After two years of ruing my inability to attend the Mob Programming Conference, last week I finally made it. It was simultaneously everything I hoped for and exactly what I expected: the hybrid vigor of a conference crossed with an unconference, and the generalizable learning that only comes from concrete experiences.

Mob programming is one of my favorite techniques. (For more about it, listen to Agile in 3 Minutes #32.) I learned it with Pat Maddox and Woody Zuill in 2014, have used it frequently in my consulting ever since, and treasure my occasional opportunities to simply be in a mob. The Mob Programming Conference’s 1.5-hour sessions were designed to maximize those opportunities. Woody likes to say mob programming is “All the brilliant minds working on the same thing at the same time on the same computer”; at every session of Mob Programming 2018, I saw brilliant people every time I looked around the room.

Turns out Lennart — my “brother from another mother”, as he put it — was able to give me some older-brother advice on my upcoming coding tour, because he went on tour in 2015. Now I have a better plan. Look for an announcement next week.

A week on, both of Lennart Fridén’s sessions have stayed with me. One was about solving problems in a fictional assembly language, where nobody’s an expert and we all have to learn together. I came in late, so I had even less information than everyone else, but within a few rotations and a few questions was able to make myself useful, and by the end had roughly the same working understanding as everyone else. If you’ve mobbed before, you’ve likely seen and felt this convergence of shared understanding. Lennart’s session was designed to highlight it.

His other session invited a few volunteers to role-play unconstructive mobster behaviors, then opened to group discussion about how we might overcome them. As one of the improv actors, I found it disturbingly easy to behave badly in a succession of audience-specified ways. I may have had slightly too much fun doing it, but I think my acting supported the session’s intended learnings, and if not, Lennart’s facilitation skills made it so. I guess if the tech coaching well ever runs dry, I can always take my talents to Silicon Valley:

My new calling: disruptive bullshit

In addition to seeing lots of old friends, I got to meet face-to-face with some folks I’d thus far only gotten to appreciate via Twitter. One of them, Lisi Hocke, wrote about her experience moberating two sessions, along with vivid details of her participation; read it and you’ll almost have the feeling of being there. With a little luck I’ll return to the Mob Programming Conference next year, perhaps as a moberator.

A conference that took me five years to return to was Software Craft[smanship] North America. The 2013 SCNA in Chicago brought me into a community of shared values I didn’t even know I was missing, and nudged me to make a significant career change. I can’t imagine how any subsequent SCNA could be as personally momentous, but at yesterday’s event in midtown Manhattan I enjoyed getting to know some 8th Lighters over lunch, to run into one of my Problem Solving Leadership cohort (and meet his whole company!), to ask Joel Spolsky a pointed question about Stack Overflow culture, and to feel for a multitude of reasons that my professional and personal homes — coaching and New York — are finally neighbors.

Sure is good to be here.