Tired of Answers

During the past few years, I’ve interacted with many experts, thought leaders and emerging talent and boy, there’s plenty of them. I mean this in a non-comical way, there is tons of talent, keep your eyes open and ears cleaned (this was meant comically).

Regardless of where I am in the food chain of conference goers I can’t help but observe, learn and… among other feelings; get frustrated.
The thing that has been baffling me for the longest time is that people come to conferences, fora, slacks and: ask questions. That’s not the crazy part. This is:

People expect simple answers and crazier yet, they get them.

Here’s why that’s preposterous: You are working in a complex situation. Everything is subject to change. Nothing is certain to be static. Assuming it will be, is risky.
That’s the only given we have.

But how many people deal with that given, feels so very wrong.

We cut the problem into many smaller ones. We like that. It’s easier to understand. Less brain intensive, more straightforward to plan for and very manageable.
It’s a common engineering pattern. Imagine you’re on the team tasked with building the Golden Gate bridge? You look at designs of other bridges, work out how many bolts, nuts and bars you need and get setting them together.
That sounds easy, right? Except that something in the back of your mind is telling you it probably isn’t. Nobody has built a bridge of this magnitude before. This task might be more complicated than initially thought…

On top of that add the the following parameters:

  • The water it crosses is not a river, but a bay. Subject to the tides and rapid weather changes.
  • The political and territorial landscape might change.
  • Vehicles crossing the bridge will inevitably evolve, maybe even much sooner than anticipated.

Compared to other bridges, this one is proving to be a complex beast. As soon as we take the holistic view, we realise how wrong we were.


Here’s a secret. We’re all building complex beasts. We don’t understand the fundamentals, we can’t foresee the future, we don’t know our present well enough and we have no idea which parameters will change our situation today, tomorrow or just after the next major release.

Therefore I would advise everyone to quit looking for simple answers. They are false.
Therefore I would advise everyone to quit giving simple answers. You are not helping.

 

There are principles, models, sets of guiding rules, methodologies, approaches, tactics, heuristics, practices,… and many different ideas to help you do a better job.

Some of these can help you greatly, most of them were created and defined with good intentions but ALL of them have been misunderstood and/or misused by malicious or irresponsible actors. (including myself, at times)

The next time you’re faced with the need of giving or receiving simple, easy answers, repress that urge. Instead try to trigger thinking. Within yourself and within others. Thinking deeper, broader and in different directions. Offer alternative ways of thinking, provide helpful information and ask questions that may lead down a path.
The path of learning.

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Applied heuristics

This is an experiment. I’m trying to figure out my understanding of what the word ‘Heuristics’ means to me and whether it’s helpful to me and my craft: Testing.

Therefore, I’ll rehash an old story of how I found a bug and annotate the heuristics used in Bold and see what I can analyse from that afterwards.

Any guidance, ideas, intuitions, sources are very much appreciated.


Finding a Memory Leak

It was past noon. I’d been testing an application that wasn’t too complex for quite a long time. I knew it’s ins and outs and I felt myself getting bored.
I remember going through the customer files rather methodically one by one, click,… click,… click , without a clear aim. You could say I was randomly exploring.

Until something didn’t feel right. Call it surprise, intuition, something was wrong.
I noticed a pattern of loading times slowing down almost unnoticeable. I can’t put to words what triggered it for me. Was it an Observer-expectancy effect? Was it my negative mindset that sharpened my senses? I haven’t got a clue, but I felt I had to focus, zoom in.

I chose a tactic that was less boring than meticulously clicking my way up. Selenium IDE isn’t the best of tools, but it fit my purpose perfectly. I recorded my click and copied it a thousand times. I monitored the behaviour with developer tools, pressed ‘play’ and went for a coffee. After a while, I could identify that it went terribly slow because I could see the latency increase. Eventually I saw it ramping up until it crashed. Pairing with a developer we could conclude that there was a serious memory leak.


Implicit and Explicit heuristics?

A heuristic is “A fallible approach to solve a problem”

The teachings of RST and BBST and possibly how ‘heuristics’ were meant in the science books would identify all the bold phrases as some variation of a heuristic. I’m sure many other heuristics played in my mind that I don’t have words for yet.

However, notice how the first part of my story is almost completely based on hunches and feelings. Something directed me to find this bug and it wasn’t intentional.

