I'm writing this on the train back from Extreme Tuesday Club. XTC was celebrating it's 10th anniversary. For those who don't know XTC is a weekly meeting for XP enthusiasts which runs every Tuesday in a London pub - the first meeting was 10th August 1999. There's no set format for meetings but most are simply an opportunity for agile interested folk to meet and talk informally over a few beers.
As I walked into the pub, I had no idea who would be there. There's a wiki for people to signup but most people don't get around to doing this. Bob Marshall was the first face I recognized as I pushed open the door into a room already crowded and buzzing with conversation.
I was quickly drawn into a conversation with Antony Marcano and Andy Palmer of http://pairwith.us/ fame. They're brimming with ideas for a new app to make Agile2009 program to navigate. I provided them with a CSV of the program data and we talked through the user stories for a typical user.
Next I caught up with Ivan Moore, we were past colleagues at Connextra between 2000-2003. He wanted to know when my book "Agile Coaching" would be out. XTC is where I first met Liz Sedley my co-author. Steve Freeman joined us. His new book "Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests" is going through copyedits now and should be out in the autumn.
Soon after, some of the XTC founders also showed up including Oli Bye - who hosted the XTC wiki for the early years. More and more agile faces kept on appearing - I can't name them all here. Although some XTC founders like Tim Mackinnon and Paul Simmons weren't able to make it.
The next person I talked to was Nathan Lewis who works at the BBC. I was engaged as a coach for his team three years ago. He's just submitted a session for XPDay - XTC's annual conference with the tag line "More than XP. More than one day". We talked about some of the challenges faced in implementing TDD at BBC and the pros and cons of Mock Objects. Not long afted, Nathan was surprised to see Matt Patterson appear - another developer on the team on the first BBC project I coached in 2006.
David Harvey appeared. He's been talking with Mike Sutton - co-organizer of the Agile Coaches Gathering. They're keen to run a one day workshop for Agile Coaches focusing on techniques from theatre improvisation. That reminded me I had some announcement to make.
I chimed on my glass to get some attention for an announcement. But first I asked for a cheer for XTC's 10th birthday and acknowledgement of the founders. I remind people that they need to propose their sessions for XPDay by 14th August. Then I got to my announcement that on 27th September Agile Alliance are organizing a user group reception in London which will be co-hosted with Lean Conference at RSA vaults. Liz Keogh jumped in with another announcement she and Dan North will be running a session at SkillsMatter on BDD next week. There's also a one day BDD conference in the offing.
It's at that point that the real nature of XTC rears it's head. Steve Freeman asks for additional volunteers to keep it going and to find a new pub to host it - we're being kicked out of The Counting House pub at the end of September. All this time an XTC has run as a self-organizing collective. It was set up as the simplest agile meeting that could possibly work. There's no central organizing committee - although we do have one for XPDay. XTC depends on the people who attend the meetings to check with the pub. Recently Steve Freeman has been picking this up but it's a responsibility that has been passed around. The debate spins out about possible venues - foremost in people's mind is the quality of the food and the beer. Maybe it's time for XTC to split? Keith Braithwaite adds that "communities grow by budding".
General conversation breaks out. I get to catch up with Patrick Kua who's delighted to be working on a new engagement in London. I also get to meet Cesar Idovo Carillo, a nominee for Agile Alliance board. It's nice to meet someone in person when you've exchanged emails. I was excited to hear Ceasr's ideas for how Agile Alliance can better support agile user groups. He wants to spread some of the ideas that he's tried at Bay APLN in San Francisco. He's also keen to get some discussion going around the ideas and strengths of the different candidates for Agile Alliance board election to be held in Chicago at Agile2009.
Finally, I got a chance to catch up with to ex-Connextra developer, Tim Cox. He's now at Google and working on code that has some developers in UK and others in Mountain View. He's really happy to be working in an organization with top-notch technical leadership. He's also hoping that he gets the opportunity to go out to Mountain View to encourage consistent coding approaches and evangelize about dependency injection. He feels this would help breakdown the us vs them attitude that sometimes creeps in on distributed teams. In turn, I share one of my current concerns about the defect rates at a current client and get some encouragement about how to present them in a way that they'll take notice. This is this kind of conversation that encouraged me to put forward the pattern "A Shoulder To Cry On" for the book Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas.
It's hard to convey the energy and discussions going on at XTC but I hope this blog post acts as a taster for anyone thinking of dropping in. When is it? Every Tuesday evening (the clue's in the name) and where? In a London pub - directions available on the wiki.
I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to XTC by coming along to the meetings and joining in the conversation. Those conversations have been an invaluable resource and sped me on my way to doing a job that I really enjoy.