zondag 27 november 2011

EuroSTAR 2011 diaries - part three

I woke up with a major headache, maybe it's the tension for the track I'm doing today. I only had 1 cocktail during dinner and 1 pint of beer last night, so it can't be the booze acting up. Well, nothing a good old Aspirin can't fix.
I had to be at the conference centre at 0730 again to practice the last GMM session already. Today I'm again pointing out the Testlab, since it's an excellent place to be at to test and meet people and I'm highlighting the European Testers Survey in my weather report. I'm also sneaky referencing the closing event. I'm all into the details and it's going to be such fun! Before I went to the conference centre I picked up a huge eggnog latte at StarBucks, I love these different flavours in foreign SB's (I had a Pumpkin spice in Portland), it's a shame they don't have them in the Netherlands.

We practised again till the people came in the auditorium. It seems that more people don't want to miss the GMM's, the buzz is apparently going around that there's fun stuff in there and people don't want to miss it, which is good.

Photo by Rik Marselis: Me as weather girl on the big stage during GMM session.
The keynote was that of Ben Walters, I didn't notice it, but apparently he was as sick as could be and he just came out of bed to do the keynote before returning to it again (chapeau dude! I take my hat off for you if I'd wore one). It started out promising, but as Twittering and mailing increase, mark a period of my declining interest, I must conclude I was losing my interest half way the talk. My headache came up again so I wished for the track to end so I could pop an aspirin again. I got more stressed for my talk this afternoon...and that took a toll on my attention.

I went to Architecture Testing after the break by Peter Zimmerer. I listened to his talk with interest as I'm busy setting up something on how to do this with an architect at my current client. I didn't get what I expected to get from it though and I didn't agree with the content in a whole, I have a different perspective on architecture testing and it is good that different perspectives are there, but it sucks that this will probably set a new discussion and confusion that goes with it around the subject to get a common (for what that's worth) understanding. I see a lot of evangelising to be done there.

I went to Michael Bolton's dashboards track after that. I had high hopes and expectations, as I learned something new and very applicable every time I visited a track by Michael. I couldn't be more disappointed this time. It might have been very applicable for newbies, but for me, it was (very) old news and the stuff told I apply naturally in my work, as I know most of my colleagues do (and not only colleagues from my company but also most of the testers in NL and UK I know) because they are educated in reporting and giving feedback to the client when you're doing testing. I even go as far as to say I learned a lot of this stuff during my ISTQB course, but maybe that's because I had a good teacher for this course. It's not about the numbers, although a lot of non-ISTQB testers think we ISTQB people are only into 'coverage by percentage' etc. (it's not that bad: it's what you DO with it that counts ;-) ) , I actually learned that you first go to your client/ stakeholders and ask them what their need is regarding the information and reporting during testing and produce my information accordingly. I never use the same reporting for one organization in another, I even got specialized reporting for some specific stakeholder groups if it gets more clear for them or they feel more happy about a certain lay-out. Whiteboards are okay, but I'm having a conflict there when I think about the strict clean-desk policy most organizations have nowadays; they'd get a heart-attack when seeing this stuff all out in the open, it's all in the context and this solution isn't for my context.
I was considering changing to 10 challenges by John Montgomery, but I figured I could relax a bit have a bit and browse through some mail. It wasn't a complete waste of time, so I still was LEAN ;-)

Between that track and the lunch I went to StarBucks to escape and relax a bit. I have to remember to breathe...

My turn. I was nervous, VERY nervous. I've been 'speaking' before but at my Ethics debate the attendees do most of the talking and at my Unusual Testing track there's so much non-testing info, I'm quite sure the oddness protects me somewhat. This time I really felt exposed, I was talking about work I actually done as a tester and I felt I could only be exposed as a fraud or an idiot. Although my client was very pleased with my work (which I find most important) and I'm really proud of my work and want to share my lessons learned because they helped me and maybe could help others (or inspire), I'm still very unsure. It's also my first time on the 'BIG stage', I can tell it's different being on a stage in an auditorium, where seats are going up all around you and a smaller room, where you are the highest point in the room. I'm also not used having an AV team regulating my slides and having a slide-button and separate pointer. I was scared that I would screw up. I was scared switching the devices and look clumsy or making stupid English jokes, that are hilarious in Dutch but are are an insult in English or something. I was SCARED, I was NERVOUS...it went fine.

I had people asking questions, I had a happy client (which was in the room) and somebody that wanted to ask more inside info from an Austrian railway company and even - a first for me- somebody wanted a picture with me (I felt like a rock star :-)) ). I had a headache again, but this time from the tension leaving my body. I let out a sigh from relief and went for coffee.

