2015 Xmas Lightning Talk Competition - Call for Speakers

posted 9 Nov 2015, 08:37 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 10 Nov 2015, 02:23 ]

call for speakers thumbnail
Its that time again already. The annual Agile Yorkshire Lightning Talk Competition is fast approaching. It's an Xmas tradition to make the December 8th meeting a celebration of community speaking, with prizes to boot. If you don't know what a lightning talk is there are lots of resources around and don't worry it's very simple...

(event on Tuesday Dec 8th)

A ten minute Lightning Talk for Agile Yorkshire's December 8th 2015 meetup should:
  • Probably have a maximum of six slides (maybe none).
  • Be on a topic you already know quite well.
  • Be interesting to our audience but could be about pretty much anything.
  • Be possible to completely script (if that’s your style).
  • Not be a second more than ten minutes.
  • Win you a SIGNIFICANT prize on the night if you put your mind to it.
Here's some of the topics from the past couple of years:
  • Omnisharp, developing .NET code without Visual Studio
  • Finding a School - Code vs MumsNet
  • Build an Interpreter in 24 Hours!
  • How cars work
  • 10 simple ways to help your team run like clockwork 
  • How To Write Bad Code
  • Agile and Knowledge Management: A match made in heaven, or hell on earth?
  • Success in business is short-sighted
  • ScrumBan vs Sprint

And don't forget there will be significant speaker prizes on the night.

Announcing Fruition as an Agile Yorkshire Sponsor

posted 9 Jul 2015, 10:45 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 9 Jul 2015, 10:46 ]

Fruition now an Agile Yorkshire sponsor

Fruition, the Leeds based recruitment company, have generously stepped forward with support and sponsorship for Agile Yorkshire. Without the generosity and cooperation of our sponsors meetups could not happen in the way they currently do. By supporting Agile Yorkshire our sponsors support lean and agile practitioners across the Yorkshire region region with learning and collaboration opportunities through each other and with industry experts nationally.

Martin Jones - Associate Director at Fruition commented...
“Fruition IT are delighted to be joining Agile Yorkshire as sponsors.  As an independent IT recruiter based in Leeds, it’s great to be able to contribute to the Yorkshire IT community that is so important to our business.”

Please take a moment to let Martin or anyone from the Fruition team know their help is appreciated by taking a moment to say hi over the coming months.

The Antimatter Principle and an NHS Hackathon with a Twist

posted 9 Jul 2015, 07:22 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 10 Jul 2015, 02:04 ]

Bob Marshall at Agile Yorkshire June 2015Going down to Agile Yorkshire June event I was curious about the two speakers of the evening...used to categorise presentations with a fellow developer as "technical" or "non technical" we know what to expect in the former case. In the latter, things are more abstract!

The first speaker was Eva Barabas who talked about a Hackathlon organized by a small team she was involved in. A dental care project with product owner, three developers, users, UX, design, analysis, modelling, collaboration, collaboration, collaboration and work, work, work. What did they learn? "Attend more Hackathlons but create things people need".
Indeed, what she wanted to share with us was how important it is in these competitions to build something that users want. I believe we would agree with her. After all, delivering something and seeing it being used leaves a sweet taste.
Eva Barabas at Agile Yorkshire
What I also found interesting was her answer when I asked her in a casual conversation why she attended hackathlons. She answered me she likes to test her she's normally structured but this event is about incorporating different approaches, being in a sociable environment and getting creative.

The second speaker was Bob Marshall and talked about people's needs and the Antimatter Principle. He addressed some questions to the audience: "Are your needs being met at work?" "What's blocking you from achieving your goals?"
"I like these blockers", a familiar face from the audience answered. "Maybe your need is challenge, then?", he suggested. More joined soon.
While the presentation went by, I heard and wrote down labels-the golden rule, the platinum rule,theory x and theory y,(organisational) cognitive dissonance-and ideas. Now here are some ideas I liked:
-We don't work to get our needs met, we work to make money which will then cover our needs. Interestingly though, when he asked the question "How many of you here think their needs are met by their work?", a lot of hands were raised.
Agile Yorkshire meetup June 2015
-People assume that other people have the same basic needs. Think of a developer that wants to work alone, not as part of a team, and another that is proud to be a "team player".
-What do you do when individuals or teams have different needs? This must be one of the most interesting problems to be solved towards creating successful teams and organisations.
Finally, the conclusion was that a good job is one that people meet their needs by doing it. "Attend to folks needs" (and you won't regret it) is the essence of the Antimatter Principle. Not sure why antimatter, though.

