zondag 11 december 2016

Agile Testing Days Diary - Arrival and First Day

It took me some time to get there, because fog in Berlin was keeping the plane from taking off in Amsterdam, but Monday afternoon I finally arrived at Agile Testing Days (ATD) in Potsdam. It's my first ATD and I find it amusing that I'm experiencing the 'first-timer-excitement' again. 
The first thing I see, but they are kind of hard to miss, are the big white, blow-up, unicorns. There's a whole herd of them in front of the hotel registration desk and some specimens have found their way into the hallways and after I registered myself I'm lured onto one of them for a photograph. I decide to use it as a sort of chaise-longue and find out they aren't as easy to get off, resulting in a weird kind of gymnastics that passers-by must have observed. Luckily for me the tutorials were in full swing, so there weren't many witnesses. 

In the evening ATD has organized a dinner for the speakers. It's already dark and the drive to the venue isn't that long, but the short travel shows a lot of beautiful buildings and a elaborately lit Christmas market. I find Potsdam a beautiful town and I'm hoping that I'll find some time this week to be able to explore some of it by daylight. I thought the food was good and the dinner is closed with some digestives in the attic bar. A bus drives us back to the hotel and most attendees gather in the bar to extend the conference day. I'm not sure when the last people left, but I decided to finish at 01:00.

Gift bag Agile Testing Days with Breyk
Reading my twitter feed while trying to get out of bed, I see a post about a gift that is waiting for me on the outside door handle of my room. Strongly motivated (an curious as can be) I get up and get the bag that is there. It contains an Advent Calendar, a Santa Hat and a bottle of 'Breyk'; a beer brewed by Eddy Bruin and Bram Bronneberg especially for Agile Testing Days. How cool is that!
While I have breakfast, I can see people being very engaged in the Fritz bar during the LEAN coffee session. I tried to make it, but today is not my fittest day. I wish I could say the headache I have is from a luscious alcohol consumption the night before, for at least I would know it would go away in an hour or so, but alas this is not the case. It seems aspirin is going to be a big friend today. After breakfast I'm heading to the Opening Session, while walking over there I spot a dude wearing a Christmas suit and some people wearing a Christmas sweater. While waiting for the Opening a cube is passed (well, actually.. thrown) around which is called 'the cube of truth'. It's a cube made of cloth with a microphone in it, so you can throw it through the room, Cool solution to have a mic go around a big auditorium!

Testing ghost of the past, present and future
Alas; José Diaz is sick and not able to open ATD himself, instead Mike Sutton kicks off and introduces 'the very Agile person' and a well known testing cast, to tell and sing about the Testing Passed, Testing present and Testing Future.  It even had actual jingle bells in it, lights in a hat and we all finished singing the last part of the song to get into the spirit of Testing Christmas.
I felt goose bumps when the Software Testing World Championship teams were awarded in a ceremony; the music, those proud people on stage, it does something that touches me!

Then Abby Fichtner, also known as @HackerChick, enters the stage for her keynote called 'Pushing the edge on what's possible'. She tells a story of her childhood when her father bought her an Atari. I immediately think about the black box where you put the cassette tapes in, as did she when she was a child. But instead she got the computer variety, which she thought was even more cool, because the amount of games were far higher and she got to learn to code. So, now I’m thinking “ok, hackerchick ... code, she’s going to tell about hacking”, you know, the one like in ‘ethical hacking’. But just as with the Atari, it was about hacking, but in the meaning of being able to find an innovative workaround or solution. Taking an object and using it out of context in an inventive way, being creative with it and thus being able to enhance and advance. She also tells about how people that come up with these great ideas are perceived as odd, weird and having lost their minds. Because great ideas in a lot of cases look like bad ideas, but the problem is that bad ideas look that too. In history it was thought that the telephone was a bad idea so was the idea of the iPod. I myself think about the same ‘predictions’ by Watson (IBM) saying “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” or Darryl Zanuck, executive at 20th Century Fox who stated that the television wouldn’t last, but would only be a temporary hype. Abby also states that evolution is the ultimate ‘hack’, I find that comparison a bit farfetched myself, I can follow the line of thought, but evolution to me is about being able to adapt to survive, hacking is finding clever solutions and being innovative, I see some connections, but I can’t completely go with this statement. Nonetheless, the keynote was food-for-thought, entertaining and had good stuff in it.

