In July 2017, Greater Sum hosted Atlanta’s first Software Craftsmanship Unconference.

An unconference differs from a traditional conference in that attendees set the agenda and topics at the beginning (although they can change throughout the unconference).  This is done by suggesting a topic that you would like to discuss and then putting it on the schedule grid(image below).  

Once the schedule is set, attendees go to the sessions that interests them or they think they could share information/learning.  There are guidelines for participating  known as the “Open Space Principles”.  They are:

1) Who ever comes are the right people.

2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

3) When it starts is the right time.

4) When it’s over, it’s over.

There is also one law:  “The Law Of Personal Mobility” also know as “The Law Of Two Feet”.  It states “You are responsible for your own learning. If you find you are neither learning nor contributing, leave and find a place you can…”.

This was my first unconference so I was unsure what to expect.  What I found was a diverse group of people that had proposed a great list of topics including TDD, Mob Programming and many sessions on different aspects of Testing.  There were even hands on sessions with live programming.

The most surprising and my favorite part of an unconference is that everyone in the session has a chance to guide the conversation.  I attended sessions where I had some experiences to share and others where I knew little about the topic.  This didn’t matter because unlike a traditional conference where there is a presentation with maybe a little question and answer at the end, the unconference allows the attendees to guide the conversation to parts of the topic that are meaningful to them.  An example of this was the session I attended on Big Data.  There were 4 or 5 of us in the group, but only one person who had a deep understanding of the topic.  He started to present his knowledge and then asked us questions so that we could gain understanding and go into depth on the parts of the topic that interested us.

The unconference is the most enjoyable “conference” I have attended.  The next time there is an unconference you should go.  You don’t want to miss out on meeting great people and having great conversations.

 

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