Better Software Conference East 2014 - Main Conference wrap-up

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Better Software Conference East 2014 by Software Quality Engineering
Better Software Conference East Logo

The Better Software Conference is a two-day conference, with two days of additional tutorials before the main conference, and a leadership summit, afterwards. I attended one day of tutorials and the main conference. There is a separate article about the tutorials. This is about the main conference.

Highlights from the talks

The talks were organized into tracks.  Wednesday had tracks like Projects and teams, Business Analysis & Requirements, Personal Excellence and Going Mobile, but even the last track was not very technical.  I had a hard time finding good talks from my technical / testing perspective.  Thursday was more interesting, with tracks like Testing, Quality Assurance, Metrics and Big Data.  Here are some highlights from both days:

Keynote 2: The Roots of Agility - Rob Myers, Agile institute

Going through the history of Agile development, the speaker came to an interesting observation:  Many agile teams are like cargo-cults.  They copy the outward appearance of agile, but do not embrace the values, and therefore miss out on many of the rewards of agile.

Servant Leadership: It's not All It's Cracked Up to Be - Tricia Broderick, Pearson

Servant Leadership should be a very interesting topic for IT-companies trying to work agile.  Devised by Robert Greenleaf in the late 60s, based on leadership experience at AT&T, this is a theory of how to lead groups of highly motivated individuals, or what Agile whould call self-managing or self-directing teams.  From this talk, I gather that in the U.S., servant leadership have been advocated beyond its original scope, and possibly have had too much focus on the servant part, but little on the leadership part, which is kind of sad.  I tried to get an opportunity to talk with the speaker about this, but never found it.

Agile describes projects of people working together, in increasing order of effectiveness, as groups, teams, self-organizing teams, self-managing teams or self-directing teams.

A project leaders task should be to help a team work together better and better, so they eventually reach the level of self-directing teams.  To accomplish this, the speaker advocates transformational leadership over servant leadership.  I agree that transformational leadership is better at moving a team up the agile ladder, but a leader who has a team at either of the two highest levels can gain a lot from reading up on servant leadership.

The Survey Says: What testers spend their time doing - Al Wagner, IBM

A survey of 250 testing professionals had some interesting results.  More than half of the respondents had more than 10 years of experience, still it turned out that the most used tool for testing, was documents and spreadsheets. used by more than 60% of testers.  There were lots of other interesting statistics.  The result of the survey may be downloaded here:

Software Testing's Future - According to Lee Copeland, SQE

Lee Copeland is the grandfather in this conference.  He doesn't seem very old, but love to point out that he is, with statements like "I'm probably older than any pair of you together".  His talk didn't touch much on the future, but contained lots of great advice on how to approach the future.  One great point he made made, was the distinction between checking and testing.  Checking is verifying the things we expect, while testing is exploring alternatives.  So called "automated testing", and many other things we call testing is actually checking.  They have an important role, but we need both.

Keynote 4: Get out of the comfort zone - NOW! - Tricia Broderick, Pearson

The quality of the talks varied widely.  The only talk on Quality Assurance saw a steady stream of people leaving the room as they got tired of listening to the introduction, which took 55 minutes.  However, for the patient, there were 5 minutes of interesting facts in the end.

Fortunately, the conference ended with a very motivational keynote, about going back to work and actually doing many of the things we had learned this week.  Full of humor and emotions, this talk aimed to inspire us to do new things, despite fear of failing, like teenagers testing boundaries.  -  It is a very good way of learning new things.  In our comfort zone, we will never really learn anything new, so confront the fear of ending in the panic zone, and try to get to the learning zone.

  • A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new - Albert Einstein
  • Do one things every day that scares you - Eleanore Roosevelt
  • It's kind of fun to do the impossible - Walt Disney

Other thoughts and observations

Not the only Norwegian

During my first tutorial, I was placed in a discussion group with Stein Skogseth from Greenbird.  He was there with his colleague, Ingvild Meyer Pedersen.  To our knowledge, we were the only Norwegians there.  


Mingling - Americans are so easy to talk to

During and at the end of each day, there were different kinds of receptions and mingling opportunities.  For a Norwegian, these situations may not be the easiest to deal with, but they are actually very simple.  Just go up to an American, and let them do the talking!  Or, if you choose to visit the hot-tub, just sit down and you will be engaged instantly.

Everything is big in America!

There once was a blind man who decided to visit Texas. When he arrived on the plane, he felt the seats and said, "Wow, these seats are big!" The person next to him replied, "Everything is big in Texas." When he finally arrived in Texas, he decided to visit a bar. Upon arriving in the bar, he ordered a beer and got a mug placed between his hands. He exclaimed, "Wow these mugs are big!" The bartender explained, "Everything is big in Texas." After a couple of beers, the blind man asked the bartender where the bathroom was located. The bartender replied, "Second door to the right." The blind man headed for the bathroom, but accidentally tripped over and skipped the second door. Instead, he entered the third door, which led to the swimming pool and he fell into the pool by accident. Scared to death, the blind man started shouting, "Don't flush, don't flush!"

This is only one of many American jokes about how things are big in Texas, but compared to Norway, things are big all over the U.S.  -  I think Enonic may have been the smallest company represented at this conference.  I talked with one man from Tennessee.  Asking him about his company, he seemed almost a little ashamed.  They were small, with only 700 employees.  The IT department had 180.  Another man, working in Boulder, Colorado, for a huge, world wide medical company, claimed his location was small.  They had only two departments there, with .... 3000 workers.


Orlando is a city built for tourism.  The Hotel is located inside the Disney resort and right next to Downtown Disney, an outdoor strip mall with some exclusive stores, and several nice restaurants with live music.  The Americans seemed to love these places, but by Norwegian standards, it all seemed very commercial.  Still, this blues band did a nice job:

Jamming Blues band in Downtown Disney