Category Archives: Volunteer work

Publishing my first testing book, “An Exploration of Testers”

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve been working on a testing book for the last year-or-so. With more free time since leaving full-time employment back in August, I’m delighted to have now published my first e-book on testing, called An Exploration of Testers.

The book is formed of contributions from various testers around the world, with seventeen contributions in the first edition. Each tester answered the same set of eleven questions designed to tease out testing, career and life lessons. I was humbled by how much time and effort went into the contributions and also by how willing the community was to engage with the project, with almost every tester I invited to contribute then committing to doing so. A number of contributions will be added in the coming months (and additional versions of the book are free after your initial purchase, so don’t be afraid to buy now!).

My experience of using LeanPub as the publishing platform has been generally very good. When I was researching ways to self-publish, LeanPub seemed to get good reviews and it was free to try so I gave it a go, then ended up sticking with it. I’m still on the free plan and it suffices for now for this project. The platform makes most aspects of creating, publishing and selling a book really straightforward and the markdown language used for writing the manuscript is easy to learn (though sometimes comes with frustrating limitations on the control of layout). I would recommend LeanPub to others looking to write their first book.

At the very start of the project, I decided that any proceeds from sales of the book would be ploughed back into the testing community and this fact seemed to encourage participation in the project. I will be transparent about the money received from book sales (with the only expenses being those taken by LeanPub as the publishing & sales platform) and also where I decide to invest it back into our community. It seems only fair to give back to the community that has been so generous to me over the years and also generated the content for the book.

For more details and to buy a copy, please visit https://leanpub.com/anexplorationoftesters

Pre-launch announcements for my new projects

After six weeks or so of resetting following my unplanned exit from Quest, I’m getting close to publicly announcing more details on a couple of new projects.

One of these has been in the making for about a year, while the other has arisen as a direct result of leaving full-time employment.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of writing a book and I will finally realize this idea with the release of a testing-related e-book very soon. It’s been a highly collaborative effort with input from many members of the testing community. Having more free time since finishing up at Quest has given me the opportunity to wrap up what I think is worthy of publishing as a first edition. I will return all proceeds from sales of this book to the testing community. Look out for more details of the book via this blog and my social media presences in the coming weeks!

My other project is a new boutique software testing consultancy business. The intention is to offer something quite different in the consulting space, utilizing my skills and experience from the last twenty years to help organizations to improve their testing practices. This consultancy won’t suit everyone but I hope that my niche offering will both help those who see the value in the way I think about testing and also give me the chance to share my knowledge and experience in a meaningful way outside of full-time corporate employment. I expect to launch this business before the end of the year, but feel free to express interest in securing my services now if you believe that my thinking around software testing could be of value in your organization. Note that I will not be making myself available full-time (as I’m deliberately carving out time for volunteer work and to focus on my wellbeing), so now is a good time to secure some of my limited future availability before the formal launch of the consultancy. Again, keep an eye on this blog and my socials for more details of the testing consultancy project.

ER of presenting at DDD Melbourne By Night meetup (10th September 2020)

In response to a tweet looking for speakers for an online meetup organized by DDD Melbourne By Night, I submitted an idea – “Testing is not dead!” – and it was accepted.

I had a few weeks to prepare for this short (ten-minute) talk and went through my usual process of sketching out the content in a mindmap first (using the free version of XMind), then putting together a short slide deck (in PowerPoint) to cover that content.

I find it harder to nail down my content for short talks like this than for a typical longer conference track talk. The restricted time forces focus and I landed on just a few key points: looking at the claims of “testing is dead”, defining what “testing” means to me (and contrasting with “checking”), where automation fits in, and wrapping up with a few tips for non-specialist testers (as this is primarily a meetup with a developer audience).

I did two practice runs of the talk over the same conference call technology that the meetup would be using (Zoom), even though my willing audience of one (my wife) was only in the next room at home! I find practice runs to be an essential part of my preparation and I was pleased to find both runs coming in very close to the ten-minute timebox.

The September DDD by Night meetup took place on the evening of 10th September and featured nine lightning talks with some preamble and also time for questions between each talk. I was third up on the bill and managed to whizz through my talk in a few seconds under ten minutes! The content seemed to be well received and some of my ideas were clearly new to this audience, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to spread my opinion about testing to a different part of the Melbourne tech community.

Lee kicking off his talk

It was also great to see Vanessa Morgan as a first-time presenter during this meetup and her talk was a very polished performance.

Thanks to the DDD Melbourne crew for putting on meetup events during these interesting times and, as a newcomer, the friendly community spirit in this group was obvious.

You can watch my talk on YouTube.

Testing in Context Conference Australia 2019

The third annual conference of the Association for Software Testing (AST) outside of North America took place in Melbourne in the shape of Testing in Context Conference Australia 2019 (TiCCA19) on February 28 & March 1. The conference was held at the Jasper Hotel near the Queen Victoria Market.

The event drew a crowd of about 50, mainly from Australia and New Zealand but also with a decent international contingent (including a representative of the AST and a couple of testers all the way from Indonesia!).

