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..

Review: Testworks Conf 2015

Last Friday (October 2nd) I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural edition of the Testworks Conference (Testworks Conf in short). Talking to some guys working at Xebia, the company that came up with and organized it, I found out that the idea behind this conference was to provide the test automation community in the Netherlands with an alternative to the range of existing testing and test automation conferences. According to them, a lot of existing conferences focus too much on broadcasting information rather than getting the attendees involved through hands-on workshops and interactive presentations. With Testworks Conf, Xebia want to show the community that conferences can be different, more interesting and a lot more fun. But did they succeed?

The line-up for the first edition was certainly promising, including well-known test automation experts such as Alan Richardson (also known as the Evil Tester) and John Smart, the guy behind the Serenity BDD framework. Combined with an attendance fee of only 75 euros, there was no reason for me not to go and take a look.

Testworks Conf logo

The day kicked off nicely with a keynote by Alan Richardson, who talked about the origins of automation / automatization and the way it has influenced and will keep influencing our work as testers. Even though I already heard most of the contents of his talk at the Test Automation Day in June, it was a good and interesting way to start the day.

After that, I managed to secure a place at the first of three workshops, focusing on using Protractor and Cucumber in AngularJS apps. I have some experience with BDD and Cucumber, but none in using either Protractor or AngularJS (or any other Javascript framework for that matter), but the contents of the workshop were just right: easy enough to get started right away yet challenging enough to keep you busy for a while. Unfortunately the virtual machine we were provided did not really run that well on my laptop, so I don’t feel I got as much out of this workshop as I could. It was running fine on most other attendees’ laptops, so I can’t blame the workshop hosts. Having facilitated these types of workshops myself before, I know that a lot of work goes into preparation of a decent VM, and even then you can’t guarantee everything runs smoothly on all different operating systems and configurations.

Workshop at Testworks Conf

After a tasty lunch, I decided to stick with the presentations for the remainder of the day. The afternoon presentations and live demos turned out to be interactive as well: those who wanted to participate could follow what the presenter was doing on stage. As my laptop still didn’t work as well as I wanted to, I decided to watch and take notes instead. I attended presentations on the Galen framework, on extending the possibilities of FitNesse (which I use in my current project) and on using Docker and Mesos for highly scalable test automation. All of these presentations gave me at least one idea or valuable nugget of wisdom, so all in all it was an interesting afternoon.

Presentation at Testworks Conf

One thing struck me though as the afternoon progressed: that there was a lot of focus on GUI-based test automation, at least in the workshops and presentations that I attended. Either the presentations were primarily focused on UI-based testing, or the examples and case studies that were given used the UI to perform tests. I know this looks good for demos on screen, but for me as a test automation engineer mostly interested in testing API- and services-based applications, this felt a little off. It wasn’t until the closing keynote by John Smart that I heard someone being critical about doing so much test automation through the UI. For a conference that focuses on test automation, Testworks Conf might have given a little more attention to its non-GUI forms. I hope they’ll take that into account when planning the second edition.

That’s about the only point of critique I can come up with, though. The guys at Xebia have managed to give a refreshing and very interesting spin to the concept of test conferences in the Netherlands, an achievement that can only be applauded. I’ll definitely try and be there again next year!