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99 seconds – a long time and a short time!

I’d seen “99 second” talks online from TestBash conferences and, more recently, on a new section of the Ministry of Testing’s Dojo website. This length of talk sits somewhere between an elevator pitch and a lightning talk, an intriguingly short length of time in which to communicate something of value.

When I saw Rosie’s request for more 99 second talks for the website, I responded and she immediately sounded keen on the topic I proposed, so it was time to put my talk together. Really, how hard could it be to record a minute and a half? Well, as it turns out, 99 seconds is both a long time and also a short time…

My first step – perhaps erroneously – was to focus on the technology of how I would record my talk. My trusty Dell Latitude comes equipped with a webcam, but I’d never used it before so some Googling later and I was installing Windows Movie Maker to enable me to make use of the webcam for video and the laptop’s built-in microphone for audio. So that was the tech sorted (or not…).

Next it was time to refine my content to try and fit into just 99 seconds. My topic was on working with an offshored testing team in China and I’ve talked about this numerous times in arenas such as peer workshop Experience Reports and testing conference presentations. My previous talks varied in length from fifteen to forty minutes, so clearly I needed to cut to the chase with the points I wanted to make within 99 seconds.

I quickly realised that having a printed script to read from would offer me the best chance of sticking to such a strict time limit. My first cut looked good to me, nice and short. So back to Movie Maker, record, talk the script, and stop – that felt about right. Two minutes and forty seconds – 160 seconds! How could I cut this down even more to achieve the magic 99 seconds time limit?

Culling some unnecessary stuff (like introducing myself, since the clip has a bio on the website) and removing some over-wordiness resulted in my next few efforts being around the 120 seconds mark, getting closer! Some more subtle culling got me to the magic 99 seconds, albeit after a number of takes (as a few attempts saw me stumbling over words or leaving unnecessary gaps).

What I hadn’t noticed while recording my 99 seconds of pure brilliance was the fact that the laptop cooling fan would cut in every time during the recording, adding a nice whine to the already considerable background noise picked up by the mic. Not being an expert on video editing, it was time for some more research on how to repair my clip to remove this unwanted noise. The first YouTube clip I stumbled across on the topic of removing background noise nailed it – using DVDVideoSoft’s free video to MP3 converter to grab the audio from the Movie Maker file, then Audacity for audio editing (noise reduction and also amplification). After installing and using these simple free tools, I was soon happy with the video and audio quality – and it wasn’t long before Rosie had it up on the web for all to see.

My talk – titled “Working with offshore testing teams: bridging the cultural & language divide” – can be viewed on the Dojo (requires free registration) at:

My 99s talk

I learned a lot during the process of creating a 99 second talk – it’s a short amount of time to say something of value, so requires a steely focus on the key points of your message; it’s also a lot of time when you’re sitting there watching yourself over and over again while refining the clip!

Now I’ve told you how to do it (all you need is your content), what’s stopping you adding your voice to the testing community in a 99 second talk?

Connecting more testers in Melbourne – the TEAM is growing!

The second meetup of the Test Engineering Alliance Melbourne took place on the evening of Wednesday 5th August, 2015, in the offices of Randstad in the Rialto, Melbourne CBD. Momentum out of the first meetup saw us with just over 150 members before the second event. With a slightly larger venue this time, we could increase our cap from 30 to 50, but even so we were still “sold out” within a day of announcing the meetup! It was great to see almost all of the RSVPs actually showing up (we think there were 42 attendees, a very encouraging number).

Rajesh Mathur kicked things off with a welcome to the meetup, including repeating some history for the newcomers about why we felt the need to start such a meetup group to try to form a testing community in Melbourne. He ran through some of the background, our context-driven tendencies and our appreciation for the sponsor (Randstad) for providing the meeting room, food and drinks. He also introduced the idea of workshops and full-day events in the future, as well as the possibility of a small entrance fee if we are to expand into larger (paid) venues. (The idea of workshops was very popular, as we expected.)

The feature presentation for the evening came from one of the founding members of the context-driven testing community, Paul Szymkowiak. He talked about the history of CDT in his talk, “CDT: Highlights from a Journey”. The talk was structured around his personal journey and it was fascinating to hear how he became involved with the likes of James Bach and Cem Kaner in the formative years of the CDT school. His talk also provided an excellent recent history of software testing, viewed through the lens of CDT. Paul’s talk was very well received and we were lucky to engage him in the meetup to share his experiences with us.

The lightning talks came next and it was something of an embarrassment of riches this time, as we had three volunteers well before the meetup and then another addition from the organizing group just beforehand. Erik Petersen was the MC again and first up was Scott Miles (from AHPRA) who talked about some ideas for making automation tools more intelligent. He had some great ways of making automation more stable by introducing some intelligence into the way the tools work, rather than adopting their typical black & white pass vs. fail mentality. Scott will be publishing some of his ideas soon and is also working on an automation tool to incorporate some of these ideas; in the meantime, he has recently guest blogged on Rajesh’s blog on this topic: http://www.dogmatictesting.com/2015/08/improving-cost-effectiveness-of.html

The next lightning talk was given by Dhanushka Ranganath, who made a last-minute change to his topic and talked about his experience of running performance tests against a heavily-used education sector website. It was a good little talk, focusing on some practical “do’s” and “don’ts”, nice work. Paul Seaman was up next and he kept his topic secret, but it was an absolute cracker. He immediately hushed the room with his intro, telling us how confronting some of the content would be before proceeding to show us a photo of a young women looking heavily bruised to the face. The audience were visibly shocked and readily went along with Paul’s suggestions that the most likely tools to produce the image we saw were the hands of a male. It was only when he showed us a picture of a make-up box, the actual tools, that we began to see where he was going. His message was that we are easily fooled and our emotions fill in the gaps when we don’t have all the facts – while this is a useful survival skill perhaps, it leads us astray in testing all the time. Brilliantly done, Paul.

Our final lightning talk came from co-organizer Colin Cherry who was inspired to present by a LinkedIn discussion from one of the meetup participants. He talked about “measuring” testing capability and how contextual that is, the concept of “good enough” (as first coined by James Bach in the testing arena) being key. A good short talk from Colin, (deliberately) asking more questions than it answered to get the audience thinking about what “good enough” means in their particular environments. (For an example of Bach’s work in this area, see this IEEE Computer Sociery article from 1988 published on James’s website: http://www.satisfice.com/articles/good_enough_testing.pdf).

By the time the lightning talks were done, it had almost reached our scheduled end time of 7.30pm so we didn’t manage to get any roundtable discussions or dice games going, but instead encouraged the participants to enjoy the Randstad hospitality and network if they wished. It was pleasing to see most of the group staying around to chat and meet the presenters (and the Randstad guys were genuinely surprised how passionate these tester types are to learn and share!). The vibe was great and it was good to see such a broad range of experience in the same room, but all with the interest and desire to learn and share about testing – this is exactly what we hoped for by starting the meetup!

As a reminder, here’s how to stay up-to-date with the TEAM meetup and we look forward to seeing even more new faces at our next event!

TEAM LinkedIn group: https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=6968269

TEAM Twitter handle: @AussieTesters

TEAM website: http://www.meetup.com/Test-Engineering-Alliance-Melbourne/