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From Tallinn!! Nordic Testing Days – Retrospective (Rhythm of Testing)

On June 11, 2014, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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I had the immense pleasure of participating in Nordic Testing Days in Tallinn, Estonia.

Estonia is a country of 1.3 Million people in Eastern Europe – way Eastern Europe.  The neighbors to the East are Russia – North, beyond the Bay of Finland is… Finland.  There are ferries that run between Tallinn, the capitol city of Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland.  Its a cool city with loads of medieval buildings, castles/city walls and churches.

The city’s “Old Town’, the medieval heart of the city is a wandering maze of narrow, cobble stone streets.  The town square boasts the oldest apothecary in the world – established in 1422 and continuing to operate today.  Oh, they also have wifi – free wifi.  Wifi EVERYwhere.

Tallinn is far enough North where for those of us from the US – it is pretty amazing.  By 11:00 PM the first week of June, it is still light enough where it would be somewhere between dusk, the gloaming and full night fall.  At 11:30 one evening, whilst sitting with colleagues at a patio bar in the conference center, we were amazed when we realized how late it was – and how none of us had any idea of the time.  (Hint if you’d like to go next year, check out the curtains in your room.  There is a second, heavier curtain that helps cut down at the light coming in the room, so you don’t wake up at 3:30 AM – like WIDE awake – as I did a couple of mornings.)

General Conference Impressions

The conference is organized by volunteers – this is the third year – Yeah – 3 years and it is looking really, really good!

Matt Heusser and I agreed to host a Lean Coffee each morning.  And, each morning Lean Coffee had a small but doughty group who met to discuss items on testing and software development in general.

Wednesday, 3 June, Matt and I also hosted the 1 day version of Lean Software Testing.  Essentially, applying Lean concepts to testing.  For us, this was an experiment as we were not entirely certain how a series of exercises that absolutely demanded full participation of everyone in the room would translate across cultures.  In general – with a little effort – it translated pretty well.  We found chocolate helped.

I live blogged my experience from the two conference days.  (Day 1 is here.  Day 2 is here.)  I found the mix of speakers and format to be quite good.  At one point, Huib Schoots tweeted that he was torn between which session to go to.  As the conference went on, others had similar problems/  For me, this is a sign of a great selection of offerings at a conference.

The morning keynotes on Thursday and Friday I found interesting.  There were several valuable ideas that are worth consideration – I blogged them at the time – and chimed in on Twitter a couple of times.  Other participants had other takeaways. 

I must say here, that I got an email from Matt Heusser asking if I’d be interested in presenting the discussion “On Complete Testing” which we have done together a couple of other times.  This is a discussion around a simple question – “When the boss/customer/key stakeholder says ‘this has to be completely tested,’ what does that mean and how can we do it?”  I said “Sure! I think that would be fun!”  A week or two later I got an email from the organizers about “the keynote.”  What?  Ummm – Matt?  We gotta talk.  As it was, we had a lot of fun, and based on the conversations, tweets and other folks blog posts, it looks like other people had fun to.

Bribing them with “chocolate imported from the US” and other items may have helped.

People

For me, the highlight of any conference is the people I get to interact with and learn from The many people I met or became reacquainted with over the time in Tallinn is astounding.

Let’s see.  Who stands out?  Well, among the Organizers – who worked so incredibly hard –Grete Napits  Helena Jeret-Mäe  Raimond Sinivee Participants/speakers/delegates – Huib Shoots, Ruud Cox, Gitte Ottosen, Guna Petrova, Peter Varhol, Gerri Owens, Stephen Janaway, Bill Mathews, Dan Billing, Kristjan Karmo, Irina Ivanova, Rob Lambert, Aleksis Tulonen, Andrei Contan, Rikard Edgren, Martin Nilsson, Aapo Reitsak, Raji Bhamidipati … the list goes on.  If I stop and think about it – I know I can add more names to this group.  Like the fellows I was chatting with on Thursday during the networking/entertainment evening.  I know you told me your names, but SHEESH guys – bring cards next time to help job my memory!

People referred to with some frequency…In no particular order – Jerry Weinberg, Nicholas Taleb, Michael Bolton, W Edward Deming, Daniel Kahneman, Doug Hoffman.  I know there were others, but these were the names that came up in the sessions I participated in.

Summary 

I thought Nordic Testing Days was extremely informative.  Unlike some conferences I’ve been to, there were no sessions where I wished I had made another choice and I did not get something worth considering.  Importantly, there were no sessions where I simply wrote the presentation off and focused on email or something else.

Tallinn is a beautiful city.  The people are wonderful – not in the annoyingly fake “How are you?” way – when what they mean is {Insert generic greeting here} but more in the “We have more than one way to communicate and make you feel welcomed in our wonderful city” way.

One word of caution – when walking in the Old Town, really pay attention to where you are going.  The cobblestone walks and street are – cobblestone, meaning not smooth cement – they are not even and you can trip easily if not vigilant.  

So, WHEN you go next year, keep an open mind, be ready for long nights with fantastic conversation and be ready to think and learn.

 

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