Review: TestWorksConf 2016

Last week I attended the second edition of TestWorksConf, a conference on test automation and lots of other things technical and related to testing. After the first edition last year my expectations were pretty high, since Xebia (the organisers) had set a standard with their first edition that would not be easy to match or exceed.

The first and most important change was that after the one day conference last year, they decided to add an extra academy day the day before the actual conference. I’ve seen this a lot at international conferences (the STAR* conferences from TechWell, for example, have at least one day full of workshops), but to my knowledge this hadn’t really been done before here in the Netherlands, at least not at conferences revolving around testing. Since I made a promise to myself last year to try and be a contributor instead of ‘just’ an attendee, I submitted several proposals in response to the Call for Papers. Initially, only my lightning talk proposal made the cut, but a couple of weeks later I got a call to see if I also wanted to host a workshop. Sure!

An aerial overview of the TestWorksConf 2016 main area

Day 1: Academy Day
As I said before, the first day of TestWorksConf 2016 was dedicated to half-day workshops on a wide range of topics related to testing and test automation. On the agenda were workshops on exploratory testing, mobile test automation, test-driven development and lots of other stuff, including my own workshop on RESTful API testing using REST Assured. Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for some time might have read that I’ve delivered this workshop before, but I took some time to freshen things up, add some new content and exercises and most importantly add WireMock mocks that return the answers for the tests the participants need to write in the workshop. I didn’t want to be caught by surprise by a malfunctioning API under test a second time..

The Xebia guys took the effort (a LOT of effort!) to prepare a virtual image containing all the material for my workshop and the other workshops, so participants didn’t need to configure their own PC or download and install stuff before the workshop kicked off. They did a fantastic job of that, at least in my workshop everybody was able to get it to work and to truly participate. Those of you that have delivered similar workshops before know that this is no small feat!

I also had the luxury of two amazing sidekicks in the form of Erik from Xebia and Adam from Lyft. Where else do you get the opening keynote speaker for the conference day as an assistant in your workshop? Together, we delivered what I thought was a very smooth and very pleasant workshop. As far as I could tell everybody completed at least part of the exercises I prepared. The feedback I’ve received afterwards was pretty positive as well, and I think most people learned at least a little. All in all a great afternoon.

Note that I’ll update the open source REST Assured workshop to reflect the version I delivered at TestWorksConf somewhere in the next couple of weeks, so all of you that want to take a look can do so.

Day 2: Conference Day
The second day of TestWorksConf 2016 was conference day. Similar to last year’s edition, the agenda featured a mix of workshops and presentations. New to the mix were 10-minute lightning talks, one of which was to be delivered by me. After watching Adam deliver the opening keynote of the day, I spent most of the morning talking with the guys from SpectoLabs. This meant I missed some of the workshops and talks, but it was great meeting them in person (we’ve been in touch via email before) and talk service virtualization, Hoverfly and lots of other things.

Talking service virtualization with the guys from SpectoLabs

After lunch, I spent the early afternoon talking to some other old and new acquaintances, something I think conferences are an ideal setting for. This meant I again missed some talks, but I managed to catch (parts of) other talks and heard some interesting stuff. Around mid-afternoon it was time for my own lightning talk. Delivering that I learned something really important: they’re over before you know it. I managed to tell what I wanted to tell without rushing things, but I noticed that it takes me some time to get comfortable talking, especially when I’m speaking in English (both days were all in English because of the high number of visitors from abroad, by the way). I have no problem talking to other people in English, but when delivering a talk it takes me a little bit of time to ‘warm up’, so to speak. And the thing about lightning talks is that they’re short, so there really isn’t too much time to actually warm up. Lesson well learned, time to start working on that!

Having finished my TestWorksConf duties, it was time to relax a little and listen to some of the other lightning talks, chat some more and relax some more. By that time the conference day had come to an end as well, and after a quick drink it was time for me to return home.

Even though last year’s conference set a pretty high standard, the people at Xebia have managed to raise the expectations for next year even higher with what were two days of high quality content, lots of interesting people and conversations and not to forget a great venue and even better catering. I’m really curious to see what they’ll come up with for TestWorksConf 2017..