Testbash 2016 – Mob Development Workshop

On Wednesday 9th March 2016 I took part in a one day training workshop on Collaborative Exploratory and Unit Testing which was facilitated by Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Llewellyn Falco.

My apologies that it has taken me a little to get around to posting this blog post!  But I do hope you will find it an interesting insight into what I got out the TestBash workshop and it provides a little more background on what mob development is.

The Workshop

I’ll will be honest before the workshop I wasn’t really sure what to expect!  I’d heard a bit about mob development before but I’d never really looking into it in any great depth.

Where I work we have recently started doing short 1 week sprints where we are encouraging all members of the team (both testers and developers) to actively pair on tasks.  So I was really looking forward to learning about mob development and be involved in a workshop where there would be a mixture of testers and developers all learning together as one team.

Learning about Mob Development

To kick off the day we did a rather fun little set of exercises to get to know the others in the group and some warm up exercises to practice skills that would be useful during our mob development work!

The first required us to pair up with someone else (where one person had an iPhone and the other an Android) to direct the other with simple instructions on how to carry out tasks on their mobile phone.  The second require us to identify similarities and differences between two types of bird (in our case identifying the differences between a Song Bird and a House Sparrow) and then sharing as team how we identified the two types of bird.

So you may be wondering at this point what Mob Development is.  Well let me try and explain my understanding….

The general idea of Mob development is that you have a whole team (containing a mixture of developers and testers) who are working on the same thing at the same time using just a single computer.  The work being done could be exploratory testing, development or whatever is relevant in that particular session.

The session is organised as follows:

  • Single screen viewed by the whole team.
  • One designated driver at the keyboard who follows instructions from a designated navigator.
  • The rest of the team provide input and suggestions to the designated navigator for the direction in which the team will go.

The idea is that the roles rotate.  I think we rotated approximately every 5 minutes, although the time could vary depending on the particular team or task you are working on.

If you want to learn more about Mob Development and Strong Style Pairing this is a very useful blog from Llewellyn Falco on the concepts which were central to the workshop.   They have also written a book on the subject which you can check out here if you would like to learn more about it!

Exploratory Testing

Most of our morning was spent exploring the application and learning as a team. It involved exploration, testing and recording our findings (for example things that didn’t seem quite right, questions we had or possible problems we should investigate).

As we tested we moved between the application and a Mindmup mind mapping session where we recorded our testing and learning journey.

I really enjoyed the morning session.  I have done some exploratory testing pairing recently with another tester at work but it was just as enjoyable doing this in a bigger team.  Testing in this way brought forward many more ideas of what to test and explore but it did also come with the challenge of how to channel so many different ideas as opinions!

Developing code and Unit Tests

After lunch we embarked on a session where we focused more on the code of the application and setting about writing unit tests as a mob.

Some of the thought’s I took away from the afternoon included:

  • Unit Tests are better written where testers and developers collaborate.
  • Empathy between developers and testers is important and it is important that both are keen to work together in order to make pairing and/or mobbing successful.
I found the afternoon session a bit more of challenge as a tester, but I found it useful to consider mobbing from the point of view of developing code and unit tests and the benefits of having the input of a tester.

My Conclusions

I really enjoyed the content and teaching style of this workshop.

The workshop covered important topics such as how mobbing works, the skills required and how the different styles of development and testing can interact with one another. I liked the way that Maaret and Llewellyn allowed us to focus on working as a team to learn and practice mob development.

Doing retrospectives, in the form of short and concise PostIt notes, throughout the day was a great way of getting feedback from the whole team and helping to re-emphasize and understand the key concepts.   There was also plenty of really interesting ideas and discussion that came up throughout the day!

The key things I took away from the workshop were:

  • Working in a big team reduces delays in communication. Issues can be identified and fixed sooner.
  • There are sometimes some challenges in language between testers and developers.   We may use different terms to mean the same thing for example.
  • Part of the learning challenge is getting to grips with the development tools that are being used.  By the end of the day I think all of us had a better understanding of the IDE we used to write the unit tests and the endless supply of new keyboard shortcuts!
  • There are huge benefits of combining both test and development mindsets.  It helps to increase test ideas and I also think it helps the developers look at their code in different ways and create richer unit tests.
  • Learning new or unfamiliar tools collectively helps spread knowledge across the team.
One of the particular thoughts I liked from the workshop was about building empathy between developers and testers and how important it is for developers and testers to look to work with each other.  I think this is important for not just mob development but is an essential thing for any successful pairing on a team.

