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Yow! Conference: report from the field

After some interactions on twitter about the speaker line-up at the Yow! Conference, our community engagement director was invited to attend to see what it was all about first hand. 

by kattekrab /

The Yow! Conference is an Aussie version of an event that began in Denmark called JAOO, which stands for Java and Object Oriented. The event is run by Dave Thomas, adjunct research professor at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, and also an adjunct professor at Carleton University in Canada.  The website states the purpose of the conference is to "build the next generation of IT leaders and encourage excellence and innovation amongst the Australian development community."  In an interview with Atlassian a couple of years ago Thomas explains that "in Australia the Danish JAOO was always mispronounced as a slow painful “Jeh Eh Oh Oh”… YOW is just a fun word that sounds like JAOO."  

It was a fun conference.

Most of the sessions I attended were related to agile development in one way or another. Here's an outline...

Jeff Patton - User Story Mapping - If we're treating user stories just like a list of requirements from a waterfall spec, we're doing it wrong. I'll be diving deeper into this because I just bought his book! Here's a good outline online 

Gojko Adzic - Make Impacts, Not Software - A cautionary tale, agile can mean we just end up developing the wrong faster, we should be focussing on what we're delivering, rather than how we're delivering it.  More, better, faster isn't one cent more valuable unless it's actually delivering something someone needs.

Fred George - Microservices - Not about agile. I'd heard of microservices, but nothing more than they were a thing. So, this was a new area for me, so I'm still digesting what this means, and how it might apply in a Drupal flavoured universe. Check out

Matt Barrett and Lee Campbell - Event Driven User Interfaces - I'll admit this session went way over my head.  It was the last of the day, and I was tired. All I remember was lots and lots of blinking numbers. Check out the github repo for Reactive Trader, their real time UI for streaming data.

Gabrielle Benefield gave the evening keynote.  In some ways she picked up where Gojko left off. In her blog she says "By measuring throughputs and outputs, we are incentivising people to deliver more of them. More creates more waste." It made me think we really should be focussed on writing less software, not more.  

And that was just day one!

Jez Humble - The Lean Enterprise - Key ideas I took away from this were around the importance of building a high trust culture, and sense of shared vision of the work to be done, and the way it's done, alongside ruthless focus on delivering products with quality and value. Learning from Toyota. 

Mary Poppendieck - the scaling dilemma - - This was a great talk.  Mary's experience in manufacturing processes translated for the world of software development.  Keen to check out her book The Lean Mindset: Ask the right questions.

Troy Hunt - Hack yourself first: go on the cyber-offence before online attackers do - This was a fun talk. I was 'volunteered' to demo an SQL injection attack live on stage. Salient reminder of how important it is to be vigilant, and to keep on top of security updates. 

EvaAndreasson - Solving Real and Big (Data) Problems Using Hadoop 

Simon Brown - Agility and the Essence of Software Architecture - He spoke about the importance of creating a shared vision within the development team, effectively communicating that vision and managing technical risk. And using sketches and pictures to do it.

Elizabeth Kramer, spoke about her way of approaching agile coaching. She's recently launched The idea is to use visual tools to layout the issues, and strategies to address them.  This made me think about whether we could use these kinds of approaches in the Drupal community.  We may not be agile, but perhaps we could still learn something useful from Kramer's approach.

Over a week later, it all blurs together a bit... so here's my take aways. 

Scrum, Lean, Agile - this approach makes sense, but only if there is pinpoint focus on value, outcomes and the customer.  We can iterate quickly and deliver more, but if we're not working on the right things, it's all a terrible waste of time, effort and cash. Prioritising the work is important, but it is even more important to make sure the work is meaningful and truly meets the needs of the people it's designed to serve.