I organized the Test Automation Bazaar earlier this month with Zeljko Filipin and the Austin Homebrew Testers. I had a good time, getting to reconnect with old friends and meet new people. I’ve been running conferences every year or so since 2000, but it’s been nearly three years hosting my last conference, the 2012 Test Automation Bazaar. Previous to that I had regularly hosted the Austin Workshops on Test Automation.
This event was planned at the last minute, and we didn’t give out-of-towners much advance notice. Sorry about that. For the first time, we had an actually non-profit entity sponsor the event. This was made possible by a recent arrangement with Paul Julius and Jeffrey Frederick and their nonprofit, the Open Information Foundation. This was also the first time that I organized a conference as a pure open-space event. This is how CitCon conferences are organized, and I have attended several of these over the years, often finding them to be more interesting and informative that more formal, better marketed events. When I hosted conferences in the past, we had often included some open-space time on the schedule, but also had a more formal program as well. I am pleased with how the change in format worked out.
Many of the attendees had attended some of these previous conferences, and therefore had some experience with the open-space format. Nevertheless, I was anxious as the start of the event approached. Would the unplanned format work out? But the feedback I have heard has been very good and several have said it was better than previous conferences — the ones that I had spent a lot more time and effort planning.
As an open-space conference, we met on Friday evening, people proposed topics, and then they were arranged on a schedule on a whiteboard. People could vote by putting a tick on the topic post-it with a marker and topics with more votes were scheduled in the larger rooms. The scheduling was done by whoever wanted to.
I tried to follow the traditional CitCon format, but one last-minute change we made was to run the opening circle as a standup. Traditionally, chairs are put in a circle and then the organizers open the conference, explain the format, give everyone a chance to introduce themselves, and then everyone has a chance to suggest talks and topics of discussion. We did this all as a standup meeting. This was an impromptu decision. The natural center of the space we had at HomeAway (the Bistro), just seemed to work better as a standing meeting. Standing isn’t for everyone, especially for an hour or so that the meeting took, so a few people did sit down. But in general, standing worked well. It helped us all focus on moving along and it also made it easier to start moving around when it came time to suggest topics and put the schedule together. So I plan to do this again next time, and suggest that other open-space events consider running the opening gathering as a stand-up.
I would like to thank our sponsors, HomeAway, Atlassian and Lithium for making this event possible. Like all events organized by the Open Information Foundation, attendance was free, and this was made possible by the support from our sponsors. We also gave attendees of donating when they registered. I’d like thank all of those who did, including the large number of donations we got from the BazaarVoice attendees.
Thanks also go to our volunteers: Brent Lavelle, Michelle Powers, Carl Shaulis, Mark Anderson, and Hugh McGowan. Most of us meet monthly as the Austin Homebrew Testers, at 6:30 pm on the third Monday of each month at the BlackStar Coop. You ware welcome to join us. Our next meeting will be Feb 16.
To get a feel for the event, check out our twitter feed.
To get involved with future events, please join the the Test Automation Bazaar mailing list.