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New software testing strategies come up big at EuroSTAR 2017

In this roundup, expert Gerie Owen travels to the EuroSTAR Testing Conference in Copenhagen and offers her perspective on testing trends, including AI and neural networks.

EuroSTAR's 25th annual testing conference brought over 1,000 attendees and speakers together to engage on the theme of "The Magic of Testing." I was lucky enough to both attend and speak, and I want to share the software testing strategies I took away from the four-day conference.

Many sessions drew their focus from the magical theme and focused on our ways of thinking about testing. In Michael Bolton's tutorial, we were encouraged to think critically about metrics, and Huib Schoots and Pekka Marjamaki offered us new ways of approaching software testing strategies. Marianna Duijst of Rabobank challenged us to go beyond our test requirements and ask, "What else?" in her track session "Asking 'Else' -- A Tester's Magic Word."

Still other sessions challenged us to change how we think. Andrew Brown from SQS, in his tutorial "Why Do We Make Mistakes? The Magic Inside Our Minds," examined how our evolutionary past affects our current cognitive biases and how those impact our software testing strategies. Peter Varhol from Kanda Software and I also examined cognitive biases as they relate to finding and missing bugs in "How Did I Miss That Bug?" Mirjana Kolarov from Levi9 IT Services, in her presentation, "The Mythical X-Shaped Tester," looked at the different characteristics of testers that contribute to their strengths and skill sets and explained how to assemble a team with the best mix of skills.

The keynotes offered an especially insightful look into software testing strategies. Jasper van Luit opened the conference with "The Magic of Testing" and encouraged us to think beyond the obvious possibilities to find the seemingly impossible solution to issues. Paul Gerrard offered a forward-thinking look into the future of software testing strategies. In his keynote, "Testing With An Invisible Friend," he suggested that testing will always need a human component, and bots may become half of the pair in paired testing.

Have you ever wondered how Disney tests? Janna Loeffler told us all about it in her incredibly entertaining keynote, "Testing The Magic at Walt Disney Imagineering," and of course, she showed some amazing graphics. At Walt Disney Imagineering, both developers and testers are called imagineers. They test not only the animated shows but also the rides. In addition to automated and exploratory testing, they actually "test-ride on the rides." They use personas -- sometimes as many as 50 personas for a new exhibit -- to build their test scenarios. And as Walt Disney always insisted on the highest standards, they don't hesitate to postpone a release that doesn't meet the highest levels of quality.

Dr. Marie Moe ended the conference on a serious but inspiring note as she talked about her journey of security testing and the testing of pacemakers and their related devices. In "Embodied Vulnerabilities -- Why I am Hacking My Own Heart!" she shared her very personal journey of how living with a pacemaker inspired her to understand the medical implant and engage in a hacking project to understand its vulnerabilities.

Opportunities to discuss everything

Track sessions covered almost all aspects of software testing strategies and then some. Everything from Agile to social responsibility was covered in tracks entitled Agile, People & Experience, Automation, Other Cool Stuff!, Even More Cool Stuff! and Future Challenges. Even More Cool Stuff! included Google's Samantha Connelly demonstrating how robots could be used for mobile testing. In the Future Challenges track, Varhol and I explained the challenges of testing AI and neural networks in our presentation, "Testing A Moving Target: How Do We Test Machine Learning Systems?" We noted that testing machine learning systems requires a significant shift in the traditional tester mindset; we can't use our normal test techniques because the results will be different every time. We need to be able to effectively assess whether the results are good enough, and of course, that depends not only on the results but also on the level of risk. For example, rules engines are used in many applications, from e-commerce recommendations to self-driving cars, and yet, we must hold self-driving cars to a much higher level of confidence than we would an e-commerce recommendation.

Lots of traditional and nontraditional networking opportunities were offered at EuroSTAR. The Test Lab, the Community Huddle and the Test Clinic offered additional opportunities for networking, providing different settings to discuss your individual software testing strategies with colleagues, thought leaders and testing experts, as well as a chance to hone your testing skills while playing various games.

In honor of EuroSTAR's 25th anniversary, attendees and speakers received a nice bonus: a book entitled The Little Book of Testing Wisdom, a compilation of tips on every imaginable aspect of testing from thought leaders, expert testers and test managers in our industry. I'm finding this an invaluable resource already.

It is easy to understand why EuroSTAR is often called the premier testing conference in Europe; it offers an incredible learning experience for testers and test managers of all levels of experience.

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