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Posted by wwake on December 5, 2004 at 1:38 PM PST

I'm always struck by how everybody goes to a different conference. This was mine...

10-24-04 - Sunday, and 10-25-04 - Monday

"Usage-Centered Design in Agile Development", by Jeff Patton. This tutorial used a series of exercises to simulate how UCD works.

"Dungeons and Patterns", "Test-Driven Development Workout" - Steve Metsker and I offered our tutorials on patterns and TDD. We also did a session on Framegames for the Educator's Symposium.

10-26-04 - Tuesday

"The Future of Programming", by Richard Rashid. He described several interesting bits of research. One system created a "black box for humans", capturing video every few seconds. SPOT is Small Personal Object Technology, e.g., very smart watches. There will be a kit available 1Q05. He also described research in development tools, for better testing and better modeling.

"Mock Roles, not Objects" by Steve Freeman and Tim MacKinnon. This left me once again aware of how different the mock object approach is from how I do TDD. The design seems more conscious. I don't know how much that's good or bad. It does make dependency injection more natural.

"Systems of Names and other tools of the not-quite-tangible", by Ward Cunningham. He reviewed the idea of mining experiences for patterns. He used System of Names as an example of this, with a very simple Problem => Solution form. He also likes the idea of leaving room for new things: the wiki has a prompting statement for new pages. Finally, Ward reminded us of the importance of being receptive to discovery and integration of new ideas.

"Methodology Work is Ontology Work", by Brian Marick. Ontology refers to the kind of things that exist (philosophically). Brian highlighted Lakatos' philosophy, and suggested that the result is that it's rational to produce a program that seems exciting and spins off results (regardless of its "truth"). (To be fair, Brian pointed out that Lakatos would hate this attitude.)


  • Have a hard core 3-6 postulates.
  • Work out the consequences, and merrily ignore counterexamples.
  • Prefer novel confirmations.
  • Keep throwing off new results.

Brian described a second "trick": use perception to provoke action and reinforce ontology. For example, have Big Visible Charts that show a team where it is; have monitors that go red when tests break.

"Agile Customer Panel" (various).

  • "Customer is not an administrative role" (?)
  • "Customer interaction patterns are simple but difficult" (Linda Rising)
  • "How do we know what has value?" Put it in ridiculous order, and let the customer rearrange it. Tie groups of features to business value, favoring early deployment as proof.
  • Customer prioritization is hard but has the best opportunity for creating high value.

"First courses in Computing Should be Child's Play", Alan Kay.
Changing the bulk of people requires a contagion model. Flow as a balance of challenge and ability.

10-27-04 - Wednesday

"Code Complete", Steve McConnell. There are plenty of bad ideas, but there have been advances: higher-level design, daily build and smoke test, standard libraries, Visual Basic, Open Source Software, the web for research, incremental development, test-first development, refactoring as a discipline, faster computers. But - software's essential tensions remain: rigid plans vs. improvisation, discipline vs. flexibility, etc.

"JMock Demo".

"Wiki BOF". Seeding can be important: seeded pages with incomplete ideas, invited guests, no passwords, compelling questions, etc.

10-28-04 - Thursday

"Amazon Web Services", by Allan Vermeulen. There will be computer-to-computer "grid computing" superseding the person-to-computer web computing era. He demonstrated a variety of tools that you can use with Amazon to make this work.

"Outsourcing - How will your job change?" (panel). It's clear there's fear of outsourcing, but it can work. Approaches built around the idea that "they" aren't just as smart as "we" are are misguided and doomed.

"Exocumputing", Jaron Lanier. He tried to suggest different approaches to computing. Computers as built today are very brittle. Perhaps we can try new ways inspired by biology.

Overall, I enjoyed the conference. But it was a lot heavier on philosophy than technique. The thing I'm most inspired to do is investigate what's happening in the Amazon "grid service" space.

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