SoCraTes UK 2017

Posted by Phil Meredith

From bell ringing to bash testing there is something for everyone at the SoCraTes (un)conference. Having never been I was interested to see how it would work, and what better way to get involved than with the law of two feet. If you like something stay if you don’t feel free to go away.

The conference, for all its deliberate lack of upfront session plans, was exceptionally well organised. The 18th century heart of Surrey, Wotton House, lent the conference a relaxing atmosphere of a retreat rather than 3 days of school. Perhaps the major difference between the 18th century and the conference weekend was the excellent WiFi. It was the combination of the relaxed atmosphere and open structure that allowed for developers to express their interests both technically and creatively. Popular sessions included discussing the difficult issues of diversity and inclusivity in tech. Others ran excellent hands on sessions, such as the cost of refactoring illustrated through playing catch and sorting algorithms using hand bells. These creative approaches were incredibly effective in delivering their message and are a far cry away from the 4 hour powerpoints of many product conferences. At its core the SoCraTes conference is about software craftmanship, this meant that there was plenty of time to discuss and practise techniques like Test Driven Development, Contract Driven Testing and mob programming. If you are new to that sort of thing or just XP-curious then this conference will benefit you.

As a first timer I didn’t know what to expect. Developers can be opinionated and argumentative but the crowd at this conference were excited to learn and excited to teach. By the end of the first few sessions I had enough confidence to run and assist with several Kotlin sessions. Kotlin being something we have been using in production for a year and a half on my team. Not only did people seem interested in the sessions they actually seemed excited by the prospect of being able to learn something new. I thought it might be awkward for people to leave half way through, as is encouraged by the “law of two feet”, but the people who showed up were exactly the right people for our sessions. I noticed that some of the best workshops were the ones that the most preparation had gone in to by the presenter. Next, time I run a session even an extra half an hour of prep will go a long way to elevating the usefulness of the session for myself and the participants.

Overall, this conference was one of the best I have attended and I will be going again in the future. If you are interested in building code and fostering a high quality environment to develop it in, then attending this conference should give you some new ideas to achieve this. If you are already doing this then its the perfect place to share how you have managed to achieve this.

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About The Authors

  • Phil Meredith