This last week I was in Potsdam, Germany for the 8th instance of Agile Testing Days. Thinking about how to describe it, I find myself struggling to describe the week.

I found this year’s instance a bit of a challenge on multiple levels. I had a fair set of expectations coming in. This is the fourth iteration I’ve participated in. All have been awesome. This year, I was involved in the Software Testing World Cup, helping with moderating videos, interviewing teams before and after the contest, judging the team reports.

I also helped with some of the interviews the conference organizers lined up – both as an interviewer and doing interviews. Loads of fun – and still, time consuming. In some ways, it interrupted the flow of the conference. This isn’t a bad thing – just a thing.

I presented a new session as a track talk. It was a challenge in some ways. I had roughly an hour’s worth of material – pared it down to 35 minutes, allowing some time for questions – except for one minor little point. I should have pared it to 30 minutes. Ah well. I think, in general, it went over fairly well. Some folks looked blankly back. Others, I think, got something out of it. The simple fact is, when you are speaking at a conference, that is the best you can hope for – that people walk away something to act on or at least think seriously about and take home to discuss.

I also spent a lot of time live blogging the conference. Every session I was in I tried my very best to represent what the speakers were presenting. Frankly, I am not sure I ever achieve that. But, I give it a solid shot. (not grape or chain). One thing I was very excited about, was the number of people who ALSO were live blogging the conference since I was here the last time. I know of 2 or 3 who took up the challenge.

The interesting thing is, people ask me why I do it? Simple. I take notes – I might as well share them. That’s it. I write as fast as I can and capture as much as I possibly can. I know I miss a fair amount, but, there you have it.

Friday I assisted my friend and colleague, Matt Heusser on Agile Leadership. It was an interesting session, I thought. Frankly, I would have been interested in participating if I wasn’t helping present it. 😉

The core ideas were similar to those that had been floating around all week. Leaders are to help others excel. Plain and simple – get the junk out of the way to let people be awesome. That is a paraphrase of the “working definition” that was set out. The lessons and exercises presented were variations on that theme. I think it was worthwhile.

The social events were, in a word, astounding. LET’S SEE –

A Christmas Market – yeah. Little booths with food, beer, mulled wine- a HUGE bonfire – a BAND – all in front of the conference center. Yeah. Americans might go, “huh?” But the German tradition, which has a strong base in my home town, still shows up from time to time. It is loads of fun. Then there was the “Awards Banquet” – A costume party with winter and Christmas themes behind them – Oh wow. What fun.

Wednesday night saw a “Sponsor’s happy hour” – where there was a pile of grilled food – yeah, bonfires out front again cooking food, followed by a Games Night. I ran a table there – but there were a PILE of folks running similar tables. And loads of people having fun. AND THEY WERE EXERCISING TESTING SKILLS. It was awesome. Really, really fantastic.

Conversations. Oh man. Smart people. The folks I named in the blog posts from the week. And there were others that stand out. The organizers – Whoa. Loads of work to make an event with 600 people participating come off with out a hitch. The usual host, Jose Diaz, was down with the flu for most of the week – he surfaced on Friday. Madeleine Griep, Uwe Gelfert, Stefanie Reusner and all the rest of the crew. Exceptionally well done. The lot of you picked up the slack from Pepe being down and looked like a flock of ducks – serenely floating on the water, and paddling like mad where no one can see. You all put on a clinic. Well Done!

Let’s see.

Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory, George Dinwiddie, Huib Schuits, Alex Schladebeck, Maik, Meike, Lalit, Carin, Karen, Sam, Ang, Santosh, Gil,Mike & Michael, Stephan, Eddy, Gitte, Diana, Sabine, Claudia, and, and, and – so many people. So many deep thoughts. So many things I need to ponder from them yet. Great conversations from “whole team” and “3 Amigos” to stories and… “tell me how you met” and … everything.

I found myself sitting with, at one point 5 or 6 women talking about the world. Someone asked it I was uncomfortable – Nope. Absolutely enjoyed it. Open conversation and sharing of ideas on nearly every topic imaginable.

In short, this was an astounding event. I slept little and did much thinking and learning. Less drinking this year (good thing) but fantastic conversations that have impacted my thoughts more than any week I can recall in years and years. The information flow was non-stop. Oh, and there were really good conference sessions, too.

There is one thing I can say with absolute certainty. Do NOT make the single major mistake I made this year. I had work to do for the day-job and I foolishly thought I could finish “the last few tickets.” The problem is, my moments of quiet time that I use to assimilate the information I’ve received that day, or at least up to that point since the last time. Look. When you are conferencing, conference. The little rest you get is needed. Nothing to do with hanging and drinking with folks. It has everything to do with absorbing what has happened so you can take it back to the day-job.

Right. Anyway.

There have been so many things I am still trying to assimilate. Look for a Part 2 when I find the right words.