Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Considering Agile Testing Days 2017

I'm sitting in my favorite rocker with my feet up, a glass of very drinkable red wine, the dog worn out on the floor by the footstool thinking about what a week last week was.

I was in Potsdam, Germany for the 9th Agile Testing Days. I have been there for six years. This is astounding to me. I have seen the conference grow and develop into something... amazing.

Unicorns are a big deal with this conference now. I was at the conference my first year when unicorns became a thing - and speakers went out of their way to add unicorn images to their slide decks. I was one of them. I THINK I had the only image of a dead unicorn at the conference that year... ok, yeah.

My first year - I was bowled over. I met so many amazing people I had followed on-line, on twitter, reading blog posts, reading their articles, sometimes their books. And you know what I found out? They liked having a good time and meeting people and talking with people and hanging out and liking the same things everyone else did. I spent an amazing evening sitting with Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory,  their husbands, my wife and younger daughter at the Speaker's Dinner. and we talked about all sorts of astoundingly normal things.

But - these were the authors of Agile Testing! THE BOOK people turn to - and then there was Huib Schoots and loads of other people I stumbled into and met and got to know. And they were good people who worked hard and shared their ideas openly with people  they had just met. We compared notes and told stories that had lessons and -

Then there were the organizers - Jose Diaz - whose crew did a fantastic job of EVERYTHING. Jose demonstrated what a leader does - all the credit goes to the crew. Any problems were on him.

There were people willing to think and question and think on the responses and consider and talk about it over drinks long after the sessions had ended. And this continued unto the wee hours.

And you know what? This has not changed - it has grown. It has matured. This year, there were a bunch of people there I had no recollection of meeting before. There were people I know were there in the previous years, but I simply had not met. At the same time, there were people I had met and spent excellent time with in previous years - that I simply never saw this year.

Having said that - there were just under 700 people at the conference this year. That is an astounding number. I'm not sure how many countries they came from, but I know the speakers alone came from every inhabited continent in the world. Yeah, it has become a global thing.

The word used a lot last week was "community."

I know I am not the brightest star in the universe of software testers. I work hard to contribute however I can, and encourage people I meet who are clearly above average. I firmly believe they will achieve great things and do things in ways people like me never imagined possible.

Last week I felt extremely privileged to spend time in conversation with Masters and Colleagues and Rising Stars of this craft we call Software Testing. Among them - George Dinwiddie - Yeah - GEORGE FUCKING DINWIDDIE - Many excellent conversations, ideas from his presentation and thoughts on a huge range of ideas. Ray Arell - Holy CRAP! How can you not know that name - go look him up. He's awesome. Alex Schladebeck - if you have not followed her work, you really need to. She is astounding. (I'm running out of superlatives...)

My friends - I mean that deeply and surely - Chris George - he's a good man and a fantastic tester. Huib, whom I mentioned before. ANOTHER good man - he works hard, plays hard and gives excellent support and insights to people who take the time to listen and share ideas. He really is a good man, a good coach and advocate for people wishing to do good testing work. Perhaps this is why he won this year's Most Influential Agile Testing Professional Person (MIATPP) award.

Of course - Tony Bruce. I met Tony at a workshop quite a few years ago - I knew who he was before - but the meeting was exceptional. My first evening, while a "confusion" with my room was being sorted - Tony stuck his head out from the hotel pub and called me in for a beer. "Pete! Let me stand you a pint!" After a very long day of travel and frustration at the end, he reminded me why I like this conference so much - the people.

Not just the speakers and the sessions, though these tend to be excellent, but the people in attendance. The people are what makes this conference special to me.The individual events - that things that stand out to many people were listed in my daily "Live From..." postings, not just this year, but pretty much every year I've been there. Year after year it is the small things that I don't write on directly that leave the deepest impression.

The number of people I ran into from previous years hoping to have conversation with this year were many. Alas - many were brief in the hallway or between sessions. Some folks I had intended to seek out, and never saw them at all - a sign of the growth of the conference I think. Others, I had gotten messages about meeting them - looking them up - serendipity smacked me about the head more than once and these conversations happened - sometimes briefly and sometimes in depth.

