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Unconference #ALE2011, a report from a linchpin

22.9.2011 | 6 minutes of reading time

From 7th to 9th September the first conference of the Agile Lean European Network happened, the #ALE2011. More than 200 participants from more than 30 countries met at the NH Hotel Berlin-Mitte, to share their experience and knowledge in the area of Agile and Lean.


The first time I heard from the conference was at the beginning of may during the XP2011 in Madrid. The core concept of the conference was designed during an Open Space Session . Among other things the normal conference chairs where only one person is responsible were replaced by sofas with space for more than one organizer (called linchpins). I sat down on the participant sofa after due consideration. The main task of the sofa was the management of the participant registration and the coordination of the payments, so I had the feeling that I would have to spend a lot of time and effort.

During the next days many more linchpins from all over europe joined the organisation team. The evenings during the next weeks were with reading and writing Basecamp messages and google docs, as well as with late night skype calls. The ALE2011 Website went online, then the pre-registration began and the call for papers was answerd with the first talk submissions, three stages of registration passed, the talk submissions were reviewed, the agende was fixed and the talks were finally selected. If you want to learn more about the organising, look at Oanas, Olafs and Marcins Talk “The Story of Organising ALE2011” or the blog post “Anarchy with a Purpose—a Model for Emergent Awesomeness” .

One of my personal highlights was a skype call with more than halve dozen linchpins, working together at a google doc with the text of the last information email for the participants. It worked.

Brandenburger Tor

I set off for Berlin a little nervous but full of anticipation on Tuesday morning. Around noon I arrived in bright sunshine at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and did a walk from there past the Reichstag, through the Brandenburg Gate to the conference hotel to help with local arrangements. At the venue I saw many new faces particularly suchthat I peviously only talked to via Skype.  After an  interesting lunch with Stephen Parry and some other early birds, we started the preparation, hung up posters, packed the participants bags, created the badges and set up the sponsors and the check-in area for the next morning.

On Wednesday, after a short night and an even shorter breakfast the check in was started, the Ice Breaker CyberDojo by Jon Jagger was prepared and the guerrilla Internet Connection was established. After a brief welcome by Jurgen and Olaf the Unconference started. Due to my involvement in the organisation, I only attended a few sessions. But I have learned a lot through the experience of organizational work and got in contact many new people.  That is more than a compensation. I managed to hear parts of Rachel Davies Keynote and attended the Open Space “Concrete Agile Practices for Managers” whose interesting ideas have been collected by Jurgen in two blog articles.

Thursday started with the greate keynote “Beyond Budgegting” by Bjarte Bogsnes. During the Open Space “How to get developers’ buy-in when introducing Scrum in a chaotic environment?” the role of Scrum Master was discussed among other things, with the result sentence “The scrum master is not the friend of the team (and the product owner is not the enemy).” In Open Space “Communities of Practice” I have described the open-space-liked format of the monthly Friday-Meetings we used at codecentric and the relationship to the 20%-Time (Fedex-Days) of the outcome. In the evening, the “Dinner with strangers” happend. At my dinner table we had a lively discussion about the benfits and limitations of TDD.

The wonderful presentation “How to create happy superhero team’s daily and bring smile to PO’s face?” by Monika Konieczny was my first session on Friday. It showed the potential and benefits of a good ScrumMaster for the productivity and success of Scrum. So it strengthens my opinion to have teams with full-time ScrumMasters. My second talk “Back to the future (re) learn Smalltalk” from Willem and Stephan Eggermont reminds me of my old (and sometimes even forgotten) Smalltalk days. And the third, “The Agile memes far beyand survival of the fittest”, dealt with an idea, that I always wanted to look closer, the “Meme Theory”. The following retrospective of the activities of ALENetworks was fantasticly moderated by Ken Power and resulted in a rough plan for the next 12 months. The keynote from David Snowden was then a proper closing of the day and the Unconference.

Coffee break

For me, the whole event was a terrific experience. I met many new people, saw people with whom I had previously only online contact, exchanged views, ideas and experience and spent a very intensive and wonderful time with over 200 like-minded people from all over Europe (and beyond).

I would like to say thank you to all linchpins, participants, speakers and sponsors, who enabled the conference and have made it what it is.

Among many others, our core team:

  • Marcin Floryan (@mfloryan, UK)
  • Ivana Gancheva (@ivanagancheva, NO)
  • Franck Depierre (@FranckDepierre, FR)
  • Oana Juncu (@ojuncu, FR)
  • Olaf Lewitz (@OlafLewitz, DE)
  • Catia Oliveira (@catoliv, PT)

For the Spouses & Kids Program:

  • Monika Konieczny (PL)
  • Christiane Lewitz(@Blaue_Stunde, DE)

For the connection to the industry:

  • Ken Power (@ken_power, IE)
  • William Gill (@williamgill, DE)
  • Andrea Heck (@AgileAndrea, DE)

For the moderation and facilitation of the lightning talks and the Open Space:

  • Eelco Rustenburg (@eelco1969, NL)
  • Mike Sutton (@mhsutton, UK)

For the onsite support of the Student Volunteers:

  • Grzegorz (Greg) Dziemidowicz (@dziemid, DE)
  • Gregory Keegan (@gregorykeegan, DE)
  • and all the Student Volunteers

For the idea and organization of “Dinner with strangers”:

  • Corinna Baldauf (@findingmarbles, DE)

For the program, the connection to the local communities, the PR work, the website and many more:

  • Michael Leber (@michael_leber, AT)
  • Michael Laussegger (@ScrumVienna, AT)
  • Juliane Conradt (@julezwitschert, DE)
  • Alexandru Bolboaca (@alexboly, RO)
  • Thorsten O. Kalnin (@vinylbaustein, DE)
  • Natalia Kolupaeva (DE)
  • Marc Löffler (@scrumphony, DE)
  • Wolfgang Wiedenroth (@wwiedenroth, DE)
  • Yves Hanoulle (@YvesHanoulle, BE)
  • Nick Oostvogels (@NickOostvogels, BE)

For the idea of the ALENetwork and Visions for the conference:

  • Jurgen Appelo (@jurgenappelo, NL)

I want to mention the following companies:

  • NH Hotel Berlin-Mitte, for their excelent service and delicious catering
  • Agile42, for the readiness to assume the risk and the efford to take the legal and financial part
  • codecentric AG, enabling me to invest so much time and effort in the organization, in addition to the financial sponsorship of the conference

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