PrizCon 2010: First Reflections

There is no research more fascinating and more satisfying than the research you do on a rabbit trail topic which runs tangentially away from the topic of a presentation you are supposed to be giving this weekend. Somehow the procrastination just sweetens the reading, and those wikipedia disambiguation links just glimmer like liquid sunshine. That’s what I learned last week as I tried to pull together my talk for PrizCon 2010.

My Talk

My talk was entitled “Agile Means Community and Community Means Success” (slides). I give all my attendees mad kudos for bearing up under my delusional ramblings; after all the time spent on those tangential rabbit trails, it seemed a pity to waste all that research. So it seems plausible that my talk covered too much ground. On the plus side, I am a fast talker, and I hit my last slide in 30 minutes flat, and opened things up for questions, comments and discussion. Easily this was the best part of the whole arrangement.

I was pleased as punch that our keynote speaker Jeff Langr sat in on my talk! Even better he jumped into the discussion afterwards, so my attendees got to discuss my talk with the guy who wrote the book they are using to learn Agile and Java! By the way, Jeff, I snagged the kindle edition last week, so if your ranking jumped from 600,000 to 30,000 among kindle books…that was me.

The Keynote

Speaking of Jeff Langr, great talk. It was huge that he agreed to fly in and keynote. I hadn’t met Jeff before, but we have Paul Nelson as a mutual friend. It was great to meet and talk shop with you, Jeff.

Things You Didn’t Know About Dan

Dan Wiebe gave an awesome slide-free talk about the Java-in-prison story, and also about how he came to be a TDD-card-carrying, pair-programming, agile software developer. I was floored; I had no idea that he initially resisted “all this new agile nonsense,” but now that he’s told the story, I can kinda visualize it. For those of you who don’t know what Dan looks like, he is a tall, bushy-bearded agile fanatic with clever, gleaming, beady eyes. I am just glad he’s on our side. If he fixed those eyes on you right after you rolled some code without writing a test first…{shudder}. But seriously, he gave a terrific talk.

More Talks

Matt Van Vleet jumped in to fill the time slot vacated by Bob Myers. He said he threw his slides together during the keynote. Not bad. I gotta acknowledge his improvisational skills, and sheer chutzpah: he slaps together slides and jumps up to give his boss’ talk on short notice with zero prep time…in prison. Good talk, too. Very entertaining, and I think he had some very helpful direction and ideas for the inmates who, after release, will be looking for work in the tech sector.

The other talk I heard was Eric Wilson’s very well attended story of how he changed careers, going from a guy who “couldn’t code ‘hello world’ in any language” to being a TDD-practicing, gainfully employed software craftsman in the span of 18 months. In his prior career, Eric was a professor of mathematics; so clearly he is no mental slouch. But still it speaks volumes that he was able to shift gears and pick up the trade of software development to the point that he was providing for his family in such a short time. As a matter of fact, if I remember the story correctly, he was paying the bills with working software after only about 9 months. During those nine months he was still at the old job, and would wake up early so that he could spend an hour and a half learning and practicing code in the morning before heading to the office. Some of the key points he made were 1) you’ve got to be really diligent, 2) you’ve got to take responsibility for your own education, and 3) he says, quite frankly, he asked God to help him. It’s a great story, and I think it had us all thinking about what it means to sack up in the face of learning challenges in order to reach our goals.

Even More Talks

In addition to all that, there were six other talks which I did not get to hear, including some that were given by inmates. One of those was about creating 3d animations using Blender and other technologies. Another was a talk about how computers are changing the music industry. Those guys actually had a digital recording application called Cubase up and running, and they had some musical instruments there and were literally recording music during the talk. Wish I could have seen the whole thing.

To hear more about the other talks, read Dan Wiebe’s blog and stay tuned to #prizcon on twitter.