A memory lane of the Agile community in Singapore — Part 1 (The beginning)

Stanly Lau
May 8, 2016 · 4 min read

Other parts are available here:
Part 2: What inspired Open Space?
Part 3: Open Space meetups

I’d like to arrange a simple meetup for ScrumMasters in Singapore.
Just meet and keep in contact with each other and share experiences
with each other. We had a similar one, a year ago, and I guess it is
time for another one.
— A rare Agile meetup organized by Bas Vodde in 2009.

This write up contains my perspective of the Agile community in Singapore from the time I got in touch to the present.

The first traces goes back to the year 2008 when Bas Vodde (now my colleague) created Scrum Singapore forum in Yahoo Groups. The group is small (~100) and mostly consist who have joined Bas’ Scrum Master course. Meetups were rare and mostly led by Bas. There were conversations about getting others to own the events organising. However, there wasn’t much progress.

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One of the casual meetups over dinner. Bas Vodde (second to the right) and Craig Larman (second to the left).

Then in 2010, Adrian Cumiskey created meetup.com/Agile-Singapore as a result of a good level of interest from the Agile topic he did in Software Freedom Day 2010. The first few monthly meetups gained a crowd of more than 20 people, and Maxus Media and Software was the venue sponsor.

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First meetup from Meetup.com/Agile-Singapore. Adrian Cumiskey (rightmost)
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Output from the meetup

In parallel, I joined Odd-e that year and decided to contribute more to the community [the autonomy helps a lot, but that’s another story]. My hope is to increase the development competency and awareness of different ways of working for companies in Singapore. We set up MoinMoin wiki to host the past events and information and abandoned it when knew about meetup.com. I get connected with Adrian and started to use meetup.com for events like Coding Dojo.

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Second coding dojo on DictionaryReplacer kata

Sometimes, there were special people from overseas and we invited them to share a talk.

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Lasse Koskela (author of Test Driven and Effective Unit Testing) sharing Iterative UX Design with Scrum
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June Kim (founder of Korean agile/XP community) sharing Success Factors of Agile Projects in South Korea

It was in early 2011 that Adrian handed over the meetup.com to me as he was taking new ventures. Since Odd-e office is usually available and we’re supportive of contributing to the community, the stability of the logistics helps to focus on figuring out how to run the sessions better. Occasionally, we also have a different venue host.

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Carl Coryell and Mike Grafton presenting Advanced Backlog Management @ Pivotal Labs

Agile Singapore was invited to exhibit in Software Freedom Day 2011!

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Volunteers Senthil and Konstantin (in red shirts) helping out at the exhibit.
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Playing ball-point game with the public to simulate the concept of iterative development.

Since then till mid-2012, I experimented the regular meetups with a variety of formats that can fit in less than 3 hours.

1. Sequential prepared talk(s)
2. Concurrent prepared talks
3. Prepared talk(s) + Fishbowl
4. Prepared talk(s) + Open Jam
5. Open Jam

I wanted to increase the interaction between attendees. Prepared talks can invite high attendance but weak on interaction. Fishbowl is a panel where conversations take place. It has an empty seat that encourages the audience to take the place and contribute. When this happens, one of the existing panel members will have to go back to the audience. Open Jam is a very casual meeting format where people generate topics and go to breakout spaces for discussion.

None of these works well at that time as I’m also concerned with the amount of preparation for the meetup. Prepared talks usually require a lot more effort and ah-hoc tasks. Open Jam is way too open-ended without focus and purpose. Then something came along that sets the rhythm for the rest of the years.

See part 2

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