Seeing Someone Live

On Oct 29th 2012, I saw Martin Fowler speak here in Toronto. This was a free event sponsored by ThoughtWorks and InfoQ, though parking in downtown Toronto at 4:30 PM isn’t cheap.

The format Martin Fowler used was to deliver three short talks using articles published on his web site. I like this approach as I have read most of the recent posts to his web site and hearing Martin’s explanation would enable me to compare my own interpretation with his.

The first was on developing for multiple mobile devices. This presentation didn’t provide any new insights to me and it is an excellent primer for anyone faced with a decision about developing for mobile devices.

The second was on NoSQL which I believe was actually an combination of his blog post on aggregate oriented databases and his introduction to NoSQL. I have been following the development of NoSQL however I hadn’t read the post on aggregate oriented databases. The aggregate oriented databases piece was an interesting backgrounder that I had missed.

And the last topic one was entitled “Agile: Essence and Fluency”. As a participant in the creation of the Agile Manifesto, Martin is of the opinion that “agile” has been subject to “semantic diffusion”. In other words, what was meant by “agile” ten years ago is not necessarily what people mean today. For Martin, the essence of agile is adaptive planning over predictive planning and people focused over process focused. This is not to say that you must abandon predictive planning and throw out all processes but rather weight in favour of the former. I very much agree with this and have found that reality of balancing the two is quite difficult.

The second part of the final talk was to highlight the paper posted on his site authored by Diana Larsen and James Shore on Agile Fluency. This is a great paper for anyone working in an agile way or for those moving to agile. The two key points I think are the cultural shifts, first the team then the organization. The team shift isn’t that difficult though not necessarily painless but the organizational shift is. Michael Sahota describes it this way, “Culture Will Eat Your Strategy for Breakfast“.

So what do you gain by seeing someone speak live? For me it is two things, audience reaction and the opportunity to interact. Watching the audience is always interesting and sometimes makes you realize that you might have not caught the significance of a particular statement. The opportunity to interact is also very important. This is the time when you can find out if your interpretation is the same or different from others and hopefully ask clarifying questions of the speaker. I have watched Martin Fowler present many times in videos available on InfoQ and seeing someone live is always better in my opinion.

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