This week I’ve felt a sense of momentum as more and more testers started arriving for the main conference day. Over the course of the week, the numbers of testers appearing at the meetups has multiplied to the point where on Thursday night there were hundred testers enjoying free drinks at a great bar on the beach called Ohso Social! The awesome thing was that it never felt any less friendly and open, the vibe we had at the little meetup at Wagamama on Monday was still felt on Thursday night! With that in mind, I was really looking forward to the conference day
Where do I start? I had a lot of great takeways from today, starting with listening to some great advice from Andrew Morton during a ‘Lean Coffee’ before the start of the conference. The topic of working more closely with developers was discussed and he suggested learning unit testing. I can’t really find the right words to describe this, but I felt kind of amazed at myself for never having considered doing this before. I can certainly see the value in certain situations being able to feedback and assist developers in writing unit tests! It was also cool to observe the ‘Lean Coffee’ setup - effectively where you discuss topics for 5 minutes and vote on whether you want to continue on the subject for a further 3 minutes.
We then all filed into the Corn Exchange hall at Brighton Dome, by far the biggest room of testers I’ve ever been in! Fortunately for me, I had plenty of faces I now knew fairly well ranging from my fellow RST class alumni - Tracy, Kirstin, Tammy, Mark, Markus and Dan as well as people I had met during the week such as Anna and Andrew. Not to mention people I knew from back home like Paul and Leigh. So I had plenty of people to bounce off discussing the talks through the day!
I won’t go through each and every talk in huge detail (sign up to the Ministry of Testing’s Dojo and you can watch video recordings of the talks!). But I will try and summarise some of the parts of each talk there were notable for me!
The first talk was by Lisa Crispin and Emma Armstrong on “Building the Right Thing: How Testers Can Help”. There were quite a few points made in this talk which reflected a lot of what we are currently trying to achieve at work with Lean Agile. Even though I’ve very recently read and heard a lot about some of the points before, I still find it helpful to listen to them again. I can never be reminded enough about asking great questions like ‘What will it deliver to end users or the business?’ and ‘How will we know its successful?’. Recent experience has really brought home the value of these questions!
The second talk was by Dan Billing on “Testing or Hacking? Real Advice on Effective Security Testing Strategies”. I had briefly spoken to Dan earlier in the week (I so need to talk to him more!) so I already expected his slide on disliking the term NFR (Non Functional Requirement) haha! He had lots of great suggestions of tools to get started with security testing and also tips from the OWASP guidelines like ‘Evil User Stories’ to help make the case for security testing.
After a short break we had a talk by Katrina Clokie on “A Pairing Experiment” which was one I was really looking forward to ahead of the conference and it didn’t disappoint! I’ve been looking to encourage pairing where I can because I can see the huge value it can bring and I was lucky enough to experience it with Llewelyn this week! I made a lot of notes from this talk and took away a very strong desire to play my part in championing pairing! Her talk covered her experiments in encouraging pairing among her test team, what did work, what didn’t work and what value they found from doing it.
Following on from Katrina was John Stevenson talking about “Model Fatigue and How to Break It” and boy did he make an entrance! There were several people who could be described as ‘stealing the show’ but I think I’d have to give it to John. He definitely took an RST approach to presentations! A lot of John’s advice really hit home along with the learning I took from RST - which was a strong encouragement to keep your models fresh and don’t just apply them the same way every time to different situations.
The last talk before lunch was by Patrick Prill on “Accepting Ignorance - The Force of a Good Tester”. Patrick made the point that ignorance based on the Oxford Dictionary definition is the “lack of knowledge or information”. In other words, as testers we are all ignorant and we should be aware of it and use it! He also talked about representing our knowledge in terms water droplets and how really our knowledge is really only a ‘drop in the ocean’ so to speak!
The first talk straight after lunch was by Michael Wansley and it was definitely another good nomination for ‘stealing the show’! A guy who has toured the world in a music career and been a software tester for Microsoft? His message was definitely controversial with a lot of the audience but I really liked that the conference had included someone who was saying something completely different to everyone else. It’s good to have a voice speak for those who don’t necessarily agree with everything from the context-driven testing world and I really respect Michael for standing up on stage and speaking for his take on tester’s responsibilities. Especially considering it was the first time he had ever spoken at a testing conference!
