Saturday morning at PillarCon
Saturday morning at PillarCon

My employer — with offices in Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Des Moines and some consultants who don’t get to visit the offices very often — held its first ever internal conference, PillarCon. I chaired the “Delivery & Feedback” track, as part of which I held a breakout session on Cross-Platform Full-Stack Deployment (slides). I also gave a lightning talk on Web Architecture for Unix Lovers (slides).

Posted April 16, 2016 at 01:19:16 PM EDT Tags:
Blur-o-Vision: Whole audience up and talking
Blur-o-Vision: Whole audience up and talking

At the fourth AgileIndy conference, I led off the proceedings with Agile in 3 Minutes. To prepare ourselves to participate in the day’s learning, we (quickly) introduced ourselves to two people, then (briefly) discussed what the first two episodes made us think about and (briskly) shared a few highlights with the whole audience. My hope in making Agile in 3 Minutes is to help you have more valuable conversations. In case today’s rapid-fire format helps you do that, here are the slides.

In a breakout session, I also told some stories (slides) of “Shoestring Agility in a Velcro Organization”. You can find them in written form on this site as the TDD in Context series.

Posted April 13, 2016 at 05:56:38 PM EDT Tags:

At the inaugural Agile Alliance Technical Conference, I got to meet and hang out with lots of people I’ve looked up to for a long time. It’s a thrill to have these face-to-face conversations, and I don’t think becoming less new to consulting and conference-going will ever make that less true.


Of the conference sessions, my favorite was James Shore test-driving CSS in front of an audience. For one thing, someday I’d like to have a larger fraction of his immense skill at doing and explaining. (He’s made several hundred screencasts about test-driving JavaScript.) For another, I was reminded that we as technologists already have immense agency. Things are the way they are because people made them that way; if we want things to be different, we can make them be different.

Everyone who’s worked with Cascading Style Sheets knows it can be a pain in the ass. James decided to do something about that, and started building Quixote. And for the entirety of his presentation, my face was stuck in a big dumb grin. So good, for so many reasons.

Flipboard: takeaways from DevOps Dojo
Flipboard: takeaways from DevOps Dojo

My session was a 90-minute interactive workshop called “DevOps Dojo”. We simulated Dev and Ops being forced not to work together, felt non-simulated frustration, talked about how artificial the constraint really was, and finally worked together the way we wanted to. Here are the takeaways we wrote down:

  • Make repo readable to everyone
  • Exec sponsorship (training, “safe space to fail”, support for “doing it right”, funding)
  • Focus on quality (metric: mean time to resolution)
  • Dev asks Ops about their needs
  • Exercise empathy
  • Be ready for change; practice change
  • Look for mutual interest

You’re welcome to use the workshop materials for any purpose, including your own workshop. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

Video interview

After my workshop, SolutionsIQ’s Leslie Morse asked me what it was really about. Hint: not DevOps. Take a look.

Panel discussion

Here’s a photo proving that I once sat at a table with Laurie Williams, Martin Fowler, and Rebecca Parsons.

Left to right: Rachel, Amitai, Laurie, Martin, Rebecca
Left to right: Rachel, Amitai, Laurie, Martin, Rebecca

See the name card? I was supposed to be there. Based on what folks told me about what it was like to watch, listen, and ask questions, Rachel Laycock’s advance preparations enabled us panelists to have a conversation that the audience appreciated being part of. Very effective moderating on her part. For my part, in my first appearance on a panel, I appear not to have disqualified myself from being invited on another one somewhere someday. Here are a couple things I said that people liked:

We’re making more software faster than we’re getting better at it. We’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

”Software is a human activity. To get better at writing software together, we have to get better at being human together.

Further listening and reading

Thank you to the Agile Alliance for creating this small, focused conference and for inviting me to be part of it. And thanks to everyone there who made the conference so enjoyable and valuable.

If you liked what I said and how I said it, try listening to a few episodes of my micropodcast, Agile in 3 Minutes. And if you particularly appreciated the idea of getting better at being human together, try reading and sharing the Little Guide to Empathetic Technical Leadership by Alex Harms with your nearest humans.

Posted April 10, 2016 at 12:00:00 AM EDT Tags:

Saying yes

After effectively taking the winter off, I came back to work about a month ago. It was a nice soft landing, in part because my new responsibilities are largely self-determined, and in part because, between working from home and traveling together, I got to be with my favorite person for four consecutive weeks.

The next four-plus weeks will be much different, because I’m mixing in a densely packed bunch of conferences. I’m writing this in the air en route to the first hop in the sequence: the new Agile Alliance Technical Conference. I’m pretty excited about my role in it and the people I’m about to meet. Same for AgileIndy, the inaugural PillarCon, and Agile and Beyond. I’ll also be attending KalamazooX and Self.conference (as planned, after missing most of last year’s).

That probably sounds like a lot. It sure feels like a lot. But in the context of my top-priority project, the talks and travel are mere temporary complications. My focus, above all else, is on strengthening new habits about food and exercise.

Saying no

Everything you can possibly not do, don’t do. Everything that’s left, do well. Everything that’s done, see what good it does, quick.
Moi on Twitter

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written here in weeks, and there hasn’t been a new Agile in 3 Minutes since mid-December. These are deliberate decisions by me, in my role as Product Owner for my one human self.

My health project is doing me an enormous amount of good. Because of that, until (and unless) it self-stabilizes enough to be put on autopilot, I don’t have room for other projects. I do know I have more to say, and perhaps more to accomplish, with Agile in 3 Minutes. The thought of coming back to it, under the right conditions, excites me. In the meantime, it’s work I can’t afford to do, so I’m maximizing the amount of it I’m not doing.


If you haven’t listened to (or read through) every last Agile in 3 Minutes, now you can take your time. As it stands, the Ĺ“uvre amounts to over an hour and a half of tiny thickets of thought-thorns crooking to catch on brambles in your brain, and the brains of your teammates, managers, and customers. For most people, one or two episodes at a time is plenty to chew on. Masticate slowly, notice when you’re full, and stop. You can have more later.

Do me a favor

If you’ll be at any of the above conferences, please come find me and introduce yourself. I’d love to meet you and hear what you’re up to.

Posted April 13, 2016 at 12:22:14 PM EDT Tags:

At the March meetup of AgileIndy, I facilitated “Behavior-Driven Development for Everyone”. I’d guess there were about 50 people sitting and watching me program. I knew I wouldn’t be at my smartest on my feet in front of a crowd, but I also knew I wouldn’t have to be, because we’d work together to solve the problem. And we did. Lots of fun.

Next month is this year’s AgileIndy conference. I’ll be there presenting different material and recording Agile for Humans with Ryan Ripley. As of this writing, a few tickets are still available.

Further Reading

Besides the references in the slides, here’s a story of my own about seeking greater effectiveness through BDD, from my series about the human value of TDD.

Posted March 9, 2016 at 11:57:13 PM EST Tags: