My visit to Let’s Test 2015 – Day 3

Waking up a bit early to pack my stuff and check out before breakfast. I am a bit tired, but I guess I also got used to it.

Fun moment of the morning was to receive the newsletter from Testing Circus about the May issue, featuring the guy I spend the three past evenings with playing board and card games. Erik Davis! Great job, Erik!

I had breakfast and a chat with Emma and Dan Ashby. So far I only had the chance to shake hands with Dan.

Jean-Paul Varwijk “ISO 29119”

The last day went by way too fast. I decided to visit Jean-Pauls session on ISO29119, which was a good choice. It was not only good talk, but also a great discussion afterwards. I already knew a big bite before that talk, but I got also a good portion of new information lighting the spirit to fight that standard. I joined in the chorus of Ben Kelly, Iain McCowatt and John Stevenson against that standard, and I hope I helped answering questions of the people from the right side of the room, that seemed to have their first encounter with ISO29119. Thanks Jean-Paul for a great opportunity to refresh and add information there and planning it already with an intense discussion part, and Dan Billing did a great job facilitating the Q&A for this difficult topic.

Alexandra Casapu’s “Examine Your Testing Skills”

It was time for a last workshop. It was Alexandra Casapu‘s “Examine Your Testing Skills”. I worked one last time together with Chris and a new face for me in Michael. Since both were from Switzerland and I am from Bavaria, we decided to speak in sort of German. It was hard not only for me to think and speak again in German after three days completely in English. So we ended up speaking a mixture. I took away lots from that session, if you want to know what, read it here soon. But for now I will share my key takeaway with you, that reflects also on all of Let’s Test. To become a good or even great tester, you need way more than just technical skills. There is so much to learn about communication and thinking skills, which I became a great supporter of in the last 2,5 years. Alexandra’s session showed all the different aspects and skills you use when challenging a problem. And all of Let’s Test was about improving critical thinking, creativity, communication and so many more skills, that usually don’t end up on a skill improvment list. And Alexandra did a great job sharing her experience how to analyze and list your skills, showing so many from us skills that are useful and need to be improved by reading, training, reflection and more. A big thank you to Alexandra for this wonderful closing workshop.

“Testing in the Pub” with Dan Ashby

After a last lunch with Megan and others, I sat down with both Dans (Billing and Ashby) and Christina reflecting the last days. We were sad that we missed the chance to record a “Testing in the pub” session the last days. So Dan pulled out his mobile and we set up a quick recording session reflecting Let’s Test. Thanks Dan for having me as a guest in your great series of podcasts. It’s a real honor. And kudos for setting up a structured episode in about 3 minutes.

It was time for the closing keynote about “Detetecting the heartbleed bug”. After lots of insights in the technical aspects of heartbleed, the coincidence of three bugs coming together and the serendipity of finding it.

I sat on one of those nice couches in the back with some of the great folks that I spend the last three days with. Saying goodbye came closer and since I had to catch a taxi to the airport rather quick after the keynote, I made my round, shaking hands, hugging and patting backs. It was sad to leave after three and a half days after being sort of accepted as part of the big family.

Besides my key takeaway that Let’s Test is about those skills, that make you become a better tester, it is all about the people. I met a lot of wonderful people, I put real life faces to twitter handles, and know I want to meet each and every one again to talk more with them.

One last key aspect of visiting this conference for me was to find out, how a conference talk looks like, and imagine how it would be, to host one on my own. On the way home I already started thinking about topics that I want to present at conferences.  So open up those CfPs, I already found some topics I want to speak about. Beware of the TestPappy!

Good bye, Runö. I hope to see you again next year!

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My visit to Let’s Test 2015 – Day 2

My second morning under the Swedish sun went better and my alarm woke me up. At the breakfast table I was joined by some new and tired faces and had good chats with them. Again I got some info about sessions I missed the day before.

After breakfast I had a short but inspiring chat with Michael Bolton.

Guy Mason’s “Utilizing Automation Tools in a CDT environment”

The morning session I chose was “Utilizing Automation Tools in a CDT environment” with Guy Mason. A very interesting session, because it described the idea that Richard Bradshaw propagates about “automation in testing”, but coming from a bit different angle. Since this is a topic that I currently try to establish at work, I was all the more interested in this discussion, if all arguments and approaches I found so far, were confirmed and needed a new look on them. Guy’s message was to use automation everywhere it makes sense to make work easier, test coverage (how ever you define it) bigger, and showing results quicker. This is not necessarily said, to use automation to automate tests, but to facilitate them. And don’t shy away of creating disposable scripts. Together with everything I learned from Richard so far, this completed and confirmed most of my views on this topic, and gave me more aspects and arguments. I made lots of notes in this session, so there will be another post about this soon, I hope.

