The GNIKCUF Awesome conference – Let’s Test 2013

I have studied languages most of my life, yet I’m lost for words.

During the hours between now and the time Let’s Test conference ended (or did it?!), I feel like I am “growing into a very special family”. The reason why Let’s Test feels like an explosion in my mind and soul is that it conflated awesome ideas and passionate testers, and all of it happened in limited space and time. There was a lot of energy in the air (and Huib the Wise said that energy should be followed) that people brought together. And this is how I will remember the conference – not just the tracks and keynotes but the magic that happened at dinner table, sometime between sessions, late at night.


Here are my rough (and condensed) notes hot off my red notebook (in the order I took them):

Keynote – James Bach “How Do I Know I am Context-Driven?”

  • Dangers of shallow agreement: it’s important to know WHEN we don’t agree as we need to trust the agreement; debate should be allowed to avoid shallow agreement
  • Aspects of context-driven: community (people, mutual influences), approach (heuristics applied), paradigm (the model for understanding the world)
  • Rephrasing “context-driven” – a humanistic problem-solver is aware of their surroundings

Ilari Henrik Aegerter: The Challenges of Brilliant Observations and the Fallacies of Convincing Descriptions

  • DON’T TRUST YOUR BRAIN (yes, this is exaggerated)
  • Being aware of the “filtering power” of our brain: a number of things can go unnoticed while a lot of things are “helpfully” (re)constructed.
  • Power of priming: it makes it easier for us to retrieve information associated with the “primed” piece of info (priming is a familiar concept to me from psycholinguistics and it got me thinking about priming my brain to find certain kind of issues/info while testing…)
  • Putting the “(re)constructive” power of the brain to a good use: too detailed instructions/descriptions (difficult to follow, probably too much to process) versus too general (too open to interpretation) versus sufficient (enough info so that the rest can be filled in)
  • Tools (eyes) can be poor but the engine (brain) is great

Johanna Rothman: Kick-Ass Manager

  • It was a kick-ass keynote! I would’ve liked to stand up and say “AMEN” a lot (*hears the choir in her head*). I found that I’ve done or tried to do several things that Johanna was talking about.
  • Rejecting victimhood and taking the responsibility were thoughts that resonated with me. It’s easy to become a victim if the going gets rough but trying to keep what I call “productive attitude” is what’s going to get you out of there.
  • Ask questions about the career: what do your team mates want?
  • The importance of one-on-ones: creating a space of trust and openness helps people share their troubles and celebrate their greatness together. I also believe this makes the teams stronger in the end (and I have experienced that myself, too). The most important condition here is that you deeply care about the people you work with.
  • Understand what is important to the business!
  • The chasm between visionaries and pragmatists: what does quality mean to the product?
  • Foster learning: this is how you can grow the people you need.

I am also grateful for Johanna for this piece of advice I got at the breakfast table: “live your values because you have to live them; but see how you could serve your company using those values.” I have been circling around this idea myself trying to meet certain challenges and this provides a great perspective for me.

Maria Kedemo: Hiring to Solve the Puzzle

  • Random thought #42: shirts with studded skulls rock!
  • RISCx3 matrix: a model that helps you remember the important pieces of information/activities (my random thought: helps with “coverage” of the hiring process; helps with comparing applicants across the matrix); the matrix actually needs a longer discussion…

Leo Hepis: Linguistics – On How to Keep Dialogue Constructive

  • I guess I must have pleasantly surprised Leo over lunch when he briefly summarized his talk and I asked “oh, you mean the Grice’s maxims?” 🙂 I am always glad to meet people who pull stuff from “my field”.
  • Since I participated in preparing for the exercise, I don’t know what was the discussion of the maxims like (but since I know what they are anyway, then I guess it doesn’t matter).
  • I liked the idea of setting up a dialogue so that participants could observe the exchange and detect the potential violations of the maxims.

Fiona Charles: Leadership Heuristics

  • Fiona set up a short but productive workshop where the heuristics for leadership were brainstormed. Our group had a great discussion about them and we came up with these: find time to talk/travel to people (the importance of casual conversation); giving trust; short feedback loop (honest, quick, and open communication between a leader and their people). For the heuristics, we also had to think of three conditions/context when they worked and three for when they wouldn’t work. I just hope the photos of the posters will become available…

Tobias Fors: Systems Thinking for the Rest of Us

  • ORG DOODLING! Components: me&the problem; other people; resources, platforms, tools; relations, interactions; problems/pains; joys/strengths; what else is missing. I already showed my doodle to my boss today 😀 See, I already got to use it. I really want to do more doodling to model the issues I am trying to solve.
  • MESS is a system of problems (I love this phrase!).
  • Org doodling is good for finding a different perspective on the problem.
  • Assume that people are rational: if you explore why something is true for other people, you may reveal the unseen structures that previously made their behavior seem strange; but if the structures are visible, the behavior is understood better.
  • Performance is the product of interaction between the different parts of the system. So to “fix” something, don’t focus on the quality of one particular part but focus on the interactions of the parts.

[notes and drawings about some stuff I explained to Erik (@brickuz) – thanks again for listening to the rant! 😀 I guess I’ll write a short blog post on one of those things as it could be useful to other awesome testers, too]

John Stevenson: Information Overload

  • Information overload: available information exceeds the user’s ability to process it (the same thing was happening to me at the time of the presentation… hence my crappy notes)
  • Be aware of being anchored in a particular context or being primed. What to try to shake them off? Try Weinberg’s rule of three and slowing down.
  • Plan making mistakes (maybe this would help to  be less afraid of them as well?)
  • Pro-tip: send your testing notes to yourself at the end of the day and read them next morning (see if you understand them and SPOT MISTAKES).

Steve M. Smith, Debugging Human Interactions

  • To put it shortly, this was an awesome workshop where the participants formed two live super-organisms that interacted with each other.
  • The breakdown of communication helped to see how much actually gets lost (yay for bugs!). Knowing that, you can go back and ask to repeat something.
  • Connection between low self-esteem and defense; the importance of feelings about my feelings.
  • Try to think of more meanings: this means feelings will be activated less.
  • Survival skills: rules about life + metarules trigger certain behavior

Zeger van Hese, Testing in the Age of Distraction

  • Zeger talked extensively about (de)focusing and the presentation was packed with information! What’s not to love!
  • – I already found it useful today
  • Procrastination and how to deal with it: I liked the idea of first scheduling things I wanted to do, then things I have to do.
  • Reflect and defocus without guilt – your best ideas won’t come to you when you focus hard.
  • And a lot of other useful stuff.

Scott Barber, Business Value of Testing

  • Man, I was sitting in the first row but was about to be blown off against the back wall by Scott’s energy 😀
  • I learned I’m like coffee in value 🙂 But I can be VERY good coffee (and who wouldn’t hate BAD coffee, eh?)
  • Understand the business and learn to speak business.
  • Understand your primary business mission and forget about being the white knight on a white horse who salvages the world.
  • Goal: become invaluable to the business.

I want to thank everyone that I had the chance to spend time with and talk to. I am very sure I am going to miss somebody because the whole experience is a bit of blur right now (and it’s 2:30am right now, too). But I can’t wrap up without mentioning Huib, Erik, Aleksis, Johanna, Carsten, Ilari, Paul, Simon, Martin (ha, you guess WHICH ones! :D), Leo, Kristoffer… and so on.

Thank you everyone and see you next year!

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