Two conference ideas

I have two ideas for the kind of mini-conferences I’d like to see the Agile Alliance fund.

  1. Tests as Communication. I’m not convinced that automated business-facing (acceptance) tests are, in the presence of good programmer testing, all that incredibly useful as tests—as, that is, regression tests, tests that will find bugs created when a programmer changes something here that causes a failure over there. I hope and expect that the programmer tests and exploratory testing would suffice to find enough of those bugs. So the more important purposes of the business-facing tests are (a) to help explain more clearly to the programmer what the product director wants, (b) to give the programmers a tool to structure their work and know when it’s done, (c) to help the product director think through what she wants, and (d) to help people coming upon the project later to understand something about what it’s supposed to do.

    This conference would be about (a), (c), and (d). What makes a test useful as a message from someone today to some later reader? What are the elements of test-writing style?

  2. Confessional code. Way back when, I worked on a Lisp virtual machine. I had a policy that no bug would be hard to find the second time. By that, I meant that any time I found a bug hard to diagnose, I’d add code to make the next bug of that sort easy to diagnose. Over time, I produced a system that could answer those two questions parents always fruitlessly ask of children:

    • “All right, who did it?”
    • “What on earth was going through your mind that made you think that was a good idea?”

    The code was confessional, eager to spill its guts.

    In the years since then, I’ve encountered few products so forthright. I think it would be a good thing if more were. I’d like this conference to discuss examples.

These conferences would be run something along the lines of Bret Pettichord’s AWTA and the Kaner/Lawrence/Hendrickson LAWST. In brief: invitation would be based on position papers describing relevant experience or an interesting perspective; presentations would not be timeboxed; presentations would be experience reports; we’d expect the presenter to spend most of her time answering questions about what she did, why it worked (or failed), and in what other situations it might work or fail; and there would be ample time for pair and small group work on the nitty-gritty of actual examples, demos, etc.

As an aspiring internationalist, I’d like to have one conference in North America and one somewhere else (probably Europe).

If you are interested in either of these conferences, please respond in a comment. “Interested” means “I’d gladly give up a weekend to attend this conference” and “I’d willingly pay enough so that the conference could cover modest expenses.”


11 Responses to “Two conference ideas”

  1. Chris McMahon Says:

    I’m be interested in the “confessional code” idea. Not so interested in the “tests as communication” idea.

  2. Oblomov Says:

    I’m interested in ‘Tests as Communication’.

    George Hawthorne,
    Brighton, UK

  3. Zach Fisher Says:

    I would be interested in such an animal.

  4. keithb Says:

    I’d be interested in attending both of these, in Europe. I’d even be interested in helping to organise Tests as Communication, if “in Europe” could mean “in the UK”.

  5. Janet Gregory Says:

    ‘Tests as Communication’ sounds like a great idea. I am once again trying to
    coach Product Owners and Business folks to effectively communicate their ideas
    through tests and examples. Sharing ideas with other folks would be excellent.

  6. JeffreyFredrick Says:

    I’d be interested in the conferences but I wonder why the invitation model as opposed to a more open event like CITCON?

  7. kvingrys Says:

    Interested in “Tests as Communication”, somewhere in Australia would be great, I know it is a long way but if you come in winter, well it will be summer!

  8. Brian Marick Says:

    I’ve found medium-sized group gatherings more productive with position papers than without. I think there are several reasons:

    1. It selects for people who are willing to do work rather than be passive. (Note that it’s rare in my experience for position papers to be rejected. It’s not that you have to have the *right* position, it’s that you have to have *a* position, articulated.)

    2. It selects for people with experience over novices, but not actively. Novices can write position papers too; it’s just that most don’t. (Novices are swell - I’m a novice in many things myself - but these conferences are slanted toward creation of the new idea rather than transmission of the old.)

    3. People know other people’s positions coming in, so they can idly start planning.

    4. The conference organizers can less idly plan about how to make use of the talent they’re getting.

  9. steve.freeman Says:

    I’m interested in both, and will help KeithB if it happens over here.

  10. marisaseal Says:

    Interested in “Tests as communication.”

  11. Exploration Through Example » Blog Archive » Too much testing Says:

    […] More research is needed. More discussion, too. Another excuse for a mini-conference. […]

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