At a conference I attended a few weeks back someone asked a simple question. In actual fact it wasn’t a question, it was a statement. And an angry one at that.
“What you’re talking about isn’t new. There’s nothing new at this event. Where’s the new content?”
He then proceeded to walk out in disgust. I must add that it wasn’t me talking…or making the statement.
At first I agreed with him. There wasn’t anything new. There wasn’t anything groundbreaking. But then I sat down and really studied what was said at the event. The talks were indeed a simple rehash of “common sense” things or ideas we’ve all heard somewhere before. It was indeed old stuff. But then 99% of the stuff about testing and methodology is not new either. It’s been done before, maybe not in the testing arena, maybe not in the computing arena, but most likely done or said in some context before.
But looking at it like that is missing the point. It’s too simplistic a view.
Most of the content I see actually is “new”. It has to be unless someones just copied it word for word (some do by the way). The idea might not be new but it’s bundled together in a new form. Therefore it’s new. It’s recompiled in to different contexts. It’s repackaged, merged, renamed, tweaked, built upon, defined more clearly, analysed further and given cool and funky labels. So it is new. It’s just a new version of something that’s gone before.
Like Die Hard 2, 3,12000 etc. They’re all the same thing. Different location, different baddie, different time and place – same concept. New film.
“New” theories may be made more palatable, more relevant, more concise, easier to understand or more intuitive to apply in real life. It may well be old but if repackaged well it can still be new. It can appeal to the new crowd. It can appeal to the people paying attention at that moment in time. In that context.
Every once in a while someone does genuinely come up with something new, but to attend a conference and expect groundbreaking, never heard before content is optimistic to say the least.
But I’ve come to appreciate that very few conferences have “new” stuff. It doesn’t mean they are not valuable. I still learn things from conferences. I still go off afterwards and look things up, do some research or make some notes. New understandings or re-branding of old ideas is important at furthering our craft of testing. For spreading the word. Reaffirming ways we do things. Building on ideas.
We can learn from the past. We have to. And no doubt we will go around in circles but that’s life I’m afraid. Like the time when flared trousers came back in fashion. Or 80’s retro games came back. It’s a new audience (may be different, may be older, may be the same), with different outlooks on life all at a different time and place. Doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. Doesn’t mean it’s not new to some person or society or the testing community or me. Doesn’t mean it’s not acceptable. Doesn’t mean we should walk out of conferences. Doesn’t mean we still cannot learn something.
I’m just waiting for shell suits to come back in fashion, I’ve got a cracking green and black one in the wardrobe. 🙂