Precursor: If you think I’m name dropping, I don’t care.  I have an opportunity to interact with some of the most intelligent/influential people in our industry this weekend.  ALL QUOTES IN THIS ENTRY ARE PARAPHRASED AS I DO NOT HAVE TAPE RECORDING.

This evening was amazing.  I had the opportunity to meet some of my idols and some of the biggest names in our industry.  If you want to see the list, check it here.

We got to the hotel and checked into our rooms.  I headed down to the lobby to meet the other guys (Joe Ocampo, Phil Dennis, Jasdeep Singh) in my group.  I was surprised to see Martin Fowler checking in.  The only reason I recognized him was from the picture on his blog.  He shook hands with someone sitting on the couch in the lobby.  After he headed up the elevator, I decided to meet the other people and introduced myself.  In the group was Jim Newkirk, Jamie Cansdale, and Brad Wilson.  Very cool.

We headed to the facilities.  Once again my “curse of Austin” kicked in and we got lost.  (Please keep in mind that the facility is less than a mile from the hotel).  We finally made it there but my curse still holds.

When we arrived, everyone was doing the meet-and-greet.  It was nuts how many people I recognized due to photos on blogs.  I am definitely going to see if the guys on LosTechies want to switch back to real photos.  Maybe not, the simpsonized photos are fun. The first person I met was James Kovacs.  He introduced himself and I said, “you’re the man behind the using statements in Rhino Mocks.”  He was surprised and said, “wow, my reputation precedes me.”  Intelligent guy, approachable and was a pleasure to talk to.

Next I bumped into many other people I recognized and some I did not.  Roy Osherove was a blast.  He is funny and seems to care very much about what is best for our industry.  Scott, was of course my hero of the night, representing LosTechies with the shirt he purchased.  He also organized this conference. In fact, the guys and I listened to his Rubiverse podcast interview on the way up to Austin.  If you haven’t heard it you really need to.

Some other names of people I met briefly: Scott Guthrie, Scott Hanselman, Jeffrey Palermo, Jeremy Miller, Jeffrey was recently introduced into fatherhood.  Congratulations again Jeffrey.

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I was surprised to see the room laid out the way it was at the St. Edwards University Professional Education facility.  Last time I was in there was for the Austin .NET Users group Code Camp back in July.  It had tables and each person was able to open their laptop and code/read email/etc.  This time it felt like a scrum/stand-up circle with chairs.  There were about 120+ people their.

We all sat and Scott Bellware gave a basic intro on what process we were going to follow for the event.  Open Spaces.  I had heard of it, but admittedly had not researched it much.  I wanted the conference to teach me what it was.  Next “Doc” List, our facilitator, went into some note cards and stated a few things.

  1. There is a 2 feet rule - if you don’t like the session you are in, use your 2 feet and go to another session.
  2. You are either a butterfly or a bumble bee: 1. Butterfly: you stay in a session and possibly converse with the other people present 2. Bumble Bee: you travel between 2 or more sessions picking up and possibly contributing to them.

Next he had us go around the room, 1 at a time, stand and state our name, where we are from, and a blurb about what we expected out of this weekend.  My response was, “Jason Meridth, San Antonio, I hope to learn from the alpha geeks present at this conference and hopefully contribute”.  The responses from a few were priceless one-liners but I can’t recall them now.  The best one, that I believe summed up the expectation, was that the person wanted “my software to suck less.”  I don’t think it could be put any easier and more understood.

He also wanted to show us what a “fishbowl” session was.  He had Brett Pettichord explain that this consisted of 6 chairs, 5 people to start and a conversation.  He took Scott Bellware, James Kovacs, Martin Fowler, Dave Laribee, and another person I can’t remember.  This left 1 chair open.  The idea was that a conversation would start and if someone in the audience wanted to contribute they would go up and sit in the sixth chair.  Someone, usually the person who has been in the group the longest (hopefully not currently speaking) gets up and joins the audience again.  Again, this leaves a chair open for another audience member to sit in if they want to contribute.

To sum up the conversation that ensued for the next hour would NOT do it justice, but I will try.  The first question was “Why is this considered alternative?".  James Kovacs handed that off to Martin Fowler because if you notice on the list that he signed up with that as his comment.  Martin’s answer was great.  “Where I work, ThoughtWorks, these ideas and practices occur in our normal day practices and values.” (I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea)

Other items that came up were Microsoft and it’s processes, values, teachings.  I witnessed Scott Hanselman get very passionate.  I will not assume to paraphrase any portion of the conversation when this subject came up.  There was no cussing or anything, just a good deal of heated debate.

After all the conversation and such I had an opportunity to meet with Dave Laribee.  I can only hope that the leaders in our industry can share the passion and concern about the people and processes that I witnessed Dave share tonight.  He made me realize that there are some seriously passionate people at this thing and I hope to be able to learn from them.

I also had an opportunity to meet with JP Boodhoo and Eric Hexter after the “fishbowl”.  JP is another person that has a passion for coding that I hope I can continue to have myself.  Eric is one of the main guys at Austin .NET Users Group and we were comparing notes about how to reach the most people to grow attendance for our groups.  His group has had 2 Code Camps and they have been VERY successful.  My group, AlamoCoders, only started back in March of this year and we’re averaging 20-25 people per meeting.  We finally received a good location and I hope we can drive attendance.  Sorry, I digress.

It is my goal to learn this weekend and also to contribute.  I am not shy.  I love debate and hope to converse with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met this weekend.  The theme of this post was passion.  I am EXCITED about being in a building with people who have the same if not more passion that I do.  I foresee good debate, conversation and brainstorming occurring this weekend.

More to come…

Comments Link to heading

Sean Chambers: lucky =) It sounds like they have an excellent conference there. If my fiancee wasn’t being labor induced on tuesday I would have gone. Definately next year though. I want full details!!!

Jason Meridth: Every night bro.

Dave: awesome meeting you Jason!