Navigating the Challenges of Hosting A Conference Workshop

This article is inspired by a conversation in the Agile Testing Days Slack.

Crafting a successful workshop is an art—especially within the dynamic landscape of a conference. Whether you’re steering participants through a tech-focused session or exploring broader educational horizons, the principles of engagement, preparation, and adaptability are universal. While the compass points in this article are tailored for tech workshops, they hold true for any subject. However, non-tech workshops may have their own unique set of challenges and will benefit from additional, specialized considerations.

A whimsical and colorful illustration, featuring a diverse group of people actively participating in a conference workshop.

The Universal Toolbox

Preparation is Key: Regardless of your workshop’s focus, preparation is paramount. For tech workshops, this often involves ensuring that all participants have the necessary software tools installed. Detailed preparation guides can set the stage for a smooth experience. While tech tools may not be central to all workshops, the concept of equipping your participants with what they need beforehand certainly is.

Charting the Course for All Learners

Inclusivity in Expertise: A mixed crowd is not exclusive to tech. Tailoring content to different levels of expertise is a universal challenge in workshops. Providing scalable exercises that cater to varying degrees of familiarity with the subject matter will help keep all participants engaged and valued.

Tech Glitches and Beyond

Planning for Pitfalls: Technical issues can plague any workshop, but they are particularly pertinent in tech-related sessions. Alternative plans such as cloud-based environments or offline backups can be a lifeline. In non-tech workshops, other issues may arise, such as material shortages or space constraints, which also require contingency planning.

The Rhythm of the Room

Time Mastery: Whether you’re teaching coding or or delving into the nuances of soft skills development, time management is a critical skill. Overstuffing the agenda is a common misstep. Building in time for exploration and questions ensures that your participants leave with a solid understanding of the key points.

The Collaborative Spirit

Encouraging Collaboration: Fostering interaction is a cornerstone of any learning environment. Workshops flourish when they encourage the exchange of ideas and group problem-solving. The specific methods of collaboration may differ depending on the topic, but the underlying benefit of participants working together is a constant across all types of workshops.

Weathering the Storm

Connectivity Concerns: Ensuring preparedness for unreliable WiFi is especially crucial for tech workshops that depend on internet access. Yet, the potential for disruptions spans all types of workshops. In contexts not reliant on technology, this may translate to having physical copies of materials or a surplus of necessary supplies to circumvent any unforeseen shortages.

Navigational Aids

Feedback as a Guiding Star: Collecting feedback is a universal tool for course correction. It’s as beneficial in a creative writing workshop as it is in a software development session. Adjusting in response to participant feedback keeps your workshop aligned with their needs and interests.

The Voyage Continues

Beyond the Workshop: The journey doesn’t end when the workshop does. Providing resources and maintaining connections ensure that the seeds planted during your session grow into lasting skills and knowledge. This follow-up is crucial, regardless of the workshop’s focus.

Workshop Navigation: A Summary

Hosting a workshop at a conference, particularly in the tech realm, is an adventure that requires you to be as much a navigator as an educator. The strategies discussed here are your navigational aids, helping you to chart a course that is both instructive and enjoyable. Yet, remember that each workshop topic sails its own seas and may require its own unique navigational tools.


While the content of this article is totally based on a conversation in Slack and my own contributions, ChatGPT helped me a lot with phrasing, still it dit not alter or modify any content.
The image has been created by DALL·E.


Tools for pre-recording conference talks

I had to pre-record a talk for a conference, but had no idea what to tool to use, so I asked the testing community.

This is an (alphabetically sorted) list of all the tools that got proposed. I find it quite interesting, that by far the most people recommended Open Broadcast Studio (OBS):


Wiremock Workshop Mindmap

  • Bas Dijsktra has created an amazing open source Wiremock workshop:
  • It covers
    • Installation & Starting instructions
    • Options & examples for request matching
    • Matching on request body elements & date/ time properties and other matching strategies
    • Fault simulation
    • Statefulness & stateful mocks
    • Response templating
    • Verification
    • Extending Wiremock
  • I’ve created this mind map as a resource to look things up (the picture only shows nodes until the 3rd level, there’s more following the link)

Sources/ Links


Expression Languages


  • expression language designed to support the query or transformation of XML documents
  • compute values from XML
  • W3C standard


  • similar to XPath, but for JSON
  • finds and extracts data from JSON structures without special scripting


  • similar to XPath & JsonPath
  • works for XML and JSON
  • part of the Groovy programming language



2022 – the year I made it into public speaking

Yes, this post might feel a bit like bragging, but I need to write it anyhow…

For years, I tried to get accepted as a speaker at a „real“ conference. Finally, I got a talk accepted at quite some conferences in 2020. While I was very happy and proud about that, it still felt a bit like being betrayed, since everything was happening online. While some conferences managed to create great online events (and others failed badly), it was not quite the same as speaking at an in-person-event.

