Friday, May 6, 2016

Mob Programming conference 2016


Mobbing time lapse – a full day in 3 minutes

Woody Zuill keynote – how they found mobbing

Some Helpful Observations for successful Mob Programming (short slide deck)


Some of the people who I was glad to see at the conference:
  • Woody Zuill. Manager of the Hunter mob that discovered mobbing, and instigator of the #NoEstimates discussion
  • Llewellyn Falco. Creator of ApprovalTests, Teaching Kids Programming, credited with “strong-style” pair programming.
  • Nancy Van Schooenderwoert. Led a team of newbies to fantastic results, and wrote about it:

There were around 50 people total, including people from Cornwall, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.


It was held at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center (“NERD Center”), right next to MIT. My cardkey didn’t work on the doors, though.

The 3 days beforehand were the Agile Games Conference, in the same space.


2 keynotes:
  • Woody Zuill on how they discovered mob programming
  • Llewellyn Falco on the science of mob programming (why it works)
4 mob programing workshops

2 open space slots.

The workshops were a chance to participate in a mob under the guidance of a mobbing expert. There were workshops at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels of mobbing.


The conference was less about teaching/learning, and more about experience. As such, most of my take-aways don’t fit in to an email. Hopefully I can facilitate these experiences for others.

Woody explicitly does not recommend mobbing. The important things he sees, which led to the discovery of mobbing + great results:

  • Kindness, consideration, and respect
  • The people doing the work should choose how they do they work
  • Turn up the good (work on making good things happen more, rather than fixing bad things – the bad things tend to melt away)

Mob programming is a skill. Don’t expect amazing results right at the outset.

At the conference I had the opportunity to experience mobbing at various levels, and this gave me a glimpse of what expert mobbing would look like. I can now see how that way of working would produce those amazing results.

I worker asked me to get the answer to the question “what is the ideal mob size?” The answer I found is largely about reframing the question:

If a team is not skilled at mobbing, then you won’t get great results, regardless of mob size. An expert mobbing team will be able to work well with 4 people or with 14. Get people that have each of the skills/knowledge/talents that will be needed, so they don’t get blocked.

I can now teach you to differentiate a male house sparrow from a male song sparrow, in less than a second.

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