The seventh talk was about “Having all your Testers Code: It Doesn’t Have to be a Big Deal” by Andrew Morton and Anna Baik. In a way I’m a little jealous of them doing this talk as a lot of what they had to share was very similar to some of the work me and Greg Farrow had done over the past two years. But it was nice to hear someone else share the same tips and frustrations at attempting to set up their first automated regression suite. I’m very supportive of talks like this that share experiences because I know there are people out there that are in this position right now and it can be invaluable advice and tips. One such tip that I liked was making sure you set up just one automated test with your CI (Continuous Integration) first, as this is the fastest way to deliver value from your automated tests. Rather than trying to create all of your tests first before hooking it up to your delivery pipeline.
Next was Nicola Sedgwick’s talk on “Do Testers Need a Thick Skin? Or Should We Admit We’re Simply Human?”. I liked this talk because it covered a topic I’m acutely aware of and keen to keep an eye out for. We are asked to care for our work as employees and as testers, but at some level we have to be able to let go and not let problems get into our heads too much. Its very easy for a bug to be found in live and for testers to feel very guilty about ‘missing’ it. We know that we can’t find all of them, and sometimes we couldn’t have done anything to have found it but it is very easy to feel the pressure.
We then had another short break before Bill Matthews’ talk on “Smart Algorithms - Are We Ready For This?”. This was a fascinating talk discussing the challenges in trying to test programs that perform extremely complex tasks, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) projects like Google’s self-driving cars. I think at some point in future I’d like to tackle testing a project like that, it sounds like a great challenge, especially with budget and time constraints I imagine!
The final talk of the day was by Nicola Owen on “Nowhere to Hide: Adjusting to Being a Team’s Sole Tester”. Nicola discussed her experience going from starting writing and running test cases with a big team of testers to using mind maps and working directly with developers. I definitely recognise a lot from my own career in this talk and one particular comment I liked was - “I found once Developers started reading my mind maps it felt more like a shared responsibility to test the work”.
99 second talks
Finishing off the conference was the 99 second talks. This was where anyone attending the conference could get up on stage and say whatever they like for 99 seconds (or less). As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, I was encouraged by Rosie and Vernon to do one so up I got on stage!
There were at least twenty of us on stage and the way it worked was we would line up in a queue and pass the microphone to the next person when we were done. If we went over 99 seconds, Vernon would blow an airhorn to end a talk.
There was a nice mix of short tips and advice, rants, raps and fun! I particularly liked Emma’s rap! There were also several people (I’m really sorry, I forgot names already! Please comment if you read this!) who talked about how great TestBash was for them, how it’s encouraged them and built their confidence up. I saw several nice moments like this over the week and I was happy to see people such as that get up on stage!
Getting up on stage…
It’s funny how brains work, having done my lightning talk at the North West Tester Gathering in Liverpool last month, I felt relatively confident about speaking again. However, here I would be in front of hundreds of people instead of eighty! But the funny thing is, I actually found it easier and I think it was because I stood on stage in the queue for a while which let me get used to standing in front of so many eyes.
I talked about my recent experience re-learning the value of using diagrams to explain yourself, rather than always referring to words. I think I delivered it ok and people said it was good but I just hope it was useful to someone! This was all on camera too, so I’m not looking forward to seeing myself on video!
I think now I’ve done this though, I’ve not got any excuses left about submitting a talk to TestBash Manchester so...here I go!
After the conference we headed to a pub called The Mesmerist. Unfortunately by this point a few people had to go home, so for those I didn’t get to say farewell to - I hope to see you all again next year or at a meetup some place! I got chatting to even more people I hadn’t met before such as Olly and Steve (who had heard of and knew about ResponseTap!) so I successfully completed my personal mission to talk to at least one new face every day!
My final night of TestBash also contained a final nice moment where a certain well known speaker came over to speak to one of my fellow RST classmates. I think that moment summed up the whole week and the vibe of all of the events - all of the organisers, speakers and regular attendees were so happy to speak to new people and not just stick to their own groups. If there is one takeaway I would like to keep forever, it would be that - to always seek out new people to talk to and encourage new people to ask questions and get involved. I had gone to TestBash with my own personal mission do that, but it was very heart-warming to see very well known speakers doing the same.
I’m now home and catching up on my sleep but I’ve got a lot to look forward to! First on my list is catching back up with work and then starting on introducing the ideas and lessons I learned! Leigh has challenged me to do another Lightning Talk at Liverpool which I’ll gladly take up! I’m also attending my first ever peer conference next month!
Finally, I can’t wait for TestBash Manchester! I’m excited to see how Richard gets on putting a northern spin on TestBash.
I hope you have found my posts a useful insight into TestBash and I hope I’ve conveyed how friendly and positive the whole event is! See you there next year!