With so much stuff going on lately (finishing my thesis, defending it, preparing a long-distance move) I’d neglected to announce that I presented a position paper at the First Workshop on Requirements Engineering for Small Companies. It’s titled “Playing to the strengths of small organizations,” and it is basically a statement regarding what I think are some significant advantages of small software organizations that are often wasted and overlooked by our research community. It’s short and (I hope) worth a read.
One of the topics that came up during the discussion, and that I wish I’d addressed in the paper, is the distinction between small organizations and small teams within large organizations. They are very different kinds of groups, under normal circumstances, but there is a tendency to lump them together. I’ll expand on this later in this blog.
The workshop was held in Essen, Germany, but I attended remotely. It’s the third time I attempt a remote participation to a workshop, and the first time it worked satisfactorily, thanks largely to the efforts of Thorsten Merten. Among the factors that made it work:
- Thorsten knew I would not be physically present, and made sure he had a computer with good Internet access to be my proxy.
- During the discussion, I had a video feed of a part of the room, so I could keep track of who was saying what, and of some body language.
- I had prepared a screencast of the presentation, so in case my connection dropped Thorsten knew to switch to the screencast and carry on from the same slide. The quality of the screencast wasn’t great (at several points I was simply reading or paraphrasing from the paper), but good enough as a Plan B. It still took me a few hours to prepare it. As a result I relaxed from fears of crappy connectivity and just focused on the content.
- It was a small workshop, which made it easier to have a discussion where everyone could participate.
- I had already published a paper on the topic of the workshop, which increased the likelihood of other people knowing where I stood on several issues, making it easier to communicate effectively.
Attending remotely wasn’t as good as being physically present, of course. Conversations surely carried on over there once we were finished, and I missed a session. I also missed the main conference, REFSQ, which according to Neil was quite good. On the other hand, I didn’t have to travel to another continent, burning fuel and money to get there, and I didn’t have to struggle with jetlag or travel stress. After two failed attempts of remote participation at the Workshop on Software Research and Climate Change, I was almost ready to give up on this, but it’s now clear to me that it can be made to work well, under the right circumstances.