goto; Aarhus 2011 – Day 3

The final day of the conference kicked off with a great keynote, and my favourite presentation of the conference in the afternoon – Linda Risingsadly I had to leave early to catch my flight home so missed seeing my ex-ThoughtWorks colleague Alistair Jones speaking.

Keynote: Applying Design Thinking and Complexity theory in Agile Organisations

Jean Tabaka began her keynote with a story of trying to produce an agile cookbook to help a company implement Agile. She used complexity theory to explain why this approach is doomed to failure: most organisational environments are complex, the same actions do not always produce the same results, so we must look for emergent practices instead. She emphasised looking for resilience over robustness, and effectiveness over efficiency, and suggested that we can use design thinking techniques to help.

Architect track: Seven secrets every architect should know

Frank Buschmann talked about the importance of architects staying involved with the development teams they represent, and emphasised that architecture needs to be designed for understanding and maintenance, as well as to support the key system functions. He suggested that an architect’s job includes implementing a walk skeleton of the architecture, end-to-end, to prove it works well, and that they should continue to work closely with developers, pairing and writing code, while still maintaining a view across the system. I particularly liked his description of an architect as “the eye of Sauron”!

Java: Titanic, COBOL and the 100 year platform

Ola Bini kicked off with a check for any attendees from Oracle, luckily there were no takers. For the first part of his talk, he discussed the key attributes that a platform needs to support to take it into the future now, including lightweight threads (fibres). For the second, non-technical section, Ola described some of the processes by which Java and the JVM are updated, and how implementations like Apache Harmony are unable to be licensed for certain uses – the basis of Oracle’s lawsuit against Google. He lamented the lack of openness around much of the work Oracle have done and are doing with Java and the JVM, and speculated as to whether this may hurt the platform. With Java 7 out, Java 8 delayed until 2013 and discussion already going on around Java 9, he discussed some of the upcoming changes such as the introduction of the lambda.

Tools and Performance track: Personal Kanban

Troels Richter declared at the start of his talk that his goal is for us to want to try his Personal Kanban technique, and it only took less than half the talk for me to want to give it a go! He used his own web based Kanban board to demonstrate how he first visualised his own workflow (backlog, this week, today, pomodoro, waiting for feedback, evaluation, done) and then applied work in progress limits – which, interestingly, he’s breaking. The evaluation stage is interesting: here he asks what value the activity had and whether it helps to meet core goals or values. The Kanban board the Troels used was online at

Tools and Performance track: Coffee, Tea or Agile?

We now sleep less and use caffeine to wake us up in the belief that this is the way to be more productive. Linda Rising suggested that these habits date back to the industrial age and factory workers, but ultimately the effects of caffeine can be more harmful than good. My personal favourite slide of the conference was Spiders on Drugs, when she asked: would you want the spider on caffeine writing your software? Looking at the mess it had made of it’s web is almost enough to put me off tea! Our bodies have a natural rhythm, maybe we should start listening to it, taking regular breaks – even naps – to maintain productivity and focus.

Tools and Performance track: Lightning talks

First up: Ola Bini charged through 28 slides and two demos in eight minutes, all in an attempt to convince us of the general awesomeness of Emacs.

Tudor Girba talked about the search for innovation, and how we can examine our own wrong assumptions by presenting to others, demonstrating our ideas, and looking for challenges to them.

Fred George presented on how we can remove things that kill productivity from our culture – in particular, fear of failure, and extra roles that create the need for more meetings to transfer knowledge.

Martin Thompson said that in software, we sculpt models. It’s art, which is better when it’s minimal and not overdone. If we get too hung up on what we have, we don’t learn – we need to refine and change the models in our software, while keeping their identities the same.

Kevlin Henney described the link between productivity, personal effectiveness and happiness. By taking up street photography, he sharpened his senses, increased patience and creativity, which brings benefits to work as well as his personal life.

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