Archive for the ‘BookList’ Category

I’m a book lover.
For me, agile does not make much sense without technical excellence.

Two weeks ago two friends had an interesting discussion on twitter.

This conversation inspired me to publish lists of technical books to read.

As I have not been programming a lot the last years, I only know must read technical books from years ago.

 Instead of this being a problem I thought let’s turn this into a positive thing, so asked a few agile technical friends if they could send me their list of top 10 technical books to read. With the reason why….

 The idea is to publish these lists on my blog, about one a week. (similar to how who is agile started).

This was the list that Christophe tweeted:

While driving back from the first European IgSummit (Innovation Games) I was thinking about what I like about this event and what is my prefered event.

  • A 2 or 3 day event with maximum 200 (preferable 160) people
  • The event happens in a nice environment, not a chain hotel:
    • koningsteen
    • SeminarZentrum Rückersbac
    • the organizers are staying at the hotel(except if they live nearby)
    • I can arrive on the first day and leave on the last day without having to loose another night not at home
    • WIFI is everywhere available for free (except in the restaurant, then people should eat and talk to eachother )
    • Coffee and other beverages are available all the time for free
  • the people:
    • 30% of the people I have never met on or offline.
    • 30 % of the people I only met online and never yet met offline.
    • 30 % I have met before.
    • 30 to 60 % of the participants are female.
    • 30 % of the organizers are female.
    • 30 % of the participants are not from the country the conference takes place.
    • 30 % of the organizers are parents.
    • 30 % of the organizers are single.
    • 30 % of the organizers are new to the organizer team.
    • 30 % of the participants are active developers
  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
  • at the start of the conference the law of two feet and other OpenspaceTechnology idea’s are explained and people are encouraged to use it all the time
  • a 30 minutes “keynote” from ThoughtJockeys. I have nothing against thoughtleaders, yet I prefer to learn from people who implement the idea’s from thoughtleaders and mix it with other stuff. Only 30 minutes as this forces people to prepare really well and to concentrate what they want to say. After that I want this keynote speaker to propose a OpenSpace Session in the afternoon, to have discussions about his idea’s.
  • Funny OHMPs (Official Half minute presentations about the talks)
    • a break of 20 minutes.
    • 6 x 15 min talks in 4 break out rooms.
    • announced 5 minutes breaks in between, so that people in the hall ways know when the next talk starts.
    • a one hour walking dinner:

      • that has food for everyone: vegies, carnivors, cheese lovers, allergic people etc…
      • people can take the food from different tables, not one or two lines.
    • a few 3 minutes lightning talks (without slides) in the mainroom.  No talks decided up front, no breaks
    • the rest of the afternoon, open space market
    • the event has a program for the children of the attendees. The childrens program is as much about fun as it’s about learning (just like the adults event)
    • the keynote speaker  of the first day has to deliver a workshop to teach the children what he talked the first day.
    • dinner with a stranger in the evening
    • second day keynote is delivered by a child, paired up with either a parent or another child.
    • rest of the day is like the first day
    • if a 3 day event, the second evening we do 3 hour games night
    • we end the last night (before the last day) with meetup at a karaoke bar where people use text related to the event instead of the original song lyrics.
    • At the end of the event a 30 minute keynote from a thoughtjockey that was at the event all the time and that has created a presentation, mixing thing she learned at the event
    • if the first keynote speaker was female, the closing one has to be male.
    • books:
      • everyone brings one book to the event and that is used in a swashbook reading session
      • a local book shop sells books, with a lot of books available of the speakers and participants
      • Authors offer Faq sesions on their books
    • During the full event an application is being developed that is put into production using contiunous delivery. The developer table is in the middle of the conference and dashboards about the application are visible at every location of the conference.
  • Feedback:



Yes I know this is THE list of the ideal conference for me. I am very well aware this is the blue sky scenario and these are only MY idea’s.
(Hey it is my blog )

  • A few years ago at AgileCoachCamp2010 Marc Bless walked around and asked people to give them a name of a book. just one book. He had one extra rule. The book could not be on his list yet. I stole that idea and recreated booklist with people at conferences like
  • agile 2010
  • agile 2011
  • aye 2011
  • Stoos Stampede 2012


So I’m created a list for ALE2013. Same rules apply:

  • You can only present one book
  • it can’t be on this list (or any of the other lists.)
  • it should not be an agile books (it can be)


What book do you want to put on the ale2013 list?