The last keynote was from Isabel Evans. She still is one of the most inspiring people I have met and she always has always has something to tell that you can pick snippets from to use in your own work. I've never thought of sight disabled people and using IT, although I have a colleague that ought to have triggered me, but now I have really got something to think about. Again the added value of this particular conference is the things that surprise me as I would not have thought about before but really make something to bring home. It's one of the aspects that go in to my custom-made toolbox and check lists for testing questions.

The closing session is finally there. The audience doesn't know yet, but behind their seating is an envelope with a live (a special device that Morton made) or dead bug in it. I know because before my track during lunch, I've been putting them there (together with Derk-Jan, Morton and two Qualtech girls) and after that I sat on every chair (!!!) to make sure they didn't fall out (I still have my upper leg muscles complaining a bit because of this). On one of the dead bugs (encased in plastic) there's the winning number in-scripted for the Golden Ticket to EuroSTAR 2012. My job is to ensure everybody that wants to win this ticket is in the sections where the bugs are. Then it finally starts, the boys are ready and the lights go out... It's a spectacle and it goes exactly as planned. The TestLab is having their time to do the news on the lab. Then the 'bugtime' is there; it's hilarious with screams coming from here and there in the audience. Then it's already over and only the Gala-dinner remains.

The dinner is at 'The Monastery' and its really spectacular, the lighting gives it a very special and awesome atmosphere. There's champagne and there's good company. The choir, including Dorothy Graham and Fiona Charles is singing beautifully and finishes with a few of my favourite techniques written by Dot and specially arranged for the choir. It's magnificent.

The awards are given at the end of the dinner. Julian Harty wins the European Testing Excellence Award and I think it's well deserved. The chair for next year is also announced: Zeger van Hese will be chair for the Amsterdam 2012 edition.

I said my goodbyes at the Monastery, but there was also a drink at the Jury's Inn where I was invited to, so I tagged along with the others and had a good pint (or two) of Strongbows (to finish with what I started the whole adventure with I found that appropriate). I went to my hotel around one-ish and was surprised by one hell of a shower of rain. And of course my umbrella and poncho were still in the bag with weather-girl stuff :-), a bit of an ironic end of the the conference I thought, but what a conference it was... now to wait for a whole year for a new EuroSTAR to start, hoping to see you all there then.

Photo by Rik Marselis: Derk-Jan and Me at Schiphol Airport waiting at the passport control checkpoint

EuroSTAR 2011 diaries - part two

Well as they say : "the early bird catches, gets the worm"... as I say "I'm not into earlies and I'm certainly not into worms". I had to get to the conference centre at 07.30 to practice the GMM-session again, and I can't skip it since I'm a part of it today, as if I would, because I really like participating so actively, it just gives an extra dimension to visiting a conference I find.

I figured out that the StarBucks is just around the corner of the conference so I went there first to get some (well not some, but a large cup) coffee. I even got in the auditorium in time, which is quite essential if you're the timekeeper. We practised until the audience came in and we couldn't any longer. I was putting on my poncho for the weather gig back-stage and got my adrenaline rush again. Better than coffee I thought, but it hasn't got the same easiness.

It went well I think, at least I was happy with the way it went. And I think I did some good attention drawing to the testlab (which needed the attention since it was a bit out-of-the-route) and the expo. Today I'll have to keep an eye out for the weather-forecast items for tomorrow morning.
The opening keynote was that of James Whittaker (Google). Last time I saw him was also on a testing conference, where he (than employee of MicroSoft) had an item with a movie from MicroSoft with future technologies and that testers were laughing at that since they were sure they had work for them the upcoming years, he made a point that testers and developers were different then. It made the current message from him a bit shallow. Back then tester had a job, now we should become developers. Am I to believe a message from somebody that changes the message with the changing of the name of the organization that pays his salary? He's a good speaker though and it's entertaining to listen to him. The message wasn't all that bad, I still think myself that we shouldn't be in just one small part in the development phase but that we ought to be involved in the whole phase, I think we ought to have a broader skill set (maybe only some general kwowledge) to be more involved in the whole development cycle. Having been a developer myself I don't see why I should develop myself in my current job though; there are people who are MUCH more effective in that than I am. I find it bullocks to scratch 'tester' from my job title just to get 30% more salary; I'm proud on the work I'm doing thank you very much. If I learned anything from the 'death of tester and testingphase' keynotes it's that testing is as alive as ever.

