partially why Dave left Google himself. He did not want to lose touch with the industry so he seeked more technical software work.

Next, I attended "Demonstrating Responsibility: The Mindset of Craftsmanship" by Christopher Avery. This was a talk on how taking responsibility is a key factor in succeeding with software development projects. Whether the process is agile or whatever new buzzword is out there. If team members are not taking responsibility, the chance of excelling and delivering is much lower.

Christopher mentioned the different emotional states people pass through when confronted with problems (sometimes skipping some) as a coping mechanism:

Denial > Lay Blame > Justify > Shame > Obligation

These states get in the way of being responsible, which gets in the way of solving problems and learning. In order to get through the states quickly towards responsibility, Christopher recommended adopting these attitudes:
Intention - The Winning Key: intending to recognize current emotional state and get beyond it
Awareness - The Change Key: being aware of current emotional state
Confront - The Truth Key: confronting current emotional state

Afterwards, I went to Jim Weirich's talk "Grand Unified Theory of Software Design". After quizzing the audience on common software design best practices such as DRY, SOLID, Law of Demeter, etc..., he proceeds to compare these practices to the early upbringing of physics and how there were many different theories in it before they were recently unified (partially) under M-Theory and Super-String Theory. He was wondering if he could do the same with software design principles, and his conclusion was that all principles seem to step from wanting to minimize connascence.

Connascence is a variation on the idea of software coupling, which is defined as follows:

"Two pieces of software share connascence when a change in one requires a corresponding change in the other."

Here are the different types of connascence he went through (C stands for Connascence):
CoName, CoPosition, CoMeaning, ContraC, CoAlgorithm, CoTiming, CoExecution, CoIdentity, CoValue, CoType.

Ward Cunningham talked next about how he designed computers with a completely different paradigm following the way bacteria communicates. In fact, the title of the talk was "What If Bacteria Designed Computers"

Next, I helped moderate a talk/panel given by Kevin Tayler, Micah Martin, and Carl Erickson titled "The Business of Craftsmanship." The audience asked quite a few interesting questions, such as, "How do you sell clients on apprentices working on their projects?", "How often does apprenticeship not work out?", "What happens if apprentices leave after investing in them?"

The last talk I saw before the final keynote was "Selling Craftsmanship in the Enterprise" by Cory Foy. One of the key points he made in it was: "The core of this movement [craftsmanship] is developers taking responsibility for their own careers."

Last but not least, I attended Bob Martin's incredibly dynamic keynote: "Craftsmanship Under Pressure".

Here are some traits he listed on what it means to be a professional:
- Can stay cool under pressure
- Under-commit but over-deliver
- Can have difficult conversations with the customer, like delaying the deadline.
- Know their field
- Live to learn. Love to Learn.

Great conference overall. It has been filmed, and you can find the sessions once announced on the @scna twitter feed.

That's all folks. Maybe we'll meet next year at this conference.

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