I co-organized the event with Paul Seaman and the AST allowed us great freedom in how we put the conference together. We decided on the theme first, From Little Things Big Things Grow, and had a great response to our call for papers, resulting in what we thought was an awesome programme.

The Twitter hashtag for the event was #ticca19 and this was fairly active across the conference.

The event consisted of a first day of workshops followed by a single conference day formed of book-ending keynotes sandwiching one-hour track sessions. The track sessions were in typical AST/peer conference style, with around forty minutes for the presentation followed by around twenty minutes of “open season” (facilitated question and answer time, following the K-cards approach).

Takeaways

  • Testing is not dead, despite what you might hear on social media or from some automation tooling vendors. There is a vibrant community of skilled human testers who display immense value in their organizations. My hope is that these people will promote their skills more broadly and advocate for human involvement in producing great software.
  • Ben Simo’s keynote highlighted just how normalized bad software has become, we really can do better as a software industry and testers have a key role to play.
  • While “automation” is still a hot topic, I got a sense of a move back towards valuing the role of humans in producing quality software. This might not be too surprising given the event was a context-driven testing conference, but it’s still worth noting.
  • The delegation was quite small but the vibe was great and feedback incredibly positive (especially about the programme and the venue). There was evidence of genuine conferring happening all over the place, exactly what we aimed for!
  • It’s great to have a genuine context-driven testing conference on Australian soil and the AST are to be commended for continuing to back our event in Melbourne.
  • I had a tiring but rewarding experience in co-organizing this event with Paul, the testing community in Melbourne is a great place to be!

Workshop day (Thursday 28th February)

We offered two full-day workshops to kick the event off, with “Applied Exploratory Testing” presented by Toby Thompson (from Software Education) and “Leveraging the Power of API Testing” presented by Scott Miles. Both workshops went well and it was pleasing to see them being well attended. Feedback on both workshops has been excellent so well done to Toby and Scott on their big efforts in putting the workshops together and delivering them so professionally.

Toby Thompson setting up his ET workshopScott Miles ready to start his API testing workshop

Pre-conference meetup (Thursday 28th February)

We decided to hold a free meetup on the evening before the main conference day to offer the broader Melbourne testing community the chance to meet some of the speakers as well as hearing a great presentation and speaker panel session. Thanks to generous sponsorship, the meetup went really well, with a small but highly engaged audience – I’ve blogged in detail about the meetup at https://therockertester.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/pre-ticca19-conference-meetup/

Aaron Hodder addresses the meetupGraeme, Aaron, Sam and Ben talking testing during the panel session

Conference day (Friday 1st March)

The conference was kicked off at 8.30am with some opening remarks from me including an acknowledgement of traditional owners and calling out two students who we sponsored to attend from the EPIC TestAbility Academy. Next up was Ilari Henrik Aegerter (board member of the AST) who briefly explained what the AST’s mission is and what services and benefits membership provides, followed by Richard Robinson outlining the way “open season” would be facilitated after each track talk.

I then introduced our opening keynote, Ben Simo with “Is There A Problem Here?”. Ben joined us all the way from Phoenix, Arizona, and this was his first time in Australia so we were delighted to have him “premiere” at our conference! His 45-minute keynote showed us many cases where he has experienced problems when using systems & software in the real world – from Australian road signs to his experience of booking his flights with Qantas, from hotel booking sites to roadtrip/mapping applications, and of course covering his well-publicized work around Healthcare.gov some years ago. He encouraged us to move away from “pass/fail” to asking “is there a problem here?” and, while not expecting perfection, know that our systems and software can be better. A brief open season brought an excellent first session to a close.

Ben Simo during his keynote (photo from Lynne Cazaly)

After a short break, the conference split into two track sessions with delegates having the choice of “From Prototype to Product: Building a VR Testing Effort” with Nick Pass or “Tales of Fail – How I failed a Quality Coach role” with Samantha Connelly (who has blogged about her talk and also her TiCCA19 conference experience in general).

While Sam’s talk attracted the majority of the audience, I opted to spend an hour with Nick Pass as he gave an excellent experience report of his time over in the UK testing virtual reality headsets for DisplayLink. Nick was in a new country, working for a new company in a new domain and also working on a brand new product within that company. He outlined the many challenges including technical, physical (simulator sickness), processes (“sort of agile”) and personal (“I have no idea”). Due to the nature of the product, there were rapid functionality changes and lots of experimentation and prototyping. Nick said he viewed “QA” as “Question Asker” in this environment and he advocated a Quality Engineering approach focused on both product and process. Test design was emergent but, when they got their first customer (hTC), the move to productizing meant a tightening up of processes, more automated checks, stronger testing techniques and adoption of the LeSS framework. This was a good example of a well-crafted first-person experience report from Nick with a simple but effective deck to guide the way. His 40-minute talk was followed by a full open season with a lot of questions both around the cool VR product and his role in building a test discipline for it.

Nick Pass talks VR

Morning tea was a welcome break and was well catered by the Jasper, before tracks resumed in the shape of “Test Reporting in the Hallway” with Morris Nye and “The Automation Gum Tree” with Michelle Macdonald.

