NDC Oslo 2019

I had the pleasure of representing MapsPeople at NDC Oslo 2019. Overall it was a very good experience, so I feel like trying to share it. I will go through the best talks/workshops - providing YouTube link and a short review.

I went into NDC with a planned focus on three topics:

  • architecture - how to scale our systems,
  • process - how to scale our department,
  • skill - improving my .NET expertise.

However, my focus landed heavily on the first two. While I did spend a little time on the some .NET talks, I don’t feel like I brought anything interesting back with me.

Best Talks

Let’s get right to it. The talks will be grouped into two categories; architecutre and process, with a few honorable mentions in the end.


Before actually going to NDC I was pretty determined to hear about micro services and Kubernetes. But at the same time I was pretty aware that no architecture silver bullet exists and that micro services might not be a best fit for our scaling plans. So I kept my mind open, tried to aim wide, and hoped to learn from the experiences of others.

10 years of microservices at FINN.no - and we still haven’t slaing that dragon!

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8f7bg5YAdds

This talk was really good - a very skilled engineer who at the same time is a great communicator. It was really nice to hear about how FINN.no has struggled with getting rid of their old monolith to make way for micro services - nice in the way that they probably had the same problems as most others, but have handled it well. Some really good takeaways here is that you should always aim for the gradual migration - i. e. make sure to make new stuff fit with the new architecture and learn from that, then move bits of the old system over bits at a time. It was also nice to hear how micro services fit the organizational structure - a bunch of domain-based teams who would create and maintain their own services.

Deliberate Architecture

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3dSXDNEx7c

This was a good talk to remind you to stay grounded. The premise of the whole bit is that developers are slaves of fashion when it comes to architecture. It is easy to succumb to whatever architecture or technology is hot right now, without thinking about how well it actually fits. Another interesting point is how agile does not address architecture that well and will often resolve in a lack of an established architecture since it failed to “emerge”.

Architecture: The Stuff That’s Hard to Change

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LtQWxhqjqI

A fairly good talk by the creator of the ‘Rockstar’ programming language. It is primarily a shoutout to (aspiring) architects with guidelines for how to handle this massive topic. A bit ideological and a lot of the guidelines are easier said than done - but still some good food for thought.


Coming into NDC, we at MapsPeople had just started experimenting with Scrum - coming from Kanban(ish). So I wanted to get some experiences to bring back in order to better the experiment.

Workshop: Featureban (Experience before explanation!)

This was easily the best spent time of the entire conference. It was really interesting to try some of the finer optimizations you can do within Kanban. Fun and learning experiences with Featureban - a game that is to Kanban what the “Ball Point Game” is to Scrum.

Getting out of quicksand, with DevOps!

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_tCxLcZ4UI

A fairly interesting talk - unfortunately the presenter was a bit nervous and not a native English speaker, so some of the points feel a bit short. But I really like the focus on improving the small annoyances around you, so that the developers don’t burn out as a result of small annoyances accumulating over time.

Keynote: Enterprise transformation (and you can too)

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RprYXy5VGBc

Super, super interesting talk. It is really nice to hear how Microsoft is modernizing. They might be a bit behind compared to most others, but it is a really big ship that needs to be turned and that will take time. That makes it especially awesome to hear when it is actually possible to turn that big ship.

It is also interesting to hear how the Microsoft DevOps organization is doing process optimizations. Optimizations like getting rid of the old layered structure, opting instead for full-stack/domain-based teams with full responsibility of their area - doing everything from hashing out the design details to implement, test, and maintain it.

And the results are there - going from bi-annual releases to releasing features at the end of each 3-week sprint, while being able to release bug fixes during.

The Neverending Story: Agile Transformation for DevOps

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoFsz2xTVeo

Going from chaos to some sort of structure is hard. It can feel a lot like losing some freedom and it can be really hard to get a proper assessment when you are in it yourself. Those are the experiences shared here, by a Scrum Master trying to implement Scrum for a bunch of system administrators. At first the implementation failed, so they had to go back and try to implement a few pieces of Scrum at a time. Then they actually ended up with a mix of Scrum and Kanban to handle project work and ad hoc work respectively. There are some good points points in regards to mixing up teams to bring certain skillsets closer together. Really good talk if you are looking at transforming an organization.

Honourable mentions

Overall impressions

NDC Oslo 2019 was overall a good event.

Lots of interesting talks - while not all talks that I attended were that good, most of them were. I did also “waste” too much time with tech-focused talks or workshops - I initially did it with the intention of improving some expertise, but in the end I used these talks as buffers between more “heavy-topic” talks. Personally, I do think that I probably would learn more from actually sitting with a lot of this stuff myself - and for buffer time I should probably just have taken some more breaks.

It is without doubt a very focused event - so many talks about .NET, Azure, and Kubernetes. Which is fine for me, I think it’s getting harder and harder to have any issues with Microsoft and the direction that they’re currently moving. But it does limit the perspective a bit.

Until next year!

Written on August 5, 2019