A Time Away …

A google map to Liquidnet in Manhattan

Our latest event, TestRetreat, is coming to New York City August 9th. Not just New York City, but 7th Avenue, in the fashion district. That is the same location that hosted WOPR, the Workshop On Performance and Reliability, and had a recent profile on CIO.com.

Limited to forty attendees, TestRetreatNYC is a one-day, Saturday event that starts at sixty dollars for early registrants – that is a fraction of the day rate for any for-profit conference. We’ll use democratic techniques to decide what to speak about based on the interest of attendees. Unlike other events, we’ll jump directly into problem solving our own problems, creating knowledge. Experts are free to come and share existing solutions, but even then, the solutions tend to merge, combine, explore, and create new content.

But … Why a TestRetreat?

It was at GTAC, Google’s Test Automation Conference, in 2007, that I first heard the idea that a conference could be too big — or at least, too big for a certain purpose.

Alan Hutchinson, the conference organizer, references Dunbar’s Number,  the maximum number for stable social relationships. At around 150 people, stop recognizing names on sight, and have to select close friends verses acquaintances. To keep the conference friendly, Hutchinson put a cap on GTAC attendance and required an application to attend.

Since that time, there has been a lot of scientific criticism of Dunbar, but the core idea — that small gatherings feel more personal — is something that resonates with me. Moreover, large conferences get commercial and have to appeal to multiple skill levels. For example, my evals at large conferences tend to be a bipolar distribution – some very high and some low – because I find it challenging to address both senior people (who want a conversation) and more junior testers, who just want to be told how to do it.

I find I am more interested in the conversation.

So, over the past few years, I have been organizing mini-conferences, which are peer events, where each individual is responsible for capturing our own learning.

The big, for-profit shows have a place, and the directed workshops and leadership training grounds have a place too. Somewhere in the middle is the escape for senior leaders, to get time away to think, reconnect, experiment, invent, and share. Saturday night, after the event, we’ll have a dinner cruise. Sunday is open to explore the city, perhaps with friends, while CAST, the Conference for the Association for Software Testing, starts Monday the 11th.

If you’d like to take your learning to the next level, I hope you’ll consider TestRetreatNYC.


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