I’d like to thank both Maaret and Llewellyn for running a really excellent workshop!

The Meetup

It wouldn’t be a TestBash workshop without an evening meetup to follow.   In this case we headed over to the Eagle for an evening of Testing Games hosted by Michael Bolton and John Stevenson.   It was also a chance to chat to other testers over a few beers!

I spent a fair amount of the first part of the evening playing Set.   This involves matching cards shown to all the players and identifying patterns sets of cards based on the rules of the game (which are essentially looking for differences and similarities between a set of three cards).  However I did play a new and slightly more challenging and called Cubu.   Cubu involved matching cards based on sequence and colour and working out the best strategy to get rid of all of your cards and win the game.   This was a particular challenge in the pub as I kept getting my pink, orange and red all mixed up due to the light! But it was a really great way of engaging the brain and I was pleased as I won at least two rounds :).   These were only two of the many other games available.  You can find a complete list here on Johns Stevenson’s blog.

This rounded off a really great day and was a nice start to TestBash 2016!



Another Testbash


I can’t quite believe where the start of the year has gone, I look round its March and its time for another Testbash conference!

This year my TestBash experience promises to just as good as the previous three, albeit a little fragmented as I’m down in Brighton for Collaborative Exploratory and Unit Testing with Maaret Pyhäjärvi & Llewellyn Falco on Wednesday, back to work Thursday and back in Brighton for the main conference on the Friday.  Although i am hoping to make to the meetups on those three days!!

As I mentioned in my previous blog TestBash Time this conference  is particularly special to me as it provided me with a bit of a springboard to to re-focus my interest and enthusiasm for testing and also meet some great testers.

Something new..

This year I intend to do a couple of things I’ve never done before!!.  Firstly I’m planning to get along to the lean coffee session first thing and have decided to do a 99 second talk. The first should be really good but no prizes for guessing the second feels a little more daunting.

I’ve never considered myself to be a natural public speaker so I am rather nervous about it if I’m honest.  In the past I’ve never found the confidence to do it and I somehow ended up regretting I didn’t at least give it a go.  So this year it’s time to put the doubts aside and just do it!!  I’ll let you know how I got on…..

So there we are it’s time for TestBash and I am very much looking forward to it 🙂

See you in Brighton!

TestBash Time

This coming March will be the 5th TestBash Conference organised by the Ministry of Testing.  It will actually be the fourth successive conference I have been to in Brighton.

So I thought now was an appropriate time to reflect on how TestBash has helped me expand my horizons on testing and given me the opportunity to meet new testing friends and colleagues…..

A Little Bit of History

Back in March 2013 I had been working in software testing for roughly 10 years.  I had worked my way up through various testing roles from Test Analyst becoming Test Manager in the middle of 2010.   As a manager I spent the majority of my time either planning testing, attending meetings or being involved in general day to day management.  Our testing process was very much driven by requirements, detailed test scripts and we followed a waterfall approach where we focused on separate build and test cycles with significant time spent on writing plans and reports to support our testing.

The downside of this was I found myself with little or no time for actual hands on testing. If I’m honest I probably didn’t find the time I probably should of done to look beyond my day to day role and understand how other people were approaching testing outside of my workplace.

Discovering TestBash

I first heard of the Ministry of Testing through Kim Knup who I was working with at the time.  Kim told me about the Ministry of Testing and that there would be a testing conference happening in Brighton during the March of 2013 and suggested I look in to getting a ticket.

I had gone to a couple of free Text Expo conferences in the past but the TestBash conference looked really interesting as it included a range of talks on various testing topics and was focused on talking about testing and not pushing any particular vendors product.   I really enjoyed that first TestBash conference as it showed me there were different approaches I could take to testing that did necessarily need to include the use of well defined requirements, test cases and scripts.

Wanting to know more about other ways of approaching testing, later in the year I enrolled for a one day Rapid Software Testing for Managers course with Michael Bolton. Although there wasn’t enough time to go into the Rapid Software Testing approach in detail I took away new ways of creating and developing test ideas and could see the benefits of using focused testing sessions to test products rather that having a reliance on high maintenance test scripts.

At this point in time within our team a lot of focus was being put on looking at moving towards a more agile approach to development and unfortunately it was not until several months later that the changes to how we tested began to take shape.

A Chance Meetup

By the time of Testbash 3 the following year a number of changes and events took place that proved to be the trigger for change.

