Something that set today apart from yesterday is that I had opportunities to talk with several of the speakers. When I arrived, Chet Hendrickson and Ron Jeffries were sitting by themselves at a breakfast table, so I joined them. They were having a conversation about human nature, and whether it doomed us all to failure (heavy stuff for 8AM). By the end of the conversation we were discussing doing Agile in University settings… and unusual experiences with plumbing.
I had lunch with Eduardo Jezierski, who just before lunch gave a riveting presentation: Architecture and Agility with Lives at Stake. He had many stories to tell. One was about developing, in real-time, a system to save lives after the earthquake in Haiti. He had a product owner in a tent at the airport in Haiti, with a low-bandwidth connection, tweeting user stories as he received calls and people came to him with information. He was right near the runaway for days, with C-130s constantly landing with supplies and taking off again. They were able to broadcast SMS messages to people with cell phones, telling them to text a specific number if they were trapped or injured and needed help, or knew someone who did. His team was developing a system to get those incoming messages into an RSS feed that could be accessed by local responders. It was also fed back to the Haitian diaspora in the US, where volunteers who knew the neighborhoods used Google Maps to help pinpoint locations where people were trapped, based on descriptive information. He said in situations like this, they’ve had to get help for their programmers who develop post traumatic stress disorder. When you receive a message like “I’m pregnant, I’m trapped in a collapsed building, and I’m hurt” and you’re trying to develop code in real time to get that message where it needs to go… well, you can get just a bit stressed. I was fascinated by the work his organization did in Haiti and elsewhere. They have often turned into the facilitators between governments, NGOs, and local communities, as they try to leverage IT to solve local health problems and address emergencies.
The other talks I attended were also good. But it’s past my bedtime, so I’ll skip summarizing them for now, and close by mentioning I attended my first Philly WordPress Meetup after the conference. It was a great group. I met the organizer, Brad Williams, and we talked about the next Wordcamp Philly this Fall. It’s still a ways off, but I may give a talk about my current experiences with applying Agile coding practices to WordPress plugin development.