The evening reached its end then, and we followed to the equally popular after-event: conversing and networking casually at the pub close to the venue.

Tester mentality FTW!

Finally thanks to @ArdLieth for photography and to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors Fruition,  PikselCallcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'ReillyJetBRAINSManningWrox and PluralSight.

There's No Such Thing as a Requirement and Devops Evolution

posted 1 Jun 2015, 07:38 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 1 Jun 2015, 07:38 ]

Andy Burgin at Agile Yorkshire
The first talk of the May meetup was given by Andy Burgin. Andy spoke to our group a year ago and introduced us to the idea of DevOps, Developers and Operations teams working side by side on a product. Too often in large organisations imaginary bondaries exist between teams, Development to Testing, Testing to Release, Release to Operations. Each boundary acts as a hurdle for knowledge transfer and removes the understanding of the business need from the people supporting the application day to day. Andy advocated a work environment free of these boundaries, where teams were composed from people accross all parts of the business where knowledge could be carried from inception to delivery.

With background and history from the inception of DevOps as well as pictures, stories and anecdotes from the recent Paris conference, Andy guided us through the Evolution of DevOps from it's inception to the present day. I'm sure more than a few people headed back to their companies with a few ideas they'd like to try out! Hopefully he'll have a few more recruits for Leeds DevOps over the next few months!

Tony Heap at Agile Yorkshire
The second part of the evening was lead by Tony Heap. When I first read the title "There's no Such thing as a Requirement." I was worried, I had visions of a hippy telling us to embrace change and try to persuade our clients to accept fluid specs and hazy deadlines. What Tony brought us however was very different!

We started with an exercise, the CEO of a major supermarket wanted to buy a new tablet. For that he needed to increase profits, he decides to set his IT Manager the task by selling online. The IT Manager takes on this requirement and designs the high level functionality of the site, he passes each page as requirements onto his subordinate who designs what each page should look like... what we quickly realised was that Tony's claim was correct - there is no such thing as a requirement! There are only different levels of design which are done higher and higher up the process. If these "requirements" are simply someone elses design then they should be questioned and challenged!

While we grappeled with this newfound knowledge Tony guided us through the rest of his process. Development teams today are too often held hostage to those fiddly low priority stories, the last 20% of a requirement which takes 80% of the time. Tony illustrated the value of proper prioritisation, weighing the value of those final 20% of tasks against the business need of other user stories. Using the HMS Waterfall as an example Tony demonstrated how proper prioritisation and planning of User Stories is as essential to the modern team's work as a compiler and keyboard. More details of Tony's process can be found on his blog It's All Design.

Finally thanks also to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors Piksel, Callcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'Reilly, JetBRAINS,Manning, Wrox and PluralSight. 

I hope to see you all in June - Adam Griffiths.