I joined Michelle – a self-confessed “automation enthusiast” – as she described her approach to automation for the Pronto ERP product using the metaphor of the Aussie gum tree (which meant some stunning visuals in her slide deck). Firstly, she set the scene – she has built an automated testing framework using Selenium and Appium to deal with the 50,000 screens, 2000 data objects and 27 modules across Pronto’s system. She talked about their “Old Gum”, a Rational Robot system to test their Win32 application which then matured to use TestComplete. Her “new species” needed to cover both web and device UIs, preferably be based on open source technologies, be easy for others to create scripts, and needed support. It was Selenium IDE as a first step and the resulting framework is seen as successful as it’s easy to install, everyone has access to use it, knowledge has been shared, and patience has paid off. The gum tree analogies came thick and fast as the talk progressed. She talked about Inhabitants, be they consumers, diggers or travellers, then the need to sometimes burn off (throw away and start again), using the shade (developers working in feature branches) and controlling the giants (all too easy for automation to get too big and out of control). Michelle had a little too much content and her facilitator had to wrap her up at 50 minutes into the session so we had time for some questions during open season. There were some sound ideas in Michelle’s talk and she delivered it with passion, supported by the best-looking deck of the conference.

A sample of the beautiful slides in Michelle's talk

Lunch was a chance to relax over nice food and it was great to see people genuinely conferring over the content from the morning’s sessions. The hour passed quickly before delegates reconvened for another two track sessions.

First up for the afternoon was a choice between “Old Dog, New Tricks: How Traditional Testers Can Embrace Code” with Graeme Harvey and “The Uncertain Future of Non-Technical Testing” with Aaron Hodder.

I chose Aaron’s talk and he started off by challenging us as to what “technical” meant (and, as a large group, we failed to reach a consensus) as well as what “testing” meant. He gave his idea of what “non-technical testing” means: manually writing test scripts in English and a person executing them, while “technical testing” means: manually writing test scripts in Java and a machine executing them! He talked about the modern development environment and what he termed “inadvertent algorithmic cruelty”, supported by examples. He mentioned that he’s never seen a persona of someone in crisis or a troll when looking at user stories, while we have a great focus on technical risks but much less so on human risks. There are embedded prejudices in much modern software and he recommended the book Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. This was another excellent talk from Aaron, covering a little of the same ground as his meetup talk but also breaking new ground and providing us with much food for thought in the way we build and test our software for real humans in the real world. Open season was busy and fully exhausted the one-hour in Aaron’s company.

Adam Howard introduces Aaron Hodder for his track

Graeme Harvey ready to present

A very brief break gave time for delegates to make their next choice, “Exploratory Testing: LIVE!” with Adam Howard or “The Little Agile Testing Manifesto” with Samantha Laing. Having seen Adam’s session before (at TestBash Australia 2018), I decided to attend Samantha’s talk. She introduced the Agile Testing Manifesto that she put together with Karen Greaves, which highlights that testing is an activity rather than a phase, we should aim to prevent bugs rather than focusing on finding them, look at testing over checking, aim to help build the best system possible instead of trying to break it, and emphasizes the whole team responsibility for quality. She gave us three top tips to take away: 1) ask “how can we test that?”, 2) use a “show me” column on your agile board (instead of an “in test” column), and 3) do all the testing tasks first (before development ones). This was a useful talk for the majority of her audience who didn’t seem to be very familiar with this testing manifesto.

Sam Laing presenting her track session (photo from Lynne Cazaly)

With the track sessions done for the day, afternoon tea was another chance to network and confer before the conference came back together in the large Function Hall for the closing keynote. Paul did the honours in introducing the well-known Lynne Cazaly with “Try to See It My Way: Communication, Influence and Persuasion”.

She encouraged us to view people as part of the system and deliberately choose to “entertain” different ideas and information. In trying to understand differences, you will actually find similarities. Lynne pointed out that we over-simplify our view of others and this leads to a lack of empathy. She introduced the Karpman Drama Triangle and the Empowerment Dynamic (by David Emerald). Lynne claimed that “all we’re ever trying to do is feel better about ourselves” and, rather than blocking ideas, we should yield and adopt a “go with” style of facilitation.

Lynne was a great choice of closing keynote and we were honoured to have her agree to present at the conference. Her vast experience translated into an entertaining, engaging and valuable presentation. She spent the whole day with us and thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with the delegates at this her first dedicated testing conference.

Slide from Lynne Cazaly's keynotelynne2Slide from Lynne Cazaly's keynote

Paul Seaman closed out the conference with some acknowledgements and closing remarks, before the crowd dispersed and it was pleasing to see so many people joining us for the post-conference cocktail reception, splendidly catered by the Jasper. The vibe was fantastic and it was nice for us as organizers to finally relax a little and enjoy chatting with delegates.

Acknowledgements

A conference doesn’t happen by accident, there’s a lot of work over many months for a whole bunch of people, so it’s time to acknowledge the various help we had along the way.

