Wednesday, October 15, 2014


It is Wednesday morning and I'm sitting in Anaheim, California, at the Disneyland Hotel for the 2014 instance of StarWest.  Like many conferences, there are a couple days of training and tutorials before the conference itself.  Monday and Tuesday were the tutorial days for this conference.

Monday morning I spent working on day-job stuff, that afternoon I spent preparing for the presentation I am giving later today.  Tuesday morning, more day-job stuff in the morning, then met and sat in some conversations with testers around ideas about testing.  (Sorry, Paul, when I tried to get back into your tutorial, the nice lady at the door said I had the wrong code on my name tag.)

Wednesday started with a small but doughty lean-coffee sitting at tables outside - near the coffee shop & Goofy's Kitchen (yes, Goofy is here and stops by to say "Hello.")  A bit more day-job work to accomplish, then off to the keynotes!


Lee Copeland gave opening remarks for the day - and Julie Gardner is launching the first keynote of the conference.

Julie tweets at @cheekytester and is talking on "glueware" - the stuff that puts systems together and helps them stick.

Central to that is the idea of communication - and the difference between information and communication.  AND - my battery is going.  Summary later!

And BACK!  I have power AND a wifi connection!

I rather liked a fair amount of what Julie had to say.  I have issues with some specific points made, and those tend to be things I have issues with that many presenter say and write.  More on that later (maybe.)

In general, she covered the costs of distraction (note - Multi-tasking does not work.) She examined what happens when people face various constraints and limitations - and noted that people developing software to be integrated with  are operating under the same constraints as others are - conflicting incentives, unclear expectations, unclear approaches to development, uncertainty of use and customer needs and expectations.

These things give us customer/client responses like these:

As it was, I thought she gave a reasonable introduction to problems given the audience at the conference.  What do I mean?

In the last three days I have met many, many people attending a conference on software, testing or technology for the first time.  There have been many of them who are attending their first StarWest conference (as I am.)  There are many who are new to testing.

This is important to me.

People are here to learn, and in some cases, unlearn practices they have some exposure to and will be looking to advance what they do.


Since I've been dealing with other issues, like finding power, I have no notes on the keynote by Rob Galen.  (I could hear him through the open doors, but missed too much to give a concise description.  I hope to address that as soon as I can.)

And now, I must go give my presentation - then lunch! :)

Right.  My presentation came and went – People were there and generally seemed to enjoy it.  Of course, no session is for everyone.  We’ll see what the reviews say.

Lunch was something interesting.  I volunteered to participate in a “Lunch with the Speakers” function – where speakers have lunch, while fielding questions from people sitting at the table with an interest in the topic of the table.  We had an excellent discussion that grew out of questions people had from my session.  I thoroughly enjoyed both.

Ran into Rob Sabourin in the hall after lunch.  I should note that I ended my presentation with “If you liked the session, I’m Pete Walen and this has been ‘Growing into Leadership.’  If you did not like it, my name is Rob Sabourin and this has been ‘Testing Lessons from Sesame Street.”

So I wandered back into the same room where I had presented to catch Martin Nilsson giving an excellent presentation on being a “social tester.”  He models this idea on the “types of testers” description James Bach did, some time ago.  He uses his career as an example of how people do things and did things in the past – like, walking around with a coffee cup talking with people. 

By reaching out and discussing things – asking questions about things OTHER than projects and problems – like, reading the Times of India when he needs to work with organizations with staff in or from India.  By being aware of the potential areas of concern for staff members and colleagues in the handling of not just information, but also of interactions, testers can change the dynamics of the project handling interpersonal connections. 

Martin then describes behaviors of teams, and again, using his experience, looking at how inserting himself into these teams that were effectively siloed, changed the complete dynamics in standups, etc.  The question around improving communication can sometimes be addressed by sharing a contact point – where information from developers and project managers and everyone else, simply became shared more openly.

This is an important point. 

If we consider Weinberg’s “All software problems are people problems,” we get a tool for understanding processes and project blocks. 

An example of informal models – Martin had meetings each week with test leads from different teams – informal meetings, like having a coffee in the morning together.  He then began inviting other people to join them – like, development managers, support managers, and others.   The result was that managers began going to the test leads for the project they were interested in, because they tended to have a better understanding of what was happening than project managers sometimes did.

This was an excellent insight for me.  I found that extremely valuable and a very good idea.

He mentioned, briefly, something around the idea of a person who kept cookies at his desk – anyone could have one, but he’d say “hello” and speak briefly with them, to get a better understanding of each of them.  This way, he had a bridge he could use when he needed information or was looking for insight into something he did not understand. 

Kind of like keeping chocolate at my desk.  (I expect the chocolate to be totally gone when I return from StarWest…)
After finishing the above update (there is no wifi access in the session rooms which makes live blogging for me a bit challenging) I visited the expo and had conversations with people I needed/wanted to chat with.  (Yes, folks at work, I'm bringing you stuff...)

I also had some interesting discussions with tool providers that I need to investigate further.

Now there is a reception and more networking stuff happening.  It has been a good day thus far - and the music is starting up in "Downtown Disney" - although it could be a sound check for the show later tonight...
Note: Most of my pictures of keynote presenters simply were not very good.  Sorry folks.  The people sitting in the middle of the room snapping images got much better pics than I did.

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