Sunday, February 12, 2017

ETC 2017, day one,two & three

(Short summary - ETC was super awesome, down below are my experiences from the conference days)
Previous: ETC2017 tutorials day

Another day of ETC has ended, and shortly after it, the end of the second followed, and despite my best intentions, I could not get a blog post in between the two.
The first day was, to say the least - packed. Starting with a great opening keynote (slides) from which I took two takeaways - unit tests can catch as much as 77% of "production failures" (source), and dead code can sometimes be worse than you might have thought.
Following the keynote, I attended a real inspiring talk by Rosie Sherry, about marketing the testing community and activities (by the way, if you are not familiar with ministry of testing, please correct that).
After the speed meeting (which was a bit too shallow and quick to my liking), I had some interesting talk with Bettina Stühle about a difficult client she was working with and what are her goals and approaches, followed by a short chat with Adina & Nicolai on JUnit5.
Then I ran to the exploratory testing workshop - which proved to be a great fun, and while doing that managed to show me some good pointers I need to pay attention to while testing. Shortly after that (we did have some time to grab a cup of tea), came Joel Hynoski's talk that was titled "Engineering for quality: using brain power rather than willpower", which was "quite good, but..." - In retrospect, the talk was presented well, and I like both Joel's style of presentation and the topic he chose, but that's not what I have expected from the schedule. Neither the title of the talk, nor the track it was on (automation) nor the description that can be found in the website had any resemblance to what was actually presented - I came to this talk expecting to see how tools were used in a smart way that I can learn from, and got a story that was "so, we did this and it worked nicely". There was no dwelling on "how to look for an idea that will work for you", not a glimpse on "how the automation is built", there was "we did some gamification around code submits", which was a cute anecdote, but I did not see how it connected to a coherent & clear message.
Anyway, as Zelazny once wrote - shift happens. By the end of the talk we shifted to a lean coffee session that was pretty much as expected - a great fun and an opportunity to meet some new people, and talk with people I already met.
At the end of the conference day, Nicola Sedgwick spoke about communication, and space, and prioritising, and setting expectations, and cheating on sports apps, and estimating with multi-faceted dice and people in chainmail working together. Or, if one wants to put all of that under a single title - getting inspired by whatever is around you and learning from it. A really hard talk to follow, but the message is getting around almost unconsciously.
That was the end of the conference formal schedule for day 1. Naturally, this only mean that the other activities just begin. On the way to the conference party, I had a really nice dinner with Kira & Bettina, and then we proceeded to the party itself, where we joined a whole bunch of people and had a great time.

Day 2 began pretty much similar to day 1 - I woke up to late to actually complete a blog post (that I stayed up to late to write after returning late to the hotel since I was having such a great time with people), and if the first day has been very good, the second was nothing short of awesome.
It started with a powerful keynote from Gitte Klitgaard where she got everyone to dance, which every bit of fun as it seems. Next was Adi's demo talk about different kinds of automated tests where he delivered a clear view of how to write good tests and what target each of them is useful for achieving. Plus, he showed some of the cleanest pieces of code I've seen (so, I have some refactoring to do in my code to start practicing writing like that). Following this - a great talk by Matt Lavoie on usability testing which was point on (for those keeping track, that's 4 great talks in a row). This one was followed by a talk by Liz Keogh, which, besides being an extremely talented speaker, is the first person I've seen speaking on the Cynefin model in a useful way. and despite a strong initial objection to her message (that there's an inherent difference in the way testers and developers think of things),I find myself pretty convinced (more on that will probably be in a separate future blog post). it's not often when I can hear my jaw dropping in a talk, but this was definitely one such case.  After that I went to hear a security talk given by Juha Kivekäs which was very well presented. However, since software security is a field I'm interested in and have some basic background, I found out that I'm not the proper audience for it. I activated the rule of two feet and went to hear Alex Schladebeck's talk on how to build proper UI automation. Listening to the talk was very hard on me - just about every other sentence I felt an urge to stand up and clap out load, since she was carrying a message that needs to be heard more often, and she has delivered this message far better than I could have done. Speaking later about this with Neil, he put it up to a very concise sentence - people are telling testers they need to code, but not enough are telling testers they need to code well.
After such a successful row of talks that were not simply good but rather brilliant, it was time for open space. Inspired by Joha's talk I offered people a quick introduction to using a web proxy. In the previous evening I downloaded OWASP Security Shepherd and we played with it a bit. Just to make thinks easier on the audience, I used Fiddler, and not one of the more powerful attack proxies such as ZAP or BURPsuite, since it has a much easier UI (and less options to confuse new users). We got along with some exercises and got to play with some XSS as well in a sort of a mob participation (There was only one driver, though). After this session, I went to participate in a proper mob programming exercise where we tried to learn a bit of Kotlin. Well, we had some environment issues, both on the Kotlin side, and in using a German keyboard on a computer that forces you to use shortcuts if there are any. Well, we didn't manage to have some code running by the end of the 30 minutes, but we did practice mobbing, and did learn quite a bit on how does mobbing work, and a little bit about Kotlin. Plus, I enjoyed myself.  The next topic on my schedule for the open space was another one I proposed - tools as eye openers. Sadly, no participants came, but with all of the other great subjects that were happening at the same time, I was just as happy to become a butterfly and hop over some discussions - I joined Sharanya's discussion on the difference between functional and integration tests, where I felt I had something to contribute (especially after Adi's talk earlier), and when this discussion came to conclusion I listened silently (or at least, I recall that my intention was to be silent) to a discussion on mobbing, what it's used for and how to present it at home. It was interesting.

It's only appropriate that such an intense day will be closed with a powerful keynote by Fiona Charles who spoke on the future of testing (TL;DR - the future is our to make).

And we all know what happens when the conference talks end, right? I looked for someone to have a dinner with, and talked with Bettina who said she was meeting one or two others and invited me to join. and so we went, 20 people strong, to have something nice to eat in a quiet place. After that we went to have a drink and talk some more, up until the point where I knew I must go to sleep.

Day 3 (for those who keep track, yes, it was a two days long conference, and the tutorials were day 0) was to be a more relaxed day of touring the city for a while. My heuristic for making the day fun was simple - Join Bettina who seemed to know what to look for. We strolled through some parts of the city and visited the architecture and design museums (which are two, close and small museums) and had some time to talk and enjoy.
After getting back to the hotel and resting for a while, it was time for dinner. So I messaged Neil, who was still in town, and he was just on his way to find something to eat as well, so we met, and he contacted one of the other twitterati and so we found ourselves walking for ~20 minutes to meet some others. as happens quite a lot for me in such events, I got to listen to some quite interesting stories (at one point Joep explained some of the peculiarities of Belgium's political system) and at some point we were all (or at least, those of us who remained at the time) listening to Maaret and Llewellyn speaking with Damian who's part of the team organizing QA or the highway, about conference organizing and explaining some of the choices they made and the priorities they have. Occasionally one of the others had some idea or experience to contribute, but for me it was mainly listening to what happens "behind the scenes", which was fascinating. For me, hearing the principles that are in the base of this conference and learning how the actions and choices of the organizers match those principles enforced a very important feeling - I was happy to pay for a conference that takes such great care of their speakers and that emphasises so strongly on making everyone feel welcome and providing opportunities to actually meet people and not only listen to some talks.

And so, the conference is at end, I extended it as much as I could (meeting Joep, Gitte,Bettina and Damian for breakfast at the hotel, and then sharing a cab to the airport with Joep), but all good things must end. I had a great time, and absorbed quite a lot (some of which, may form after processing to something I can share clearly enough back at home).
See you all again next year in Amsterdam!

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