Selenium Conference 2015: A First-Time Attendee’s Recap

Last week’s Selenium Conference in Portland was the fifth of its kind but the first one for me. I’m super glad I went, as several of the talks were noteworthy:

  • Selenium creator Jason Huggins’ World Domination: Next Steps was the keynote talk closing out the second day of the conference (the first day was devoted to workshops). A deeply autobiographical talk that segued into the history of Selenium, it then covered the current status of Jason’s one-man company–Tapster Robotics–before bringing all the threads together with a totally amusing slide showing a futuristic API call to starDriver, where the star refers to the wildcard asterisk character for “anything.” Jason did a super job of interweaving the personal and the technical, leaving the audience with a clear but unspoken message: Follow your dreams!
  • Selenium/WebDriver project lead Simon Stewart’s Selenium: State of the  Union was the keynote talk opening the first day of the conference. The highlight of this talk for most audience members (judging by the audible “oohs!”) was the demo of three simulators simultaneously running the iOS Facebook app on the same host, using FBSimulatorControl, which was released during the Conference. Simon also covered a couple of inherent problems with end-to-end automated testing:
    • End-to-end testing is slow, for which he recommended Sauce Labs or BrowserStack as remedies.
    • End-to-end testing is unstable, for which he suggested that instead of focusing on writing better APIs, we might want to  focus more on sharing our knowledge and experience with each other. As a Selenium Meetup Organizer, I was particularly intrigued to hear this from Simon, as it supported my view that Selenium Meetup speakers’ move away from tips/advice/best practices to showing off cool technical inventions represents a trend not necessarily for the better of the overall Selenium community.
  • Anand Bagmar’s To Deploy or Not To Deploy – Decide Using TTA’s Trend & Failure Analysis drew me into the audience because I wanted to find out what a TTA was! I was totally mesmerized by the TTA’s graphic portrayal of how a test suite measured up against the famous testing pyramid. Too many places where I’ve worked make no effort to have their various types of tests–manual, Selenium/WebDriver, web service, view, JavaScript, integration, unit–in the same type of repo, so no attempt can be made to analyze their product’s test suite as a whole. I saw the TTA’s measurement of the test suite vs. the testing pyramid as an excellent “baby step” for such companies to try to take, a step which would then allow them to move on to the other types of test analysis covered in this excellent talk.
  • Appium project lead Jonathan Lipps’ The Mobile JSON Wire Protocol was a super informative talk, almost a technical lecture in style. It included a primer on http protocols and how they work, along with an explanation of the motivation for the JSONWP before launching into the MJSONWP. Jonathan created excellent slides and presented their material very nicely.
  • Moiz Virani’s Testing the Testing Machine had the single best quotation of the entire conference:  Software testers always go to heaven; they’ve already had their fair share of hell.
  • Denali Lumma’s Curing Impostor Syndrome (the keynote opening the third day of the conference) initially made me think she had made up some syndrome name for the purpose of her talk, but I soon found myself Googling “impostor syndrome” where I learned that it’s a well-known phenomenon! As her talk went on, I didn’t find myself thinking that I had impostor syndrome, but as soon as the ending applause was over, the woman sitting next to me gushed about how much the talk had resonated with her! This talk was very well delivered–it even included an exercise!
  • Anurag Singh’s A Year of Implementing Ideas from SeConf’14 was a talk that I think should be given at the Selenium Conference every year! Its subtle message was that every one of us who attended should come up with three things to implement over the course of the next year before the 2016 Selenium Conference, and get started on them as soon as we return to work.

Critic that I am, I only came up with two areas that could use improvement about the Conference:

  • Some of the speakers could really have benefitted from a review by, and feedback from, Conference organizers. For example, some of the non-native English speakers spoke too quickly to be easily understood, given their accents. A fluent speaker presented way too much Java code and didn’t seem to notice that she was literally losing her audience. Another speaker spent way too much time talking about how to test a ballpoint pen; that was fine for an attention-grabbing starter, but it quickly wore thin.As a former Toastmaster whose one year in the organization proved totally invaluable, I think technical presenters would do their careers a huge favor to join a local Toastmasters club. And I hope next year’s Conference Committee will solicit volunteers to be on a new Pre-Conference Presentation Feedback Subcommittee! I’d like to volunteer for that duty right now!
  • Some speakers appeared on the agenda more than once. Denali Lumma gave a keynote and a talk entitled 2020 Testing. Jason Huggins gave a keynote and was on the Lightning Talks agenda at the end of the second day.Worst of all was Anand Bagmar’s three appearances on the agenda. While his To Deploy or Not To Deploy – Decide Using TTA’s Trend & Failure Analysis talk the second morning was really good, he was back on stage that afternoon co-presenting Say “No” to (More) Selenium Tests. I was particularly annoyed at this latter talk because it employed a couple of the same slides and concepts that had been covered in his morning talk! Fortunately, due to a Southwest Airlines snafu, I had to leave the conference a bit early on the last day, so I missed Anand’s Automate Across Platform, OS, Technologies with TaaS talk. (I might have totally blown a gasket if I saw any more duplicate slides at it!)

    Multiple talks by one presenter is something I think the Conference Committee needs to totally disallow in future years. Nobody but the MC and maybe the Selenium/WebDriver PL should be in front of a mike more than one time per Conference!

Besides the overall excellent keynotes and tech talks, there were a lot of other big pluses I got from attending the Conference:

  • As the San Francisco Selenium Meetup Organizer, I was on the lookout for both speakers and hosts for future Meetups. I came home with five tentative “volunteers.” (Their arms were only mildly twisted!)
  • I bumped into a former immediate co-worker and spent all of the second evening chatting with her about our careers, our work, and lots of other stuff. We both live in San José but somehow we hadn’t gotten together for over a year until the Conference!
  • Due to Southwest Airlines messing up my return travel plans, I wound up on the same flight as Denali Lumma, who, as one of the Conference Committee members, was actually interested in hearing my feedback on the Conference!

Overall, I thought my first Selenium Conference was a super use of my time and money–many thanks to this year’s Conference Committee! I hope to attend again, at least the next time it’s in the U.S. And I’m definitely going to volunteer for the Conference Committee then too!


About Mary Ann May-Pumphrey

I'm a software QA automation engineer, focusing primarily on Selenium/Webdriver automation of the front end of web apps. View all posts by Mary Ann May-Pumphrey

4 responses to “Selenium Conference 2015: A First-Time Attendee’s Recap

  • F Bowie

    Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


  • autumnator

    Thanks for the recap and thoughts Mary Ann. Great info for those that didn’t attend.

    I think having a presenter multiple times isn’t necessarily bad, it just depends what and how they present. This multiple presentation by same person thing has been done at other conferences/camps like Silicon Valley Code Camp. Reusing slides is indeed kind of lame, although if it’s just a few slides, I think that’s ok, as long as not too many are reused.

    On a side note, it would be interesting if one could see Selenium/Appium material at a future Silicon Valley Code Camp. I don’t think that’s really been done before. I considered being a speaker but don’t really have good material to present at the moment. A plus for that camp is that it’s free unlike Selenium Conference, and local to the valley as well.

  • autumnator

    Also, on Jason Huggins’ talk, the low hanging fruit would be to improve on Selenium API based desktop automation support for Windows, Mac, Linux for what’s currently available (Winium, Twin, AutoItDriverServer, Appium for Mac, etc.). Would be great for single Selenium API to be able to drive all desktop, mobile, and web testing together from a single framework (or language binding).

  • Shobha Nixon

    Thanks for sharing your experience at the conference. Happy to hear from you after a long time.

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