Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thoughts after ALE2011

Last April 2011, while I was recovering from organising Mix-IT, I kept coming back to the proposal to be an ALE2011 organiser.
While 40 people had already committed, I posted a yes, telling myself, I would only spend a few minutes per week. However, like all the main organisers, I spent a few dozen nights working and collaborating through these Internet tools. I loved it!

By committing to this event, I wanted to:

  • get back into the international scene
  • find practical tips and knowledge related to my professional context
  • organise an international event from home
  • find links from the Agile Lean European community to my local on
These last days, participants, speakers and organisers have already explained (see feedback page), that the main differentiators with any other event, were the attendees’ engagement and their willingness to spontaneously share. For the first time in my life, among the few dozen people I met, I didn’t have to make a single effort with anyone to freely communicate and exchange. I can’t explain if it was due to the common purpose of our presence there, but even the “rock stars” were really pleasant.

Culture in question 
Regarding my professional activity, I don’t think I could afford the pleasure of attending more than 3 conferences a year. So it was a surprise for me, to meet people who attend so many conferences per year. I’m not talking about writers, coaches who need to get this visibility, but developers, scrum masters, managers and product owners. There is a real culture gap, between Anglo-Germano-Scandinavian countries and mine. It seems so easy for them to get an agreement from their companies, to travel to an event and gather knowledge there. The language barrier is still there for French people and it dramatically breaks our capacity to exchange with the experts from the other countries. I hope we will survive this weakness, but after meeting all the brilliant representatives of Mediterranean countries in Berlin, I found that neither language nor the Catholic self-flagellation mindset is the main constraint. This culture debate will need to be discussed next year in order to understand what could be the levers to minimise these issues.

From the outside 
Back home, I’m also understanding the power of flowing content mark with the ALE2011 hashtag. People with an average understanding of the agile/lean principles are astonished by the quality and the diversity of knowledge found in these tweets. One month before the Unconference, I was the first to say that we should cut the wi-fi expenditure to balance the budget and to prevent bankruptcy due to unpaid fees from the participants. Olaf found a much more affordable guerrilla wi-fi and thousand messages were brodcast. I should have agreed, I didn’t understand how much twitter used by a gathered group of hyped adults, could help others to enjoy the essence of the debates.

A learning curve to Berlin 
While this thing was growing, I understood, step by step, all the ideas coming from the brainstorm in Madrid. To be frank, I really thought: why do these guys make things so complicated? In fact most of the ideas and concepts were already in practice by these visionaries, so only a small number of innovations had to be devised.
One tricky point was the participant subscription process, where a first preregistration step was intended to get people from every European country. Then the real registration process started. It worked because Marc spent hours checking and asking people to pay, but we understood this part was too complicated. By reserving 30 seats for the non-represented countries and having a straightforward registration process will make ALE2012 much easier.

To learn more, please have a look at the following concepts:

  • sofa: a conference chaired by more than one person
  • lightning talks: short talks where anybody can be an apprentice speaker
  • open sessions: session proposed by anyone, where you go if you like
  • dinner with strangers: having a restaurant meal with people you don’t know to find ideas. 
Further details are available on the website.

Lastly, as Marcin was explaining in his post, the venue was located 500m from Checkpoint Charlie. This location really emphasised the European idea and it would not have been the same with the wall still there.

I'll talk later about the manager problem and I stil do not know where the hug come from.