About two weeks ago me and Arik went to the QA2008 conference in Ramat Gan here in Israel. It was a nice chance to step out of our office and go out there to meet people from the QA community, plus have some free conference food and cheap orange juice.

Unfortunately most lectures were boring. Quite a lot of the things said were all too obvious, or simply too much on the surface and too mind numbing. I did enjoy however the morning lecture by Alon Lintsky called People as the Dominant Factor in Successful Testing Projects. I couldn’t agree more with his message – if you want great QA you need some great people, and remember that they are people and not bug finding machines. As he said, communication skills, not just TCP/IP, but human communication skills are very important and we should be working on them just as we are on our technical skills.

I also liked To be Agile or not to be!? by Shiri Gal presented a case of how SCRUM was implemented in Shiri’s company, and how successful or unsuccessful it was. Oh, and the video at the end of the Changes in Software Quality Assurance Engineering lecture was a much needed pause of laughter in the midst of all that seriousness:

Which leads me to the point. The conference was a minor failure not just because of the boring lectures. There were some hot topics hovering somewhere in the air but were not addressed with enough might and intent.

Agile Agile Agile. Shiri Gal did warn us that he’s not going to explain what Agile is. Unfortunately, I doubt how many people in the audience knew enough about it to understand his lecture. One of the other lecturers even mixed up various Agile related terminology in his lecture. The organizers should have had a base lecture about it at the beginning of the day.

Automation. There was a somewhat promotional lecture about automation, but not about automation as a subject. I would’ve been curious to hear about the successes, troubles and solutions of automated testing systems today, and whether there is still some human advantage that cannot be gapped even for pre-written testing scripts.

Off-shoring. The general vibe was that the more high-level QA work will be done by genius QAers in-house and the rest will be off-shored. A lecture about someone with experience in off shoring would’ve been great, to know if it actually works, how well, etc. I got a promotional email for another conference with a whole day’s seminar about it.

The best moment in the conference was saved for last. It happened when the experts board faced a strong and passionate comment from some gray looking guy called Michael. He commented how the lectures failed to address QA (Quality Assurance) properly and actually talked about QC (Quality Control), or as I understood it genius QAers that can participate in design meetings and show the developers where their features go wrong vs. simple testers that could be off-shored or who’s work done via automated testing.

Now, I was not aware of such a distinction before, so this somewhat enlightened me as well. My life as a QA Engineer combined both sides – running dumb tests at certain times, and participating in high level stuff at others. As I’m writing these lines I’m not sure this distinction could be made entirely, as such a QAer could quickly lose touch with the product if she’s not running any tests at all.

Nonetheless, this distinction definitely left some food for thought. Do test managements today address QAs at all, or are they mostly for QCs? Say there was such a test management for these kind of QAs, what features would be in it? Would it even be called test management?

All in all a somewhat tiring day was had outside the office. I did get the chance to meet nice and bright QAers at our conference table and some ex-colleagues of mine. It was nice though to see that Israel has an active and an intelligent QA community on the rise. Also, there’s nothing like boring lectures to brainstorm crazy ideas. Actually, it’s a close competition between showers and taking a number 2 in the toilet :)