This morning I attended an agile development seminar in London hosted by Agitar Software and Exoftware and featuring Kent Beck and Mary Poppendieck. I'm pleased to say I've taken away some great ideas from all of the speakers.

Kent Beck concentrated on developer testing (a podcast from a previous talk can be found here and a webcast here). He has a great view on quality - quality is an instantaneous measure, it isn't an ongoing measure. Instead he prefers the idea of the health of the software - how does it perform under stress and respond to changes in stress (increased load, increased usage, team changes, requirements change, business focus change etc). Going a stage further, if individuals within a team can't respond to stress well, then their software won't either.

Agitar demonstrated two of their tools - Agitator and Dashboard - both of which are very java focussed, but gave a few ideas to take away. One great quote was "Good QA people are devious - in a good way".

Mary Poppendieck talked about lean software development. How lessons can be learnt from the comparison with the lean manufacturing processes introduced by companies like Toyota. She has 7 principles, and obviously explained those. I felt that she was a bit rushed, and didn't really get enough time for her material. I'd be interested to hear/read more, so maybe I'll take a look at her book at some point. I was particularly interested in hearing about one of the vicious circles relating to QA testing. So, the problem is that the QA team are overloaded with things to test, the result is that QA aren't available to look at development code early, which results in development getting delayed feedback (and potentially making a problem worse), which results in there being more bugs introduced, which results in QA having more releases to test...

Exoftware talked about user stories, and it was interesting to see the detail they go to, the fact that they produce imaginer users for the various roles in the system, and role play to work out the requirements - this seemed like a great, and very simple idea. He pointed out that a good use story should be Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimatable, Small and Testable (INVEST for those who like mnemonics). Some of their presentations are available online.