Monday, 8 July 2013

Conference at a Glance, part I – My glance on the Monday tutorials

The EuroSTAR 2013 is knocking on my door. It's about time get some scribbles to my blog about it.

Quick word about what I’m doing here: I’m trying to get my thought on paper both to ease my burden of choosing the talks which to attend and also to write out my thoughts before the conference (as after the conference I might have a bit of a "information hangover" and I'm not that keen to write on stuff I didn't attend). If you think I have mistaken, misinterpreted or been outright wrong, please comment and discuss about it. I also encourage all the speakers, who I mention here, to comment on my expectations. I might be off by a mile on what the true content of the tutorial is, but please correct me if I’m on the wrong track.

I will also try a heuristic grading system to determine what would be the best session for me. I will grade the stuff with Angry Birds ™ grade – 0-3 stars per area – on five areas:

  • Person-to-person (How will the person and his/hers work affect/inspire me or the people I know?), 
  • Session value – short time span (How much can I get out of the session tomorrow – next year?), 
  • Session value – longs time span (How much can I implement o my work and teach to my colleagues, my community?), 
  • Steal-ability (How much of it am I willing to borrow and further develop to make it better and, more importantly, mine?), and 
  • Challenge-ability (My past knowledge on the topic and my willingness to challenge the session contents.)

This doesn’t mean that 0 stars would mean “I hate it”, instead I’m looking for personal value against my beliefs, biases, former knowledge and worldview. I’m not saying that I won’t attend a low scored session, no, I might change my mind after talking to people at the conference and to the speakers. So I encourage you to talk to me about your session and comment what I have written about you.

James Lyndsay’s “Insights Into Exploratory Testing

As a first thought, James Lindsay isn’t the one person that I recognize as my personal idol. He ought to be, because I read his blog once in a while, but I haven’t really gotten into his stuff. I love the blog series in which he describes different ways to manage exploratory testing! Kudos for that! However, I think I need to see him in person to suck in the charisma that he might have. After that I might regard him as my Top-3 testers. Right now, he’s a bit of a mystery man to me. And I always mix him for James Whittaker! *grin*

I’ve done exploratory testing a while now, so to answer the question: “What’s in it for me for tomorrow/this year?” I think hands on testing practices could be a remedy for my “sohpomoristic” (I have knowledge, but not enough experience implementing my knowledge to practice) way of approaching testing. The analyzing nature of the workshop could help me be a better tester on a daily basis. I was struck by a realization on few pair testing sessions with people who I really look up to. They were so much better hands-on testers that I, but they had high expectations on my skills.

Because I need to bring something back the “Ye olde Sweatshop” at Helsinki, I need to look for stuff that are good for my colleagues. The nature of the workshop could sprout some lightning workshops or sessions with my testing fellows, so I’m keen to see how to run a successful workshops with different backrounds of people. I’m also keen to see how I can use my skills to use attacking and exploitation in my everyday testing, ‘cause I work at a security software corporation. So I might be able to bring that home with me. Over all, all the things in exploratory testing might be good for my colleagues. The focus in my company should continuously veer towards exploratory approach. This workshops could give a lot – that’s for sure.

As I always tend to look on the bright side of life, I do want to be able to challenge James
and his topic. So what areas might be prone for me disagreeing? Workshops usually bring new course to the testing buffet, so I would have to taste the dish before being able to make hard decisions about it. I can’t say what would be the areas where I would disagree but I would definitely ask about how you could implement exploratory approach on a company that uses mainly test case driven approach. Let’s say there’s a company that uses only outsourced testers and they have one test analyst whose job is to design proper tests for that group of testers. How could one use exploratory approach to make their testing more efficient, creative and manageable?

What could be the next step after having this workshop? Personally I would try this on a larger scale. Oh! That’s a good question to James: “How will I be able to scale this up? How do I manage a team of these explorers?” Personally James Bach workshop could answer some of these questions. If it was somehow possible, I would attend to both workshops and then combine then seamlessly together. The next step would be to combine Lyndsay’s techniques to a broader audience and to organizations where testing is still in baby shoes (i.e. über controlled, test case driven, hierarchial, to name some).

I have one more thing to say. Mr. Lyndsay, if you happen to be at Gothenburg on Sunday evening, I would like to have a pint or two with you and talk about testing and your workshop. I might not attend it as there’s so much to choose from, but I’d like to talk to you about this particular workshop. You can give me a shout at Skype or Twitter, if you want to. ?

