SoCraTes 2019

Software Crafting Community meets in Soltau

von  Paul Jacks & Stefan Scheidt

Hi everyone, name is Paul. I work as a Software Engineer for our Fulfillment Tribe. To make sure that your order is processed and delivered perfectly we have to write and deliver great services. Nine years ago, SoCraTes started with the goal of being an event about that: the craft of creating high quality software in a sustainable way. So the aim of this event fits perfectly with our goals.

Now you might be wondering, what is SoCraTes? It is a 48 hour convention with some of the brightest people answering some of the toughest questions regarding software craft and testing. The convention has been around for almost ten years and has over 250 attending software crafters from all over the world.

The values of SoCraTes are that it should be a safe environment and that everyone should feel welcomed. Was I excited? Yes! Luckily, I would not be attending it alone. As a first timer I was blessed to have the company of Stefan Scheidt, a Senior Software Engineer and a community veteran.

So, without further ado, what makes SoCraTes so special? What really struck me was the open space format, and how the entire retreat was not structured in pre-assigned talks or topics, but rather just set up as a framework, and the people would bring the talks or sessions. Let me explain; every day would start with a marketplace, where everyone would get together and present the topics of the day.

The topics could be typical talks prepared beforehand, or they could be problem statements or even requests for help for different situations. For example, if you wanted to present a really cool framework to the community – hold a session! Do you want to discuss how to avoid technical debts? Hold a session! Perhaps you want to hold a coding exercise? Hold a session! The domain of which the session could be held, was not restricted to just typical software development skills, but also things regarding soft skills, such as ‘Non-violent communication’ or how to deal with ‘Toxic situations’ in a team.

This open space event is governed by some rules, but only one law; “The Law of Two Feet”. The law dictates that you take responsibility of what you care about. So if you are not contributing or learning something from a session, you should use your two feet to move along and find something that you have a bigger interest in.

These sessions would run in parallel, and the only responsibility of the session owner was that afterwards, you present the findings to the rest of the community in the form of a written report, flip chart photos or any other creative way.

At the end of each day there was a closing session which gave the attendees a chance to mention highlights of the day and show gratitude for the input of other people. After that, the evening sessions start. It could entail anything from playing board games to test driven development on a Commodore 64 (which was amazing).

This was a complete eye-opener to me – as it broke so many of the traditional convention patterns and ways to achieve understanding and share knowledge. Stefan as the veteran he is, was really grateful to exchange ideas with some of the greatest people in the software craft community.

We both are thankful to REWE digital for being a sponsor of this event for the second year now and giving us the opportunity to attend.

Working at REWE digital is about breaking boundaries and looking outside of the box, to deliver the best products we can to our customers. That requires a lot of new thinking, and Stefan and I are happy we were a part of such an innovate event.

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