2014 has been a non-stop voyage of discovery for me, as for the first time I’ve been participating in testing events and meetups around Europe, making many new friends and connections along the way. So when I was presented with the chance to become a member of the media team at EuroSTAR 2014, via the Community Press Pass competition, it seemed like just the ticket… if you’ll pardon the pun!
With less than two weeks until EuroSTAR kicks off, the excitement is building rapidly. I wanted to share a bit about what I’m most looking forward to, and give you all a preview of the sights and sounds which you can expect to encounter at the conference, and which I’ll be blogging more about once the conference begins.
This year’s EuroSTAR Conference is being held in Dublin, a city which I’ve visited many times before – it’s like a second home to me. Should you need any directions, local recommendations or are running desperately short of Guinness, I can help you on your way. Here are a few things to get you started!
The name “Dublin” derives from the old Irish for “black pool”, which must have been very confusing for ancient visitors from Blackpool… That’s about the limit of my Gaelic knowledge, but if you’d like to learn a few more choice phrases, I recommend starting with the recent EuroSTAR blog post, “Cúpla Focal as Gaeilge”.
If you’re venturing out in the city, it perhaps won’t surprise you to learn that there are more than a few pubs and bars where you can find some “craic” (fun). The Temple Bar area is the main tourist hot-spot, meaning that it’s both busy and lively, but wander around the side streets of the city centre and it won’t be long before you find a charming, welcoming drinking venue. And I think that it’s true what they say – the Guinness does taste better in Dublin.
There’s plenty more to see and do around the city. If you have a free day, you can get real value for money (and a good overview of what’s around) by getting a day ticket for one of the red or green tour buses which loop around the city. The drivers will give you a live commentary around the 90-minute loop, and you can hop on or off at any stop. The route will take you past many of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, including Trinity College, the National Gallery, Dublin Castle, the Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Zoo and the Jameson Distillery.
Without further ado, let’s turn our attention to the real reason we’re heading to Dublin! EuroSTAR 2014 is being held at the Dublin Convention Centre, known locally as “The Barrel” for reasons which will be obvious if you’ve seen an exterior photo. The venue looks out onto the banks of the River Liffey, and (thanks Wikipedia) has twice previously hosted auditions for The X Factor. I’m sure there will be a sing-song or two before the conference is over!
This year’s conference theme is “Diversity, Innovation, Leadership”, and the keynote speakers have been carefully selected by Paul Gerrard and the program committee as the embodiment of these ideals. Of the speakers that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing before, I’m most looking forward to seeing Rob Lambert (his 2013 conference session, “Moving To Weekly Releases”, was one of the most-discussed talks at last year’s conference, and is available in the TEST Huddle webinar archive) and Isabel Evans, who has achieved similar successes, whilst maintaining an open and healthy approach to failure, as we’ll hear in her talk.
The four tracks on offer throughout the conference contain so many interesting abstracts – I’m less concerned with finding a good talk, and more worried about missing a great one! Thankfully, on Thursday afternoon there is a “Do-over Session” where the most popular session (according to an attendee vote) will be given a second outing. But you can’t be in every session, so talk to each other in the breaks and in the evenings, and share stories about the talks that you’ve witnessed. Twitter can help too; tag your messages and photos with #esconfs and you can help to communicate a session’s key points to those who couldn’t make it.
You can view the full programme on the EuroSTAR Conference Programme page. If you’re a logged-in attendee, you’ll also find the option to save your favourites into your own personal conference planner, which could prove invaluable for finding your way around.
Between the sessions, I’m looking forward to participating in some hands-on testing activities in the Test Lab. To know a tester, you must know how they test – why not team-up with some of your peers and participate in a constantly-changing variety of puzzles and exercises? A quick tip: If you need to find me during the conference, the Test Lab will be the best place to start.
The social events
The EuroSTAR team have put together a stellar selection of social activities to help you to unwind in the evenings. As well as the renowned Community Dinner and Conference Awards (for those who enjoy their fine company and fine dining in equal measure), there are a range of other activities, starting on Sunday afternoon with a 5km fun run.
On Monday night, the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl will serve up performances of some classic Irish writers, whilst also guiding you around some of the lesser-known drinking establishments in the city centre. It sounds as if it’s going to be both fun and informative! (If you prefer your literature in a more serene setting, I can heartily recommend the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square – one of my favourite visitor attractions in the city.)
And on Thursday afternoon, after the conference programme concludes, there’s a tour to the Guinness Storehouse. To me, it’s an essential part of any visit to Dublin; there’s a museum spread across several floors, you’ll receive training on how to pull the perfect pint, and the ticket price includes two pints of the black stuff which you can enjoy in the Gravity Bar, one of the best views over the city. It goes without saying that Guinness lovers will get the most out of it, but the other parts of the ticket price (the coach tour, the museum and the views) make it a great way to finish your conference experience, regardless of your drinking preference.
Tickets for the above events are limited and should be booked in advance; visit the Extra Events page for more details.
The clock is ticking!
If you’ve not yet booked your tickets for EuroSTAR, there’s still time – just! There are also discounts available for groups, students and members of supporting organisations, so it’s not too late to sign up.
On the other hand, if (like me) you booked your conference tickets as soon as the programme was announced, the wait is almost over, and it’s nearly time to get packing. I’m looking forward to meeting you all, not only in my role as community blogger but also professionally. Please come over and say hi, even if I seem to have my head buried in a laptop, I’ll always make time to chat. The blogs can wait! (Don’t tell Daragh or Ronan that I said that!)
Please also make my fellow bloggers, Kim Knup and Nick Shaw, feel just as welcome: share your thoughts and experiences with them, and help us to spread EuroSTAR’s Diversity, Inclusion & Leadership message to a worldwide audience.
See you in Dublin!
About The Author
Neil is one of our Community Press Pass Winners this year for EuroSTAR 2014 and will be blogging on all that he sees at the conference. Neil has ten years experience testing desktop and web applications. Neil is a regular at software testing events, he is an organiser of the Weekend Testing Experience along with Amy Philips. Neil also writes his own blog on testing which you can find at Neiltest.com. You can also find Neil on Twitter.