As for James Lyndsay’s Monday tutorial “Insights Into Exploratory Testing”, I would score like this:

  • Person-to-person: **
  • Short time value: **
  • Long time value: **
  • Steal-ability: **
  • Challenge-ability: **
  • Total: 10/15 stars

James Bach’s “Rapid Test Management

Personally, I know James Bach and I’ve spent some time with him face-to-face. I attended his RST class on 2012 and the Rapid Testing Intensive course. I was exhilarated to be invited to the course as a special guest and it was one of the most joyous events of my end-year of 2012. I had the opportunity to have dinner with James and to get face-to-face coaching. He’s a radiant person who some people misunderstand as angry or frightening – choosing to see behind the façade gives you the opportunity to see a multi-dimensional, empathic person who’s a power to Testing craft all around the globe. I know it sounds like I’m secretly in love with him, but trust me: he can turn your world upside down.

As for the Monday tutorial, I feel the topic is slightly too narrow for me. I did learn a lot on the RTI course last year and I think this tutorial might repeat some of the stuff that I learned that year. For short time value the tutorial might not be in the top-3. I have a lot to learn about test management, yes. I do think, however, that I can get more by starting finally to implement the stuff I learned year ago. The opportunities to do that have been scarce. I think I need more advices on how to implement the lessons to my work instead of repeating the theory myself.

What could I do to make my colleagues life better using the lessons learned from the tutorial? I have experience already from the RTI, but my situation after that session forced me to forgo the implementation of the stuff I learned. The job as a maintenance manager also did not fully support the further teaching of the methods. At the moment I am in a position where I could help my team and all Quality Engineer at F-secure to make their testing both better (using exploratory testing) and ways to manage it properly.

I am quite biased in challenging James’ tutorial because I wish I was the one with skills to pull off a tutorial like that. I have seen the traps and pitfalls at least partially already, but I think I need a different perspective to the tutorial altogether. I like to think about the scaling of the methods and also the managing of outsourced testing. How will the methods James purposes will scale across rigid and wide spread organization? How could I manage a team of tester in Kuala Lumpur according the principles? I would have to delve a bit deeper into his material. That would give me pointers on the terms and techniques he uses and possibly I could find some holes in his reasoning to sprout a fruitful conversation.

When I think about areas I’m willing to steal, the whole material could be worth stealing. The concept of managing exploratory testing using the Rapid approach gives me new tools and tricks to make our testing at F-secure more efficient and manageable.

The next step with this presentation would be almost the same as I described earlier. The approach needs to be implemented on a team to see where it might go wrong. In addition to this tutorial, one might benefit from different coaching and mentoring lessons so that the problems are found early and dealt with – almost like testing you test management.

On my Birdy scale, James’ “Rapid Test Management” would scale as follows:

  • Person-to-person: ***
  • Short time value: *
  • Long time value: **
  • Steal-ability: ***
  • Challenge-ability: *
  • Total: 10/15 stars

Paul Gerrand’s “How to Create a Test Strategy

Paul is one of those people whose name pops up every here and there – he seems to be able to do everything. Personally I don’t know him or his work, but it seems it’s about time. The description at EuroSTAR page describes him to be attending lots of events so it’s clear why he’s a well-known person. It's hard for me to develop an understanding of Paul’s achievements on a personal level but after a few YouTube videos and some googling, I think he knows his way around testing. I may not agree with some of the stuff he speaks for, but I cannot put my finger on any specific topic. Hopefully I can get some challenging happening about hit EuroSTAR tutorial.

The first thing that comes to mind is a hint of worry – he’s using a template. I know from past experience that templates are seldom abused and used to hide incompetence and lack of interest. They look good, though. Is there something fór me in this tutorial that I could use in the near future? I wish I had taken this tutorial 5 years ago when I was struggling to tears with a testing strategy to cover a whole organization’s testing. I did do some short and efficient testing strategies on a project-by-project level, but the framing, all-encompassing strategy was a vague scribble that I loathed where other loved it – I knew I could do it better, but I didn’t have the motivation to really get into test strategies at that time (or the time to do it, I might add). As for “past” value, I would rate this really high, but now I don’t see too much value to my work. This could be one of those inspiring and challenging tutorials to attend but I don’t see short term value to me here.

How could I use test strategy workshop in my company? I’d have to say: in a punch of ways! The opportunities provided by honing the existing strategy and being able to make high and low level strategies would be helpful. The test strategy does push you towards organized testing and even give credence to ones testing if one has a strategy which to follow. On that aspect, I might even benefit from it.

I try to find something worth disagreeing or to challenge in all the tutorials, but in Paul’s case the answer is clear – templates. I loathe templates as base of documentation. They usually lose the meaning as a template and become “fill form and deliver” –documents. So I am eager to challenge template in every aspect I can. I would rather have a set of skills to enable me create my own template than a readymade one. Does Paul provide ways to create a skill set for that purpose?

