CITCON 2014 – How I learned a lot this year

How Citcon works

I learned a lot of things this Citcon. For those who haven’t got the chance to be part of a Continuous Integration and Testing Conference, below’s a diagram illustrating how it works.

How Citcon works
How Citcon works

For those of you who don’t like diagrams, here’s a video.

This year was my 3rd Citcon. Lucky number three in Zagreb Croatia. The other two were in Turin Italy and Budapest Hungary. The next location in Europe is Helsinki Finland and I hope that Cluj-Napoca Romania will follow shortly after that.

Citcon is a time saver

Citcon is a very insightful conference! Looking for transportation and lodging may sometimes be a pain, but it’s totally worth it. One week before the conference I was extremely busy and these logistics were not ready yet. It would have been very convenient for me not to attend anymore this year: no more wasted hours searching for hotels and trains/busses/planes, no day off on Friday which meant more chances to meet my deadline for a long time scheduled research. No matter how convenient it looked at that time, looking back I’m so glad I went! Citcon was not a time waster at all, it was more of a time saver!

My scheduled research I previously mentioned concerned finding good tools to write automated UI tests in PHP or JS. I <3 (love) Selenium and I <3 the frameworks built on top of it, e.g Thucydides. This framework is very powerful in organizing test suites and reporting. When it comes to Continuous Integration and automation, good reporting makes a huge difference in reducing the time spent to find out what test failed, if it’s a bug, if we care enough about that failure such as to worry for the release. I used to work with test frameworks which did not have a focus on reporting, nor a flexibility to organize the test suites, and it hurt. I wouldn’t want to go back. So, my dilemma was that Thucydides works with Java, and the programmers I work with are PHP and JS gurus. Unfortunately, open source testing frameworks for these scripting languages do not live up to the level of reporting Thucydides does. Therefore the object of my research was to find the best ways to visualize reports and organize suites while writing Selenium tests in PHP or JS.

Now why do I think that Citcon was a time saver? Mostly because it saved me a lot of time google-searching for tools, when instead I just talked with awesome developers and testers at the conference who had direct experience with them. At Citcon there are big chances to meet someone with similar problems you experience, and I surely met some!

I learned a lot this year!

I was amazed how many things I learned this year at Citcon! Here’s a mindmap to illustrate this. Click on the image and zoom in to see it bigger.

Citcon 2014
Citcon 2014

It’s a great feeling to learn so many things in such a short time! I wish it’d happen all the time! So what do I need to do to make it happen? I think that, among others, two things helped a lot this time to optimize my learning: having a focus and being responsible.

The conference usually starts on a Friday evening with introductions and topic proposals for the upcoming day. The rest of the evening is usually dedicated to informal discussions. The discussions I had with the participants were very interesting from start to end and I think that the main reason was due to having a focus, i.e my research. People usually ice-break with talking about the weather. I too use that tip, but this time was different. My focus allowed me to meet the participants not through their impressions about the weather, but through their experiences with test automation and scripting languages. That’s a nice way to meet and remember people! Instead of linking the image of a person to “That’s Emma. She’s from Spain and she likes to swim in the ocean (she’s not happy with the current bad weather in Croatia)”, I linked Emma with “She’s a developer and she’s been working with RSpec. She thinks that it may worth trying something similar with PHP”. My evening was great! Even though I was extremely tired after a long travel, I stayed up until late enjoying the geeky conversations.

Jeff and PJ, the Citcon facilitators, always encourage during the opening session to be RESPONSIBLE. What they mean is that it’s up to us, the participants, to turn Citcon into a great conference. We make our own conference. We are responsible to propose topics that bug us, we are responsible to attend the sessions we’re interested in, we are responsible to leave the sessions if we don’t learn from them, we are responsible to have conversations with the people we find cool, we are responsible to organize the schedule so that we attend the sessions we like at the hours we want. We are responsible… and this year I felt… very responsible.

My AHA moment

Among others, the last session at Citcon is about sharing our AHA moment. Around 100 participants speak out each in a row what they learned at the conference for which they thought, AHAAA…

My AHA moment was related to how many things I could learn from one on one discussions! Friday I had endless conversations related to the object of my research and Saturday I attended the sessions.  Even on Saturday, the most valuable learning happened during the break after the sessions, when I followed up with the topics and continued the discussions one on one, or one on two, or one on three. Then I had a ‘meta’ AHA moment, i.e connecting the quality of the one on one discussions to the communication in small teams. In small teams, the context is more favorable to have one on one conversations, even during the meetings the entire team attends. Let’s go on with the meetings example. When I’m in a room of 10 people and I don’t understand something, I think twice before I interrupt the meeting asking for clarifications. I do this because I don’t find it efficient to waste 9 people’s time if they already know the answer, when I could do it in private after the meeting. Well, if we were 4 people in the room, I ain’t sure I’d think that much before jumping to questions. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it so much easier to talk, ask questions, share personal experiences and learn when being in a room with fewer people.

Hope to see you at Citcon next year and share our AHA moments!

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