I attended the Test Summit peer conference this weekend at the invitation of Jim Holmes of Telerik.
It was outstanding, as such peer conferences tend to be, and I and others will be posting a lot of information as a result of what went on there.
But I want to talk about the conference itself.
Software testing has a long history of peer conferences, starting (to the best of my knowledge) with the Los Altos Workshop on Software Testing (LAWST). Bret Pettichord borrowed the LAWST format for his Austin Workshop on Test Automation (AWTA) in the mid-2000s, and I borrowed from AWST for my Writing About Testing (WAT) conferences in 2010 and 2011. I think other examples exist. The format has gotten looser over the years. LOTS looser, as we find that motivated participants are pretty good at self-organization.
As far as I am aware, the Telerik Test Summit (TTS?) is the first such software testing peer conference created and sponsored by a commercial company. I think this is important, and I think TTS has important implications.
As a general rule, I will not endorse or support commercial companies, even the ones I work for. I don't even link from blog posts to my own writing for articles that are behind a registration-wall or pay-wall. Now that I work for the Wikimedia Foundation, I have even more motivation to be as impartial as I possibly can.
And yet I accepted the invitation from Telerik and Jim easily. I'd like to explain that.
I knew everyone in the room at TTS, and many of the attendees are good friends. I had never met Jim Holmes.
But I knew his work. Jim created the CodeMash conference, which is notable not only because of its radical growth in popularity over the last several years, but also because of its reputation for friendliness and hospitality. I'm not involved in CodeMash and I've never attended it, but I know a lot of people who have, and Jim has a stellar reputation among my friends and acquaintances.
I didn't go to TTS because Telerik invited me; I went because Jim Holmes has an unimpeachable reputation for integrity and hospitality.
We were not pitched. We were not marketed to. There were no Telerik tools being discussed in the room. We were given a tour of the Telerik office in Austin; some attendees chose to pair up with Telerik staff to see what they were working on, some did not. I consider this just hospitality.
TTS should be a lesson to other companies. Many of the best people working in software will give away their best ideas and even their best work freely. But the moment such people suspect they are being used or co-opted for some purpose other than trying to move the cause forward, we will turn on you with a vengeance you can not imagine.
So my advice to any companies who might want to sponsor their own peer conferences in the future: first, get yourself a Jim Holmes; second, listen to what he has to say; then, do what he tells you. That's probably harder than you imagine.