In 2021, I was not that lucky in terms of being accepted, my new talk made it to one online event and a local meetup (which also happened online).

I tried again with that very same talk for 2022, and the topic sparked way more interest than the year before, and made it to a couple of in-person-events, as well as some other activities of mine. 

Below is the complete list:

  • June, expo:QA (Madrid/ES): Don’t be a fool with a tool (talk)
  • September, Testbash UK (Manchester/UK): Don’t be a fool with a tool (talk)
  • September, Testbash UK (Manchester/UK): Recognising and Eliminating Code Smells 101 (workshop)
  • September, Testbash UK (Manchester/UK): Eliminating Code Smells (activity)
  • September, Testbash UK (Manchester/UK): Ask Me Anything: Testautomation
  • September, TestJam (Utrecht/NL): Don’t be a fool with a tool (talk)
  • October, ASQF Test Automation Challenge (Online/DE): Don’t be a fool with a tool (talk)
  • October, AutomationSTAR (Munich/DE): Sei kein Fool mit nem Tool (talk)
  • Novemer, Agile Testing Days (Potsdam/DE): Don’t be a fool with a tool (talk)
  • November,Agile Testing Days (Potsdam/DE): Automating the web with Playwright (talk)

That’s 10 sessions at 6 events in 5 countries, which is way more than I have ever expected, and I have to admit, that I’m quite proud about that achievement.

I think the message here is: Even if you get rejected at conferences, don’t give up. Improve your proposal writing skills, there’s plenty of good resources out there, study them. And also the testing community is of great help when it comes to providing support, and I want to thank everybody who has supported me during the last years!

If you also want to make it into public speaking, feel free to reach out.

Cheers, and all the best for 2023!


Getting rid of Google Web Toolkit’s x-auto id

When creating automated UI tests for an application that is build with the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), it can be quite annoying to have to deal with the HTML IDs the framework automatically generates. Those usually start with x-auto-, followed by a number.

To remove all automatically generated IDs, open the browser dev tools and run the following snippet in the console:


Factors to make it into a conference programme

I got invited by the organizers of the Agile Testing Days (#agileTD), to join the CFP Review Committee for the 2022 edition of the conference.
Since #agileTD is my favourite conference, I of course said yes.
The whole process and the collaboration with the organizers as well as the other committee members went pretty smooth, nothing special to report here.

The programme of the 2022 edition was published on May 17th and triggered quite an amount of reactions on Twitter.
Of course, a lot of joy among the people who made it into the programme.
On the other hand -as per my perception- a lot of disappointment and frustration among those, who did not make it into the programme this time. Especially among those who got positive feedback about their submitted abstract.

Let me explain how my participation as a member of the review committee looked like: Via a tool, we got the abstracts and could review them.
The abstracts were anonymized, and whenever we recognized the author anyhow, we could let the organizers know, and they assigned the abstract to another reviewer.
We then rated the abstract in different categories and also provided written feedback. The #agileTD team even had given some „Bad (Don’t do this)“ and „Good (Please do this)“ examples for this.
Here I can of course only speak for myself; I explicitly mentioned the good and not so good things in each abstract, and tried to give explicit reasons for both. What I did not do is, to provide ideas improvements, as I don’t see that as responsibility of my job as reviewer for a conference programme.
Exception: Unfortunately, I had some really really poor abstracts, consisting of only 3 lines of text or the like. Here I suggested that the author seeks for help in the community, and gets his abstract reviewed before submitting again.
For abstracts where I thought they deserved to be in the programme, I mentioned something that the abstract is good, but needs to be compared with other proposals in order to make it into the conference.

This is, were my contribution as a reviewer ended.
How the organizers of #agileTD went on from there to build the programme, is not known to me.
However, back in January 2020, when I myself was making some serious effort on getting accepted at a conference, I had asked on Twitter, „what other factors than the submitted paper go into the decision of accepting/ declining a talk?“. And I got quite some replies. Especially Richard Bradshaw from Ministry Of Testing listed a lot of factors that go into the decision. Uwe Gelfert, from the organizers of #agileTD confirmed that it is similar for their conference.

Conferences want to have a certain balance of speakers. Balance on different levels.

This means location of speakers: Local vs. international. Especially speakers from abroad can be quite a cost factor in terms of travelling costs (in case the conference is covering those).
It also means gender and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) representation: Luckily, lots of conferences nowadays really do a lot to have a diverse lineup. Although that means a higher rejection rate for the most overrepresented group in tech: Middle aged white men (yes, I am part of that group as well).
Also, conferences might want to have a certain balance between new and experienced speakers. Also knowledge about a person’s on-stage-performance might matter; so if you have, provide links to recordings of your previous talks.

