Julia Evans

AdaCamp Montreal 2015

I went to AdaCamp these last couple of days. I want to talk about some of the awesome stuff that happened!

AdaCamp is an unconference, which means that people decide what the sessions will be about on the first day of the conference. Here are some things I’m thinking about!

Testing

I went to a really, really interesting session about software testing by someone who works as a software tester. I work as a developer, and I’ve never worked with a QA team! I didn’t know there were people who specialized in testing software and were really awesome at it who don’t write programs! This was super cool to learn. I still don’t know how to think about separating out the responsibilities of writing the software and verifying the software – obviously individual developers also need to be responsible for writing correct software, and it still feels strange to me to hand any of that off.

But Camille Fournier told me on twitter about user acceptance testing and how you can have a QA team that checks that the software makes sense to users and, like, talks to them and stuff, not just software that’s theoretically correct. So that’s pretty cool.

Awesome people

I met a lot of really interesting people! I met sysadmins and people who had been programming for a long time and software testing and people who know a lot about science fiction and ham radio and bikes and publishing and zines and Quebec and libraries and Wikipedia (someone wrote their dissertation on Wikipedia. Wow.). I learned SO MUCH about Wikipedia. And almost all of those people identified as women! A++ would meet delightful people again.

Codes of conduct

This session convinced me open spaces are a good idea.

Initially I didn’t want to go because I was interested in some very specific aspects of codes of conduct (deescalating situations + how to make CoCs less intimidating to people who are genuinely good intentioned but not familiar with a given community + when to model behavior implicitly vs writing down explicit rules). And I told someone during a break that I didn’t want to go to the session because I thought people wouldn’t be discussing the thing I wanted to talk about.

And she said AWESOME. THOSE ARE AWESOME THINGS TO TALK ABOUT. COME WITH ME AND WE WILL TALK ABOUT THAT. And we did! And I don’t have answers about any of those things, but I got to hear some new perspectives and stories and now I know a couple more things. And the other people seemed to think the questions I had were interesting <3.

And it made me remember – when I think that I’m the only person who has a given concern or question or experience, I’m usually wrong :)

Moderation

There were a lot of unstructured discussion sessions at AdaCamp. This was really cool, because it means you can cover a lot of ground. I also was reminded again of how important good moderation + facilitation is, and how much I want to get better at it. I’m working on learning how to:

  • create some explicit structure around a session (“let’s discuss these 4 topics, and spend ~15 minutes on each one. does that sound good?“)
  • tell someone when they’ve said enough <3 (“thanks so much! I’d love to hear from some people who haven’t said as much yet”)
  • move the discussion back on track if it’s veered away (“okay awesome! Does anyone have anything else to say about $topic, or should we move on to $next_thing?“)

People take up really incredibly different amounts of space in discussions, and I really really want to get better at making sure people who are quieter get a chance to say their super interesting things. Interrupting people is hard for me!

After AdaCamp I felt like there are a lot of great people in the world who are trying their best to do what’s right and have a lot of good ideas about how to do that and want to have the same conversations that I want to have. A little more than usual =)