In the second part, I took matters into my own hand. I had a goal, I chose a tactic and was able to measure my results. Other tactics, could have been clicking the button myself for the umpteenth time and miss out on a coffee. I might have asked a developer to look into it straight away and maybe had time left for two or three coffees.

I can’t know for sure whether I chose the correct heuristic or tactic for that situation and I’m sure as hell “# of cups of coffee drunk” isn’t the correct way to measure that success.

We can’t go back in time and compare results of heuristics used vs. the ones not used. Though I’m pretty happy with the results of the one I set up.


The Question Remains

Are the ‘Implicit heuristics’, (i.e. feelings, patterns, biases, hunches) which can’t really be controlled, measured,… useful to call heuristics? They fail, yes. They help you notice things, yes. But do they solve problems?

Are ‘Explicit heuristics’, (i.e. repetition to find boundaries, monitoring for abnormalities, pairing to increase understanding) worth a dime without their implicit counterparts?

 

It’s not up to me to answer these questions. Yet I find it intriguing to ponder over the matter.

 

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The Core of the Testing Role

This is the second of a couple of “The core of X” -articles that give you -my- ideas on what I think of X. The attempt is to cut away all that surrounds the term and show its core for what it truly is. The essence of it all.
Take from it what you will, love it or leave it. In any case, I would invite you to share what goes around in your head and what you feel while reading. Feel free to correct me or engage in discussion. We’re here to learn.


There’s Always Testing

Independent Test Teams, Dogfooding, Bugbashes, agile Testers, Test Jumpers,… or testing by any other name. There’s always some testing going on in a software project. It might even not be called testing, but it’s there.
It’s in those moments of critical thinking just before someone says “hey now, wouldn’t that shortcut our registration process?” or “Woah, I never thought about it in that way.”

When one ‘thing’: a piece of code, a requirement, a document,… is changed and passed from one person to another: that’s an opportunity for doing testing.
This isn’t always done by a professional tester. Au contraire.
Whether it’s a formalized or accidental process, there’s people jumping in and out of “The Testing Role”. Adding value because of it.

“Everyone tests, but it’s a skill not many professionals care to practice.”

The Core of the Testing Role = Mindset + Skills + Attitude

Be you a tester, developer, analyst, schoolboy or astronaut, to take up the Testing Role effectively, you need to be aware of these three different aspects.

Mindset

Most professionals are focused on Building. Adding, accelerating, stabilizing and all that improvement goodness. At one point or another, these professionals will need to test each other’s improvements. Having that builder’s mindset while doing so is a lousy way to go about it. It’s the equivalent of a mom cheering on her son on the football field:

You want to see them succeed. Confirmation bias and inattentional blindness play their part: Your feedback will be limited.

A tester’s mindset is often seen as a negative or destructive way of thinking. It’s focused on Risk. What can go wrong? How can this be abused? What haven’t we thought of?

It’s about thinking differently. It’s about being engaged with the product with the intent of finding problems.

Getting that mindset consistently right is probably the most important part of this role, yet also the easiest to discard. The path of least resistance doesn’t lead here. It goes everywhere but here, with a rather sharp turn.

It’s a Skill

There’s a lot of different skills involved in testing.

  • Critical thinking
  • Systems thinking
  • Modeling
  • Risk Analysis
  • Quick learning
  • One’s own expectations management
  • Inter- and intrapersonal skills.
  • Technical insight

Just like any other craft, it might look easy for the unwitting and unpracticed. To become a master though, it takes hours, days of mindful practice.

Attitude

Don’t care to practice”. That did sound quite harsh, right? It was intended to be. Attitude, to me, is the defining characteristic for a tester.

  • It makes you speak up in planning meetings to go against popular opinion.
  • It has you fighting for a bugfix you think is important.
  • It gives you fresh ideas to go through the same high-risk functionality over and over.
  • It helps you be different in a world where sameness is worshiped.

Just like Mindset, which is about thinking differently, Attitude is too easily dismissed as part of the Testing Role. Being adamant about quality can be perceived as difficult or not-a-team-player behaviour. I’ve worked with many people who don’t want to bother learning about testing for those exact reasons. It doesn’t make you popular.


Recap

Anyone can take up the Testing Role. Whatever else you do, it takes these three things to be successful at it:

Mindset – Thinking differently when looking at solutions and problems.
Skills – Have the tools to analyse, find, plan for and report risks and issues.
Attitude – The resolve to be consistently different and defend underrepresented notions.

