WOPR23 is coming up next week in Boston, hosted by Dynatrace. It will be the first WOPR *EVER* that Paul Holland does not attend, and the first WOPR in more than 10 years he does not facilitate. Paul is hard at work at his day job, and is not able to get away for this WOPR.
These days, Paul is well-known as the person who has developed our community’s current facilitation techniques, and the expert that should take this methodology out into the world at large. At WOPR3 in 2004, he was first pressed into action as a facilitator when Florida’s especially active hurricane season that year grounded two potential facilitators. He immediately established himself as the best facilitator anyone could think of, and he’s worn that crown for years. Paul has facilitated at 20 WOPRs and many other peer conferences, led facilitation as several CAST conferences, and had his methods adapted by Let’s Test and others. I’ve seen others facilitate; most recently, I saw what a great job Richard Robinson did leading facilitation at CAST 2014. I have never seen anyone facilitate – sometimes in tough conditions – as calmly and easily as Paul.
The “secret sauce” of WOPR and other peer workshops is the facilitated conversation that erupts after every experience report. Context-driven testing workshops bring together very creative, knowledgeable, experienced, and opinionated people to discuss highly complex issues. Sparks fly sometimes, old disagreements can surface, and lots of people want to comment RIGHTNOW. The fact that these discussions (at WOPR, typically amongst 15-20 people) emerge coherently, with everyone taking their turn, and observers able to follow the dynamic, splitting and resplitting threads of conversation is the kind of miracle you don’t want to think about too much in case it stops working.
I’ve been trained by Paul, served as the FU (facilitator understudy), and received feedback from him on several occasions. I am ready to facilitate WOPR23 because of his guidance and instruction. It also helps that Raymond Rivest will be there to back me up, as he’s proven his facilitation skill on multiple occasions. I’ve purchased chimes and prepared sets of K-Cards. I will do my best not to screw up Paul’s amazing achievement, and keep his seat warm while he’s away.