The conference has been actively supported by the Association for Software Testing and couldn’t happen without their backing so thanks to the AST and particularly Ilari who continues to be an enthusiastic promoter of the Australian conference via his presence on the AST board. Our wonderful event planner, Val Gryfakis, makes magic happen and saves the rest of us so much work in dealing with the venue and making sure everything runs to plan – we seriously couldn’t run the event without you, Val!

We had a big response to our call for proposals for TiCCA19, so thanks to everyone who took the time and effort to apply to provide content for the conference. Paul and I were assisted by Michele Playfair in selecting the programme and it was great to have Michele’s perspective as we narrowed down the field. We can only choose a very small subset for a one-day conference and we hope many of you will have another go when the next CFP comes around.

There is of course no conference without content so a huge thanks to our great presenters, be they delivering workshops, keynotes or track sessions. Thanks to those who bought tickets and supported the event as delegates, your engagement and positive feedback meant a lot to us as organizers.

Finally, my personal thanks go to my mate Paul for his help, encouragement, ideas and listening ear during the weeks and months leading up to the event, we make a great team and neither of us would do this gig with anyone else, cheers mate.

 

Pre-TiCCA19 conference meetup

In the weeks leading up to the Testing in Context Conference Australia 2019, our thoughts turned to how we might sneak in a meetup event alongside the conference to make the most of the fact that Melbourne would be home to so many awesome testers at the same time.

Thanks to the conference venue – the Jasper Hotel – giving us use of one of our workshop rooms for an evening and also food & drink sponsorship by House of Test (Switzerland), the meetup became feasible and a bit of social media advertising coupled with a free Eventbrite campaign led to about twenty keen testers (including a number of TiCCA19 conference speakers) assembling at the Jasper on the evening of Thursday 28th February.

Some pre-meetup networking gave people the chance to make new friends as well as giving the conference speakers a chance to meet some of their fellow presenters. After I gave a very brief opening, it was time for the content to kick off in the shape of a presentation by well-known and respected Kiwi context-driven tester, Aaron Hodder. His talk was titled “Inclusive Collaboration – how our differences can make the difference” in which he explored how having a neurodiverse workforce can give you a competitive edge, and how the workplace can respect diverse needs and different requirements for interaction and collaboration to bring out the best in everyone’s differences. This was a beautifully-crafted talk, delivered with Aaron’s unique blend of personal connection to the topic and a smattering of self-deprecation, while still driving home a hard-hitting message. (Aaron also shared some great resources on Inclusive Collaboration at https://goo.gl/768M0u).

Aaron Hodder addresses the meetupAaron Hodder addresses the meetupThe idea of "My user manual" presented by Aaron Hodder

A short networking break then gave everyone the chance to mingle some more and clean up the remains of the food, before we kicked off the panel session. Ably facilitated by Rich Robinson, the panel consisted of four TiCCA19 speakers, in the shape of Graeme Harvey, Aaron Hodder, Sam Connelly and Ben Simo. The conversation was driven by a few questions from Rich: How have you seen the testing role change in your career? How do you think the testing role will change into the future? Is the manual testing role dead? The resulting 45-minute discussion between the panel and audience was engaging and interesting – and kudos to Rich for such a great job in running the panel.

Graeme, Aaron, Sam and Ben talking testing during the panel sessionGraeme, Aaron, Sam and Ben talking testing during the panel session

We enjoyed putting this meetup on for the Melbourne testing community and the feedback from everyone involved was very positive, so thanks again to everyone who made it happen.

The TiCCA19 conference programme is live!

After a successful 2018 event in the shape of CASTx18, the Association for Software Testing were keen to continue Australian conferences and so Paul Seaman and I took on the job of organizing the 2019 event on the AST’s behalf. We opted to rebrand the conference to avoid confusion with the AST’s well-known CAST event (held annually in North America) and so Testing in Context Conference Australia was born.

It’s been a busy few months in getting to the point where the full line-up for this conference is now live.

Paul and I decided to go for a theme with an Australian bent again, the time “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”. It’s always a milestone in planning a conference when it comes time to open up the call for proposals and we watched the proposals flowing in, with the usual surge towards the CFP closing date of 31st October.

The response to the CFP was excellent, with 95 proposals coming in from all around the globe. We had ideas from first-time presenters and also some from very seasoned campaigners on the testing conference circuit. My thanks go to everyone who took the time and effort to put forward a proposal.

We were joined by Michele Playfair to help us select a programme from the CFP responses. This was an interesting process (as usual), making some hard decisions to build what we considered the best conference programme from what was submitted. With only eight track session slots to fill, we couldn’t choose all of the excellent talks we were offered unfortunately.

The tracks we have chosen are hopefully broad enough in topic to be interesting to many testers. Our keynotes come from Ben Simo (making his first trip and conference appearance in Australia!) and local legend, Lynne Cazaly. Rounding out our programme are three full-day workshops showcasing top Melbourne talent, in the shape of Neil Killick, Scott Miles and Toby Thompson. I’m proud of the programme we have on offer and thank all the speakers who’ve accepted our invitation to help us deliver an awesome event.

