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February 10, 2013

So I attended a conference over the weekend. Citconf ( It is the Continuous Integration and Testing framework. I found out about it through the SyPy mailing list. It was free, was at Atlassian and I thought I could get away with taking a couple of days off work.

Then I realised that it was on a Friday and Saturday so I thought “Ah well, one day off work is still good.”

So I opened up Outlook and decided to email my managers.

One of them replied with something along the lines of:

It’s on a Friday night and Saturday…and it’s free…so I would ask your girlfriend

I never checked the schedule and just assumed it was a full day on Friday.

Extremely embarrassed I didn’t even bother trying to dig myself out of that one so I just replied with a “Good point haha”.

I’ve actually never attended a conference before. I only just started attending meetups last year so I guess this year would be the time where I also started going to conferences. I didn’t know what to expect from citcon, my expectations weren’t that high.

It was an open space conference meaning that there was no agenda. The attendees come up with the agenda and people vote on what they want to listen to. Friday night mainly involved introducing one another, I should have told them my story above but I get nervous speaking to big crowds and the thought never entered my mind.

After introductions, people began putting up agendas on the whiteboard whilst others went into the kitchen for some food. They had this kinda peking duck like finger food but the pancake was really thick but soft and it was just delicious! I think I had 3.

I spent the rest of the night just socialising.

So far so good.

I rocked up Saturday morning and had a bit of breakfast at the conference. Instant coffee and banana bread haha.

The talks themselves weren’t exactly talks. Most of them were just discussions around a central topic or problem. It’s interesting because, everybody has similar problems but nobody has a solution to fix all problems. There’s no specific path to take just steps in the right direction.

In our first talk, people probably spent around 10 minutes just debating over the differences of “Delivery” and “Deployment”. Personally, I found it extremely entertaining, however, it really felt like they were just bike shedding. To me the definition if what you make of it.

I found this one woman’s method to be extremely interesting. So noted that she had sacked entire test teams for their ineptness. She commented that you only need one good tester per team to do a good job and that you’re not doing your job if you need to run the same manual test twice.

Her methodology was to get the test teams to write the acceptance tests in a DSL like cucumber before any actual code has been written. Testers will then manage the entire development process and will conduct the deployment themselves. This is similar to what we do at work actually, where my manager writes up the tests in concordion. However, I still manage the deployments.

I learnt a fair bit on what an “Acceptance test” is. Acceptance tests should not be exhaustive and focus on basic functionality. A separate job can be run to be more exhaustive. The tests must have a business case e.g. validating date format would not be an acceptance test, validating if you can withdraw a negative amount would be. Acceptance tests should not be about code coverage, these should be done via unit tests.

I also attended a Selenium best practices discussion. Basically don’t use xpath, use css selectors, make your tests atomic, don’t bother with htmlunit or phantomjs and test on VMs using selenium grid.

I might try converting some of the xpath selectors at work to start using css selectors. Hopefully, our tests will run slightly faster.

Overall, Citcon was an awesome experience. I learnt a fair bit about testing and its community. The people are truly great and passionate about what they’re doing. What I always imagined to be a boring and mundane roles has opened up my eyes to the value of testers. I might even purse a role in testing if I feel that I can’t be bothered being a code monkey.

Now to find the next conference to attend.

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One Comment
  1. Aaron permalink

    Yeah, citcon was awesome!
    I totally agree about the people, I had tons of really interesting conversations and the group discussions were really enlightening.

    I have to say, coming out of citcon I feel very differently about testing… perhaps one day ill even enjoy it!

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