Last week I published an Agile Thursday Quiz about PairProgramming.
(You can found previous quizes at ATQ )

The quiz was created by Sallyann and you can find her answers below.

1. Which of the following has Pair Programming as a core practice?
b. Extreme Programming. Although pairing is useful in any other the others is it only described as a Core Practice in XP.

2. When pair programming, the most regularly used names to distinguishing which person is currently typing are: 
c. Driver and Navigator. Some say the Driver types, while the navigator looks at the broader problem / real world level. I (Sallyann) dispute this though

3. In Jim Coplien and Neil Harrison’s book “Organisational Patterns”, pair programming is referred to as:
c. Developing in pairs. Illustrated with a lovely ‘Two Amigos’ picture.

4. Pair programming has not been shown to have a helpful effect on:
b. Pair programming has actually been shown to lengthen the amount of effort required to develop a feature, however this is considered a cheap price to pay for the eventual time saved through not having to fix the extra defects found in solo-developed code.

Do you want to learn more about PairProgramming?

Brian Marick wrote a nice post about pairing with Corey Haines 
A Pair Programming Experience by Randal Jenson
You might want to spend a while on Wikiwiki: (If you have never been to the first wiki, make sure you take some time to look at everything written here.)


Remote pairing: 


You can also find these links and other on my delicious page for PairProgramming

Last week I published the Agile Thursday Quiz about Retrospectives.
Here are the answers from Ben Linders. (who created these questions.)

1) When do you normally do a retrospective?
b is the best answer, all others are wrong or do not reflect the real intention of a retro.

2)  Who should attend the retrospective?
a and c are both valid answers, this questions aims to trigger reaction if the PO should or should attend the retro.

3) What is the best way to do a retrospective?

4) What happens with the actions that come out of retrospectives?
b is the correct answer, e is not wrong but doesn’t emphasize enough that it is the team who takes action

Where to learn more about Retrospectives:



A few of my example Retrospectives





One of the ways I am coaching companies, is that I offer what I call free mini agile training sessions.
These are brownbag sessions, something I learned from Linda & Mary Lynn great book: Fearless Change

Today these are 1 hour (optional) sessions for anyone in the company that wants to learn about agile.
Depending on how much time I spend at the company, I do them once a week or ever x weeks.
Sometimes they are workshops I am doing for a long time, sometimes they are try out’s of something new.

This is an example of a such a try out-session.

I show a picture of a kanban board similar to the one below:
(I took a different one, so I can keep mine for my exercise 😉 )

Scrum Board

I gave everyone post-its and a 5  to 10 minute timebox to write down what they saw.

Then everyone could present one post-it and in a round-robin way we went around the table. (After we have done one round, we turn again, until most people have no post-it’s left anymore.
Depending on how many idea’s there are, we look at all of them.

Every time a person presented a post-it. I asked everyone if it was a fact or an interpretation.

let me give you an example:
– people are already working on the second story before the first is finished.
> actually the first lane is a priority lane, that is working with support tickets.

Ok, I admit that is hard to figure out from a picture that is not complete. let’s look at a next one.

– Alex is working on too many stuff.
mm the fact is, there are 3 post it’s with a small post it Alex on it.
In this case, the team leaves a post it in the WIP colum, untill the next stand up. Yet they do a blue Done sticky, when finished. Alex is actually only working on one thing.

by this time people start realize that seeing facts is really hard.
yet at the same time they do miss a lot of obvious facts. So obvious that we ignore them.
The board uses black tape to make the squares. this might seem trivial and not important, untill I tell you that this is the black team and the color of the tape is making the difference on the boards.
Other facts: some post it’s are yellow, others are green.

When I did the tryout of this exercise, we had a team member joining this workshop  rather late.
This turned out very fortunate, as I told this person the exercise and when he presented his post it’s, I asked the already present team members to replay the exercise with him.
It was very nice to see what they had already learned from the previous time.