After each track and keynote ATD has a break (fifteen for coffee breaks and an hour for lunch). Now I’ve been to a number of conferences and in most of them the fifteen minutes breaks are used to grab a quick cup of coffee (or tea) and then quickly walk to the next track. That’s not what happens at ATD. During these breaks attendees gather and confer. I guess this is a combination of the type of people (active, engaged), the type of conference and content (living up the Agile manifesto ;-)), the size of the venue (not that massive) and the way ATD is really pampering their audience with snacks, fruit, food and different kinds of beverages.

The second track I attended was ‘Testing your Emotions’ by Stephen Janaway. I had a bit mixed feelings about this track. The main message of what I got from the what Stephen was telling is that emotions play an important role in testing and that understanding emotions makes (us) a better tester.  Whether this is during the testing itself; the ‘gut feeling’ that you have when interacting with the software or the emotions we display and encounter when interacting with other people involved in development of the product (developers, managers etc.). He also used references to models to explain emotions (Plutnick, Lövheim). This is where I thought the track started to lose some of the strength. When the Plutnick model was explained I could still relate. The examples shown after that made the arguments and statements understandable and applicable. The Löveheim part however made it vague for me, don’t get me wrong; I understand how neurotransmitters and hormones physically impact / cause emotions, but I just couldn’t relate to this (empirically unverified) model. I couldn’t get the ‘what’s in it for me’. I thought this part weakened the talk, that was until then for me very good. Luckily the last bit of the track went back to the ‘gut feeling’ again. But during the Q&A questions were asked about the Löveheim model/cube; even creating more distance to the main message, because it focussed on the model itself and not on the ‘understanding emotions’ –message. Nevertheless most of the track had good points that I could take with me and refreshing my awareness on my own and other people’s emotions when software testing and the interactions around that.  The slidedeck of the talk can be found here: http://www.slideshare.net/sjanaway/testing-your-emotions

Brewing Beer, the Agile Way!’ by Eddy Bruin and Bram Bronneberg was the next track I attended. They told the story about how an observation of lots of people drinking beer at the previous ATD inspired them to brew a ‘perfect’ Agile Testing Days beer. They told about the research done to get to a recipe and the development process, including prototyping and scaling. During the track they showed the brewing of the beer itself, with Eddy vigorously grounding the rye by hand and Bram setting up the brewing kettle. When it came to scaling, because the beer had to be brewed for the whole ATD audience and they couldn’t assure consistency when having to do this with their own machinery (they would have to brew at least six batches that might have caused different results) they started to search for a brewery. They made a really nice comparison here with waterfall versus agile. Because the first brewery they contacted – Heineken- was able to brew the recipe, even being very enthusiastic about it, but it would take at least a year and cost about 50.000 euro’s, in that way it could be seen as a very waterfall approach; costly and taking a long time to finish. The brewery they finally found was able to do smaller batches, with less costs and in time for the ATD 2016, which could be seen as the Agile way. Bram and Eddy then proudly presented their product: a bottle of ‘Breyk’ (which actually was meant to be ‘Bryek’ because of ‘rye’) ; an Agile Roggen. They also presented their official ‘brewery name’ which, because their last names both begin with ‘BR’ is ‘
ewery’, also relating to ‘breaking bad’. They also got to be registered in Untapped and found – as is a testers privilege- a bug in there. Untapped – not being able to cope with brackets – now knows them as ‘Eaking Ewery’...I thought it was a very entertaining track, with some interesting facts about beer and the process brewing, and some nice analogies with testing.

During lunch my headache is really acting up and since I really want to participate in the workshop by Lisa Crispin and JoEllen Carter, I decide to go to my room, take a dose of aspirin and catch some z’s. This means I’m missing the keynote by Vasco Duarte on NoEstimates. In hindsight that is really unfortunate, the buzz around the keynote I hear afterwards is amazing and during the ‘cube of truth’ session on Wednesday morning it is mentioned a couple of times. I also heard he plugged his book several times (http://noestimatesbook.com/) so I have to check this out I guess to catch up on the missed info. It is even more unfortunate because the workshop I wanted to attend and for which I passed the keynote turned out to be completely full and I was asked to leave the room. I felt really disappointed by this, but as the conference is all about ‘being Agile’, I quickly chose an alternative.