“Defense Against The Dark Arts” with Laurent Bossavit and Michael Bolton

After a short break the full-day workshop started that I had to decide already in January and was looking forward to a long time since. “Defense Against The Dark Arts” with Laurent Bossavit and Michael Bolton. One of multiple reasons for me to select this workshop was to experience Michael Bolton in action. Michael did a fair share of the workshop and it was very inspiring for me. But Laurent’s enthusiasm for the topic was fantastic. This workshop was build upon his book “Leprachauns of Software Engineering” and he led many discussion and approaches how to reveal information that let you confirm your bias towards a statement or not. There will definitley be a follow-up blog post on this later.

I worked together with Hannes (thanks for the reminder Hannes) and Kadri, my room neighbor, as we found out later, and also a joyful person. She is not shy to seek for help when stuck with the assignment, which is in my eyes an excellent skill, that too few people have, including myself. I am sorry that I forgot the name of the last fellow we worked with, because I really loved the outcome of our group, analyzing how to confirm a claim or not.

  

At lunchtime the strategy to choose an empty table and look who joins paid off again. I had a very interesting discussion with a project manager from Sydney. When we talked about the morning session from Guy he wondered why there is a need for that discussion. At his company they all call it automation and in the end it all helps generating a good product. What a pleasant view on that topic.

The workshop continued and we were discovering interesting degrees of information related to our initial statements. Laurent was very inspiring in leading this discussion. But I said that already.

It was time for dinner and catching up with Megan and others over a plate of fantastic reindeer shavings or two.

Julian Harty “If not you? Who? If not now? When?”

Already during lunch time it was anounced that we have additional tracks for the evening, and one of those additions won the race for me. I went to see Julian Harty to experience his inspirational topic about the schooling projects he supports in several second and third world countries. This intense and emotional session blew my mind. Julian described us all the problems he had to encounter in the past and how he solved them. Problems you don’t even think off when knowing only the first world. And I have to say I was very fond of helping our partner school in Madunda, Tansania, when I was in school. But I guess time let me forget most of the problems that needed to be challenged there, 25 years ago. And as Julian showed us, they were not that big different back then, as they are now. But he found solutions to master some of the problems. There will definitley be a post on this session. It was so mind-opening, frustrating, motivating, and more, I need to reflect on that session soon. My hat’s off to you, Julian. You’re doing an incredible job out there.

When checking twitter for some Let’s Test updates I found out that Michael Bolton was hosting the dice game in the Test Lab. Thankful to Julian for ending earlier I rushed over to the testlab. Playing/Learning the dice game was on top of my list for this conference, so I needed to take this chance immediatley. Two testers were already trying to find out the algorithm that Michael Bolton prepared for them. Observing their results I quickly discovered the algorithm and Michael confirmed it. Sadly I was not able to join from the beginning, so I had no chance for a retrospective from Michael and don’t know how to facilitate a dice game session. I guess I need to put this back on my list of things to do at the next conference.

In turn I simply turned around and joined Ruud in trying to solve the puzzle Alexandra prepared for us. We came, I guess pretty far, but then the next round of the murder game started and I wanted to continue observing. So solving the puzzle is on my list to complete later (and still is).

In the next round of the murder game I came pretty close to find the solution, but I had not enough information to solve it completely. But it was great fun, observing. The solution btw came out only the next day in the last session at lunchtime, which I missed sadly, but my conclusion was kind of right.

After that I grabbed Richard Bradshaw and picked his brains about parts of the automation puzzle that I currently try to conquer at work. Richard gave me some great input how to continue with my puzzle. When I told him my ideas that go a different way than his usual approach, he came up with hints where to find more. Lim joined in the conversation and also had some hints at hand. Thanks guys, this helped me a lot to continue.

