Given what a great conference CITCON 2010 was, when registration opened for CITCON 2011, I didn't hesitate - which turned out to be a good thing, since spots had filled up rather quick. So next year, watch the mailing list, and rush to the registration form!
Friday Evening - Open Spaces Introduction/Topic Proposals
It was held at Skillsmatter, so I assumed there will be no surprises for me there (great infrastructure), but since I didn't have to take the tube this time (picked my accommodation to be walking distance from Glasswell Road on purpose), I've quickly learned that Bing Maps has little to no knowledge of Glasswell Road and Skillsmatter. So the first day I took a nice, leisurely, albeit somewhat longer road towards the location.
The registration went flawlessly, ran by PJ's mom. Great job!
PJ and Jeffery made the introductions in their usual, entertaining manner. While it wasn't new for me, I was glad to see this time they emphasized that the schedule can change throughout the day - apparently it wasn't only me who had been surprised by it last year. And of course the schedule did change.
Because Julian Simpson couldn't make it, I introduced his topic (Do you use your tests in prod?), and then two of my own - Continuous Release and Delivery in Downloadable Product Companies and Why Most People Don't have a Rollback Plan for Releases and instead "plan" to Hack Forward.
The great thing about proposing topics is that even when it doesn't meet the threshold to have a whole session dedicated to it, a lot of people now know that you are interested in this topic, and find you to share their experiences about it during the breaks.
To my surprise, we actually followed Jeffery's recommendation and we didn't run side conversations during the proposals, so the process was smooth and efficient, and there was more than enough time to chat later - especially that I didn't worry much about the agenda, since proposing two topics made my priorities to attend those, and I knew that whatever agenda we'll have at Friday closing time is not final.
As we learned the next day, when you propose a topic, you should be careful which words to use. In my case, rollback was a terrible word, since many interpreted as going back in time, undoing, while what I meant was more like backout (planned and disciplined retreat).
Sessions I attended
I've added my notes on the conference wiki:
- Feature Branching, Feature toggles, What Makes a Build a Release
- Releases without things going wrong + why few make backout plans
- Do you use your tests in prod
- Organizational Anthropology
Sessions I wish I attended
- BitbeamBot: The Angry Birds Playing, Mobile Testing Robot by Jason Huggins ran a session about automated UI testing of touch screens
- there was a TDD session - given that often I need (want) to explain TDD to people new to the concept, it would have been a great learning opportunity seeing someone (was it run by Steve Freeman?) else's approach to introducing it. Plus likely I would have gained a new understanding of TDD...
- Backyard beekeeping - I ended up in a random chat, but I was would have been curious to see these non-technical, non-work related sessions
- I couldn't stay long enough in the Slaughtered Lamb
The hallway chats
While open spaces are already like an unconference, nonetheless a lot of great conversations took place during the breaks (didn't get to use the law of two feet this time either), and I've met a lot of great people. I just wish I had more time to talk more with each of them. Guess I queued these conversations for future processing on twitter or via email.
In contrast to last year's conference, I spent almost the whole time offline, in the analog world, and it didn't feel the least bit wrong. I've pretty much only used twitter when I followed someone on twitter - instead of exchanging emails or business card. Though I have to admit, business cards are great for jotting down small reminder notes on them.
Some travel lessons I've learned
While this is tangential to CITCON, I have learnt a few lessons on this trip. I'll list them here, hoping it's beneficial for others.
- have your travel plans printed out (a'la TripIt. It made the check-in process much smoother, and going from the airport to my hotel was perfectly relaxed, knowing exactly which tube to take. The only part I forgot to plan was from the Nueremberg Airport to the office (only remembered that would be useful when I landed). Thanks to Career Tools for the idea (and they great advice for attending conferences, approaching your boss about sending you to a conference, and more)!
- Phones, data plans, roaming. While this isn't the reason that I always buy my phones from the stores and not from the carriers, being able to just buy a prepaid SIM in London made a huge difference. It's not necessarily the money, though I think I've saved there (for the four days I stayed, just the data plan would have cost me 14 €, and there are the calls I made - contrast that with the £15), but rather that making a call or using mobile net wasn't something that I had to consciously choose (is it worth the extra roaming charge?).
- have enough slack in your trip. I arrived Friday afternoon, and returned home on Monday morning. This allowed me to dedicate Friday and Saturday to the conference (and the Slaughtered Lamb afterwards), be able to meet up with friends living in London on Sunday, and the fact that some of my friends were an hour late just simply didn't cause a problem. And financially it doesn't have to be more expensive - I believe I spent about the same amount on the three nights' stay as I did last year for two nights. Advance planning, more research for accommodation helps you with that.
- If you need travel accessories (e.g.: AC adapter for the UK), try them before leaving home - I managed to buy adapters incompatible with my laptop's charger. Luckily the reception at my hotel managed to find one of theirs that was compatible, but it took a long five minutes for them to find one, so I wouldn't rely on this
- In addition to that, I forgot my phone charger at home, and while Bing Maps isn't perfect, it's much better than walking in London without a GPS. Lesson learned: it's handy when you have a USB cable with you that you can use to charge from somebody's laptop - the 10 cm long USB cable fits in any pocket.