The ICGSE in Munich

My paper made it into one of the most important conferences in our field, the International Conference on Global Software Engineering, that happened in Munich between 27 and 31 August.

On Monday, I went to a tutorial on SNA- Seeing inside: Using social network analysis to understand patterns of collaboration and coordination in global software teams offered by Kate Ehrlich and Giuseppe Valletto from IBM Research. It was great to meet Kate in person after collaborating with her in drafting a project inside IBM! (The project never took off, but it was great to work with Kate and learn from her!)

During lunch, I made a terrible faux pas when I sat down at the same table with Phillippe Kruchten who was in the middle of his lunch. I read his name tag and as my excitment was bursting, the only line I could find after “Hello, nice to meet you!” was: “we’re reading your papers!” He was very nice answering: “and I’m reading your papers too! I had to read all the 100+ submissions…” The truth is I had discovered one of his papers only the week before, and it served me very well to make a point in my ECKM’07 paper, so for me it was a wonderful coincidence and all I meant was to thank him… but then I made a complete fool of myself!

My colleague Anders introduced me to Frances Paulisch, the host and the good fairy of the conference. Frances introduced me to Daniela Damian (again, what a difference between exchanging emails and talking on Skype from being face-to-face!) Daniela introduced me to some of her students – I remember meeting Sabrina Marczak on that occasion.

A welcome reception at the Hilton City Munich followed on the same evening.

On Tuesday, instead of a keynote, there was an opening session including “two important papers”-as introduced by the organisers. Their topics – text-based communication in distributed requirements workshops and respectively the relationship between time zone separation and performance – were of great interest and therefore they were vividly discussed by the audience during the following breaks.

An Experience session, containing only papers from the industry, followed.

Before introducing the keynote speaker, Phillipe Kruchten presented some statistics: there were 100 submissions, out of which 29 were accepted; 156 participants were 60 from Germany, 22 from the US, 9 from the Netherlands, 8 from Finland, 5 from Canada, 4 from India, 3 from Japan. There were supposed to be 2 more Irish, but they didn’t make it till the end.

25% of the participants were from academia, 35% from the industry, 19% came from research, 5% were consultants and 16% belonged to “other categories”. Strange enough, not a single person from this last category could be identified…

Then “Herr Professor Doktor” Erran Carmel delivered his keynote speech, “Reflections on a Decade of Studying Global Software Engineering“.
A poster session followed – only 3 posters were presented, and unfortunately the Irish IBMers who were co-authors of one of them couldn’t be there. Kate Ehrlich and Prof.Marilyn Tremaine had to stand next to it, explaining the work that had been done.

Sabrina Marczak from PUCRS, and a group of students from TU Munich(under the supervision of Marilyn Tremaine) were the authors of the other two.

In the afternoon, we had a session dedicated to Quality and Performance. Two very different talks. Rajesh Agarval from TCS presented the solution found by his company for motivating their developers to work as quality engineers as well. The other speaker was Timo Poikolainen from Nokia – and again, the audience had the chance to hear about successes and failures with thorough openness, as always when someone from Nokia is giving a presentation.

The session organized for students in the evening included two parts:

In the first part, J.Sauer from Hamburg University presented the results of a survey he has undertaken on the particular difficulties of research in the GSE domain. It was interesting to listen to the student introductions – it gave you an idea of the differences between research settings in different countries.

In the second part, Harold Ossher from IBM Watson introduced the Jazz Technology platform. Jazz is the result of a collaboration between IBM Rational and IBM Research and is attempting to build a team collaboration platform on top of the Eclipse IDE. – not yet open to the public; a few videos available. Two related research projects based on jazz were presented: one from Victoria University and the other one from University of California, Irvine.

And then the banquet, at the Ratshaus Keller. A lot of nice food and drinks, a magician going around and entertaining people, socializing and networking, and lots of fun.

On Wednesday, it was my turn, and I was extremely nervous. The session was titled Communication, and I was in very good company: Matt Bass from SEI-CMU (actually from Siemens!), and Luis Izquierdo, from the University of Victoria. Luis’s paper was extremely interesting – his methods were also inspired by ethnography, and his field site very similar to ours.

I oscillated between a classical presentation and an unusual one. In the end, I couldn’t resist the temptation – I went for the unusual one. I started with a warning – no figures nor tables in my presentation!

I don’t know what was the impact at the conceptual level – if I managed to convince the audience how important social practices and human actors actually are in a global environment!, but probably my little SouthPark characters have made quite an impression!

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the chance of presenting to the steering committee the Lero proposal of organising ICGSE 2009 in Limerick.

Thursday, the last day of the conference, was shorter.
In the morning, the announcement was made that ICGSE 08 is going to take place in Bangalore, India, and ICGSE 09 in Limerick, Ireland.

In the first session, Michael Vax from LUXOFT delivered the keynote speech, substituting his boss who couldn’t come because of visa problems.

The keynote was followed by an Experience session: Subita Sudershana from Roche Molecular Systems (very energetic talk, including stories of miscommunication with both parts speaking English!) , Viktor Clerc from VU Amsterdam, and Alexander Boden from University of Siegen.

The final session was dedicated to Processes and chaired by Daniela Damian. Alberto Avritzer from Siemens Corporate Research presented the Global Software Studio 3.0 project. Our own university was involved in the first and second year in this project, so it was interesting to see how it evolved in the next stage. Fausto Fasano spoke about an experiment on code inspection, while the final presentation (Rafael Prikladnicki from PUCRS) examined different offshoring and onshoring strategies.

It was a very interesting for me to meet in person so many academics and practitioners involved in GSE research. As I said, I was reading their papers, but didn’t have any perception of their personalities.
And it was good to see who does the same kind of work in the GSE community. I found a lot of connections with the work of people in Daniela Damian’s group (Luis Izquierdo, Sabrina Marczak) and with Alexander Boden’s research – clearly grounded in CSCW. Let’s hope we can cook a workshop or tutorial together for next year!

I must confess I was very anxious during the conference: we seem to worry a bit too much as a group that our work won’t be well seen by hard core software engineers, who are obviously preferring quantitave studies and experiments to our “soft” qualitative and interpretive approach. The conference proved to me that the community is ready to listen to what we have to say, and we can actually make an important contribution complementing those quantitative approaches.

My ego got nicely massaged on several occasions; for example, Alberto Avritzer greeted me on the first day as we would have known each other – just to find out before the end of the conference that he was reading my blog from time to time! Frederick Zarndt commented at the end of my presentation (with shining eyes and a big smile on his face) that he had experienced as a practitioner all the situations mentioned in the presentation. Frederick gave a tutorial on the first day on “intercultural expectations, misunderstandings and communications” that I unfortunately missed. And then, there was a very touching scene in the lobby on the last day, when a young lady (a Brasilian student volunteer) came to tell me in her hesitant English: “When I’ll grow up, I would like to be like you!”

In conclusion, the conference in Munich was a very rewarding experience – and it was followed by a short vacation. Here’s my Flickr set from the conference and the one from the cycling tour of Munich on Friday!

September 01 2007 08:49 pm | Events and GlobalSD and ICGSE07 and Munich

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