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XPUniverse 2011

This past week I’ve been attending the Agile 2010 conference here in Orlando, FL. For those who don’t know, the Agile 20xx series of conferences came because of the combination of two separate conferences in 2005 – XPUniverse and Agile Development Conference. Since that time, the conference has grown quite a bit – this year we had 1400 attendees, over 1000 submissions, and around 200 sessions. But…something felt like it was missing:

#agile2010 Programmers started the agile movement to get closer to customers not project mangers. – @unclebobmartin

< 10% of the talks at #agile2010 are about programming. Is programming really < 10% of Agile? – @unclebobmartin

@unclebobmartin …the conference was stolen a very long time ago. you were busy keynoting, i guess. #agile2010@GeePawHill

But it wasn’t just the conference attendees. I was the stage producer for the Team-Room Agile stage, and my co-producer Corey Haines and I talked a bit about the amount of technical / development content in the program. Mike on the blog A Software Craft said it very well with this blog post:

What do I see dominating the Agile2010 program? Lots of good sessions on learning, communicating, coaching, creativity, adoption strategies. Sessions that I would probably come out of saying "interesting" and "thought-provoking". But ultimately, sessions that were easy to digest. Not sessions where I encountered concepts that are fundamentally difficult and require hard work to master. Not sessions where I struggled to write good tests and emerged with a determination to rework and discuss the examples over the coming weeks until I finally felt I understood it.

Perhaps I’m a minority. @HackerChick tweeted about a tutorial on TDD where only a quarter of the attendees showed up with laptops, prepared to get their hands dirty. Perhaps Agile2010 isn’t the conference for me. A conference where the technical track is only 1/15 of the program. And the technical track includes sessions on "The Butterfly Effect" and how to "Walk and Code". But I worry about another crop of agile converts, filled with all the soft skills and strategies they need to succeed, headed for failure because they don’t know about the hard work and dedication needed to build that essential ingredient: the agile developer.

That second paragraph says it all. The Monday tutorial he’s mentioning was Brad Wilson’s  session called Evolutionary development for the web with ASP.NET MVC and TDD. Even though it was said it was hands on, and that it would be using Visual Studio, only around 25% of the attendees brought a laptop. And in Uncle Bob Martin’s Clojure session, I was surprised at how few people had their laptops.

imageSo when Corey said to me, “Two Words: XPUniverse 2011”, I thought it was funny. And then I realized it was right. We have a niche inbetween the Agile 20xx series of conferences at the Software Craftsmanship conferences such as SCNA. A conference focused back on the delivery of software – the XP Practices and Principles. What are they? Here’s the practices from Ron Jeffries’ site. Whole Team. Customer Tests. Planning Game. Small Releases. Collective Ownership. Coding Standards. Continuous Integration. Metaphor. Sustainable Pace. Refactoring. Simple Design. Pair Programming. Refactoring. Test-Driven Development. The hands-on practices that enable us to deliver software which provides incremental value in an iterative fashion. And a hands-on conference where you are expected to have your laptop, where you will be taking back practical exercises and practices to your development team. A conference focused on the developers, testers and the customers they love and who love them. A conference focusing on the fundamental principles of XP: Rapid Feedback, Assume Simplicity, Incremental Change, Embracing Change, Quality Work. And a conference small enough (~300 people) to be able to connect, explore and learn.

Over the next few weeks we’ll have much more information. We know it’s going to be in the US, likely in Chicago given its central nature and good base of people (though we’ve considered Portland as well). We know it’s going to be in 2011, and we know that it will be Corey Haines and myself organizing. Outside of that, we’re going to be working to bring you even more information.

For now, please be sure to follow @XPUniverse2011 for the latest information. We’ll be adding a website and more information as it becomes available. And if you need any specific information or have questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at foyc at cory foy dot com. Otherwise, we hope to see you soon!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mark Simpson August 14, 2010, 1:05 pm

    I look forward to getting more info about this XPUniverse conference idea. I was not able to attend Agile2010 this year but was following along as best i could via twitter and was surprised by the comments about fewer technical/coding sessions, and lack of preparation for ‘hands-on’ in some sessions.

    Another reason i am interested is that if it is a smaller conference it might be more affordable for someone like me who will not be expensed by my current company nor are in the position to present a session and thus get in for free/discounted.

  • Markus Gärtner August 14, 2010, 3:05 pm

    I think the quoted blog is the one from Mike Stockdale, @jediwhale on twitter and contributor to FitNesse.

    What worries me about it, is the split I notice in the Agile community lately. Software Craftsmanship raised the bar of professional software development by re-visiting the nearly ten year-old statements from the Agile manifesto. Meanwhile there is momentum towards tree-hugging as expressed recently at the XP2010 conference in Trondheim.

    It’s important to have soft-skills and to have warm and cozy feelings (slight reference to Lee Copeland here) about the work we do, but it’s more important to know what we’re doing. XPUniverse2011 is definitely a step forward in the right direction to me, though I hope that the selection process will be similar to the one Jason Gorman uses for the SC2010 conference in Bletchley Park, London.

    You got my full support.

  • Adam Sroka August 14, 2010, 5:59 pm

    Hi Cory:

    I’m not sure it reflects the state of the community so much as the state of the conference.

    I think a lot of programmers (myself included) have started staying away from the big conferences because it is a large investment with little payoff for us.

    Nonetheless, I think XPUniverse 2011 is the best idea I’ve heard all year. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.


  • pmorrisonfl August 15, 2010, 7:55 am

    > Evolutionary development for the web with ASP.NET MVC and TDD

    Here’s a thing: I would have gleefully attended Brad’s session, laptop in tow, had it been ‘Evolutionary development for the web with ASP.NET and TDD’. The MVC focus turned it from practical and relevant at my company and for my team into something no less futuristic (and impractical for direct use) than a session on Clojure. I realize you can’t focus on the past forever, but there are a lot of us out here in less than ideal working environments, and ignoring that is a sure fire way to limit attendance to the most elite developers. I suspect your goals are larger than that. How about puling the rest of us up?

  • pmorrisonfl August 15, 2010, 9:00 am

    On reflection, I was a bit off and harsh in the last comment. To clarify by example; there were ~50 people in the ‘Legacy Code’ session, most of whom had laptops. The room was pretty full, the discussions were lively, hands were placed upon keyboards. I think the broad nature of the topic and its relevance to many made for a productive programmer session. I think more of this is what we all want.

  • Steve Ropa August 20, 2010, 4:51 pm

    Wow, the circle is complete. I still remember the first xpuniverse in North Carolina. But is Agile 20xx really beyond saving?

  • GeePawHill August 25, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Cory… I am tickled with the idea. Please add me to the list of interested parties. Two new points: 1) I apologized to Bob later, cuz after all, he’s pretty strong on code. 2) I’m starting to formulate over on the blog (anarchycreek.com) my own new way of describing what we’ve learned from XP, and moving on. Keep me posted! — Hill