The dark art of testing in agile

***I am now back at Software Education teaching and consulting around testing and agile . I’ve just recently rewritten our Agile Testing course (ICAgile accredited) and this is my blurb on the course before I teach it on the 7th October for the first time (see Also I haven’t written anything here in a long time and being prompted by something else I sent to Lee Hawkins, I thought I would post this here as well***

Testing is like the dark arts. It hides in the shadows of projects probing silently, mocked openly and looked down with disdain by those who think they know better. But do they?

Testing was seen like this even by testing consultancies as they espoused the rhetoric that testing is simplistic, mechanical and artifact driven. The implied idea was that ‘any one can do testing’ was prominent. Fortunately two communities began to challenged these ideas. The context driven community broke the fallacies of mechanical, simplistic testing to human based, skill based, thought provoking investigations of self, product and relationships. The second community was the agile community who helped challenge the ideas of heavyweight documentation and adherence to process to one of experimentation with short feedback loops. With this came a more technical approach to testing using tools to assist (though sometimes there is an overreliance on these tools).

Our agile testing course looks to combine these two communities together by building key skills around critical thinking, using heuristics to build solid testing models and focusing on quicker feedback and leaner documentation. In turn, building these key skills then help testers to be better equipped to understand the agile context. Testing in an agile context requires quick, critical, skilled thinking and combined with some technical understanding enables testers to answer this question – How do I add value to my team today?

Our agile testing course is very hands on and experiential and looks to increase testing skills that help you become better in your role and add value. Testing is no longer in the shadows – it is front and centre and is our mission to help you to become indispensable to your team.

The question for you though is – how much better do you want to be as a tester?


ISO 29119 – A standard in name only

The petition #Stopiso29119 is gaining serious momentum. I’ve signed and so have a host of my testing friends and colleagues. I think its important to consider the implications of this so called standard and if need be, lend your voice in letting ISO realise that the so called software testing standard DOES NOT enjoy consensus in our field (its shallow collusion of certain parties of interest at best).

Need help understanding why? Please read the following post by James Christie that helped launched the petition as well as the following posts showing why this standard ain’t what its cracked up to be (Hello Test World, James Bach, Michael Bolton and Huib Schoots amongst others).

If you are concerned with the craft and what this standard could do, please consider signing the petition.

(By the way – like most of friends and colleagues, we ARE NOT anti-standards contrary to what some proponents of the standard have attempted to portray).

The KWST (quest) for learning

Kiwi Workshop on Software TestingKWST#3 (like quest) was a workshop that exceeded my expectations and the reasons are several. At KWST#1, there was the brand new buzz, the excitement of something new and the start of something significant in the New Zealand software testing world. KWST#2 was an example of contention and more importantly, connecting and finding. KWST#2 allowed us as Kiwi testers to connect with an Australian leader, David Greenlees who has gone on to set up OZWST and Tasting Lets Test. KWST#2 also unearth Katrina Edgar as *new* voice in the testing community.

KWST#3 was again, a completely different vibe.  This workshop was the first without James Bach (however his influence was strong) and it was a very ANZAC peer conference. The attendees for KWST#3 were:-

Katrina Edgar – Wellington, NZ
Oliver Erlewein – Wellington, NZ
Rich Robinson – Sydney, Australia
Brian Osman – Wellington, NZ
Anne Marie Charrett – Sydney, Australia
Jennifer Hurrell – Auckland, New Zealand
Erin Donnell – Auckland, New Zealand
Katrina McNicholl – Christchurch, New Zealand
Andrew Robins – Christchurch, New Zealand
Mike Talks – Wellington, New Zealand
Tessa Benzie – Christchurch, New Zealand
Alesasandra Moreira – Sydney, Australia
James Hailstone – Wellington, New Zealand
Lee Hawkins – Melbourne, Australia
Damian Glenny – Wellington, New Zealand
Shirley Tricker – Auckland, New Zealand
Joshua Raine – Wellington, New Zealand
Colin Cherry – Melbourne, Australia

And as you can see we had New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne covered.  Only David from Adelaide was missing! Now some might wonder if this is a Kiwi workshop why are there invites from Australia? If anything, the name KWST denotes its origins but it is exclusive to Kiwi’s.  We are after leaders, we are after strong craftspeople – we want to build the community, we want to get better!  One of the very obvious benefits to come from KWST#3 is the Closer Tester Relations that now exist between the countries making *our* community downunder just that much bigger and better.

[side note – there was some talk about the exclusivity of communities and events – I won’t address that issue here but will in a future post].