Lean UX at the NHS, Legacy Code Contemplation and Code Club Call to Action

posted 1 Jun 2015, 06:35 by Royd Brayshay

Krystan Honour at Agile Yorkshire
A push on Code Club recruitment from Linda Broughton, a tour through the world of legacy code with Krystan Honour, plus Joe McGrath and Kevin Murray on transforming NHS Choices with lean and agile user experience were all topics on the table for Agile Yorkshire's April gathering. 
With over two hundred primary schools in Leeds and a lot less than half of them with a Code Club up and running there is plenty of room for improvement. Linda Broughton is the Code Club area coordinator and in collaboration with the new Google Garage in Leeds is running a series of training sessions where volunteer candidates can find out how to get involved and what to expect. Keep an eye on twitter and the Code Club website for more information.
Krystan Honor is long standing member of the Agile Yorkshire community and this month finally succumbed to requests to speak with a slot about legacy code. After a few minutes covering his career history and with legacy code defined as potentially anything just a few months old, it was clear Krystan was well placed to provide some insightful wisdom on the topic. He covered how it happens, how to embrace it and most importantly some guidance on its management.  With the discussion exploring the installation of team knowledge, workshops covering engineering good practice, code review, regular pairing, exploring test frameworks and tactics and an attack on coupled code and dependencies the half hour time slot was soon over and rounded off with questions and answers.
Joe McGrath at Agile Yorkshire
Joe McGrath and Kevin Murray occupied the sixty minute space with a preview of the presentation the pair were booked to deliver at the Agile Manchester conference in early May. Their talked entitled ???? covered process they recently adopted in an attempt to improve the quality and effectiveness of parts of the NHS Choices website use for self diagnosis. 
The target for attention centred around the pages used by people to identify the signs of chickenpox and by adopting a build, measure, learn approach, popularised by the lean start-up movement, a iterative product development cycle of research and reflection began.
Joe and Kevin described their use of a technique referred to as assumption mapping to help identify targets for their attention and how using personal profiles their mapped out initial user journey examples. These were later tested by moving into the interview rooms of the usability labs where, at times,  the whole team were able to see first hand how actual people reacted to the candidate designs and prototypes. Often these early designs were nothing more than paper sketches but
Kevin Murray at Agile Yorkshire
combined with "poker faced" usability analysts asking the questions was important to be able to move fast and collect unbiased data. They went on to describe the use of a technique they called "affinity sorting" to help with discovering and ranking items for implementation and further user testing. With a typical five day time box broken down into two days of discovery and three of implementation progress was steady and quantifiably positive.
At the end of their presentation the questions came think and fast and the feedback forms collected were proof of both the fascinating content and excellent delivery from both presenters.

Finally thanks also to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors PikselCallcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'ReillyJetBRAINS,ManningWrox and PluralSight.

See you next month,

Taming Monoliths the Microservices Way plus Agile Consultancy Engagement

posted 19 May 2015, 02:28 by Neil McLaughlin   [ updated 1 Jun 2015, 06:43 by Royd Brayshay ]

James Salt at Agile Yorkshire
At our March meet up the main speaker, Kiran Singh, enthusiastically delivered a presentation on Microservices: Conquering Monoliths which, in the words of one of our attendees, “sold the topic to a sceptic”. Drawing from his own experiences in breaking down an unruly monolith of legacy code into a number of small, responsive, HTTP services using the principle of bounded contexts and domain driven design. The aim of this was to make components of the software independently releasable using the model espoused by successful companies such as Netflix and Spotify. Kiran pointed out many of the tangential benefits of moving to a microservices architecture not least the ability to get new developers productive much more quickly in a given service where the code can be simpler and cleaner. Kiran stressed that this is not just a technical problem, it requires buy in from all levels of the team and a truly agile culture to support it. The slides for this talk are available here.

Kiran Singh at Agile Yorkshire
The support speaker for the evening was James Salt who gave an interesting take on Team Based Iterative Consulting which aimed to address the mismatch between a typical consultancy engagement model and agile. After outlining the problems with a typical engagement (for example named ‘resources’, difficulty in measuring consultancy deliverables and scope creep for time & materials engagements) James proposed a set of principles for agile consultancy namely “Priority over Process, Throughput over Headcount, Responsiveness over Headcount and Client Collaboration over Contract Negotiation”. With these he suggests that it is possible to move an engagement model based more on feedback loops than up front estimation of scope and effort. As one member of the audience observed it was “”an interesting view on working iteratively with customers” and seemed to strike a chord with many in the audience. The slides for this presentation are available 

Finally thanks also to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors PikselCallcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'ReillyJetBRAINS,ManningWrox and PluralSight.