Doing that context switch isn’t easy, isn’t evident and takes practice.
While many people do this role & mindset switch daily, most of the time it is lacking. Practice, investigate and learn how to do it well.

Two Conferences of the East

East of where? Why, Belgium of course. Where else would you place the center of the universe?

I’ve written about several conferences before, such as TestBash & Eurostar. It occurred to me that all previous gatherings were placed North of my hometown, that’s to say, until a few weeks ago. A new wind called my name.

After surviving the far and cold North, where I made friends around warm campfires and was taught the dance of ‘socializing while balancing a beer’, my steel winged carriage pointed another direction.
My next adventure lay East. To the haven city of Gdansk and the Transylvanian valley of Cluj Napoca.

I would tell you of my ride across the hills where I battled three packs of wild Romanian dogs, or the dance of fire that initialized me into the ranks of the Polish testing army. But that would be largely exaggerated and are best told at a bar.

None the less:
Two more conferences have been scratched of my bucket-list since then: Romanian Testing Conference & Testing Cup.

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TestSphere’s workshop: “The Quest for the Ultimate Test Story” in action

The Romanian Testing Conference

Imagine being picked up at the airport in a very expensive Audi. Imagine the driver telling you he arranged a bike for you (you like biking, btw). Imagine that during the ride you oversee a valley filled with houses and old church towers but green hills all around. Imagine a slight hill in that valley with a grand hotel of marble on top.

That’s the first encounter I had with RTC. They had everything planned for me, the bike, the hills, the hotel, my evening dinner and the scenery was groteske. I mean that in the best possible way.

The conference itself was inside the many rooms of the hotel and for several days it was bustling with a 300-400 headed enthusiastic and diverse group of testers.
What struck me about this crowd is that it is much younger and much more evenly distributed across gender. And the hunger for knowledge… Dear lord were they thirsty.

The people I talked to were very eager to hear my stories, were inquisitive, well spoken and remarkable.

I am greatly impressed by the organisation, the participants and the group of speakers that assembled. I would be remiss not to mention I will fondly look back upon the time spent exploring the city with Ard Kramer & Elizabeth Zagroba and Nicola Owen, Mike Noggens, and Keith Klain.

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Andrei Contan receiving his prize for telling the Ultimate Testing Story

Testing Cup

I’m a sucker for Poland. Over the last 3 years, I’ve visited these greener pastures a good 4 times. But this time I was reminded that I had been visiting some of the wrong sides. Gdansk is more modern than any other city I visited in Poland by a long shot.

Upon arrival in the old town I was rejoined with Zeger, Andreas, Ard, Marianne and Johan. From that point on, everything went into light speed. That was the moment the stars became white lines flashing in my peripheral view and the limits of the universe became in reach.

I didn’t look back.

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It was the second year that Testing Cup grew larger than ‘just their testing competition’, which was incredible, make no mistake. Last year they experimented with several international speakers and this year they invited a larger group.
As a team we immediately set forth to gather all speakers in a whatsapp in a “got to catch ’em all” kind of style.
This medium was the center of much, much absurd humour and self mocking. I loved it. You may find a selection of shared pictures at the bottom of this post.

Much like in Romania, we found a large amount of young, knowledge-hungry and diverse selection of Poland’s best testers.
They demonstrated that in the competition and in our workshops with witty remarks and colourful stories.

Two particular moments will haunt me until years to come:

The party was a surge of positive energy. Having drinks on the beach, standing barefooted in the Baltic sea, enjoying the view of a spectacular fire show and dancing until well in the night in good company.
The party was amazingly good, which was noticed in the sheer number of attendees that trickled in much later than intended the next day.
The first day we had 40 participants (the cap) in our workshop, the second one we had 9.

Another impression about how greatly the attendees LIVED this conference was all the way in the end when the champions of the competition were announced.
I saw a Software Tester run in the middle of the Gdansk football arena waving a huge golden cup above his head. I imagine he felt like Ronaldo. His face showed pure pride and happiness. The crowd was enamored.

Aftermath

What I witnessed at both conferences was a strong organization and an exceptionally large number of volunteers. Even though it felt like they weren’t there, that’s exactly what their strength was. They supported us, carried us and led us to have the best of times. We didn’t have to worry about a thing.
That’s Joanna Mocko, Maciej Chmielarz, Andrei Contan, Andrei Ghinescu, Radek Smilgin for you.

