The Transparent Submarine and Other Surprises

Last week I had the exceptional chance to participate on a very special conference on quality. Except for the keynote, no speaker in the program but about 40 speakers overall. A warm up party event in the evening, but everybody discussed already quality. No expectations on contents but tons of contents discussed. Not a conference, but a “non-conference” – a barcamp. The QSCamp 2017 by OOSE and StugHH.

Be prepared – collected from the StugHH forum

According to Wikipedia, Barcamps “are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants”. Or in short: A giant conference coffee break – a platform for all those talks you usually have in between the official talks. There are rules – known from open space events – but they are just meant to enable that you dare to do what is important for you. All the rest is up to the participants.


Whenever it starts is the right time

As part of the organizing team, I was really excited upfront, as I did not know what to expect. Who would come? Will we have topics that excite us? Will the audience be satisfied and will they esteem the qscamp as valuable? Is the Hamburg testing community interested? Will the rooms be suitable? To start with the last: The rooms at and organization by OOSE were just perfect, and that part with the “giant coffee break” also worked out nutritionally… 😉. The location in the G20-struck  “Schanzenviertel” was also very special, and I still wonder how they got the graffities at a 5-story high building on the top…

Even the Catering was agile at #qscamp

But also for the other questions, all my worries were just not needed. The Hamburg testing community was ready, it definitely was about time to have such an event.

Many participants I knew from StugHH, but we had even more people there, the person with the longest travelling distance came from Vienna! It almost felt like a family event, where the kids bring their friends, too. I should have known from StugHH. But then there were a few differences: people were actively bringing in their own topics and also did not expect a presentation but had the absolute urge to contribute.

One of the rules

When we started to fill the empty conference time table, so many people stepped up with their topics to be discussed, that it ended up being difficult to place a topic into a slot where you would not cannibalize your other interests. In the StugHH we had collected upfront a few topics, but at the qscamp there was such a larger variety, from people bringing something into the room to have their thoughts validated, via more technical discussions, exiting discussions, up to sessions with more of a training character. Overall, we ended up with 27 topics. Although the idea of a barcamp contains the “law of two feet”, I personally was so fascinated by everything, that I never managed to move on to a next session leaving mine.


The law of two feet

I have only seen few of the sessions – oh, if I only had Hermione’s time-turner!

The topic board

But I even then had already very different feelings of excitement afterwards. Once it was more like “now I understand more exactly, but actually, most of it I had seen before” (next time I would move on, now where I understand the law of two feet better), once it was like “how come that these great people give me their time to explain it to me?”, several times it was like “oh we only touched this topic, we need to immerse into this another time!” or once we surprisingly changed topics. Just perfect. Still, I think we all have to get used to the format. It is not impolite to move on, but you go to the session where you contribute or learn most. Some practiced that, others did not.

Once we ended up discussing how to get QA initiatives started in an environment, where stakeholders push for doing “real work”. One group suggested to have something done quietly (submarine mode) and only, when it shows signs of success, present it to thestakeholders. The other group favored using an approach to transparently push awareness at the stakeholders so that they would finally understand and approve the initiative. We ended up inventing the “transparent submarine” (or in German: “das gläserne U-Boot”) for initiatives where you try both, making small things happen in a fail safe environment, but involving stakeholders so that they understand we do it for our joint success.

But beware of thinking we only discussed such “interpersonal stuff”. There were also sessions where I am not sure I even understood the title, so technical… so topics for everybody. I hope. On the level the available people could supply. I believe.

When it’s over, it’s over (?)

Surprisingly suddenly the event was over. We were all so involved, that first, it really felt very sad to stop. But at least my capacity was used up, and many more people were exhausted. Contributing is so much more fulfilling than just consuming. From what I hear, the participants were enthusiastic. Maybe not everything was discussed. Maybe sometimes topics could have been even more detailed. But that is the way it is.

Also, you can see what happened in Twitter using #qscamp17, and there will be a protocol as the qscamp page eventually, so there are more chances to recap. And build on it.

But other than the sessions, which are over when time or discussion is up, we have the chance for another qs barcamp. Next year, about same time. Inbetween, come to StugHH events to keep up that spirit of community sharing!

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