Ravi Mohan's Blog

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Back In Bangalore - A Ramble

After some travel (and more to come soon) I am back in Bangalore. On Saturday, I went to the Thoughtworks "MasterClass" conference. Overall this year's MC was an improvement over its predecessors, because it focussed on people who actually code on a daily basis and instead of high flown abstractions about "agile" etc , the talks were very focussed and drew on their expriences. Less "consultant speak" and more "programmer speak". Nice.

Pramod Sadalage demonstrated database refactoring. Vivek Prahlad,, author of Frankenstein, gave a competent lecture about Evolutionary Testing. Srihari Srinivasan described how his team had created a mini language ( I won't use the over abused "DSL" -- to quote Alan parsons from a comment he made on reddit "It seems anyone with 2 minutes ruby experience calls a method with a inline map, and no brackets, and calls it a "DSL" " :-) ) and then build some IDE like screens around the language. The interesting thingwas that instead of the usual ruby DSL fanboy froth, this was a very sober presentation about an "external DSL" with a proper grammar, parser etc. There was a bit of "reinventing compilers" flavour to the talk but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Overall fairly interesting and the organization of the conference was top notch.

I thought the presentations were somewhat basic , but I was not obviously part of the intended audience. To illustrate, Vivek asked the crowd how many people had *heard of* Selenium and about 6 people (of maybe 250 or so) raised their hands! 6! Considering they are all "working professionals" that's .... scary.

I also used the conference to poll some of the best programmers in TW about what they thought of "Behaviour Driven Design". I was never very impressed with either the people or the ideas in "BDD", but Dan North seems (from his writings) like a thoughtful fellow, quite an aberration fornm the usual BDD crowd. All the people I asked, dismissed BDD with varying degrees of amusement and derision (think "that'a bull****" to "It doesn't make sense. people are just making noise").

Meanwhile here is something I thought of but can't summon the energy to do. Download JUnit, change the name of "TestCase" to "Context", the part that looks for "testXXX" methods to look for "shouldXXX" methods and "asserts" to various forms of"expect" , or.shouldDotBeDotPseudoDotEnglish methods. (With JUnit 4 one would need to hack the annotations , but the principle is the same). hey presto (almost) "BDD" on the cheap.

I've always thought "BDD" was about consultants trying to create new material out of old to write new books and get a few consulting assignments. It is good to know that most of the capable developers in TWI are equally unimpressed.

The audience questions were dumber than usual. I am not talking of questions that arise because the questioner is ignorant of the subject. Those are all right. No one knows everything. These were questions that came from not listening to what the speaker was saying. In addition, they were thinly disguised statements trying to prove that their half baked "opinions" had some technical merit. (roll eyes).

Vivek in particular handled these ultra stupid questions extremely well. His strategy (which I've noted for future use) seems to be along the order of "acknowledge the question, ignore its latent stupidity, say something useful that benefits the crowd and conclude with a "That was a good question" . I would simply have said something like "duh... is that a question or your untested opinion?" or something equally nasty.

I wish there were some kind of gathering place in Bangalore for people who actually write code, because they LIKE to write code (vs because they want to get paid). I have a suspicion not many of these idiots would attend. And the conversations would be of a higher quality.

Speaking of which, the best thing about the conference was that it enabled me to touch base with an old college mate of mine, Peter Thomas. (In college, Peter was one of the good guys while I was more .... ummm.. radical). Peter is pretty unique in that he is a manager (with an MBA from one of the top institutes in India) who gave up being a suit and is focussed on writing code. Very impressive. He is the author of JTrac and his blog makes compulsive reading. As the conference wound down, Peter I and Siddhartha hit Koshy's for some conversation over beer. We talked of code, music, wargames, etc till Siddhartha had to leave to catch his flight to Chennai.

I also managed to get a sneak peek at Thoughtworks's agile project management app, Mingle. the folks manning the booth mostly weren't developers (or at least they didn't sound like developers) so they couldn't answer some technical questions, but overall I think it's a very good attempt. If they make it free for Open Source projects (as I heard one of the TWers claim) I'll give it a whirl.

All is not sweetness and light. Now that I'm in town,I have one of those "meaning of this relationship" talks coming up with the girlfriend (a force of nature is probably a better description). Urrgh! I'll never understand women! I do NOT intend to marry anybody. do NOT! NOT! Thanks!

(end ramble)


Manoj Govindan said...

"Force of nature": Bwahahahaha Understatement of the year!

Knowing this particular "force", I am with her - you should get married and "settle down" :-P

Binil Thomas said...

To illustrate, Vivek asked the crowd how many people had *heard of* Selenium and about 6 people (of maybe 250 or so) raised their hands! 6! Considering they are all "working professionals" that's .... scary.

Ravi, I was at the conference too, and I don't think you did your counting of hands right :-)

Ravi said...

you might be mistaken about the exact question and how many hands were raised. I notice this because my friend who counted the number of hands *to this question* had a look of horror on his face!

Anyway, i would have expected EVERYONE attending a masterclass to have heard of selenium? Are you saying that greater than 50 % (say)) had heard of Selenium? We may have been in different worlds. I am fairly sure about the 6 hands for THIS question.


Joe williams said...

"I have one of those "meaning of this relationship" talks coming up "

heh heh!! Been there before :-). Good luck old chap !(you're going to need it if my experience is anything to go bye :-P )

Binil said...


How do I know there were more than 6 people in audience who knew about Selenium? Well, I have used Selenium before in our project. And there were 4 four other friends of mine at the 'Master Class' - who all had worked on that same project and had definitely heard of Selenium. All five of us did raise our hands - and I assume you did too :-)

But your general point is right on - the number of raised hands were nowehere near what I would have expected.


Nisha said...

Heh. May I jesht say "he he he...." :)

Ravi said...

With friends like these (manoj... nisha ) ...