My program of this day was:
  • Minitracks (Martin Mussman and Jackie McDougall)
  • Afterlunch tracks - visiting testlab, do some conferring
  • checking first moments of Houston we've got a problem (Maurice Siteur and Rien v Vugt) and sneak out to finish with Social software development
  • Tester get out of your cave (chairing this one)
  • conferring time, checking the expo, maybe visit the lab again
  • Mixing open and commercial tools (chairing this one)
  • Keynote and closure
  • Attending North West Testing Gathering (meetup)
So after the keynote I went over to the minitracks and enjoyed some very nice minitracks. The first minitrack being of Martin Mussman about mindmapping. The mindmaps for making your testdesign is a really good idea to let everybody involved get a clear view on what's going on. So I will use my FreeMind more often (FYI: list of wikipedia mindmapping software).
Jacky McDougall did a very passionate story on educational paths in her boot-camp track, which inspired me to look into some educational stuff for my organization. Both tracks brought me something I could really take with me. So I was happy with my choice to have visited them.

I visited the expo after that, tried to find the speaker that I was to chair that afternoon and did some conferring, I didn't get to see the next mini-tracks that I planned. Time seems to be going SO fast here...

I went to Houston of my colleagues Maurice and Rien after the coffeebreak. They started with a play to illustrate the goal of the talk. I sneaked out when Rien started on statistics. I already planned not being there the whole session and this seemed as good a moment as any. What I saw was okay, but then again, I didn't see the whole session.
I really wanted to visit the testlab during my EuroSTAR conference so I hurried there. I had to install the RedNoteBook application on my laptop and re-start, that cost me some time. But I got it running and even got time to report a bug; earning me two stickers: 1) labrat sticker and 2) I logged a bug in the testlab sticker, both are now proudly showing on my laptop.
The pair-testing sessions started which I would have really liked attending, but I had two sessions to chair also, one of which started in twenty minutes so I had to run again, grab some lunch and prepare the introductions.

Jan Jaap Cannegieter was the track I was chairing and I got to sit and relax a bit while listing to this pleasant track about 'tester: come out of your cave'. Although some statistics came around (from a survey) and as I said I'm not a fan of statistics, I liked the message and the thought process that came from these numbers. And I really agreed with the statement that we should develop more political skills as testers, I'm a big fan of learning and gaining non-typical-testing skills to enhance my testing work.

I didn't get to the testing lab again, which was rather a shame though, since it was really a good place to be and learn. I really don't know anymore what I did between this session and the session I had to chair next. I know I wandered around and visited some more expo, but the rest? I haven't got a clue.

After the afternoon break I chaired Mauro Garofalo. He was an Italian guy who spoke in English for the first time. He had a good topic, about combining open source tools with COTS tools, but alas not all of it came out in the most flourishing way due to the language barrier and he really was a smart guy, only nervous as hell. It also was a bit short. I tried to make it a bit longer by trying to get to some discussion and ask questions, but I had to end the session after 35 minutes already. I picked up the Maveryx info though an I'm really going to check that one out.

I had a bit of stone in my stomach to go to the keynote. I was afraid that it would bring more doom-messages of the end-of-the-testing-world or something. I like my job, so I'm not a fan of hearing all this 'it's going to end, because I'm just a blanket' stuff. I take my job seriously and I think it takes real skills to do it in a good way. So being called a security blanket (or a snugly Slanket for my part) isn't exactly what I like to hear.
Luckily I was wrong. Daryl told about communities to make a change in the Deutsche Bank organization. I really liked the view from this perspective, helped me perceive some better in persona's. There was somebody twittering that it shouldn't be in a testing conference, I was just thinking "You're not getting the message here, you seem daft" it is exactly this what makes this conference having an added value; giving different views from different perspectives.

After closing I didn't go to the North West Testing gathering directly. Paul Gerrard was hosting a debate at the Midland Hotel about the future of the testing profession. I decided to hang out with Derk-Jan de Grood who apparently had the same plans as I had for that evening. So we went to the debate together. It was a 'fishbowl' like session. I found it a fun session, although some attendees sat on the chair and kept sitting there and didn't give other people a chance to speak their mind and claiming all the speaking-space. Enough people spoke their mind in the end though and I'm very interested to read about it and see what of this maybe comes back in the new book that Paul Gerrard is going to publish in a short while.

