Boston Linux & UNIX was originally founded in 1994 as part of The Boston Computer Society. We meet on the third Wednesday of each month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Building E51.

Agile From the Engine Room: Making the World Safe for Geeks

Date and Time

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm


MIT Building E-51, Room 395


Nancy Van Schooenderwoert - vanschoo rcn com


A talk about Agile programming methodologies


The strength of the Agile movement is based on many of the same fundamentals that give the open source movement its power: individuals caring about their craft, strong technical foundations, recognition based on merit. But creating mechanisms for it to endure is no easy thing. The success of both communities has meant they must deal with misinformation, mis-application of their ideas, and outright lies. Maybe you've been in a company where "being Agile" meant that all you had to do was skip documentation and code really, really fast. Or maybe you've worked in an "Agile sweatshop". Such abuses exist. First we'll look at the truth about what constitutes a healthy Agile team - by going on a virtual tour of the team room of a real Agile team that is running their first iteration for a safety-critical project. We'll see what their day-to-day practices actually are, what their user stories look like, and how the Agile mechanisms make room for the voice of technical competence to be heard in the din that accompanies the startup of a high-stakes project. Then we'll briefly explore who's using Agile methods in open source work, how the practices typically vary for open source teams, and why it's so difficult to move from people-driven mode to the "rule of law". It's all part of making the world safe for good geeks to be able to do their work - and do it right.


Nancy Van Schooenderwoert has extensive experience in large scale real-time systems for flight simulation and ship sonars where she held positions in electrical engineering, systems engineering, and software engineering, as well as test design. She brings this systems perspective to her current work in XP Coaching for real-time and embedded systems. Her experience includes software development for safety-critical applications such as factory machine control and medical devices. Having seen the problems fostered by a "Hero" approach to software development she became convinced that a team approach is the best way to build reliable systems efficiently. Her recent work involved leading a team to build embedded software for a scientific instrument. She used Extreme Programming (XP) successfully and is working on a paper to detail the software metrics that were collected over 3 years of this development effort. She is a Founder, Extreme Programmer & Coach at XP Embedded Co., based in Lexington, MA. She is interested in the issues of technical management, especially the dynamics of team empowerment. Other interests include recreational mathematics especially nonperiodic tilings, and  inventing games. She will soon be publishing a game based on penrose tilings. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.


  1. YouTube video of meeting

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