Reflections from Let’s Test – a conference for everyone?

I just attended Sweden’s well Europe’s first context driven test conference! Knowing a few of the guys that organized it I expected it to be an extraordinary event but it actually over passed my expectations! So I decided that the reflections from this conference would end up in my very first blog post.

What I really liked the most about  Let’s Test is the concept of the conference, where conferring, discussions and socializing to exchange ideas and experiences, characterizes the event. It might seem a bit scary for some people, like me for instance who once in awhile prefer to be alone and where mingling in a large crowd can be a huge personal effort.

But since I’ve been twice to CAST and quoting Paul Hollander, ” Let’s Test has stolen the concept” I sort of knew what to expect from the conference so I was better prepared this time. There were a few things that were different from CAST and these are the things which made it the best conference I’ve attended so far. So what made it so spectacular?

The people, sessions and talks
Both speakers and participants came from all over the world.  I really enjoyed catching up with some old tester friends that I met at CAST and SWET3 but I also got to meet and make some new interesting tester friends which I hope I will get to chat to again.
I listened to many interesting presentations and I attended two great tutorials though it was really hard to choose which sessions to attend. There were so many I wanted to go to! I won’t go into details here regarding the sessions or things I will try to incorporate in my job (this might become a second blog post!).

The venue
The location of the event was amazing, as close to nature as you can get without going camping (I live in the city!). Not even the fact that I could hardly breath due to pollen allergy affected my positive experience! I even had to go for a jog Monday morning to explore the beautiful surroundings. It only happened once though and luckily Ola Hyltén had brought an arsenal of allergy medicine which he kindly enough shared with me( I wonder if my positive experience had anything to do with those blue pills?!).
The rooms were small but really clean and nice and since I hardly spent much time in my room it served it’s purpose in providing me a bed to get a few hours of sleep in.
There was really something for everyone at the venue. The facilities for recreation was definitely in my taste. I visited the gym a couple of times but missed out on the Sauna and both the pool table and the swimming pool. But that leaves some things for Let’s Test 2013!

The food and drinks
The food was really nice with alternatives for everyone from vegetable lovers to meat junkies and people with a sweet tooth, healthy or less healthy style. Meaning I could get my oatmeal for breakfast whilst others could feast on scrambled eggs and bacon. And a vast variety of food makes me very very happy!
I don’t know whether beer and wine serves as food but it certainly provides you some parts of your daily nutrition needs. And there were plenty of that to choose from as well. Though next time  I promise I will contribute to the alternatives with some whiskey for my new and old tester friends since it seems to be a favored drink.

My own challenges
I believe my own determination to get the best out of the conference surely played a part in why I think Let’s Test was so great. I needed to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I had set up small personal goals so that I could benefit more from the conference. And by achieving those, such as asking/commenting at least 3 things during Open season (something Henrik advised me to do at CAST 2011), mingling and making new tester friends, staying open minded but also critical thinking I influenced my own positive experience of the conference.
I also asked if I could contribute to the conference in some way and I got the opportunity to facilitate two sessions. It was a fun experience and I hope I will get the chance to do it again.
Actually I did send in an abstract together with my colleague Mattias for the conference and I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to talk. On the other hand I am pretty relieved that the proposition did not get accepted since I did not have to be nervous and could focus on the other talks and my other personal missions.

So is there something I would like to change?

No, not really but I have some thoughts that triggered from something that Michael Bolton mentioned  in his Keynote. My interpretation of what he said was that we need to stay critical to our own thoughts and to our community and that we need to welcome diversity in order to continue evolving.

Since Let’s Test was the first context driven conference in Sweden I assume that some people that attended were new to the concept and the school that many of the other participants supports. They may not understand the language spoken in the community and I think that  if you are not fluent in a language it might become more difficult to understand when irony is used. I spoke to one person that did not appreciate the sarcasm and the harsh tone especially used when mentioning certain certification organizations (no names, but I’m pretty sure you know what I….am referring to). You might think that one person doesn’t matter but I think every thought needs to be considered.

My concern is that we might have scared off a few people. The conference is praised by many voices, strong and active people in the community. The few people that may not agree to everything said or the way that it is spoken and does not speak up will not be heard. If we are not receptive and notice the whispers, conferences such as Let’s Test and CAST will only attract those who already belong to the community.

As I mentioned earlier Let’s Test had something for everyone whether you wanted to run in the nature, go geocaching, buy some new shoes in the village, lift some weights in the gym, hit a ball or two (referring to the pool table), drink some wine, beer or/and whiskey, hang out with friends in room 3??, mingle with the large crowd, test in the Test Lab, play Set, play motion sensing games, go for a swim, sweat in the sauna, ask a question during Open season, listen to an Aussie, Englishmen, South African, Swedes or just go to bed.

