Got up early enough and was awake enough (just) to get to Lean Coffee this morning, and as always it ended up with 4 groups of ‘leaners’! Our table had some familiar faces, Emma (@EmmaATester), Abby (@a_bangser) and Michael Larsen (@mkltesthead) as well as several new ones.
The topics were varied which conference lean coffee’s always are, and we talked about topics such as whether there were any good metrics for measuring testing, KPI’s for a team/company transitioning to ‘Agile’, and how to start and maintain an internal testing community. The discussions were interesting, although in this instance I didn’t take away much personally. However, just being in the discussions, and contributing my experiences and hearing others is always good.
If I can do it, so can you
The first keynote of the day was a last minute change “if I can do it, so can you” by Dr Sue Black. Whilst not testing related, it was more of a motivational tale of Dr Black’s rise from the depths of a depraved inner city life to one of international speaker and women-in-tech campaigner. It was inspirational, especially the early year doing her first degree followed by a phD with 3 kids in tow. Incidentally, a funny anecdote saw Dr Black being asked by her university mentor whether she would like to do a phD, to which she replied ‘yes’, quickly followed by ‘what’s a phD?’!
Since her phD, Dr Black has started a movement to support women in the technology industry, which led her to Bletchley Park, where, unbeknown to a lot of people) over 8000 women worked during WWII. A few years ago, this historic centre for code breaking was in danger of being shut down due to lack of funds to maintain it. Dr Black shared the story with us of how she utilised social media to (and to cut a long story short) save it.
As well as Bletchley Park, Dr Black also set up a #techmums organisation to educate mums in technology. Doing this sees a noticeable increase in performance in their children in school.
Like I say, there wasn’t any testing content, and half of me felt that it was a bit out of place as a keynote. That said, it was a really interesting story, one I’m genuinely interested in and have nothing but admiration for the work Dr Black has done.
Following the keynote, I was unsure what sessions to attend. This was the one morning that it just wasn’t obvious what would be the most useful to me. However, in the absence of something that looked relevant to my current context, I chose to attend Michael Larsen’s talk Making a web for everyone as it looked interesting from a purely testing and personal perspective.
The talk was concerned with accessibility testing of websites, and this is something I’ve touched on in the past. It’s not that relevant in my current job at the moment, but it’s something I do believe is not taken as seriously as it should be.
Michael explained that disabilities are often seen in absolutes; total blindness; total hearing loss; paralysis, but these are only one set of disabilities, and more often than not, people deal with combinations of these and many others. As well as the physical disabilities, there are many other cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, learning difficulties etc that often come into play.
He showed an interesting quote from @wilkeii “I’m worried that people are more concerned with getting their websites working on rich people’s watches rather than for the blind”. This is really thought provoking and highlights one of the main points Michael was raising. We (as an industry) don’t design products/websites to be as inclusive as possible. He took care to use the term inclusive, rather than accessible. I agree with him when he said that accessibility has some fairly negative connotations, and phrases like “we need to make it accessible” etc just miss the point. We shouldn’t need to _make_ is accessible. if we did the job properly in the first place, and designed the product to be _inclusive_, then we wouldn’t need to adapt it later on.
Michael explained that when he does accessibility testing, he sometimes emulates the disability, perhaps by blindfold, or duck-taping his hands in a similar position to somone with, say cerebral palsy, just to try and get even the faintest of insight into what operating that program might be like.
It really was a very interesting talk, including a shout out to Cambridge university’s inclusive design toolkit, which is certainly something I’ll be investigating.
Who you gonna call…
Following on from Michael’s talk, Alan Parkinson (@alan_parkinson) presented Ghostbusting user stories, a look at making better user stories. Alan suggests that most user stories contains ghosts, and by that he means those users for whom the story doesn’t quite fit. Most user stories consist of a single actor or role. But rarely does a user story (in real life) only affect one actor or role.
