Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference – Trip Report

I’m sitting in the Portland, Oregon airport, laptop out, free wi-fi network joined, coffee at my side, waiting for my flight, and thinking about the great time I had attending PNSQC. This was their 24th year, and having attended once before (22nd?), I’m looking forward to attending the 25th anniversary session next year.

Monday night, I attended the kick-off dinner at Old Town Pizza, where I chatted a good long while with David Anderson and Jon Bach about lean, missions, stories, and kids. And I went on the tour of the “Shanghai Tunnels”.

Tuesday, I enjoyed Andy Hunt’s keynote/overview of learning styles, and one way to embark on professional development. And it made me wonder: how many tech folks who think about learning are married to health-care professionals?

I listened to the first half of Jean Tabaka’s talk on Lean, then headed on down to hear John Lambert from Microsoft talk about stuff testers can do when they are not writing or running test cases. It’s nice to hear someone else’s take on the stuff I’ve been doing for years, which is also stuff that the Mozilla testing community does almost naturally.

The Wacom guys I spoke with at lunch were very interested in how we at Mozilla handle configuration testing, which led nicely into my paper (slides to follow shortly) about how the project uses the feedback from the community. My presentation focused on three lessons I thought might apply to other contexts:

  • Make it easy to send in feedback
  • Make it easy to track what happens as a result of that feedback
  • Make it easy for new folks to find useful feedback to send in

After my talk, I caught the second half of Michael Bolton‘s talk on first-to-market and systems thinking. Then I ended up talking with Cem Kaner and Kathy Iberle for the remainder of the afternoon about open certification, testing large systems, and extremism.

That evening, while meandering through LLoyd Center to grab a bite to eat, I watched folks doing curling at the indoor rink.

Tuesday morning’s keynote by Karl Wiegers on software quality cosmic truths was predictable yet entertaining. I ended up chatting with Karen Johnson during the first block of talks, then caught Jon Bach’s talk on exploratory testing as a competative sport.

Jon is a passionate, compelling speaker on exploratory testing, and I’m glad he’s folding in the idea of stories and storytelling into his presentations. I’ve long believed that testers need to be good storytellers, and Jon pointed me at some promising references I will be following in the next few weeks.

The panel discussion at lunch was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because I could not see the faces of the rest of the folks in the room. The topics were ones I agree with

  • Most commercial certification of software testers is not worth much, except to the people running the certifications and charging for review courses
  • Many software testing techniques lauded as “current best practices” are 30 years old, designed to effectively test the kind of software that was developed 30 years ago, and actually hinder effective testing of the kind of software developed today

I chatted with a small group of folks after lunch, then went back to the hotel before going out to dinner with a MoCo QA member who lives in Portland.

All in all, I consider this a worthwhile trip.

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