Examples “stage” at Agile 2008

Agile 2008 will be arranged around the metaphor of a music festival. There will be a main stage for the big-draw speakers, the larger tutorials for novices, etc.

I was asked to do a stage about testing that wouldn’t help shunt people into silos. (It shouldn’t be “the testing mini-conference”.) I decided the stage would take seriously the usefulness of explicit, concrete examples—executable or no—in the thinking about, construction, and post-construction investigation of software-ish things. Hence the logo:

Examples stage logo

I show two copies of the logo to draw your attention to the fact that the two halves have “testing” and “designing” in different orders. Each time the logo appears, it will be flipped from the last time’s orientation. Thus, only the most unreasonable person would complain that I’m giving testing (or designing) undue preference. (Thinkers can complain, but only after giving the matter due thought.)

Given that I was ecstatic about shedding all my responsibilities to The Community after being released from the Agile Alliance board, I agreed to this only under the condition that everyone understood that my goal is to either (1) succeed spectacularly or (2) fail spectacularly. So, while this stage will be the place for business-facing-tests-that-guide-development, test-driven design, exploratory testing, behavior-driven design, and the like, I want it to be edgier and odder than such a list suggests.

For example, I’d like a keynote speaker whose message is something like “‘abstraction’ is a comforting myth we tell ourselves because we’re scared of the dark—there’s not really any such thing” or “abstractions are real, just like heroin—time to kick the habit”. Someone like Mark Johnson and his notion that the mind can’t be separated from a body in an environment, or Rafael E. Núñez, whose working through of the difference between the formal structure of mathematics and the cognitive structure might suggest new ways to think about how we think about systems. (Note: both those people coauthor with George Lakoff, whose work on metaphors and categories—especially Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things—has gotten occasional interest in the software world, but I’m sure he’d be too expensive.)

This conference is to have more community involvement in the shaping of the program than any similar conference, but details have not yet been decided. And, frankly, I’m not sure how to reconcile my long-term belief that vox populi, vox dei with my belief that, at this moment, the vox pop maybe would benefit most from a swift kick in the butt. (In less flowery language: we probably need a much higher percentage of solicited and thematic presentations than we would in better times.)

Watch this space, and comment away.

5 Responses to “Examples “stage” at Agile 2008”

  1. jflowers Says:

    I am really into your example, if I am on the same page as you. Naresh and I were talking about this on Thursday. I learned about it from Alan Watts: http://jayflowers.com/WordPress/?p=128. Since that post I have learned more about how/where/why we create/see/hunger for these invariant patterns from Jeff Hawkins “On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines”. I bet Susan Blackwell would be a good choice in this vein as well.
    Just to try and make sure that we are on the same page a good concrete example is on Michael Feathers blog: Prosthetic Goals and Metrics That Matter..

  2. lisa.crispin Says:

    I like the logo. Having been involved with testing sessions at all the agile/xp conferences the past 6 years, I’ve always been pleased that they are usually populated with quite a mix of testers, programmers, managers, analysts, and any other expertise you can think of. I like the idea of carrying this to a greater extreme.

    A lot of people at Agile 2007 talked to me about the idea that we might not even want to use the terms tester and programmer, but that all team members are working side by side, some have different expertise that they are sharing with the team.

    My team has benefited greatly from your ideas of using examples, and this is a message that helps all agile teams (all development teams, for that matter).

    One thing I’d like to see more of in 2008 is how agile teams should address things like security, performance, reliability, other ‘ilities’. People always ask me why there isn’t more about these things in the agile literature. I think it’s because we’re so used to being driven by the customer, and the customer doesn’t generally articulate these things - they take for granted that the development team will magically be provided. At least, that’s my experience.

    I hope for Agile 2008 we can get in more fresh faces and fresh ideas, as well as learning from experienced folks ‘in the trenches’.
    – Lisa

  3. Janet Gregory Says:

    Brian, I really like the whole concept of changing the conference and doing something
    new and exiting with it. The demographics of the conference has changed and I think we
    need to change along with it.

    I like your logo and I would hope that we all are “thinkers” although I sometimes wonder :-)
    However, it emphasizes the reasons we use examples.


  4. tomm Says:


    I agree with you. I work in system/software security/information assurance, and the #1 “official” reason I get push-back vs. not adopting more agile practices as b/c it doesn’t deal so much with security and reliability (I suspect that many IA/security folks have a secret love for the waterfall, but that’s a different story.) My shop is now example driven, but resists a lot of other agile practices. If we could figure out a way to apply agile practices to help “bake security into” software then there would be a killer app for agile that would help it “get across the chasm” in bigger shops; at least with security weenies.

    As an example, I’ve noticed that the rails community has adopted a lot of security practices that are virtually unseen elsewhere. For example, white listing is usually considered to paranoid to be manageable, but the rails community learned that it is the easiest security approach to manage if you really want to secure your app. This to me is an illustration of how agile practices can yield better security in systems.

    Now if only I could propose something helpful ;).

  5. Exploration Through Example » Blog Archive » Rough sketch of examples track at Agile2008 Says:

    […] Geras and I will be “producers” for this “stage” at Agile2008. Here are some […]

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