So by dispensing with the usual ‘As a … I want to… so that… ‘ pattern, and writing the story in a more freetext form, it can be more descriptive and include other main parties.
I enjoyed this talk, and it gave some good tips to create better personas that avoid being too generic, and also the idea of combining a persona and a role when doing exploratory testing. In this way, you act out that persona in that role, therefore take on a different perspective.
After lunch, I decided to go to the 3 amigos workshop run by Stephan Kamper (@S_2K) and George Dinwiddie (@gdinwiddie). Now what I didn’t know is that George pretty much coined the phrase ‘3 amigos’, something I’ve had a small amount of experience with.
The session was really well organised, with a workbook, nicely laid out room and a good amount of people (this one wasn’t crowded which was good). The workshop was clever because they gradually built up the concept of the 3 amigos by making us want each element of it. the concept of the 3 amigos is to get testers, product owner and developer together at the start of the project to make the decisions about the stories, requirements, and any other stuff. The advantage of this is that there are 3 very different perspectives at the table, so you end up with something that’s easier to build and test, or more importantly, you end up with something that more closely resembles the ‘right thing’.
For an all afternoon session, it went remarkably quickly, and I’ve yet to really digest the material, but with the workbook, and access to my friend Stephan, any questions I have will be answered I’m sure.
Then finally came the closing keynote of the day, by Mike Sutton (@mhsutton). I’d not heard of this guy, but within a sentence that included 2 profanities… followed by a disclaimer “oh, did i forget to mention… I swear alot.. but it’s quite tasteful!”, I knew I’d like this talk, and I was not disappointed!
Growth comes with challenges, and those challenges differ dependent on your context. As a company, as you grow, risk, complexity, resources all increase, making growth harder, riskier etc. in order to grow, the company is searching for that next big thing, more revenue, market share, whatever it decides.
However, that’s the business; what about the person? what are you searching for? Personal growth is something that is our own responsibility, and ours alone. This is a message that is very strong at my previous company Redgate. Their philosophy is to encourage personal development, personal growth, and provide whatever support is required to do so, but the individual still has to do it, or want to do it. Encouraging personal growth by forcing people to do training courses is not the right thing to do.
Mike suggested that personal growth (and joy.. because after all, “you do work all the time, so it shouldn’t be shit!”) is wrapped up in the success of the company. Therefore it’s our responsibility to make that company successful. How do we do that, well we get involved as early as possible to make sure we understand what the company is doing, make sure we have input into what the company is doing, which will in turn help our personal growth. Basically, ask those pain-in-the-ass questions until you get an answer that you’re happy with!
He closed with a statement that I particularly liked, and it was long the lines of “Find the time to do personal growth. If you don’t have the time, then fix the shit that preventing you from getting the time!”
My interpretation of that is twofold. Firstly, remove/circumvent/change any business blockers that prevent you from doing what you want to do and what makes you happy. Secondly, don’t blame the business for not giving you the time! Get off your arse and make it happen.
Agile games night is a favourite of mine, from running the black stories last year, to being a participant this year, they are great ways to exercise the skills we need as testers such as deduction, lateral thinking, pattern matching etc.
Black stories are a favourite of mine, and my friend Eddy Bruin (@eddybruin) was hosting this year. I love these stories as it exercises your questioning ability, lateral thinking, and shows you how many assumptions you make without even realising. After one of the stories, Eddy showed us our journey to the answer in the form of the 5 orders of ignorance which really helped us understand how we worked with the information we had to begin with, but then our questioning became more based on context than fact, then finally based on experience and, frankly, guesses!
Moving on from black stories, the age old favourite SET. Dan Ashby (@DanAshby04), Christina Ohanian (@ctohanian) and Tony Bruce (@tonybruce77) battled it out with the great pattern matching game to the point of coloured pattern induced, eye bleeding headaches! 🙂
The evening then wrapped up enjoying several puzzles with Abby. I won’t talk about the puzzles as it might give them away, but needless to say, some were VERY infuriating!