The whole meeting this past Monday was kind of an interesting experience for a couple of reasons. First of all, the pizza never showed up. I confirmed with the sponsor earlier in the day, but once we had been waiting in the room for about 20 minutes, it was clear there wasn’t going to be any food that night. It was an honest mistake on the sponsor’s part, but I think I’m going to do things a bit differently from now on. If I (or another group leader) pay for the pizza, we can be sure it’s going to be there, and I can just work out reimbursement with the sponsor later on. That way, if there are issues, I’m the only one who has to deal with them, and the group gets to eat.
Also, it was my first time to present at a User Group meeting. My talk was titled “Debugging Evolved: An Introduction to Automated Unit Testing”. I used Roy Osherove’s forthcoming book on the subject, “The Art of Unit Testing”, as an inspiration for the topics I covered, and I highly recommend it. It’s not due to be published until March ’09, but the unedited draft is available in PDF format through Manning’s MEAP program. I learned several things based on the experience, plus the feedback I got from the group members. For one thing, Comp Sci students and user group members are two very different audiences. This may sound obvious, but it was important in my case.
I was scheduled to go on a recruiting trip to Harding, my alma mater, around the same time as the November meeting, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. I wished we had covered automated unit testing in school, so I wanted to give the students there some exposure. Also, I wanted to be able to bring in some speakers to the Shreveport DNUG to speak on TDD and related practices, but I wanted to make sure that the members had had some exposure to testing frameworks so they wouldn’t get caught up on tools during a presentation on what is really a design topic (TDD, BDD, etc). I wanted to avoid the scenario of the first Fort Smith DNUG meeting, where we had a great topic and speaker (Raymond Lewallen on BDD), but a lot of people there had never seen a testing framework before, and I think they may have had a hard time following the presentation.
In the process of creating my talk, however, I had to try to balance the content for students (some of whom had never seen a managed language before, let alone a testing framework in .NET) and the experienced developers at the Shreveport .NET User Group. In the end, I think it might have been a better idea to do two different presentations, or at least have a much more fleshed out version for SDNUG. I think a lot of the stuff I was talking about went over the students’ heads, but I got the impression the SDNUG members (understandably) wanted a bit deeper dive into more practical scenarios and potential business value of unit testing.
I also learned that I need to work on my presentation skills. I pretty much expected that, though, given that I haven’t given a public presentation since college. One of the feedback forms I got suggested that I start attending the local Toastmasters group (which is actually held in the same building where I work). I’ve been to one meeting, but the heavy emphasis on procedure kind of turned me off. I realize that it’s there to help you learn how to behave appropriately on occasions where such procedure is the standard, but it just seemed a little silly to have someone introduce the person who was going to be introducing everyone else when there were about six or seven people in the room. I will admit, though, it’s probably a good idea if I’m going to be presenting with any frequency in the future.
Though it was far from the optimal situation, I hope that both the user group members and the Harding students
enjoyed the exposure to unit testing, and that it will pay off when SDNUG brings in some speakers on some more advanced topics.