Weeknight Testing #04 – an experience report

I had the privilege of joining Weeknight testing (Twitter #WNTesting). This was my first session as I am generally not available for weekend testing sessions (By the way, WTANZ session #12 is on this weekend).

Ok – so what happened during the Weeknight testing session?

I was about 5-10 minutes late waiting for my laptop to boot up etc and when I did login,  there was a flurry of chatter (what I mean by this is that a testing session is held via im over Skype).

Darren McMillan was the facilitator who had the challenging of keeping up with the threads and multiple chats while at the same time guidiong direction in a subtle way (mainly by quoting interesting comments).

I found the *noise* challenging that I went *dark* (to steal a Tony Bruce phrase :)) for a while or in other words I didn’t contribute to the discussion(s) until i had read the mission, requirements document and getting used to the rhythm of the session. I found that while the first two are important, the rhythm is vital as it means that I was able to respond to questions or threads in *real-time* once i had the rhythm ofthe conversation(s).

So – what was it all about?

The mission was to *test* a set of requirements for a fictional company called CRM-R-US by “…reviewing and feeding back on the initial requirements to help identify any gaps, risks or potential issues in them.” This document is at an early stage of requirements gathering and was a first draft. The product is marketing tool centered around twitter.

Some of the participants mentioned they were off mind mapping so I followed suit – except I hand drew mine. I identified four major sections in the document but focused initially on one – the section on the Campaign Engine.

The main reason was threefold:

  1. The lack of *detail*
  2. The section was based on a vision and
  3. A comment stating… ‘Our CEO Patricia Elmer’s liked Brian’s idea so much she’s now seeing this as the key selling point of this feature.’. The CEO is someone who matters and has major influence and power and almost by default, the section to me, had high risk.

So, I began to ask some questions – a few at first and then once I got the rhythm, a lot more. By that time there was 40 minutes to go and questions and comments were coming thick and fast – there was a great question from Sharath B – What’s in it for me if I follow? This made me pause as I was thinking from a business user/call centre point of view whereas Sharath’s question made me think along the lines of the target audience and why would they want to follow our fictional company in twitter. For me, Sharath’s question made look at the broader picture and defocus my thinking. From a testing point of view, using a defocusing strategy helps look at the problem from a broader point of view. This was one of many fantastic ideas, thoughts and questions – the transcript will be posted soon (http://weekendtesting.com/archives/tag/weeknight-testing) – from which you can see some of the great thoughts and ideas that went on during the session.

Lessons Learned for me…

  • Sometimes pairing *may not* be the best option – some great pairs of testers working on a mind map tool weren’t able to pair as effectively as they might well have liked.
  • Tour the product
  • Ask ‘What is NOT being said’
  • Alert – if potential some bodies who matter (e.g. CEO) are mentioned throughout the document, flag it as a potential risk as they have influence/power/authority
  • Mind mapping is a good idea generator and framing tool – see the mind map – from Lisa Crispin and Mohinder Khosla and the mind map from Rakesh Reddy who were both involved in this session.
  • Focusing AND defocusing strategies work well together (focusing on a section to get specific, defocusing by looking at the bigger picture.)

These are some of the thoughts running through my head – I was able to connect with some really good thinking testers which in turn has helped me alot – all in the space of an hour or so!

If you haven’t tried weekend or weeknight testing, give it a go – it is a worthwhile investment!

Software test leadership is alive in New Zealand!

New Zealand flagI’ve been lamenting the state of testing in New Zealand or more specifically test leadership. Now, I’m not talking about the number of test leads or managers – I’m talking about leaders in our community.

I felt there weren’t very many leaders with most testers here settling for a *just do my job* mentality.

Until last night.

Last night, Software Education held a customer evening by inviting customers to view Software Education’s new premises. I met some interesting people and had some great discussions and then it dawned on me – I’ve met some strong testing community leaders already but I had thought of them individually not collectively and I’ve discovered that there are more test leaders than I’ve realised. Now, when I’m talking about community leadership, I’m talking about context driven, lets discuss and debate and better our craft type of leaders (and this is irrespective of whether these leaders are part of the ISTQB certification program or what have you).

And so what I would like to do is highlight these leaders as testers to watch because in their own way, they are helping the craft grow in New Zealand. 

Farid Vaswani – Test manager at Auckland University, associate editor for Software Test Professional and implementor of SBTM at Auckland University.

Oliver Erlewein – Performance tester/test Manager at Datacom Wellington, context driven space, will debate or challenge the status quo. Weekend Testers Australia New Zealand facilitator.

Trevor Cuttris – Team Leader IAG – involved in mentoring and upskilling testers in many different ways (at work SIGiSTs groups etc). We had a good discussion around ET and SBTM.

Rob O’Connell – Assurity Consulting – very similar to Trevor. Lots of passion. Not willingly to accept the status quo if it provides no value. Mentoring, upskilling, uplifting and highlight the craft.

Katrina McNicholl – AMI Insurance – Christchurch based – passionate about the craft, about learning and about sharing ideas and thoughts on testing at the local level.

