Verslag Open Space 2011

09-07-2011

This report is written by Linda van der Pal and is cross-posted from the JDuchess blog. Thanks Linda!

Writing this impression I start off with a dilemma right away. Should I write this in English? Or should I write it in Dutch. After all, the entire Open Space was in Dutch (with maybe one or two exceptions). But as I'm mainly writing this to put it on the Duchess blog, I'll write it in English anyway. I'm guessing those of you on the Devnology blog can read it in English just fine. And if not, pop me an e-mail and I'll write a translation for you.

I arrived at the Open Space to find out that I didn't know all that many people. So I just hung around flitting from group to group listening to several conversations. A few minutes past ten we all gathered in the Olsen room. Our first act of the day was to make our own name tags with a card and some markers. In addition to our name we had to write down one thing we liked, and one thing we hated. And to add a little complication to the game, we only had three minutes to do so. Everybody scrambled for the markers and the question "what do I like" and "what do I hate" could be heard muttered everywhere. After everyone was done, you had to introduce yourself in twenty seconds to someone else and explain the words on your tag as well. For some people this was really easy, and other people never got further than their name and either whatever it was they hated or what it was they liked, not having time to explain both. But since you had to repeat this trick five times, everyone got the hang of it more or less. It was really great to see how some people chose IT-related words and how others strayed broadly into other parts of their lives. Sneaking looks at other people's cards for the rest of the day and even discussing what was found there was a great game for the rest of the day.

But finally it was time to get started on the schedule. As usual there were post-its and markers and everybody got a chance to write their question or proposed topic down. New to me was the dot-voting to decide which topics got a slot on the agenda. Everybody got two little round stickers they could put on whichever topic they liked. The question on whether you could vote for your own session was left unanswered. In the end we had eight sessions before the lunch break on diverse subjects, ranging from tools and techniques to career options. I decided to visit the discussion about the relation between quality and success first and the question about how to develop yourself and your colleagues later on.

The discussion about the relation between quality and success got about five people who were interested and Daniel Rijkhof led us to see how every stakeholder has his own definitions of quality. They might overlap at some points, but they might also differ wildly from one another. Most of the qualities of a system can be expressed in one -ity or another. For the end users usability is an example of such, for developers maintainability is much more important, while for operations deployability is key. Of course these are but a few examples, and many more were mentioned in the discussion. Then came success. Turns out that everyone has their own definition of success as well. And to make a project overall successfull you'll have to keep an eye on the kind of quality all the different stakeholders expect, to make it a success in their eyes. As a developer you can turn a complete disaster into a personal success if you can make it worthwile for you personally. (In case you can't change circumstances enough to make it a success for more people.)

After a short break I joined the question about how to develop yourself and your colleagues. Daan van Berkel was wondering how developers like ourselves who are actively working on improving ourselves by going to conventions and the like could convince our less active colleagues how helpful it is to improve their skills. I suggested reading the book Fearless Change by Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns, as this contains a lot of patterns you can find in the people and the organisation around you that you can use to help bring about desired changes. Of course the discussion also included the question if you really should put effort into a hypothetical group that really didn't want any such changes. Leading to the conclusion that it would probably be better to leave such a group than to waste a lot of effort and frustration on them.

Next on the schedule was the lunch break. A lot of things were discussed over the sandwiches and some of them led to new ideas for session proposals. So after about an hour or so, we gathered in Olsen again and proposed our new sessions. Again the proposals ranged wildly, including even one proposal for "something without Java", which nearly got teamed up with a session about Java7.

For my first afternoon session I went to the session that was a team-up of three proposals, one of them my own. The first proposal was "Tools, tips and tricks", the second "Book club" and the third was my "Inventory of events/conferences". We started off with a round where everyone got to mention one book that they had really liked. Mainly books about software development, but also some more general life-changing books. I'll put up the list of books in a separate post. As there were quite a few people, it took us about half an hour to finish this one round. Next up were the events and conferences. Where the pros and cons of the mentioned events were discussed. This list will go up in a post of it's own as well. Sadly after this inventory we didn't have time to discuss tools, tips and tricks anymore. So we had to leave that discussion for a next event.

For the second afternoon session I had picked Galina's session on making your own apps and what the reasons might be if you didn't. Sadly this topic never got to be. As the sesssions started I waited around the room where it was supposed to be for quite a while, but only one other person showed up. So we decided to go over to another session. I joined the session on "Agile, Scrum, Kanban - how important is the process really?" Michel told us he had become a bit jaded about it all and a discussion followed. To me the conclusion of this discussion was mostly that you have to be pragmatic about following the rules. You should mostly do what works for your specific team, and discard what doesn't work. Somebody compared Scrum to a stepladder to get your team to a higher level, and once you had reached that level, you wouldn't need the stepladder anymore. All too soon the session was over again.

After another short break for a cup of coffee or a soda, we came to the final activity of the day, the pub quiz. Everybody joined up in teams of four persons and a lot of software development history questions were fired at us. Ranging from "who was the first programmer?" to "which languages are shown in these code samples?". The use of smart phones was strictly disallowed, making some of the questions near impossible to answer. My own team didn't do all too well. Especially considering that the number one team go almost twice as many points as we did.

With the pub quiz over, most people drifted off towards home. But some of us really didn't want to end the day yet, so we took our cars and headed over to the center of Baarn to conclude the day with dinner. All in all, I had a great day, and I can heartily recommend this event for next year!

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Linda has also published notes on the session about recommended books and events 

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