The last waltz

by sebsonconferences

I have been silent for a time about the waltz project, there was a lot of activity, traveling, workshops and reading. Long story short: The waltz project was a blast that made me travel 5800 km through germany, train about 70 developers and to meet/make old and new friends. Epic win.

What happened

After the first posting about the project and the brainstorming at the Play4Agile Open Space a number of people got in touch with me and offered some opportunities to work with them/for them. The main focus here was on requests for trainings and coaching and a variety of small assignments that were on- and offsite. It looks like there are two kinds of people in the world: The first and larger group seems to have absolutely no problem with the offer of having a person working just for food, traveling and accommodation and those people were very helpful by providing ideas and offerings where I could travel and work. Another group seems not to understand why someone serious ever would do work for free that could be sold for a good price. This later group was very hard to convince that my offering was serious and candid. It seems that not everyone in the world seems to be positive about the free and open source approach of the waltz project. In some way the market economy left it’s tracks in our minds and view on the world. I do not blame anyone for not buying into that idea, too much of information we get from the media and the society around gives us a narrative that suggests that everything must have a price and this price is directly connected to the quality of the result. Sorry, I do not believe in this.

Workshops

Three companies offered me the opportunity to hold workshops for their developers: Jimdo GmbH, Chip Online GmbH (my former employer) and Mayflower Munich+Würzburg (former employer). As it turns out, all of the liked the idea of the “Pair Programming Workshop” based on the Book “Pair Programming Illuminated” by Laurie Williams. Initially I had created a two day workshop and later, on request by Mayflower’s Albrecht Günther (My Ex Boss from 2005/2006) a modified one day version was created. I was very cautious not to stifle the flow of the two day version. With the help of a blog posting by Tobias Mayer and the experience of the initial 4*2 day workshops I got confident to give it a try. It worked quite well and now I am convinced that both versions make sense. The one day version is more focussed on the pure technique of pair programming. The 2 day version contains more elements of team building and social elements. Every workshop was very unique, depending on company culture and attending developers with a lot of laughs and goosebumps moments. It was a lot of fun to separate the money reward (mostly be not charging any or a minimal fee of max 20 Euro/hour) from the thing that in my opinion is the main reward: Change people for the better without manipulation over a series of interactions, activities and communication. It was very valuable for me as a trainer to create and hold this workshop in different versions. The devil is in the details and so the repetitions of the same workshop made sense to get some things straight. I got better, this is what the feedback of the workshop attendees told me and it seems that the contents of the workshop sticks in peoples mind and one or the other adopted pairing for their daily work. All the companies where pretty aware of my situation (you don’t earn much income without a paid job) and everyone tried it’s best to help me. May it be by providing extra cozy hotel rooms with a class I could/would never have paid for (Jimdo), the right to use an iPad for some time (Mayflower) or the offer to pay me a little price via a so called mini-job (Chip Online). Thank you all. I am stunned what the result of all this was and it will take some time to digest all the little tidbits that made all this good. With some companies lined requesting the pairing workshop or another one there would be the possibility to create a business out of it.

Books

I spent a lot of time reading books of all sorts. Since my financial resources were very limited I seriously had to cut my media spending (surprisingly ca. 5-10% of my normal income) which resulted in: no movies, no tav series, no new Beatport tracks, not much party admission fees and all that stuff. Turned out I am not missing a lot of the good stuff. I was not aware that I spent so much money on all this stuff. To keep me entertained and educated I resorted to ebooks and books. Stuff I read over the last 3 months in no particular order:

  • Accelerando – C.Stross (The narrative for the waltz project)
  • Iron Sunrise – C.Stross
  • All Tomorrows Parties – W.Gibson
  • The Craftsman – R.Sennet
  • Change by Design – Tim Brown
  • Pair Programming Illuminated
  • Soloalbum – Stuckrad Barre
  • jPod – D.Coupland
  • The Antifeminists – Dohm Hedwig
  • Judas Unchained – Peter F. Hamilton
  • Pandoras Star – Peter F. Hamilton
  • Common Wealth – Antonio Negri, Thomas Atzert and Andreas Wirthensohn
  • Anarchosynicalism – R.Rocker

The good

Sennett’s Book about craftsmanship was a outstanding read, it was the best book in years and had a great influence on me. Although it is not an IT book, it has a lot of ideas how to improve a craft. A big mover and definitely a recommendation for everyone involved in a creative Endeavor.

The bad

Judas Unchained and Pandoras Star, both of them I had mistaken for the Accelerando Books, were kind of shopping accidents. It took me a while to grasp the story and I had to dig through thousands of pages until the story came to a climax. It is okayish sci-fi, but not more.

The ugly

Sorry, but “Change by Design” was a lot of self advertisement of IDEO and it’s methods, very unstructured, with little practical advice. In my opinion it is not doing the “Service De sign Thinking” community a favor and I hope there are better books out on Amazon. Sorry Tim Brown, Sorry Ideo this Book is by far overrated. Waste of time. Lucky me I could borrow the book and someone else had payed for it.

Coding

Several people approached me to get help with little coding tasks over the time of the waltz project. From javascript performance debugging for IE to little help with PHP Performance tweaks. It was fun to get a little challenge here and there. Sadly these assignments never got me away from home and all of them were very short time jobs. It was nice to dive into code from other people and fix things here and help developers there.

Jimdo

Over the time of the waltz I had to decide what to do with my work-life since from middle of february I was practically unemployed and I did not save up or plan for a sabbatical. It turns out that most of the companies that gave me waltz job assignments were potential candidates to ask for a position. It is a hell of a difference to a normal “job interview” to really do work with the people in a company. It was very nice to see that especially the teams in the workshops shared a lot of values and ideas. In case of Jimdo there was a very clear indication that there was a little more. Coming into a place and going like “Yeah, I want to work here” is a thing that is not happening very often to me. Long story short again, they asked if I wanted to work for them, I asked for a test work day, we signed a contract. Now, 4 to 6 weeks later, I am sitting here in the Jimdo Hamburg office, typing this blogpost on my new work laptop, moved all my life from munich to hamburg, experiencing a first day at work. A good finale in my opinion. Some doors had to close (sadly) in order to open me this new door (happy me). I don’t really know what will happen next, still there is stuff I have to sort out. But for now … Bye Bye Munich – Hello Hamburg. Let’s see whats next.😉