Recap Of WHaTDa And QA Or The Highway

Monday and Tuesday of this week (02/16 and 02/17/2015) had me in Columbus, Ohio for the Workshop on Teaching Test Design and QA Or The Highway. QA Or The Highway is a regional conference designed for software testers. This is the second running, and the second time it has sold out. This time to a bigger crowd than last year.

QA Or The Highway was great again this year. I didn’t attend a whole lot of track sessions, but the ones I did get to were high quality. Joe Ours puts on a good conference.

I did speak at the conference this year which was different from last. I did a talk on testing APIs that included and intro to REST, information on the testing VS checking dilemma, and a live demo with some code I wrote using frisbyjs. Public speaking is a new craft for me, and I’m growing into is and learning from others. Overall, I feel like it went pretty well.

WHaTDa was a one day workshop focused on teaching test design. It reminded me a lot of WHOSE, that is a good thing. We started the workshop at 9am with introductions; a little about who we were, what we were working on, and how we were planning to contribute to the workshop.

The goal, as with most Excelon Development workshops was to produce something useful to the testing community by the end of the day. Usually about halfway into the day, I start getting the feeling that producing something quickly is completely impossible.

After lunch, we split into groups and focused on an exercise we wanted to build and contribute to the wider testing community. I paired, or maybe grouped is a better word, up with Paul Harju, Megan Studzenski, and Dwayne Green.

A new Test Challenge

The 4 of us built something, and we hope it is useful to you.

We build a testing exercise based on a program that determines whether the text you entered into a field is a palindrome or not. It sounds simple, and it is, but there are a number of ways you can frame this simple program into a test exercise.

Here is the Palindrome Challenge. Feel free to use it however you like with credit to the authors.

Here are some framing examples you can use. This is what we came up with during the workshop, there are of course many other ways you can run the challenge.

For the person giving the challenge: you have to address what the scope of the exercise should be.

Here is one possibility:
1 – Design a test strategy / how would you test this (actually write the strategy down)
2 – Test for a couple of minutes using strategy
3 – What did you find? Did the stuff you found matter? Why?
4 – If you had more time, what tests would you run?
5 – Debrief

You could also do a survey of test techniques.

— Domain
— Function
— Risk
— Load
— Security

Maybe run the exercise a couple times, and see how the test strategy differs based on the identified technique.

Seeding test ideas:
I know there is a bug in X area, how would you test for that?

Megan’s Gambit:
For any given exercise, you can make another exercise by having the student identify what they were doing and why.

Test exercises are everywhere, framing and scoping are the hard part.

Have fun!

Lean Software Testing: The best 3 day conference I’ve been to

Last week I went to the best thee day conference I have ever been to, and got paid for it too! I flew from my home in Nashville to Denver, CO to assist Matt Heusser in teaching a three day class focused on lean principles in software quality and delivery.

Lean Software Testing is a one, two, or three day class created by Matt Heusser. The class combines years of research and experience on applying Lean concepts in software development with software expertise in practical problems of software quality and delivery. The result is a class that can help your test and quality team do their work smaller (we are talking about Lean, right), better, and faster. This is not an introductory class about software testing, but testers of all experience levels can certainly find value in the material and teaching. We have experience teaching this class to experience levels ranging from the newest interns all the way to the most engaged experts in the test community with 20+ years of experience.

A few weeks before class starts, Matt and I will have a discovery call with your team where we will mention a few of the concepts covered in the class and see what your teams experience level with the material is. Also, we will ask a few probing questions to discover what we like to call critical success factors: these are the things you must absolutely take away from the course to consider it a success. We want to provide a class that is timely and relevant to your team, this can help get us there.

Day one started immediately with a group exercise focused on team dynamics. This is a great way for people that may not know each other to get acquainted and also jumps right into valuable course work from minute one. After this we do a formal introduction, meet the attendees, and  explore what they want to get out of the class. The rest of the day is spent on studying and doing exercises on team dynamics, test planning, and comparing scripted and exploratory test approaches.

