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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Let's Test 2012 - A Personal View

 Let's Test 2012

I'm rarely tempted to write about conferences, but for once I can't resist: the inaugural Let's Test was a wonderful experience in so many ways.

The Place

The rural setting at Runo, with its stunning "nobility of labour" art and bright, airy buildings, was an inspired choice, and no small contributor to the conference's success. We were all captive--miles from other (lesser) attractions--and there were many comfortable and inviting places to sit and confer, both indoors and out. It didn't hurt that there was a bar (with free drinks provided by sponsors on a couple of evenings), and fabulous food (the smoked salmon!). All meals were provided and the breaks were generously provisioned with treats like raspberry smoothies or pretty little macarons. When did you ever eat well, or even sit comfortably, at a conference?

Organizer Johan Jonasson, who knows I carry my own coffee to conferences and frequently joins me in a cup, promised me good Swedish coffee at Let's Test. It wasn't brilliant, but it was indeed decently strong and far more drinkable than I'd ever get in a North American hotel.

The Participants 

I use the word advisedly. The people at Let's Test were active participants throughout. Adopting the CAST facilitation model may have helped, and it certainly kept in-session discussions on track, but I don't think anything would have kept this group from lively and interesting conversations, often far into the night. And the Test Lab drew a big crowd every evening. That's what conferences are for!

The Sessions

People like me who present at a lot of conferences can become very jaded. At most, I rarely find the official sessions compelling and tend to skip them in favour of corridor conversations and networking. In contrast, the Let's Test agenda presented the best dilemma I can experience at a conference. In several time slots, I had difficulty deciding which session to go to. I was glad I chose Christin Wiedemann's "You Are a Scientist - Embracing the Scientific Method in Software Testing"  and Alan Richardson's "Testing Hypnotically", but sorry to miss several others. The real standout for me was Anne-Marie's Charrett's "Coaching Testers", especially the fascinating live session at the end, where many of us got to offer suggestions to (i.e., "coach") the coaches.

CAST is the only other test conference I know of that has this "assembly of peers" feeling, where speakers are as interested in other people's sessions as they are in their own.  


I presented a full-day tutorial on Test Leadership and a track session on managing an end-to-end systems integration test.

I felt a little trepidation before the tutorial. How would a big group (28 people), for the most part meeting me and each other for the first time, and speaking what was for most a second language, work together in an experiential session? Would they embrace exercises that might seem strange to them, and then be willing to share their experiences and learnings in a debrief?

I needn't have worried. I started with a small-group exercise that probably helped to draw participants in, particularly some of the quieter ones. In that first exercise, one of the small groups--all Swedes--sensibly worked together in Swedish, though their output was in English. Otherwise (to my shame as a less than marginally bilingual North American), this multilingual group blew me away with their facility and willingness to communicate in my language. Soon everyone was engaged and working together, and they stayed engaged throughout the day (some more quietly than others), coming up with many fascinating insights and strategies for dealing with issues in test leadership.

I am grateful to everyone in my class for making it such a great learning experience for me! So far, I've had very positive feedback from participants. If you were there, please let me know what you think. Did the session work for you? What went well? What do you think I could do better next time?

Meanwhile, here's a link to Simon Morley's blog, where he describes his reactions.

Onwards (for me)!

I'll be keynoting (Are You Managing Test - or "The Test Process") at the BCS SIGIST in London on June 21, and also doing a workshop on mind-mapping a test strategy. I look forward to working with a group of engaged British testers there.

June 26-28, I will be presenting Beyond Process: three 1-day experiential classes in London, including a reprisal of my Let's Test tutorial, "Inspiring Testing" plus "Determining Business Risks for Testing" and "The Design behind the Plan - Test Strategy workshop". Registration is through the sponsor, ElectroMind.

If you're in North America, you may want to register for Beyond Process in San Jose before CAST, July 11-13.

Then it will be time for CAST 2012, July 16-18. As Program Chair, I believe the Program Committee and I have assembled an excellent program of sessions and innovative workshops. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my new and old friends from Let's Test, as well as many others who didn't make it to Sweden. It too is going to be a wonderful conference!

Onwards (for Let's Test)!

Let's Test 2012 was a terrific first conference. My thanks and congratulations to the organizers, and I look forward eagerly to Let's Test 2013!

And some pics from the Nature Reserve

One of the evening activities was a Nature Walk, guided by a marvelously fit 80-year-old gentleman,  recently named Sweden's Gardener of the Year. It was so beautiful, I rose early the next morning and went out again with my camera.