Of course the topic of the abstract matters as well, but mabye it doesn’t fit the conference’s this year’s motto well. Or your abstract might be good, but there’s a (slightly) better one with the same or a similar topic.

Some conference organizers also look, how active the person is in the conference’s community (Slack, Twitter, Forum, etc.).

I hope this helps to understand better why your submission might have been rejected, and that there’s way more factors to it than only the quality of the handed in paper itself.

Other’s have blogged about the same topic before, please find their articles below:
What’s You’re Missing in Your Conference Abstract: Spoilers by Elizabeth Zagroba
Reviewing Submissions for the Agile Testing Days by Stephan Kämper
Why did my favorite conference reject my talk? by Samuel “Pesse” Nitsche


Another self retro – continuing the path of becoming a multi self retro

I read the tweet by Stephan Kämper about his blog post A Double Self Retro On Its Way To A Multi Self Retro. And then of course also read the article, as well as the articles by Bruce (the legend) and Chris Armstrong and of course also there retro articles Personal Development 2020 Retro and All my life I’ve been good but, now what the hell….. and I liked them a lot. All of them.
And since Bruce in her article explicitly invited others to participate, I decided to join the party.

What is this and why did you agree to do a double multi self retro?

The end of the year, and especially the time between Christmas and the beginning of the new year, always has been a moment where live is less stressful, I step back, take some days off and enjoy time with the family. What better occasion could there be, to do a retrospective?
I was thinking about a self reflective blog post for a while already, but didn’t really feel motivated enough to do it, but reading and enjoying those from others made me want to write my own.

What did you think your goals were when you started the year?

I’m usually not setting personal goals or making any resolutions for the new year.
Beginning of last year was quite different. I had started a personal coaching with Deborah Preuss to finally overcome my procrastination. That coaching was still ongoing when the new year started. So overcoming procrastination was clearly a goal set.

Also, I wanted to become a „real“ conference speaker, especially at Agile Testing Days (#agileTD). After having spoken at some smaller local events, and even being lightning speaker at #agileTD twice, I now wanted to „the real thing“.

I got a first tattoo on my right forearm in November 2019, and wanted to get tattoos all over the arm.

How did your goals change through the year?

Not so much actually. My financial plans changed, so I only got a second tattoo on the right forearm.
After this whole pandemic thing started, I wanted to somehow survive that and manage working from home with a certain discipline, which worked out pretty well I think.

How did you recalibrate in the year, when things changed?

I started working from home in mid March. I quickly figured that needs some discipline.
Working from home for me has one huge advantage: It saves me about 2.5 hours of commute per day. So I had a lot more time for doing things I like: Spending time with my (closest) family, learning, reading, …

I also started participating in the #100DaysOfMove challenge, and now I’m doing sports nearly daily. Not sure that is caused by the pandemic, but it for sure was a mayor change for me.


Highest point of the year

Getting accepted as speaker at Agile Testing Days!


Lowest point of the year

No specific low point. But the last weeks I’m feeling more and more exhausted. For me this pandemic could be over yesterday. I’m more emotionally touched by things I usually wouldn’t care much about.
I’m usually not a winter blues person, but these very short days with only very little sunshine are killing me this year. Bought a daylight lamp ~ 10 days ago, that seems to boost my mood and motivation a lot.

Which item of clothing have you worn the most?

Hoodies. Not a specific one, but I have at least half a dozen of them, since they’re my prefered types of clothing.

Have you discovered any new tools?

I discovered Bullet Journaling, which helps me a lot overcoming my procrastination.


I had a 32″ curved screen on my wishlist since like forever. Working from home finally gave me the justification to get one. A really great investment. I can handle 4-6 windows on one screen, allowing me to switch between them easily or monitoring them at the same time.

Best coping mechanisms

Actually, none. Whenever there was something „bad“ caused by the pandemic (well, luckily nothing really bad happened to my loved ones or me), I told myself of how much I benefit from all the extra time because of not having to commute.

Did any songs help you cope with the year?

No song in particular.

TV shows that helped you cope

None. Although we got Netflix in March, and spending quite some time watching various shows and movies.

Who is your favourite new friend of 2020, and why is it Mira?

After the example given by many others from the testing community, this is the tweet that it all started.


Shortly followed by:


I didn’t reach out to Mira to become her learning partner, the tweet was just an idea. But we exchanged some DMs, and started to have calls every second week, and it’s fantastic!
Sometimes discussing prepared topics and sharing experiences, sometimes talking about things going on in the community, tweets & articles we read, and sometimes just chit-chat.
It always feels a bit like conference spirit.

