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Call for Participation: Second Writing About Testing peer conference

The Second Writing About Testing Conference: Frontiers for Software Testing

I am pleased to announce the call for papers for the Second Writing About Testing Conference to be held May 13 and 14 2011 in Durango Colorado.

For more information about the original conference and the Writing About Testing mail list please see:

Writing About Testing is a peer conference for those interested in influencing the public discourse on software testing and software development by writing and speaking on those subjects. The discussion revolves around blogging, giving presentations at conferences and user groups, and writing for established media outlets, both for pay and for other reasons. There will very likely be representatives from established media outlets attending. Having software writers and publishers talking to each other face to face is a unique aspect of WAT.

For the first WAT conference we asked only that participants be interested and have had already written about software. The second WAT will be a little different.

For the second WAT we ask that applicants propose a talk (informal is fine, no slides required) of 30-45 minutes about some subject critical to their work as a tester or developer, or designer or business analyst, but which is not generally recognized as being part of such work. A list of suggestions for such talks is below. The purpose of this is to expand the practice of software beyond the current artificial boundaries of recognized software activity.

To that end, presentations on these subjects are not welcome, unless the presentation has obviously unusual aspects:

  • test heuristics/mnemonics
  • exploratory testing
  • classic test automation (record-and-play, automation pyramid, etc. Information on unusual approaches to test automation is welcome.)
  • Scrum/Lean/Context-Driven/whatever. In general, anything involving capital letters is not welcome.
  • certification (for or against)

In a nutshell: don't bore the other attendees with stuff that has been discussed to death for years. This conference is to discuss frontiers.

Given that the presentations will be on unusual subjects, there will be a minimal requirement for having published previous work. Any publicly available source of writing, for instance a blog, would qualify an attendee. Applicants with no publicly available writing at all will not be considered. Attendees are encouraged to write with ambition and daring after the conference ends.

Attendance will be limited to about fifteen people. There will be a nominal fee of $50.00 per person to help cover room rental, and lunch will be provided. A discounted rate at a convenient bed and breakfast hotel is available.

Durango has a lot to offer visitors. Conference attendees may wish to arrive early or stay late to take advantage of the nearby attractions: beautiful mountains to the north and east, desert sandstone canyons to the west and south. The steam train from Durango to Silverton and back is a fantastic experience, as is soaking in the hot springs nearby. Within a short drive are Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Monument Valley and the Navajo Reservation, Great Sand Dunes National Park, etc. Local opportunities for hiking, biking, and boating abound.

There are direct flights to Durango from Denver and from Phoenix. Many attendees will likely come from the Denver area, so carpooling from there may be possible.

To submit a proposal, either send a message to me at christopher dot mcmahon on gmail, or join the writing-about-testing mail list at and submit your proposal there.

The deadline for submissions is Jan 1.
Invitations to the conference to be sent Feb 1.
The conference itself will be May 13/14.

Here are some possible frontier subjects for presentations:

System Administration

There is a surge of interest in recent times in a concept called "DevOps". DevOps proposes an alliance among software developers and system administrators in order to create the best possible production environment experiences. Testers need to be a part of that conversation.

Data Visualization

Not only our applications, but the whole world around us generates incomprehensible amounts of data, and the only way to make sense of it all is to render that data in a visual or tactile fashion. Testers need to understand these technologies in the service of their work.


Good test automation today happens at every level. A single framework may exercise the user interface, call REST or SOAP APIs, and reach into a database, all in the course of a single test suite. Myriad tools for such testing exist, and knowing how to get such tools to talk to each other for a particular purpose is becoming a critical skill for testers.

User Experience

Great strides have happened in user experience work in the last few years, and there are exciting advances on the horizon. Testers have largely ignored the conversation happening among user experience experts.

Web Design

New javascript libraries like jquery are making things possible in browsers that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Flex, Flash, and Adobe Air are making huge inroads into application UI design. HTML5 is on the horizon and looming. Testers need to know what is happening in this arena, and largely do not.

Web Services (REST/SOAP)

Twitter, Facebook, and the bleeding edge of web applications are no longer about the UI. Today it is all about the APIs, and the third party applications that use those APIs to bring killer experiences to users. Testers need to know how web services and APIs work.

Environments/VMs/Cloud Computing

Managing test environments has always been challenging. New cloud computing services in some ways make such work more challenging, but the reward is a vastly simplified process for provisioning test environments. This work needs public exposure.

Agile Methods

Agile methods work, but even today, no one knows exactly why. The explanations we have are frequently facile and often abused. Testers could be the ones to provide the well-considered explanations for the effectiveness of agile methods.

Process Work/Quality Assurance

QA has a bad reputation in the testing community that it does not deserve. I have said before on and in Beautiful Testing that QA is not evil, that it is work that still needs doing, and that often testers are in a good position to provide quality assurance. Bring back real discussion about Quality Assurance.

Aesthetics/Artistic Performance

There is a wealth of knowledge available from disciplines within the Liberal Arts that apply directly to software development. Testers can help bring that knowledge over to the world of software development.