Notes from Software Craftsmanship North American 2015

Even though I was working through most of it (i.e., listening in on conference calls and on multiple IM chats all day), I was able to spend some quality time at Software Craftsmanship North America 2015, which was here in Los Angeles for the first time this year.

scnaThe following are some of my initial notes from the speakers. The keynote opened with Uncle Bob’s thoughts. Compared to almost every other software developer, he’s a bold and entertaining speaker. Today, he seems concerned about the VW scandal and the risk that software may be regulated by the heavy hand of government. He advocates a self-regulated model somewhat like lawyers, but I know a few things about lawyers (see my LinkedIn profile) so I’m highly skeptical. But his heart’s in the right place. Software isn’t a profession in the classic sense — maybe it should be.

Next up was an energetic session from Iris Classon. She was a great choice to follow Bob Martin. I’ve digested more than my share of navel gazing, but when she went through her talk I knew I was in the right room. One of her quips was something like, “code is not a permanent imprint of your intelligence; it’s the place you were in at the time, a measure of your caffeine level, the pressures you were under, your mood at the time . . .” It’s fixable (or should be), and it’s a process.

We then had a talk from Enrique Comba Riepenhausen. I missed most of his talk (thanks, client), but he started with an interesting analogy to coffee. He said he loves coffee made with love. However, he’s a student of coffee and so he knows coffee takes more than love; coffee is hard. Good coffee is nothing more than precision and discipline. Hmm… those are powerful words, but they bring a mechanistic quality that seems uncomfortable (if necessary) with craftsmanship. Sorry I missed most of his talk.

Sarah Mei’s talk had me locked in. She complained that the factory model of software (one that I’m currently struggling with) is inapposite to the way developers work; few in the trenches would disagree, especially me. She then walked through some of the benefits of the workshop model (many in the room were likely with her on this), but cautioned that it’s incomplete. Then she proposed something I’ve never heard of — the stage model. I won’t attempt to discuss it in detail here because it deserves its own post, but I was riveted to her talk.

Justin Searls’s talk on testing was rapid fire and left few brain cycles to dispute or even digest, but it was a show of force to witness.

Christin Gorman’s talk was possibly the most controversial, but I bet she’d be surprised to hear me characterize it so. Again, this one deserves its own post post because her frustrations were part of what caused me to quit the business for a minute back in the last decade. Finally Gary Bernhardt’s talk was also fascinating but I have to concede that it was either a (1) long week or his talk (2) went over my head. My key takeaway is that strongly typed languages > untyped languages. And impostor syndrome sucks.

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