When I tweeted about the exercise, I was reminded of the ladder of Inference
An adapted version of the exercise could be, to not only select fact or interpretation, yet to see if you can come up with post it’s for all 7 layers of the ladder.  As a first exercise for team members that have to learn about the difference between fact and interpretations this was already cool.

Topics that came up during the workshop

I show this list of topics, to show that a small workshop that is only loosely facilitated, can bring up many interesting topics, where the students choose themselves in what they are interested in.
For me, the power of training from the back of the room






A few years after AYE, I finally have been able to go to PSL. I could not resist to also start a booklist here. As these days, we get knowledge not only by booklists, I’ll add a few videos.

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work by Chip & Dan Heath

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni

Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behaviour: by Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, Steve McMenamin, James Robertson, Suzanne Robertson, Tom DeMarco

Clear Leadership: Sustaining Real Collaboration and Partnership at Work by Gervase R. Bushe

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge

Non Violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Personal Kanban by Jim Benson

At the last dinner Matt Paid it forward.
It reminded me of Aaron’s last wish



I talked about a company called /UT7 that does not have a shared vision and uses Satir model. Read about /UT7 at infoq




Other lists


I created a PSL Twitter list (if you have been to PSL, let me know and I’ll add you)

In the hot tub (where else?) we also talked about some of the projects I started.


With agile going mainstream more and more entrepreneurs, are looking for new ways to organize their company.
When a company goes agile, it has an impact on the company culture.
Some of the smart managers I coach, ask me:

  • what’s next?
  • where can I look for examples of companies that don’t work the traditional way?

This is a list of books & documents about companies that are working in a less traditional way.

Although not a book (yet), the most amazing company I know is /UT7. read the /UT7 story at Infoq
nothe rblogpost about how Buffer works as a Distributed company

If you are not in a mood for reading, you might want to watch this video about how open source projects survive poisonous people

Scott Berkun also wrote an interesting book about the year he worked at WordPress
The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work

Update 2:
In the year 2014, I want to learn by doing. I would like to join companies with creative (aka non standard structures or ways of working) and help them a week or so. (If they work distributed maybe even longer)

Yves lots of people don’t have the time to read these books. True, will you give me links to articles about these and other companies in the comments?



Selecting the last person for volume one was really hard. Do we want a big name? Or a newbie? What about one of the original Agile Manifesto authors? Today our backlog contains 217 people. How do you select “the best person” to end the book with?

While working on one of the previous versions of the book, I asked for help from the Leanpub team. And then it struck me. ‘Who Is agile’ has become what it is today thanks to Leanpub. As an author, I’m in love with the lean publishing service that Leanpub offers.

During the last ten years I discussed the process of book writing with many agile authors. Almost all said that writing a book can not be done in an agile way. I did not want to agree with that. Only when I failed to write the Agile Games book was I ready to agree. And then Elisabeth helped me discover Leanpub. Peter is a great example of a Lean Startup Product Owner. As a user, I get so exited about their product that I keep throwing ideas at them. Peter always answers in a nice way and still he keeps the focus of his team real tight. It’s not that he ignores all the ideas. Sometimes someone on the Leanpub mailing list has a genius idea and within a day the feature is implemented. Yet, for most other ideas, Peter gently explains why the feature is not a priority. So far, I have always agreed with him, though I might not like always it.

His blog post about his desk setup, was the direct push to install my own walking desk.














What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

When I was in university, I did a double-major in Computer Science and Psychology, which is itself an odd combination. However, I spent so much time taking various courses that interested me (Philosophy, Japanese, intellectual history, etc) that I was less than one semester of credits away from 2 completely separate degrees! (I took about 6 years worth of classes for my B.Sc. degree.) I think the breadth of what I studied before choosing Computer Science and Psychology has really influenced me. Also, it was cool to be the only Psychology student I knew in the Faculty of Engineering 🙂

If you had not been in IT, what would have become of you?

I probably would have gone into graduate school in cognitive psychology, studying brain function.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge is choosing to work on the right things, and in reducing product features to their essence before building those. I have so many product ideas at any given time (both for features of products I’m working on, and for totally new products) that it’s really tempting to get distracted, especially since I work with very talented people who can code almost anything. So I need focus.

