nasqpros Nov. meetup: Manual to automated shop

The quarterly Nashville Quality Assurance meetup happened this afternoon. The topic for todays talk was steps and organization can take to move from a primarily manual shop to a primarily automated shop. These sort of talks usually give me a pretty visceral reaction and the pages of (biased) notes I tool today probably reflect that pretty accurately.

I wanted to talk to the speaker but dominating his time didn’t seem appropriate for this sort of venue. So, as a result of that I’m writing this.

Here are some of the things that bugged me the most:

Not sharing your story
I have a hard time respecting talks that make sweeping generalizations and endorse specific ways of doing things without sharing failures, detailed context, and lessons learned along the way. This style of presentation gives me the impression that they are trying to share some sort of gospel. Phrases such as “this is the natural spot for X”, “This is how to get things right”, and “center of excellence” really drive that feeling home for me.

Not mentioning the gruesome details
The fellas that did this talk come from a Nashville company called Assurion. This company employs a varitable army of testers and developers to maintain the create the product. I feel like the fact that a large staff is needed to create and maintain this sort of high-volume automation was conveniently ignored. DSLs don’t magically get created, software tooling doesn’t happen magically. All of this takes significant time and development resources.

Rehashing folk wisdom
The folk wisdom is bullshit…whew I feel better now.
Here are some of the classics from today:
1 – X% of your tests should be automated.
Which percentage? Why? Why not the other percentage?

2 – Automation makes testing faster, more scalable, and able to be performed unattended.
No….just no. There is development time, maintenance time on the scripts, product, and framework, investigation for test failures, false positives, timing issues….the list goes on.

3 – The people writing code all day to make this sort of automation happen are testers.
The best I can give you here is a maybe. *Some* testers have the fluency and care enough about programming to do this. What I have seen most often though is a programmer(s) with heavy interest in tool smithing. Either way, these people will be writing code for the majority of their day be it test code or code to facilitate that.

4 – Test repeatability creates return on investment.
What is the investment? How did you measure that? What is the return? How did you measure that? Unwillingness to talk about this in terms of value as opposed to cost is baffling. If repeatability creates ROI, does that mean a test that is run once and never repeated has no return on investment?

5 – X scripts should be created per day per person
The reasoning for this aside from time accounting escapes me. I suspect it is linked to the fascination with ROI and ignoring value.

Tool fetishism
Spending time talking about all the tools you have used, all the tools you currently use, how much money you saved by switching from X to Y is uninteresting. Especially when you don’t frame the talk around what problems you were solving. Especially when you don’t show any examples of what you are actually working on.

This is a lot of stuff so I feel the need to mention a couple things. I don’t hate automation, it can be really useful in some situations. I really like the phrase tool-aided testing that has been gaining some traction lately in the community. This encapsulates the sort of automation described above as well as any other action we perform in which we use tools to amplify our ability to do something.

The speakers were charismatic and seemed like nice people. There, I said something nice 🙂

Nashville Lean Coffee #1

I facilitated a lean coffee meetup for testers in Nashville this past Wednesday. This was my first time doing something like this so it was a pretty interesting experience. The participants seemed pretty happy so I’ll call it a success! I wish I had taken more pictures but I’m no live blogger. It is tough to get involved and do that kind of active observation.

Date: 10/16/2013
Participants: Read Blankenship, Alexa Riter, Michael Alexander, Kendall Joseph, Justin Rohrman

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Lessons Learned:
Timing
I really like doing this in the morning because people can be hesitant to cut out some of their evening free time for things like this. The problem with mornings is 7am comes early and it seems even earlier when it happens to rain all night and morning. The rain caused some people to be a little late but it was no big deal and we rolled with it just fine. I suppose you can please all the people all the time so any time will be inconvenient. I may take a poll on when the next event should be.

Strength in Numbers
This time there were 5 people total participating including me. I was hesitant to add my cards to the pile because I was trying to play the role of the facilitator and let everyone get their ideas on the table but in hindsight more cards may not have been a bad thing. There is definitely a benefit to having more people at lean coffee. You get more variety in topics and you get more people with varied experience to talk about each topic. Some things I did like about the smaller group was the intimacy of the group and how obvious the energy level is to watch with fewer people. We were able to get in a groove and ended up not having to vote much on whether to go onto the next topic.

Problem Solving is Energizing
Once we got into talking about each topic the group really got into it. Realizing that we can in fact solve our own problems is really empowering. Also, realizing that the things we were working on at 7 am could be used at 8:30 when everyone made it into the office was energizing.

Facilitating ie rewarding
I really like facilitating events like this, the people that come in and really make the event aren’t the only ones benefiting. I benefit because it makes me feel good to help others help themselves and also I get to hone some facilitating and problem solving skills. The lean coffee format helps to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about problems they have and things they need help with. Also, it helps to create an environment where people that care can give the best kind of help, solicited help.

I’ll probably try to do another one of these in a month of so. If you are a tester in the Nashville area I hope you’ll join us!

testing with locals

I’ve been a little dissatisfied with my local testers group for a while now. Actually dissatisfied isn’t the right word, impatient is probably better. I just need more. More interaction with testers in the area, more learning from peers that I can see outside of CAST / AST and skype, twitter, and whatnot. This isn’t meant to compete with the existing group, it is meant to supplement it.

To satiate this need another local test manager, Michael Alexander and I have organized a semi-monthly lunch meet and google group for testers in the area. If you are passionate about your craft and live in the Nashville area, I want to talk to you. Send me an email, join the group, get in touch.