I would like to be able to understand a bit more about the techniques Paul Gerrard uses to create the testing strategy. I guess that the only way is to attend the tutorial. For now I don’t see much else worth stealing than the concept of improving test strategy thinking. I’m not sure if this actually increases or decreases my willingness to join Paul’s tutorial, because I might be lacking in knowledge to actually make that decision.

Personally I would focus more on the skill set instead of the template. If he does encourage in a mindset change then that would be one of the topics I’d like to steal also. This tutorial would benefit from getting the test strategy to context and possibly the implementation to a testing project. I hope Paul has some concrete material on how the strategy implementation has worked in the past, if he has used it before.

On my Birdy scale, Paul Gerrard’s “How to Create A Test Strategy” would scale as follows:

  • Person-to-person: *
  • Short time value: **
  • Long time value: *
  • Steal-ability: **
  • Challenge-ability: ***
  • Total: 9/15 stars

Torbjörn Ryber’s “Boosting Your Test Design Powers

I know Tobbe just a little. I have met him face-to-face, but we haven’t actually had a long conversation at that point. What lingers in my mind from our talk is a single phrase: “High-6” I hope I get a chance to talk to Tobbe at the conference at least once for he’s a great character. He has a tremendous knowledge in test design and critical thinking, besides he’s funny as hell! So I encourage all you, go and talk with him – you won’t get bored!

The tutorial seems, at a glance, to be run-of-the-mill presentation on test design. I have Tobbe’s book on test design and it is THE book for every tester! If you don’t have it, join the tutorial – you will receive a complimentary copy of the book “Essential Software Test Design”. Just like James Lyndsay’s tutorial, this one would be a fun thing to join as I know already something about the topic and to increase skills in test design cannot be harmful. Besides, ways to design testing with tools (i.e. charts, graphs, mind maps) would help me on my daily work. I do hope that we are able to get some hands-on experience on using the design techniques.

I have already promoted Tobbe’s book here at F-secure and I lend my book to one out Quality Engineers to get some advice on her work. I would like to have all our testers to join the tutorial as a wakeup call. As this is elementary for any tester out there, I encourage every pudding tester and developer to join the tutorial. For those that have been doing test planning for long time, this could act as a reminder of the good practices in test design.

Disagreeing with Tobbe’s topics can be difficult because I believe in the most parts. I do however see an opportunity to play devil’s advocate and challenge Tobbe and his claims. I do however see more beneficial to get into a debate on a separate occasion to let him bring out the most of the tutorial to people who need the knowledge. I’m not saying I don’t need more knowledge, but I will restrict myself from spoiling the fun from others.

I did a similar class few years ago where I taught test design on our testers and developers. My point of view was however a little more exploratory testing oriented and heuristic driven. I could try to steal some pointers from Tobbe to support my own material.  I could then arrange a workshop here, at out office, to spread the joy.

The next step after this tutorial would be a walk to the test lab and to use these skills in practice. In that sense the schedule of this tutorial is perfect. Later in the conference people could try their newly learned or reminded skills to test stuff. I think Tobbe would appreciate the feedback that practical use of those skills could bring. For example, what areas require more attention in the future?

On my Birdy scale, Torbjörn Ryber’s “Boosting Your Test Design Powers” would scale as follows:

  • Person-to-person: **
  • Short time value: **
  • Long time value: **
  • Steal-ability: **
  • Challenge-ability: **
  • Total: 10/15 stars

Matt Barcomb and Jim Holmes’ “Becoming A Testing Craftsman

To be honest, I don’t remember any significant details about either of these guys. I seems that matt is a busy conference speaker (according to his blog), but I did not yet find the tone in which would be in harmony with my own thoughts about testing. I do see that he’s a coach so I could try to approach him via Skype and ask for some coaching and to chat about the conference topic. Jim also seems to be quite a veteran in conferences. I scrolled through his blog and the slides that he shares are excellent! I love the way to make things simple and bite-size. If the duo is anything like what I learned from them, I would definitely want to meet with them and talk about coaching, motivation, innovation and testing topics.

On short term, this tutorial is like candy to me. Little programming excersises? Sign me in! Building your tools? I’m there! I also see that these guys focus on skills to get things done – automation is the extension of human mind, not the only solution to testing. This is by far the most fitting tutorial for the first day for me and my development, short and medium term. I am getting into trouble at my work by some tedious manual repetition that could be made easier with a shell script or a python script. I hope these guys can brrring it!