The alternative was the ‘consensus talks’, three short talks on different topics. Gerd Doliwa’s talk was named ‘code your infrastructure the agile way’, Felix Elinger’s talk was named ‘how to test with 50 billion things in one hour’ and Jeroen Mengerink talked about ‘Test improvement for Agile’. I have to be honest here; the first two talks weren’t my cup of tea and I was also trying to catch the tweets on the workshop I was missing, so I wouldn’t be doing both speakers credit. It was not the speakers, but – and yes, I’m also thinking about the ‘emotions track earlier’ – it was totally my emotions relating to disappointment not being able to attend the workshop in combination with the large dose of aspirin hindering active listening.  The third one however was more of interest to me, Test Improvement for Agile. Jeroen related to improvement processes and mapped them to aspects of testing in Agile environments. I’m a person who likes processes and models, so this talk was more up my alley. I also noticed that 20 minutes talks are – for all three speakers- quite a challenge, they all three have a lot to tell, more than fits those 20 minutes. But when a talk motivates me to look into something and investigate more, it is a good enough talk for me. So I’m definitely checking the stuff that Jeroen also blogged about here: https://www.polteq.com/weblog/test-improvement-4-agile/

The next thing I went to was the keynote (last one of the day): ‘From waterfall to agile, the advantage is clear’ by Michael ‘The Wanz’ Wansley. What an amazing, entertaining keynote this is. The speaker is clearly gifted with the ability for interacting with an audience, all seems to go so effortlessly and supple.  But what strikes me is what I might call ‘voice artistry’, using different tones, emphasis, colour and pitch of voice. It makes the talk energetic and fun. I think every speaker (to be) should learn about this aspect of presenting. ‘TeeWanz’ as he’s also called talks about his career at Microsoft and he has some really good one-liners that stick, like ‘We are the power in Powerpoint’, ‘Testers have the ‘why-gene’, ‘Collaboration is what sets us apart working in agile’, “You're using your brain power to increase the collective intelligence to produce something that nobody sees” and “testers are the rear right wheel of a car - no one sees it, but we are there and our work matters”. This keynote feels like being at a really good feel-good show with the added benefit of expertise relevant lessons.

Christmas Market in front of the hotel
But the last keynote of the day is far from the last activity at ATD. Because the evening is also packed with activities and fun. Walking outside the hotel a genuine Christmas market is build on the front lawn, with fires, heaters, ‘beer gartens’, food stalls with ‘bratwurst’, ‘gruhnkohl’ and ‘crepes with apfelmus’ and a curling-track. A band is playing various Christmas classics and there’s even a stall where you can buy Christmas decorations. Although the temperature is around freezing, people are gathering to have a good time, talking around the fire and drinking mulled wine or the (now almost famous) ‘breyk beer’.

But even this Christmas market isn’t the last thing to be done in a day at ATD, because at eight the ‘Ho-ho-ho-ly STWC & MIATPP’ award night was starting. The announced theme of the party is ‘christmas and winter’ and lots of people have dressed up in costumes.
Dressed as Elsa
I myself dressed up as ‘Elsa’ from frozen, the wig that I had was actually a bit heavy and I forgot some bobbypins to lock it in my hair, so I walked and sat quite carefully, which some people perceived as ‘stature’ fitting the ‘royal nature’ of the Frozen princess. Talk about a bug that has actually a good feature as a result ;-).  I thought the market was intended to be also the dinner for the attendees, but as it turned out the award night was also including a whole dinner, with really good food. We also took up a ‘mannequin challenge’ which had an awesome movie clip as a result. After dinner the Software Testing World Cup winners were announced. The Dutch team won (and they also had awesome snowmen costumes by the way). Also the Most Influential Agile Testing Person was announced which was Maaret Pyhäjärvi. Deserts were then served in the hall and music started in the dinner hall, making people get up their feet, indulge in sweet bavaroises, pudding and dancing. I decided to go to bed at ‘twelve-ish’ but the party went on – as I understood- way longer than that.  ATD-people are really party-people!

2 opmerkingen:

ed Bruin zei

Thanks for the nice review of the presentation! You also made our brew name dissapear ;-) <eaking >ewery might do the trick ;-)

ed Bruin zei

<br>eaking <br>ewery ... There you go!