Live Blog: Lightning Strikes the Keynotes, STARWEST 2013

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On October 2, everyone’s favorite rapid-fire conference session took place. Of course, I’m referring to what is aptly called “Lighting Strikes the Keynotes.” During this keynote, a wide range of conference speakers got five minutes to capture the crowd’s attention with their best ideas and thoughts on all things testing and development.

Lee Copeland kicked things off and told the crowd that these speakers are going to “hit you with their best shot.”

James Bach then took command of the stage and talked about a lesson he learned about risk. When James’s scientist sister asked him to help her identify microscopic plankton for a project she was working on, he said he felt overwhelmed with the amount of variations of plankton, thus making the identification process a headache of a task.

However, he soon realized that he only needed to identify a small portion of the plankton—the ones that were toxic. These plankton were the “risks” that he was assigned to identify, and he likened this task to risk-based beta testing.

Following James was his brother Jon Bach who centered his talk on the importance of context. Jon described a common situation we probably all have come across. How many times have you heard the words “It depends” as an answer to a question you may have posed? For example, think about 1000 degrees Celsius. Is this hot or cold? Well, “it depends.” If it’s only 1000 degrees Celsius on the sun, that’s going to be a pretty cold star.

So apply this lesson to your own testing endeavors and realize that there is not simply a “one-size-fits-all” solution for testing problems. It all depends on the context of each situation.

Jennifer Bonine’s session focused on leadership, and she opened her speech with an interesting case study involving UCLA researchers studying how people react to becoming leaders. The researchers took a random sample of people, put them in groups of three, and assigned one person in each group as the “leader” in charge of moderating the group; the group members were supposed to be working together to solve some sort of problem.

However, the point of the UCLA experiment was not to see which group could solve a problem. It was to see how each assigned leader behaved when receiving the title. When the researchers handed out four cookies to each team of three, every single one of the leaders took the extra cookie, thus showing the effects of leadership on a person who all of a sudden believes that he or she deserves more than the others.

Think about all the controversy that goes on in Wall Street with CEOs taking enormous paychecks and bonuses because of the belief that they deserve such lavish compensation for their actions. Jennifer was quick to point out that the same phenomenon that occurred during the cookie experiment is the same thing that occurs on Wall Street.

All in all, it was a delightful keynote session that was able to catch the audience up on sessions they may have missed and more than likely instilled in them some helpful ideas to take home.