At the inaugural Agile Alliance Technical Conference, I got to meet and hang out with lots of people I’ve looked up to for a long time. It’s a thrill to have these face-to-face conversations, and I don’t think becoming less new to consulting and conference-going will ever make that less true.


Of the conference sessions, my favorite was James Shore test-driving CSS in front of an audience. For one thing, someday I’d like to have a larger fraction of his immense skill at doing and explaining. (He’s made several hundred screencasts about test-driving JavaScript.) For another, I was reminded that we as technologists already have immense agency. Things are the way they are because people made them that way; if we want things to be different, we can make them be different.

Everyone who’s worked with Cascading Style Sheets knows it can be a pain in the ass. James decided to do something about that, and started building Quixote. And for the entirety of his presentation, my face was stuck in a big dumb grin. So good, for so many reasons.

Flipboard: takeaways from DevOps Dojo
Flipboard: takeaways from DevOps Dojo

My session was a 90-minute interactive workshop called “DevOps Dojo”. We simulated Dev and Ops being forced not to work together, felt non-simulated frustration, talked about how artificial the constraint really was, and finally worked together the way we wanted to. Here are the takeaways we wrote down:

  • Make repo readable to everyone
  • Exec sponsorship (training, “safe space to fail”, support for “doing it right”, funding)
  • Focus on quality (metric: mean time to resolution)
  • Dev asks Ops about their needs
  • Exercise empathy
  • Be ready for change; practice change
  • Look for mutual interest

You’re welcome to use the workshop materials for any purpose, including your own workshop. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

Video interview

After my workshop, SolutionsIQ’s Leslie Morse asked me what it was really about. Hint: not DevOps. Take a look.

Panel discussion

Here’s a photo proving that I once sat at a table with Laurie Williams, Martin Fowler, and Rebecca Parsons.

Left to right: Rachel, Amitai, Laurie, Martin, Rebecca
Left to right: Rachel, Amitai, Laurie, Martin, Rebecca

See the name card? I was supposed to be there. Based on what folks told me about what it was like to watch, listen, and ask questions, Rachel Laycock’s advance preparations enabled us panelists to have a conversation that the audience appreciated being part of. Very effective moderating on her part. For my part, in my first appearance on a panel, I appear not to have disqualified myself from being invited on another one somewhere someday. Here are a couple things I said that people liked:

We’re making more software faster than we’re getting better at it. We’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

”Software is a human activity. To get better at writing software together, we have to get better at being human together.

Further listening and reading

Thank you to the Agile Alliance for creating this small, focused conference and for inviting me to be part of it. And thanks to everyone there who made the conference so enjoyable and valuable.

If you liked what I said and how I said it, try listening to a few episodes of my micropodcast, Agile in 3 Minutes. And if you particularly appreciated the idea of getting better at being human together, try reading and sharing the Little Guide to Empathetic Technical Leadership by Alex Harms with your nearest humans.