On this event I’d been looking forward for a long time. Last Thursday it was finally come: the 5th Software Craftsmanship and Testing Conference (SoCraTes) 2015 in Germany started. This community-driven and non-commercial unconference is definitely my favorite and one of my personal highlights of every year. This year, more than 180 software craftspeople from Germany and several other countries, who are passionate about software development and testing, met in the Hotelpark Soltau for a three day unconference and an additional workshop day. They’ve shared their knowledge and ideas, learned new things, practiced their craft, and discussed about software craftsmanship and related topics. And it was definitely an amazing event!
Coming home for SoCraTes
SoCraTes is different than traditional conferences. On this unconference, always something magical happened. There is a special kind of spirit that is hard to describe, but everyone who has experienced it knows what I mean. Or how Lady Retweetsalot (@Singsalad) has described it very appropriate on Twitter: „This is home. This is my crowd. My family.“
As every year, the unconference started Thursday evening with a so called World Café, a powerful, structured, and effective discussion format to enable meaningful conversations and large group dialogues. The guiding questions for the discussion at the tables were: What are your expectations from this SoCraTes? What topics would you like to share with others, or what topics are you interested in?
The following two days were conducted as a large Open Space, an approach for hosting meetings or conferences without a fixed agenda. Due to the numerous available conference rooms in the venue there were space for about 100 sessions per day and beyond. But it was absolutely no problem to fill these slots with exciting session proposals. After about 1 hour of marketplace, where attendees gave a short introduction into their planned sessions and pinned them on a free slot on the schedule, there was very little free space. At this point a big thank you to our fabulous facilitator Pierluigi Pugliese (@p_pugliese), who as always did a really great job.
The variety of sessions offered was breathtaking. There were miscellaneous sessions about functional programming, test-driven development, clean code, vim and emacs, how to work remotely, apprenticeship in software development, developer ethics, agile transitions, software design, visual facilitation and sketchnotes, and many more. There was way too much to mention everything in this article. As always the attendees had been spoiled for choice, and they had to make compromises while choosing where to participate.
One remarkable session was offered by Stefan Seegers (@StefanSeegers). It was titled „Your code as a crime scene“ as the eponymous book by Adam Tornhill. Stefan demonstrated how commits to git repositories can be evaluated to find various challenges in source code and beyond. For example, he showed how to determine those places in a code base that are very unstable, because there are an above average amount of commits. If several different modules are always changed and commited at nearly the same time, this can be an indication for strong dependencies between those modules. And another evaluation on git’s repository data can be used to discover the so called „Single Head of Knowledge“ anti-pattern, ie you can identify the areas in the source code, which are mainly maintained by one particular team member.
Another exciting and very well-attended session was offered by Sandro Mancuso (@sandromancuso), author of the well-known book „The Software Craftsman“ and founder of the London Software Craftsmanship Community. He stated that he has changed his opinion and that TDD (test-driven development) does not lead to good design. This somewhat surprising revelation of course attracts wide interest, especially among those conference attendees who had followed the controversial debate on TDD in recent months. After about 45 minutes Sandro has explained his position, and I could fully agree with him. He has exactly the same opinion about TDD which I always had. Of course, TDD still remains an important tool in his tool box, Sandro explained. But it can not guarantee, that the evolving design is of good quality. The design decisions are still made by the developer. But it is very hard to test-drive crap. So, TDD is a tool that impedes developers to write bad code. And there are many important decisions that theoretically could be test-drived too, but in practice he wouldn’t do that, e.g. architectural decisions. Sandro has then also introduced the interesting concept of Inflection Points that he has already described in a blog post.
Don’t be dogmatic – be cat-matic!
Apropos TDD: have you ever been dogmatic when it comes to a particular principle, process, tool, or technology? I think we all were ever dogmatic. But a principle is not a law carved in stone, and a tool is not a religion. Pawel Duda (@pawelduda) organised an awesome workshop and named it „Be cat-matic“, which is obviously an antonym of dogmatic. He described the session, how it works, and its outcome in a blog post.
Always worth mentioning are also the evening activities at this conference. There were board games, card games (have you ever heard about Exploding Kittens?), sports, meditation, sauna, power-point karaoke, music-making, strolls in the beautiful nature of the Lüneburger Heide, beer at the bar, and – of course – coding, coding, coding… If there is one place in the world where you can see some developers practicing test-driven development on a good old Commodore C-64 (emulated), it’s the SoCraTes.
„Good morning Socrates, how are you?“
One awesome result of the evening activities we were allowed to enjoy at the opening of the Open Space on day 2: „Suzy on Strings“ performed „Good morning Socrates, how are you?“ (You can find the lyrics on the YouTube page of this video).
Those who want to get even more impressions (tweets, photos) of the event can visit the corresponding Eventifier page.
Many thanks to the SoCraTes 2015 organizers, like Nicole, Benjamin, Chris, Ivan, and all the others that have made this terrific conference possible. You all did a really great job! Thanks to all sponsors that have made this event affordable for all. And of course thanks to the staff of Hotel-Park Soltau for good food, beverage, and care.
Looking forward to SoCraTes 2016!