The complete TiCCA19 line-up is:

Keynotes (March 1st)

  • Ben Simo with “Is There A Problem Here?”
  • Lynne Cazaly with “Try to see it my way: How developers, technicians, managers and leaders can better understand each other”

Tracks (March 1st)

  •  with “From Prototype to Product: Building a VR Testing Effort”
  •  with “Tales of Fail – How I failed a Quality Coach role”
  •  with “Test Reporting in the Hallway”
  •  with “The Automation Gum Tree”
  •  with “Old Dog, New Tricks: How Traditional Testers Can Embrace Code”
  •  with “The Uncertain Future of Non-Technical Testing”
  • Adam Howard with “Exploratory Testing: LIVE!”
  •  with “The Little Agile Testing Manifesto”

Workshops (February 28th)

  • Neil Killick with “From “Quality Assurance” to “Quality Champion” – How to be a successful tester in an agile team”
  • Scott Miles with “Leveraging the Power of API Testing”
  • Toby Thompson with “Applied Exploratory Testing”

For more details about TiCCA19, including the full schedule and the chance to benefit from significant discounts during the “Little Ripper” period of registration, visit ticca19.org

I hope to see you in Melbourne next year!

ER of attending and presenting at the inaugural TestBash Australia conference (Sydney)

The first TestBash conference to be held in Australia/New Zealand took place in Sydney on October 19. The well-established conference brand of the Ministry of Testing ensured a sell-out crowd (of around 130) for this inaugural event, quite an achievement in the tough Australian market for testing conferences. The conference was held in the Aerial function centre at the University of Technology in Sydney.

The Twitter hashtag for the event was #testbash (from which I’ve borrowed the photos in this post) and this was very active across the conference and in the days after.

I was there to both attend and present at the conference. In fact, I would be co-presenting with Paul Seaman on our volunteer work teaching software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum. It was great to have this opportunity and we were humbled to be selected from the vast response the conference had to its call for papers.

The event followed the normal TestBash format, viz. a single day conference consisting of a single track with an opening and closing keynote plus a session of “99 second talks” (the TestBash version of lightning talks). Track sessions were 30 or 45 minutes in duration, generally with very little time after each talk for questions from the audience (especially in the case of the 30-minute slots).

Early arrivals were rewarded with the opportunity to participate in a Lean Coffee session out on the balcony at the Aerial function centre, a nice way to start the day in the morning sunshine (and with pretty good barista coffee too!).

The conference proper kicked off at 8.50am with a short opening address from the event MC, Trish Koo. She welcomed everyone, gave some background about the Ministry of Testing and also gave a shout out to all of the sponsors (viz. Enov8ApplitoolsGumtreeTyro and Testing Times).

The opening keynote came from Maaret Pyhajarvi (from Finland) with “Next Level Teamwork: Pairing and Mobbing”. Maaret is very well-known for her work around mobbing and this was a good introductory talk on the topic. She mentioned that mobbing involves everyone in the team working together around one computer, which helps learning as everyone knows something that the others don’t. By way of contrast, she outlined strong-style pairing, in which “I have an idea, you take the keyboard to drive”. In this style, different levels of skill help, being unequal at the task is actually a good thing. Maaret said she now only uses pairing as a way to train people, not to actually test software. In a mobbing scenario, there is always one driver on the keyboard who is only following instructions and not thinking. A designated navigator makes decisions on behalf of the group. The roles are rotated ever four minutes and a retro is held at the end of every session. Maaret also noted the importance of mixing roles in the mob (e.g. testers, developers, automation engineers). This was a strong opening keynote with content pitched at just the right level for it to be of general interest.

maaret

Next up was a 30-minute talk from Alister Scott (from Automattic) with “How Automated E2E Testing Enables a Consistently Great User Experience on an Ever Changing WordPress.com”. He introduced his talk by giving some context about the way the company is organized – 800 people across 69 countries, with everyone remote (i.e. no offices!), and all internal communications being facilitated by WordPress (dogfooding). Alistair structured his talk as a series of problems and their solutions, starting with the problem of broken customer flows in production (when they moved to continuous delivery). Their solution to this problem was to add automated end-to-end testing of signup flows in production (and only in production). This solution led to the next problem, having non-deterministic end-to-end tests due to ever-changing A/B tests. The solution to this problem was an override of A/B tests during testing. The next problem was these new tests being too slow, too late (only in production) and too hidden, so they moved to parallel tests and adding “canaries” on merge (before deployment), simple tests of key features (signing up and publishing a page) designed to give fast feedback of major breaking changes. This led to the next problem, having to revert merges and slow local runs to which the solution was having live branch tests with canaries on every pull request. This led to the observation that, of course, canaries don’t find all the problems, so the solution then was to add optional full test suites on live branches. Even then, a problem persisted with Internet Explorer 11 and Safari 10 specific issues, so IE11 and Safari 10 canaries were added. The final problem is still current, in that people still break end-to-end tests! This was a nicely structured short talk about a journey of end-to-end testing and how solving one problem led to another (and ultimately has put them in a position of having no manual regression testing), good content.

ascott

A welcome break for morning tea and a chance to catch up with familiar faces came next before the delegates reconvened, with Enov8 getting the chance for a 99-second sponsor talk before sessions resumed.

