Agile Testing Days 2014 – Part 2

Lean Coffee

[Tuesday – Conference Day 1] This year I fully intended to make it to every lean coffee in the mornings, but alas I did not get off to a good start. I figured that after a 2am finish, I’d be sensible and not get up at silly o’clock for lean coffee. I was heartened to see several redgaters in the lean coffee when I walked past to breakfast, and it looked like a really good turnout. Lean coffee at conferences is very different to work based ones or even the local cambridge event we run monthly, I think it’s just the sheer diversity of people brining lots of different experiences to the table.

“Super Agile Person” – The Return

The opening keynote was given by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin, “Welcome to the future! preparing for our agile testing journeys” with a very welcome return of the ‘Super Agile Person‘!! Dressed in Star Trek:TOS uniforms (with Lisa wearing some rather fetching vulcan ears), they made some interesting observations of what the role of the ‘agile tester’ could be, although wasn’t really that far off where we are now. It was, however, a clever way of reinforcing things that we should be doing now. Concepts such as the T-shaped person, or that the ‘agile tester’ needs to be a shapeshifter, adapting to whatever situation presents itself and learning from them. They made other very sensible suggestions such as ‘visibility is key’ referring to making the testing process visible and transparent, creating a BA community of practice in the absence of a BA. Actually, I think they were suggesting that testers could fulfil the role of the BA; I certainly recall performing BA activities years ago (and UX, design etc).

None of this was really groundbreaking, and neither was it intended to be I suspect. What it did do, however, was bring all these concepts together in a good start to the conference.

The mindset of the Agile tester was the topic of the next talk by Alessandra Moreira. I met Alessandra in Cleveland, Ohio last year at WHOSE, and I was impressed at her confidence and knowledge, so attending her talk was a no brainer.

“Anyone can be a tester” how many times have we heard that phrase? Well it’s true, anyone CAN be a tester… But not everyone can be a good tester! The good tester has the right mindset; adaptive, learning, evolving, experimenting, inquisitive, critical. Ale called out that while technical skills are not the most important skills for the tester, they can certainly be useful in many ways. Testers are NOT the quality police and should make judgement calls whether a bug is raised and fixed. This is not necessarily always the case. One statement that Ale made that really struck a chord, and it’s beautifully simple… “testing is learning”. So very true.

There are three keynotes per day at Agile Testing Days, so following lunch was the second of the day by Roman Pichler – “Strategy testing”. This was particularly interesting as I’m a believer in testers adding value by testing before coding. He started by giving some context around strategy as this can be interpreted many ways. The terms he used were vision (goal), strategy (path to the goal), details (steps on that path).  This made a lot of sense to me and can be applied to both product strategy and test strategy, the difference being the context to what it’s applied.

Testers should not just be concerned with the test strategy. The product strategy will help us to define the test strategy. It gives information about the market, value proposition and business goals, all of which help us to focus our testing on the right stuff. Roman also encouraged the practice of failing early and creating a failure tolerant environment. After all, when you fail, you learn.

He finished his keynote with a three point summary:  “Work on products you find exciting and meaningful”, “It’s not about building ‘cool’ products” and lastly “Life is too short”.   Amen.

Consensus talks are a great feature of Agile Testing Days. They were conceived to give some speakers who didn’t get accepted to the main talks, the opportunity to air their topic in a 15 min slot. Its a great way for new speakers to get some experience in a big venue. I had this experience last year, and my colleague, Emma Armstrong, got this opportunity this year so I had to see her in action! This year, however, the consensus talks were expanded to 25 mins so it’s an even better experience. Emma’s talk was on system 1 and 2 thinking, a fascinating subject that relates really well to testing. By appreciating the different systems our brains use for thinking, we can identify when biases, intuition, priming and anchoring are playing a part in our testing.

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Cristina Ohanian’s amazing sketch notes

The final keynote of the day was “The Antimatter Principle” by Bob Marshall. The title was very intriguing as it didn’t really give anything away! What was also intriguing was that there were no slides, and Bob was ‘winging it’. I admire anyone who knows their subject matter so well that they can let a talk waft and wane around the desires and interests of the audience. It was a very thought provoking talk, with Bob subscribing to the art of non-violent communication. With this, he introduced two known rules. The Golden Rule “Treat others how you want to be treated” and the Platinum Rule “Treat others as they want to be treated”. Makes sense. Be he then went on to say that software development is about meeting people’s needs. This could be dressed up as a business requirement etc, but at the end of the day software should be written to attend to people’s needs. This was Bob’s “Antimatter Principle”. I very much enjoyed the topic of this talk, and more so the delivery by Bob.

Collective of harlequins?

So, first day over… well not quite! The first night of the conference is the MIATPP (Most Influential Agile Testing Professional Person) award ceremony and dinner. The event was themed again this year, with this years theme being carnival as it’s carnival season in Germany apparently. Myself and my colleagues had pre-planned our costumes and went all out. One of the funniest moments for me at this conference was having my colleagues lined up in my hotel room in a face painting production line whilst I painted them up!

Did someone call for a nurse?

Kudos to them all, however, they were all game and despite us all looking VERY silly, we trooped down to the main room…

We were greated by Jose Diaz, conference organiser, or should I say carnival nurse. He looked unnaturally comfortable in a skirt and high heels.

Not only was it the MIATPP award night, but the winner of the STWC was announced too. As one of the judges, I helped to hand out the prizes… in front of everyone… dressed like that! Oh well, in for a penny….

The winner of the competition was … South America!! Team Cesar from Brazil. The result was actually very close in the end, but Brazil just edged it from the others teams.

The winner of the MIATPP was announced by Maik Nogens and Pete Walen as they read out attributes of the winner. It became fairly obvious who it was after the first 3 or 4… Matt Heusser was the well deserved recipient!

Overall it was a very good evening, with great entertainment, some dubious yet enthusiastic dancing and yet more great conversations.

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