I'm still in Florida as I write this, enjoying a weekend with friends near Tampa to help wind down after the conference. I must say that the humidity on the Gulf coast is much lower than in Orlando!
For me personally, the conference was one of the first opportunities to meet a number of people I've "known" online for many years - Ron Jeffries, Chet Hendrickson, Diana Larsen, Dave Nicolette... and those were just the people I sat with at Bloody Stupid Johnson! :) Bob Martin, Esther Derby, Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory, Jon Bach, Jeff Patton, Johanna Rothman, Mary Poppendieck, Alan Shalloway, Cory Foy, chzy, Mike Hill, Kay Johansen, Corey Haines, James Shore, Arlo Belshee... as well as new faces like fellow aviation freak Bob Schatz. Of course, it was also great getting back in touch with those I have met before!
Regardless of whether I had met someone in person or virtually before, it was fantastic and quite energizing to be around so many others who share my passion for making software better.
I attended sessions on every day of the conference, and there was only one that I would say didn't live up to my expectations, and another that had the makings of a great session but didn't draw the type of people who could have made it great.
I didn't partake in much of the extracurricular activities, but that's probably how I was able to attend sessions on every day. :) That said, one of the best chats I had all conference was with Bill Hanlon of Microsoft while waiting in line for Soarin' at Epcot after the party!
Another thing I noticed at the conference was the high Canadian Content (known as CanCon in Canuck broadcasting parlance). Everything from the company running the event to the band playing the party at Epcot at the end was Canadian! [Later found out from Gil Broza that the band were Canadian wannabe poseurs - closest to being a Canuck was the Irish bass player :( ] How do you spot the Canadian in the crowd? He's the one wearing the Dale Hawerchuk Winnipeg Jets t-shirt... or the Tragically Hip t-shirt... or the Barenaked Ladies t-shirt (was she Canadian?)... or offering up maple syrup for auction to raise money for charity. Maybe The Canadian Conspiracy and Canadian Bacon were warnings after all... :)
To me the common theme that emerged from both sessions and keynotes, especially that of Ron Jeffries and Chet Hendrickson, is that we need to stop making excuses for why software is still made with terrible quality, and get to changing how we work.
I was also encouraged by Mary Poppendieck and Dave West's talks where they mentioned that the software delivery people must become part of the business units they support in order to become more effective. I wrote about this before in Embedded Collaboration and Agile, circa 1988. What was different is that Mary spoke about Handelsbanken in Sweden, where they realized that it was much more customer-effective for each branch to have its own IT group as opposed to the cost-effective approach of centralizing IT services. Essentially, being cost-effective may work against the Lean principle of optimizing the system, and centralization of services becomes a local optimization! Long-term strategies of maximizing value for customers was more important than short-term (i.e. quarterly) maximization of shareholder value. Handelsbanken did this starting in 1970, and Amazon & Google continue it today. I've had an intuitive feeling that this was true, but nothing concrete on which to base that feeling. These points comprised the gold nugget from Mary's talk that will be immensely helpful for me moving forwards from the conference.
I was a first time presenter at this conference, and was somewhat nervous. I think it helped a bit that I didn't present until Thursday since I had a chance to see how others were doing it. In the end, I had a couple of attendees of Confessions of a Flow Junkie tell me that they had learned things that they could use as soon as they returned home. That was worth more than anything on an evaluation sheet!! So, I'm quite happy with the outcome of the session, and received some excellent feedback that I'll incorporate to make the session even better if I use it again.
So, many thanks to the conference organizers and volunteers and to everyone I met. I had a blast, and am already looking forward to Salt Lake City next year!