Join us at the Test Automation Bazaar

On March 23rd and 24th (Friday and Saturday), the Watir Conference and Test Automation Bazaar will be held in Austin, Texas. I am hosting this event with Alister Scott, Hugh McGowan and as much of the Watir Team as we can get to Austin. This conference is for the Watir Community and any one who wants to learn more about how people are successfully automating testing. As Watir users are turning to using Selenium’s Webdriver technology, the focus is less on the traditional Watir/IE core and more on using what works, whether that be Watir, Selenium, Capybara or whatever. It’s not even necessarily about web-testing. We are, however, mostly looking for solutions in Ruby and Ruby will be the official language of the conference. We are looking for people to join us and help us make this the best place in the world to learn about effective automated testing. Because we are taking this broad focus, we are calling this a Test Automation Bazaar.

We will follow this schedule on both days:

 9:00 - 12:00    Presentations with moderated discussions
12:00 -  1:00    Lunch
 1:00 -  2:00    Lightning Talks
 2:00 -  4:30    Open Space
 4:30 -  5:00    Group Circle

Therefore we are looking for people who would like to give short, focussed presentations of 10–20 minutes each for the mornings. These will be followed by 5–20 minutes of moderated discussion. The actual time will be determined by the moderators based on the interest level of the audience. We are also looking for 5 minute lightning talks. The morning program and the lightning talks will be single-track, so they will be tightly facilitated. The open space in the afternoon will be multi-tracked and will provide an opportunity for breakout groups, coding demonstrations, and impromptu collaborations. If you have ideas of things you would like to present please contact Alister Scott and me with your ideas. We want to have lots of short presentations from lots of different people.

For some, this may be an unusual format, but it is based on years of experience organizing small conferences. The morning program is based on the LAWST format that we have used in the AWTA workshops and comes from the Context-Driven Testing community. Lightning talks come from the open-source community. And Open Space has been popular in Agile circles. People don’t learn from long lectures, so we are trying to make this as interactive as possible.

If this sounds like fun, please join our mailing list (where we are organizing the conference) and buy a ticket. I am asking everyone who plans to attend to buy a ticket, whether you are host or a speaker or a volunteer. I’ve already bought mine. We don’t have event staff, so we will need lots of help. This is a conference by and for the Watir community.

The conference’s primary financial purpose is to fund the travel expenses to allow the Watir Team to all meet face-to-face. Our team is distributed around the world, so this isn’t easy or cheap. This goal is consistent with membership in the Software Freedom Conservancy a non-profit umbrella group that we are in the process of applying to join. In order to help with this, we are asking everyone attending to buy a ticket, so our overseas contributors can make their plans.

Right now we are offering a limited number of “Early Bird Volunteer” tickets. This includes organizers, speakers, volunteers. We have already started accepting proposals, but will not be selecting “speakers” until very late in the process. We want to work with presenters to help them with their talks and will probably be arranging the program up until the last minute. This is how we have always done it with the Lawst format. Recently I realized that this really amounts to using the Fieldstone writing method to conference planning. So if you have made a proposal and are discussing it with us, please go ahead and consider yourself eligible for the volunteer ticket. We need help with facilitation, particularly from people with experience with the Lawst, Lightning or Open Space formats. We are also looking for people to blog and tweet and video record the event so that the people who can’t make it can benefit. We are also are trying to organize charity workshops for March 22. Maybe you can help with that. Please join our mailing list, where we have been discussing volunteer needs. We also consider any one who has been contributing to the Watir project, answering questions, blogging about what they’ve been doing, to be volunteers. Being a volunteer is as much a state of mind, a willingness to pitch in and help others, rather than just watch the world go by. Buy your ticket today.

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