Conferences – to go or to not (let them) go….

Conferences

Every third quarter of the year a small discussion starts in our office. The subject of discussion is

 “Are any of our testers going to attend a conference, and if so how many and who?”

Generally the discussion tends to lean more to the how many then to if any testers are going. So in the past years on average four to six testers attended for example EuroSTAR and the Dutch Testing Conference. The question who was going to a conference solved itself most of the times. The number of testers wanting and able to go did usually not exceed the number of places available.

Cost and return

Having attended several conferences myself I know that the result of attending can be very rewarding. Conferences typically are the place where you can learn the latest developments and opinions, submerge yourself into the testing mindset, confer with your peers, refresh your ideas and expand your network.

Conferences, especially when they are abroad, are however rather costly given that you easily spent between 1500 to 2500 euros per person. This might not be much more than a three or four-day course, but then again it is a conference and not a course. And this seems to create the need to sell the attendance of a conference to management. So my question to you the reader is:

What do you,

or rather what does your manager,

see as valid justification to attend a conference?

I would like to ask you to participate in a small inquiry and leave your justifications as a comment.

To start a few I thought of myself:

    • As a reward or bonus
    • To expand the attendees knowledge
    • To expand the organizations knowledge letting the attendee convey what she has learned (How?)
    • There is no justification it is money waisted as the organization never sees any return

The hungry eye

This blog post is a personal reflection on the first annual DEWT peer conference that was held on June 11, 2011 (#DEWT1). The conference was opened with a (keynote worthy) presentation by Zeger van Hese on “Artful Testing”. Although quite a few items of his presentation struck a chord with me this post will only go deeper into one of them; “The hungry eye”. The story of the hungry eye shows how a change in perspective and representation can bring new insights and meaning to subjects that otherwise would be ignored.

The hungry eye – Walker Evans

In 1936 Fortune Magazine sent a poet, James Agee, and a photographer,  Walker Evans, to Hale County in Alabama to document the life of sharecroppers during the Depression. Once finished the magazine saw no reason to publish their lengthy and controversial work. James Agee refused to revise the initial draft and eventually they published it themselves as “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men?”. Although the book did not have a great start in his time during the fifties and sixties the poetic photo book was to become one of the most influential works to portray the brutal side of life in America.

One of its then critics describes it as follows “On an existential level, Agee’s text is a deeply felt examination of what it means to suffer, to struggle to live in spite of suffering. On a personal level, it is the painful, beautifully written portrait of one man’s obsession. In its collaboration with Evans’s photographs, the book is also a groundbreaking experiment in form.”

Walker Evans pursued his style of photography and was able to bring new meaning and perspective to otherwise ordinary objects. He was the first to have an exhibition devoted to the work of a single photographer in the Museum of Modern Art and eventually his style of photography became known as the “Hungry eye”.

To me this  “Hungry Eye” style or genre  represents a ground breaking shift by Evans in how  the field of photography looked at the world and how to represented this in a message to the viewers.

Such a shift in genre is what links this to software testing for me.

Software testing has used and is, like art, using different genres, such as the V-model, Waterfall , TMap or Agile to shape and structure its view on the world. All of these genres bring with them a modeled perspective of software development. The knowledge of these genres and the ability to identify them, to look critically at them or use them thoughtfully is one of the skills a good software tester should have in his toolkit.  Of course eventually you may, and perhaps should, develop a preference of genre, but you should never lose sight of the possibility to change your perspective and use elements of a different genre that might bring you further.