maandag 5 november 2012

Best conference year so far...

It's been ages since I wrote a blog, I guess it's one of those things that moves to the background when very busy...
So, because EuroSTAR 2012 is about to begin and I'm planning some blogging there I really had to update with the things about the conferences i visited last year :-)

From March 12-14th I've attended the Belgium Testing Days at the Sheraton (Conference) Hotel in Brussels (Airport) and from May 7th-10th I was in Norway for the FreeTest 2012 conference held
on the boat from Trontheim to Bronnoysund the first day and the second day in Bronnoysund itself, on May 30th I attended the TestNet SpringEvent with it's 15th anniversary. Last but not least: I was at Expo:QA in Madrid as conference chair!

Belgium Testing Days

This year I was invited to the Belgium Testing Days by Mieke Gevers. I hadn't send in a paper, since I hadn't had a sufficiently worked out topic yet at the time for the call for papers.
I find I have to have an all ready and interesting topic to send in and not just send in a paper just to get to go to a conference. So I hoped for my boss to grant me the ticket to go.
By the time I had to send in my proposal to my manager though, Mieke had contacted me already. The theme of the conference was 'Software Testing versus Quality Assurance' and she had a need for
two people who could do an antagonistic gig during the conference. As you can guess... I was person number one and Daniel Maslyn was person number two.

I arrived on Monday afternoon the day before the conference itself, the hall was already buzzing with vendors and companies setting up their booths and the hotel staff setting up the
tables and coffeebar for the Tuesday. In the room I found the little gift that Mieke and Nadine as organisers had left, last year I was also pleasantly surprised by this little gesture that
makes the expierence as speaker at the Belgium Testing Days even more special, it's just so heart warming to feel so welcome just by these little details.
The evening is spend with all other speakers at an excellent restaurant in Brussel city center and during the dinner there's plenty of time to get to know some other speakers and people from the
organization of Diaz Hilterscheid.

The Tuesday is an exciting day for me. The gig that Daniel and I are supposed to do is part of the opening speech by Mieke. Mieke has arranged jackets for us that are part silver and part black
and hightops - one black, one silver - to wear and emphasize our roles. Daniel and I are the antoganists or friendly-coexisters (?) of 'Software Testing and Quality Assurance'. We have to
burst in the main auditorium during Mieke's speech heavily debating whether Software Testing and Quality Assurance are the same or are completely different. And so we do... but a little bit
too early. We were supposed to go in a couple of lines into the theme explanation, instead we thought we had to go in after a couple of lines. No harm done though... the message came across
and Mieke is an experienced enough chair to correct any glitches during the speech.

During the conference the task that Daniel and I have is to walk around with an iPad each and to let people write quotes on the pad, take pictures and even movies. They are displayed directly on the
mainscreen in the expohall, well.. from the pad that takes / has the control anyway. So we can even have a 'fight' over whom of us has the screen-control from the pad :-)

The upside is that I got to be at a great conference, but the downside is definitely that I wasn't able to attend all the tracks. So I only got to see a limited amount of them. The ones I saw
were excellent though! Belgium Testing Days has a great offer of high-quality (for me at least) and high-standard (level) tracks, which also makes choices to make hard :-)

The first one I fully attended was

I also attended 'Twist and thaste' by Luuk Steffermans

And Artful testing by Zeger van Hese, in which one of the things that I took with me was that knowing some more info about a certain painting makes it more clear what certain things means, which
can also be applied to software testing. Another one was about perspective, depending how you look at things from your own perspective you will discover different things. The presentation from
Zeger can be found on the interwebs on Prezi.

Tuesday was ended by drinks, a stand-up comedian performance (after the success of last time they did again a marvelous job!) and a very good dinner at the expoHall.

On wednesday I went back home again, my brain filled with loads of ideas and inspiration.

FreeTest or The Most Northern Testing Conference in the world

How many testing conferences do you know that are held on a cruiseship? Well, now you know one: It's the FreeTest - the worlds Northernmost testconference (
This conference is small, but I found it a most impressive and fun conference indeed. I travelled to Trontheim the first day where we boarde the cruiseship on which the conference was held the first day.

On the ship there was an auditorium where you could also look outside, so while listening to the tracks (no choices to be made :-) ) you could also sometimes sneak a peek outside and watch the beautiful fjords.
Between the tracks there was an excellent lunch in the cruiseship's restaurant (again with magnificent views!). I had my track on the ship which was an experience on itself, I loved the responses from the audience and afterwards there was plenty of time to relax on the deck and have discussions with the participants of the conference.

After midnight we arrived at Brønnøysund where day two of the conference was held. THere was a bit of a wait at the hotel to check in, but that didn't spoil the fun at all :-)
The next day you had to make choices; one part of the tracks was held at a room in the hotel and the other one at the office of the BBREG. I attende the first three tracks in the Thon Hotel:
Success story of automation test with Open Source tools in Vianova Systems by Yanhong Peng, Automated functional load testing: Grinder + Webdriver by Vegard Hartmann and Øyvind Kvangardsnes and Cheap and Free tools by Lloyd Roden. I loved the tracks being so practical and usable for daily practice; I could really get something out of it to use at my job - that is - if I would have been in an environment where automation would have been applied, but alas I was not, so I put it in my testerstoolbox to use when the time is right.
In between was a brilliant lunch at BBREG; those people who work there really have a magnificent view on the fjords during their lunch! I really loved it.

