Photo by Rod Long / Unsplash

Acid Test

peer_conference Mar 31, 2022 (Apr 22, 2022) Loading...

An idea about a peer conference.

I love peer workshops. And, to be clear, I see a peer workshop as an event where you take an explicit decision to treat everyone as your peer.

I set up LEWT on that basis in 2005, but after a while (2013?), though we were all fond of the thing, it kind of faded away.

When I decided that LEWT really didn’t work any more, I took the principles of a lovely peer workshop, made an opposing format, and showed some colleagues. Many loved it. Me too. But I did nothing with it.

So here it is, pretty-much I left it in 2016. It’s not self-consistent, and though most elements are rational, I’ve not included my rationale. If you find it interesting, then it’s done its work.

I may run it one day. Or not. My plan was to run it once, get kicked out, and watch as it careered away. Showering sparks, with any luck.

Acid Test Peer Workshops

For testers who are speakers, and want to be better speakers.

Opening Description

Acid Test is a series of winner-stays-on peer conferences. Winners get kudos.

Acid Test is not a "safe" space. Some of you will lose, and you enter here knowing that. You will not lose friends, here, but you may take a ding to your status. That's the price of participating. It will, perhaps, help you to change. It might not; it might just sting.

You have some skin in the game. Everyone here is deserving of respect for taking on that risk, for accepting whatever reward or learning there might be. The purpose of this is to raise our game – so we need to have stakes that can hurt. Winning, and losing, is public.. Acid Test is open to all except recent losers.

You show us what's on your mind, and how you communicate it. We reward content, delivery and bravery.


We need a room, and an ante-room. Everyone brings a talk, and we have enough time for everyone to do the talk. We go in random order. Everyone gets 10 mins to present. We take 5 mins to vote, 5 mins to debrief. We do two talks (40 mins), break to the ante-room, do it again.


We score each person's talk for content, delivery, and bravery. Voters cast asymmetric votes [0, 1, 3? 0, 2, 5?]

  • 0 should be your most-common score. 0 is for "alright". We don't have a score for "terrible"
  • You might not expect to give a 3 more than once or twice in an event
  • We may chuck all the votes from those voter(s) who awarded the most points, and those voter(s) who awarded the least. The process for doing this will be made public before the event.
  • Votes are not anonymous. Most will be, but several votes per talk, picked at random, will be revealed and the voters required to explain their vote. We may defer this until the end of the day.

At the end of the day, we will publish:

  • Scores for those who scored
  • The aggregate voting record of each voter
  • ? Who voted "3" and what they voted for.

Speakers with a standout scores in each of (content, delivery, bravery) have a guaranteed return to the next Acid Test. If, next time, they have a standout score in the same (content, delivery, bravery), they win and are booted out.

People with low overall scores don't get to come back for at least two years.

Post-talk debrief.

We don't discuss a talk in the room.

We may make individual commentary on what ?worked? – but that commentary should be brief, and will be accepted by the group without reply.

The speaker may comment on any problems they had.

We vote, announce (provisional) scores, (maybe later) pick several voters to explain.

We do discuss outside the room, in whatever groups we fall into, because of course we do.

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