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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

ACE Conference 2011 – Summary

ACE Conference

The ACE Conference 2011 is over. To make this summary kind of organized I should go through my opinions on speakers and sessions, organization, networking and such but, well, screw it – I’m going to start with my final thoughts.

ACE Conference is a hell of a conference. I mean, really. I was leaving with the feeling that the event has improved significantly when compared to the previous one. It’s already kind of kick-ass event. Attending next year’s edition is no-brainer for me. And so should it be for you.

OK, so let’s go back to the proper order of stuff.

Speakers

I think we did pretty good job choosing speakers. I write “we” since I was a part of program committee. Anyway, even though we’re still far from perfection, speaker lineup was good and so was variety of subjects covered on the conference. One big topic we didn’t cover properly was quality assurance (Lisa Crispin, do you hear that? Mark the next year’s event date in the calendar), but other than than you could learn about engineering practices, processes, implementations, system change, improvements, people, fruits, chemistry, you name it.

Many speakers did a really good job delivering their presentations. I know I repeat myself but Jurgen rocks. He even forgot to promote his book heavily this time. Corey Haines was very good as well. Btw: if you don’t know his story you have to learn it – it’s great. Personally, I also enjoyed Andrea Provaglio’s, Marcin Floryan’s and Pawel Lipinski’s sessions, but basing on twitter stream everyone could find something which they liked.

Networking

Networking is something I attend conferences for. And it worked, as always. Somehow, with proper attitude it always works. By the way: it’s kind of magic how easy it is to approach stars at such events. If you haven’t tried you can only blame yourself.

Open space

Mike Sutton did astonishing job facilitating open space, and he’s generally a great guy, or I should say dude. However I think open space is definitely something to improve next year. It was filled with interesting sessions but then, for many of them half an hour was totally insufficient, like for the one on estimating. Feeling pressure from guys who want to run their own open space session in the very same place isn’t something which fosters discussion whatsoever.

New format

ACE Conference this year used different format. It was one track and every session, with the exception of a couple of keynotes, was limited to half an hour. Initially I was skeptical about that, but it worked just fantastic. And I say that considering both perspectives: as an attendee and as a presenter.

The format makes presentations content-heavy. If speaker has like 25 minutes to deliver their message they just don’t beat about the bush. Also you are exposed to wider variety of different topics as it’s possible to pack more sessions into the schedule. This is great for the audience. As a presenter you start appreciating shorter presentations when it comes to rehearsing. You can actually do twice as many rehearsals as in standard-sized, 60-minute long session. Also you tend to pick best pieces of content if you come to a point where you must choose what’s in and what’s out.

Organization

If Jurgen rocks as a speaker, so does Paul Klipp as organizer and host. As a speaker I can’t think of an event where I was served better. As an attendee I could hardly complain about anything important. Well, coffee breaks were a bit worse than last year, which is surprising as the venue hasn’t changed. There was some queue for registration too. Oh well, the event couldn’t be perfect, could it? Otherwise, how would it be improved next year? Anyway kudos to Paul for making it happen.

My session

I received very positive feedback after the session about Kanban improvements. Experiment with real Kanban board kind of worked. Structure was also decent as at the end I answered to questions tweeted during the sessions, even though I hadn’t read them. I miss some critical feedback as I believe there’s always a place to improve, so if you have some please share it in comments or drop me an email.

Also I kindly ask you to rate Kanban improvements presentation on SpeakerRate.

If you want to see slide deck here it is.

Final thoughts

I actually started the post with final thoughts so you don’t expect anything here, right? Well, as I think about events I attended last year it was probably ACE Conference 2010, which I liked most. But then the bar definitely went up this year.

The thing I love about ACE Conference is it isn’t crowded. There were 200-something people this year and I really hope there won’t be more next year. It’s selfish, I know, but I believe it is optimal size to see great networking as everyone is very accessible and after a few hours you actually start recognizing faces of fellow attendees.

So the final recommendation regarding ACE Conference 2012 is: you better have a damn good reason if you aren’t going to be there as otherwise it would be completely dumb move.

in: software business

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