As a speaker, I recommend these conferences with the highest of regards.
Say hi when you’re there. I will be too.

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The Core of Automation (Regression Checks)

This is the first of a couple of “The core of X” -articles that give you -my- ideas on what I think of X. Take from it what you will, love it or take offence. In any case, I would love to hear about what goes around in your head and what you feel while reading. Feel free to correct me or engage in discussion. We’re here to learn.

First things first: Language. For this blogpost, when I say Automation I mean a set of Anti-regression checks. Whether they’re on the Unit, Integration, API, UI,… any level, they’re all the same here. There’s usefulness in dividing them by purpose, use or whatever, but it’s not here. I use ‘checks’ where you may expect ‘tests’. That’s fine. The important thing is the point, all else is for a different time.
Behold, das Point:


The core purpose of Automation is NOT about
finding bugs, saving time, getting to market faster or bringing value faster.
It’s about
Stability and Reliability.

Now don’t get me wrong. The red stuff is greatly helped by what’s in green, but it is not and should not be the main focus.

Should your project not care about Stability and Reliability and only about going to market faster or saving time, you can just as well not write any checks.
If you want to find as many bugs as possible, automation is a rather inefficient way of looking for them.

Your checks are about minimizing the risk that comes from working with multiple people on the same thing. Because… inevitably, someone will make an error. That’s human nature. Ideally, you want your Regression Harness (or Automation Check Suite) to warn you of that error. This way, when a team has a good set of checks, it’ll keep a personal “oopsie-doozie” from becoming a whole-team “WHO THE HELL BROKE OUR STUFF AGAIN?!”.

When you engage in any form of automated checking, know that your focus should be on Reliability and Stability. It will lead you down the good path. The one of continuous integration, saving time, having to do less firefighting and having more control as a team.

I’ve seen people talk about metrics of automation and mention: number of bugs found, time saved, number of deploys per day, number of checks ran,…
These are rather unhelpful.
As a Team member, when it comes to metrics, I’d love to outweigh:

Time lost fighting instability + Energy wasted on firefighting + motivation loss while investigating problems + friction between team members
VS.
Time invested in building a regression harness + problems still occurring after the effort + Effect on team-cohesion and sense of purpose.

Hard to do, right? Though it could be better worded, that’s the only metric that counts for me.
(Though I might be interested in the other metrics sometimes, those moments are rather circumstantial)
Notice, though, the difference of mindset of investigating problems as individuals and building a solution as a team.


But… where does Testing fit into that strategy? In my opinion: Not necessarily.

While Testing can certainly help come up with interesting ideas on improving your check harness, it doesn’t have to be part of it. However:

The information that Testing provides from looking for unexpected, extreme and abusing behaviour can greatly support your automation.

I do believe that Testers should make the occasional step into this territory, just as much as I encourage anyone to make frequent and valuable role-switches. Yet the main focus of the Tester role is on providing valuable information that might have been overlooked, the team was unprotected against or misunderstood.
Make no mistake, if your product is rather complex there’ll be things missed, erred and overlooked.

Also… I’ve yet to meet a tester who didn’t think her project or business is simple.


TL;DR:  Regression checking automation is about Stability and Reliability. When done well and consciously, the result can evolve to be: Less bugs, time saved firefighting & problem-solving, going to market faster and adding value faster. A Tester isn’t necessarily an agent in this process, but the information she provides can be invaluable.

IMG_20160725_125941We all need stability. Sometimes more than other times.

Concerned about boxes

Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, The Testing Community, Women in IT, The future of Testers, LinkedIn articles and retweets.

Here’s what scares me the most about recent (and less recent) developments around these examples:

I don’t know who’s making all this happening.
Me, and almost everyone around me apparently share the same views.
Yet there’s an overwhelming number of people working against us.
Who are these people?
Why are their views different and why aren’t we hearing each other?

I often feel like I’m in a huge echo chamber. I keep getting the same things in my twitter-feed, slack channels, fora, mails, magazines,…

As a middle-class, white, European,… , non-religious,… , extravert, male, … , who tries (vehemently) not to be a dick, I look around and genuinely wonder: How could Trump ever get elected? Nothing in the media ever mentioned it to even be remotly possible.
I’m shocked that the UK voted “leave”, because I’d seen nothing but pro-stay voices all day. I’m getting a very one-sided view and it’s not helping anyone.