When trying to get a beer for Richard, I was intercepted by Paul looking for people to join him with a round of StarFluxx. 5 Minutes later -Richard got his beer, and was already in the next discussion, so no worries- I ended up in the hallway playing StarFluxx with Huib, Tanja, Paul, Chris and I don’t know who else joined in. My biggest success besides winning actually one round, my only one in those 3 days, was to kill the cute fuzzy alien creature – TWICE!!! Yes, Huib, I killed it twice! And I am still proud that I did. 🙂

I went to bed around 0230, Let’s Test was slowly coming to an end.

Read more about day 3 here.

My visit to Let’s Test 2015 – Day 1

Welcome to the second part of my visit to Let’s Test 2015. You can find the arrival day here.

The bright Swedish sun woke me up around 0530 for the first time, and I panicked, because I thought I missed the alarm going off. After I checked the time I realized that I need to get used to Swedish “nights” quickly. With a sunrise before 5 am the early mornings are really bright and the curtains are not that useful at all.

At breakfast I finally met Dan Billing and had time for a chat with him. This guy has a lot of knowledge around security testing and more. And he is also one of the facilitators of Weekend Testing Europe. I also met Chris for the first time. Not my last encounter with this really nice Swiss fellow.
A fun moment at the table was meeting Nicola and both of us realizing who the person across the table was.

Ben Simo’s Keynote

I made one plan for Let’s Test, not to decide which session to go to beforehand, except of course the full-day workshop. The easy part about day 1 is, that it starts off with a keynote. So off to the big auditorium “Runöhallen” to finally hear Ben Simo talk about his experience with healthcare.gov. He told us his compelling story, why he needed to use healthcare.gov. Yes, use, not test. But when he encountered the many different problems with poor capacity management and bad application design, found the help desk not that helpful – “Keep trying” is an awesome answer from a helpdesk – he carefully started blogging about the flaws he found, all from a user perspective. Ben did a great job with his keynote. His story is a perfect example that you don’t need a specification to find design errors. I found the keynote very inspiring in many aspects, so I will dig deeper in those reflections. You can find a more detailed blog about the keynote here soon.

Emma Armstrong’s “Equipping you for the unexpected challenges of Testing”

As for every track, choosing the session to attend was hard, because all were featuring interesting topics. So for the first 2-hour workshop I went to hear Emma Armstrong about “Equipping you for the unexpected challenges of Testing”. Emma gave us some great examples how to use heuristics, especially useful for me were the two usability heuristics, and skills that you need to improve as a tester. Emma had lots to share in those two hours, and I will try to reflect more about it in an upcoming post, too.

At lunch I met Björn (I hope I got that right!) a really nice fellow who helped me along with Maria on Twitter a few weeks ago to express some problems I had. Thanks, man! Speaking of Maria, I had only the chance to say hi and hug her before the next workshop and found no time to follow up with her over the next days. I am very sorry for that missed opportunity.

Paul Holland’s “Bad idea! Bad idea! Good idea!”

Next up was the half-day workshop “Bad idea! Bad idea! Good idea!” with Paul Holland which was all about brainstorming. Paul showed us in 5 rounds of absurd brainstorming topics – yes we decided on them our own – how different parameters facilitating the brainstorming session can influence the fun and quality of results. My takeaways of that session were many and I hope to improve upcoming brainstorming sessions with my team to produce more and more creative results. The main idea that I keep from this session is, that having a safe environment and allowing fun to be part of the session nurtures creativity. You will find more retrospective thoughts here soon…

“Let’s Quiz” with Huib Schoots and Kristjan Uba

After another joyful meal and some nice sharing experiences of the day with Megan about the session she had, I went to “Let’s Quiz – Testing a Gameshow” with Huib Schoots and Kristjan Uba. This session did not end at 2130, because I was volunteered to judge one of six teams later in the evening when we were playing the Quiz in the game and party area. Huib and Kristjan brought us a rather complete game, but we still came up with some problems in the game flow and bad to judge answer heuristics, so we changed a couple of rules and added 10 more questions to the stack. Facilitating the table with Michael Bolton, Paul Holland, Lim Sim and Richard Bradshaw was an awesome experience and was so much fun.

Between the workshop part and playing the game show, I observed the first session of the murder game hosted by Ard. I did not want to participate actively but observe over the next few days how the participants engaged in the game and how it was facilitated. And I was not sure if I could join every time they met.

I then played a round of Fluxx, the board game with Paul and Erik and I am sorry I forgot the name of the fourth person in the round. Too many impressions and new people for my mind to remember.
Instead of going to bed after that, I joined the table with John Stevenson, Megan and Erik among others who were playing a round of Rexit. And after seeing the Dixit cards in the brainstorming session earlier I could not even closely imagine how that game was working. But now I can.

