public static void main 🎶

On June 23, 2023 Hanno Embregts and I performed a lightning talk / pop music quiz called “public static void main 🎶 “. This was based on a Tweet that said “I realized that you can sing “public static void main” like “Everybody dance now” and I can’t stop doing it”. Hanno found 15(!!) songs that would also work, and we created a pop music quiz.

On June 23, 2023 Hanno Embregts and I performed a lightning talk / pop music quiz called “public static void main 🎶 “.

Hanno and I met at Joy of Coding 2022, where he gave his talk “What “Stairway to Heaven” Can Teach Us About Software Development“. In this talk, he plays parts of the song on stage with his travel guitar, and then explains how the lyrics are about software development.

How it started

A few weeks later, I saw a tweet that said “I realized that you can sing “public static void main” like “Everybody dance now” and I can’t stop doing it”. (And, I’ve been doing just that ever since.) Someone responded to my retweet by pointing out that this also works for Vamos a la playa.

I love it when a plan comes together

So I pitched the idea to Hanno of doing a “pop music quiz” with different songs where we would replace the lyrics with “public static void main” and we could have the audience guess what the original song was. A few months later, Hanno contacted me to say he had found at least 15(!!) songs where this would work. Apparently, he had gone through the Top 2000 looking for songs he thought might work. So we got together to discuss this idea, write an abstract and figure out where to submit it too. We submitted to several conferences that offered lightning talks slots and … got accepted to Joy of Coding 2023! Coincidentally, this is also where I got started speaking, so I was very excited to return.

Time constraints

Unfortunately, we had to cut some songs due to the 5-minute limit, so we selected the 6 we thought would work best. We selected a quiz tool, created the questions, and some videos to go with them using IntelliJ IDEA‘s live templates.
The Joy of Coding organizers were extremely helpful in allowing us to take the last slot in the lightning talk line-up, letting us use our own laptop to run the quiz, and talking to the venue to get Hanno an audio monitor at the last minute.

Joy of Coding 2023

On the day of the conference, we had a lot of fun playing and singing along.

And to our surprise, we ended up with a tie for first place! Fortunately, we had some back-up songs we could use to settle this tie in a kind of “sudden death” match between the two top contestants.

We also got some positive feedback from the crowd, as well as an invitation to perform again elsewhere.

Thanks

Many thanks to original tweeters for the idea (I’ll forgive you for also getting the song stuck in my head), Hanno Embregts for the awesome collaboration, Yosuf Haydary for pictures and videos of the event and Joy of Coding for having us!

How I got started with public speaking

As a public speaker, one of the questions that comes up occasionally is “How did you get into public speaking?”. In my case another speaker and conference organizer convinced me to submit a lightning talk to their conference, which got accepted. it was both scary and exciting, but fun enough to keep doing it!

As a public speaker, one of the questions that comes up occasionally is “How did you get into public speaking?”. Everybody has their own personal story; this is mine.

Attending conferences

In my 20+ years in IT, I’d never had a job where it was normal for me to go to conferences. This changed when I joined bol.com, an online retail platform, in 2017. At bol.com, going to  conferences was very common. As it turns out, I really loved going to conferences.

Some of the things I particularly enjoy are hearing about new technologies I might not yet be aware of, or new and different perspectives on technologies I already know. Also, I’m interested in hearing stories about challenges people face in other companies and industries, and how they solve their problems (either with or without specific tools). My favorite conferences are the ones where I come back with a bunch of ideas of new things to try. In addition, I very much enjoyed meeting people and discussing our thoughts on software development in the so-called “hallway track”; the conversations that happen in the hallway in between talks. While talks can often be watched online after a conference, meeting new people and having conversations with them only happens in person.

Meeting other speakers

To expose myself to more ideas, I created a Twitter account and started following speakers I liked and people I met at conferences. One of those people was Peter Hilton, whose talk I saw speak at CodeMotion Amsterdam 2017 and later met at Joy of Coding in 2017.

Peter was the one who convinced me to submit a lightning talk to Joy of Coding in 2018. He told me that as it was only 5 minutes, if I really didn’t like it, at least it would be over quickly. Of course, what he didn’t tell me is that it could be worse: I could end up liking it and wanting to do it again! Also, it wasn’t until I was accepted to do a 5-minute lightning talk that people told me that short lightning talks are actually harder than regular, longer talks. If you only have 5 minutes to get your point across, you have to be really clear about what that point is!

