GTAC 2009 is over. Hail to GTAC 2010 (I’m hearing Hyderabad, India … hint hint !). Let me tell you that GTAC 2009 was quite a ride for me (and for most participant I would say) and one of the best conference I’ve ever attended. Ok the best one. There, I’ve said it. The talk themselves were of high quality with excellent content and great presenters but everything else was on par, from the great discussions I’ve had with attendees, the lightning talks, the roundtable during lunch and the fantastic overall organization from the GTAC organizational comitee. So, Kudos to Google !
You’ll find bellow some comment and observation about the conference and the talks.
Let me talk briefly about the Zurich office. Google has a tradition of having some of the best working environment in the world and Zurich follow this tradition. It’s definitely on par with the Mountain View Googleplex I had an opportunity to visit some while back. To give you a quick idea, this is what I’m talking about (Official pictures from Google. It was forbidden to take any pictures in the premises. Trust me, it does look like this )
Some detail about the conference room. When I first came in the room I thought “what the hell were they thinking” ? Instead of having a typical large vertically deep conference room, they have it organized horizontally with the speaker in the middle and many large screens on both side and only a few row of chairs. After 15 minutes I was convinced that this is a much better space organization. Everyone is close to the speaker, can see him and interactions are much easier. Loved it.
Each GTAC participant was given a Google Wave account so they could comment live during talks on a dedicated wave. A nice way to try this new Google Application with a crowd of testers. I was really impressed by the capabilities it offers during conference such as GTAC. Kind like a real time wiki. From what I’ve seen and tried, it is still a bit unstable but very promising nevertheless. You can find all comments written during the conference on Google Wave and searching for: group:email@example.com
The roundtable during lunch was a real good idea. Each table had a theme and you could sit during your lunch to discuss various subjects: metrics (You can bet I was really interested by this one !), testing in the cloud, testing education, functional testing etc. This setup is a nice way to break the ice between participants and of course share knowledge on these subjects.
Right before dinner on the first day were organized some lightning talk. 8 participants had an opportunity to talk about any subject during 5 minutes top. An interesting exercise I had never tried. My talk was a bit too formal to my taste, compare to some excellent one !! I will post my favorite when Google make the recording available (I believe they have recorded the lightning talk as well).
There was around 100 participants which is my opinion is a perfect number to have good interaction and good networking opportunity. From what I understand, previous editions of GTAC were much larger. I think they will keep this smaller format for future edition.
Now to the talks themselves. I won’t describe each of them but would encourage everybody to watch all of them as they were all excellent ! All the presentations slide are available here. Videos will be posted here.
Keynote by Professor Nicklaus Wirth
Professor Wirth is the designer for the Pascal language, so definitely one of my hero for sure ! He gave us a nice overview of the history of computer science and how things have evolved throughout the years. It reminded me that learning about our history was one of the nine forgettings from Lee Copeland. A very nice touch and always good to listen. For him, the focus is still too much on finding errors (test the code) rather than avoiding them (write good code). He also opened up a fairly controversial subject by stating that university don’t know how to teach programming since teacher were not programmers themselves. A large debate by itself.
Fighting Layout Bugs – Michael Tamm
Probably one of the top presentation. Not only the content and techniques described during the talk were quite excellent, but Michael is definitely a very good presenter with a very fun and entertaining style and some very subtle facial gimmicks ! Definitely worth seeing.
His technique isolate text and border from the HTML by doing bitwise operation to identify overlapping elements. Simple yet very effective ! Michael gave a quick but very convincing demo and received a round of applause right in the middle of the talk. A first ! You can find a prototype for Michael work here.
Another suggestion made by Michael was to validate both your HTML and CSS during your continuous integration by using the W3C HTML validation service and W3C CSS validation service.
Testing Applications on Mobile Devices – Doron Reuven, uTest CEO
uTest business model was not a surprise for me as I’ve gotten interested in the space some while back but it was very interesting to hear it described first hand by Doron himself. As the mobile market is exploding day after day, the crowdsourced testing model does make more and more sense and Doron did a good job at presenting us the challenges of testing these new application but also the benefits of having access to a broad capacity of professional testers all over the world to handle all the device model, carrier, languages etc.
Selenium: to 2.0 to beyond – Jason Huggins and Simon Steward
There was a lot of expectation from the assistance for this presentation. All of us are familiar with Selenium and Webdriver and were expecting some exciting announcement. We were not disappointed ! Jason (ex-Googler, now owner of SauceLabs) and Simon (current Googler and probably stand up comedian in another life. The man behind WebDriver!). They did a good job at presenting us the pros and cons of both tools and lead us to a clear conclusion: Let’s merge WebDriver into Selenium to keep all pros from both tool and get rid of the cons. Not only will they merge the code base (into a Uber framework) but also will try to get better at socializing both community ie. Common developer mailing list, common bug tracking, co-hosting of the code etc. More information about the initiative here.
Score one for Quality – Joshua Williamd and Ross Smith, Microsoft
It was very refreshing to have Microsoft presenting at a Google conference. Microsoft and Google fight hard in the field but share quite a bit at a research and development level as well as toward quality. We, the users, benefit from this collaboration.
Josh and Ross both worked hard on Windows 7 and described to us some of the games they’ve introduced for some of their test activity to better engage developers and testers, improve morale and motivation.
One interesting one was the one they’ve used for their localization testing, well at least the translation piece. They basically had a tool presenting screenshot to candidate who were asked to say yeah or nay based on the accurateness of the translated text. They kept a leader board and the only reward was to be at the top of the leader board.
It was an interesting talk for me as I had given a lightning talk the day before, specifying that bug challenge was a dangerous game if not managed properly. And I actually stand with this opinion. I get the motivation and engagement piece but as Josh and Ross mention, it needs to be a very short timeframe with clear reward mechanism ie. basically some bragging right at most. If you don’t do it properly, you end up with meaningless bugs all over the place with a heavy atmosphere of competition between your participant. Plan a lot of trial and error.
GTAC 2009 was a great edition and is definitely becoming one of best conference on Software Testing everyone need to try to attend !