Ok, so what went down at KWST#3? For a start, KWST#3 unearthed more testing leaders. I could go through the whole attendee list but every single one is a testing leader – my challenge to them (us) is extend their (our) sphere of influence and help other testers see through the nonsense that is out there at the moment and become better testers.

Some thoughts i managed to record in between facilitating were:-

  • Real testing is about communication and building relationships
  • Create a space that facilitates the opportunity to learn
  • If you are questioning why you are testing, find your community to help answer why
  • Its not about teaching, its about learning
  • Dispel the myth and then harness the power
  • Test the idea – is there value here?
  • In learning, become hands on and acknowledge the risk

And a sample of some of the many excellent tweets tweeted during the two days.

#KWST3 @thbenzie … Excellent ER… If you can dispel a myth you can foster engagement, collaboration, confidence and sharing

#KWST3… Andrew “Capt Stubing” Robins taking about his team’s JBE..James Bach Experience in 2004 @jamesmarcusbach

Some of the lessons learned
It is important to have a good mix of people and much better to have people who share common ground.

Good facilitation works well though I’ve learned not to kill the conversation too soon

CITCON – Oliver had a great idea to print off the ER descriptions, put them on the wall and everyone voted what ER they wanted to hear. We did this from ER three onwards. It seemed to work pretty well (CITCON )

Having a +1 card wouldve been very helpful as a number of yellow cards (and some cases green and red) were thrown in support of what was said by the person delivering the ER. Gives the presenter instant feedback.

The success of these workshops is in the sum of the everyone involved. Find a core  group to work with.

Twitter generates excitement, comment and feedback. Define the harsh tag and let everyone know.

Sitting close to the co-facilitaor and content owner helps to quickly make decisions!

Regular breaks = regular networking opportunities

Playing “testing games” is a good way to learn, share and break up the workshop

Day one is all nervous energy. Day two is more relaxed and people open up a lot more

Last day check out also included the question – “what I will do in then next twelve months?” – Give everyone a call to action…it seemed to work well. Already, a number of KWST’ers who have deferred using social media have made the leap!

KWST#3 (and OZWST, Tasting Lets Test and so on) are gaining momentum down under.  These are REAL leadership workshops aimed at helping the craft of software testing improve. Its alot more than juts talking – its debating, challenging, discussing, sharing, helping, networking and building the personal connections which are vital to a successful community.  KWST#3 achieved that.

Oliver summed it up best with his tweet…

#KWST3 us organisers feel so rapt! It looks like we’re actually achieving what #KWST set out to do and everyone is really enjoying it too.

KWST is ABOUT bringing community leaders together (and finding them) and raising the bar in our world. My challenge to you (us) all is what are you doing to help the craft (and the community) become better?

Collin Cherry’s thougyhts on KWST#3

Aaron Hodder’s braindump from KWST#3

David Greenlees perspective

KWST#3 002 KWST#3 attendees

Discussion in action                                      KWST#3 – Attendees

My experience of the magic of StarWest 2012 – Day 2


***Apologies for the delay in getting this out – a rather hectic end to 2012!***

Day two started off much like day one – a ton of testers milling around, talking, networking, listening to talks, taking on testing puzzles and (mostly) looking to improve their craft in someway.

For me, the highlight was delivering my talk Using agile techniques to manage testing – even on non-agile projects. The talk was scheduled to begin at 1500 hours which was plenty of time to enjoy other talks and ease my way in the event.

I got to the room early, set up and met Martin Pol who was a very gracious host.  Feeling the butterflies a little (which is a good thing) i began to run through my talk in my head, greet people as they entered the room and waited for the fireworks to start!

After the introduction, I was away…

I won’t get into the presentation per se (please email me if wish to know more) but what I did was draw on a real life project with real life examples to demonstrate how we (test team) overcame the challenges placed before us (I was the test manager on a project that used *agile techniques* even though we weren’t *agile*). The most interesting thing for me was the number of people in the audience that shared similar project pain.

Some were able take parts away from my talk and attempt to implement them in their projects, some just wanted to talk (and it is always great to talk to fellow testers about similar things) which  i think that is part of the responsibility of speakers – to help those with questions after the presentation.

I have seen some presenters at conferences leave almost immediately after their talk and thus denying further questioning, understanding and enlightenment.  Those that stay help increase their reputation as someone who is willingly to help. This is a very good attribute!

Speaking is always a buzz and i was thrilled that it went so well. One tester in the audience wrote a rather nice compliment on their evaluation form (there were a number of them)…

One of the best presentations in this conference! very inspiring and valuable. Thanks!

and from another tester…

I’ve had very little interaction with agile testing but after hearing your presentation I have a lot better understanding on how it works. Thank you very much!

