Sunday, August 16, 2009

proposed: peer conference "Writing About Testing"

It seems like there is more demand than ever among the technical publications for information about software testing. Experience reports, theoretical pieces, tool documentation, all seem to be in great demand right now.

At the same time, I think the overall quality of what I've been reading about testing is declining, as people rush to meet that demand without adequate preparation or knowledge.

I'm interested enough to do the legwork to host such a peer conference, assuming the potential participants were willing to come to Durango. If not, I'd be willing to travel to attend such a conference, and to help facilitate, promote, or whatever is needed to bring it off.

I envision soliciting participation from two groups: established writers with a history of publication with outlets like SQE, STP, InformIT, O'Reilly, etc. etc.; and also new voices looking to start writing for these sorts of publishers (I very much hope that there really are new voices writing about testing very soon). New voices should have some sort of verifiable writing ability, like a public weblog or conference papers, or some other reasonable means to evaluate their work.

As for content, I'd like an Open Space style event, but I envision themes like:

Ethics of public discourse: the difference between reporting and opinion; proper citation; avoiding false pretences and misunderstandings; criticising ethical lapses on the part of others.

Voice and style; tone and timbre. Academic/scientific writing versus colloquial and general writing. Grammar, structure, how to engage the reader.

Working the business: queries and pitching, invoicing, negotiating with publishers, working with editors and art departments.

Professional development: improving technical skills, and being able to write about it.

Impact of blogging, Twitter, social media that shows extensive writing, like Facebook and LinkedIn and such.

As for a date, I envision some time within the next year, but not before January 2010. Assuming it's in Durango, there would be a lot of amenities available. In winter, there is good skiing available at a couple of places nearby. Spring is a shoulder season, but it's a great time to go to the canyon country. Summer has river sports, biking, and mountain trips, all in town.

Durango has a new library with meeting facilities that should be adequate for a fairly small group. For a larger group, the local college makes its facilities available for minimal cost. This conference, like most such, would be a break-even proposition.

There are a number of alternative locations to Durango. SQE is based in FL, as is the company I work for. STP is mostly in Nashville, not far away. The Bay Area or Chicago or Portland or Austin all might be possible locations, as I believe there are facilities for such gatherings easily available. I'd be particularly interested in Denver, Phoenix, SLC or Albuquerque also, as they are only a short plane ride or a day's drive away.

If this idea interests you, please leave a comment here, send me email, or drop me a line on Twitter.

21 comments:

Lisa said...

I think it's an inspired idea and we need to do it. Count me in.

Jared said...

I'd come if I wasn't in Australia :)

Fiona said...

It's a great idea. I'm very interested and will definitely be there if I can.

James Marcus Bach said...

Sounds like a great idea.

Matthew said...

Inerested. We've got facilities in grand rapids ...

Matthew said...
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Matthew said...
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Elisabeth said...

Great idea! I'll participate if I can.

Ben Simo said...

Chris,

I love the idea and the proposed location.

Ben

PlugNPlay said...

Chris - I know I could benefit from a conference like this, and would spend my own money to come.

Question: "Spring is a shoulder season..." I can't parse that phrase. What does it mean?

Geordie

Lisa said...

Winter and Spring are the big tourist seasons in Durango. "Shoulder season" is spring and fall when there aren't so many people. Lodging prices etc. go down. Some towns w/ ski areas call this "mud season" because the snow is melting.

Justin Hunter said...

Chris,

Great idea.

I suspect the fact that people will need to travel will weed out people who are not quite serious about it (which wouldn't be such a bad thing) and that you'll wind up with a talented, energetic group.

I'm sharing these next two thoughts purely for your consideration... Two possible alternative/additional "flavors" for an event like this:

1- Virtual Version: I suspect that there would also be a strong demand for a similarly-themed virtual effort (but that participants would not be as committed to making it successful).

2- Borrowing ideas from the Gordon Conference: The Gordon Conference has an extremely successful model that has worked well to help participants learn, share, bond with other leading thinkers in the industry, present thoughts on half-finished papers to one another and get feedback on them. The Gordon Conferences sound to me like they are similar enough in theme to what you are targeting, so you might want to check them out for ideas about what might work for you. Everyone I know who has attended them find them to be extremely worthwhile. For more info, see: http://www.grc.org/

- Justin Hunter

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

Wow! You thought pretty well. I am not near to sure if I can make it but if I get a chance - I wouldn't miss it.

Shall recommend it to others.

Daniel B said...

If it's in Nashville, I would definitely be there.

Selena said...

I would be very interested in attending!

B J Osman said...
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B J Osman said...

Great idea and like Jared i won't be able to attend due to the distance UNLESS it came closer to NEW ZEALAND! :)

I'm positive this will be a great meeting of minds :)

amuns said...

How can we help over at STP Collaborative?

Dani Almog said...

I like the idea - also it is far way from Israel

please share with me all information.

Dani Almog

ian savage said...

I'm up for that.

TestWithUs said...
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