First up after the break was a 30-minute session thanks to Michele Playfair (of YOW!) with “A Tester’s Guide to Changing Hearts and Minds”. Her key message was that the ability to change people’s opinions about testing was essentially a marketing exercise and she introduced the “4 P’s of marketing”, viz. Product, Price, Promotion and Placement. She argued that, as testers, we need to be better at defining our product (we should be able to answer questions like “what do you do here?”) and also promoting ourselves (by building relationships and networks, and revealing our value). This was a good short talk from Michele, a different angle on the topic of testers describing and showing their value.

mplayfair

Next up was Peter Bartlett (of Campaign Monitor) with a 45-minute talk on “Advancing Quality by Turning Developers into Quality Champions”. He defined a “quality champion” as “a developer who actively promotes quality in their team”, with this being a temporary role (typically lasting six months or so) which is rotated amongst the team. He generally selects someone who already displays a quality mindset or is an influencer within the team to take on the role initially and then trains them via one-on-one meetings, contextual training and against set goals. He encourages them to ask questions like “what areas are hard to test and why?”, “what can I do to make it easier for you to develop your code and be confident in its quality?”, and “what’s the riskiest piece of what you’re working on?”.  Pete holds regular group meetings with all of the quality champions, these might be demo meetings, lean coffees or workshops/activities (e.g. how to write good acceptance criteria, dealing with automation flakiness, playing the dice game, introducing a new tool, how to use heuristics, live group testing). He has noted some positive changes as a result of using this quality champions model, including increased testability, a growth in knowledge and understanding around quality, new automation tests and performance tool testing research. Pete wrapped up with some tips, including starting small, taking time to explain and listen (across all project stakeholders), and to keep reviewing. This was a similar talk to Pete’s talk at the CASTx18 conference earlier in the year but it felt more fully developed here, no doubt as a result of another six months or so of trying this approach in Campaign Monitor.

pbartlett

As the clock struck noon, it was time for Paul Seaman (of Travelport Locomote) and I to take the big stage for our 30-minute talk, “A Spectrum of Difference – Creating EPIC Software Testers”. We outlined the volunteer work we’ve been doing with EPIC Assist to teach software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum (a topic on which I’ve already blogged extensively) and we were pleased with how our co-presenting effort went – and we thought we looked pretty cool in our EPIC polo shirts! We managed to finish up just about on time and the content seemed to resonate with this audience.

us3us1us2us4

With our talk commitment completed, it was lunch hour (albeit with very limited vegan options despite pre-ordering) and it was good to get some fresh air and sunshine out on the venue’s balcony. Paul and I received lots of great feedback about our talk during lunch, it’s always so nice when people make the effort to express their thanks or interest.

Returning from lunch, it was Applitools’ turn to get their 99-seconds of fame as a sponsor before presentations resumed, in the form of a 45-minute session by Adam Howard (of TradeMe) with “Exploratory Testing: LIVE”. This was a really brave presentation, with Adam performing exploratory testing of a feature in the TradeMe website (New Zealand’s EBay) that had been deliberately altered by a developer in ways Adam was not aware of (via an A/B deployment in production). It was brave in many ways: he relied on internet connectivity and a stable VPN connection back to his office in New Zealand, and also exposed himself to testing a feature for the first time in front of 130 eagle-eyed testers! He applied some classic ET techniques and talked through everything he was doing in very credible terms, so this session served as an object lesson to anyone unfamiliar with what genuine exploratory testing looks like and how valuable it can be (Adam unearthed many issues, some of which probably weren’t deliberately introduced for the purposes of his session!). Great work from a solid presenter.

ahoward

The following 30-minute talk was Paul Maxwell-Walters with “Avoid Sleepwalking to Failure! On Abstractions and Keeping it Real in Software Teams”. This was a really serious talk, high on well-researched content and it was a struggle to give all the content the coverage it deserved in such a short slot. He introduced the ideas of hyper-normalization and hyper-reality before getting into talking about abstractions, viz. “quality” and “measurement”. I particularly liked this quote from his talk, “bad metrics and abstractions are delusional propaganda”! This maybe would have been a better talk if he’d tried to cover less content, but nevertheless it was really engaging and interesting stuff.

pmaxwellwalters

The final break came next before we reconvened for the push to the finish. First up after the break was another 99-second sponsor talk, this time Anne-Marie Charrett (conference co-organizer) on her consultancy business, Testing Times.