Tessa Benzie – AMI Insurance – Christchurch based – the same as Katrina – involved wanting to better the testing craft at a local level.

John Lockhart – Webtest Auckland – context driven test automation – *guru* with fitness – first met Jon through the AST BBST series of courses.

Matt Mansell – DIA – is involved in many different areas that result in testing being given a higher profile particularly in the Wellington market.

Honorable mention: Aaron Hodder, Shawn Hill (what an awesome presentation at STANZ 2010!), Christo Bence, Andrew Black, Sophia Hobman, Richard Robinson, Jonathon Wright.

Is this an exhaustive list? No.

Are these the only community leaders in New Zealand? No – but these are testers that I’m tagging that will have an impact on the testing community – whether it’s locally or nationally and will help improve the state of our craft here in New Zealand.

Have I missed some testing leaders? Most likely – BUT i hope you come forward, I hope you stand up and I hope you begin to share your passion for testing with us all (conferences, SIGiST groups, STANZ, blogs, twitter – the list is endless).

To those whom I’ve *outed* – it’s time to highlight the incredible talent we have here in testing – and its time to share the passion that you have with everyone and become …leaders.

Collaborating with thinking testers in India

Something is happening to testing!

A number of forward thinking testers in India have gotten together and formed Weekend Testers . Already there have been a number blogs posted about what an innovative idea this is – and these blogs post referrals/conference talks are from industry leaders such as James Bach and Michael Bolton which is high praise indeed.

I’ve been communicating with Parimala Shankaraiah who is one of the founders of Weekend Testers on Exploratory Testing (she has even taken the time to post some great comments on the google group Software Testers New Zealand.) If Parimala is an example of the thinking and passion towards testing in the Weekend Testers community then the Indian testing discipline is in good hands!

It does seem to me that are great inquisitive testers coming through every single day and the world-wide web is one way to keep track of and collaborate with these powerful thinkers!

STANZ 2009 Wellington New Zealand

STANZ (Software Testing Australia New Zealand) is the premier Software Testing conference this side of the equator! The conference kick off in Wellington New Zealand with Lee Copeland , James Bach, Karen N Johnson, Julian Harty and Brian Bryson forming the international cast of speakers along with a  host of talented local speakers.

Monday started with a keynote from Lee Copeland from which in outlined the innovations he sees coming. I found him warm, engaging and very humble.

James Bach was next and what impressed me the most was the way he *prowled* the side of the conference room before being introduced and then ran and jumped on stage! I was wondering a whole bunch of “what if’s” then! His talk Becoming a Software Testing Expert was vintage James Bach in which he discussed the plays of Euripides and other Greek tragedians and related them back to software testing. The point from my perspective is that testing is neither purely technical or engineering but that we can learn from all multple areas and disciplines (history, philosophy, pyschology etc). James also discussed his Huh-Really-So heuristic which he uses when someone makes a claim about something. Huh means i don’t understand, please explain what you mean. Really is what other approaches are there, what else could happen, what other tools could we use and So is to dismantle the argument or to determine whether or not the idea is worth pursuing (I hope i got this right! :))

Unfortunately i didn’t get to speak to either Lee or James one on one but i did manage to talk to Karen N Johnson and Julian Harty. Karen’s workshop on test pairing was very interesting but more so the discussion we had (myself, Karen and Sharon Robson) after. Karen also gave a wonderful keynote on story telling which i think as testers, is an area on which we can improved. We may test but how do we say what we see? How do we know who to talk to and how to talk to them?

The last highlight for me from a presentation point of view was Julian Harty’s presentation on security testing which i found extremely interesting. I came away from the talk with the ideas of :-

*Finding a mentor

*Use tools

*Threat modelling

*and continuous learning (including self study or self learning).

I managed to talk to Julian afterwards and what surprised me was that security testing is about 1% of what he does as a tester. However when he did do security testing, he taught himself/found ways to make himself knowledgeable and very effective.

STANZ was a blast! Great speakers, great conference and more importantly great people. I managed to catch up with a host of new/old friends and its was awesome to share STANZ with them!

An Expression of Thought – Testing Ideas

Having no way as way, having no limitation as limitationI have become a fulltime trainer working for Software Education in New Zealand ( www.softed.com ) delivering software testing courses. As i’m now sitting more in the Academic space as opposed to the Practioner space, I have been given the opportunity to meet many different people, with different backgrounds, looking to gather new ideas to use in their testing jobs.

Some people won’t do much, if anything with this new knowledge (it’s human nature after all especially when the work pressure comes on) but some will. It is these testers that will hopefully feel inspired to share their thoughts and ideas with us all.

The internet has made us a very small, very connected global community and each thought expressed or shared (particularly in testing) is a thought worth considering. Maybe you have discovered a new idea with regards to testing or maybe even reaffirming an existing idea (and adding your own wrapper around it).

To those testers that i have met or to those people who may be reading this and haven’t yet considered creating a blog, please rethink. Your thoughts are valuable and your ideas are at least worthy of expression and/or comment.

I would to *hear* them – please let me know if you do! 

Happy blogging!