Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach

Some Highlights from HDC14

When I go to a conference I am always re-energized afterward from having learned about tools that I’d love to try, techniques others are using, and finding common ground with other professionals I wouldn’t otherwise get to interact with.

This week I went to, and spoke at, the 2014 Heartland Developer’s Conference in Omaha, NE. I was impressed with this year’s selection of talks – it seemed more were really well designed than I’d seen in years past.

Jack Skeel’s Master Agile and Write More Code

The highlight for me was a keynote delivered by Jack Skeels of Agency Agile titled Master Agile and Write More Code (slides). Jack talked about how agile processes may not actually improve productivity, especially for shorter projects and projects that have constraints of budget and schedule. He made some points about how agile can work in a constrained environment, which all really hit home for me and my experience in custom software development through various consulting firms.

  • Small scope is better
  • Direct communication is critical
  • Learning constantly via process improvements is important

Those points really tied in nicely with my talk title From Idea to Core Feature Set which covered how to get started on the right foot on a project that may be constrained by budget and schedule.

He also emphasized the importance of flow – keeping interruptions to a minimum – so that a team can be most productive. I was excited to hear about how important he thought this was because I’m working on a side project that deals directly in this problem space! Now that HDC is over, I intend to turn back to that and bring something out by early next year.

One of the books he highly recommended was: Practices for Scaling Lean and Agile Development Practices for Scaling Lean and Agile Development, which he said he owned two copies and both were dog-eared and bookmarked and well-worn. He also mentioned Thinking Fast and Slow and his Amazon Bookshelf.

John Wirtz’s Stakeholders and Persona’s are for Wusses – Everyone go Meet Your Real Users

John’s talk on the importance of integrating with your users was enlightening. I had met John for coffee one time to talk about how his company Hudl manages their teams and their agile processes, so I was really looking forward to hearing what he had to say and I wasn’t disappointed.

John told us a bit about what Hudl does and how they modeled their teams after Spotify’s tribe-guild-squad model that scales agile teams very well.

One technique Hudl uses to get raw feedback they call the Noob Gut-Punch – they go sit with a user who is pretty new to their software and ask them to navigate around and tell them what each button and menu means to them. John played a brief clip of one of these interviews and it truly was hard to listen to how confused the user was! I can only imagine being the software developer responsible for creating a pretty decent interface only to see someone struggle with it that much. The uncomfortableness of that moment is going to drive the developer to think like someone new to the system and give them someone to talk about when they argue over how features should be implemented so that someone who is new to the software can understand it.

He also said that they have their developers ask the customers in a 5-why's type of style where they just keep drilling down into what the customer is saying until they can find the root of the problem. 

One other point he made was that they try to hire developer’s with natural user empathy. If someone really cares about finding out how users are using software, then they will feel welcome in Hudl’s culture.

He mentioned tools such as: WuFoo, and UserVoice.

Miscellaneous Highlights

  • Pete Brown talked about the Intel Galileo, an arduino-type board that runs windows! He highly recommended everyone should watch the IT Crowd and get Little Bits for their kids or themselves.
  • Bill Fink showed us the Kinect v2 and said it will be priced at $199 and be incredibly much better than v1!
  • Andy Ochsner recommended the ELK stack for log analysis, and showed how awesome Kibana is at charting log data – suggested you could do some cool things with public data.
  • Dave Royce sat next to me at one session and told me his team is using Liquid Planner, Confluence, and Box to manage his custom software projects for his team.
  • Paul Oliver gave a spectacularly funny talk on Git (slides) where he showed us how to beat-box, too. He recommended this interactive tool to help learn Git, and SourceTree for a beginning IDE, then GitExtensions for advanced, and said not to use the VS IDE in a team because merge conflicts are a pain. He gave out a few copies of the Git Pocket Guide and had some great things to say about it.

Interview

Also, I got a chance to chat with Jim Collison:

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