XP Day Paris

I attended XP Day Paris earlier this month. A very good conference, sorely needed considering the lack of debate on such topics in France (there has been one XP Day Paris in 2006, but I hadn’t heard about it then). Atmosphere was especially friendly and laid-back, which is not that common in French conferences. However, I feel it could still do better in terms of mixing participants. Groups of people of various companies (especially Valtech, Octo, Hortis) were very visible and tended to stay between themselves (I was guilty of that too). Not sure what could have been done, though.

I was a bit disappointed by a number of presentations. Many of them seemed to be aimed at newbies, even though it was clear that any participants would have at least a passing knowledge of Agile methods.
Interestingly, some presentations did a very good job of selling themselves (well-known speaker, tempting descriptions…) but were not that good.

Some of which I really enjoyed include:

  • “Barriers preventing adoption of Agility” (Les freins à l’adoption d’XP): we did an exercise in small groups, trying to find ways to introduce Agile in our own projects. In my group, my current project was chosen. I’m happy to report that some good solutions were found:
    • draw a parallel between the current practices and the recommended ones (many current practices are in fact quite close to XP, but the project manager does not want to recognize that fact); not too difficult, but will not be enough.
    • slyly introduce XP little by little; I later tried doing that, but it is exhausting being the only person wanting it.
    • get an external consultant to evangelize; that sounds quite easy as I could simply get someone from Valtech. That said, my colleagues at VT feel that it would be a waste.
  • Explaining Agile to CIOs (Convaincre un manager, préserver un changement agile); I didn’t originally plan to attend this one, as it was part of a long series of small sessions. Eventually, I thought I’d try some of them. Many turned out to be rather boring or not Agile at all (someone pretended to be using XP while, in fact, all they were doing was writing unit tests and then expect offshore developers in Moldavia to write the implementation! They even wrote a quick version of the implementation to check their unit tests!!). Anyway, Pierre Pezziardi, the guy talking about Explaining Agile to CIOs had an interesting point of view. He had a simple formalism to describe the software estate in a company, based on circles with varying degrees of color, size and outer ring thickness, depending on the complexity, importance and ‘obsolete-ness’ of them. He also explained that in the 2 software realms in a company, the more Agile world of projects, and the more solid world of applications in production, the first was in fact trying to feed the second. He used the word ‘sedimentation’, which I felt describes this process quite well. Another important thing he mentioned is that we should not try to change minds. Instead, we should concentrate on saving time and money using Agile techniques.

Some sessions that showed me new things

  • Pair Programming (Un clavier pour deux) by Jacques Couvreur and Nicolas Charpentier: nothing really new, but the argument was convincing. The map of the war room was especially striking. Too bad I cannot find it anymore.
  • Refactoring (Refactoring: la voie vers l’abstraction): I did not know the presenter, Regis Medina, before, but he appeared terribly friendly and competent. He explained that refactoring to be considered in a wider picture. Using Refactoring, he has been able to keep enhancing a small code into a whole suite of applications. He nicely made his case by demonstration the creation of a small framework from basic code.
  • “Tell me Mr Client” (“Dites-moi, Mr le Client”) by François Beauregard; too bad it last for 1 hour and a half, that was a bit too long. But it did contain a few very concrete tricks on conducting client meetings

Oh, and I should mention that I won a book! There were about 20 to be won, and about 100 of us attending, so I had a good chance ;-)
The book is on Ruby. Maybe that’s the sign I was waiting for before really learning it? Well, anyway, that will have to wait for a few months until I get a grip on my everyday work, if at all possible.

Update (20/06/2007): some presentations are now available online. Added links in the comments above.

About Eric Lefevre-Ardant

Independent technical consultant.
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