The last 30-minute slot went to first-time conference presenter, Georgia de Pont (of Tyro), with “Test Representatives – An Alternative Approach to Test Practice Management” and she presented very confidently and calmly on her first outing. She outlined how Tyro moved to having testers embedded in agile teams and, while there lots of positives from doing this, there was also a lack of consistency in test practice across the teams and no way to consider practice-wide improvements. She went on to talk about the move to “test representatives” (who are themselves embedded testers in teams), one from each tribe, who have a mission to provide a community for testers and act as points of contact for initiatives impacting testing. Each representative then shares the outputs of the representatives group with their team. Initiatives the representatives have covered so far include clarifying the role of the embedded tester, improving the test recruitment process (via a pair testing exercise), onboarding new test engineers, performance criteria for test engineers, upskilling test engineers, co-ordinating engineering-wide test engineers and developing a Quality Engineering strategy. There is also a stretch goal for testers to operate across teams. Georgia’s recommended steps to implement such a model were to start small, look for volunteers over selection, communicate the work of the representatives across the organization, survey to get feedback, hold retros within the representatives group and foster support from engineering leadership. This was a solid talk, especially impressive considering Georgia’s lack of experience in this environment.

gdepont

The final presentation of the day was a closing keynote thanks to Parimala Hariprasad (of Amadeus) with “Enchanting Experiences – The Future of Mobile Apps”. Her time on stage was pretty brief (using only a little over half of her 45-minute slot before Q&A) but was very engaging.  She argued that designing great products isn’t about good screens, it’s about great – enchanting – experiences. She said we should think more about ecosystems than apps and screens as systems become more complex and interconnected. Her neat slides and confident presentation style made her messaging very clear and she also handled Q&A pretty well.

pari

The last session of the conference was dedicated to “99 second talks”, the TestBash version of lightning talks in which each speaker gets just 99 seconds to present on a topic of their choice. There were plenty of volunteers so the short keynote was made up for by more 99s talks, some 18 in total, as follows:

  • Sam Connelly – on depression (and introducing “spoon theory“)
  • Amanda Dean – on why she believes testing is not a craft and should be thought of as a profession
  • Maaret Pyhajarvi – live exploratory testing of an API (using the Gilded Rose example, as per her recent webinar on the same topic)
  • Cameron Bradley – on why a common automation framework is a good thing (based on his experience of implementing one at Tabcorp)
  • Dany Matthias – on experimenting with coffee!
  • Melissa Ngau – on giving and receiving feedback
  • Geoff Dunn – on conflict and how testers can help to resolve it
  • Catherine Karena – on mentoring
  • Nicky West – what is good strategy?
  • Kim Nepata – Blockchain 101
  • Sunil Kumar – mobile application testing: how, what and why?
  • Said – on rotations and why they’re essential in development teams
  • Melissa (Editor Boss at Ministry of Testing) – living a dream as a writer
  • Leela – on transitioning from a small to a large company
  • Haramut – demo of a codeless automation framework
  • Trish Koo – promoting her test automation training course
  • Anne-Marie Charrett – “Audience-Driven Speaking”
  • Maaret Pyhajarvi – promoting the Speak Easy mentoring programme

99s99s-2

After a brief closing speech from Trish Koo, the conference closed out. The action then moved to the nearby Knox Street Bar for a post-conference “meetup” with free drinks courtesy of sponsorship from Innodev. This was a fun evening, relaxing with old friends from the testing community and talking conference organizing with others involved in this, erm, fun activity!

knox

I’ll finish off this blog post with some general thoughts on this conference.

The standard of presentations was excellent, as you might expect from a TestBash and the massive response to their call for papers (around 250). The mix of topics was also very good, from live exploratory testing (I would love to see something like this at every testing conference) to automation to coaching/training/interpersonal talks.

The single track format of all TestBash conferences means there is no fear of missing out, but the desire to pack as many talks as possible into the single day means very limited opportunity for Q&A (which is often where the really interesting discussions are). I personally missed the deep questioning that occurs post-presentations at conferences like CAST.

Although the sponsor talks were kept to short 99-second formats, I still find sponsor talks of any kind uncomfortable, especially at a relatively expensive conference.

Paul and I enjoyed presenting to this audience and the Ministry of Testing do an excellent job in terms of pre-gig information and speaker compensation (expensing literally door-to-door). We appreciated the opportunity to share our story and broaden awareness of our programme with EPIC Assist.

ER of attending the TechDiversity Awards 2018 (Melbourne)

I had the pleasure of attending the TechDiversity Awards in Melbourne on 27th September. I was there as part of the EPIC Assist contingent as a nominee for an award in the Education category for the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA), the software testing programme for young adults with autism delivered by Paul Seaman and I. (You can view our nomination here.)

The venues for the two parts of the event were both within a renovated wharf shed at Docklands.

The first part of the event took place in the Sumac space and saw all the shortlisted nominees (around 40 different groups) assembled to select the merit award winners who would later battle it out for the top spot in each category (viz. Government, Business, Media, and Education). The Education category had the most entries on the shortlist (18) and just five were selected for merit awards – ETA didn’t make it to the next stage unfortunately. We were still very proud to have been nominated and shortlisted amongst such a great bunch of programmes in the tech diversity space around Education.

Paul & Maria, Michele, Lee & Kylie at the merit awards

Moving on to the Gala Dinner in the massive Peninsula space, we had our own table consisting of (clockwise in the below photo) Kym Vassiliou (EPIC Assist), Lee, Kylie (Lee’s wife), Bill Gamack (CEO of EPIC Assist), Paul Seaman, Maria (Paul’s wife), Michele Playfair and Craig Thompson (EPIC Assist). The event was a packed house with about 400 people sitting down for the dinner.

techdiversity_photo1

The MC for the evening was Soozey Johnstone and she did a really good job of keeping things on track and injecting her own passion for diversity into proceedings. Apart from revealing the award winners, there were three keynote speakers sprinkled throughout the evening.

