I've spent the week at Agile 2010 and it's been great. You know you're at a great event when you can walk down the hallway and see Martin Fowler, Bob Martin, Mike Cohn, Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman, Lisa Crispin, Jeffery Fredrick, JB Rainsberger, Bob Payne, and more... and that's the people I can see at one time! (Do I sound like a fan boy yet?). My employer, Pillar Technology sponsored the Open Jam areas, which are just free form open spaces. I chose the Open Jam area next to the registration desk as a place to spend most of my time and it turned out to be a great place to be.
The breadth of the attendee's experience can't be overstated. I've talked with testers, developers, writers, conference organizers, managers, and executives. The tools vendors and consultants are here in force as well, but this type of mix of people, you get a number of great hallway conversations. I've spent more time in those than in the planned conference sessions. I've gotten to work through a test workshop game with Lisa Crispin, discuss the differences in unit testing and acceptance test driven development, discuss CI with Jeffery Fredrick, and interview Alistair Cockburn and Johanna Rothman for DZone. I dropped in on Bob Payne's Live Aid coding session and got to hear Dave Hussman working through usability issues with passionate volunteers.
The sessions also run the gamut from individual practices to team approaches to enterprise solutions. There seems to be a larger focus on enterprise agile this year, but that seems to be industry wide. As agile becomes a norm for major corporations, they naturally want to know about issues like scalability and predictability on a large scale. Agile 2010 didn't disappoint on that front.
The DZone team was set up and did nearly non-stop videos for nearly two days. You'll have a large number of video interviews showing up in the Agile Zone in the days to come.
The facility switch from Nashville here was a huge win for me. The conference is at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. A number of attendees brought their families along and turned it into a vacation trip combined with a great conference. My kids have loved being at a Disney property have spent more time in The Yacht Club water park (three acres!) than anywhere else. This is the best place for a conference I've ever attended. Even without the family appeal, there are dozens of shops, restaurants, and more.
In the past this conference has had a reputation for having a few hotly disputed sessions, with attendees arguing with speakers on (apparently) sacred agile tenets. That air of hostility has thankfully been absent this year, and I've heard several people saying how nice it is to have reached a place where we realize that everyone is saying good things, and that we should learn multiple methodologies, then use what works for our clients or our teams.
The only critique I've heard is about the level of the content in many talks. Even the sessions labeled "Advanced" have really been medium (or so I've heard), and a lot of the content has been basic. As a regular speaker, I can say that a truly advanced talk would alienate most audiences, even here. While many conferences, even agile themed one, bring in an audience that don't know much about the topic, Agile 2010 draws a much more sophisticated and advanced audience... but even here there are a large number of first time attendees. My advice to those wanting really advanced sessions? Hang out in the hallways between sessions. Collar Linda Rising, Jurgen Appelo, Mary Poppendieck, Brian Marick, Dawn Cannan, or Bob Martin and ask a question. Hang out in the lobby in the evening and join one of the many impromptu supper sessions with passionate attendees and speakers alike. Visit one the Open Jam areas, grab the projector, and put your question on the big screen, and see who comes over to discuss your topic.