Last week I participated in SocratesUK for the second time. I learned many things, met amazing people and had a lot of fun.
I flu from Tenerife to London the day before and met Sebastian Larsson in the pub where we had a nice chat on professional careers, talking about the resources and techniques we use for improving our skills.
I had the luck of sharing room the Nicole Rauch this time although we almost didn’t see each other, there were many things going on so as not to stay in the room for long.
After dinner Codurance sponsored a selection of craft beer in the main room. In that room there were several flipcharts and that helped to host very interesting discussions. Steve Tooke explained the benefits of Specification by Example when we started talking about Cucumber.
This year I came up with the idea of booking a dedicated room for deliberate practice where one could code and pair all day long. I exposed the idea during the proposals in the next morning and got the room. The idea was to work on code katas or pet projects together. During the day there were always people in the room but the truth is that for many people it wasn’t clear what to expect from the “workshop room”. I had fun pairing with Stefano Cadario and Matt Glover among others and facilitating some exercises like the Word Wrap kata. Next time rather than booking a room I’ll be at the bar with my laptop ready to code. I was unlucky this time and my laptop’s screen got broken during the flight.
There were like six or seven tracks going on at the same time, some in the garden or the bar and fortunately none of them was about Scrum or Kanban!
After dinner Pawel Duda and I started a pair programming session at the bar and we ended up doing a kind of Mob Programming with Matt, Uku, Sebastian and Jan using tmate – a terminal sharing tool. We worked on an experiment, trying to solve a Sudoku from the outside in, stubbing out smaller functions. It was kind of brain fuck, it was good practice and fun. Working on experiments, trying different techniques to those you usually apply is one way to improve your skills. The problem was quite hard and there were situations where Pawel and I couldn’t see a mistake and then Matt or Uku spotted it on. I believe somebody took pictures of us, please let me know if you find them out.
The next day I ran a two hours workshop on the fundamentals of TDD and Pair Programming, an introduction. We were just a handful of people which made me realise that most Socrates’ participants were seasoned practitioners. Naseer Ashraf and Sebastian came along to help with their vision after years of practice. It was really good as we had complementary opinions to make the discussion enriching. It was very nice to see how Matt and Nic Infante realised the value of PP and TDD in terms of empathy and productivity, they found a sustainable pace.
Ivan Moore showed us the “refactoring golf” exercise before lunch. I find it useful if we get rid of the “points” and focus just on keeping the tests green.
In the afternoon I attended to Samir’s session on refactoring. The exercise was very interesting – avoid primitives in the code and then add new features. The repository is here.
Later on that Pawel and I went to the tiny gym beside the reception desk to work out together. Pawel is an amazing guy. Being able to do some exercise raised my energy levels.
After dinner a bunch of us went back to Samir’s code, this time in front of the projector, running a Mob programming session. A different person was at the keyboard every 7 minutes with Pawel controlling the time rigorously. Interestingly enough the person at the keyboard always tried to understand and learn IntelliJ shortcuts and the Mac keyboard. Everyone was trying to learn and bring value in a very respectful atmosphere. I was sincerely amazed but the suggestions of my fellow craftsmen.
On Sunday morning I was late to join the group on their walk through the beautiful country side so I stayed in the hotel. In the bar again people were pairing. I started a kata with Sebastian in Java. Then he had to set off but Steve and I took over using Erlang. It was my first Erlang program and I believe Steve’s too. I learned several tricks on Vim thanks to Steve and some Erlang which is very cool. This is the code. Unfortunately we didn’t commit often to show all the intermediate baby steps.
The way back to London was also very nice. Mashooq took Oliver and Raph to the airport and then gave a lift to Pedro and me. We pretty much crossed London by car it was my tourist tour thanks to the infinite patience of Mashooq. It’s funny that I should have met Pedro in England after he’s been living in Barcelona for so many years. His Spanish is better than mine! I am glad he is part of Codurance.
I like this year’s edition more than the one before but I think it had to do with my attitude and the fact that this time I knew more people already and I had different expectations. Half the participants were new anyway.
What I like the most about this conference is that I get to meet people from whom I can learn a lot but at the same time there is no hierarchy we all treat others with respect. It’s definitely important to run open spaces on software craftsmanship where it’s about developers, practice and learning.
For this reason some friends and I are thinking of organising and hosting Socrates Canaries on the next winter, when it’s cold in Europe but warm in the Canary Islands. I’d like to hear from you, would you participate in Socrates Canaries? Please fill in the form and give us your opinion.
Thank you so much to the organisers and to Rachel Davies our excellent facilitator. Thanks also to Farncombe’s staff that kindly provided me with a vegan option on every meal – it was delicious. If I can make it next year, I’ll be there again!