Kent Beck spoke with his characteristic mix of humor, intelligence, and empathy. Throughout his career, Kent has brought a consistently humanistic view of development. That is, software is written by humans–emotional, fallible, creative, and messy–for other humans. Any attempt to treat development as robotic will end in tears.
During his keynote, Kent talked about engaging people through appreciative inquiry. This is a learnable technique, based in human psychology, that helps focus on positive attributes. It counters the negaitivity that so many developers and engineers are prone to. (My take: we spend a lot of time, necessarily, focusing on how things can go wrong. Whether by nature or by experience, that leads us to a pessimistic view of the world.)
Appreciative inquiry begins by asking, "What do we do well?" Even if all you can say is that the garbage cans get emptied every night, that’s at least something that works well. Build from there.
He specifically recommended The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, which I’ve already ordered.
I should also note that Kent has a new book out, called Implementation Patterns, which he described as being about, "Communicating with other people, through code."