Photo credit: @Ciwan1859

#BeyondProjects - Project Management gives way to Investment Themes and Beyond

posted 5 Mar 2015, 14:22 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 5 Mar 2015, 15:14 by Neil McLaughlin ]

Allan Kelly at Agile Yorkshire
The February meet up was organised as an evening themed by the #BeyondProjects hash tag with Allan Kelly who has championed the Twitter conversation and Paul McCormick, the SkyBet head of technology, who came to explain how their projects are being replaced by investment themes as a way to control and allocate their product development spend.

Many months ago Allan Kelly started his twitter campaign using the #NoProjects hash tag but was persuaded to switch to #BeyondProjects as something slightly less absolute as well as following in the footsteps of the #BeyondBudgeting movement. Alan himself is every bit as passionate about the need for absolute change however, and this came accross in both his reasoning and animated presentation. Being able to look past project metrics or agile dogma and focus on what it is that has commercial advantage brought Allan's focus onto delivered value. In a 2008 Capers Jones study quoted by Allan, they had observed business change at a rate of 2% per month and his assertion was that product development must be successful within this context. The call to action was to stop the goal displacement of chasing deadlines and instead focus on outcomes. With a culture of failing fast and cheaply, plus an institutionalised learning cycle, risks may be reduced and mitigated implicitly.
Another strand to the Allan's pitch was that of big projects equal big batches of work. The savings associated with smaller batch sizes are well documented within the agile community and increases in risk, rework and work in process were all cited as diseconomies of scale. Allan's final rallying call was to move beyond projects as accounting codes and instead look to the venture capital companies and their models of incremental investment. This turned out to be the approach broadly being followed by the IT organisation our other speaker for the evening represented - SkyBet.

Paul McCormick at Agile Yorkshire
Paul McComick referred repeatedly to the SkyBet way and how, inspired by Spotify's recently published organisation model, they have been transforming their delivery into something capable of processing ninety functional changes a week and a mean time to market measured in days not months or even weeks.
These changes haven’t happened overnight but Paul explain that by starting small with a single squad and using simple data collection techniques like recording lead and cycle times on physical story cards and using spreadsheets to do the analysis they have increased throughput significantly.
Traditional time reporting of people has given way to collecting data on actual work items and their flow efficiency characteristics including things like percentage of time work flows backwards. The squads are grouped into a tribe which works on an ongoing investment theme rather than a sequence of projects. An investment theme receives staged investment based on commercial performance and each tribe also runs its own profit and loss reporting with an embedded responsible finance person. All these tactics are designed to continuously answer three questions: are the right things being built, are they being built right and are they being built fast enough.
Of course all this can only be achieved in an organisation culturally able to absorb significant qualities of ongoing change and it should therefore be no surprise that there are plenty more changes and experiments planned for the future.

The Agile Yorkshire feedback forms often contain praise for the speakers who present at our monthly meet ups. We should all be thankful for their time and preparation as this is what makes the evenings such a learning experience. Occasionally a topic or speaker seems to really resonate with the community and judging by the reaction both of these things seemed true of our #BeyondProjects evening. Rarely have our feedback forms contained the word “excellent” so many times.

Finally thanks also to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors PikselCallcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'ReillyJetBRAINS,ManningWrox and PluralSight.

See you next month,

Spine-Tingling Success plus Event Presenter Polish

posted 1 Feb 2015, 02:21 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 2 Feb 2015, 06:12 by Neil McLaughlin ]

Martin Sumner talks about NHS Spine at Agile Yorkshire
The first talk of this month's meetup was a presentation about presentation skills, presented by Ivor Tymchak. Ivor's key message was that in giving a talk, one is "trying to change the audience's mind", just as he was trying to change our minds with regard to presentation skills in his own talk that evening.

By presenting in person, be it a technical talk, business pitch or even just a day-to-day conversation, the speaker is able to respond to the feedback of their audience and really judge whether that audience is understanding the information that is being delivered. The audience is the real focus of the presentation, Ivor reminded us, and as a speaker one must build a bridge from the audience's current understanding of the topic in hand to whatever point it is one is trying to teach.

Ivor made great efforts to impress upon us the importance of making sure all aspects of a presentation add value. Slides, for example, should be treated like a billboard. You wouldn't put something useless on a billboard that you were paying a lot of money for, so why would you distract your audience with superfluous information on a slide? Also on the topic of slides, Ivor pointed out that for anyone to whom design does not come naturally there are resources aplenty for coherent colour schemes, tasteful fonts and free-to-use, high resolution images to be found online.

