May 7th, 2008


Crossing the hump in Orlando

Well, somehow the 4:45 talk turned into watching the "Powerpoint Comedian" video ("Engineers aren't funny, we just laugh at strange things") and then meeting my track chair and then having some guy (who's the quality manager for WalMart or something?) ask me to review his processes and estimating to see if they make sense ("See, here you need to see if you have any flexibility to change the cost if the total time needed is under what you anticipated ... or if it's fixed, see if you can reduce the scope of the project. Remember, an estimate is only an estimate, they should be able to remember that!"), and then I watched two trolleys go by while I walked to the stop, then two buses ignored me because I was at a trolley stop ... and it was 7 freaking 15 and it was getting too cool to swim, for fuck's sake, and I was tired and my brain wasn't working properly to rewrite my paper even though after all of the advice I got today (one hour, twenty slides, "tell a story") I felt like I had a good idea about what I wanted to do ...

so I gave up and trod up the street to the movie theater, figuring I'd surely be able to make it there in time for a 7:45 show, which I did by about two minutes. I asked when the movie actually started and got a few extra minutes in which to wolf down some pizza (surprisingly good at Pizzeria Valdiano, I can see why they've been winning awards for best in Orlando), then headed in to watch Forbidden Kingdom. It's not a very good movie, despite having fight choreography by Yuen Woo Ping and good sets - I was mortified by the pathetic wig on the white haired witch (I mean seriously, it was the same sad quality as the one I wore for Halloween, and her wretched eyeliner and nail polish!) and the "I just read the manual" makeup in the desert scene. Really, why spend all of that money on CGI and totally cheap out on the details that would make the characters look good instead of just sad actors in a forgettable summer flick aimed at the 10 year old set? The people behind me were chattering at normal voice level and wouldn't shut up, and I was so irritated and uninvolved in the movie that I considered walking out, but every time there was a big fight scene it drowned them out. I'd consider this for $3 or maybe on an airplane, but there are really so many better movies out there, I'd kinda blow it. That said, the retelling of the story of Monkey was quite good and an exact match (up to a certain point) with the Chinese Monkey cartoon shadowdaddy and I watched last summer at the BFI.

I had a 20 minute wait for a trolley but finally actually caught one, and the guy was nice enough to stop at a place fairly near my hotel instead of forcing me to wait for a trolley stop that would have doubled (or tripled) my walk home. That's one thing I can say about this trip: I can't believe how nice people have been to me here.

And now it's 10:45 and I'm exhausted. Night, all.

StarEAST day 3: brief recap

I'm a bit tired now and am already back at the hotel in preparation for completely rewriting my talk ... but here's a brief recap of today.

1. Made it to hotel on time in public transpo shocker, had yummy snax, then listened to a talk by James Whittaker on "Testing Dialogues in the Executive Suite." This turned out to be about something else entirely, basically, "What testing needs to evolve into being as the current state of software is unacceptable and we're supposed to have an even more computerized life in 20 years." He demoed a first person shooter hack as how he'd like testing to work ("Here's your enemies! And these are magnetic bullets to hit them with!"). He said his talk is online ... at, but don't be too suspicious about him being at Microsoft because he did teach testing at some college in Florida for a really long time and according to Lee Copeland his books are good enough to buy with your own money. (I will try to add more notes about his talk later, but probably not until tomorrow.)

2. Guy behind me said, "Hey, aren't you the American girl who moved to London?" and then proceeded to tell me he'd seen my blog and apparently spent enough time on it to recognize me from my pix. My. (Yesterday Mr. Copeland said, "Aren't you the Vonnegut expert?" because he'd Googled me and found the books I'd written on Amazon. Odd what traces you leave of yourself on the internet.)

3. Listened to Elizabeth Hendrickson's "Extreme Testing" talk, which was mostly full of, "Wow, I've worked on teams that aren't dysfunctional" to me (despite what she was actually talking about this is what I heard, a description of a beautiful world I've never lived in). She also had great "I'm a testing nut" rubber bracelets to give away which I'd like to get a hold of. Er, let's see, she recommended that testers in XP situations work with the developers and work with the customers - developers can put in things to help you test and customers can help you design your tests as well as providing feedback on the system themselves.

4. Went to the expo and got a multi-colored flashing luggage tag. Actually, I got two, but I'd like to get more. Also got some sort of AC/DC t-shirt ... actually it says AQ/TC and below it "for those about to test," but the font is AC/DC.

5. Went to a talk on Fundamentals of Data Warehouse testing by Mark Bloom, who works at Capitol One. I figured he'd know his stuff. Oddly he used to be a product manager - and he says old mainframe programmers are the best people to staff his team "because they used to code on 128K and they know how to drive data through the small pipes." It was a good talk and I wish he'd had a four hour session to really go over stuff. I got good recommendations on how to scrub data. He also encouraged people to have their business define what data elements are the ones that need to be kept secure when you need to test against production-like data rather than using your own judgment.

6. Lunch - soft tacos and enchiladas, chips and salsa and flan and coconut cream cake. Yum. I gave a woman I was sitting next to the five minute version of my talk so she could go to the one she wanted to that was at the same time, in exchange for a promise from her to give me the info from that talk later.

7. Books - bought $150 worth after getting work to promise to pay for $100 of them. Oops. Saw the woman I mentioned on my blog a year ago (Lisa Crispin) and thanked her for inspiring me to submit a paper for the conference.

8. 1:45 - "Growing our industry: cultivating testing" by Isabel Evans, who is English. She has a degree in horticulture and used this as a metaphor to say that QA really ought to have better certification than it does now. I did not agree that people needed to be certified but I certainly think the current system is a waste of time, an opinion which I shared with her during the Q&A.

9. "Testing Disasters and Turnarounds," Randall Rice. I couldn't avoid this talk for obvious reasons - I love other people's horror stories. Basically, companies with no documentation and constant changes are pretty likely to be falling appart, and when you're trying to come up with a solution for the problems, it's useful to do it as a series of things that take place over different timescales - but if you can't get management buy-in, you're hosed. Enjoyable!

Then it was 4 PM and I was BEAT and wanted to actually get to the hotel before the sun was setting so headed back. Nap time now, then I'll have a swim and get a room service pizza and work on my paper ...