First up for an opening keynote was Philip Dalidakis (Minister for Trade & Investment, Innovation & the Digital Economy and Small Business in Victoria) and he announced the winner of the Minister’s Prize in the shape of the Grad Girls Program 2018 (VICICT4.Women).

Next up was Georgina McEncroe, founder of the all-female shared ride service, Shebah.  Her background as a comedian made this a very open and entertaining short speech!

The last keynote was a very personal one, from Alan Lachman who shared the story of his daughter losing her sight and this being the inspiration for setting up Insight. The three keynotes were all quite different but each made for a welcome break between award presentations and food courses.

In terms of the all-important awards, the winners were:

It was great to see the “Champion” award going to the RISE programme at the Department of Health & Human Services, so even though ETA didn’t get up, at least an autism-related initiative took the main gong.

This was a well-run event and the venue was impressive, with good service and fine catering for our vegan needs. It was inspiring to see all of the great work going on towards improving diversity in the tech sector, but a little surprising to see something of a lack of diversity amongst the nominations (e.g. there was a very heavy bias towards gender diversity). The breakdown of nominations by the four categories also needs to be reconsidered, as there were very large numbers of nominations in Business and Education (17 and 18 respectively) while only 3 in Media and 4 in Government.

It was a really enjoyable evening and I consider myself fortunate to be working with a bunch of genuinely nice people on this initiative. I’m looking forward to running the third course of ETA in 2019 and maybe, just maybe we’ll have better luck at these awards next year if we’re nominated again!

Serendipity

It was early December 2017 when we found out that an ex-colleague at Quest in Melbourne had passed away. Bruce was a very popular guy during his few years with us as a tester – his flat-top haircut, dapper clothing and brightly coloured socks made him stand out amongst on office full of the usual IT crowd attire! He stood out to me, though, for just being a good bloke – he (along with his wife, Denise, who also worked at Quest) were incredibly generous to me when I first moved to Australia and started working at Quest, fielding those naive questions from a new arrival with patience and being good friends who just happened to live in the same area in which I’d chosen to settle.

It was testament to Bruce’s reputation as a good bloke that his funeral was a large affair, drawing representations from the various communities he was involved with around cars, dancing, and surf life saving. A few of us current Quest folks attended and we were pleased to find that a bunch of ex-Questers had also made the effort to remember him there too.

It was good to see some of the old Quest faces again and catch up with our various work and life changes since we’d all last seen each other (in many cases meaning ten-plus years). It was during one of these conversations that I happened to talk about the volunteer work I’d been doing to teach software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum (along with my good mate Paul Seaman). Dennis mentioned that his son, Dom, had a spectrum diagnosis and might be interested in the training, so I sent Dennis some details on the application process shortly after the funeral.

We had completed the first run of the EPIC TestAbility Academy in June 2017 and were actively looking for participants for the second run, so it was a timely opportunity for Dom. I was delighted when EPIC Assist informed us that Dom had applied – and we were very happy to accept him onto the second course starting in March 2018.

We had ten students on this second course, with nine making it to the end. It was a great group and I was disappointed to only be present for four of the twelve sessions due to work travel commitments. But I saw Dom as an engaged student, always contributing to discussions, and always tackling the homework between sessions. (I’ve already blogged about this second run in more detail here.)

Dom receiving his ETA completion certificate

I returned to Australia after the course ended in June and I knew that Paul had been working hard (along with Kym Vassiliou from EPIC Assist) to get some kind of placement going at this workplace, Travelport Locomote. The usual ping-pong between departments and HR burned a lot of time, but eventually it has come to pass that Dom is taking up a placement at Travelport Locomote as part of their just launched “LocoStart” programme, working alongside Paul two days per week.

Out of something so sad, something so wonderful has come about. Dom should be very proud of himself for taking the plunge to be part of the training course and for being such a diligent and engaged student throughout. His dedication and potential have been recognized by Travelport Locomote and I hope this opportunity to engage in a real-world software testing job in a modern IT company is a very positive one, both for him and Travelport Locomote. I know Paul is going to enjoy having Dom as part of his team and is committed to his success.

Finally, another shout out to Bruce, without whom this opportunity would have never happened for Dom, that good bloke karma just keeps on giving!

Another first, being interviewed for a podcast

Last week I was interviewed for the Super Testing Bros podcast, my first time taking part in an online podcast recording.

James Espie invited Paul Seaman and I to talk about neurodiversity, based on our experiences of teaching software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum through the EPIC TestAbility Academy.

Along with Akshay Sud, James guided the interview very well and Paul & I really enjoyed chatting on this important topic. We don’t claim to be experts in this field but can talk about our first person experience in working with folks on the autism spectrum for the last year or so. (We will also be talking about these experiences at the TestBash Australia conference in Sydney in October.)

It’s great that after 19 years in the software testing industry, I’m still doing new things and contributing my small part to the testing community.

Look out for the podcast online later in July on the Super Testing Bros website.