Day two is spent alternating between theory from Lean and exercises crafted to show exactly how the theory works. Where Agile training will tell you what you should do, we will explain exactly why approaching work in specific ways will help you deliver better software faster. This is practical information you can take back to work on Monday and use to provide real value. Value that your customers will be happy to pay for. Attendees will have a set os tools, but more importantly, they will know why those tools work so they can apply them across a variety os situations in your organization. We end the day with a one hour facilitated problem session where attendees discuss problems relevant to their environment and the group helps discover solutions.

Day three is emergent, we take lessons from the last group session on day two and mash them together with the theme of our course. We pull from our bag of LST content and present material that that is immediately relevant to your context. Some of the popular topics for day three are: tactics to help your group do regression testing faster and in a way that helps the business, a survey of test design techniques, test automation for non-technical people with live examples, and performing skilled bug reporting. There is much more, we are happy to customize content to the needs of your group.

Once the class is done, your testers are not left high and dry wondering how to apply everything they just learned. We provide lifetime support for all graduates of LST. Once class is complete, students are given access to the Lean Software Testing google group where they can talk about questions and real work problems and get support from LST instructors and graduates alike.

I can’t wait for the next teaching opportunity. If you are interested in getting Lean Software at your organization, please get in touch with Matt Heusser or myself.

I’m speaking at CAST2014

There it is, I’ll be speaking at CAST2014 in NYC this year. I’ve mentioned on twitter that I was accepted to speak but haven’t actually written about it yet.


Most simplistic measures for software productivity and quality fail, for reasons you don’t need a conference talk to explain. The problem is how to do better than that – how to “plus one” software measurement, or, at least, to choose measures and frame them in a way that will do more good than harm. Studying a little social science, specifically how social scientists do qualitative research, and measurement problems can help. Justin will talk about the development of qualitative research as a field of study, common problems with measurement in the software world, and some ideas from Lean. You will take back some tools to help you tell a more meaningful story to your business.

I’m in the session group before the last keynote on the last day. This feels a little ominous. If you include the tutorials, and TestRetreat before that, CAST is an intense 5 day marathon of deep discussions on testing and for me a bit of introspection. I will have to be sure to reserve some energy for the talk, especially since this is my first at a real conference, especially since I will be live cast over youtube. I have talks for the local testers group, and facilitated events and whatnot, but for me this is the big-time. CAST is the place.

The theme of this years conference is the art and science of software testing. My talk is themed around measurement. Mainly how it has been traditionally used in our craft, some of how it is used in the social sciences, and a bit on how we can make measurement a useful thing for software delivery and delivering value to the folks that pay for it. Measurement is a difficult problem, but I feel like talking about problems without offering alternate ideas to explore or solid solutions is not all that helpful. I’m hoping we can leave the room with some ideas on making the testers life a little bit better.

Hope to see you there!

Deciding if test retreat is right for you

2014 will mark the third run of TestRetreat and the second time I’m attending. The first was last year. Yep, two years in a row. I had a fantastic time last year and left with some useful tools. I’m confident this year will be no different.

I wanted to share some reasons here I think you should consider attending this event.

Presenting and conferring
TestRetreat is a small group of people, last year I think attendance was capped at 30 or 35 people. There is no pre-set agenda, this is a conference for the people, by the people. What I mean is that most every one that attends TestRetreat presents on a topic or facilitates discussion on something. This isn’t required, but it is encouraged and participation is what makes peer conferences like this great. Last year, I facilitated a discussion on testing skill. This was the first time I had put myself in front of a group and talked about something. If you are interested in dipping your toes into that pool, this really is a safe place to do that.

People you will want to talk with
This peer conference attracts people that care deeply about testing and developing their craft. Being held on a Saturday before another great conference means that people in attendance are people that are serious about being there. If you want to spend time next to writers, presenters, and independent testers, this is the place. You may see this appealing to authority, and it is a little bit, but it is a great group of people and you won’t find them all in the same room very often.

