Day ‘0’: Tutorial & Evening Keynote
Note: I denote this as day zero since the conference starts counting the conference days, with ‘day one’ being the first day after the tutorial day.
As every year, the Agile Testing Days start with a tutorial day. I chose ‘Breaking into AI and Machine Learning’ by Tariq King. The tutorial followed a top-down approach. We did not have to (re-) learn linear algebra and the like before getting started. Instead, after a brief introduction to the topic, we could work on an example task: Classifying irises. A CSV file containing typical attributes of various flower species was used to create a model that could classify a flower as one of the species the model was trained on. Tariq introduced this as the ‘Hello world of AI’.
We saw how overfitting a model can cause issues when a model is used with new data it wasn’t trained on. This happens when the model matches the test data (nearly) perfectly, which usually causes larger misclassifications when new data is put into the model.
We also learned how models can be trained on images to classify them. This is the next step since it requires processing much more data.
Then ChatGPT was introduced. While I am still a bit sceptical about some of its output since it’s known to (for example) ‘hallucinate’ citations for scientific papers. Yet, I am impressed with what can be achieved when it’s provided with enough data and prompts tuned to its needs.
In the first keynote, Maaike Brinkhof wrapped the experiences in her software testing career in the story of a role-playing game. In this setting, she met increasingly hard-to-conquer ‘bosses’. Inspiring, entertaining – and providing input for the following keynotes. In other words, It opened my mind for the conference to come.
Day 1 – No Overnight Sucess & Sociocracy
In the day’s first keynote, Kristel Kruustuk presented her thoughts about ‘10x Software Testing‘. My takeaway was this: You don’t become a ’10× tester’ overnight. Instead, it requires persistence and regular training. This matched nicely with my personal experience and is linked to one of my sessions this year.
The next session I attended was CraigRisi’s ‘Becoming an Open Sourcerer‘. He explained what teams should consider when they use open-source software. He also discussed the advantages and potential disadvantages of using open-source software. Finally, we learned about contributing to open-source projects. While contributing code changes is likely the most common way to contribute, providing documentation is another essential aspect, as are providing and improving bug reports and even (automated) tests.
The next keynote, ‘Could Agile Testers Help Debug Management?‘ by John Buck, was about debugging organisations. I particularly like his explanation of consent:
As a tester, I’m unsure how to use this to debug management, and I will admit that I haven’t tried it yet.
Day 2 – Workshop & Infotainment
I missed the first keynote of the day since the next scheduled time slot included my workshop ‘Fun with U̡̟ͩ̊̏ͬͯni͑c͐̀͢od̲̎ͅḕ̶̩͙͆‘. Much to my pleasure, it was well attended, and folks were surprised at how bad some software is with processing Unicode. As Maaike tweeted:
Or, as Elizabeth Zagroba puts it:
After collecting my workshop material and winding down, I attended the keynote ‘Everyone is a Leader‘ by Zuzi Šochová. I liked how easy it was to follow along and the message that everyone can be a leader – at some time, for some topic. Leadership doesn’t have to be assigned but can be assumed temporarily when it makes sense.
The following two keynotes were mindblowing! Dr. Rochelle Carr requested the audience to ‘MOVE THAT WALL‘. This talk was loud and inspiring and made me think about which walls I have that I may want to move – or tear down entirely.
‘Don’t go breaking my code‘, by Lena Nyström & Samuel Nitsche, was a keynote in a musical or rock opera format: Loud, entertaining, and fun. It also explained where and why testers and developers have different points of view. Not only that, they also demonstrated ways to get along with each other better.
I ended the day by spending time at the Agile Testing Days Book Fair, organised by Tobias Geyer and Maik Nogens. Thankfully, I got the books I was looking for: Zuzi Šochvá’s ’The Agile Leader’ and John Buck’s ‘We The People’. They were even kind enough to sign the books for me. Thank you!
Day 3 – Conflict Resolution, Micropowers & Judgment Day
In the morning keynote ‘A Fighting Chance – Learning the Art of Conflict Resolution‘, Alex Schladebeck presented pitfalls to avoid when dealing with conflict and good ways to deal with them. Planned as a pair keynote, the second speaker, Sophie Küster, couldn’t be at the conference. Sophie, you were missed, and we all hope you’re back next year! My key takeaway: Noticing that someone perceives a conflict goes a long way to mitigating it. – Especially if the affected parties know about the pitfalls, such as saying, ‘You always/never do XY’.
After this, Eveline Moolenaars and I prepared our talk ‘Micropowers: Learn to Speak Up and Be Heard‘. This was about our shared experience of recovering from cancer and its treatment and how that helped us to start asking for help – and helping others. We found the term ‘superpower’ intimidating and came up with the term ‘micropower’. We defined this as an ability one can trust that helps to act when we see things that should be changed.
In the morning keynote, ’A Fighting Chance – Learning the Art of Conflict Resolution’, Alex Schladebeck presented pitfalls to avoid when facing conflicts and good ways to deal with them. Planned as a pair keynote, the second speaker, Sophie Küster, couldn’t be at the conference. Sophie, you were missed, and we all hope you’re back next year! My takeaway: Noticing that someone perceives a conflict goes a long way to mitigating it. – Especially if the affected parties know about the pitfalls, such as saying, ‘You always/never do XYZ’.
After this, Eveline Moolenaars and I prepared our talk ‘Micropowers: Learn to Speak Up and Be Heard’. This was about our shared experience of recovering from cancer and its treatment and how that helped us to start asking for help – and helping others. We found the term ‘superpowers’ intimidating and came up with the word ‘micropower’. We defined this as an ability one can trust that helps to act when we see things that should be changed.
The keynote ‘Wait! That’s Not Tested’ by Heather Reid introduced the idea that not all things need to be tested. We need to consider time, cost and risk when testing software. And since there is never enough time to test everything anyway, we must make bets. This connects nicely to John Buck’s definition of consent: ‘Good enough for now, safe enough to try’.
The keynote, ‘The Rise of Generative AI: Judgment Day’ by Tariq King, was the perfect ending to the official program since it nicely connected to my tutorial day. He presented content (paintings and music) in pairs: One an original from a human artis, the other one created by AI is the style of that artist. The audience was tasked to tell which one was the original and which one the ‘copy’. – I found it shocking that we, the audience, did not perform particularly well.
My overall impression of the Agile Testing Days: It was a very well-planned conference, with sessions that connected ideas and concepts. I am already looking forward to Agile Testing Days 2024 – and have many ideas for proposals already.
Thank you to everyone I have met and talked with this year. I hope to see you again in 2024.