This is a good thing for me since, frankly, it’s a luxury. It’s the ultimate example of first world problems. However, it is still a problem and a challenge. And unlike many problems, you do not know (and can never know) if you got the right answer. Even if you succeed in something, you could have been more successful in one of the n other things you didn’t do, or didn’t do as well as you could have. Opportunity cost is expensive!

What drives you?

If I think deeply about some seemingly solved, mundane problem, I typically get really unhappy with the current state of the art in it. Two examples of this are book publishing and project management. Both seemed to be solved problems, and yet both are really broken in many ways. And in both areas you’ve seen a bunch of new startups lately, and the problems are still pretty unsolved! (Of course, hopefully Leanpub solves one of them 🙂

So, in terms of what drives me, I’d say that I end up getting strong opinions about some problem, and then wanting to build what I consider to be the right solution for it. And if I think that something is broken for me, and if I think I can see a clean solution, then I get motivated.

What is your biggest achievement?

Leanpub is my biggest achievement, but it’s a shared achievement between me and Leanpub’s cofounder Scott Patten, as well as the others like Ken, Len and Steve who are working or have worked on it.

In terms of my biggest essentially personal achievement, it’s my first book Flexible Rails. I was living in the middle of nowhere, working remotely for a Silicon Valley startup, and I had a young son. And thanks to wife’s support and patience, I managed to find the time to write and self-publish it (iteratively, in a very Leanpub style [before Leanpub existed], shipping 23 versions in about 2 years) before having it traditionally published.

Flexible Rails was the first thing that I did–completely outside of any structured environment like university or being an employee–where I had enough courage of my convictions to build and ship something. In school or as an employee you are given objectives and then you try to meet or exceed them. And over the course of high school, university and then being an employee I got pretty good at that. But it’s a very different challenge to do something completely on your own: not only do you need to come up with the idea and be able to execute it, you also need to maintain the self-belief that what you are doing is worthwhile, and that you will succeed. (Incidentally, this external feedback and motivation is, I think, one of the most important aspects of Leanpub.)

What is the last book you have read?

I think the last book I finished was Trevor Burnham’s CoffeeScript book, which was really good. I’m currently reading Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Berlin Johnson.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

That’s an interesting question. My guess is you get lots of pretentious answers 🙂

I guess since Leanpub is bootstrapped by the consulting work of Ruboss, the question would be “Do you have any advice for someone considering bootstrapping a startup?”

My answer would be that doing product development and doing consulting are very different skills, and to not underestimate how much learning is involved in growing a consulting company. (This was also something that I knew very little about when starting Ruboss!) When picking a rate to bill your time at, do NOT assume you can bill 40 hour weeks, or even 30 hour weeks! It turns out that companies have overhead, and that your billable hours are very different than the number of hours you work.

And then once you know how to handle that challenge somewhat, and run a reasonably successful consulting company, the hardest thing is turning down work at your consulting rate in order to do product work. But the product work is the real reason that your company exists, so you need to solve this problem daily!

Part of my solution to that has been to raise our rates until we had enough time, and to focus on our best clients. However, finding a balance is always tricky, especially since you try to be nice and fair to your clients. Also, you need to manage risk, etc…

Whom do you think I should ask next?

I think you should ask:


Peter is the last person added to the global book Who is agile

if you liked his answer or the serie. Please buy the book.
In the book Peter also answer Michael Dubakov’s question: Can introversty be a good CEO?

Aslam was proposed by Henrik and by Maritza.

This is what Karen Greaves says about Aslam:

Aslam is a developer at heart, but able to speak to senior managers to help them solve their problems. He’s most at home pairing on complex problems and helping others learn techniques to take their coding to the next level. But that’s not what I most enjoy about Aslam. For me (and my business partner Sam) he is our business mentor. He is always willing to listen to your concerns and give you open feedback, to help you find the right path. He is humble and doesn’t judge. Every discussion with Aslam, leaves me feeling calm, in control and inspired to try something new. Sam and I have come up with nicknames for Aslam. I call him buddha, and she calls him Yoda. If you meet him you will know it’s not because of his pointy green ears. He definitely deserves to be featured in “Who Is agile”























What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

There are 3 very distinct moments that made me aware of the fragility of life. Strangely, these moments made me realize how small yet significant I am in the big scheme of life.