The conference below the conference
TestRetreat is an event preceding CAST2014 in New York. There are a few events surrounding CAST each year: lean coffee, tester games, tester competitions, after hours conversation over beers. CAST is a great conference. For me it is the conference, but it wouldn’t be the same without all the events just below the surface. TestRetreat is the one you don’t want to miss.

Great things begin at TestRetreat
Being present last year lead to me attending WHOSE, doing a lot more writing, and now speaking at CAST 2014. What great things will you do that get started here?

I hope to see you there!

QAOrTheHighway 2014

QAOrTheHighway was held this past Tuesday in Dublin, Ohio, a city just outside of Columbus, Ohio. For the most part, this was a very regional thing. A lot of people I spoke with were from Columbus or very near by. That was sort of surprising considering the speakers (keynote and presentation) they managed to get. Despite the small/regional conference feel, there were a pretty good number of attendees present.


I was planning to get there early on Monday, hangout with friends and work maybe a little, but it turns out February is not a great time for flying. My layover was cancelled and I didn’t end up at the hotel till after 11:30pm. Luckily a few friendly faces were still up to chat and catch up despite the late hour on the day before giving a talk.

The day started at 6:30 am with breakfast in the hotel lobby and then rushing off to lean coffee. Lean coffee is a testing conference fixture at this point. People ask for it by name. This one was really enjoyable as usual. I left with some useful notes on preparing to give a conference talk. Oh, did I mention that I’ll be speaking at CAST 2014 in New York, NY?

The conference was kicked off with a keynote by Joseph Ours. The theme was some ways you could tell if you (the tester) were undervalued within your organization and some things you might do to change that. Joseph did a great job and presented some old ideas with a fresh perspective. Some things I thought were interesting was the way he thinks of testers as information brokers and also something he calls the OURS method: Observe, Understand, Review, Serve. One important thing to note is that Joseph was not the scheduled keynote speaker. Keith Klain was scheduled to talk but could not make it and Joseph did a fantastic impromptu keynote.

The first session I went to was The New Tester Skill Set by Matthew Eakin. There was some stuff in this presentation that I didn’t necessarily agree with such as an emphasis on documentation, an emphasis on tools, and very little about testing skill or how that fits into agile but I think Matt had some great points elsewhere. Mainly in emphasizing restricting WIP to be very small at any given time, and also something he mentioned about how a powerful test might tell you specifically where a problem is.

Session two was by JeanAnn Harrison on A Debate on the Merits of Mobile Software Test Automation. JeanAnn is a great speaker and conversationalist, I thought this was a fun talk. This was sort of a socratic talk, a lot of the content was posed as questions for the attendees to consider. I really enjoy this style. Some of the questions were around the idea of defining best, defining need, and asking if the project is worth the investment. She also mentioned that she doesn’t highly rely on domain expertise in new hired because that can usually be picked up quickly. I generally agree with that sentiment.

Session three was about Disintegration Testing presented by David Hoppe. This is another session that I thought was very good. The content was useful and engaging. David talked about the value of looking at problems in isolation as opposed to completely integrated products. He did this via stories about automotive repair, scenarios focusing on how a person might test their amazon home page, and also a live demo of a test program he wrote. The presentation has a little bit of everything and the attendees really seemed to respond to and enjoy that.

My last session of the day was by Scahin Mulik, Four Questions Every CXX Should Ask About Testing. This started off by modeling testing questions around Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. I thought it was quite interesting. The four questions Sachin came up with based on the hierarchy were: Is the software not doing what it is not supposed to do; It is secure, fast enough, reliable enough; Is it loved by its intended audience; Is it faster, cheaper. After this there was as a bit on testing measurements with absolutely no foundation and no reference for where the numbers came from. I wish I had written down the measurements he referenced. One I do remember was defect removal efficiency. There were also some measurements that were somehow supposed to represent industry maturity. This part left me really dissatisfied with the talk.

After this was a closing keynote given by Matt Heusser. Regretfully, I had to miss this to catch a flight back to Nashville.

I was in Columbus for about 20 hours total, not even a full day. If I go next year, I’ll try to hit the 24 hour mark.