Not enough design up front at ASAS2012?

I attended the Agile Software Architecture Symposium (ASAS2012) on 19th September 2012. Well, part of it anyway. At lunch time I decided to leave. What was wrong? I’m not sure, but in part I think the event suffered from not enough design up front.

The speakers were fine. 
I enjoyed Simon Browns’ presentation, which was entertaining, well structured, and visually pleasing (the slides of course). Mostly stuff I’m familiar with, though I hadn’t come across Roy Osherove and his concept of elastic leadership yet. Interesting to see the similarities with Dave Snowden’s ideas (particularly Cynefin).
Next up was Robert Deckers, a former colleague of mine. Robert is a great guy and an amazingly strong conceptual thinker. His presentation covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Always nice to see him in action, even if he lacked a good closing statement.
Last speaker before lunch was Richard Kettelerij. I’m afraid he didn’t really grab my attention, and his visuals were neither pleasing nor clear to me. But his main storyline came across okay and I like the fact that he included a case study.
The venue wasn’t great.
ASAS2012 was hosted at  Droom! in Elst (Gld). It seemed a bit too small to host an event with 100 people attending. I noticed several things which were distracting, inconvenient or annoying. For example, AVISI had to hide the registration area at the back due to lack of space, there was only 1 toilet nearby – which caused large queues at every break, and the lunch queue was sufficiently long that I gave up on it. Also the beamer needed its’ light bulb replaced, which showed up very annoyingly at the top corner of the presentation screen throughout the morning session.
The organization was amateurish.
What annoyed me most though, was the poor organization. The morning program (3 presentations) had no official breaks, which is strange. Unfortunately, after Simon Brown’s keynote the event chair suggested people could go get themselves a drink. As a result many people went off to find a drink or queue up for the 1 toilet, disrupting the program. The chair had to correct his mistake by requesting people to come back quickly next time they wanted to get a drink. Speaking of the chair, I don’t think he introduced himself, or if he did I missed it. His introduction of the speakers seemed to be completely unrehearsed and his wrap up was almost non-existent.
There were very few questions at the end of the presentations. I would expect the organization to encourage people to ask questions, and maybe start off with a question to get the audience going, but this was not the case here.
Is this the agile way?
All this left me dissatisfied. I considered sitting it out since I was quite looking forward to Sander Hoogendoorn (no offense to the other afternoon speakers but I don’t know them). The long queue for lunch made me change my mind: I headed home to do some work and some much needed admin. Driving home I recalled the speakers’ references to ‘Big Up Front Design’, ‘Just Enough Architecture’ and so on. I involuntarily put the venue and organizational issues down to ‘Not enough design up front’. I have no idea if that’s really the case, of course – it’s just a random conclusion my mind came to at that moment. But it is ironic, since many agile wannabe’s suffer from just that problem, (or even ‘no design up front’ as Simon Brown put it).
Retrospective
Of course ‘not enough design up front’ is not the agile way. It could be a symptom of a team struggling to apply agile principles for the first time, or in a new setting. And it is often a result of teams who are ‘agile in name only’. I think ASAS is a good initiative, and I don’t think the organization is agile in name only. They’ll undoubtedly do a retrospective and adapt their approach in time for ASAS2013.
Did you go to ASAS2012? What did you make of it? Was I wrong to leave at lunchtime?