The joy of conferencing – Agile2011

Posted by Doc
Aug 05 2011

It’s coming up – the biggest conference in the Agile community each year: Agile2011.

This year, I’m the producer of the Open Jam, with my assistant producer being Rachel Davies. I’ll get back to this in a minute.

There are several reasons to attend a conference like this:

  1. Learning
  2. Networking (shmoozing)
  3. Selling and marketing
  4. Teaching and sharing
  5. Volunteering or otherwise working at the conference

The first question I ask myself before I go is “What is my purpose here? Do I have multiple purposes? Is there one thing, or some small set of things, that I’d like to accomplish? When I get back home, what will make me feel that the time was well spent or wasted?”

If you know me, you know I spend a bunch of time in #2 (shmoozing) and, if given the opportunity, a bunch of time in #4 (teaching and sharing). It’s not unlikely that I will be doing #5 (volunteering) and #1 (learning). Up until Tuesday of this week, I was expecting to do a bit of #3 (selling/marketing) on behalf of ThoughtWorks. Clearly, I’ll have that time free. 😉

Are you going? If so, what’s your purpose? If your employer/organization is sending you, how will you justify their investment? Will you be better at your job? Be sure that you have some way to identify the benefits you receive, and that your employer/organization therefore receives, based on the events you attend and connections you make.

Now, that said, on to the Open Jam…

In order to make the whole event richer, the organizers of Agile2011 have, for the past few years held an “Open Jam”. It partakes of concepts like birds-of-a-feather (BOF), Open Space Technology/Unconferences, and lounge. Depending on where it has been, who has been responsible, and what’s going on in the conference, it has presented a different face each year. This year, with Rachel and myself producing it, we’ve decided to introduce a couple of extras as part of the Open Jam.

  1. PechaKucha (pronounced, if you care, as p’cha-k’cha, not peh-cha-koo-cha): each day, after the programmed sessions have ended, the stage is yours. Come present 20 slides at 20 seconds each for a total of six minutes and forty seconds (6:40). Talk about anything you like: hobbies, technology, passions, sports, design, whatever you like. It should be fun and exciting!
  2. Coaches Corner: thanks to the leadership of Mark Levison, there will be an area with experienced Agile coaches who will maintain “office hours” so others can come talk with them. Got challenges? Problems? Curiosity? Just learning? Come and talk to them during their office hours. Various organizations and independents will be represented. You can’t lose!
  3. The Fringe: there were many excellent proposals submitted to the conference earlier this year. Having been one of the reviewers, I can tell you that it is never easy to eliminate some. It’s like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance – it doesn’t matter how good you are, not everyone can win. So we (okay, Rachel) thought it might be nice to have a non-stage on which some of these folks can deliver the goods. We went through the non-accepted proposals (they weren’t rejected, y’know), and have picked an interesting sample (including yours truly, btw) for you.
  4. Park Bench: this will be a place where, among other things, the original authors of A Manifesto for Agile Software Development (“the Agile manifesto”) will be dropping by from time to time.
I won’t tell you what it is, but there’s one more cool surprise in store for folks in the Open Jam.  Seriously.  It’ll be awesome.

I’ll be there from Sunday afternoon through Friday evening.  Not necessarily in the Open Jam the whole time, but the odds are good that you’ll see me there a time or two if you look for me.

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