Picking a topic for my first talk

For my very first talk, I chose a topic I was very enthusiastic about and actively using at the time: Cucumber & BDD. I had started using Cucumber the year before and even started making open source contributions to the Cucumber documentation as well as cucumber-jvm (the Java implementation of Cucumber). My team at the time was using Cucumber to describe the intended behavior of our applications, and these automated tests helped safeguard this behavior by making sure we didn’t break it when making changes and adding new features. Being an active user and contributor, I had way more to say about this topic than I could fit into 5 minutes, so I had to bring it down to several core points I wanted to make. 

Practice makes perfect

Since it was imperative that I keep it under 5 minutes (I was told that the microphone would be cut after 5 minutes; no pressure!), I practiced my talk. A lot. The way I did this was by setting a 5-minute timer on my phone, and practicing my talk in the mirror. Every time I went over the 5 minutes, I would think about what went wrong. Often, it would be a tangent I went on that would take too long, so I would try to cut that and try again. Eventually I managed to whittle it down to 5 minutes and focus on the core idea(s) I wanted to get across.

Conference day!

On the day of the conference, I was extremely nervous but also excited. It was pretty exciting to see my name on a speaker badge!

Joy of Coding 2018 conference badge with my name and the text "I'm a speaker - ask me anaything!"
First speaker badge with my name on it!

There were several people doing lightning talks and the organizers had been kind enough to let me go on first, so I didn’t have to continue to get more nervous while waiting for my turn. Standing on stage for the first time was weird; it can be hard to know if the audience likes your talk if they just sit there quietly.

Fortunately I managed to get my story out within the 5-minute limit, and then I got to sit and watch the rest of the lightning talks. I’ll admit I didn’t really process a lot of them as I was feeling like a deflated balloon after my talk; or at least that’s how I describe the feeling of coming down off the adrenaline after a talk. To be honest, I still feel that way after talks these days, despite having way more of them now. It is not as bad as the first time, but I still get nervous before each talk and still need a bit of time to recover after. And yet, I still continue to do it!

Upsides of public speaking

This is how I got into public speaking. It started with a lightning talk on a topic I was enthusiastic about, and based on personal experience. It’s lead me to speak at many other conferences, share my knowledge and experience, meet many more amazing people and learn from them. And speaking is now part of my job as a Developer Advocate at JetBrains!

Cukenfest 2018 — It’s all about the conversations

This article was first published on Medium.

In April of 2018, I attended Cukenfest; a BDD and Agile conference organised by the people at Cucumber. As a Cucumber user and open source contributor, this was a great way to meet some people I’d previously only chatted with on Slack, as well as hear some great talks by amazing people.

Preconference Dinner

The evening before the conference, we got together at a local pub with both conference speakers and Cucumber contributors. Here I finally got to meet people I’d been collaborating with in person! It was great getting to know them better, and discussing our experiences with Cucumber and BDD.

We also bonded over other topics, like a shared love of Kotlin , or dealing with a similar challenge of moving more towards a Software Engineering role from a tester role.

The highlight of the evening, other than meeting so many great people, might have been the discussion we had about Cucumber expressions, which were already available in the Ruby and JavaScript implementations, and have since been added to Cucumber-JVM.

Lots of smart people, with lots of interesting ideas and experiences to share.

Day one

The first day of the conference had a great lineup of talks by amazing speakers, including Dan NorthLiz KeoghGáspár NagyNat Price and Aslak Hellesøy (the creator of Cucumber). Speakers were introduced by Seb Rose, who could very well have a career as a standup comedian (you know, if this IT thing doesn’t work out).

If you’d like to read more about their talks, I highly recommend the blog by Katja: https://www.katjasays.com/cukenfest-2018-london-recap/ which also includes her sketch notes. Or watch the videos.

Speed meet

After the first round of talks, there was an opportunity for a speed meet; inspired by the European Testing Conference. The format of the speed meet was to have people draw a mind map about themselves as input to 3 minute conversations they would have with other attendants. Rows of chairs are set up facing each other and after every three minutes, people shift places so they end up talking to someone else. This is a great way to get conference attendees to talk to each other. Some people might find it a bit intimidating, but it does seem to foster more communication. The only downside for me is that it can get very loud!

Hallway track

At some point, I ran into Victoria Wiggins in the hallway. She had just done an amazing talk on neurodiversity and this provided the chance to tell her how how inspiring it was. It really showed a great self acceptance! While this led me to miss some of the scheduled talks, we had the opportunity to discuss (neuro)diversity in the workplace.

Personally, I really appreciate the hallway track at conferences, as it gives you the opportunity to meet people, and get different perspectives on things. This really reinforces the learning, as well as foster a community.

Day two

The second day of the conference was an open space, or `unconference`. This day was particularly geared towards interaction between participants.

