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.