Robin Hood Test Courses Martin Jansson


James Bach has written about Sweden and its testers like this:

“In my world, ‘Swedish tester’ is becoming a stock phrase, like ‘French chef’ or ‘Swiss banker’ or ‘Antarean starship captain’ (You want your hyperdrive fixed right? Go see an Antarean). I’m not entirely sure why this is, but part of it is their cosmopolitan, egalitarian culture. Skilled testers find more fertile ground, in Sweden. ” [1].

It is an inspiring badge we have received. I hope this is one of the reasons that EuroSTAR again takes its place in Sweden. How do we maintain this reputation? I think we have to accelerate our learning and look beyond corporate profit. The Queen in Alice in Wonderland puts it interestingly:

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that! ” [2].

There are a lot of things we can do to improve our skills and knowledge in testing. I myself learn a lot by blogging, writing articles, and by putting theory into practice on consultant assignments. When you write, you have to do research and build arguments for your claims—you have to immerse yourself in a topic. I also attend courses, workshops, and conferences as often as I can. Unfortunately, the cost of most conferences and courses are high. In Sweden, many test courses seem to cost between 5.000 to 10.000 SEK (Swedish krona) per day—I think this is too expensive.

Many businesses suffer from tight budgets that do not allow for their employees attending courses—especially not on several occasions. To summarize, the current situation is risk-heavy for course organizers and expensive for participants. I do not think it needs to be like this and I want to do it in a different way. Here are some things I want to try to improve in Sweden with courses:

  • Make it easier and cheaper to attend a course.
  • Offer a set of diverse courses in testing.
  • Enable trainers to try new ideas in testing through courses.
  • Make it easier for trainers to let new courses be available to the public.
  • Enable training providers to try out unfinished or experimental courses.
  • Better take advantage of digital social networks to work with ideas around the course and with other course participants.

It may sound a bit optimistic, but there are already tools for social networking to support, at least in part, my proposal for how to organize courses. What is the problem with the current situation?

Current situation with courses

Being the organizer of a course or conference involves investment in both time and money. Money that you eventually want returned. As an organizer, you are not sure if the interest is high enough—if enough people will sign up. Then you have fixed expenses such as the lodging, travel, food and other items. You need a classroom and food for the participants. In addition, you probably need to provide a flat fee for trainers. You may need to pay a deposit, and quite quickly you will notice that costs are climbing. There will of course be less risk and expense if the organizer has their own trainers or employees who hold classes, i.e. no external trainers. If there are few who participate, it will yield little result, but if there are many participants, there is a lot of money to be made.

Here is an example of the various costs associated with a course:

Participants 1 6 10 25
Course food/participants -500 -3.000 -5.000 -12.500
Hotel -7.000 -7.000 -7.000 -7.000
Classroom -2.000 -2.000 -2.000 -2.000
Flight -12.000 -12.000 -12.000 -12.000
Trainers fee -90.000 -90.000 -90.000 -90.000
Organizers fee -15.000 -15.000 -15.000 -15.000
Total cost -126.500 -129.000 -131.000 -138.500
Income 24.000 144.000 240.000 600.000
Profit -102.500 15.000 109.000 461.500

The table above consists of several columns; the first naming the area, the second to fifth comparing between different amount of participants. Cost of food varies dependent on amount of participants, while the rest are independent of participants. In this example, the income for the organizer is 24.000 SEK for each participant, which means that the more participants there are the better profit will be made. With a course this expensive, it will be enough with six people for it to break even. If you get a full house you could expect a profit of almost 500.000. In many cases you can expect more cost such as expenses for advertising and the like, which obviously lowers the profit.

How can this be setup differently?

A proposal

The organizer will contact the trainer for a price. An estimated total cost including organizers fee plus any other cost for the course. Let us suppose that we make a similar calculation as above example with the same price for the course. Though this time we do a calculation in which participants share the cost.