Matt Wynne introduced us to the rules of the game:

  1. The law of 2 feet; if you’re not learning from or contributing to a session, you can walk off in search of a different session.

2. The other rules are:

  • Whoever comes is the right people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could’ve
  • When it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over

This helps make sure everyone in a sessions remains interested and engaged.

Documentation

Some of us had our own sessions planned; we’d been working on improving the Cucumber documentation and wanted to see what was needed to get them live. It ended up being Matt Wynne, Sam Wright (a.k.a. Plaindocs) and myself working on the last bits and pieces and getting them live!

Later that day we had a demo session, and gathered some great feedback from participants. We’ll be slowly improving them, based on actual user feedback. But for now, we’re very happy to have them live after working on them for many months!

After conference

At the end of the day, we got to enjoy the lovely weather at the rooftop bar. We continued discussions about Cucumber, BDD, Software Engineering, working in tech, being women in tech, and so much more.

Later, a few of us went out to dinner and conversations continued, sharing ideas and experiences and getting to know wonderful people. It’s all about the conversations…

Open Source Day

The next day, we had an Open Source Day, where we got together to discuss upcoming changes to various implementations of Cucumber, as well as how to continue improving the documentation. I got to meet some more Cucumber contributors, which was loads of fun. We even managed to get a few things done!

Take-aways from European Testing Conference 2018 — Do try this at home!

This article was first published on Medium.

This week I was lucky enough to attend European Testing Conference in Amsterdam. To get an impression of the conference, you can visit their website, read up on the #EuroTestConf hashtag on Twitter, or check any of the links at the end of this post.

In this blogpost, I’d like to share some of the take-aways from this conference. Do try this at home!

  1. “Painless Visual Testing” — Gojko Adzic

During the first keynote, Gojko Adzic likened visual testing to traveling with children: “always more painful and expensive than expected”.

Tools can help you collect data, but cannot determine whether the result looks “good”. We will often have to visually inspect the UI. Existing tests break when we makes changes to the UI.

To deal with this, Gojko introduced the idea of visual approval testing and gave a demo of a tool built for that purpose: https://github.com/AppraiseQA/appraise

It would be fun to play with this tool, or at least this idea, to see how this could help make visual testing easier.

An earlier version of this talk can be found here.

2. How Would You Test a Text Field? — Maaret Pyhäjärvi

Maaret used the interview question “ How Would You Test a Text Field?” to generate ideas on how to test a text field, and illustrate how the types of answers people give indicate their level of test experience and mindset.

Some resources mentioned in the talk:

3. Writing Better BDD Scenarios — Seb Rose and Gáspár Nagy

During the workshop, Seb mentioned Example Mapping as described by Matt Wyne

4. Generating Test Scenarios” — Llewellyn Falco

Llewellyn showed us how to quickly increase test coverage by generating test cases. This is also something I’d love to play with!

Of course, he had to first show us his infamous sparrow deck:

Also, the BugMagnet tool was mentioned:

Having just recently heard of BugMagnet, I definitely plan to use this at work!

For more on approval testing: http://approvaltests.com/

5. Automating repetitive communication tasks with a Bot” — Pooja Shah

Pooja Shaj showed us chatbot Alice. You can find the repository on GitHub: https://github.com/moengage/alice

6. Interactive sessions

The conference made a point of being interactive; a lot of the insights came from great keynotes and workshops, as well as fellow attendees.

The interactive parts of the conference included a speed meet (talk to different people for 5 minutes each), lean coffee (facilitated discussion) and open space (free format to present, discuss or ask for help).

More on Lean Coffee: http://leancoffee.org/

One of the questions raised in our group was “How to motivate developers to test?”. Apart from the obvious “managing programmers is like herding cats”, one of the ideas mentioned was to have a bug bash.

Wrap up

The conference ended with a retrospective.

As you can see, we had a lot of fun, learned a lot and went home with new ideas to try out!

Read more:

If you want to read more about the conference, check out the following (especially the sketch notes by @marianneduijst and @KatjaBudnikov):

Conferences as a change toolMaaret Pyhäjärvi

European Testing Conference 2018 – Coming HomeLisi Hocke

ETC 2018, it was simply awesomeAmit Wertheimer

ETC 2018, did I say it was awesome?Amit Wertheimer

European Testing Conference 2018Markus Tacker

What I learned on first day of European Testing Conference 2018 – Karlo Smid

Arena lifeSeb Rose

Jackpot!Seb Rose

European Testing Conference 2018 #EuroTestConfKatja Budnikov

Collection of Sketchnotes of #EuroTestConfMarianne Duijst