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A Hot Pink, Feathery, Blistering TestBash (The Pain and Gain of Edward Bear)

On March 13, 2016, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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When walking down the street in a bright blue Ministry of Testing T-shirt, hot pink feather boa, and grey Crocs in Kemp Town in Brighton on a Friday night, you blend right in. Nothing to worry about.

TestBash is one of the events that feels more like a community gathering or even a family get-together than a conference. Of course, this really depends on what your definition of a conference is… Having just got back from my second TestBash as a volunteer, I’m happy to report that TestBash stands for everything a good testing conference is about for me – passionate professionals, curious newcomers welcomed to the community, meetups, family vibe, top-notch talks and workshops, high energy, a little bit of cool and flair and craziness, great humor, fountains of inspiration…

However, the beginning of TestBash was worryingly blistering for me. Quite literally, I arrived in Brighton only to limp to the hotel in pain.  Newish shoes caused serious damage to my left heel. Never have I ever seen such a big broken blister on myself. I was sitting in my hotel room thinking I had to stay there for the whole time… But then it’s all about problem solving and reaching out to people, right? So I cleaned and patched it up, took a taxi to the pub where the pre-pre-TestBash meetup was supposed to take place, and was so happy to hug Rosie that I cried.

And then I got to talk to some friends in the pub and things were looking up. The next day Rosie brought me a pair of Crocs as I couldn’t wear my own shoes. And I was good to go running around in Crocs to facilitate the two workshops, make sure things run smoothly, problems get solved, and workshop leads can focus on their work.

The Workshop Day

First happening of the morning – taxi tried to take me to some other location than that of the workshops.

Ash Winter’s workshop on system architecture and testing the bigger picture contained lots of group work and exercises that layered models through learning cycles. Ash asked participants to visualize a system architecture through some analogy. For example, authentication got visualized using the analogy of a party – who’s allowed to get in and who’s not, and how this system works. There were quite a few others. Even though this analogy is yet another model and does not represent technically what authentication does, it helps to familiarize the concept and some elements of the system. As someone who still needs to learn the ropes of such things more deeply, I find this exercise helpful.

Then it was time to build a model of the architecture based on snippets of information from different sources. Then we learned about FIBLOTS by Scott Barber to layer it on top of the model. And then the heuristics of testability by James Bach were used to identify places in the architecture where testability could be improved. Overall a great workshop by Ash, so if he happens to run it elsewhere, surely check it out!

The second workshop of the day that I facilitated was by Alexandra Casapu and it was focused on examining testing skills. I attended this workshop at Let’s Test 2015 and found it to be an excellent balance between individual reflection and reflecting in a group – all focused on understanding skills. There are exercises that direct you to dig in the past and exercises to observe and discuss skills in an actual problem solving situation. I recommend you attend this workshop when you have the opportunity. Meanwhile, you can work on mapping your skills on the website Alexandra created: testing skills map repo.

In the evening we went to Brighton beach and had some beers, had some fun, talked about stuff, got tattooed, too. Radomir Sebek spent some time on the pen challenge with his colleague from Berlin. I had some great conversations with folks. As a result, I’m looking forward to a blog post from Kim Knup about the “5 minute feature pitches” they do at Songkick and, hopefully, a talk by Beren Van Daele at a conference (through Speak Easy) who accepted the challenge. He already completed another challenge: he did a 99 second talk at TestBash! Also had a very nice chat with Phil Harper. And Danny Dainton. And… oh, you know the meetup stuff 🙂

TestBash Day

I woke up bright and early and it was going to be a beautiful day. I enjoyed a rose&pistacchio mocha, then waited at the Brighton Dome’s backstage door while observing a pair of seagulls sharing the remains of a pear (it looked like it), and watched an unassuming squirrel go about its stuff.

Once Rosie and other volunteers and helpers arrived, we got signed in, got our backstage passes, and we made our way to the sweet spot. Emma and me did some prep for the Lean Coffee session we were going to host. It would’ve been more work for us but there were some experienced “lean baristas” at the tables who knew the process and could help folks for whom it was the first encounter with such format. I already figured a cool visual guide would help in this case as it wasn’t a space where you could yell instructions, and people were spilling in continuously for a while. The list of topics collected from the post-it notes is available on GitHub.

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As far as the conference talks were concerned, I found the content of talks to be consistently strong throughout the day. The videos will be posted at the Dojo site later and I recommend to watch them all. Probably the most emotionally moving talk for me was Nicola Sedgwick’s about thick skin and caring about what you do which somehow makes everything much more stressful. Since I was on mic duty, I was trying to maintain dry eyes.

Bill Matthews made us feel a little discomfortable as he shared the challenges of testing smart algorithms. Lisa and Emma had packed a lot of wisdom and practical advice into the talk about building the right thing. Michael “Wanz” Wansley masterfully delivered a somewhat controversial talk about gatekeeping, and we could get a wiff of Grammy dust along with it. A totally non-grumpy Patrick Prill talked about ignorance, knowledge, and the Mount Stupid (and it was his first conference talk!). John Stevenson broke out some techno to remind us of model fatigue, encouraging us to be more creative with models we use. Katrina and Nicola made sure the Kiwi front was strong by talking about a pairing experiment, and being the sole tester in the team respectively. The lovely Dan Billing discussed the importance and necessity of security testing. Anna and Andrew discussed how “testers doing the coding” is the least of your problems when trying to move to test automation.

Sometime during the day I contracted a hot pink feather boa. You know, just to make sure everyone knows I’m a volunteer not some normal person attending the conference. Others were seen toting tutus around different body parts.

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Photo: courtesy of Jokin Aspiazu, my favourite Spanish tester (from left to right: Guna, Huib, me, Pekka).

I’m sure there was something for everyone to take away. The crowd was supportive and emotional, there was a great vibe throughout the whole conference.

As the final event, there was a gathering at another pub, and also a poetry slam to which I arrived somewhat late (sorry, I was having a convo downstairs). But I delivered my post-apocalyptic stream-of-consciousness poem anyway. Well, at least Mark was blown away 😀 And then I had other good conversations (some brief, some longer) with Noah, Rhian, Mike

It was also incredibly great to meet my PSL buddies Chris, Lim and Ioana again. Gotta say – “PSL buddy hugs” are of a special kind!

Then I took a stroll in my aforementioned outfit, got a bit of sleep and headed to train station through foggy Brighton.

All the love to Rosie for having me (and for the Crocs!). All the love for the community that came together. All the love to Brighton for being wonderful.

I hope to be back.

 

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