Testing Exchange #agiletestingX

So that’s the AGILE SPECIFICATIONS, BDD AND TESTING EXCHANGE done. It was held at Skills Matter’s new centre in London last Friday. It was an interesting day with a really good turn out, around 125 people. The venue itself was brand new, finished the night before I believe.

I’m not going to highlight everything that was said at the event in this blog as no doubt someone has already summarised this elsewhere. I know Nathan Bain was doing some awesome coverage on Wave. Search string here: “with:public tag:#agiletestingX”

It was skills matters first conference/day in their new venue so there were always going to be niggles. Overall the day was very enjoyable and I took away some very interesting information and tips to try and put in to practice. However, the day simply wasn’t varied enough. The highlights for me though were Gojko Adzic’s hilarious talk about requirements, Dan North’s passionate and fired up talk about BDD and Dave Evans relaxed and witty review of current testing dualities.

As the event was informal and relaxed there were several questions from the crowd during people’s presentations. On paper this sounds positive however it had the following effects:

  • the flow of the presentation was interrupted and, in some cases, seriously affected
  • the timings of the talks were put out by quite a margin
  • the questions themselves were far too detailed, often very specific and sometimes so general that it seemed pointless answering them

Throughout the day the sound was also sketchy, with many questions and answers being discussed without half of the crowd being able to hear anything. As the venue is open plan I would suggest sitting as near as possible to the front of the room. As the reception/food area is at the rear and only seperated by a rack of coats it can be quite noisy. When people are in this area talking it seriously affects the ability to hear the speakers for those at the back. It’s also annoying.

The seats were also quite narrow, uncomfortable and cramped meaning you had to take it in turns to lean slightly forward just so people could actually sit next to each other.

The content overall was very good, but maybe a little samey. There appeared to be nothing vastly revolutionary, nothing controversial, not many insightful or practical examples either. But there was lots of theory often re-enforcing what you already knew. Which was fine but some concrete examples, some little breakout examples etc would have been good. One talk did try this but unfortunately it followed a series of questions most people at the back didn’t hear. We had no idea whether this was part of the presentation or simply responding to questions. A few other people also commented that there was “something” missing. We just couldn’t really put our fingers on what it was.

In my opinion the park bench idea didn’t really work (panel of experts for questions). Despite the fact there were questions already defined the people on the bench were too fluid. In fact, anyone could stand up and get on the bench meaning no consistency and a feeling of a free for all. Again the sound hindered things slightly. There were some really good answers though especially the one from Kieth (don’t know his second name).

Despite these niggles though the day was extremely good and I felt I had real value for money. The food and drink was great and the service was excellent. Venue was also nice, clean and new but was quite cold and noisy. Things that no doubt Wendy and team at Skills Matter will be addressing.

One of the highlights for me was the sheer interaction taking place between people on Wave and Twitter. Skills Matter were keen to promote the use of Twitter and many people in the crowd joined in; debating, promoting and discussing the talks.

I’d suggest keeping your eyes open for further courses and conferences at Skills Matter as it’s run by a group of people who are incredibly passionate about what they do. With a few changes to the venue I reckon skills matter conferences will become those highlight ones not to miss. Good crowd, good venue (despite some niggles) and passionate organisers. Recipe for success.