Trip Report – San Mateo

I just got back from a conference in San Mateo, California, followed by a short stay in Salem, Oregon. Here’s my version of the skinny, in no particular order.

(A) STPCon was great. I got to run into Michael Bolton, Rob Sabourin, finally meet Doug Hoffman and BJ Rollison, and make a few new friends. My biggest complaints were with myself. I did not plan to stay for the whole conference, and I presented so much material that I didn’t get to see many of my peers present. What I did see, however, was spot-on – particular what I heard of Rob Sabourin’s keynote on Scrum.

(B) Both the Grand Rapids International Airport (GRR) and the Portland International Aiport (PDX) have free wireless. Minnepolis/St. Paul and San Francisco, on the other hand, charge just enough that it isn’t worth it. This is good news if you are flying into GRR for the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference – – for which planning is finally getting started for 2008. (Sorry – the Call For Papers is not yet public.)

(C) I bought a copy of “Fast Company” for the plane. Long-time readers know that I enjoy it’s sister magazine, Inc, mostly for the inspiring writing. I’ve always been a bit put-off by Fast Company; I don’t quite “get” the concept of a magazine and it feels weird. No, I mean it literally feels odd. Still, I needed reading material for the plane, so I bought an issue to sample. It was good, but not in the way I expected. First off, the magazine is not printed on cheap paper, but instead on 100% recycled paper, which explains the odd feeling. Second, I got two actual real ideas that I intend to take action on, directly from the magazine. For me, that is both unusual and valuable.

(D) Nothing spells success for lightning talks than a comedy of errors. We had problems with the presentation equipment, with getting a mac to project, with powerpoint templates and getting automatic, timed slide advancement working. Not only was it a total blast for the audience (and interesting for the organizers!) it was a great lesson in the ways automation can go wrong.

My favorite part of the lightning talks: Jason Huggins, creator of the selenium test framework, is showing how he tests a google orb. (A google orb is a continuous integration light that lights up red or green based on weather the build passes or fails.) He explains that he lights the bulb, then uses the macbook’s digitial camera to take a picture of it, then his test software analyzes the pixels in the picture to determine if the bulb lit up the correct color.

Michael Bolton’s Response was priceless:
“Couldn’t you just look at it?”

(E) I really, really don’t like traveling. The enclosed spaces (planes, hotel) leads to air circulation problems and noise pollution. Flying leads to lots of essentially wasted time and tends to hurt our relationships with actual, well … people. At the same time, my old traveling regime will have to give way a little bit so I can focus on testing for Socialtext and, well, being a father to my children.

My current problem is a glut of opportunity. I simply can’t do all the good things that are coming my way. The net result is that I will plan to be a little scarce at conferences for the rest of 2008-2010. That may mean more writing or blogging, or maybe something else, but I’m going to cut down on the traveling. If you want to step up to fill the void in the Continental United States, please let me know; I know of several program chairs looking for speakers.

In other news, The original spot for Google Test Automation Conference 2008 was Hyderabad, Indian, but management just announced a venue change to Seattle, Washington, set for an October conference date. I was hoping to use GTAC to get out to the sub-continent of India, an excuse I am still looking for. From here, it looks to me like a trip to India that might become my one big traveling conference in 2009.

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