I can't tell if this is a compliment or not, but David Anderson is already disappointed with the Agile 2009 program. Since we haven't even opened the submission system yet, never mind chosen the program, I'm surprised. What David is reacting to is my organization of the program committee. (The potential compliment is that David is so invested in the Agile conference that he feels it necessary to criticize our process already.)
Last year, at Agile 2008, we had 19 stages, and 37 simultaneous tracks. That was for a conference of about 1500 people. The program was overwhelming, and many people chose the main stage to hear a talk instead of going to something participatory because they couldn't make a decision. A number of session leaders had done all the work for a session that no one went to. A number of experience report speakers had almost no one at their sessions. That's demoralizing for the speaker/leader and doesn't provide value for conference attendees.
I decided to have fewer stages this year (17) and fewer simultaneous sessions. We will have up to 20 simultaneous sessions, which is still plenty.
Some people requested additional stages, and for now, those stages are stages. Will product management be subsumed into customers and business value? Maybe. What happened with breaking acts? No one volunteered to produce it. I asked people as they volunteered, and no one wanted it.
So what do we do with proposals that don't seem to fit a stage? Well, submitters have several options:
- Submit a proposal to a stage that seems close
- Email Ahmed Sidky, our program chair, for guidance
- Email me for guidance
Will we know what to do? Yes. Last year, we, as a program committee, realized we needed a stage partway through the submissions, and we created a new stage with a stage producer and an assistant stage producer.
It's fascinating, being the conference chair. Everyone who works on the conference is a volunteer, except for the Agile Alliance's managing director. The rest of us receive a small amount of compensation, which is nowhere near the time we put into the conference. This is truly a labor of love on the part of the stage producers, their assistants, and their teams. And, we are all geographically distributed. Talk about a challenge.
David, if you feel so strongly about breaking acts (which I don't think is the right place for kanban anyway, since it's no longer a breaking act, but requires leadership and a team), you could volunteer to produce that stage.
Maybe I haven't shown any leadership. Maybe my team has not produced anything of value in this first iteration. According to David, I am failing. I'll be asking the team for feedback.
However, I prefer to see the program come together organically. We have some guidance for submitters. We have a sufficiently flexible process so we can find the right place for a proposal. We have a system that allows for feedback from the community (but not ranking this year).
We expect to inspect and adapt as we proceed. David has pointed out areas some of the stages overlap. That's certainly something we could clarify. But, have failed? Maybe for David. I doubt that we have already failed the rest of our constituents.
I invite you to let me know if I've disappointed you. I would rather receive feedback now than in three months from now–or even later.
And, for those of you want to know “When will the submission system be open?” We expect it on or about Dec 15. You will have 2 months to submit a proposal. Don't wait until the last minute–you won't get enough feedback to change your proposal into something that wins a space.