This happens every day:

  • I glance over a forum thread and think: “This discussion,… again?!”
  • Pull open a Slack channel and see someone replying: “What do you exactly mean by Test Cases?”
  • I click on a link about a new idiotic thing Trump did and can barely keep myself from screaming: “THEN HOW THE HELL DID HE GET ELECTED?!”
  • Open a “Testing is dead” article and find out that it actually means the opposite.

I’m seeing the same thing again and again. I wonder why nothing is changing.


There’s boxes everywhere: Racism is a problem. Sexism is a problem. Classism is a problem. Extremism, in all its different forms, is a problem. Most -isms are problems.
You’d think we’d all know by now. Hell, there’s enough examples to teach us.

But we like hearing the same thing. We like being right and having no conflicts.
Nice, simple, easy. Bliss.

After going through a very painful cynic stage, I realized that I need to get out of my echo chamber more. As much as I love the people near to me, it’s detrimental to all of us should we not pursue diversity. Even the diversity we may not like.

That’s what testing is, right?
Learning new things, new views, new ways of thinking, having a different mindset,
And using that information
To increase the chance of having better ideas, beliefs, thoughts for you
and people around you.

In my eyes, repetition, conformism,  truly is the enemy.
Everywhere.

 


An interesting thought I had whilst rereading: in our testing field, at least we’re having the discussions. We have various media which we can largely control. Fora, slack, twitter,… We should cherish that and draw upon its potential. Find the people we’re not hearing. Find out what they have to say… and learn.

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TestSphere, The Making Of

The day was 17th of April, 2015 that I mailed Rosie of Ministry of Testing with an idea I had. The question I posed was whether a Testing Tarot Card deck would be something the community would be interested in.

Rosie had thought of something similar before and wanted to work with me on it.

I wanted to create a tool that is generic enough to suit most contexts and can guide testers to find new and exciting ways to approach the product under test.
I started developing something that eventually took the form of a Testing Tarot set.
– Beren

(italics are snippets from actual conversations.)

Phase 1: A Testing Tarot Card deck. – April, 2015

So cards have two sides:
One side is always printed with one/same logo/design.
The other side is printed with the character.
– Rosie

I had already created a list of concepts that would spark inspiration for your testing and connected this with a Tarot-style character.
This is an extract of how that looked:

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Spreadsheet Keywords – Character – Image description

The next step was finding someone who could draw beautiful characters and designs for the cards.
After contacting several people, we found out that this would be very, very costly.
So we decided to go with someone from Fiverr.com who we’d heard good things about.


After completing about 20 drawings for us, she took 175$ and then vanished into thin air. We had less than half a card deck in a particular style which we couldn’t build on further.
Rosie had invested that money for nothing.

That was the first blow.site

Phase 2: The App – November, 2015

While waiting for the characters to come in, I had created a website to give a better overview of the card deck. This drove me into playing around with colours, logo, icons and a name.
Asking advice from people around me, I found someone who wanted to build this into an app.

To help inspire you, TestSphere doesn’t just give you an objective.
It offers an elaborate explanation of the objective and
gives several examples of how to test the objective.
– TestSphere pitch

 

At that point, we were a year later already. January 2016.
I hadn’t heard as much from Rosie as she was busy with the many other projects. In retrospect, she was right to do so, because I was still searching.
Even if I didn’t know that about myself at the time.


That same month, I was lucky to join 25 other testers on a peer conference: DEWT 6.
I pitched the concept, the website and the app to them.
They felt it had potential, but that it wasn’t quite there yet.

While they were offering constructive criticism, help, support and ideas, I was feeling demoralized. A stone had formed in my stomach.

That was the second blow.

Phase 3: The Card Game – Februari, 2016

Driving home again, I started to get new ideas. Back to basics. A card deck that wasn’t a fluffy fortune telling game, but a useful tool of learning and knowledge sharing.

Again I rethought the list of concepts, form and design of the card deck.
I introduced different dimensions and investigated more concepts to add to the deck. Real, useful and specific test related concepts that have the potential to get testers passionately talking and thinking.

Here’s an example of 9 cards of the first version of TestSphere: pat-3

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more-concepts

The focus shifted from fortune telling and test ideas to learning and knowledge sharing.


I pitched the new idea at TestBash Brighton as a 99-second talk and that was the moment it got picked up in earnest.
Rosie wanted to get it ready for TestBash Manchester. Marcel Gehlen tested out the game and offered a boatload of feedback.