I finally reached my bed around 0200. Read more about day 2 here!

 

 

 

My visit to Let’s Test 2015 – Sunday

As I wrote before, I was both nervous and excited going to my first conference ever. I had a long list of things I wanted to achieve, that obviously did not fit in 3,5 days of conference.

The four articles of each day will be the outline of my visit describing everything outside of the sessions and with links leading to more detailed articles on my retrospectives of all sessions I went to. Don’t expect any of those in this article, it’s all about the arrival on Sunday.

Being part of the Twitter-side of the CDT-community for 2,5 years, I was excited to meet so many of the folks I know from tweets and discussions on Twitter and blogs, articles, videos, and more. But I was nervous how that would feel, if you go up to a person saying, “Hi, I’m Patrick and I follow you on twitter.” So I tried to avoid that term and go with “Hi, I’m Patrick”. Having badges around your neck with your twitter handle on it is doing the rest for others to recognize you or not.

The plan until Sunday morning was to share a cab with Helena and Aleksander from Arlanda to Runö. The plan changed frequently on Sunday morning when more folks joined in. So in the end I shared my cab with Aleksander and Iain McCowatt. With Iain I had a good chat at the airport waiting for Aleksander. The conference already had a good start for me with that.

Arriving in Runö, at this wonderful place where the conference would be held the next 3 days, fulfilled all expectations. That place is perfect to host an event of that size. After checking in and shaking a couple of hands, I had my first encounter with Henke, a wonderfully open and happy person. You can’t but smile when you talk with Henke. Well, Johan’s daughter thought other, but I really don’t know why.

After returning from my nice room, with everything I need for the next three nights – a bed and a shower – Aleksander showed me around the main building. Thank you, Aleksander. We found Ru, Martin, and Alexandra setting up the test lab. I felt like home – well home in the office – when I spotted the heuristic print outs on the wall, the same that are right next to my desk as well.

Back in the reception area I met Ben Simo and had a nice chat with him. I was really looking forward to his opening keynote. I shook several more hands, and I got my first hug from Meike, who did not realize at that time who I was.
The fun thing for me was, that there were people walking by, that I only know from their Twitter profile pics, but I recognized them immediately. And even more stunning for me was, that I got recognized as well.

Waiting for dinner I finally met Helena. She’s such a wonderful and open person. I really enjoyed the short conversations with her over the next couple of days. And I can’t even remember with how many other folks I talked in the reception area. Sorry, everyone whom I don’t name explicitly. It is not on purpose, it was pleasure to meet you all.

In the meantime I met the Let’s Test photo and video crew. I got caught immediatley on two pics by Martin and was interviewed by Duncan. Great job guys, the pictures of all days look really cool.

At dinner – a nice kick-off to a wonderful few days of great food – I joined the table with Ben, Erik and Megan. Erik is a really nice guy to have around and Megan is a wonderful person, with a lovely humor. It turned out that we have many things in common. Dinner with Megan became my only constant over the next days which was really great, because we were rarely in the same sessions, so I could get an idea of what else was going on.

After finishing dinner, Meike was looking for me via Twitter and finally found me. So there was more hugging and a good conversation about her background, that I only knew partially so far, and I was able to fill in some voids. Leo joined us, and I am sorry that I had no other chance to speak with him. He joined a really long list, because the 3 days went by like nothing.

After a short hike outside I went to the bar area and after shaking a few more hands I ended up at the game table, playing Fluxx for the first time. Tired but full of joy about the experiences of the first day I went to bed at 0130. And yes, I was prepared for long evenings and short nights, but did not realize until then how easy that is to accomplish.

Read more about Day 1 of Let’s Test 2015.

Looking forward to “Let’s Test”

My current feeling: panic.

It’s only 8 days until take-off to Let’s Test. You read in a tester’s blog and don’t know the Let’s Test Conference? Under which rock were you hiding the past years?

