Nearly a year ago I did a blog post that included a quote from the "Man in the Area
" speech by Teddy Roosevelt. That speech is about daring greatly
; about stretching yourself.
This spring, after STPCon, I decided to try another stretch - to propose that the fall conference have a hands-on testing track
By hands-on, I meant just that: That the attendees would be actually doing
software testing. To get this track, I approached the decision makers at STP and made my pitch, along with Tim Peysar and Mark Tomlinson.
They went for it, but only if I would take responsibility to run.
No, problem. I'm Matt Heusser, right? I dare greatly
I immediately went into recruiting mode for the conference, with planning mode, pitching mode, and a flurry of work. I posted on it, pitched it, was out on twitter and the intarwebs.
After the CFP closed, can you guess how many people put in for sessions?
What just happened?
There were a lot of things colliding here that made for zero responses. First, a number of absolutely great speakers are taking themselves off the circuit in the fall, for a lot of reasons. Some folks are sick of travelling, others have billable clients that need their attention, some just won't be on the right continent at the right time. Our intention was that all test software be web-based, or at least a quick download, and the CFP says "web only" - it is possible that some folks thought hands-on was a webinar, or we just confused.
But I don't think that explains it all.
I think hands-on sessions are hard
First of all, you have the install problem; some people are going to need some hand-holding. Unless you are careful, there goes the first half of your session. Then you have to explain something valuable; the quickest part of your audience will know the basics, the slowest will never catch on. You will have questions form the audience that you have to field and improvise. You have to develop exercises that scale to a wide ability group and a wide number of platforms.
Like I said, hard
. This is not kid stuff.
But what does it say when of the forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, who knows how many applications to speak at a conference, all of them would rather show powerpoints than actually do testing?
What is that all about?
The Common Responses
After I realized the low turnout, I went around asking why, and what I could do to fix it. Besides "oh, Matt, I won't be travelling the fall", there were some common responses. One was "I'm kind of new to the speaking biz and I'm not up for it yet", which I think is fair. Another was "Matt, come on, it's STPCon. This is a powerpoint-presentation conference. It's the wrong venue."
They Are All Powerpoint-Presentation Conferences
Oh, I know, the Bachs and Michael Boltons do exploratory exercises in their tutorials, and there are some workshops with simulation-like activities. Yet by and large, most public conferences are presentation conferences. (I counted on fingers, then toes, then ran out. All the public conferences I have been to were presentation conferences.)
I know all the analogies about moving the ship and intertia, that you need a very big wheel and it takes a long time and so on, but saying "I don't see STPCon as a hands-on conference so I didn't apply" pretty much guarantees that it will stay that way.
The Good News
The conference organizers extended the deadline, and I am back in the hunt for speakers. While no one responded to a general CFP, they seem to be responding better to individual requests along with suggestions, offers of feedback, and so on.
I think we will be able to save this track, but it is going to be tough. And if this track has a bad year, it is unlikely you will see the idea back any time soon.
The real test is going to be in the free market: Will anybody show up?
Because I have to reach out individually, I am spending a lot more time with each speaker. We will have much more detailed back-and-forth - the program will build from one session to another, have better flow and less overlap. We'll be including cutting-edge issues like mobile testing and in-browser performance testing, and ending the event with a double-track testing competition
Again, I have to wonder, will anybody show up?
That choice is up to you.
STPCon fall will be Oct 16-18 in Miami, FL.
Don't worry, there is plenty more to come.