The first moment was in 1986 when I was in my final year of high school. My older brother was beaten by police and arrested during a political protest against the apartheid government. He remained in detention without trial for 6 or 8 weeks. It was the first time I went through distinct emotional phases of fear, anger, despair and sadness.

In 2000, my wife almost died while being pregnant with my first child. My child was born 2 months premature, spent the first 2 months of his life in an incubator. I recall being told by our doctor that they will save my wife first, then my child. That was surreal, to say the least. Anyway, I became a father, walked into neonatal ICU, peered into an incubator at a 1.2kg human being that looked older than my father. I had no idea what to do, so I went home. It’s insane trying to figure out being a father when you have no opportunity to bond physically.

More recently, my second child suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of 1 month. She had less than 5% chance of survival. Five days later she awoke and started feeding again. That was scarier than the medical trauma 5 days before. She is now 8 years old, has a terminal liver disease and lives life from a wheel chair. I learnt that “being in control” is an illusion. We can only react to things that happen.

Oh, and what most people don’t know is that I married the girl that I fell in love with in high school, and we have been together for more than half of our lives. If that doesn’t define who I am, then I don’t know what will 🙂

If you had not been in IT, what would have become of you?

The obvious candidate would be to be a medical doctor which is the default career in my family. My parents were both doctors and so is my brother and his wife, and there are enough other medics in the extended family to host a conference. But I was quite determined not to be a doctor, so I studied Electronic Engineering. But, my first job was writing software far from transistors and op-amps. So, software development is my alternate career . If I hadn’t done software development, I’ve often thought of going into animation. I think the fluidity of the medium is similar to code – just magical.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

Oh no, that’s not a fair question. All challenges are equally big! If it’s not big, it can’t be a challenge, right? Seriously, one of my challenges is trying to be a parent. Oh boy! Just when you think you’ve figured it out, you find something unexpected that humbles you. It’s the mirror of my life with no photoshop effects. Consequently, the challenge I give myself is to understand myself, my behavior and my feelings. A lot of Why did I do that? is asked frequently within me. Right now, for all the questions, in all those contexts, there are a few things that are gaining some clarity. I hope that this clarity changes my behavior so that I am a better person. Ahhh, so that’s my biggest challenge. I take back “all challenges are equally big” 🙂

What drives you ?

The notion of something being impossible excites me. Nothing should be impossible. In a pure scientific sense there are things that are not possible, but from a practical sense, even impossibilities can be converted into something that is practically useful, even if it is not ideal. I love the promise of simplification. I guess what ultimately drives me is that I know that it is just a matter of time when the simpler option will emerge. The trick is being patient, that’s a slow feedback loop. So, being patient drives me.

What is your biggest achievement?

I don’t like to rank achievements. I think all achievements should be celebrated equally. I have learnt that even “small” achievements caused big changes in the journey of my life. The frustrating aspect is that I seem to have very little control over the feedback loop from achievement to realization of value. For example, understanding pointers, and pointers to pointers in C resulted in a decade of elegant problem solving, and not to mention the deep appreciation of a garbage collector. Or perhaps that I do understand that multiplication is short-hand for addition and decades later, I can try to find creative ways to help my daughter understand such crazy, abstract concepts as increasing in discrete and exact quantities.

What is the last book you have read?

Fred Brooks’ Mythical Month Essays (again). And also Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Last night, I finished reading Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion of the World with my daughter. That’s the best father/child book ever (read it with my son too). At the moment I am reading Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselvessci-fi/fantasy is like mental detox material for me.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

If you had a chance to do a heavenly trade-in of Justin Bieber, for whom would you trade him? Bob Marley ‘cos we still need to drive them crazy bald heads out of town.

Whom do you think I should ask next?

Samantha Laing and Karen Greaves of Growing Agile. I have seen them convert their own scary ideas into reality, taking leaps of faith, tripping and getting up – and smiling most of the time. Just insist that they steer clear of that agile games thing 😉