In the afternoon I took a track off to wander through the village (both tracks held then were in Norwegian, so I wouldn't have understood it anyway), which takes about a half hour to see all :-). The last track I attended was that of Mieke Gevers at the BBREG auditorium about performance testing, which I found really interesting because it was all about the results from those performance testing and how to extract valuable information from them instead of false positives.
After the tracks all testers where rallied up to enter a bus and we were driven off to a mountain with a hole in it; it was fun to see (and unique!) all those testers climbing that mountain :-) I think it was a first to see 80+ testers on top of one mountain!

The climb had made us hungry so we were driven off to a restaurant (best Aquavit brewery in the neighbourhood) to enjoy a really good norwegian meal with very good fish.
When we arrived back at the village of Brønnøysund a group of testers decided to visit the local pub and Michael Bolton, who was booked for his Rapid Software Testing course on two days after the conference itself, brought his mandolin. It was a very cosy and well spend evening there.
The next day I travelled back home again (it was a first to be able to walk to the airport from my hotel in the center of a town :-) ) and reflected on what I found a really well organized small conference with an excellent choice of tracks; I would certainly recommend this conference to any tester no doubt!

SpringEvent Testnet

At the spring event, which was a jubilee version due to the fact TestNet celebrated it's 15th birthday, I didn't get the chance to visit any tracks except the kenotes. I was on 'booth-duty' handing out 'Cap'puccino's and Caramel Lattes. The presentations can be downloaded here: and the photoalbum can be viewed here:
The keynotes I attended were from Geoff Thomson & Bob vd Burgt about the history (and future) of testing and -off course-  the introduction of the TestNet jubilee book 'Bepaal je koers' for which I made the 'Mappa Testi' contribution!

I always love the TestNet events; it's great to see so many enthusiastic fellow testers who have a passion for the craft! I think we are lucky in the Netherlands to have so many of them and that they share their passion at the TestNet meetings.

Expo:QA 2012.

Expo:QA 2012 was held in Madrid this year, I had the honour of being the chair of this edition, which meant that I've been busy with the program (together with Gwen Stewart and Raynald Korchia) since about February this year.
Being a chair of a conference gives a whole different viewpoint of such an event, in stead of your focus being of getting the most our of the conference for yourself, you now have the focus on providing those tracks that will benefit the attendees the most. Besides that, there's also many (delicate) choices to be made where you have to balance topic, country, company and have to take into consideration the vendors; a conference isn't cheap so keeping sponsors happy is also important.

I had some 'behind-the-scene' experience of a conference of my time being a program committee member of the EUroSTAR conference, but being the chair of a conference makes you even more aware - and more appreciative of- the things that have to be arranged and what a large and exhausting task it is, and I have to mention here that being a chair doesn't give you the most hard tasks; that credit goes to the organisers themselves.

Well. I arrived on a Monday. The Expo:QA was held in a huge conference hotel not far from the airport; I always find it very nice that your place of stay is the same of the conference itself, it gives a bit more peace of mind knowing you don't have to worry about transport to the venue and that you'll be there on time.
The excellent weather gave me the opportunity to drink a cocktail in the restaurants terrace at 23.30 with still 26 Degrees Celsius on the thermometer, so I guess that I couldn't wish for a better start then this.
On Tuesday tutorials were held (a.o. Paul Gerrard and Derk-Jan de Grood) and when I visited the coffee breaks and lunches I saw people who were really wrapping their minds on the contents of the tutorials and heavy debating, while still excited. I like those reactions; it - for me- is telling that people are challenged and that is exactly what I intended when I invited those speakers for the tutorials.

Wednesday and Thursday were the conference days themselves. As last time: the food is so amazing at this conference. Lunch is a tapas-style buffet and personnel is walking around constantly with small delicious snacks. The last Expo (held in 2010) I was awed by these perks of this conference, this time I certainly was again. Besides the tracks (I don't want to boast, but: good choices :-) ), the food and the ambiance really make this conference a 'wanna-go!'.

To top it all: on Wednesday we were all brought to the Madrid Zoo and the Gala dinner was held at the most spectacular place I could imagine; in the Penguin viewing area!
The food was good, alas not as good as the tapas at the conference; but I guess having a dinner at a Penguin place means the food has to travel a bit when it gets to the table; I thought it was a minor flaw related to the location.

I also experienced the downsides of being a chair; when something goes wrong; YOU are the face everybody sees and complains to, nothing personal of course, but it certainly gets to you. One of the speakers didn't show; luckily Julian Harty (who was a attendee mind!) jumped up to do his Mobile Testing track, it turned out to be one of the more popular tracks that day. We also provided a 'on the fly' gathering on request of attendees to do more Agile, between the last track of Wednesday and the gala dinner we got a room at the conference centre and a.o Gwen organised a format where experienced and non-experienced people could exchange questions- and answers on Agile Testing, I thought it was a marvellous example of the dynamics that can occur at a conference.
On Thursday evening I travelled back home again, leaving the Warm Madrid behind and being totally knackered. It was an experience to never forget and I'm happy I got this opportunity of a lifetime.

Well... that's a rapid and - for me- rather short summary of the conferences I went to last year... now I'm ready to go the EuroSTAR in my home country NL en blog without feeling guilty of not having written about the others :-)
Hope to see you there!