Saturday, February 12, 2011

XP-Meetups

Kent Beck wrote a small chapter about Communities in his book Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change (2nd ed):
Participate in communities, local and global. Look for communities that encourage you to be your best self. If you can't find such a community, start one yourself. If you are wrestling with difficult questions, you are not alone. As a community we can accomplish more than we ever could in isolation.
When I lived in Oslo, I was a member of the local XP-meetup group. It was awesome. In the beginning, I was still a CS student, and I felt privileged I could attend these meetings. These experienced people were dropping serious knowledge about how to work and develop software in practice.

It was so refreshing compared to the artificial subjects at university, and it just made more sense. At the same time, the speakers were so humble, you could ask them anything, and they would try to identify with you, draw parallells based on experience, tell stories..

Over the years, the meetup grew into being the largest XP-meetup in the world, and they attracted big jolt speakers like Tom Gilb, Michael Feathers, Jeff Sutherland, the Poppendiecks, Kent Beck and Uncle Bob. The organizers started doing an annual conference, now gathering 500 participants. Other meetups popped up as well, about Lean, Coding-Dojos, Agile Offshoring and more.

I think these communities have made Oslo a vibrant city for software developers. There are numerous advantages to this:

* Knowledge is shared, which benefits the community as a whole. People become more happier and better at their jobs. Projects become more successful. Old inefficient companies die out, and new companies that provide value to society are the ones that thrive.

* There is synergy between communities. Oslo's Java User Group, javaBin, got more traction thanks to the XP-meetup, and vice versa. JavaZone is arguably the best Java conference in the world, and every year it's sold out. There even is an umbrella organization for the communities in the city, and they're talking about raising a building for hosting communities.

* Networks between software developers are extended. I think this actually sharpens the competition for creating the best place to work for the developers. Communities give a lot of insight on how it is to work for another company, which in turn makes it more tempting to switch ships. The companies who want the best people have to make themselves more attractive, which again means more budget for salary, conferences and courses.

In the end, developers get better treatment, become better at what they do, and enjoy life more. Society gets more value from the software produced. Everybody wins.

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Bonn, with a population of 320.000, is not as big as Oslo, but it's certainly big enough to maintain its own community of XP-practitioners (aka Extreme Programmers). We'll do our first XP-meetup on the 21st of February, in an a bar 5 minutes from the central station. I hope you'll join too!