In total: We liked the cards very much, we have some ideas how we can integrate them in our team / work and we think they add value. For gaming purposes we wanted more rules. If you ever come up with a stricter gaming rule set we are happy to try that out for you.
– Marcel Gehlen

Phase 4: TestSphere – Oktober, 2016

We further expanded on the cards, with examples that approach the concepts from different angles.
A real designer from MoT, Thomas Harvey, joined in and made it look awesome.

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This is a product that can be used in many different ways and taps into your experiences, potential and creativity.
Whether you are an experienced developer or junior tester, this game will have you dig deeper and learn from each other.

TestSphere brings out the potential in you.


Phase 5: The Crowdfunding platform – Januari, 2017

We’ve come this far together. All the people who stood by me, supported me and offered advice and work:

Rosie, Marcel Gehlen, Melissa Eaden, Thomas Harvey, Dwayne Slootmans, Bert Lerno, Ben Van Daele and my wife.

Ministry of Testing have invested £20,000 for design, printing and handling.
In order to make that money back, we’ll need to sell about 1,000 card decks.
At the moment of writing, we’ve sold 220.

You can help us take this story further.
Inform your manager, your development team, your marketing team. Get them excited about TestSphere.

Get it at the Ministry of Testing Store.testsphere-15_1024x1024

Phase 6: ???

The App, revisited?
An extension on the Ministry of Testing Dojo, a great library of real life stories?

All we know is, this is far from over. We’re taking this further!

A Tale of Two Conferences

The past few weeks have been hectic for me. Hell, the last 6 months have been.
And it doesn’t look to be cooling down though, with Test Sphere needing a lot of new and uncharted attention.

I take this time to reflect upon the two conferences I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at:
Test Bash Manchester and EuroStar 2016 in Stockholm.

Similarities

The goal for both conferences was to meet as many people as possible, participate in discussions and learn from them, see what the hot subjects are in Testing and introduce Test Sphere to as many people as I can.
I was alone for both, but knew people at each conference. This enabled me to move between groups, but also gave me a ‘safe place’ to return to when fatigue strikes.

I was going to participate in every meetup, every extra activity and fill the glass to the brim.


Test Bash Manchester

I drove up to Manchester. That’s a 10 hour travel from Belgium,but god, England is beautiful in Autumn. Even from the highway you can enjoy the orange-and-yellow branded leaves that fill the landscape.

Once I arrived at Old Trafford, I called Richard and he invited me to join him at a bar.
The plans he and Rosie have for Ministry of Testing are incredible and I couldn’t help but wanting to participate in it.

And that’s the beauty of Ministry of Testing and Test Bash. You feel like one of the organizers. It’s completely up to you: Step up, take any of the chances that are given to you and you’ll be supported by the community to do more and get to the next level.
Test Bash makes everyone valuable. It makes everyone feel like a part of something greater. A community of testers that feels inclusive, open and exceptionally warm.

I drove back in one stretch, arrived late in the evening but still felt energized to last for days. That’s what Test Bash does to me.


Eurostar Stockholm

It’s huge. There’s so much going on I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface.
I stayed in Stockholm for 5 days and try to do as much as I possibly could. But having to choose between 4 different talks left me feeling as if I was losing every time.

The talks I attended were generally very interesting and I’ve taken away quite a few explicit ideas for my day-to-day work and probably more ideas that aren’t as concrete, but will re-surface when the need arises. Especially Alexandra Sladebeck and Liz Keogh‘s talks and ideas resonated with me.

There are so many big names in testing speaking and attending that I was seeing stars. Because I wanted to spread the good word of Test Sphere and looked for a few apostles to do so too, I approached most of them and tried to convince them to do workshops with the cards.
These Testing Stars are incredibly friendly and always up for a chat. They are interested in what you have to say and will give you things to think about.

This is the big advantage of EuroStar over Test Bash: Tons of opportunities and there is a much broader reach.

But this has a negative side too:
There is a central hall where most time is spent. It’s filled with vendors and companies that seem completely disconnected with what’s being talked about in the sessions.
It is my interpretation that this central hall fixates on Repetition in testing and that most talks advocate for Diversity and Variation.
That frightens me. Especially as Jon Bach revealed 50% of the attendees of his talk considered themselves Test Managers.

The late night activities proved to be exactly what I imagined them to be. Good food, drinks, discussions, getting to know each other better and forging relationships.


