Australian Testing Days – Sydney Conference Overview

I had a blast at Australian Testing Days Conference in Sydney on Friday. It’s always good to get reconnected with some colleagues and to make new connections. First up we had Jennie Naylor go over how to use OKR’s to drive the Quality Onwership:

Using OKR's to grow quality ownership - sketchnotes

The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework has been in use since the 70’s and is used by companies such as Google, Uber and Facebook to set their organisational goals. OKR is a framework that can be used at any level within your organisation. This presentation mention how to use OKRs to help improve quality and ownership in a team.

Key Takeaways

The key takeways I got from this talk was how to use OKRs to determine if experiments are successful or not and getting the whole team involved in quality and product ownership.

AI and the impact on QA

Given by Chhavi Raj Dosaj who proposed the question, can AI can the landscape of testing?  Chhavi had a big topic to fill. I think his main point was a little lost because he spent too much time going over the basics and he wasn’t able provide compelling examples of where AI could benefit the QA process.

One of his examples was using an unsupervised learning algorithm to select the top manual test cases to execute in the next testing cycle based on past performance of said test cases. Anyone who primarily uses test cases to manage their testing work and reporting is using a pretty dated testing practice that doesn’t scale or make sense in the Agile world. You can read more about my thoughts on the end of manual testing. I also wish he asked me for feedback on his slide design before he got up on stage. There were some presentation sins committed in his slide deck.

dev Ops Testing Strategy

DevOps Testing strategy by Amit Kulkarni fell victim to the old bait and switch presentation sin. The title didn’t match up to the content. My key take away from this talk was, “there are tons of tools out there you can use in a continuous testing way”. There wasn’t any DevOps in this talk at all. 

Performance Testing in CI

Andrey Pokhilko gave an engaging talk on Performance Testing in CI using opensource tools. I learnt the name of a new tool; Taurus. Which can be used on top of JMetre and is a little easier to use than the good old JMetre.

State of BDD

As I’ve already done Gojko Adzic’s spec by example workshop offered through YOW! a few years ago, I already had a decent idea where this talk would go. Bria Grangard was engaging and gave a good update on the state of this field.

Transforming Testing

Bruce McLeod gave an engaging talk in business strategy and how it will transform testing. This was one of my highlights of the conference. Bruce goes over how testing needs to change from a culture of “protection” to a culture of experimentation using the Netflix chaos monkey as an example. 

Technical Presentations

A few years ago I was lucky enough to win a YOW! diversity scholarship for a day of speaker training with Damian Conway. I’ve never had the opportunity to learn so much about public speaking and giving technical presentations in as condensed timeframe before. These are my hints and tips picked up from that training and other public speaking activities.

Here are my slides, if you like the sketchnote style, Here is a guide on getting started with sketchnotes.

Inspiration for this content

These following talks are good inspirations for better tech presentations

Damian Conway’s YOW! Night talk on Instantly better tech presentations

Vicky Brasseur’s 10 step program for great tech talks

Brainstorming your talk

Damian goes through a brainstorming technique to help form your talk. DO NOT start with slides, this is a sure way to waste time with creating your story as you iterate through it. First off, start with a pen and paper (or equivalent digital note taking technology), brainstorm all of the possible things you know about a topic. Pick 5 sub-topics you know the most about. Ask yourself, do these create a narrative flow? Do they form a story? If not, chuck one idea and pull in another that helps with the story. Then for each sub-topic brainstorm all of the things related to it, pick 5 from that list that forms a mini-story. You now have a good, narrative flow through your presentation and your slides almost write themselves, you could now put one word/phrase on each slide that reminds you of the story you are telling at each point and you’d have a pretty good presentation.

Slide Design

Think of your slides as a user interface, too much information will overload your audience ensuring they switch off and start browsing the web. Your audience doesn’t have the insights you have, that’s why they are in your audience. They want to learn, what do you want them to learn? Most often they won’t care about you as a person, they care about your content. Structuring your content around stories will help make your information easier to digest. Big walls of texts are a huge no no. Slides are free, why does all of your content have to be squished on 1 slide? I avoid dot points like the plaque, I can’t see any value they add being on slides.

Your text is too small

Always assume your text is too small, just because you can easily read it on your high resolution retina display doesn’t mean the person in the back of your audience is able to read it through a shitty 800×600 projector with terrible contrast. Also never put anything important at the bottom of your slide, how often have you strained to look over someones shoulder to try and read what’s on a slide?

Ditch that Intro slide

We (the audience) do not need to see what you look like, you are standing in front of us. We also do not need to know why you feel the need to justify why you are on stage. You already sold us with your title and description in the conference program. So please ditch that intro slide, it may switch off your audience before you’ve even really started. The audience is there to learn from you, just jump into the good stuff.

