August 9, 2016 · Events CAST 2016

CAST 2016: Monday Lean Coffee & Tutorials

CAST 2016 began in earnest today with a full programme of tutorial sessions at the Simon Fraser University campus. Saturday's TestRetreat was great, but this was the moment that the conference began for real, as we finally gained registration packs and delegate packs (no more sticking post-its to our chests!)

Lean Coffee

We began the morning with Lean Coffee, at the bewilderingly-early 7.30am! It was incredible to see the sheer number of people who turned out, with around 30 testers suggesting topics, voting and discussing the subjects that were raised. There were many thumbs-up(s?), indicating that we wanted to continue talking about topics for long beyond their original five minutes; among the points for discussion were -

As with most Lean Coffee sessions, the real value is in the conversations in the here-and-now, but here are a few choice extracts from our group!

Tutorial - Michael Bolton: Testopsies

Testopsy (n.) - an examination of testing work, performed by watching a testing session in action and evaluating it with the goal of sharpening observation and analysis of testing work (James Bach)

This full-day tutorial was the perfect follow-on from our Lean Coffee discussions, giving us the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to tell a compelling testing story and allow us to identify underused techniques within our everyday work.

For the first exercise, we split into groups of 3-4 and produced a map of what testing meant to us. Our diagram is below; each group's diagram was unique but equally valuable, demonstrating the benefit of having a broad selection of voices during a planning/analysis activity.

Before lunch, we focused on trying to describe all of the different activities which occur during the performance of a test. We tried to keep these at a broad level, and by sheer coincidence (with a little last-minute finessing) we were able to turn them into an acronym. From nowhere, the CHRISTMAS heuristic was born!

In the afternoon, we turned the morning's learning into a practical pairing exercise, where one of us would perform a ten-minute recon of a chosen site (eBay's Tyres shop) while the other person recorded notes on the techniques that they observed being used.

I was up first, and the video of my session can be found below. The time absolutely flies by when you're also trying to annotate everything that you're saying! I spent the first five minutes just trying to locate the test URL and orient myself around the page, before I started to demonstrate anything which I would classify as a traditional test technique (planning, hypothesising, executing, recording). Even so, within the session I was able to identify one major point for further investigation (mismatch in the listings count) and had gained enough understanding of the page to understand how many more facets were yet to be tested:

After the session, Amit performed a debrief with me, asking further questions about particular approaches I had (and hadn't) taken, and evaluating my usage of the various elements of the CHRISTMAS acronym. We agreed that the only one I hadn't used was Tooling, but that this initial recon had revealed areas which might benefit from tooling in the future (e.g. a simple harness to repeatedly fire requests at the page and record the listings count).

We then swapped places in our pairs, and I took notes while Amit performed a follow-up session. I chose to codify this in a minute-by-minute breakdown, as can be seen in the tweet below; it also allowed me to record notes to aid my debrief with Amit once he had completed.

Again, the exercise (and the act of having a second participant observing) proved invaluable; in Amit's case, we even managed to catch a bug which we had to play-back three times on the recording to confirm its existence - it might otherwise have performed very hard to pin-down (threatening to be the dreaded "cannot reproduce").

By sheer coincidence, we then finished the day by looking at a series of similar charts that James and Michael had collated over the years, diagramming both real and fictional representations of a typical day (or week) in a tester's work, and how much (or how little) is spent on the actual activities of testing. This can help to illustrate to managers why we aren't actually completing eight hours of testing in a working day, and it can help to highlight where "stealth testing" is occurring (if the tests are getting done, are people working through lunches or pulling late/weekend shifts?)

We eventually wrapped the session at about 5.45pm, almost an hour after the scheduled finishing time, but nobody left early and there was certainly no protest - it was an engaging day of discussion and debate, one which has set the scene nicely for the two days of conferencing to follow.

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