Saturday, 9 November 2013

Observations from EuroSTAR 2013

Only just returned and with the first cup of coffee - mostly still in the cup - my head is buzzing with impressions, images of people I met, presentations, quotes and all. This post will try to capture as much of this as possible.

Friday morning I happened to eat breakfast with Dot Graham and John Stevenson and of course we reflected upon the conference. I put forward a notion of feeling that "testing is slowly coming out of the years of adolescence". With that I mean, we're getting more critical to what is being said, what is being thrown our way and better at taking a stance for our profession.
I think several keynotes represented this view. Laurent Bossavit's opening keynote, which essentially dissected myths about for instance the higher cost of fixing a defect if found late. Pretty much all testers I know can recite actually found real-life counter-examples of this myth, so I was not surprised to learn that there's practically no evidence behind it. Ironically the only data that could be found did not support the theory. The urge to delve into the matter, which I got from that great keynote, and which I hope others got as well, resonates fairly strong with me.

And it was backed quite a bit also with keynotes from Keith Klain and Martin Pol, with messages of being persistent, professional and keeping on calling 'bullshit' whenever appropriate.

One prominent example was reading aloud some of the promotion statements collected at the EuroSTAR EXPO, promising that the tools would do everything for us, and guarantee fantastic results - claims the tools cannot ever fulfill.
And this in contrast to the Tuesday afternoon keynote (by Harry Collin's last-minute replacement), stating that when computers started doing less and leave more options and decisions to humans, they often helped the most - oh the irony.

The final taking stance urge came from Fiona Charles' keynote: get in there and argue! It's our job, it's our responsibility as professional testers to ask questions and probe deep into whatever knowledge is presented. One very good question was asked during the open season of that keynote: doesn't that require quite a lot of bravery from a tester ? And the answer was shockingly clear: yes! But it's our job to be brave in these matters.

What else did I take away from the conference? As a facilitator I of course was very much aware of how the facilitated open seasons (15-20 minutes after each presentation) with K-cards worked. Overall, it worked well, I think. Anyway it felt way more fair and inviting to ask questions than at previous EuroSTAR's I attended where there was only a few minutes after each presentation to ask questions, and it always seemed to be someone loudmouthed who got to ask the one question that there was time for. Now, if only the sessions could get a little longer than 45 minutes, we could get deeper into each subject.

The EXPO seemed different this time. I don't know what it was, but my take on it was that the sales guys were getting a bit tired of their own messages. Anybody else got that impression too ? It may be overly interpreting - but it was like they had taken so much criticism and hardly now could straighten up and give the normal pitch again. Maybe they heard the keynotes as well.

Summing up for me - this was one of the better EuroSTAR's I've attended. The presentations I saw were diverse and interesting. Good subjects. Thank you EuroSTAR.

PS: putting a half-hour feedback session in the middle of the workshops is.not.a.good.idea!