March 08, 2007 - EclipseCon and Ward Cunningham

For me today was my best day so far at an EclipseCon, but as usual for a conference (except CITCON!) the most interesting stuff was what happened outside the talks...

coffee.jpgIn the picture we are preparing for the panel, and this prep talk ended up being a great discussion. Around the table we have Patrick Smith who organized the panel, Alexander Zouzou of Cisco, David Saff, Cynthia Andres (Kent's co-author for XP Explained v2), Kent Beck, and Joe Toomey. Of the group Joe was the only person I hadn't met before but because he was also co-presenting a talk on achieving continuous integration (with TPTP where he's a committer) you can imagine that we had a lot to agree on. This ended up being an interesting group with Alexander and Joe both there as believers and practitioners in developer testing, David providing some academic backing, Patrick and I having spent a lot of time trying to help people adopt testing, and then Kent always interesting since I think he's spent more time talking and thinking about this stuff than the rest of us put together.

Our pre-panel conversation ended up being very lively, with the most contentious topic being should an engineer feel compelled to disclose if they are writing unit tests. I was strongly arguing the negative. If I'm asked to implement something and how long it will take, I'll give an answer, but I'm not going to call out the fact that I'll be working TDD and refactoring as I go along. I'm not asked to account for how much time I spend at a whiteboard, not how much time I'll spend debugging, so in my view the question of how much time I'll spend writing unit tests is a non-sensical question. Alexander most strongly articulated the contrary position, that of course you should make the unit testing part visible, and then go further and persuade management that it should be a standard practice. His two strongest points were:

I wasn't convinced by this, but I do see his point and it was an interesting discussion to have.

While we were talking I opened my laptop and my chat client (Adium) picked up one other person via Bonjour -- Ward Cunningham! I wanted to take a screen shot. I told my wife tonight that it was like walking into a lobby and the only other person in there is Brad Pitt. Then she laughed at me. Anyway... This was cool because not only was it Ward Cunningham whom I'd never met but I'd actually been wanting to tell him for a couple of years that he should take down the old CruiseControl wiki site he was hosting for us. We moved off of it about 3 years ago but apparently nobody ever let him know, so I sent him a quick note letting him know he could take it down, but then I closed my laptop to rejoin the conversation.

But then as we were all walking out of the panel (which went fine, thanks for asking) Kent stopped and said hi to Ward and I got to meet him. When we spoke I mentioned that I almost took a screen shot of his name there in my chat window; he said if I hadn't gone offline so quickly I would have received his reply and wouldn't that have made a better screenshot? (Yes, yes it would have.)

After sorting out a plan to deal with the old CC wiki I asked him what he was working on lately, and it turns out it is something REALLY COOL. He's clearly jazzed about it and took the time to give me a demo over the lunch hour. What's he's doing is taking test scripts and generating documentation from them, but not just static text kind of documentation, but context sensitive help with screenshots and workflow diagrams. He sent me a link to his writeup of it with the directions to read from the bottom up and to pay special attention to part 3.

After reading a bit to understand what's going on, go play with a bit. VERY cool stuff.

Posted by Jeffrey Fredrick at March 8, 2007 09:49 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Very cool. I'm glad you got to meet Ward Cunningham. Last year he gave a great talk at EclipseCon, where he talked about testing of course, and I thought you guys should be talking.

> Kent always interesting since I think he's
> spent more time talking and thinking about
> this stuff than the rest of us put together.

From the picture, it looks like he's still thinking about it.

Posted by: Julio Santos on March 9, 2007 06:57 AM

I was guessing you'd be happy I met Ward for the effect on your degrees of separation (

Posted by: Jeffrey Fredrick [TypeKey Profile Page] on March 9, 2007 08:44 AM

> I was guessing you'd be happy I met Ward for the effect on your degrees of separation (

Nah. I'm over that. Just happy for you, since you seem to be happy *and* I did think that you and him should be talking, when I first heard him last year.

(friends want friends to be happy, or something)

Posted by: Julio Santos on March 11, 2007 10:55 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?