Spotlight at Monki Gras 2017

Monki Gras is RedMonk’s annual UK conference about Software, Craft and Experience. I was very happy that my application for their Diversity Scholarships Programme got accepted and I gladly attended the event on the 26th and 27th of January.

Besides providing a full 2-day ticket they also had in place a Mentorship Programme for the scholars. Tracy Miranda – open source evangelist and veteran of the Eclipse community, Bryan Boreham – director of engineering at Weakework and Rachel Stephens – associate analyst at RedMonk made sure the scholars felt welcome, answered questions and facilitated networking.

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While some industry events have a very corporate feel about them these days, Monki Gras was like a breath of fresh air: less pitching and more content!

The subject of 2017 was “Packaging: convenience is the killer app for great developer and user experiences” and among the speakers were Arianna Aondio from Varnish Software Group, Gordon Haff from Red Hat, Alvaro Videla who works as a distributed systems engineer and was previously a Core Developer for RabbitMq and Abby Kearns from Cloud Foundry Foundation.

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My favourite talk was “Metaphors we compute by” by Alvaro Videla, who made a very interesting connection between the Linguistics and Philosophic worlds and the Software Industry. Communication is key even when you only ‘speak’ code!

The conference was held in quite an informal venue, The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club in Shoreditch and the techies were kept focused with artisan coffee, tasty food and locally brewed beer.

Looking forward to their event next year!

Scrum Values

The Scrum guide has had a makeover. Well it has had a small but powerful addition – values.

Scrum values have been around for a while. They are now officially part of the Scrum Guide following on from an overwhelming demand to add these.

Here is a quick run through of what these are:

Commitment – People personally commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team

Courage – The Scrum Team members have courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems

Focus – Everyone focuses on the work of the Sprint and the goals of the Scrum Team

Openness – The Scrum Team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work

Respect – Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people

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This is a good opportunity to reflect on how we are doing with these at Spotlight. Please take a couple of minutes to fill in a quick form here.
To read the whole scrum guide, please click here.

Retroing the Retros

After recently reading the book Scrum Mastery by Geoff Watts I was reminded of something very important that I learnt after going through the motions of sprint start, end, retro over and over again; people get bored of the same old same old. It is important to keep things engaging with fresh ideas.

When I joined Spotlight over a year ago, everything was new and exciting. While that was the case for me, I had forgotten that everyone else had been doing the same for a long time. So, I decided to bring back a little bit of play into work. Here are a couple of my personal favourites.

The Walking Dead inspired zombie Retro. The team (us) represented by the poor man on the left prepared to fight the zombie attack. Here we added green stickies representing tools needed by us to face the attack. In other words everything that is helping us succeed.

The zombies on the right are representing everything that is standing in the way of our success. Here we added pink stickies with everything that is in the way of our success.

The Middle part covered by orange stickies represents measures taken by us to prepare for the zombie attack. 

Retro - Zombies

Balloon Flight Retro. This is a much simpler one that focussed on:

  • What is stopping us
  • What is helping us

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More ideas are always welcomed.

Although I have had a burst of interesting sessions recently, the real challenge is in keeping it going. Watch out for some Legospectives in the near future!

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Agile Tour London

Here’s a bit of a delayed blog post about my not-so-recent visit to The Agile Tour London on 23rd October 2015. There isn’t going to be another one in London until late next year so it’s great to be able to share what went on whilst it’s still relevant!

It was an interesting event; I had moments of “oh wow this is brilliant” followed by “what am I doing here?!”, learned some new tricks and refreshed some old practices.

In a nutshell I would consider it a success. A couple of topics covered that I particularly enjoyed and which had a definite impact were:

  1. The frequency of releases to customers: 

We all talk about how it is a good thing to get early feedback from customers and get new features out there soon as possible, starting with a minimal viable product. But in that passion to deliver fast, what we sometimes fail to understand is how often customers actually want or need updates. It can sometimes be more disruptive than constructive to be releasing too frequently, especially if it means a new feature release actually disrupts a customer’s day-to-day job.

  1. How fast we really are going compared to the rest of the world:

One of the main objectives of Agile is to achieve continuous improvement. There are a number of key metrics to help measure success such as velocity, cycle times…the list goes on. It does help to see if a team is improving and moving forwards, but if you have multiple teams how do you know how the teams compare? To take it a step further, do you know if your teams are doing as good as the rest of the industry?  Where do you stand?

As this was an interactive session there were a lot of ideas flowing around the room. One that I liked (mainly because it was mine) was that of an App which could record measures and compare and score teams across companies. Another one was cross-company agile workshops. At the time we were discussing this idea, the risk of these workshops causing a big overhead became apparent but having thought about it, there could be actual work done if they were correctly planned and structured.

Those of you who are interested and are “clever” enough to search the internet will now find some funny looking pictures of me from the conference.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.