Agile Testing Days 2013 – Day 3 – Is it a bird? Is it a plane? …

Last year I was in the Hotel Am Jägertor down the road from the Dorint, and even though it was a 10-15 min walk away, managed to make every lean coffee. This year we managed to get into the Dorint, and it’s a very different experience! Every evening ended up in the hotel bar, and I found myself socialising so much more this year. However, this probably explains yet another missed lean coffee! I must add that this was not due to hangovers, but just too much talking into the wee hours with Pete Walen and his lovely wife Connie, Ajay Balamurugadas and Dan Ashby with his whiskey… sorry whisky!

First keynote of the final day was David Evans Visualising Quality. I really enjoyed David’s talk last year, so was looking forward to what he had in store for us this year, and I was not disappointed. The premise was about how testing provides not a measure of quality but confidence in choices and decisions with respect to quality.

David gave the excellent if tragic example of the Challenger disaster. Having recently watched the brilliant film “The Challenger Disaster“, I knew exactly what David was aiming at. The engineers of the SRB knew that the o-rings had a minimum operating temperature of 11°C, yet the temperature on the 28th January 1986 was just 2°C. Yet despite this information and a recommendation not to launch, NASA chose to ignore the advice, and launch anyway, and the rest is history.

David likens the role of the tester to that of the expert witness. We are there to provide the facts about the software, then it’s up to others to take that data and make the decision to release or not. In practice I find that it’s a team decision, but I do agree and like the expert witness analogy; it seems to fit well.

Visualisations are also very important in the way data is interpreted. The scale of a chart, for example, can significantly influence how it is interpreted, and can give change what conclusions are drawn from it.

The other bit of David’s talk that really resonated was about “Information Radiators”, ie dashboards etc. We have alot of dashboards at work with alot of information on them… (including quite a lot of red/green indicators…). What David suggested was that it’s very easy to over complicate the dashboards, and it’s better to show one or two meaningful bits of information. Another piece of advice, which I think is brilliant, is to have a dashboard with a live twitter stream  for your product/company on it. This way you get to know what your customers really think, in ‘realtime’. Yes, I’m sure some of it would be hard to read, but the best way to improve your products is to make your customers happy. The best way to make your customers happy is to fix the problems they are really having, not problems that you think they are having.

All in all, this was a very good keynote, and one that made alot of sense. Looking forward to Davids presentation next year!

I met Ajay a few times over the previous days so I was really intrigued about his session Exploratory Testing in Agile Projects:The Known Secret, and he didn’t disappoint. He started by audience-sourcing a list of exploratory testing techniques

This started to get really interesting as it became apparent that Ajay was actually structuring his presentation as he was going… somewhat akin to exploratory testing. Determining his next approach based on what he’d just done.

Ajay then showed a slide by Jon Bach which had a quote that I’m going to use forever more! Exploratory Testing is a mindset using this skillset. I really like the idea that ET is not a technique, but a way of thinking. Might not be new to most people, but it’s a way of defining it that I’ve been looking for!

J B Rainsburger‘s The Next Decade of Agile Software Development started off with a revolutionary statement… Life after agile? … XP!  To be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve heard that over recent weeks, and again shows that revolutionary old stuff is really making a come back. Is that because perhaps we’re more accepting of the ideas, or perhaps our methods of producing software are better aligned to implement these ‘old’ ideas.

Other topics from this keynote: changes are best made in small iterative steps; things are often the way they are because that’s how they’ve always been when the original reason for the ‘thing’ may not be relevant; Daily scrum stand-ups do not often include risks, and it’s exactly this time that risks need to be addressed.

There was loads of useful stuff in JB’s session that is probably worthy of a blog posts on it’s own.

In the afternoon, I sat in on the consensus talks, and was especially impressed by Eddy Bruin‘s session Testsers, know thy customers! He asked an interesting question ‘How do you get inside someone’s head?’. Good question! There are many techniques to capture this information such as customer journey mapping (one for me to look up!). But the general message is ‘If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work’ so it’s essential that we focus on what the user actually needs and deliver that!

… No, it’s Super Agile Person!!

Final keynote time, cue Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory… but wait there, this is strange. They are sat on chairs on the stage with a partition between them! Long story short, Lisa, Janet together with Stephan Kamper, Mary Gorman and Pete Walen performed a brilliant and very funny sketch showing the transformation of the hostile dev/tester relationship into a collaborative 3-amigo approach. Highlight of the skit was Stephan as ‘Super Agile Person’… I’ve not laughed so much for a long time!

This really set the scene for the rest of the presentation. More emphasis was placed on the 3 amigos approach, with other collaboration techniques being pairing, talking!, continuous feedback, impact mapping, story mapping and journey mapping, but ultimately the best thing to do is to build trust between all parties by working together. Again, Lisa and Janet emphasised the main themes that have emerged during the course of the conference; trust, collaboration, do things in small chunks, oh and trust!

So, there you go, the last session of Agile Testing Days 2013… oh no, hang on, whilst lots of people had already left or were in the process of leaving, there were some people determined not to let the AgileTD experience end… Lean Cocktails! YEAH! Ok, I didn’t go in to start with, but I joined half way through to some interesting conversations. It was a very different vibe to Lean Coffee… there were a core set of people doing most of the talking, with an equal number of people just listening.

Following Lean Cocktails, and a lovely meal with Peter Walen (and Connie), Matt Heusser, JB Rainsburger, Ajay Balamurugadas plus many others, it was time to pack, sleep then wake up at stupid’O’clock in the morning to catch a 7:30am flight back to the UK.

My Takeaway Triple from Day 3

  • Trust is everything!
  • Data is great, but it’s what you do with it that really matters
  • Don’t be afraid to look to the past for how to move to the future

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