October 3 and 4 – Star West 2012 – Disneyland Resort, Anaheim California. What better place to be than at Disneyland to experience the magic of sharing, learning and collaborating with fellow testers.

StarWest 2012 was my first experience of a Star conference and the expectations that I had were definitely surpassed. Yes, I suppose  in some ways, in could be termed a *trade show* for testers but it is also a very good opportunity to hear (and be heard), see (and be seen – networking) with fellow testers who are typically on the other side of the world to me.

The following is a summary of what I discovered at this years StarWest…

Day One – October 3th
The day started with me getting *lost* by following my iPad map and taking the wrong turn. This was a case of error between tablet and user.
Upon arriving and registering, we (delegates) were presented with a free breakfast – free? food? Yup i was there and didn’t turn it down.

As i ventured into the conference room, my immediate thought was that this place was big…and there are a lot of testers here (relative to Australasian conferences I’ve attended). Lee Copeland open the conference and as a nice gesture acknowledged all of the overseas testers in the room.
I park myself down to the side of the main stage – I think I spy Scott Barber, Griffin Jones and Michael Bolton and make a mental note that I must catch up with them.

So I opened the iPad, twitter fired up (and I notice how quick the internet access was) and settled down to two excellent keynotes.

The first talk was by Jonathan Kohl on Tapping into Testing Mobile Applications. This talk got my interest in that I don’t test in that space but I own a phone and the fact that Jonathan made his talk very interesting got me thinking that I may in future be testing devices and apps – so why not pay attention!?  These were some the ideas that I took away (as I captured them and recorded them on twitter)

#starwest.. Move beyond the black box…the black box is dead in mobile testing @jonathan_kohl #testing
#starwest…gamification…reward the best bug video of the week.. @jonathan_kohl … Me: great idea!
#starwest…gamification of work @jonathan_kohl .. Me: send testers on a quest, level up to test paladin level 1…sounds cool!
#starwest … Gamification of work movement… @jonathan_kohl me: Great idea!
#starwest … Social features..now do we harness the time spent on social media…use social media interruptions in your app testing
starwest … Testing mobile apps..get out in the real world..at home, on the move and away from home (mall,weather etc)
#starwest …build something amazing as opposed to strictly following a certain methodology @jonathan_kohl
#starwest…usability testing and how a user uses an app is paramount! @jonathan_kohl ..research usability testing approaches
#starwest …one type of project challenge with web apps…extreme time pressure @jonathan_kohl
#starwest …airline apps are developed on assumption of a strong network signal…at an airport not always true @jonathan_kohl
#starwest @jonathan_kohl …think about whats outside of the device…
#starwest think about testing apps in the grey box space. Black box may not be enough
#starwest..understand users motivation and emotions
#starwest …testers don’t use apps in ideal environments
#starwest deleting apps is an emotional thing. Think about emotions when testing mobile apps
#starwest apps…don’t give people reasons to delete your app #testing

The key points for me were about understanding a users emotions and motivations when testing a mobile device and that testing is not confined to just the *black box*. There is more to testing that the front end.

What also struck a chord with me is when testing an app is the  need to have in our mind the thought of not giving a user a reason to delete the app. It doesn’t take long to install and even less time to delete. Also the reason to delete an app may be magnified if a gripe about the app is spread on social media. If this was done, it may require a hail mary pass to come back from that!

Great talk – crowd now *fired* up!

The second keynote of the day was by Johanna Rothman on Becoming a Kick#$% Test Manager. To start with, Kick#$% here actually means awesome!

Here’s is what I captured via twitter…

#starwest…if there is no problem to solve then you don’t need a meeting @johannarothman
#starwest…if the meeting doesn’t have an agenda you don’t have to go…ask for 24hours notice for an agenda @johannarothman
#starwest…How to say no to multi tasking amongst projects @johannarothman http://t.co/JDLEib6l
#starwest…Build communities of practice…”lunch and learns” great for learning what others are doing/sharing @johannarothman
#starwest.. Forget about solo experts and multitasking…testers assigned to multiple projects..nothing gets done @johannarothman
#starwest…When people start caring about bugs depends on where they are in the products lifecycle @johannarothman
#starwest…An awesome manager has regular one on ones…they are more AWARE of what is going on @johannarothman
#starwest…testers are generalists …help them move into other positions with they want to.. @johannarothman
#starwest…coaching is when your offer options with support..when its needed @johannarothman
#starwest…as a test manager, how do we determine that our people are high worth to you? @johannarothman
#starwest…you need testers that can also understand the solution space. @johannarothman
#starwest….hire smart, high value people. When you start talking about price, you’re not talking about value @johannarothman
#starwest…@johannarothman … We test from the perspective of curiosity not victims….
#starwest…@johannarothman … Next StarWest keynote on becoming a kick@$$ test manager. Kick@$$ = awesome!

I dislike meetings or to be clear, meetings that do nothing and have no direction. They are time wasters and give the illusion of activity so when Johanna reiterated then need for an agenda or not having a meeting if there is nothing to solve, that got a big green tick in my mind. Like a lot of us, we have been in far too many non-productive meetings that generate…nothing.
Great talk – first time I’ve heard Johanna speak and the crowd was fired up again ( I thought I heard chanting like an English Premier League soccer match in the far corner acknowledging Johanna’s keynote – but i digress).

After the keynote, the trade show opened when a million tool vendors (of very similar tools) and consultants dazzled everyone with their wares (and swag – I was too slow for the Atlassian t-shirt but picked up a couple of usb sticks, a mouse pad and a whizzy pen that lit up.) Interestingly enough, the big focus appeared to be tools that tested mobile applications.

So, being the tester that I am, I decided to rock up to a few vendors and ask if they have any tools that work on iSeries.

Mostly I got blank looks.

One vendor attempted to find out more but admitted that they didn’t really know if their tool could – If it did and If I was looking at their tool for iSeries, I would sound them out. Why? They were honest enough to admit that they didn’t know (though did they did try to find out) and that *integrity* counts for something (some other vendors gave me a rehearsed sales pitch without listening to what i was saying – at that point, I just wanted to leave – but pass me the swag first! :))

I quite enjoyed walking the tool vendor hall and it was good to be amongst the *buzz*.

Spotted Michael Bolton and introduced myself and chatted to him. Bumped into Scott Barber and we had a good talk – 2 out of 2 so far…

From 11:00am till 12:00pm I was involved in giving free consulting sessions. Anyone that wanted to talk and ask could (and did). I had some good discussions particularly on the state of test automation in New Zealand (which unsurprisingly, was similar to the US – just a different degree of magnitude). I also managed to get a *free* consult with Doug Hoffman, a real gentleman amongst testers and I came way with some answers to some questions.

After lunch, track sessions began in earnest and there were six streams to choose from which I won’t go into detail here. Suffice to say that I took quite a few notes – I was like a kid in a candy store!

Leaving the conference after day one was a buzz. Ideas floating around my head – walking through downtown Disney with the Disney tunes playing non-stop –  spying Goofy and the Mad Hatter – it all added to the magic of StarWest 2012 (how can you NOT be entranced by having a conference here)!

I’ll talk on day 2 next post…

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