To summarize

Test Bash made me feel at home, welcomed and valued. EuroStar gave me the impression I was certainly welcome but still a newcomer and was ‘on my way to become a member’.
Both feelings are good. One gives me a safe environment and the other challenges me.

I left EuroStar with many questions and things to consider, such as the state of our craft vs. the state of the testing market and why I want to become a speaker. Test Bash made speaking feel like a natural next step.
Asking questions and introspection are necessary, feeling encouraged is too.

Both conferences offered a ton of ideas to consider and many opportunities to act on. Workshops, collaborations, job prospects and possible sponsors for Test Sphere.

And to the question of “why I signed up to become a speaker in the first place?”, the answer is: People.
Anything I do and want to do well is because of my love for good and honest people.
I need that, in order to feel happy.
I want to move forward with teams and grow everyone around me by any means necessary.
To achieve this, I first have to meet all these wonderful people.

Such as Marcel and Ard:

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We-Were-Testers

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Stockholm, after attending and conferring at Eurostar 2016. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and was able to meet so many different and passionate testers from places I didn’t even know had testers.

But this experience was somewhat spoiled by something completely different.
Here’s a few things that get me all riled up: Pokémon that run away and injustice. (amongst other things)

Today I’m complaining about injustice.

The Context

This injustice comes from a source that I had hoped valued integrity and transparency as much as it marketed to be: We-Are-Testers.com. (WAT)
They provide a service, like many other crowd testing companies, that links a customer with specific needs to a number of testers who are willing to jump at the opportunity to test something new AND make a few extra bucks while doing it.

I welcome this idea as it offers me the chance to do some extra testing, but also get some pocket-money to spend.
This mission, I had two days time to test an application on an Iphone and come up with linguistic issues in it.

Pretty easy right? Especially because all the Dutch text I had to review seemed to be copy pasted from a Google translate service.

However, some constraints hindered me: Only two days of testing were foreseen and the first day I spent an hour trying to install the app, only to find out the configuration of the install thingy didn’t work for me. An admin from WAT had to correct this for me.

The second day I was able to test for two hours before the deadline.
I logged 18 bugs, which would amount to maximum 144 EUR.

how-to-report-bugs

All required fields were filled in, as per agreement. Steps, expected outcome and actual outcome were all given as well as any other required fields. (How else would I be able to submit the bug?!)

Later, the next day, mails came flying in. INCOMPLETE, INCOMPLETE, INCOMPLETE.

Wait a second, there seems to be something wrong…
I hadn’t included screenshots.
Ok, I agree that a screenshot is pretty handy to have in most bugs.
HOWEVER, in this context, with two hours time to find as many bugs as possible, making, uploading, downloading, linking,… screenshots would heavily cut into my bug-finding time.

Steps, the name of the screen where the bug was found, the actual text and what it should become had to be more than enough for meager text issues.

In any case, for the three hours of work I wouldn’t see a penny.
And me being me, I kind of want to make a problem out of that.

Gathering evidence

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The Discussion

I contacted the moderators and spokespeople from WAT, who are generally really nice guys and girls, to ask them to look into my situation.

Argument 1: Their website’s “Payment Policy” doesn’t mention Screenshots are a requisite for payout. It specifically says attachment only if relevant.

Argument 2: The mission’s “How to report a bug” doesn’t mention Screenshots are a requisite for a complete bug.

Argument 3: If Screenshots are a necessity for this project, please please please make the input field for screenshots a required field?

This is a clear miscommunication, so I gave them time to find out how they’d handle my situation.
Today I heard that I wouldn’t get a dime for my efforts, that it was unfortunate but that it was virtually my own fault.

reply

My point is not whether screenshots should or shouldn’t be added to bugs.
My point is that WAT is telling me I should not be paid because I didn’t adhere to a rule that I can’t find anywhere in their Terms of Agreement, Payment Policy, FAQ or Mission Description.

They did offer four extra hours to insert the screenshots. At noon. While I’m at work. Thanks a lot!

They argue that the devs need screenshots, but frankly, that’s not my problem.
WAT provides a service to the devs. I provide a service to WAT.

WAT should carry the burden of handling communication errors on their part,
And I shouldn’t be the one to suffer from the gaps they leave.

I’m pretty sure those bugs will be fixed in the next version. But regardless of that, not paying people because of rules applied by a third party seems kind of illegal to me.

