Feedback-Based Development

Roman theatre in St. Albans, GB

Important things need to grow to last. The German says “gut ding will weile haben” – good things take time.

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium (St.Albans) built in about 140AD

I did it: almost exactly four years after Nick Tune suggested me a conference in London as the best place to start talking at conferences, I had my first in-person talk at the DDD Meetup in London. Given the timespan, you could say, “What is so special in this? Why should I continue reading?”. Well, you don’t need to 😀. For me, it feels like quite a wonder that by looking at where I was four years ago (I was completely unknown in the international community) and what happened in the meantime, I can put a ✅behind this bucket list item.

Writing about the last four years would transform this post into a small book – I won’t do that now. Instead, I will tell you a bit about the talk and how I applied the same ideas to prepare for it. The talk is about Feedback-driven Product Development. This post is about Feedback-driven Self-Development😉.

Shifting from Projects to Feedback-Based Product Development
slides on miro

With this talk, I wanted to show how broken our product development processes, long and short-term outcomes, hell, the whole industry is, and they don’t need to be! We have everything we need to improve our life as product developers to enjoy this most creative job, but instead, we feel frustrated, overwhelmed and not fulfilled. In the presentation, I talked about the three things organisations (or single persons) can use to change this.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean software developers here. I mean all the different roles and skills needed to create something good.

Now back to the story I want to tell you: how did I use these three ideas to develop the talk and myself at the same time?

Optimise For the Time to Learn

As I said, I have never written a talk with slides and all. I have even switched from Windows to Linux to never land in a situation where I needed to write a PowerPoint presentation. But the talk itself is only the output, it is not my goal. My goal is to learn if I can do this, if I am good at it. If I enjoy it? I started to speak in international circles on Virtual DDD, and the pandemic made it very easy to meet great people. After three years of interactions, it felt natural to me. We became online friends. Last year I proposed my first workshop at the biggest DDD conference in Europe because I wanted to meet them and knew that I wouldn’t be able to support the trip financially otherwise. It worked, and now I am part of this very special community. It stopped becoming a challenge; I needed something new: a talk presented on a podium, completely out of my comfort zone.

You need to know that I am not a consultant (and I still don’t want to become one), so there are not too many reasons for all the effort needed to travel abroad to conferences and give a high-quality workshop or talk. One (and still the main reason) is to meet and exchange with other nerds. The other is my personal development: can I do this? Where are my boundaries?

So that in January, Nick convinced me to dare the next step. We agreed on a date and on a (vague) topic and set the first milestone with this: learn. Learn about the fun, the (lack) of skills in presenting my thoughts, and the reaction of others. If they are interested at all in what I want to say. My slides (the output) needed to be good enough (on my own quality scale) so that I could achieve these goals.

Measure the Outcome

The outcome was great! Even if it was a complicated plan, everything worked out, and I was ready to go. This meetup, in a city where almost no one knew me (so that they were unbiased), with a topic which could have been everything or nothing, the splendid location at Mastercard providing the conference feeling – all this was on purpose to get the most honest feedback. After seeing several people nicking during the talk, making multiple connections on LinkedIn and mastodon directly after the session, and getting several “Thank you for addressing this” comments, I could tick one important question: people want to know what I am speaking about ✅

The question about joy, about having fun, was answered too: yes, I had fun. I had great conversations with myself while I was writing the talk, and I had better conversations with the people in the room ✅.

Embrace the Change

The best outcome I learned by giving this talk was that it is not good enough yet. Imagine the other situation: having it perfect for the first time. Where am I going from here? What a boring (hence scary) thought! After this first practice, I now know (and not guess) that I will need to rework everything, but my first “walking skeleton” is the right one; the first step was exactly in the right direction. The next iterations can come.

The next milestone is at the beginning of October at KanDDDinsky. The steps towards it will be small and several based on feedback from Nick, Andrea, or anyone up to it. My journey to find my boundaries can continue.

DDD Europe 2022 Watch-List

I attend conferences and open spaces for more than 15 years but I can’t remember ever being keener to go to a conference than the DDD EU this year. But I still haven’t imagined that my list for “watch later”-videos will be almost as long as the number of talks – including the ones from the DDD Foundations (2 pre-conference days).

I was so full of expectations because I would be a speaker at an international conference for the first time and the opportunity to meet all those wonderful people who became friends in the last two years! (I won’t even try to list the names because I would surely miss a few). The most often repeated sentence on those five days wasn’t “Can you see my screen?” anymore but “Do you know that we never met before IRL?!” 🤗

This was only one of those great evenings meeting old friends and making new ones 🙂 (After two years of collaboration, the Virtual DDD organizers have finally met too!)

But now back to the lists:

Talks I haven’t seen but I should:

  1. DDD Foundations with clever people and interesting talks which should/could land in our ddd-crew repositories. (In general, the sessions are not too long, I will probably browse through all of them.)
  2. Main Conference

Talks to revisit

This list is not the list of “good talks”; I can’t remember being at any talk I wished I wouldn’t. But these here need to be seen and listened to more than once (at least I do).

Domain-Driven Design in ProductLand – Alberto Brandolini

Alberto speaking the truth about product development is exactly my kind of radical candour.

Independent Service Heuristics: a rapid, business-friendly approach to flow-oriented boundaries – Matthew Skelton and Nick Tune

The tweet tells it all: an essential new method in our toolbox

The Fractal Geometry of Software Design – Vladik Khononov

Mindblowing. I will probably have to re-watch this video a couple of times until I get my brain around all of the facets Valdik touches in his talk.

Sociotechnical Systems Design for the “Digital Coal Mines” – Trond Hjorteland

This talk is not something I haven’t understood – I understand it completely. I will still re-watch it because it contains historical and actual arguments and requirements for employers on how they have to re-think their organizational models.

This is the longest list of videos I have ever bookmarked (and published as a suggestion for you all). Still, it is how it is: the DDD-Eu 2022 was, in my opinion, the most mature conference I ever participated.

At the same time, there is always time for jokes when Mathias Verraes and Nick Tune are around (and we are around them, of course) 😃