Summary from EuroSTAR 2018

This year I attended my second EuroSTAR, in Haag, the Netherlands. Last one was 5 years ago in Gothenburg, so it was about time to re-visit this conference. The conference lasted 4 days, where the first 1,5 days were workshops, and 2,5 days of conference, talks and key notes - with a lot of social happenings and expo during the breaks. We were 5 in total from my company that attended the conference.

Monday

First day I attended a whole day workshop with Michael Bolton, "Analysis for Testers", which was very educative and reminded me to keep looking at the big picture and context of what we are testing. There were a couple of assignments that we did in the classroom, in groups, and while they could appear to be easy and straight forward, they created quite a lot of debate among the participants. Even though all in all this workshop was educative and fun, there were some improvement points that I will suggest for Michael, like having more group assignments during the middle part of the workshop, spending less time on one of the analysis tasks "The testing manifesto", and not to rush through last part of the workshop (understandably as we were running out of time, so perhaps a bit better time management).

After the full-day workshop, we decided to have a company dinner just the 5 of us, so we ended up trying some, presumably, local food and shared our impressions of the workshops we attended.

Tuesday


This day started with the half-day workshop with Dr. Andrew Brown on "Improve Your Sprint Retrospectives by Reducing Your Cognitive Biases". As I read some of Andrew's work earlier I knew what was to come in this course, and it was very interesting to dive a bit deeper into 3 of the biases, Hindsight bias, Survivorship bias, and Memory failure. We did different exercises trying to identify which biases we were susceptible to, and also did go through other types of biases, but unfortunately not much in depth due to time-constraints (this actually being a 2-3 day training compromised into half a day), before engaging into a bit of role-play from real-life scenarios based upon a team's work discussions and retrospectives.

After the workshops, the conference chair Rikard Edgren kick-started the conference followed by the first key note.

My focus and interest was mostly on hearing about what challenges and eventual solutions teams practicing Continuous Delivery and DevOps had, and how and where Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning can be taken more advantage of, when it comes to software testing, so my choices of which presentation I attended were primarily driven by those two factors.
  • Keynote 1: Exploring Testing from First Principles by Alan Richardson
    • Alan explored, what if we knew nothing about testing? Where and how could we start testing
  • Understanding the Test and Risk in Bitcoin with Declan O’Riordan
    • Declan explained how the most significant test probably is not written by testers, the proof of work that checks and verifies new blocks on the blockchain. New technology comes with new risks, and how we testers should try to prepare for this. He also touched upon quantum computing and the P versus NP problem.
  • Testing In The Hundred Microservices World: When The Pyramid Becomes An Hourglass with Isa Vilacides
    • My take aways from this talk was to invest more in contract based testing, to be able to check integrations earlier from both consumer and provider side. The pyramid needs to be reshaped, as we also need to add an inverted pyramid on top of the existing one, as we need to do more "post-deployment-verification", using monitoring and logging tools.
During the breaks and lunch I usually switched between networking, meeting new people and striking a conversation or two with old acquaintances, and visiting the expo to get to know more about some of the tools and offerings from the vendors. I met a lot of colleagues from Norway and Sweden, but also made quite many new acquaintances. 

Wednesday

Wednesday kicked off with some lightning (strikes) talks from Alan Richardson, Seretta Gamba, Fran O’Hara, Isabel Evans and Michael Bolton before diving into the first key note.
  • Keynote 2: Testing in the Dark with Rob Sabourin
    • Rob shared recent experiences testing in the dark on chaotic turbulent projects turning his product ignorance into a testing superpower.
  • Strategy for Continuous Testing in iDevOps with Peter Zimmerer
    •  "i" in iDevOps stands for "industrial grade", and Peter explained what they in Simens did in order to work more towards DevOps as some of their systems are critical and need to follow more strict quality checks
  • Testing Cloud Native Applications with Pini Reznik
    • Pini underlined that things that are changing testing are ability to spin up environments anywhere, full test automation across the test pyramid, testing is not finished after it is deployed, and more use of monitoring and data diagnostic in production
  • Testing in Production discussion (with Karen Johnson)
    • Due to sickness there was a cancellation regarding the "testing in production" topic, but Karen stepped in and held an open discussion session where there were several discussions on what and how to test in production.
  • DevOps: an Unknown Future for Testers? Or An Opportunity with Joost van Wollingen & Co-Speaker Ivo de Bruijn
    • Speakers gave us insights into how they at bol.com performed a transformation to DevOps on large scale, similar to what we in our company have done and are doing. I would say that this was most relateble talk for me due to the similarities in our apporaches. As they left the conference quite early I was not able to have a chat with them. Their approach was to make the teams fully responsible for their services, focus more on monitoring and test as much has possible in isolation. They also touched upon their approach to make the testers more technical in order to contribute more in devops.
  • What works: Lessons from 20000 Testers with Jan Schwenzien
    • This talk did not reside well with me, as this talk was most about the test.io service as I understood it, and metrics used to reach some conclusion did not make sense to me, unfortunately.
  • Keynote 3: How our differences make all the difference and what to do about it with Sallyann Freudenberg
    • Sally talked about how diverse teams consistently outperform homogeneous teams - especially if the problems we are solving are tricky. Neurodiveristy at its best.

Thursday

The day started with a fire at the conference venue, which meant that there was a need to re-shuffle some of the content, and the start was a bit delayed, but as we all were quite agile, and used to "plan to fail" principles, all went quite smoothly given the circumstances.

  • Keynote 4: The Dragons of the Unknown with James Christie
    • Dragons of the unknown are lurking everywhere, and we as testers need to be brave enough to state "I do not know", especially when working with safety critical systems. Sometimes "I do not know" is the right answer. 
  • As the World Turns with Adonis Celestine
    • Adonis talked about how we went from reactive QA, through proactive QA, to predictive QA and possibly towards Cognitive QA in the future.
  • Testing for Cognitive Bias in AI: Why Machine Learning Applications Are Like People with Peter Varhol & Gerie Owen
    •  Peter and Gerie talked about how AI and some of the ML algorithms were prone to bias, giving examples from the real world like the Amazon hiring algorithm, or Microsoft twitter bot. The conclusion was that we can not make intelligence from code, algorithms are thoughtless and the learning systems are what we train them to do.
  • Keynote 5: What Is Your Overall Career Goal? - Karen N. Johnson
    • Karen made us question and think about what really was important for each and every one of us, through a series of questions and reflections of her own.
The conference ended with some do-over sessions, from the best rated talks. I unfortunately was not able to attend those as I needed to go towards the airport, so I concluded this years EuroSTAR conference after the closing remarks, and lunch. All the sessions are available for download here.

The new chair for next year is Isabel Evans, the theme is "Working well" and it will all be taking place in Prague, 11-14.Nov. I encourage everyone to submit a talk for next year, it is already open - https://conference.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/speakers/call-for-submissions/

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