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EuroSTAR 2012 – Conference Summary and reflection

Posted on Posted in Software Testing, Test Automation, Training / Conferences

Last few days were awesome – My presentation at EuroSTAR was well received, builders are out, and I had a lovely Diwali celebration with friends and family. Don’t worry; this post will not cover Diwali celebration or our home improvement project – I will stay on course and include only EuroSTAR.

It was my first EuroSTAR, and I truly enjoyed it. I attended EuroSTAR as a speaker, and my presentation topic was – “Test Automation Framework, Don’t design it, let it evolve.” It was in-line with the theme of conference – Innovate and renovate.

On day one, I reached early for the conference and spent around an hour in the exhibition hall. One of the vendors (Sorry forgot the name :-() in the exhibition hall had few nice puzzles to solve. I started by looking at a metal piece which was made of four interlinked pieces – Two pieces in semicircular form and another two pieces in the square. The challenge was to dismantle all the parts as the circle was inside the square. After trying for a couple of minutes, I thought of solving it by reverse engineering, i.e. by assembling a dismantled piece as that was a much easier problem to solve. Also, as soon as it was assembled, I knew how it could be dismantled, and it worked. BTW, does it ring any bell in your mind? Do we get interesting test ideas by looking at the code? If you haven’t tried peeking into the source code of the application under test, give it a go – you may find something interesting.

After solving this puzzle, I spent few minutes in the test lab before heading back for the keynote from Alan Page – “Test innovation for everyone.” Alan stressed that understanding which problem to solve is essential for the innovation – if you do not understand or accept that there is a problem – it would be difficult to come up with innovative solutions. This keynote was in line with my presentation as test automation framework I was going to present in my talk was evolved by solving one problem at a time.

I spent rest of the afternoon hoping in and out from various sessions and speaking with folks in the hallway. The highlight of the day one for me was the keynote from Alan Richardson. Alan spoke about unconventional influences and how those influences have shaped his thinking. For me, the key takeaway from the session was to take responsibility – for the growth of testing as a profession and as an individual contributor. Unfortunately, this session was not recorded, but I highly recommend looking athttp://www.slideshare.net/eviltester/unconventional-influences andhttp://www.slideshare.net/eviltester/unconventional-influences-paper. I loved following lines from his paper and presentation –

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You are own your own, And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Oh, the places you’ll go, Dr. Seuss

On the second day, unfortunately, I missed the keynote from John Seddon – but fortunately video of his keynote (on the same topic) is available at http://vimeo.com/19122939. If you have any interest in system thinking, I highly recommend looking at his video. I like the concept of failure demand and our ability to survive in the system.

I attended the session from John Fodeh on Adventure in Test Automation. I am a big fan of randomization and John demonstrated how they used randomization to add value and moved to model-based testing. Randomization, IME is still not common in test automation, and it is worth exploring if it can be used in your current project.

I was looking forward to the next session from Siegfried Goeschl as it was an interesting experience report. Siegfried presented a case study of performance testing of road tolling system and it was interesting to understand how road tolling system works.

After lunch, It was my turn to take the stage. I presented my ideas around test automation frameworks and how they should be evolved by solving the most pressing problem at hand. I will cover this topic in a separate blog entry in future.

I spent most of the afternoon in hallways and TestLab. I tried very hard to make a lego robot dance at TestLab, and it was sheer fun. If you have not had experience of going to a test lab, I suggest you do so whenever you spot test lab in any conference next time. TestLab, IMO, should be an integral feature of every testing conference.

Towards the end of the day, I attended a session from Srikanth on Cognitive Biases In Testing. I enjoyed this topic, partly because I covered some of the biases Srikanth spoke about in my presentation at CAST 2012. Unfortunately, this talk was not recorded, but have a look at Wikipedia on cognitive biases and read books such as Nudge, Blink, The Black Swan, etc. to understand more about them.

The second day of the conference was ended with an inspirational talk from Peter Madsen from Copenhagen Suborbitals. It was an inspiring story of someone who followed his childhood dream to built a submarine and rocket – with practically no resources and dedicated his life to his hobby. Challenges he overcame were unique, but I found his approach common enough to be applied in many situations. If you are looking for inspiration, have a look at his website.

I spent Thursday morning in the hallways, and the first session I attended was from Peter Zimmerer on testability. There are many different ways to interpret testability and he defined testability as controllability and observability. He also mentioned SOCK model of testability – i.e.,

  • Simplicity
  • Observability
  • Controllability
  • Knowledge.

As a tester, I feel it is our job to demand and drive testability. Testability is a key design choice, and it might be difficult to achieve unless the whole team in on board. In my current project, we have been trying to improve testability of application under test and can vouch for this statement.

After Peter’s session, the Final keynote of the session was from Michael Kelly. Michael spoke about what testers are doing at startup. His presentation is available online, have a look athttp://prezi.com/hvkicr6jpxhp/lessons-learned-from-software-testing-at-startups . I was involved in start-up world for little over two years and – no I wasn’t kicked out of the shopping mall during that time 🙂

The final session of the conference I attended was the session from Fiona Charles on creating test strategy. She explained the difference between strategy, tacit and plan and how strategies can be created using a mind map. There are many ways to create test strategy and she suggested discovering stakeholders and values. I use the mind map for pretty much all the testing activities, and it was fun to create test strategy for the conference bag we received at EuroSTAR.

Overall, a big thumbs-up and round of applause for Zeger , Julian , James and Shmuel for creating this awesome program. I had a great time at EuroSTAR, and it was nice to meet my twitter friends and make new friends from our testing community.

Keep in touch if we met at the conference and hope to see you around in tweeter-sphere, blog-sphere or meetups/ conferences in future.

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