When I think about how to educate and help my fellow testers, I’m not actually sure if I could bring enough to the table. I believe, though, that the attitude towards being a craftsman instead of rank-and-file- employee could be beneficial to both them individually and to the company as a whole.

I would like to learn more programming and tool building before I could confidently teach how to build them. There’s a hell of a group here who can make tools, apps, what-do-you-need to make testing easier. I’m willing to see the applications of tool building and the test data creation/management and possibly try to teach that to my fellows.

This is an interesting topic, because I have little experience in actually building something functional for others (for myself a few scratch-built scripts, but nothing serious). If I was to choose what I would like to hear, I would like to hear more about the attitude towards craftsmanship and how we can spread the word around. I believe that craftsmen aren’t supposed to hold the secrets to themselves but to share their wisdom, like Matt and Jim.

I’d like to see these teachings to be implemented on some practical hands-on session, test-lab or something, so we can really get our craft to shine. I would also promote testing to other than testers – I think managers, documenters and all software project stakeholders could benefit from craftsmanship attitude.

On my Birdy scale, Matt Barcomb and Jim Holmes’ “Becoming A Testing Craftsman” would scale as follows:

  • Person-to-person: *
  • Short time value: ***
  • Long time value: **
  • Steal-ability: *
  • Challenge-ability: *
  • Total: 8/15 stars


I’m still teetering on which tutorial to join, but I will try my best to decide. I know I need to make decisions fast so I can book my seat before they run out. I will let you know which one I chose after I book the tutorial. As for now, I will keep on writing about the conference. I’ll try to cover every conference day at least on some level, but I do not guarantee anything.

As you might know I am speaking at EuroSTAR on a Wednesday. I would like to hear what you might get from that session if you are to attend it. I will also hold a preliminary practice talk here in Helsinki, so if you’re interested to join, give me a tweet. ?


Jim Holmes said...

Sorry you think the person-to-person and stealability factors are so low. Most of the point of this workshop is to get you ideas you can walk out and implement the next day -- and practical snippets/examples to steal away from. :)

Pekka Marjamäki said...

Hi, Jim! I'm glad you commented. I really appreciate the effort. Even if my score on person-to-person is low, it doesn't mean that other people think the same way. I'd love to have a chat about testing with you at any convenient time. I would also like to get to know the stuff you've done in the past - my quick googling might not give the correct impression.

I do believe that testing craftsmanship is really important for I promote it myself as much as possible. My approach may be different, though. I got the impression that you focus on "tester toolbox" and the skills to use the tools. What I try to promote is use the tools that is MOST important on every tester - brains.

I'm not saying 1 star is bad - I'm saying one star gets my attention and more. Like in Angry Bird, you have passed the level with one star, two stars means it's way good. Three stars means it is as good as possible (if not better). Also, you must remember that this is subjective evaluation with limited information - a hunch.

So I encourage you to contact me and help me understand the tutorial in more depth. I could benefit from it more than I can not think. :)

- Peksi

James Lyndsay said...

I'll break the rules, and kick off with a bit of a "no"...

Your challenges are interesting, I've got the experience to offer an informed perspective, and I look forward to our conversation.* However, I'm setting up this** workshop to give direct experience of various approaches to exploring for test purposes. Other workshop participants might not share your enthusiasm, and I would need to gauge that before spending their time on discussing ways to manage exploratory testing. You've spotted that James B's workshop is more closely aligned to your questions – I expect you're right, and I imagine he'll address those questions.

My favourite environments for for discovering and digging into exploration involve small groups, coaching, and hands-on testing. It's hard for me to coach more than a dozen people at a time, so my ET workshops are small and intimate. However, that's not how EuroSTAR works – which gives me an interesting problem***. So, to help my stuff work with a large workshop, I'll get people talking and working together. To give them something to talk about, I've wrapped my practical exercises in new tech designed to give participants some insights into the way that they're testing. I hope that there will be plenty of sharing and peer-to-peer coaching. To help that along, I need to get a lightweight community going, and one element of that will be in Gothenburg, on the Sunday evening before the conference. Which may, indeed, involve a pint. You're welcome to join us, though my focus will be on the relationships within the group I'll be working with on the Monday.

What you can take back to work? Apart from ideas and insights, the most tangible thing would be the software exercises. They'll be fun to play with, and they'll stay active for a few months****. Not that you need to come on the workshop to have the exercises – just copy them from someone's machine (or ask).

I hope that helps you pick the best way to spend your Monday!

* I'm delightfully free for the whole conference after the tutorial, and you'll find me in the TestLab.
** Back in CAST2012, my Managing ET workshop had a big chunk of stuff that could have been relevant. This one is a different beast.
*** One that I've avoided for rather too long.
**** More, with an easy exploit.