I've always considered software testing conferences a bit strange.
Don't get me wrong; I think they are wonderful. You get to hear stories from colleagues, meet new people, talk to them in the hallways, learn new techniques and sometimes, just plain old get answers for your toughest questions.
But you also spend a lot of time watching powerpoint.
I'm not exactly a huge powerpoint fan.
What's Wrong With Powerpoint?
Slides can be a very, very effective way of conveying an idea simply. You can put bugs up on a screen, using sound and music, do all sorts of things.
Yet this all comes down to a lecture.
The lecture model for learning was created during the dark ages, and presents information one-way: From teacher to student. It does not plan to adjust to the student; indeed, it plans to
adjust the student. (What else could a 'well adjusted young man' be? Who did the adjusting?)
The thing is, that isn't how people learn.
How People Learn
In his 1963 best-selling book, "How Children Learn
", child development author John Holt suggested that children are little learning machines. Give them examples, allow them to experiment, let them dive in -- and they will derive the theory. This works in math, and in physics, and it might just work in software testing.
"How Children Learn
" is a thin book; you can read it in a afternoon. If you teach anything, or have any aspirations to teach anything - ever - I highly recommend it.
If we acted like the book was true, we wouldn't lecture on theory, but instead give hands-on exercises to people and let them share.
But we don't.
Isn't it a little bit strange that, after a four-day test conference, the one thing we know is that we didn't spend any time with hands on keyboard, doing testing?
My friends will say I went to the wrong sessions, and they have a point. There are serious testers, particularly James Bach and Michael Bolton, who use real examples in their classes, generally interweaving theory, practice and lecture to good effect.
Fall, October 16-18 in Miami, Florida, in addition to two hands-on tutorials (one on performance testing and one on Penetration Testing), we are going to have an entire track on hands-on sessions. Hands-on keyboard, doing testing, observing results and talking about it - guided by an instructor.
When those sessions end, we'll have the coup-de-grace - a two and half hour test competition for teams of 2-6 people, yes with prizes. Meet someone new and form a team, or take people from work, use the techniques we talked about in sessions, try some new ones, experiment, and have fun.
The conference is a little over a month away, so the time to buy tickets is now - but it is also the time for planning. What questions, comments, or observations do you have? What risks are you worried about?
Even if you can't make the conference, you can still participate in this storming/forming discussion from afar; I want to hear from you.
Please, tell me all about it. Perhaps, after the event, we can open-source it and others can run similar events locally -- but, first, I have to get through Miami.
I covet your thoughts and opinions.