Ivor Tymchak talks presentation polish at Agile Yorkshire
Confidence in speaking will only really come to most of us with lots of practice, and as a final piece of useful advice, Ivor reminded us to always have a backup: "If the projector goes down, would you still be able to give that presentation?".

The main talk of the evening was given by Martin Sumner, technical lead of the Spine II programme at the NHS. Spine is the name given to a set of services for providing clinical and non-clinical data in the NHS, including prescriptions, details of adverse reactions to medications, patient addresses and personal information. Martin reckons the system deals with something in the region of thirty million messages a day.

The Spine I project (presumably then just known as 'Spine') involved about two thousand people, over one billion pounds, and took over eight years to (sort of) complete. Several years down the line from Spine I's 'completion', and plans for replacing that system -- a system Martin had been involved in developing -- were under way. Martin was worried to see signs that the organisation of the project seemed to be going the same way as the first version of the system, with lots of upfront planning based on specifications that were certain to change and large portions of the project being earmarked for outsourcing at great expense.

Attentive Agile Yorkshire crowd
Martin and a colleague started on a small proof of concept with the aim of showing that a small team could achieve the results needed to improve and extend the system. They were successful, and also managed to show that, as Martin had suspected, the project specification was severely lacking and they needed a way of working to allow for the gradual development of those specifications...something more 'agile'?

The project took a couple of years to complete, and so far seems to be fulfilling its goals of providing a highly available, efficient and reliable set of data services. It is estimated that the new Spine has time savings of seven or eight hundred working days per DAY over the old system! A pretty incredible figure. "Was the project agile?", pondered Martin. In some respects, yes: they managed to have a good amount of automated test coverage, continuous integration and test environments which were a close analogue to the Live ones, all of which allowed for agile reactions to changing requirements and for the work to be completed incrementally. The release itself, however, could not really be done incrementally, due to its being an 'all or nothing' affair, involving hefty, tightly coordinated data migrations, which took a up a lot of the development effort.

Looking back over both iterations of Spine, Martin has seen most success when the teams he has worked in were really engaged in the project, and also that the development process doesn't have to be fixed -- people over process!

Workshop Notice: If you'd like to improve or develop your speaking skills Agile Yorkshire is running a workshop with Ivor Tymchak very soon and if you step forward to speak at a future Agile Yorkshire meetup it's almost FREE.

Finally thanks also to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors iSource ITPikselCallcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'ReillyJetBRAINS,ManningWrox and PluralSight.

See you next month,

Amazing Evening of Festive Lightning Talks

posted 19 Dec 2014, 03:04 by Royd Brayshay   [ updated 19 Dec 2014, 03:35 ]

At Agile Yorkshire in December,
Were Lightning Talks and I remember,
Talks of ten minutes, sometimes less,
My thoughts on which I'll now express.

Grant Crofton, of the Leeds Code Dojo
Keen to flex his coding mojo,
Showed that he was not undone,
In finding schools fit for his son.

In Ioanna Touflexi's driving lessons,
She tired of hearing odd expressions,
So learnt the things a car can do,
And shared them, with neat videos, too.

Jon Fulton, an experienced Scrum Master,
Had tips to keep us from disaster.
He's customized his working style,
In ways that he has found worthwhile.

Paul Henshaw joined us from Immedia,
With tales where Scrum-Ban made work speedier.
He always finishes what he starts,
By cutting out the useless parts.

If project time is running short,
Code structure should be your first thought.
Joe Simmonds loves a unit test,
And fixing code when time is best.

C# tools from Microsoft,
May seem to have a painful cost.
Matt McLoughlin's Omnisharp,
Might be a better place to start.

Matt Russell's "Test Reporty Thing",
Wants to take the vicious sting,
From flaky tests which obfuscate,
Your software's verifiable state.

Why keep your rules in two locations,
And risk conflicting validations?
With only one truth to maintain,
Tim Brown thinks you might save some pain.

