viaqa 2011 Report, Zagreb, Croatia
by Željko Filipin
I have started writing about viaqa 12 conference and I have realized that I never wrote a blog post about viaqa 11, the first (and only) conference that I organized. viaqa 11 was the second iteration of viaqa, the first and only Croatian conference on software testing. Please do not get confused with numbers in names. viaqa 10 was organized in 2010, hence the name.
In short: I think I have completely messed up the conference.
I really did my best. I have spent hours and hours (and hours) organizing the conference. But, at the end, it was not what I was hoping for.
What went wrong? Well, let's start with what went right.
- The conference was two days, one day more than the previous year. The more days, that could be only good, right?
- The conference was still free. Free is always good.
- We had about 50 people, about the same as the first year. At least not going down. Good too.
- I managed to get Bret Pettichord and Andreas Tolf Tolfsen to come to the conference. That was a great experience. Good again.
- We had a nice time after the conference in Medvedgrad pub.
What went wrong?
- I was late to the first day of the conference. Wait, there is more. Andreas, the first speaker of the day was with me. Ouch. Other organizers asked the speaker that should be the second to go first, so we fixed the problem. But still, ouch.
- We still did not manage to move video from video cassettes to a more recent technology. Video cassettes? Do not ask. Do not even ask.
- There was a lot of formal talks, not enough informal talks.
- The lunch was almost a failure. The food was fine, so it was not a complete failure. About 50 of us went to lunch to Ericsson restaurant at the same time as other few hundred people that work there. We got instantly lost in the crowd. All the informal talks that I was looking for during the lunch, lost. Gone into the wind.
- I did not make sure every speaker ended their talk on time. To be more explicit, I was pretty strict about that the whole time. But there was a round table, where a few professors from FOI had a few talks. The round table had it's time slot, and I thought the speakers will make sure to stay inside their slots. I was wrong. Turns out the academics are pretty bad with estimating how long their talks are. The first speaker talked for 40 instead of 20 minutes (and I think he was not the only one to do that). That led to schedule changes to that extend that one of the round table talks was almost canceled since there was no time.
- The round table was the most boring part of the conference. I appreciate the effort, but all talks except the last one were almost completely irrelevant and boring. My mistake. I was glad academics were interested in the conference, and I did not want to reject their talks. A big mistake.
- I did not have enough time to create a good session for the second day.
- I did not follow up with the conference. I never announced who got the prizes, two one year subscriptions to local computer magazines. By the way, the winners (selected randomly) were Zoran Gojic and Mladen Dulanovic.
I did my best, having in mind that I really worked hard and did not get payed. It was a good experience. I will do better the next time. If the next time ever comes.
If I were to ever organize another conference, it would look something like this.
- Up to 50 participants.
- Starts in the morning.
- Probably one day only.
- The first 30-60 minutes every participant says a sentence or two about themselves. This is really important part of the conference.
- 30-60 minutes for conferring. This is almost as important.
- 30-60 of 5 minute lightning talks. 5 minutes is hard limit. The applause starts at 5:00 no matter if you are in the middle of the sentence. Each talk has up to 5 minutes of discussion after the talk. Lightning talks are seeds for later open space.
- 30-60 minutes for conferring. It would probably even be lunch time. Lunch has to be done in a way that all of us are together, but not mixed with other people. (See mistakes above.)
- Open space. Until we get bored, or until we get kicked out of the venue. People write discussion ideas at whiteboard, participants vote on the interesting ideas. Groups that are interested in the same topic gather somewhere and talk.
- Make sure to leave 30-60 minutes for closing session. It would be almost the same as opening session, except you would say what you have learned at the conference, what you liked, what you did not like, how will you apply the things learned, stuff like that. We did that opening and closing session with all participants at the Test Automation Bazaar 2012, and I think it was a really good part of the conference.
- Dinner and beer. Optional, since a lot of people would like to (or have to) go home after spending the entire day at the conference.
- The Beer Ambassador. There should never be another conference without The Beer Ambassador. See Test Automation Bazaar 2012.