Extreme Practices – Agile Tour Beirut

In my previous post, I shared with you how Philippe and I prepared for our talk “Extreme Practices.” In this post, I will be briefing the talk’s content; starting with the pitch and ending with the feedback! Philippe has already posted a blog on the talk that you can read here.

Pitching

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Each of the speakers had to brief their session in a thirty seconds pitch. This was mine:

This is unusual for me, because my co-presenter is in Paris! Philippe and I will demonstrate how we adopted the practices of Extreme Programming in our distributed team. We will also have two live demos; the first on remote pair programming and the second on remote meetings.

The talk

The audience started taking their seats; and in a couple of minutes, the room was full! We started by engaging the audience with three simple questions!

Who goes to work by car?

Who goes to work by bus?

Who goes to work on Skype?

Extreme programming

After introducing ourselves, our team and Murex, we spent the first half of the talk discussing four of the XP practices and their benefits.

  1. Ten Minutes Build
    • Helps developers stay focused on what they are doing
    • Shorten the feedback loop
    • Encourages developers to submit frequently thus resulting in easier bug analysis
  2. TDD
    • Only coding what makes tests pass decreases the possibility of generating bugs
    • In most cases, a failing unit test is enough to detect where the bug is and thus reducing the need for debugging
    • The refactoring step drives to clean code
    • Finding difficulty writing a test is an indication that refactoring is required
  3. Pair Programming
    • Benefits:
      • Newcomers tend to learn faster and submit on their first day
      • The quality of our code has increased
      • We didn’t notice any negative any impact on productivity
      • It helped us build a bonded team
    • Difficulties
      • It is very tiring for both the driver and navigator
      • It is risky because some developers prefer to work alone
  4. Retrospectives: For this part, we explained the five stages of our retrospectives
    • Check-in/energizer
    • Throwback
    • Collect insights & discuss
    • Actions
    • ROTI

Extreme programming in remote mode

Our second half of the talk was dedicated to sharing how we are applying XP in a remote mode, mainly focusing on Pair-Programing and Retrospectives. The discussion included the difficulties we faced at the beginning and how we managed to solve them. We ended the discussion on both topics by a live demo!

  1. Remote Pair Programming
    • To overcome the problem of time difference between the two cities, the pairs tend to share their calendars as well as an online document with the detailed tasks required to finish the story
    • The navigator might easily lose focus; that is why we try to submit frequently and switch control as much as possible
    • It is more tiring than local pair-programming especially if you have the headset on all day long. We agreed that anyone is free to ask for a break at any time
  2. Remote Retrospectives
    • The whiteBoards were located in Paris, and thus it was hard for us in Beirut to effectively contribute to the meetings. We managed to solve this problem by replacing our the whiteboard with an online Trello boards.
    • Initially, our meetings were held over the phone lacking any visualization of the team on the other side which caused a lot of frustration. To overcome this problem, our IT team installed Visio Conference rooms in both cities!

Here is a short video of the PairProgramming demo we did!

Main message

You don’t have to move abroad for your dream job!“.

Remote work is becoming the trend! The advancement of the collaboration tools and technologies is making it easier for companies to adopt. In the future, you will see more and more developers working from home.

That was our message to the audience!  We concluded that there are three ways to organize your team when working remotely:

  1. Split the team in two if there are enough members in each city
  2. Work in open-source mode if team members are distributed over many cities
  3. Finally, adopt our remote XP practices if it is not possible to split the team in two

Feedback

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In addition to the above two Kudo cards, I received several positive verbal feedback at the end of the session. All that was a sign that our talk was successful!

Slides

Finally, you can have a look on our slides here:

 

Coding dojo… One year later

Last week’s coding dojo session was a special one, not only because we brought a cake 🙂 but because it marked the first anniversary of those sessions at Murex Beirut. One year ago, I wrote a post sharing my experience on how we started this activity. Today, I am writing this post to share what has changed during this year.

Widening the scope

After twenty-eight sessions of practicing TDD, we decided it was time to adjust the scope a bit! Frequent attendees grasped TDD pretty well and suggested that we might benefit from those sessions to learn new technologies and practices.

After a brainstorming session, we agreed to label the session by one of four themes: Algorithms & TDD, New Languages, Kata & Workshops, and New Projects. We thought that by applying those themes we would increase the technical knowledge of all attendees, involve volunteers in the session preparation thus improving their presentations skills, and probably attract wider audience

Themes

Algorithms & TDD

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We are all aligned that our primary purpose of this activity is practicing TDD, but in the case of complex algorithms using TDD is not always the optimal way (sudoku for example). Thus, we decided that in such cases we first would agree on the full algorithm then implement the code and write the sufficient tests to cover the different cases!

Lately, we’ve been using CodinGame to solve complex puzzles and algorithms, as the tests are already written, and they have an excellent graphical simulation of the puzzle execution.

New Languages

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Learning new programming languages is one of the best approaches to improving someone’s programming skills; especially, when it includes learning different programming models (OO, functional, procedural, etc.) For those sessions, a volunteer learns the language alone and then presents it to the group in any form he/she prefers.

So far, we have learned two languages Scala and Ruby! For those sessions, we are using the book Seven Languages in Seven Weeks as our learning material reference and CodinGame as an exercising platform.

Kata & Workshops

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We defined kata as a presentation or short talk on a particular subject given by someone knowledgeable on that topic. A workshop, on the other hand, is a collaborative session where all take part of experimenting something new.

So far, we’ve had five of those sessions:

  1. A workshop on Git.
  2. Two kata sessions on machine learning.
  3. One presentation on Java agent and one on Android development.

Design patterns, development processes (Agile, lean, pair programming, etc.) and tools (docker, Gradle) are some of the candidates to be presented in next sessions.

New Projects

This is probably the hardest theme! The idea here is to implement an internal tool or app that can benefit other employees. Contributors to this theme will benefit from practicing TDD on a big scale project and learning new tools and technologies.

At this point, we are preparing a short list of proposals to get approval on one!  Hopefully, we can kickstart it soon 🙂

In Numbers

We initially started with thirty-four registered participants, but that number dropped to fourteen. Honestly, I think this isn’t a bad number!

The below graphs show the distribution of all the forty-seven sessions we’ve had so far. The graphs are grouped by theme and topic / language.

By Theme:
By Topic / Language:

More to Come

Thanks to the participants’ commitment and their eagerness to learn and improve their technical skills we celebrated the first anniversary of the coding dojo sessions. We will keep running those sessions, and we will keep improving them as we go! I hope that in one year from now, I will be posting another blog to share what we have done 🙂