And there were others like them which is always nice to hear.

After my talk i joined everyone else in the main hall and listened to Doug Hoffman give his keynote on how to Leverage your test automation ROI which i really enjoyed.

In summary, Star West 2012 as a great experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. IF you get the opportunity to attend a testing conference then I encourage you to do so (and meet fellow testers and increase your network and opportunity to learn) and then after you’ve been to a few, share your experiences with others – we want to hear you!

KWST#2 – Day 1 – The beginning of real leadership downunder

KWST#2 started off with an absolute air of anticipation.  I arrived early to make sure the venue was all set up and ready for the intrepid KWST’ers!  KWST is an off shoot of LAWST and is unique in that everyone is able, likely and potentially willing to contribute through questioning or by giving an experience report.


This year’s theme was Ethical Challenges for Testers and it promised to be an intense conference!


This year, 21 test leaders throughout New Zealand Australia were in invited.  There was no magic formula, no *robust estimation tool* used, rather the attendees were invited on what they have done within the testing community (see or ) or could achieve.  In attendance were testers from vendors, consultancies, independents and various companies throughout the country. So…what happened?


Day One

Once assembled, everyone *checked in* (a process whereby we explained where our head space is at and a chance to off load by announcing any distractions that may bother us that day) and James as content owner explained the process and the use of the coloured cards.  Richard Robinson was lead off facilitator and I was supporting him.  James led the way with his first ER and there were a number of questions (threads) which flowed from that.  As is typical of a peer conference, the first ER tends to *flesh* out a lot of questions around the topic (in this case ethics) and was a good jumping point into KWST.  Jeff Bidwell, Geoff Horne and Andrew Robins also gave experience reports on day one with varying degrees of success (i.e. the ability to give an experience report and defend their position).


First of all…


  • When giving an experience report, the deliverer should ensure that they can back up what they say and defend their statements when necessary. This is a credibility issue because if someone can’t defend their work then they could lose credibility with their peers
  • Reputation by attribution was something that James spoke about (and tweeted well by Oliver). Reputation needs to be defended as is your reputation by association.  If for example, you are hired by a consultancy then that consultancy picks up your reputation as a tester and the tester may be tainted (whether it’s good or bad) reputation of that consultancy regardless of work done by the tester.  It’s almost like reputation by diffusion.
  • Counting test cases OR understanding and using meaningful metrics was a hotly debated topic.  It was clear that the room was divided on counting test counts being ethical (of which the discussion itself was taken outside of the conference when it was agreed that we were heading down a rat hole).
  • When is a tester ethically responsible for what he does? Make a clear distinction if you are a tool-tester or are directly responsible (tweet by Oliver) which followed a comment by James that a tool tester may not be responsible ethically because they are directed and told what to do.  However, IF you are directly responsible for what work you do then yes, you have an ethical responsibility to produce good, meaningful testing for your client.

Day one was like the start of a boxing match or sporting contest in which the *contestants* feel each other out, understand expectations and determine limits.  Some didn’t like or understand the process or power of a peer conference.  This power comes from the CONFERing – discussing, challenging, critiquing and attempting to understand a presenter’s point of view. The power comes from dialogue. The power comes from testers grappling with the assertions made and dissecting them. This is how a presenter’s reputation is won (or lost) at a peer conference.

Day one was an opportunity to confer AND to network. KWST was about test leaders coming together. It’s not about business or certification or testing fallacies. Not all invitees will/have stepped up as leaders within the community BUT a number have….

And the testing community in New Zealand and Australia is the better for it…


Next Post – KWST#2 – Day 2***

Attendees for KWST#2

KWST#2 attendees









James Bach (content owner), Richard Robinson (facilitator), Brian Osman (facilitator), Oliver Erlewein, Aaron Hodder, David Greenlees, Mike Talks, Katrina McNicholls, Liz Hutching, Katrina Edgar, Geoff Horne, Andrew Black, Farid Vaswani, Jeff Bidwell, Sheryl Toenders, Chris Stapleton, Donna Chin, Andrew Robins, John Lockhart and Mike Ward.






Countdown – one week to KWST!

Just over one week to go until KWST – a thought leadership peer CONFERence like no other downunder. For those that may want to follow the twitter feedback, the #tag is #KWST2.

The theme is Ethical Challenges for Testers and the conference starts 15/16 June 2012.

There will be 20 test leaders from throughout New Zealand and Australia and really promises to be a special event – so stay posted!

Much thanks for this conference must go to James Bach for his time and willingness to help found KWST and for Software Education for bringing James out to New Zealand and for providing a place for software testing thought leadership to grow!