Who is your favourite new friend of 2020, and why is it Stephan?

I met Stephan long time ago at Agile Teting Days, don’t recall when exactly, but both of us are going there for about a decade now, so potentially it’s quite a while ago.
This year brought that friendship to a new level, since he did such a great job in moderation my #agileTD session.

Who is your favourite new friend of 2020, and why is it Chris?

I met Chris during one of the wonderful online testing meetups organized by Alex, Bart & Huib.
And what should I say, how can’t you become friend with another „Back to the Future“ fan who has the same nickname as you?!

Who is your favourite new friend of 2020, and why is it Bruce?

Unfortunately, that’s friendship still to be made. But following each other on Twitter is a good starting point I think.

What’re you hoping to Get Done next year, even if it’s another 2020?

Staying healthy.

Still being committed doing bullet journaling and some sport everyday.

What have you learnt about yourself this year?

I can overcome procrastination!

Having the right tool(s), I can change my habits quite succesfully and build new ones.

Any regrets?


What have you enjoyed?

Lots of family time, online conferences, being a conference speaker.

What advice would you give to past you from January 2020?



On codeless test automation tool

Disclaimer: This is a quick brain dump, in order to have this thoughts stored somewhere to not having to retype this everytime I’m involved in a discussion about the topic. I might develop this into a full blog post one day.
Nevertheless, happy to hear your opinions on the topic.

These promises of codeless record & playback tools are around for 20+ years.
Imho, there two (or three) possibilities:

  1. You code the stuff yourself, using a real programming language + frameworks/ tools. Imho the most powerful option, but of course also the most to learn/ master. This basically is programming.
  2. You abstract all the complicated stuff away, to an extreme that also non technical people understand it, but you loose most of the power and possibilities of 1.
  3. You hide the complicated stuff behind a fancy UI, that looks shiny and easy to use in their demos, but if you want to do something that goes beyond the happy path, you still need to know & understand programming concepts. So although these tools are marketed at non-coders, the target group cannot reach the full potential of the tools.

Just my 2 cents.

Update 2021-10-05: Bas Dijkstra has written a blog post on the same topic, which is totally expressing my thoughts and believes on the topic, so I can fully recommend it to my dear readers: On codeless automation (or rather on abstraction layers)


Being productive although being tired

I asked a question on Twitter, and the amount of feedback and replies was overwhelming, and very valuable and very diverse. So for it to not be lost, I decided to blog about it.

This was the tweet:

Hey parents, asking for advice. My kid and I spend time until his bedtime at 8 pm. Then I would have time do read/learn/do stuff, but most days I'm too tired and end up with Netflix. How do you motivate to get stuff done in the evenings although feeling tired/unmotivated?

Let me give some more context about this, since I summarized and simplified to fit it all into one tweet:
I am divorced, and my 8 year old boy is with me every fortnight. For the weeks he is with his mother, I’m quite good at the „being productive“ front, I get enough stuff done. But since he is with me only „half of the time“, it’s very important for me to be with him, and spend time with him when he asks for it. If he’s busy with something on his own, I’m happy to let him be. But if he asks me to do an activity together, I only rarely deny.
Netflix was just an example everybody understands without further explanation. Could be as well reading a fantasy novel or scrolling through Twitter or whatever.

Following the condensed advice & tips I got from the replies:

It is ok to not always be productive all the time and it is ok to rest. You shouldn’t feel about that.
It is also ok to not spend 100% of your time with family and kids, but to also have some time for yourself, where you do what makes you happy, what you need.

Figure out what is your peak moment. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Adapt your schedule accordingly.

Try to change some things, for example use breaks at work to do some reading. Go to another place than home to be productive.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, do some sports to boost your energy level.

Figure out, if it’s inertia, or if you’re really too tired. Make sure that you have enough sleep to not feel tired.
To get over inertia, just start, just do. If you’re really too tired, it’s ok to rest.

Consider that there are different ways of „being productive“. Look for things that are more fun than Netflix, things you are passionate about.
Choose your activities according to that. If your brain is too tired for certain activities, watching conference talks on YouTube can be a good choice. Also, keep easy tasks for when you’re tired.

Write down and prioritize what you want to do and achieve, this way it’s easier to decide what to do.
For bigger tasks, it helps to break them down. This way you can see better, what progress you’ve made.

A lot of people mentioned habits, for example to reward good habits (allow yourself for an episode of Netflix, after you’ve worked for an hour.
You should build up habits, then you can rely on them, rather then on motivation.
To help you with that, chaining or habit stacking can help (The latter is explained in „Atomic Habits“ by James Clear).