And finally onto last year's winner,
Ivor Tymchak's no beginner.
Last year he won a Kindle Fire,
This time he warned us off desire.

We voted using lego bricks,
Building pillars for our top picks.
It was then judged whose tower was higher,
First came Grant, then Ioanna and Ivor.

Amazing festive thanks to Eleanor for her fantastic poem above (much better than my dull write up last year) and apologies for any browser rendering issues. It's not easy to get a poem and and a dozen photos looking sensible with the stupid Google WISYWIG editor. Congratulations to the Grant Crofton, the overall winner, Ioanna-Kyriaki Toufexi second and Ivor Tymchak third, plus all the other speakers who made such a fantastic night.

Finally thanks also to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and to main sponsors iSource ITPikselCallcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'ReillyJetBRAINS,ManningWrox and PluralSight.

See you next year,

Motivation and Craftsmanship

posted 2 Dec 2014, 14:56 by Neil McLaughlin   [ updated 8 Dec 2014, 15:30 by Royd Brayshay ]

Neil McLaunghlin at Agile Yorkshire
"What motivates you to get out of bed and leave for work in the morning?" asked Agile Yorkshire stalwart Neil McLaughlin at this November's meet-up. We agreed we'd all like our work to be challenging, fun and ...lucrative, but even with all of these things, how does one stay motivated?

It might seem that our desire to enjoy work would be at odds with the running of an efficient business, but Neil reminded us that even Frederick Taylor's carrot and stick approach to getting the most out of his workforce recognised that having breaks from work improved the overall throughput of his operation. As Neil told us, while the carrot and stick of yesteryear may have been superseded by butternut squash and lightsaber, it remains of benefit to businesses to find ways to keep its workforce motivated.

As a salient example of the will of the people with their hobbies and aspirations for autonomy, mastery and purpose triumphing in the face of big business with a 'too big to fail' mentality, Neil brought up the success of Wikipedia in the world of digital encyclopaedias. For many, Encarta pre-dated their experience with the internet. How could Wikipedia, with its articles written by volunteers and lack of marketing ever compete with Encarta? But it did, and open-source projects continue to win out against traditional business models over and over again.

Continuing on the theme of self-reflection, Kev McCabe joined us to speak on the theme of Software Craftsmanship, a topic in which he is particularly inspired by Sandro Mancuso. It's not like people wake up each morning thinking "today, I'm going to do a bad job", reckons Kev, but as pressure to speed up software delivery increases, he has observed that the standard of software delivered often slips. It makes sense that as code quality decreases, it takes longer to develop new features, as developers are no longer working with a system that has been designed with extensibility in mind.

Kev McCabe at Agile YorkshireThe Agile Manifesto calls for 'working software' -- but what qualifies as 'working'?, Kev asks. Why should someone feel they have to say "I've done it and it's working"? Should these two facts not be synonymous? and where did the phrase 'Technical Debt Backlog' come from? Whilst such a thing is blithely accepted, it feels like working software and mastery of the craft of writing software are becoming increasingly difficult to attain.

It can be challenging to improve at our craft when we're not expected to practise in work time, Kev admits. He advocates an approach of learning in small chunks, but often; stopping to ask questions; voicing your frustrations and not being miserable and negative -- you can always leave! Show everyone around you that you're happy and it should benefit everyone on your team.

Kev personally advocates following XP practices. He also advised that when dividing up tasks amongst a team of developers, one should allocate work to people with the fewest skills first in order to avoid a situation where some of members of the team are left with nothing they can work on. We also learnt that some of his top coding gripes are poor naming choices and the lack of deletion of stale code!

As a parting thought, Kev left us with this: Software Craftmanship and Agile in isolation will fail, we need both to succeed.

The evening ended with the monthly prize draw and drinks in the Midnight Bell. Thanks to all our volunteer team who make the event happen and finally thanks to main sponsors iSource IT, Piksel, Callcredit and NewRedo and to our prize sponsors O'Reilly, JetBRAINS, Manning, Wrox and PluralSight.

Write up: Eleanor Chambers

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