When I joined the CDT community on Twitter back in late 2012, I became aware of really cool testing conferences going on out there in the world of testing. In May 2013 I became aware of the second Let’s Test Conference in Runö, Sweden. For me it became THE tester conference to go to. To add here, I have never been to a tester conference until this day, and it will be another week until I do.
Following Let’s Test 2014 from home, thanks to several attendees via Twitter and blogs enforced my urge to attend this very conference. Thankfully, after a busy and stressful year so far, in October 2014 my boss asked me about the budget 2015, and I said I wanna attend a tester conference. He agreed and asked if there is one on my mind, and if I know what the cost is, so he can put it in the budget. So I made a few calculations and entered the amount for Let’s Test in the budget. When my boss asked me in January, if there is an early bird for the conference I chose, I was aware that the budget is nearly approved. I told him there is, but it’s only until the end of January. And end of that month I got the approval, 2 days before early bird ended. And I registered. One of the best moments so far in 2015.

But now reality is coming closer. I got the conference schedule up my office wall, frequently looking at it. I am following Twitter comments from presenters at Let’s Test getting their presentations together and on first trials. But having lots of tasks currently both at work and at home, my conference preparations are a bit behind.

There are so many folks on the schedule presenting, whom I want to meet in person, because I have discussed with them on Twitter, read their blogs and articles, helped reviewing the book they are writing, or working with them on the Software Testing World Cup judging team for Europe last year. Facing a 12h+ hour program per day, I hope to have the chance to talk with all of them. I am already sorry, that I will miss a lot of presentations that I would really love to see, because there are four awesome threads of presentations going on, and you can only participate at one. The first choice was already to be made when booking, choosing from EIGHT different work shops, of which I would spontaneasouly book 5 to 6, and the remaining 2 to 3 would be interesting, too. But one it is, and I am still happy with the decision.

For the rest of the conferenc I made the decision to decide nothing up front. I read in blogs and comments from last year, that too many people switched their minds over and over, so why make a plan in the first place, when there is no chance for a bad choice on the schedule.

Finally I started investing ways to go from the airport to Runö. The next week will be busy with preparations, that is guaranteed. Maybe that’s the reason for my panic. I hope, when I finally arrive at Munich airport next Sunday, that this will be over and the fun can begin.

Create a safe environment for your team

I haven’t blogged in quite a while. This thing here lay around 9 weeks till today.

Today, I learned to appreciate quite a few things from my hobbies, that are absolutely essential for my job, too. To have a chance on really focusing on your job, and have a chance to get in the zone, it’s important to prepare your work environment, so that you don’t have to care about things around you. As a team lead, it is – or at least should be – your job, to prepare and provide such a safe environment for your team members, especially the more unexperienced.

When turning wood, you have to prepare of course a block of wood, your lathe and a gouge or two and a skew chisel. But that is by far not enough. You have to prepare your environment. Are there things in my way when I move the tool, is there anything lying around loose, that might be rattled around. Switch on your air cleaning devices, clean up the floor around you, wear something that can get dirty, wear your safety gadgets, like visors, ear protection, and mouth protection. Then you can fully concentrate on your piece of wood. Wood chips flying around, dust in the air, a wider reach with your tool handle, nothing should distract you from turning that piece of wood into something round and beautiful.

When sewing this afternoon it was the same. Clean up everywhere, when ironing the cloth you don’t want to care about stuff on the board. When sewing some meters of cloth, you don’t want to think about needles falling down, where are my scissors, is there enough thread on the spindle, and so on. You just want to concentrate on that seam. So you need to prepare.

In testing it is the same. When preparing for a test session you should have everything prepared. Specifications are there, clear and precise, questions have been answered, test data is there as far as possible, the environment is in use exclusively by the test team, the latest build is deployed. All devices are there and in the condition you need them. Of course that sounds like preparation work that every tester needs to take care of by herself, but as a team lead you can prepare as much as possible for all of them.

But I tend to say, that there are more things to take care of, and it’s mostly the lead’s job to take care. Reducing the amount of distraction, try to be the point of contact for your team, while they are testing. Assist your team by taking care of and reducing administrational stuff where possible. If your company has lengthy general information meetings, try to keep them outta there and deliver them necessary information summarized. Make their jobs easier.

As a lead you should be used to distraction. SQUIRREL!!! So, take the extra tasks to cover your team’s back to give them the focus they need.

This is hard sometimes, especially when you are stuck in meetings, or want to test for yourself finally for half an hour. But in my opinion it is more important to keep the team concentrated and focused, because you won’t finish the half hour anyway without an email popping in or a colleague asking for something. So get used to it and be the concierge of the team.

Isn’t that a nice title: test concierge?