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A View from the Chair with Michael Bolton (Volume 3)

  • 01/04/2013
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Much has happened since my last blog post. The program committee completed its review of almost 420 conference proposals. We then gathered together in Galway in Ireland for discussions and evaluations and selections for the conference program. We are very near the end of this process, and the full program will be announced a few days after today, April 1. Reviewing the proposals gave us a number of ideas for the overall programme that we are pleased to announce today.

As I’ve noted before, people from many countries submitted proposals. This highlighted a problem: these different countries have different national languages; different words mean different things in different places; and many of the presenters were clearly not completely comfortable with English. So, in the interests of clear communication and fairness to all nationalities, we now agree that it’s time to declare an international standard language for testing. When confronted with that idea, a question arises: which spoken language should be the basis for this international standard? We wrestled with this question long and hard. One might think the logical choice to be English, which is the lingua franca for most of Europe. (Have you ever noticed that “lingua franca”, the English way of saying “common language” uses the Italian words for “Frankish tongue”? But I digress.)

In an increasingly globalized world, Mandarin has by far the largest number of native speakers of any language in the world (my data comes from here), and it is also the largest second language, for a total of 1.05 billion speakers. Hindi has the second greatest total number of speakers, and there is a large population of testers in India. Spanish places third. Indeed, English is only the fourth most widely-spoken language worldwide, so the case for it to be the international testing language is, in raw population terms, unsupportable. We required a compromise, but what language to choose? Then it occurred to us: Sweden is a world leader in many things, and especially in the field of software testing. Moreover, this year’s EuroSTAR conference will be held in Sweden. This creates the ideal occasion to declare Swedish as the international language for testing, and to announce that, accordingly, all of the conference talks at EuroSTAR 2013 will be in Swedish.

We recognize that many speakers will not be comfortable presenting in Swedish (at least for the next few years as they’re learning the language as part of their professional development). However, the program committee has found a newly-released product for Symbian-based smartphones called Arpfollio. This app analyzes the presenter’s speech and converts it from English to Swedish in real time. We’ll providing free Symbian phones for non-Swedish presenters, and the output from the phones will be fed into the public-address systems in the meeting rooms. For the 86% of the conference attendees who are expected not to speak Swedish, we will provide a Swedish-English glossary to aid in interpretation. As with human languages, so with computer languages.

Without identifying anything specific in the programme until the official launch day, we can announce that several presentations and tutorials will feature content on tool-supported testing. Again, in the interest of clarity of communication, all of the code examples in all of the presentations will be in the official programming language for EuroSTAR 2013: INTERCAL, a language with a long and august history.

Another innovation this year addresses a problem that I’ve personally encountered in track sessions at many conferences: it’s sometimes difficult to leave the room. Perhaps a session description doesn’t quite match the content and I find myself in a presentation that’s not exactly what I’m looking for; maybe I’ve made a simple mistake reading the program; and sometimes I have to leave to answer the call of nature. At times like that, I’d like to slip out of the room without attracting too much attention, but I often find that I have to stumble over chairs and other conference participants sitting in them. To prevent such awkward moments, track sessions this year will be conducted in rooms without chairs, to allow for easy entrances and exits at any time. The no-chair policy will also help to keep the presentations appropriately brief.

One final item: the gala dinner for the conference will feature, as the main dish, a French delicacy called “poisson d’avril“. The English recipe can be found here.

Bon appétit! À bientôt!

Michael Bolton Conference Chair Content Organizer

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