KWST – Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing

24/25 June 2011 – Wellington New Zealand, a group of test leaders and influencers met in the first ever Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing.

Inspired by LAWST and under the tutelage of James Bach, 17 leaders met to form a community that, in my opinion, will influence the New Zealand software testing scene for the better. Before i get into KWST itself, it is important to recognise these leaders and influencers.

Aaron Hodder, Andrew Black, Andrew Robins, Bruce Graham, Chris Stapleton, Dion Woodbury, Farid Vaswani, Jeffrey Bedwell, Nadine Brown , Oliver Erlewein, Richard Robinson, Sheryl Toenders, Simon Crutchley, Tad Dawidowski, Tessa Benzie, Brian Osman and of course James Bach.

This is the genesis of a professional, critical testing community here in New Zealand and I am privileged to have an met and learned from every single leader.

This was a two-day peer conference but in this post i will address day one.

Day One – KWST… Started off with an introduction from James about the history of peer conferencing and the method that will be used throughout the two days. After the introduction (and a break), I was first up to deliver an experience report (ER) on:

How I became a test professional or how i helped others become professional

James facilitated this ER (so i could observe how facilitation works) and we used coloured cards to facilitate discussion. During my ER a term came up which we coined possum testing. After a lot of discussion and debate we arrived at three definitions for possum testing. The definition (in the context of my ER) is:

Any testing done that you do not value

in other words, you are like a possum in the headlights driven by fear, stunned, not doing anything of any significant value (e.g. creating 526 test scripts and then following them by rote which what i had on one project – attribution Andrew Robins and Aaron Hodder who I believe initially coined this particluarly definition BUT I attribute to the entire team).

The ER took 20 minutes – the CRITICAL questioning took about two hours! James stressed that at a peer conference, the risk is that your credibility is on the line and you can make or break you reputation. I definitely felt that this was the case. James made another comment which is possibly peculiar to a peer conference in that it’s not the amount you say but it’s what you contribute. I found this to be true in the sense that some of the questions from *quieter* participants were well thought-out and challenging.

We discussed and shared many thoughts on test professionalism which i will share at a later date.

After I was done we took a break and Oliver Erliwein then presented his ER on How to help others achieve test professional by referencing a recent discussion on the google group – software testers New Zealand. This took us the rest of the day as we followed the same format (this time i facilitated and James was involved).

One of the key debates was a discussion on certification (particularly ISTQB as it is the biggest certification scheme in New Zealand) and the lack of skill this certification demonstrates (with numerous examples from the group). This quickly evolved into a rat hole discussion but the general consensus was that current ISTQB certification is, at best, lacking.

HOWEVER, what was more beneficial were the alternatives in which a tester can evolve professionally outside of commercial certification.

These alternatives were:

  • Reading books on testing or testing related (e.g. The book of 5 rings or Blink or How to solve it etc)
  • BBST series of lecture videos by Prof. Cem Kaner (free and paid for instructor led at a fraction of the cost of current certification schemes)
  • Peer conferences
  • Networking
  • Exhibition conferences (e.g. STANZ) B
  • Blogs (creating and reading)
  • Problem solving
  • Mentoring
  • Building your credibility amongst your peers

 These alternatives are not exhaustive however they do highlight one thing – time. You cannot build professionalism in a three-day course – it is built over time.

Andrew Robins made an interesting observation in that he “admires people who do stuff that i admire” which essentially says that a person needs to have time to assess the value of what they are providing. If you value what they are doing then potentially they raise their credibility and hence their reputation.

We also discussed reputation which can thought of as four ideals

  • Portfolio – your work
  • Reputation – built over time (or lost in an instant)
  • Performance on testing – how WELL you do your job *
  • Quality of your network – how do you talk and what value do they provide?

(James Bach provided these ideals with Andrew Black and Aaron Hodder providing discussion on the fourth ideal)

This 30 minute ER spawned an incredible discussion (as shown above) well into the late afternoon. We discussed ways in which we can raise the professionalism of our testers that are in our teams or who we influence. By doing so, we fight back against those HR people/ team managers that are looking for the tick in the box. We want testers to be thinkers and leaders not checkers by rote.

As you can see, great discussion, great learning, great sharing!

This was day 1…more on day 2 to follow

KWST 24/25 June 2011:

Back (L-R): James Bach, Aaron Hodder, Andrew Robins, Bruce Graham, Tad Dawidoski, Dion Woodbury, Jeff Bedwell, Andrew Black, Oliver Erliwein, Farid Vaswani

Front (L-R): Brian Osman, Richard Robinson, Simon Crutchley, Nadine Brown, Sheryl Toenders, Chris Stapleton, Tessa Benzie

Rapid Software Testing

This week, June 20 – 23rd 2011, i had the opportunity to attend James Bach’s Rapid Software Testing class held in Wellington New Zealand (Software Education). This is class was brilliant! Absolutely the best testing class that I’ve taken and puts alot of other courses that i’ve done/taken, to shame.

The reasons why are this:-

  • James is more than an entertaining teacher – HE challenges you, your thinking, your ideas and THEN when you are confused, he explains what has happened (socratic method).
  • The material covers more than a lot of other courses cover.Other courses will talk about techniques or numbers or data but they don’t connect the human side to the technical side. This is important because understanding how people engage, work, play, think IS just a part of testing as knowing the domain that you’re working in.

This is one of a very small handful of courses where i was ENGAGED througout the entire time. My brain was full and buzzing after every day!

James tester star

 I did manage to earn a tester star on the last exercise of the day. I won’t give the exercise away rather it felt like 2 1/2 days of thoughts and ideas came flowing out in that one exercise. It was easy to see how productive i was in that exercise as opposed to writing a script based on some requirements.

One is engaging, the other not so.


 Two key things i have taken away is:

  • Thread based test management (TBTM). From the last exercise of day 3, James pointed out that the work i was doing is essentially thread based. TBTM is an activity based approach to testing and i like how that works so i will be exploring that *thread* further (see
  • And the other is thinking, using and defending my approach to testing – that context driven, heursitical based approach is plausible, creative, detailed, formal and a more productive way to test. In a way, it reminds me of a sentence from Jerry Weinberg’s book – Perfect software and other illusions – “You fall victim to equating information quality with data quanity” – we equate document heavy processes and traditional thinking towards testing to be more effective than engaging your brain. There are better and more productive ways to approach testing

More to follow…

Career advice from New Zealand

Two years ago I created Software Testers New Zealand (google group). It has taken a little while but there have been some fantastic discussions especially in recent months.

Yesterday a member of the group *ranted* (his words) about an *approved* job add that was posted.

It has spawned an interesting discussion on what it takes for a tester to get a foot in the door and has morphed into learning about the industry/certification.

I consider the discussions pure gold – check it out, comment if you wish – i think it would be helpful to hear about other testers thoughts/ideas/experiences from around the world!