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Leeds Free, Independent, Punk Testing Atelier




Tuesday the 20th of September 2016 marked the 3rd iteration of the Leeds Free, Independent, Non-Affiliated, and quite frankly pretty darned Punk Testing Atelier.

About 100 attendees, 6 speakers, 4 workshop facilitators, 8 panel guests, 2 panel facilitators and about 10 brave presentation karaoke volunteers. Lots of active involvement if you want it, observation for the passive, without judgement.

There are 7 co-organisers too. We are all different in different ways, gender, nationality, background, with the common factor of being enormous dorks. At the end of the day I paid tribute to our ingenuity, resourcefulness and enthusiasm for creating such a day for all. Every word was meant.

Our beginnings are humble, so remains our intent. We aspire to give voice to those interested and (inevitably) affected by testing, primarily in the thriving technology hub of Leeds. Especially to those who wish to find their voice. They often have the most interesting stories to tell, their first appearance has an extra spark. Often, that rawness is where a great deal of learning can be found.



The day requires you to give two of the most precious things you have, your time and your attention. In recompense, we are very, very light on your pocket. We do welcome sponsorship, for the purpose of enhancing the experience and keeping it free, all sponsors contribute a small amount of money, all are equal regardless of means. Stops anyone getting hot and heavy.

Our hosts are Wharf Chambers. A co-operatively run venue which is regarded as a safe space for the many communities of Leeds. It suits our independent, inclusive mission, feels like home, with its variety of spaces and atmosphere. When I'm there, I really don't miss the sterility of the meeting room or conference hall.



I won't comment too hard about the content and how meaningful it was for the attendees as I can't speak for them. I hopped between sessions, nudged elbows, tapped shoulders and generally cajoled throughout the day. Events as an organiser blur by. But if I had to pick a few top moments (and you are correct I'm biased), I would say:

  • Dave Turner gave an eloquent reminder that test automation is extremely valuable and progressive, but it can be a risky game, and that some testers can be bloody well dangerous when given tooling that 'anyone' can automate tests in. It needs to be a team effort, supported by considerations of technology, product and risk. As one of the most forward-looking developers, managers, coaches and thinkers I know, I believe its feedback to pay attention to.
  • Ritch Partridge and James Sheasby-Thomas on the importance of user experience, design and accessibility in our thinking. I loved the mix of empathy, tools and techniques introduced by these two talks, hopefully our attendees will have had their eyes opened a little more, and a few new questions to ask as a result. 
  • Gwen Diagram, for always and forever showing that testers are first and foremost punks, here to tread all over the status quo, ignore accepted wisdom and be the best they can be. When she spoke, I saw nothing but smiles and wrapt attention. Imagine what testing would be if we were all a little more Gwen Diagram?

I have nothing but admiration for all those involved. In the current inventory of my career, the Atelier is at the moment, by a distance, my biggest source of satisfaction.



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