We had recently had a change in Development Manager and he was very open to looking at the alternative approaches to of testing. In addition to this I had taken a personal decision to change my role from Test Manager to Test Lead.  I was keen on doing more hands on testing whilst coordinating testing and supporting other testers within our development team.   It felt that this was a good opportunity to finally move away from test scripts and seek alternatives.

Whilst the TestBash conference was once again excellent the event that sticks in my mind was the meetup on the Monday night.   At the time James Bach was delivering a training course on Rapid Software Testing course in Brighton and on the Monday there was an evening of talks, including talks from James Bach and Simon Knight.

As it happens at that particular time we were looking to recruit a new tester into the team.  Whilst chatting afterwards Rosie Sherry introduced me to a testing newbie called Emma Keaveny, who had just won a scholarship with the Ministry of Testing and was attending both the conference and the training courses around it.

Subsequent to that meeting in Brighton Emma joined our company as a tester and together we set about the task of moving on from test scripts and taking on board some of the ideas presented in the RST courses we had both gone to.  Having someone like Emma with her unique mix of energy, enthusiasm and new ideas was great! Not only has working with her helped change the way we approach testing at our company it has also inspired me to think differently about testing and get more involved in the testing community.

It wasn’t long before I found my myself getting involved in regular Testing Couch calls, Weekend Testing sessions and going to the monthly #TestActually meet-ups in Brighton organised by Emma and Kim.   By the end of that year I’d also got myself onto twitter and was starting to connect with other testers around the world.  Getting involved in these certainly helped me find new energy and enthusiasm for testing.

TestBash 2016

Despite the fact I have been testing for well over 10 years I do appreciate that there is always more to learn about testing and ways we can all become better testers.   At this years TestBash there is a great line of workshops in addition to an excellent line up of speakers for the main conference and I am sure I will learnt something new from the event.

For me 2016 is going to be about looking at ways to get more involved in the testing community and other events as well as finding time to read and learn more about testing.

I will be honest I have been guilty of not feeling confident at times in sharing my views and experiences on testing.  It can sometimes feel a little daunting with so many experienced and well known testers out there in the wider testing community.  But this year I intend to look to overcome this as I know I have useful experiences and knowledge that I can share.

I am very much looking forward to Testbash 2016! 🙂

Tiny Testbash 2015

Last Friday I went to the Ministry of Testing TinyTestBash testing conference in Brighton.  As with all testing conferences I was looking forward to learning new thoughts and ideas on testing as well as getting a chance to meetup with some new and familiar faces.

I started the day off by going to the lean coffee session.   This was actually the first time I had actually been to a lean coffee at a testing conference. (although I have tried the format before elsewhere).  As I was staying overnight in Brighton this was a perfect opportunity to do that. Staying overnight also gave the chance to pop along to the Lord Nelson the night before for a few pre Testbash drinks!!!  I very much enjoyed discussing various testing topics during the lean coffee session.

The conference started with a talk from Maaret Pyhajarvi, in which she talked about her testing experiences with developers and the wider business where she worked. I found her thoughts around the importance of collaboration and how she approached agile development of particular interest.  We have recently started doing 1 week sprints in our development team so it was useful to take on board some of these thoughts and ideas.

The second talk was a joint presentation from Jokin Aspiazu and Marta Garrido on how their team approached hiring a tester.  It’s always interesting to hear how different companies approach this process especially having done quite a number of interviews for testers in the past.   In particular I liked the idea of inviting candidates along to meet the wider team which is a great idea as it helps you understand how a potential new tester will fit into the team.

The third talk was from Kim Knup reflecting on here first 100 days as a sole tester at a new company.  Having worked with Kim previously I was keen to hear her story and how she faced the various challenges along the way.  It was very interesting to learn how she went about educating her new company on what testing is and its importance.

After a short break we moved onto the three talks that took us up to lunch.   Dan Billing talked about how he became interested in, and eventually moved into a role focusing on security testing and how he is  currently working on a new heuristic to cover the important area of security testing.   There were also talks from Stuart Wright on how he had gone from being a sole tester to leading a team of local testers and Guna Petrova talked how she got into testing, what she enjoys about it and her interaction with the wider testing community.

The afternoon started with Emma Keaveny talking about Dark Patterns.   Emma explained what dark patterns were and how they can be used within user interfaces to potentially offer customers products they either do not need or for which opting out was not easy or obvious.  The most fascinating part of the talk was around the quandary from a testers point of view and how as a tester we should react to these practices.  As a result the questions that followed the talk sparked some interesting debate.  Emma is giving the talk again at the next Brighton Tester Meetup (#testactually) on 11th November.

