North West Tester Gathering: Musings from further north.

A gathering of testers!

After my first day at the EuroSTAR 2011 conference, I had the pleasure of attending another great event – the North West Tester Gathering.

This was actually the first ever North West Tester Gathering, so it was a real privilege to be able to attend this pivotal event.  With EuroSTAR in full swing you can imagine how busy this was.  Duncan Nisbet, Martin Walton and Stuart Taylor were responsible for organising this event.

I was really looking forward to it, having attended and had so much fun at the London Tester Gathering on the same month last year.  I made my way over to the event with the legend that is Tony Bruce, who just so happened to be staying in the same hotel as me.  Excellent company and a really smart guy, who see’s things for how they really are.

It was a fantastic night, which had kindly been given a very generous bar tab from one of the event sponsors, which kept everyone in a joyful mood.  I had been really looking forward to get the chance to meet Duncan Nisbet, who had been chatting with me over Twitter for some time.  I had seen him become very active over at the Software Testing Club and he had started to blog about his thoughts.  So I was intrigued to see what he was like in person.  He seems like a really genuine guy.  Him and his partner in crime Stuart Taylor, make a somewhat unlikely comedy duo, who can talk a lot of sense, but do so with a touch of humour.

The cure for cancer.

There was lots of interesting chats that night and as you would expect, several buzzwords cropped up often.  The flavor of the year, and probably for the past couple of years at least, has of course been Agile.  As you would expect there was a lot of talk about perfect Agile.  While I have nothing against Agile myself, I do tend to feel a lot of people look upon it as some kind of silver bullet, which will solve all their problems.  I am happy though that when mentioned, most seemed to be in agreement that whatever you choose to do and how doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you in your current context.  This of course is something I strongly believe in, which has seen me adopt the good from various methodologies, including Agile and Lean in my testing activities.

New role, new challenges.

Myself, having recently switched roles, had a chance to discuss the interesting challenge that was facing me in my new role.  I am now in a company working as thier sole tester; the first in over 15 years of business.  The company has 25 active projects, which is increasing each month due to the current boom in business for them.  So you can only begin to guess how excited I am by this, and the unique challenges it will provide me.  I’ve many ideas buzzing around in my head just now, so having the chance to talk about some of them and the challenges facing me, was really refreshing.

Stephen Allot and I got chatting about his work with Specialisterne Scotland, who employ and train people with autism in software testing.  My new company just so happen to be Specialisterne’s first regular client, which was really strange as I didn’t even realise that Stephen had helped start this project, so bumping into him by chance was very surprising.  It does however go to show how small our community really is.

Our involvement with Specialisterne is still in the very early stages just now, but having read two of the initial test reports created by the autistic testers for two small projects we gave them, I have to say I was really impressed.  In one report they described an issue found when they had used Wireshark to intercept traffic sent across the network while testing a login form, which revealed the password was being transmitted insecurely, in plain text!  It will be really interesting to see how the relationship evolves, but from initial impressions it looks to be a good opportunity for both of our companies, and with the amount of active projects we have, outsourcing some of the workload on a when needed basis will be essential initially.

Other chats

I finally got to meet John Stevenson as well, which I was really looking forward to, having followed his blog for so long and been impressed with his thoughts on all things testing and beyond!  Andy Smith also turned out to be a really interesting guy.  Very opinionated, but in a good way.  I was really surprised to find out that he didn’t blog about his thoughts on testing, as I’m sure we could learn a lot from him.

Probably the highlight of my whole time at EuroSTAR was getting the chance to attend Julian Harty’s talk “Pushing The Boundaries Of User Experience Test Automation”, which I’ll blog about in a separate post.  So when I spotted him at the meet up I jumped at the chance to introduce myself, since two of the topics he was covering in his talk: Accessibility and User Experience, are of great interest to me and probably with Usability are my main passions in testing.  We chatted for some time about automaton and accessibility.  He promised to share some more useful information with me which he did later by email.  Julian also told me a little about his unique role at Ebay, which has seen him talk at over 40 conferences this year.  A promotional role perhaps, but he has a very good thing going on there, which sees him positioned as an educator in his company and sometimes getting to do some automation.

The fantastic thing about these events is the opportunities they provide.  Me and Julian will now keep in touch and will look at areas that would benefit from automation to improve accessibility and UX testing.  Hopefully together and with others in the community we can improve this area of testing, which I really think doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  In fact I’ve already had promising initial discussions with my employers about Julian’s use of automation to improve accessibility and UX testing, to see if there is scope in the future for our development team in helping improve this area.  This I hope will allow us to build better relationships with Julian, Ebay and the testing community as a whole.

Adam Knight, Anna Baik, Andy Glover, Michael Bolton, Nathalie Rooseboom de Vries, Rob Lambert, Rosie Sherry, Ruud Cox, Shmuel Gershon, Stephen Hill and Zeger Van Hese (sorry if I missed anyone) were among the other people not already mentioned that I got the chance to chat with that night; some more briefly than others.

A fantastic initiative

The fantastic thing about this meet up was the sheer variety of high quality discussions going on.  The fact that we didn’t have any talks, or vendors showing off their tools was fantastic, as I much prefer plain good old testing chat.

If you haven’t been to a testing meetup before, I strongly urge you to get along to your local one, or if there isn’t one you could always start your own.  You will build relationships with people that will last a lifetime.  It was thanks to a Mr Stephen Hill for encouraging me to come along to my first one in London and from that one alone I’ve made many friends, with some like Stephen who will genuinely go out of their way for me should I ever need their help.

Rumor has it that there may also be a local Software Testing Club gathering in Scotland soon.  I hope it happens, as I’ll certainly be attending it.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to make some new friends there as well.

So well done Duncan Nisbet, Martin Walton and Stuart Taylor for organising a fantastic night.  Hopefully this won’t be the last North West Tester Gathering I attend.

Thanks for reading.

Related posts:

  1. London Tester Gathering: Lessons Learned
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