Deciding if test retreat is right for you

2014 will mark the third run of TestRetreat and the second time I’m attending. The first was last year. Yep, two years in a row. I had a fantastic time last year and left with some useful tools. I’m confident this year will be no different.

I wanted to share some reasons here I think you should consider attending this event.

Presenting and conferring
TestRetreat is a small group of people, last year I think attendance was capped at 30 or 35 people. There is no pre-set agenda, this is a conference for the people, by the people. What I mean is that most every one that attends TestRetreat presents on a topic or facilitates discussion on something. This isn’t required, but it is encouraged and participation is what makes peer conferences like this great. Last year, I facilitated a discussion on testing skill. This was the first time I had put myself in front of a group and talked about something. If you are interested in dipping your toes into that pool, this really is a safe place to do that.

People you will want to talk with
This peer conference attracts people that care deeply about testing and developing their craft. Being held on a Saturday before another great conference means that people in attendance are people that are serious about being there. If you want to spend time next to writers, presenters, and independent testers, this is the place. You may see this appealing to authority, and it is a little bit, but it is a great group of people and you won’t find them all in the same room very often.

The conference below the conference
TestRetreat is an event preceding CAST2014 in New York. There are a few events surrounding CAST each year: lean coffee, tester games, tester competitions, after hours conversation over beers. CAST is a great conference. For me it is the conference, but it wouldn’t be the same without all the events just below the surface. TestRetreat is the one you don’t want to miss.

Great things begin at TestRetreat
Being present last year lead to me attending WHOSE, doing a lot more writing, and now speaking at CAST 2014. What great things will you do that get started here?

I hope to see you there!

QAOrTheHighway 2014

QAOrTheHighway was held this past Tuesday in Dublin, Ohio, a city just outside of Columbus, Ohio. For the most part, this was a very regional thing. A lot of people I spoke with were from Columbus or very near by. That was sort of surprising considering the speakers (keynote and presentation) they managed to get. Despite the small/regional conference feel, there were a pretty good number of attendees present.


I was planning to get there early on Monday, hangout with friends and work maybe a little, but it turns out February is not a great time for flying. My layover was cancelled and I didn’t end up at the hotel till after 11:30pm. Luckily a few friendly faces were still up to chat and catch up despite the late hour on the day before giving a talk.

The day started at 6:30 am with breakfast in the hotel lobby and then rushing off to lean coffee. Lean coffee is a testing conference fixture at this point. People ask for it by name. This one was really enjoyable as usual. I left with some useful notes on preparing to give a conference talk. Oh, did I mention that I’ll be speaking at CAST 2014 in New York, NY?

The conference was kicked off with a keynote by Joseph Ours. The theme was some ways you could tell if you (the tester) were undervalued within your organization and some things you might do to change that. Joseph did a great job and presented some old ideas with a fresh perspective. Some things I thought were interesting was the way he thinks of testers as information brokers and also something he calls the OURS method: Observe, Understand, Review, Serve. One important thing to note is that Joseph was not the scheduled keynote speaker. Keith Klain was scheduled to talk but could not make it and Joseph did a fantastic impromptu keynote.

The first session I went to was The New Tester Skill Set by Matthew Eakin. There was some stuff in this presentation that I didn’t necessarily agree with such as an emphasis on documentation, an emphasis on tools, and very little about testing skill or how that fits into agile but I think Matt had some great points elsewhere. Mainly in emphasizing restricting WIP to be very small at any given time, and also something he mentioned about how a powerful test might tell you specifically where a problem is.

Session two was by JeanAnn Harrison on A Debate on the Merits of Mobile Software Test Automation. JeanAnn is a great speaker and conversationalist, I thought this was a fun talk. This was sort of a socratic talk, a lot of the content was posed as questions for the attendees to consider. I really enjoy this style. Some of the questions were around the idea of defining best, defining need, and asking if the project is worth the investment. She also mentioned that she doesn’t highly rely on domain expertise in new hired because that can usually be picked up quickly. I generally agree with that sentiment.

Session three was about Disintegration Testing presented by David Hoppe. This is another session that I thought was very good. The content was useful and engaging. David talked about the value of looking at problems in isolation as opposed to completely integrated products. He did this via stories about automotive repair, scenarios focusing on how a person might test their amazon home page, and also a live demo of a test program he wrote. The presentation has a little bit of everything and the attendees really seemed to respond to and enjoy that.

My last session of the day was by Scahin Mulik, Four Questions Every CXX Should Ask About Testing. This started off by modeling testing questions around Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. I thought it was quite interesting. The four questions Sachin came up with based on the hierarchy were: Is the software not doing what it is not supposed to do; It is secure, fast enough, reliable enough; Is it loved by its intended audience; Is it faster, cheaper. After this there was as a bit on testing measurements with absolutely no foundation and no reference for where the numbers came from. I wish I had written down the measurements he referenced. One I do remember was defect removal efficiency. There were also some measurements that were somehow supposed to represent industry maturity. This part left me really dissatisfied with the talk.

After this was a closing keynote given by Matt Heusser. Regretfully, I had to miss this to catch a flight back to Nashville.

I was in Columbus for about 20 hours total, not even a full day. If I go next year, I’ll try to hit the 24 hour mark.