But is the conference for anyone that does not (yet) belong to context driven community? Is it only for those who think alike? Do we not want to encourage diversity? Let’s Test is a conference for the context driven community and maybe we are comfortable and prefer to hang out with “our kind”.

I don’t know really where I’m heading with my concerns yet, but I just didn’t  want to leave them unspoken.

See you at Let’s Test 2013?
I will be there!

10 thoughts on “Reflections from Let’s Test – a conference for everyone?

  1. Hi Maria

    Congratulations for your first blog post. I am glad to hear that Let’s Test eventually gave you the push to start with your own writing. Looking forward to more.

    I think you bring up a very valid point in not missing the more introvert people whose voices may easily be overheard. For testers new to the context-driven world there probably is a need for more socialization processes and tuning-in activities.

    Maybe a good idea would be to include more of the Swedish testers in the facilitation of the sessions. Or offer an explanatory session at the beginning of the conference where new testers get the assurance that even the most outspoken testers won’t bite anybody 🙂

    The subject of certifications is a delicate one. In my perception it does so much damage to our craft, that we simply need to do something against it. My rule here is: attack the content hard and be respectful to people.

    Alright, that’s all for the moment. See ya next year

    • Thank you Ilari for your support!

      I keep on wanting to spell your name with a “t” at the end after Michael said it’s pronounced as the french “Il a rit”.

      Yeah, who wants to get bit?! So maybe we need some signed agreement in the beginning for not biting CONFERence (Scotts defintition)noobs.
      Any way as one of those who do not tend to speak up loud and clear I care for the ones that would like to speak but don’t dare.

      I agree regarding certifications and “attack the content hard and be respectful to people” – is right on the spot. But sometimes it is hard to separate the people from the content. And can you really do that?

      See you!

  2. Nice post. Thanks for the feedback!

    For sure it’s nice to have a diverse crowd at a conference to debate each other and sort of “raise the bar” so that it’s not all nods and agreement. Especially with a conference such as this where discussion is strongly encouraged. This year’s theme was simply “context-driven” so I guess that kind of made for a very homogeneous program and possibly a homogeneous audience. Maybe next year’s theme should invite a greater variety of subjects, while still retaining an overall context-driven flavour.

    Personally I wouldn’t mind having a session on e.g. “standards in testing” and opening that up for discussions. Maybe we’re ready for that in the community now, I hope we are. We should be. There will be a session like that on this year’s CAST program and I’m curious to see what becomes of it.

    Regarding people who might not be very vocal and their “place” at a conference such as this. That’s (partly) what the facilitation system is for. To make sure that not only the loudest voices get heard. Still, it might be intimidating at first for some, but give it a couple of conferences and I think anybody can get confident enough to reach for the red card. It took me 2 CASTs and 2 SWETs before I felt a need to use one. 🙂

    Still, there are probably many ways to improve and make sure the conference gets even more inviting to people who aren’t yet part of the community. Please share your suggestions (all of you).

    PS. You got “blue pills” from Ola and he told you they were allergy meds? I’m not so sure… 🙂

    • And thanks for your feedback!
      I appreciate that you took the time to read and comment om my blog post.

      Regarding the facilitation, it requires that people actually hold up there green cards first! You used the red card. I focused on my green cards this time. 🙂
      But maybe I’ll throw a red card next time

      I want to hear all about the “standards in testing” session at CAST when you’ve get back! Unfortunately I can’t go myself.

    • I’ll bet that a lot of people that were there this year will come next time no matter what. So maybe a provocative title for next year like “Let´s standardize test” or “Perfect Software” might make new people come without risking the “old” audience? I would love to see how certification hardcore fans experience the Let´s Test (or similar) conference 🙂

  3. Thanks for the feedback and since I’m one of the guys that organized Let’s Test I’m honored that what we did is the subject for your first blog post 🙂

    The discussion on “preaching to the choir” is valid and important to me. I want Let’s Test to be inclusive and inviting in order for all to learn. It’s easy to criticize when there’s no one who will talk back and answer the criticism. It’s great that you point it out, and I’ve thought about this to, and it will help us keep this in mind and hopefully we can figure out some way of showing the openness and inviting a broader audience.
    The food was truly great and I think I managed to gain some weight despite running around trying to keep an eye on most things 🙂

    PS. I have no comments on the pill, seemed to work though 😉

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