Open Space Technology meets code

Note: Cross posted from IUpdateable from Eric Nelson.


I’m not 100% sure who first came up with idea of an Open Space Coding Day – but I first heard about it from Alan Dean back in mid 2009 and I‘m working on the assumption it was his idea. It is a good idea. Thank you Alan.

On Saturday (27th Feb 2009) I was lucky enough to help deliver one.

The day was themed on Azure but otherwise followed a fairly standard Open Space format. For the vast majority of folks present it was their first exposure to an Open Space format event.

Wikipedia summarises the format rather well but the bits I think make it interesting are:

  • Initial lack of agenda – the attendees create it and take ownership of it
  • There is no “them and us” – it is about “we”
  • It is not broadcast, it is about collaboration
  • It is blame free – if you didn’t have a good time, it was your fault.
  • It focuses on doing rather than planning to do.
  • It is efficient – there is no waste. You are never “in the wrong session” for long.

The approach uses the the Four Principles and The One Law.

The Four Principles

  1. Whoever comes is the right people: this alerts the participants that attendees of a session class as “right” simply because they care to attend
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have: this tells the attendees to pay attention to events of the moment, instead of worrying about what could possibly happen
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time: clarifies the lack of any given schedule or structure and emphasises creativity and innovation
  4. When it’s over, it’s over: encourages the participants not to waste time, but to move on to something else when the fruitful discussion ends

The One Law

The “Law of Two Feet“: If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet. Go to some other place where you may learn and contribute. (I’ve always been a fan of this one!)

I would definitely recommend folks keep a look out for these sort of events in the future… and hopefully we can repeat some themed ones around Azure in other locations in the UK. Anyone want to set one up? 🙂

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