The Modeling Craftsmanship Camp

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Imagine a conference that covers exactly the topic that you are interested in. Would you go? This is not a hypothetical question: In the last few years, a new event format has evolved that does exactly that: It ensures that you get the answers that you were hoping to get from the event. These are called Barcamps (also known as Unconferences or Open Spaces).

BarCamps exist for a huge variety of technologies and domains so why not a BarCamp-style Modeling event?. This is exactly what we’re trying to achieve. On November 18, the Modeling Craftsmanship Barcamp will take place for the second time near Hannover, Germany (and will be primarily conducted in German although sessions can be held in English as well).

So… what exactly are Barcamps?

What is a Barcamp?

A Barcamp is kind of like a conference: There is a session plan with parallel tracks, and there is a general topic. But there are also important differences:

  • There are no spectators, only participants
  • The agenda is developed by the attendees
  • A Barcamp is about learning from each other, and not just knowledge transfer
  • Slide presentations are rare
  • Engaging in discussion and contributing knowledge and personal experience is explicitly allowed
  • The agenda can change during the event

A collaborative agenda

In practice, a Barcamp starts with session planning: The organizers prepare a large and empty agenda, and mount it on a wall. Next, the participants fill out index cards. These hold a topic and name. Then, one by one, those who would like to moderate a session walk up to the agenda, stick their card on a free slot, and say a few words about the topic. Topics can cover everything from an acute problem to general questions, presentation of ideas, or even interactive sessions – pretty much everything is allowed.

The session planning concludes when every slot is filled, or when no more cards are left. Often, there is some shuffling done afterwards: Maybe someone wants to hold a second session, if there is space, or cards are moved to prevent collisions of popular topics.

That concludes the planning. From this moment on, participants “vote with their feet” by attending the sessions that interest them the most. It is also allowed for an owner of a card to move it, or to put another card in an empty slot: The agenda can change throughout the day.

The Modeling Craftsmanship Camp

The Modeling Craftsmanship Camp was organized for the first time in 2016 by Stephan Dankers and myself. Even though we both had experience in organizing events, we were surprised how quickly the 40 tickets sold – we seemed to have hit a nerve! While there are huge multi-track Barcamps as well, we restrict the number of tickets to creat a very personal, very intense atmosphere. This earned us a lot of praise from the attendees. The fact that tickets started at €20 (same this year) certainly helped, too.

A session at the modeling craftsmanship camp

Modeling is a broad topic. While Stephan and I were primarily interested in Systems Modeling, we were wondering how much interest things like CAD modeling or simulation would attract. In the end, the sessions fell into the following areas:

  • Functional Modeling – in SysML and other languages. The session on Functional Modeling Concepts (FMC) was particularly popular.
  • Introduction to Modeling – getting started can be quite a challenge. Sessions included  “First steps in SysML modeling“, “Modeling guidelines: help or hindrance?” and “Meta-rules for modeling.” There was an interactive session on model organization, with life-modeling in Enterprise Architect.
  • Interfaces – Attendees agreed that lots of problems are related to interfaces, which span of an interesting session on “Context and interfaces”
  • Requirements – every development should start with requirements – but what is the relationship to models? “Tracing requirements into the model” provided some answers, as did “From customer need to model”
  • Craftsmanship – This was a central part to this event. Therefore we had a session on the craftsmanship movement, onto which  the Software-Craftsmanship movement is based.
  • Tools – There was plenty of debate on tools, which was explicitly addressed in “Tool experience, code generation”. The live modeling session was obviously also concerned with a tool, and attendees opened their laptops frequently to explore their modelis in their tools. We also conducted a (non-representative) survey on tools. Enterprise Architect was the winner with 12 votes, followed by 7 votes for… Office (all results, German).

We need more Modeling Camps

If you speak German, consider joining us in Hannover, so that you can get a room full of  experts to discuss your modeling challenges, and share your expertise with the other attendees. I am also co-organizer of the Systems Engineering Barcamp, which takes place one on October 8 in Hamburg, Germany.

And if you don’t speak German, but love your modeling community, go ahead and organize a Barcamp in your city. There are no trademarks or intellectual rights associated with Barcamps. If any of the readers would like to organize such an event, I am more than happy to provide advice and help spread the word.

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