Slow Reveal

Build up to showing complicated diagrams/graphs rather than showing it all at once, you want to walk people through you idea not hit them over the head with it.

1 thought per slide

This is called Takahashi method, it’s awfully minimalistic but it forces you to use your slides as a crutch for your story telling rather than you relying on your slides too much. It’s worth experimenting with as an idea.

Showing code

Screenshots of code work better than switching into an IDE/text editor, your code will always be too small with a text editor. If it’s a screenshot you also get syntax highlighting. Screenshots also help you to simplify the ideas you are trying to communicate.

Opaque boxes

Can’t avoid the complicated diagram? Fine, use opaque boxes and slide transitions to help guide your audience through the diagram. Take them on a journey. Here is an example using an XKCD diagram.

Demo’s are optional

I actually enjoy giving a demo first and then explaining how I got there, that way if it fails I still have content to continue with and I don’t end on a sour note. This way I always ensure I have enough time for the demo; which is often the fun part of technical presentations.

Practice

Nothing beats practice, if you can’t practice with colleagues, friends or meetup groups set up a TV with a picture of an audience and present to that. Or present to a mirror, or to your cat.

Other Resources

Want to take your presentations to the next level? Have a read of TED talks by Chris Anderson, audio version here.

Getting up on stage

I enjoy performing. Don’t ask me why. I can’t explain it. You could say it’s something to do with the rush, or the perception of adding value or entertainment for other people. I want to tell you a few stories about my adventures in performing. Do you want to improve your performances? I’m available for free consultations on improving technical presentations.

During High School

I was involved with nearly every extra curricular activity I could sign up for. I was in the school concert band; I played trombone. I can legitimately say, “this one time in band camp …”. I was the fat kid in school, there weren’t many other kids fatter than I. I once got up in front of my whole school dressed up in a Santa suit and played Jingle Bells on the trombone. Talk about a nerve racking, getting out of my comfort zone experience. I got a laugh at least. I was in an Auslan signing choir (Australian Sign Language) and a singing choir too. In the signing choir we would often perform to retirement homes in the area and our signature song was, “I believe I can fly” by R Kelly. I could still sign to that song. What does a signing choir performance look like? Check out this example on YouTube;

Watching that makes me want to sign up to an auslan class and pursue deaf poetry.

I was also in a musical. It was called Wolfstock, it was a 1950’s themed musical about a 16 year old boy called Jay, his parents had sold his soul to the devil and had to get to wolfstock (aka woodstock) before the next full moon or else he would remain a warewolf. I played Wolfman Jack in act 2; a character based on the DJ host by the same name, I even had my own song. I’m sure the musical was terrible. My mum has it on tape somewhere. I’m sorry mum for putting you through all of my horrible performances in school.

During Uni

I ran my own radio show on a community radio station called, “chat with an engineer”. I would interview engineers in our community and chat about the work they did. It was to help raise the profile of Engineering. I didn’t have the budget for the training course so I asked Engineers Australia if they’d paid for me to do the course. They did and I’m forever grateful for that. My biggest success was interviewing 2012’s Young Australian of the Year; Marita Cheng. She was visiting a high school as part of a Robogals visit and we were able to organise an interview.

I also started the Robogals Chapter in Tasmania. Robogals is a student run group who promote engineering and technology to young kids through lego robotics workshops with the goal of increasing female engineers. I taught robotics to over 1000 kids in tasmania in the 1.5 years I was involved with Robogals with next to no funding and while going through my first bout of chronic depression. I can’t understand how I was functioning, I wasn’t passing uni so let’s just say I wasn’t functioning very well. Teaching is another type of performance that I enjoy.

Professional Presentations

During my professional career the main performances I’ve been involved with are presentations. My most nerve wracking experience was getting up in front of the whole company during an all hands and talking about my struggles with depression. Getting that venerable in front of such a large crowd is another one of those big, “getting out of my comfort zone” experiences. It’s definitely made giving technical presentations easier. Interviews are another performance. A lot of people hate interviews, in a weird way I enjoy them. Having that opportunity to talk about my passions in software testing is what I enjoy. I am narcissistic. I remember doing a first year psychology 101 personality test during uni, I scored very highly on the narcissistic scale and I’m ok with that. It’s only an issue when it’s combined with a lack of empathy.

I’ve been involved with a few community bands since moving to Sydney. The Sydney homotones and Sunday Assembly being the main ones. I’m not actively involved with any now but I would love to join a community swing band. Or do some taiko drum classes. Or learn how to play the double bass. Garhhh, I can’t decide.

My favourite presentation has been my talk at YOW! Connected last year on using robots for mobile testing;

I was able to combine my passion for music, robots and mobile testing. #Winning at life.

I’ve collected a bunch of hints and tips on giving presentations. Reach out to me at sam[AT]thebughunter.com.au if you’d like a free consultation.