GTAC (two months late)

It’s been more than two months since the GTAC and I never wrote anything about it in this blog, so I thought I’d write some words so I could cross it off my to-do list.

As you can imagine, the conference was great. It was my first big conference and my first time outside of Europe, so it was doubly exciting for me. And even though there were many interesting talks, meeting all that bunch of testing nerds was much better. It shows that Google really worked hard to make people socialise.

But let’s start from the beginning. Probably around a year ago now I had written a talk about testability that I had submitted to EuroSTAR 2010, but had been rejected. That had been my third rejection I believe, so I started losing hopes that I’d ever speak at an international conference. However, relatively shortly after being rejected Google announced this year’s event, and the theme was “Test to testability”, so I said “what the hell!”.

They said from the start that it would be invitation-only, meaning you had to apply even for simply attending. That was actually pretty cool, because the idea was that Google would choose the attendees, and once selected and notified, those attendees would _vote for each other’s talks _to decide what the program would be. It would also mean that attendees would be chosen because they had something interesting to add to the conference, not simply money to pay the registration fee.

And one day, right before leaving for a short vacation, I received the news that I had been chosen to attend. At that point, of course, I had no idea if I would actually talk, but just attending was awesome and I was really happy and a bit surprised (I was going to a conference! in India!). A couple of days later I received a lot of proposed talks to rate. That was pretty exciting, and seeing a lot of very interesting topics was kind of cool, because it was so promising, but also a bit discouraging, because I thought the chances of getting chosen were pretty low. Still I didn’t lose all hope, and when the deadline came, I was notified that I had been chosen to talk. At that point I was pretty surprised, but when I kept reading and saw that there were only 8 talks selected (+ 3 keynotes), then I was pretty shocked.

The rest of the story you don’t have to imagine, because in the typical Google fashion, all the conference material is available on the website (both videos and slides). As I imagine that the conference page link will break sooner or later, I’ll just give you the official GTAC 2010 YouTube playlist. My favourite talks were (in order of appearance):

I guess I should also mention “Measuring and Monitoring Experience in Interactive Streaming Applications” and “Turning Quality on its Head”. The first, because I thought it was a cool story about how hard it is to find bugs that are important for users, but are vague and hard to reproduce. The second, mostly because of the tool that James shows off. You can see screenshots and an explanation of it from minute 52.

About my own talk, “Lessons Learned from Testability Failures”, I was really worried that I was going to freak out and block on stage. After all, I was used to talking in front of 5, 10, 20 or maybe 30 people. Speaking in front of around 100 and knowing that I was being recorded for YouTube (and that a lot of people interested in the subject would watch those videos) was quite scary in itself. And then there was the other factor: I usually speak to people who (theoretically) know less than me about that concrete subject, but it wasn’t like that at all in this case. However, people there were so cool and friendly that I felt less nervous than I usually feel. Watching the video, I do look nervous the first minutes, but after the introduction and such it felt really good. Kudos to the organisation and the attendees for being so open, cool and friendly. Meeting all that crowd was clearly the best of going to be conference.

All in all, it was a great experience and I made a lot of contacts and friends, and I’m looking forward to attending another similar conference (maybe next year’s GTAC?). We’ll see.