Derk-Jan and I set out to grab something to eat on the way to the North West Testing gathering. We ended up in a place called 'Eden'. It had a really good choice of foods and I enjoyed a really good cocktail with ginger and some roasted pork belly, while Derk-Jan's choice was a pizza with an Eastern twist. We were a bit surprised and felt a bit akward to find out it was THE gathering spot of transsexuals as groups of 'women' came in an gave us some strange looks. Time to head out to the NW Testing Gathering and grab a sturdy beer...

When entering the Lass O'Gowry it was almost a shame to have to climb the stairs to the gathering as live music was played in the bar. I felt at home though, cause I'm a bit of a StarWars nut and the hallway to the gathering room was full of StarWars stuff. The presentations were well over but the screen still showed silly, amazing and fun error-messages so I stared at the screen for a bit. I also had some good talks with some of the testers there and enjoyed the great atmosphere that was there. After finishing my pint, Derk-Jan and I decided to get back to our hotels. I still had to do my weather map for tomorrow's weather-report and Derk-Jan still had to do some editing for his movies in the session. It had been a long day and there was still (only?) one to go...

EuroSTAR 2011 diaries - day one

I arrived in Manchester very late and shared a cab to the hotel with Tim Koomen en Jan Jaap Cannegieter. Well almost, they were at Jury's Inn and I was at Castlefield so I got to go on the Cab a couple of minutes longer. The staff of the hotel was most pleasant, they even opened up the cask of Strongbow's for me so I could relax a bit after my journey. The room was basic and a bit outdated, but it had all I needed and it was clean, so I was happy with it. Besides that I got a good view on the museum of Industry and Science and the possibility to have a swim in the pool or do some exercising in the gym, bot of which I would not get to this week for that matter.

On Tuesday I was planning to go to the conference centre at about eleven, but Geoff Thompson tweeted that I should be at the centre at nine for the dress rehearsal of the Opening and the Good Morning Manchester sessions. I've been involved in this thing since the beginning of this year or actually since Expo:QA in Madrid november 2010. I was sitting next to Geoff at Isabel Evans' keynote where she mentioned a sort of morning show for some fun in testing, like 'Good morning with Geoff and Nathalie' as we were the first two that were in sight. Geoff and me (and Graham Thomas) went a bit further on this concept and it grew to Good Morning Manchester. I got to be the director, which evolved to 'the teacher' role to keep the guys to their time-schedule during the GMM-session, there's a lot more to it then meets they eye at first glance. I also get to do a 'weather report' on Wednesday and Thursday morning to highlight some of the stuff during the conference, but more of that later.

So instead of getting there at eleven I had to be there at nine, which cut my lie-in morning a bit short and I actually had to hurry to get there. And although I was a bit short on my coffee intake (which always makes me bit grumpy) I had a great reception by the Qualtech team and the program team. It was way better than any coffee could accomplish, certainly regarding the coffee they make at the centre, which isn't awful, but isn't great either. We did two full and three half-runs of the opening session, still making some adjustments if they worked better than the original plan, it looked a bit like an agile project.

And then suddenly it was almost half pas one and people started coming in the auditorium. Adrenaline started flowing through my veins, I can only imagine what Derk-Jan, Morton, Graham and Geoff must have felt like standing behind the screen waiting for their grand entrance. It went great! The smokemachine worked perfectly (there were some worries there :-) ) and the lighting was done as it should be. Timing was almost disaster though, the interaction with the audience caused them to run over time almost 20%, despite me waiving my ruler franticly from the front row.

After that there was the first keynote from dr. Richard Sykes. I'm not sure weather I got it all, maybe I should lay off the twittering a bit more and get my attention to the speaker a bit more. On the other hand, when I'm very interested in a topic, I don't get to twittering a lot, so I guess I didn't find it THAT interesting. I catched some phrases about new tech being of influence on our work in testing, but that was about it. Or maybe I was just still 'into' the zone about the opening of the conference itself.

The program I set up for myself today was:
  • Opening and keynote (have to be there for a specific reason...)
  • Acceptance testing at it's best (Erik Boelen)
  • The pursuit of Quality (Paul Gerrard)
  • Keynote and drinks
  • Attending Intechnica drinks? (I know they have the FunTESTic cocktail developed, but am not sure wheater I'm invited actually :-&)
I almost got to keep to that program.
I went to Eric Boelen's track, although I came in a bit late and had to be out of there a bit early because I had to do EuroSTAR TV recordings. I actually forgot a bit about them but luckily my phone reminded me of the event. The Qualtech team asked me to do something spontaneous, so I got in there and planned on doing something on how nostalgia of EuroSTAR in Manchester 2006 still triggered me to stuff now. I didn't expect for me to have an hour slot, I'm not THAT a spontaneous person I could just flick my sleeve and have stuff in there to fill an hour, so I got to a twenty minutes and felt okay about the recording.
Eric Boelen's track was held at one of the 'Exchange' rooms and it was packed full, there were even people sitting on the floor at the back of the room, which seemed odd to me, because you won't be able the slides and speaker from there, but I guess it's the content that counts. What I heard made sense, Eric is a pleasant speaker with an enthusiastic story to tell and this time was no different.

