QCon San Francisco 2007 – Kent Beck’s opening keynote

Kent Beck‘s opening keynote was about "trends in agile". This is in no way a summary of his talk but mostly my comments on things I found interesting or debatable.

He started by noting general business trends towards accountability, responsibility, transparency, relationships and how they are reflected in software development. I am somewhat surprised that he believes these are new trends. In the business to business relationship they were the cornerstone of the merchant empires (Netherlands, UK, Venice and others) and helped shape the western model of societies. It is true that there is a trend towards these in a more non business way (towards society as a whole). But, in particular, it has yet to become a real trend inside corporations (although, following Galbraith in particular,  responsible shareholders should push for it top to bottom)

The main point I got out of the keynote, which is extraordinarily important is the realization that software development is not longer the realm of anti-social wizards. That software developers are expected to behave like business partners. I believe in some places this has happened a long time ago (in many of the financial institutions I know in particular because technical wizardry is overshadowed by financial wizardry). But it feels like a valid point. I am not sure that it is a good thing either if it is  the result of ignorance (egg head bashing style) rather than of a better technological education.

Some of the questions also yielded useful reminders:

  • Agile principles are more important than practices (I take it to mean that what makes you agile is the principles behind the practices you apply),
  • When applying agile principles in distributed teams, it is crucial to ensure face to face and social time between the distant members once in a while (something that I have personally found to be very true as it gives you a much better understanding of the values and personalities of your colleagues).

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