April 2014 meetup summary

This month’s meeting was a social get-together to chat about the state of the group and toss around a few ideas about re-energizing things a bit. (A quick thank-you to TEKsystems for providing libations at Blue Coast Grill & Bar at Market Square, which worked out to be a nice venue for an informal gathering.)

Geoff’s thoughts

Given that I’ve been the facilitator of the group for some time now, I thought it worthwhile to share some of my thoughts on the group.

Some history of the group and a bit about craftsmanship

  • As of August 2014, the group will be 3 years old.
  • Brian Friesen founded the group after soliciting the CodeStock Twitter list to see if there was interest for a group in Knoxville.
  • There is such at thing as the Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship. In short it aims to build…
    • Well-crafted software
    • Steadily adding value
    • Community of professionals
    • Productive partnerships
  • Our group hasn’t really been big on signing the manifesto or planting our proverbial flag; the goal of our group is to suck less.
  • I’m of the opinion that software is inherently creative — a mix of both art and science.
  • “In fact, the core of [the software craftsmanship movement] is that developers need to be taking responsibility for their own careers — learning, teaching, mentoring, speaking.” — Roy Osherove
    • We’ve had plenty of people give talks (some have never given a presentation to a group) about things that have helped them
    • Most of our hands-on exercises are done in small teams or groups — a great opportunity for learning and mentoring
  • Uncle Bob’s Clean Code is also often associated with craftsmanship.

Some issues I’m finding

  • My personality is geared toward being the first officer rather than the captain. In short, I need some help finding direction for the group.
  • The time I have to devote to building the group has lessened over the past 6 months.
  • I’ve felt that the group is getting a bit stagnant, and I don’t feel I have adequate time to market the group to bring in new faces.
  • Our meetings have gotten away from the hands-on portion, which was one of the key things that kept me coming back each month.
    • The exercises/katas seem to take forever to get through. We have a variety of skill sets in our membership and I don’t want to push the pace so fast that people get lost or go so slow that people get bored.
    • Other interesting exercises (e.g., longer or more complex katas) exist, but they can’t be covered in a single monthly meeting.
  • Staying technology-agnostic has been difficult. I’m a .NET desktop app developer by day, and I’m not fluent enough in other tech to hop between tech stacks. Additionally, many of the “how to write good code and suck less” depend on what language you’re using. For example, I’ve been told that the Interface Segregation Principle pretty much can’t be violated in Ruby because of how Ruby works.

So, what’s next?

  • This is your group, and I need some help in finding out what folks want and expect from the group.
  • Personally, I don’t want things to get too formal/stuffy.
    • I have no interest in making the group into a non-profit with board of directors and all that cruft.
    • We have some smart folks in the Knoxville area who are passionate about their craft/career and want to (a) add to what they already know, (b) share their ideas and knowledge with others.
  • I don’t want to see the group disappear.
  • My opinion is that the mission/idea of the KSCG is sound; I’m just in some need of some fresh insights into keeping that mission alive.
  • As a fall-back plan, the group could just meet up every quarter, and I could use this blog to share links, videos, etc. related to software craftsmanship.

Here’s what people at the meetup said

  • The hands-on activities are what make this group unique, and we should keep those.
  • Uncle Bob’s Clean Coders videos could be interesting to show, although they’re not free.
  • Build up an application over several meetings. This approach makes the coding exercise feel less like a toy and more like something we’d actually do in our jobs. We could create an online repo for the KSCG on Bitbucket or GitHub so people could see what we’ve done if they had to miss a meeting. Similarly, we could do code katas that span several meetings as well.
  • Richie (from TEKsystems) said user groups start out large (i.e., 20 people) and then grow stale. Having this user group around helps staffing people understand developers better.
  • The group could host a give camp, perhaps once a year to help out a local business.
  • There was agreement that reaching out to students (who get the least exposure to practical development tips) would be useful.
  • Tom suggested that maybe we create a “how to get started for free” post, explaining how to set up Visual Studio and get going with TDD. The goal is to explain that the barrier to entry is low and that it’s not as difficult as one might seem.
  • Richie suggested having the group create a LinkedIn page to improve visibility.
  • CodeStock is coming up soon, so Geoff could speak at an open space session about the group.



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