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

dsc_0444-1

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

Kudo.png

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:

 

Extreme Practices – The Preparation

Extreme Practices was the name of the talk Philippe and I gave at the AgileTour in Beirut on 15th of October, which based on the feedback was a successful one! Our main focus was on the practices of extreme programming and how to adopt them in a distributed team.

As this was my first talk, I decided to write two blog posts about it. In this first blog, I will be sharing the preparation whereas in the second post (in few days) I will be talking about the talk itself.

It all started with a discussion

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop organized by Pierre Hervouet who is also the organizer of AgileTourBeirut. After the session, we had a lengthy discussion on how we are applying Extreme Programming in our distributed team. We ended that conversation by agreeing that I give a talk at the AgileTour on that subject.

The next day I discussed with Philippe the possibility of him being my co-speaker. Unfortunately, visiting Beirut during that time wasn’t possible for Philippe! But later it struck us; why not giving the presentation in a remote mode (i.e. I will be in Beirut while he is in Paris) to simulate how we work on a daily basis.

That kicked off the preparation for the talk!

The content

After a couple of brainstorming sessions, we defined our presentation’s content and agreed that having live demos of remote pair programming and remote retrospective would make the talk more valuable!

Here is the content we agreed on:

  1. Introduction of ourselves and our team
  2. A short definition of XP
  3. A detailed explanation of some XP practices (below) and how we are applying them
    1. 10 minutes build
    2. TDD (Test Driven Development)
    3. Pair Programming
    4. Retrospectives
  4. A short story on how we started the distributed team
  5. Remote pair programming
    1. Explain how we are doing it
    2. Discuss the difficulties we faced and how we managed to solve them
    3. Do a live demo and solve parts of the FizzBuzz problem
  6. Remote retrospectives
    1. A couple of stories on how we initially started doing remote meetings
    2. Again, mention all the difficulties and the respective solution
    3. Do a live demo
  7. Final message
  8. Answer questions

The next step was building up the presentation slides and preparing the demos!

Slides design

We are both software developers. Thus we have limited design skills plus we usually are busy at work and can’t spend a lot of time on the design. That is why we requested the help of our Internal Communications team in the Paris office! The team focused on enhancing the slides’ background and images, but the content was not modified. After a couple of iterations with them, we ended up with very well designed and beautiful slides!

The below images show a sample of the difference!

Presentation coach

I usually give talks, presentations and even training sessions at work, but this was my first attempt to give a talk at a conference. Yes, I was a bit worried about it! Thus, we asked for training with a professional coach from our training department in Paris.

We had two sessions with the trainer. The first one was in Paris (i.e. we were both in the same room) whereas the second one simulated the real scenario of the talk (i.e. I was in Beirut and Philippe in Paris).

The coach’s focus was on:

  1. The talk’s timing, to make sure that we don’t pass our allocated time. That led to the removal of some slides that were less relevance to the main message.
  2. The content, to make sure our message is well received by the audience. This led to the rewriting of parts of our text.
  3. Our presentation skills, which included how I stand on the stage, eye contact with the audience and Philippe’s intervention during the talk.

I have to say that this training was essential to the success of our talk! Some of the key points I learned from this training were:

  1. It is ok to forget and thus don’t hesitate to look at the notes if needed
  2. Limit the notes to headlines instead of full text
  3. Try not to look at the big screen
  4. Keep eye contact with all the audience

A big risk

Let’s admit, doing a remote presentation especially with an unstable connection as we have in Beirut is a huge risk! But we were well prepared!

Again here, I asked for help. But this time it was from the IT department at AUB (the tour’s host). They were very helpful, as they granted me a dedicated link with (relatively) high-speed Internet and performed two rehearsals to make sure everything is working as expected. (I took the below image from the last rehearsal)

To avoid any surprises during the talk, Philippe and I decided to record the two demos ahead of time and just play them if needed. Below you can check the two recorded demos.

Pair-programming recording

Retrospective recording

 

The preparation for the talk took a lot of time and was tiring, but it was worth as everything paid off at the end!

Stay tuned; next post is coming soon!