After the recordings I was on time to attend the track by Paul Gerrard. I like his tracks and I don't think I ever missed one whenever he was on a conference to speak and I was there. Last year was about axioms, which was very interesting (and there's also a little book available about this), so I was very curious what this one was about. Pursuing Quality.. chasing tornado's or just hot air. I could relate to the topic, about that same things can be perceived differently by different persons; rain could be a blessing for a farmer but a disaster for a tourist for example. Then there was a whole piece about models and what the impact of that is on testdesign and perception of stakeholders. Not all new, but a good shake-up for the brain. I noticed I didn't twitter that much during the session :-)

The last keynote of the day was that of Gojko Adzic 'Death to the testing phase'. SLIDES HERE. I read Gojko's 'Specification by Example' and liked it, so I was interested in what he had to say. I liked the refreshing style of the slides at first, but after a while I got annoyed with them in a way, it was a bit belittling, like I was in kindergarten and only would understand his story by these simplistic drawings. And then he showed a joke about Berlusconi and women, my first reaction was that I found it funny, but then I actually hated it and then my state of mind was already set in a kind of way and I didn't think it would get better. The main thing I got from it was actually that I should look up my more then ten year old schoolbooks about iterative stuff and I would read the same stuff as I heard in this keynote. So yes, I got SOMETHING out of it, but it was a reminder to browse some old books.

So I was really looking forward to the conference drinks and meet up with people. I felt like I've been doing loads of stuff and actually hadn't had time to do it all satisfactory to my liking. Maybe my head was just buzzing too much with all the impressions from today. I planned going to the Cloud23 party also. But after drinks I had to get back to the auditorium and practice the GMM session for tomorrow, and when that was finished it was already late and on my invite it stated that the drinks in Cloud were till 19.00 and it was already passed that so I left it for what it was and decided to go and have dinner with the program guys. We had a really pleasant evening at a place called OXnoble, which was a gastro-pub and had really good food (2 course meal for 10 pounds). I had sausage and mash and some lovely bread pudding and was happy. Went to my hotel and fell asleep almost immediately.

maandag 21 november 2011

EuroSTAR 2011 diaries - prologue

I can't believe today is already the day I'm flying to EuroSTAR again. I have my bags packed, printed the timetable, tickets and reservation documents and am ready as can be. Alas I still have to work half a day... I like my job, don't get me wrong, but when I'm really looking forward of going somewhere like EuroSTAR, it's agony, maybe you know the feeling. The tweets on #esconfs stream don't help either... they're just enlarging the feeling of wanting to BE THERE already, but it'll have to do, at least I get to get into the conf-feeling a bit before hand.

So let me share my program (as it is now - still open for last-minute changes though)

Arriving at Manchester (hoping that the fog won't delay me too much)
Speaker/ chair meetup at Cloud23
**UPDATE: arriving in Manchester AFTER meetup; due to fog flight is cancelled....

Opening and keynote (have to be there for a specific reason...)
Acceptance testing at it's best (Erik Boelen)
The pursuit of Quality (Paul Gerrard)
Keynote and drinks
Attending Intechnica drinks? (I know they have the FunTESTic cocktail developed, but am not sure wheater I'm invited actually :-&)

Opening and keynote (have to be there for a specific reason...)
Minitracks (Martin Mussman and Jackie McDougall)
Afterlunch tracks - visiting testlab, do some conferring
checking first moments of Houston we've got a problem (Maurice Siteur and Rien v Vugt) and sneak out to finish with Social software development
Tester get out of your cave (chairing this one)
conferring time, checking the expo, maybe visit the lab again
Mixing open and commercial tools (chairing this one)
Keynote and closure
Attending North West Testing Gathering (meetup)

Opening and keynote (have to be there for a specific reason...)
Architecture testing (Peter Zimmerer)
Dashboards:... (Michael Bolton)
The challenges we face... (Lloyd Roden)
Catching a high speed train (my own track)
Keynote and finishes
Attending Galadinner

I would love to see your programs too! so please share if you dare :-)
And for now... back to work.