This was followed by a talk form Stephen Mounsey on how he uses sketch-noting in testing.  He explained how he has used this to capture the key messages from the various conferences and training courses he has been on.  The thing I found fascinating was the amount of information that could be captured from a single drawing and how this conveyed a colourful but concise summary.    The final talk of this session was from Frank Fristred-Petersen about his testing career and how as an introvert he had learned to adapt and appreciate the importance of communication in his various roles.

Richard Bradshaw concluded the talks by talking through what he had learnt from his year in mobile testing. I’ve never been involved in mobile testing before so I was quite interested to learn about the range of things that have to be taken into consideration during testing, such as different handsets, phone operating systems, even down to charging multiple handsets!  I’d also not appreciated before how important it was to actually do testing of mobile applications in the field where mobile phones tend to be mainly used.  This can lead to interesting information (like understanding the effects on an application if you have a weak or dropped signal) and be used to help uncover problems.

So what did I take from the day?  Well aside from a very nice Ministry of Testing mug (Thank-you MoT!), and not enough photos I took a whole bunch or new thoughts and ideas on testing.  I really enjoyed the day and as always it was a great opportunity to talk to a whole range of testers along the way about what they do and their experiences.

What I will say is that we have a fantastic testing community!!!   Its only in the last year that I’ve really come to appreciate this more from getting on Twitter, participating in the Weekend Testing sessions and getting along to the local #TestActually meetups in Brighton.

I’ve been testing for over 10 years and I have to say by going to the Testbash conferences and getting more involved in the testing community I am really starting to enjoy testing again having lost a little of my enthusiasm and energy for it a few years ago.   Thankfully I discovered there is a different way to approach testing which can make it more fun, enjoyable and ultimately rewarding.

I hope I am able to build upon this and increase my involvement so that I can start to give something back to the community.  Hopefully this blog is a good start (its only the second one I’ve ever written!!) to reflect on and share my experiences. Who knows maybe at some point in the near future I may find the confidence to stand up and share these with others at a testing conference…..

Finally thank-you to the Ministry of Testing for another awesome testing conference!!!

Testing Adventures

Yesterday afternoon I participated in a Weekend Testing Session. The topic for the session was on Designing Data Sets for Testing.  More details on the complete testing session can be found here.

For the session we had the choice of three different web applications to test. Our task was to identify a set of test data we could use to test our chosen application.
I decided to test the on-line game Zork.  Zork is a text based adventure game where you are able to issue text commands and actions to the game which then allows you to move and interact within a fictional world.

I had played adventure games like this before, in fact the first ever game we got for our home computer back in 1982 was a text based adventure game on our Atari home computer called Escape from Tramm. I particularly remember this game and one of the rooms in where we were stuck for 3 whole months until we realised we had to push a pin on one of the doors in the room!

I decided I would go about this task by exploring and effectively playing the game. In this particular scenario my test data was going to be the actions or movements I typed into the game. To keep track of the test data I started capturing my test ideas in a mind map.

So I started with simple stuff using the Open action.  As I was standing by a house I tested out Open Window, Open Door, Open Mailbox.  When I opened the mailbox there was a leaflet inside. My testing was going well! Well it was until I tried to open the leaflet and I was told the game it did not know how to open a leaflet.  I noted this down as an observation and I decided to move on.

Moving on with my testing I tried different compass directions such as Go North, Go South, Go East.  I also chose actions such as run, jump and walk which didn’t seem to get me very far but reported interesting responses such as “which way shall I run?” and the rather odd response to jump which was “Are you trying to impress me?”.

As I went on through my testing I came to realise I didn’t actually know whether I am seeing desirable behaviour or not in the game. It struck me that if if someone had given me a list of commands and a map of the world that the way I approached the testing and selected the commands to test may of been completely different.

It makes me wonder whether it helps or hinders us in our testing if we know too much or too little about an application. If you are over familiar with an application then there is a risk you may get used to using the application in a certain way or may be influenced into using the application in a certain way.  Sometimes there is  a chance that if you have never used an application before you may point out issues or inconsistencies that people may of not noticed or thought were problems.

As testers I think it is important we are aware of potential pitfalls and traps like this and ensure that are always thinking of new ways to test an application, using both our creativity and experimentation skills in the process.

I really enjoyed this session, for me it brought into focus the importance of the test data we use but more interestingly the importance of variation and experimentation when we choose our test data.

If you have never done a weekend testing session before I would highly recommend it as it gives you a chance to learn more about the way you test and an opportunity to interact with other testers in the wider the testing community.