If you don’t agree, let me know.

remuneration

Consult the TestSphere

Last Friday was TestBash Manchester and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.
The talks are inspiring, the organisation is impeccable, facilitators are the friendliest people ever and then there’s the people that attend:

All these speakers, listeners, organizers, attendants,… make you feel right at home.
They are what make every edition of Test Bash legendary.

This time, I got the privilege of meeting a whole ton of them while handing out a new card game Rosie and me put together.

testsphere

 

TestSphere: The tool

TestSphere is an idea that has been worked on for two years, has seen 5 different implementations and eventually came alive as a 100-card card deck.

A hundred cards, each featuring one keyword that has something to do with testing.
This keyword is further explained with:

  • A category:
    • Quality aspects
    • Techniques
    • Heuristics
    • Patterns
    • Feelings
  • A slogan
  • Three examples of how this keyword could impact your testing

That’s it! One hundred cards full of test-vocabulary and inspiration.
Can you already imagine how you could use that?

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TestSphere: The Ice Breaker

Step 1: Spot a lone tester
Step 2: Walk up to them and draw a random TestSphere Card i.e. “Equivalence Partitioning”
Step 3: Ask: “How has “Equivalence Partitioning” affected your testing? Do you have a story or experience to share about that?

What follows is that person thinking a few seconds and eventually give you an interesting story that is the beginning what possibly is a good discussion on that keyword.
Another thing that could happen is the person not understanding what you mean. This gives you the opportunity to practice explaining your testing.
Either way, you’ll have started a discussion where you can coach, teach and learn at the same time.

Additionally: Just keep the cards on your desk at work. Developers, Business people, Managers who come to your desk will say “Ooh, shiny colours! What’s that?”.
Before you know it, you’re teaching your coworkers a thing or two about testing.

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TestSphere: The Storytelling Game

Step 1: Find a group of 4 to 8 persons
Step 2: Divide the deck by category (20 cards each)
Step 3: Depending on the experience of the group: reveal one or more cards
Step 4: As soon as one person can think of a story that features all revealed cards he or she knocks on the table
Step 5: Tell the story
Step 6: This person takes the revealed cards as full points
Step 7: Other people can also tell their stories to get unrevealed cards for half points.

The person that gets X points first or most points by X time wins.
Easy right? You’ve just gotten a whole group of people thinking deeply about their previous testing experiences and put those experiences to verse.

Additionally: After or even during the game identify opportunities for coaching and helping the others. Point them to resources or people who might help them get more insight.testsphere

TestSphere: The RiskStorming Game

The RiskStorming game is a visual, collaborative method to map your Test Strategy on threats to the quality aspects that matter.
The game consists of three phases:

  1. Select a subset of important quality aspects, blue TestSphere cards. (The things that matter)
  2. Come up with risks to the selected quality aspects. (Threats to the things that matter)
  3. Use the rest of TestSphere to create a strategy in function of those risks. (Test for the threats that impact what’s important)

It is explained much more in depth here: http://thatsthebuffettable.blogspot.be/2017/11/riskstorming-maping-risks-with.html

Also, at the bottom of that blogpost are printable boards for RiskStorming!

 

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TestSphere: The Unblocker

So you find yourself bored, blocked, sad or stuck?
The best thing you can do at those times is learn something new.

Draw a random card.
Can this idea infuse your testing in a new way?

  • Have you tried the “too many” heuristic?
  • Have you tested the “Accessibility” Quality Aspect?
  • Could you try doing some “Pair Testing” Techniques?
  • Try exploring your product by applying “force” in creative ways.
  • How would an “Irritated” or “Angry” user use your application?

Additionally: If you don’t know the word on the card, or feel you don’t know if well enough: try to find more opportunities of learning about the concept!

testsphere

TestSphere: Unlimited Possibilities

Job interviews, Brainstorming, Lean Coffee, Analysis tooling, Visual connecting concepts together, Exploring opportunities for personal growth, Storytelling without using keywords, Generating random Test Persona, Re-categorizing the whole thing and connecting the words using different logic,…


TestSphere has been deliberately kept free from rules. I believe testers are creative enough to find use cases on their own and decide for themselves which ones are valuable and which are not.

The only constant is learning from stories and experiences. From your own and from those around you.

We’re not quite ready for mass distribution. We’re still feeling out the market.
However, there will be an option to pre-order one or more decks in the future.

Be sure to hear about it at: @TestSphere

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