Last week, the Mix-it conference took place and three aviators
(@nono, @shakaman and myself) were in Lyon for
the event. For those who are not familiar with it, the conference is centered
on two main topics, agility and development, plus some alien subjects. You
could pick between talks (40 minutes), or lengthier workshops (2 hours) ; the
full planning of the events is available here. We tried to split up
a bit to cover more ground, but there were way too many things for us to see
In the audience, there was a majority of Java developers, some agile coaches
and various kinds of consultants, so one may have believed that the conference
would be a bit "corporate", but thankfully not so much. Of course, there was
quite a bit of Java, but fortunately for us, the subjects of the talks were
well distributed, so you could always dodge these talks. (You would sometimes
find a bit of Java hidden in a seemingly harmless presentation, but let's say
it was in tolerable doses).
There was a handful of talks about project management (good to see that
more folks are seriously considering agility). As a developer it is always good to
get some perspective from the "manager's" point of view, and I found some real
insight on what the title scrum master actually means. As pointed out by
Angel Medinilla, this title is never mentionned in the
founding literature of the Agile movement, although he has an essential role in
the transition that leads to self organized teams.
There was an interesting experience feedback from Anne-Sophie
Tranchet and Olivier Servieres (from TEA) on the
agile practises of their development team. Once again, it was good to have some
real-world views of agile practices, and examples of adaptation to the specific
situation of a team. Working systematically with Pull Requests to ensure code
review seems a bit extreme to me, but I guess that coupled with a continuous
integration plugin to build and merge feature-branches, giving a quick overview
of everyone's progress, it wouldn't be so bad.
On another matter, Jonathan Bonzy presentation on the
lean startup methodology was also a great one. He explained the theory of
making hypothesis, and validating them with relatively rapid iterations, but
with pragmatic and funny anecdotes from his own company, Une Petite Mousse (It was even possible
to win a few dégustation beers during the talk!). But
beware, rapid iterations do not mean rushing into decisions, actually,
collecting relevant data takes time. You will have to find the good medium if
you want this method to work for you. He also insisted on the importance of
good metrics, that will lead to the right decisions for the current hypothesis.
On the development side of the event, the diversity of the subjects was quite
impressive. Front-end, Back-end, Devops, Continuous delivery, … Here are some
of the talks we attended.
Paul O'Shanessy made an interesting point on the problem faced by most
painful to work with. We have built some heavy single page applications, and we
know the incidental complexity that arises from the DOM handling.
A typical Backbone example is when you want your views to update
partially on some model changes. Nest those views in a hierarchy, powder with a
generous amount of interactivity, and you just made yourself a rendering
nightmare, which of course rapidly degrades into a performance problem. Although
you could add a lot of unnecessary complexity to your views, in an attempt to
speed up rendering (and you may very well succeed), it will also become more
painful, and you will be all the more reluctant to make further changes.
Paul presented React, which tackles this exact problem with interesting
new concepts, for example their shadow DOM. I think we will be playing with it at af83
to see what it has under the hood.
In addition to development and agility thematics, the organizers have included
what they call "alien" talks. For example, the first workshop I attended was a
drawing workshop (by Angel Medinilla). My mastery of the
stick man is still rather limited, but I guess it could come in handy.
The last talk we all attended was Consulting secrets for effective
communication, by the very entertaining Jeffrey Davidson.
If you are wondering how you could get a whole lecture hall to strike a
Superman pose, he is probably your guy. Some of his advice were surprising, for
example the fact that simply by assuming a "power pose", a person is
"chemically" wired to show more confidence. So fake it until you make it!
All in all…
All in all, we had a pretty good time. The organizers made an awesome job of
animating the event. The after-party, organised on a boat (free beer is always
a compelling reason to attend), is just one example of that. It was nowhere
cheap except for the actual price. See you there next year!