Scott Ambler — the Bum

On 6th November, I was looking forward to heckling Scott Ambler during his scheduled talk to the Philadelphia Java Users Group (JUG). One of the JUG leads, Fred Stluka, says it best:

Jon spoke at a Philly Java Users Group recently, in true agile fashion. As he was walking into the building from the parking lot to attend the meeting, he was told by the meeting organizer that the intended speaker (Scott Ambler) was stranded in Boston due to a canceled airline flight. Since Jon knows Scott, and is very familiar with Agile principles and techniques, if not with Scott’s actual slides, he volunteered to give the talk in Scott’s place to the crowd of 100-150 people already assembled.

The talk went very well. It was clear that Jon had never seen this set of slides before, but equally clear that he knows the material REALLY well, and is an excellent and comfortable public speaker. Some of us took him out for a drink afterwards, and got to talking.

As promised, here are some of your lines from the presentation that I particularly appreciated:

– Be a “generalizing specialist”

(A good way to put it.)

– “Cyclical, rhythmic development”

(Yes, has the right feel to it. Good description of a well-oiled Agile machine.)

– Post design decisions at Wiki: “why”, but more importantly “why NOT”

(Absolutely critical! Almost all of the large comment blocks I put in my code are explaining why I did NOT do it the other more obvious way because it unexpectedly didn’t work. Or explaining why there is NOT a block of code here to do something that seems to be missing — why it would NOT be a good idea to add such a block of code.)

– “In-house” vs “out-house”

(Hilarious! I love it!)

– “Agile is recursive”

(I agree. There is no excuse for a 100-man agile team. Split large teams and large projects into smaller teams and smaller projects.)

– Protect developers from too much input/distraction during development cycle

(Right. Allow lots of input, but protect critical heads-down thinking and coding cycles.)

– “A lot of what I do is because I’m lazy”

(I’ve told people this for years. I’m a good programmer because I am too lazy to keep doing it tediously over and over, so I always automate it to save myself the trouble. I think a bit of this sort of laziness is one of the marks of a natural-born programmer.)

– Take picture of whiteboard and put it in the Wiki

(Good idea! I never thought of that, but then I’ve worked in a lot of “secure” buildings, where cameras were not allowed, or before the era of cheap ubiquitous digital cameras.)

– Don’t want to have to add quality at the end

(Always worth mentioning. You can’t just slap in on afterwards.)


Fred Stluka

Oh, and Scott really isn’t a bum. He was just enjoying the wonders of East Coast weather travel 🙂