Participants 1 6 10 25
Course food/participant -500 -3.000 -5.000 -12.500
Hotel -7.000 -7.000 -7.000 -7.000
Classroom -2.000 -2.000 -2.000 -2.00
Flight -12.000 -12.000 -12.000 -12.000
Traineers fee -90.000 -90.000 -90.000 -90.000
Organizers fee -15.000 -15.000 -15.000 -15.000
Total cost -126.500 -129.000 -131.000 -138.500
Shared cost 126.500 21.500 13.100 5.540
Profit 0 0 0 0

The table above is setup similarly to the one prior to this with the exception that profit is zeroed and the introduction of something called shared cost instead of income. The organizer gets their payment for the expenses and hours without any profit. The price for the course drops if there are more participants. As you can see, it is enough for six participants to get a cheaper price than when you go for a more traditional course. The price, with shared cost, is really low if everyone can come. There is almost no point to arrange the course if you are below a certain number of participants. It is also possible to reduce costs even more by keeping the course in a free classroom, if food is not included, if you involve sponsors and so on.

The next step is to spread information about the course so that participants can start registering. This is to see if there is any interest, show the estimated cost and what the approximate price will be. For this you can use a tool such as, for planning and as a main tool for networking. When you schedule a meetup, there are a lot of parameters that you can tweak. For example, you can specify how many people can come, if there is a waiting list, the price and how to pay. Beside this, you have a variety of other settings you can use to simplify your meetup, course or event. At this stage, you should have most of the information available and be ready to host the course.

The next step is to agree on the date. For this you can use a tool such as You list a number of dates which participants can choose from, then each participant clicks on the dates that they can participate. That way you’ll find out what date is best for everyone and can thus maximize the number of participants. Do not forget to possibly let the course be on a weekend, since it can be preferable for consultants in some cases. The organizer should by now have an idea about when the most participants would be able to attend.

The organizer should now be able to charge for the course with a shared cost model. Furthermore, you should also find a classroom and others such details, i.e. things that take time to organize. After that the course should be ready to be held.

For most courses, there is always something to prepare for the participants to increase the learning experience. There might be texts to read up on, software to become familiar with or possibly to install. It is also convenient to create email groups and somehow tie the participants together. This is to increase networking and learning, but also to enable for better group work. When the course starts participants should be prepared and energized! If you booked a hotel outside the city for the course,  the networking and experience sharing will continue late into the night. All of these networking and preparation activities the organizer could help out with.

If a participant is unable to attend the course, they have always the option to send someone else or give the spot to someone on the waiting list. It will be difficult with this kind of approach to reimburse when someone cannot attend, but if there are creative suggestions it can be resolved.

In regular courses, it ends with the course being finished, but in our case we want participants to continue to network based on what they have learnt. They may wish to try out what has been learned in their own context then share with others how they plan to proceed, and what obstacles to look for when introducing changes. By networking both before and after, I think we can gain more from the course itself. This is something that the organizer can try to enable.

I have already scheduled a number of upcoming courses with this model of shared cost. The initial goal is to see if this is possible. Anyone, even people outside Gothenburg, who think this sounds like an interesting setup is welcome to attend or set it up in their neighborhood. Initially, there are mostly foreign trainers, but some local Swedish trainers are on the way. You can find more information on our local meetup Passion for Testing [3]. Beside the current lineup, I want to take this even further.

Untested test courses

If you have a testing course that you want to try on a group of testers, participants of the shared cost model might be a good audience. Personally, I want to experiment with the theme agile testing organization and collaborative testing.

Participant powered test courses

There will be opportunities for participants to identify needs for courses, where we can look up and take in trainers. There are a number of experts in areas that are interesting to look into that have no official courses of their own. Examples of this may be an intensive course in a specific test tool.


As you probably realize that there will be a lot of work for the organizer while at the same time it becomes less profitable, but on the other hand less of a financial risk with the shared cost model. This setup provides an incentive for participants to get more to participate because their own expenses will be lowered. The amount of job for the organizer will be almost as much independently on how many will participate. In a dream scenario for a participant, one could attend a course that is a bit more expensive course and then a couple of less expensive courses, all in one year, while staying below the yearly budget for courses. It should also be possible to introduce longer-term investments to even better mitigate risks.

The next area to look at is how to get to this for testing conferences.


[1] Recommended People by James Bach –
[2] The Red Queen’s Race – ‘s_race
[3] Passion for Testing – Meetup –

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