Toyer Mamoojee was as awesome as I was told. Claudio Perrone gave an awesome keynote - and was as personable in the hall (literally) as he was on the stage. Cassandra Leung had a powerful story to tell, then a more powerful story over lunch. Angie Jones - I enjoyed dinner the last night with her and some others. Matt Heusser - colleague, collaborator on many projects, enjoyed our brief chats and of course, dinner Friday. Anastasia Chicu - a delightful, exuberant person with much to tell the world. Ash Coleman - my partner in crime last year making videos - how delightful to see her again when she had such a strong message to give. Deb Hartmann - whom I only brifely saw - in an open space my very fiest day - this woman sits down and I'm thinking "Is that her?" and it WAS! Bart Knaack - David Evans - Yeah DAVID EVANS - Good guys - had a lovely breakfast conversation with David. What a n excellent way to start a day at a conference.

I know I am missing people. I kept seeing Fanny Pittack across the room. Gitte Klitgaard - who always puts people at ease simply by being her. Guna Petrova - if I had her level of energy, look out world! Meike Mertsch - the hug giver, and also excellent sounding board for ideas.

Sabina Simons, from Ontario (originally Quebec) - brilliant thinker. Signs of growing into an excellent leader. Mike Sutton - Yeah - HIM - a good, trusty man. Of course, Marianne Duijst - another fantastic thinker and excellent idea person. Rodrigo Cursino, whom I only saw across the room. Susan Bligh - wonderful, delightful person. Trinidad Schmidle - very, very nice. Viktorija Manevska, who was at the same tale for the Speakers Dinner with me - where we met and continued to chat through out the conference.

The PILES of people I did not chat with or more than a few words - Selena Delesie, Samantha Laing, Karen Greaves - and the list goes on. So, yeah - the people make this conference what it is....


Last year, I was horrified to hear people I respected tell stories of abuse in the work place and conferences. That was my last night at ATD before heading home. I was filled with a mixture of revulsion and rage Eventually that led to this post in February, 2017 (after my daughter read the 1st draft and said "You're screaming. People won't listen to you scream." She must get her good sense from her mother... http://bit.ly/2l0WkAy

This year, I heard and was in moving conversations of where there was a single common thread - people in positions of power took advantage of that to get what they wanted and inflict harm on others - workplace, conferences, school, home. The correct word in each of these cases is "criminal activity." No, my screaming isn't ended - it is simply toned into a very hot fire.

I had conversations with people who made a point of always seeing a bright future, no matter what had happened before. I saw people open their wallet and look in, then pull all the bills/notes they had and put them in the collection box for #saveLinnea. (https://www.savinglinnea.com/)There's always more money - they print more every day. Giving something as common as money to help save someone as uncommon as she is, and her parents are, seems only right.

My take? Some people are right proper asshats. Other people are good, well intended folks who sometimes make mistakes. Yeah, there is a difference.

And the ideas. I heard people express concepts and ideas in ways I had not considered before. This helped me see a different line of thinking and a different way of carrying on the same information.

I saw people get up and give their first presentation at a conference (some solo, some 1st time EVER) and be absolutely terrified - and still get the message delivered despite shaking voice at times, and knees perhaps a bit more wobbly than they would like to admit. And they were fantastic.

I saw people get up and tell terribly personal stories about themselves and their hopes and dreams for the future.

The spirit of community, the courageous energy and giving hearts and the desire to improve, individually and each other are what set this event apart from other conferences I have attended.

This year's conference was astounding. I can hardly wait to see what next year's - the 10th ATD will look like.

With luck I will see you all there - and manage to make the time to have a conversation with every person.


  1. If you sum it up like that there were heaps of people that have influenced me and many other testers in the field. It's money well spend if you attend and a bliss to meet tester friends. There are so many that some of us even don't have time to meet each other. Next year Pete ;-)

  2. Pete, thanks for the kind words. Man, you are so humble, wise, thoughtful and ... human ;-) There were so many people to meet with their unique and wonderful stories to learn from! I'm looking forward to meet you again and continue our friendly conversations in the future. Meanwhile, let's keep sharing what we can with the world, with a smile in our faces :-)

    1. Thank you, kind sir. I look forward to our next meeting!

  3. Great summary Pete, meet your next year for that pint I owe you

  4. Pete, ATD would not be the same without your live blogs and without being able to read your wonderful reflections on it after the conference. Thank you for being a huge part of our collective memory. There are so many people in this post I didn't get a chance to talk to myself. You contribute so much to any conference - not only your great sessions but the spontaneous conversations and volunteering to facilitate Lean Coffee when there is a sudden need. Thank you for all you do!

    1. I feel very humbled by your comments, Lisa. Praise from the praiseworthy...