We’re closing out 2019 with a wrap-up of some of the speaker and presentation highlights of this year’s conference. So much of what was discussed has already sparked changes within teams, and we want to share more to get you get inspired.
“I think the conference was splendid. There were a lot of areas that were covered. The main focus was AI, but they also covered other areas of traditional testing. This conference was amazing and I want to come back next year.” – José Rios
One of the themes raised at PNSQC 2019 is using AI to accelerate testing. Many testers wondered how Dionny Santiago would answer the question raised in his keynote, “Surviving the AI Apocalypse.” Answering somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Dionny compared it to a zombie apocalypse, with a heavy emphasis on survival. But, he also gave concrete advice: Get prepared, learn, specialize, tool up, get a good team, and finally learn how to use AI to create value for your organizations.
The full keynote can be watched on our youtube channel.
Jason Arbon also provided some counterpoint to the AI hype in his keynote “Testing AI and Bias.” He pointed out that machine learning systems may be created with many unexpected flaws, unless the dev team is consciously aware of potential biases. Some examples could include data sample bias, temporal bias, demographic bias, and more, echoing back to the old adage “garbage in, garbage out.”
After hearing about AI testing multiple times over several days, some attendees got the chance to take a workshop from Angie Jones using AI tools for “Automated Visual Validation.” This hands-on opportunity drove home that it is the responsibility of the dev team in posing the right questions and framing the right tests. Despite the shadow of automated test overlords, it still looks like human quality professionals will play a key role in making sure the outcomes are useful and correct.
Testing’s Still Timeless
Interestingly, another strong theme of PNSQC 2019 was about integrating testing and quality reviews into the development process. Angie Jones’ keynote on “Testing the Untestable” pointed out that even large, well-known tech companies sometimes have a marginal process for quality. She mentioned a number of places she’s worked where testers were either non-existent or very rare, and how she had to work to get the engineers to think about how their systems could be tested according to the desired outcomes.
James Shore provided an insightful presentation on “Agile without Dedicated QA.” He covered his experience working with teams who use XP practices. These include technical practices such as Test-Driven Development (TDD), automated unit tests, evolutionary design and refactoring, and methods for preventing systemic blind spots. All of these require training and practice for dev teams who are new to, or need to improve their technical skills. During this talk he provided data showing how small, agile teams that use these practices can produce systems that are measurably higher quality than average software systems.
Another theme seemed to be about building teams. Jenny Bramble talked about “Building Automation Engineers from Scratch” while Juan Delgado had the excellently-named talk “How to Start a Test Automation Framework and Not Die Trying.” Robert Taylor gave his insight into “Test Automation and DevOps, Where to Begin” while Philip Daye adapted the 2019 theme for his presentation on “Quality Guild: Creating a Culture.” All of these presentations touched on areas of bringing people together and providing guidance when going into unknown waters.
The keynotes weren’t all strictly about testing. Scott Crabtree‘s keynote was memorable — so memorable that it’s the only talk he gives where he doesn’t provide the notes afterward. His bottom line: constant change means constant learning. So, how can you improve ways to remember what you learn? He provides the answer in this clever self-referencing talk where he builds a memory palace of all the ways to improve memory retention. You can view excerpts from the talk on the PNSQC youtube channel.
One notable moment was the panel discussion for “Testing in the Golden Age of Quality: Where are we and where are we going?” The panel had some fun and honest answers covering questions such as:
- Are we doing more exploratory or ad hoc testing as opposed to test cases and scripts?
- Where does QA fit into the life cycle?
- How can we move around the SDLC and create value in new places?
- How can we make the golden age last?
Also a great wrap up to the conference was the surprise ending with the “Top 3 Presenters” award.
- Dawn Haynes from PerfTestPlus on “Being More Agile Without Doing Agile“
- Michael Larsen from Socialtext asked “Is This Testable? A Personal Journey to Learn How to Ask Better Questions From My Applications and Engineering Team“
- Jennifer Bramble from Willowtree Apps spoke on “Building Automation Engineers from Scratch“
PNSQC would also like to give a special shoutout to Jenny for her enthusiasm, energy and help stepping in as needed during the conference.
The programming committee was glad to see that PNSQC inspired some writeups on the takeaways. A few examples are:
- Michael Larsen live blogged the conference and recorded his thoughts here on his site
- Joseph Ferrara, who presented on “What Your UI Tests Need to Say” wrote a report on the conference for his company.
- PNSQC worked with Ying Ki Kwong and Jack McDowell from the Oregon Statewide QA Program on hosting the first Agile Enterprise IT Forum. In return they gave the conference this great compliment.
Since PNSQC’s goal is achieving higher quality software through knowledge exchange, feedback from attendees, presenters and sponsors is vital for continuously improving the conference year after year. As Larsen points out, “experiences are all we can really share and they’re what people actually relate to…offering pronouncements is boring…how I got completely lost or frustrated with a situation and what I learned from it is much more valuable.” And, in the spirit of sharing, the slides for the keynotes and invited speakers are available online as well as videos on the PNSQC youtube channel.
We hope to see you at the next conference, on October 12-14, for 2020 Vision: Quality Moving Forward.
If you have a topic or issue that you haven’t seen discussed yet at the conference or on the PNSQC website, we encourage you to propose your own talk for next year. Get a jump start on the opening of the Call For Proposals with our Light the Torch event on January 23, 2020.