Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CAST 2011 - Day 2

Day 2 started out with an interesting TWiST... yes, that's a pun, and yes that's on purpose. Matt Heusser, Markus Gaertner, Ajay Balamurugadas and I (with Adam Yuret joining us later) did a Live podcast where we discussed the CAST testing challenge and our approach to how we went about doing it. It was a lot of fun, and I'm hoping that we'll get a good podcast out of it (first time recording live with the Snowball in Omni mode).

Jon Bach started the day with a recap of some of the issues that we had yesterday and the solutions made today to resolve most of them. How cool is it to have a bunch of testers looking at issues... and actually having the power to do something about it? As a side detail, it was fun to see the ten comments taken "out of context" during the testing competition, and I had to laugh when my comment of "you have to be nice to a parrot, or parrots will kick your ass!" making it on the board (LOL!). I'll explain later what that means, but hey, consider it a teaser for now.

James Bach keynote is covering the "Cool New Things" in the software testing world, and it's been interesting to see the ideas he's discussed, such as the collapse of the Software Testing Factory, the "Death of Quality",  the Politics that have led us to where we are today, and some of the reality that Agile is bringing to the practice of software testing. James make the comment that "Agile seems to be about index cards moving along a wall" meaning that people are focusing on the technique, rather than  the skill that the approach instills, which is disciplined craftsmanship and focus on development. Which brings us to what James thinks is the "next cool thing" and to him, it's "Intersubjectivity Revolution", where more of us are stepping away from making up nonsense metrics, and instead giving true qualitative assessments. James also gave a shout to the new movements taking place in the testing world, and it felt really awesome to see him mention Weekend Testing and showing such praise for it as a truly organic movement and one that goes so totally against the grain of the way things are right now (especially in India, where it started, which James mentioned he thought was absolutely amazing considering India's history and culture related to testing in general. It's the rebels that formed Weekend Testing :) ).  James also focused on test coaching and teaching test coaching, so that those of us who teach testers can get better at teaching testing. James closed his talk with some cool tools and some cool books, including Wittgenstein and the idea that things like tacit and explicit knowledge are important to understand, and the idea that we need to put people into uncomfortable situations for them to really learn. It also could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but hey, small price to pay for knowledge, right :)? During the Q&A, James talked about the testing play book, which is a listing and details that are pertinant to structuring their threads. 

Day 2 is a little interesting for me, in that I'm in less of a "attendee mode" today and more of a "presenter mode". Following James Keynote, I set up and ran WTA3D, which meant that the attendees online participated along with people at the conference. This was be a blending of two models, the Weekend Testing online model and a class about facilitation of Weekend Testing charters and missions for those in attendance. Thus, I was on for a few hours and my blog output was definitely diminished. Also, I want to give a shout out to the panel discussion that I will not be able to attend (can't be in two places at one) having to do with the "How to Reduce the Cose of Software Testing" book. As a contributing author, I have to say that missing this is killing me, but WTA3D is what paid my way to the conference, so I'll be dancing with the one that brung me :).

The session today for WTA3D was very fun and had a great energy both from the attendees online and the attendees in the room with me presenting. We decided to change things up and let the participants see behind the curtain as to how Weekend Testing sessions worked, and the things that we actively do when we are setting up the sessions, designing the mission and charters and actively leading an facilitating the sessions. For our actual testing session, we focused on eBay and performing what are called Testing Vacations (I think Elizabeth Hendrickson gets credit for that phrase). The idea is that we had several small objectives (actually, ten of them) and we decided to have groups take on certain challenges and report on how they achieved them, and to encourage others to comment on their testing approach and method. The session went for three hours and fifteen minutes (longer by 50% than a typical Weekend Testing session) but the participants seemed to enjoy the session. Plus, we expected people would come and go and thus structured it that way.

During lunch, we received the results on the testing challenge, and I'm happy to say that, even though the Miagi-do team wasn't eligible to win a prize, we scored very high on all categories... except one. We took the risk of issuing what's referred to in the racing world as a "Black Flag", and said that we felt the application was not fit for testing, and spelled out the reasons. Apparently, we "ticked off the developer" and that put us out of contention, but it was also interesting to hear the organizers of the competition say "If Miagi-do was an eligible team, the choice for first place would have been really difficult." Frankly, I can't ask for a better outcome (well, OK, it would have been nice to win outright :) ), but I'm happy about how that all went down, and how great it was to work with such a great group of testers, literally spanning the globe... and I'll stand by our team issuing the Black Flag, I think it was the right thing to do :).

Lunchtime also announced the members who were elected to the Board of Directors. I can report now that the new board members are Matthew Heusser, Cem Kaner... and Michael Larsen :). Yep, I got elected to the Board of Directors, which is both thrilling and dreadfully sobering at the same time. I'm excited to see what the coming years has in store, and I'm excited to take on this challenge. after the elections, I discussed with the board that I would be willing to take on the role as Treasurer for the organization. I still have to be officially voted in, but it looks as though that's the direction this is heading :).

After lunch, I participated in  a forum discussion about the Black Box Software Testing classes. I have to say, this is an area that is near and dear to my heart, since the whole point of my blog is backing away from mis-education and making an effort towards re-education (n the good way, not the internment camp way ;) ).We had a vigorous discussion with Selena Delesie, Doug Hoffman, Mimi Mendenhall, and myself talking about the future of the classes, setting expectations, and geting through the dreaded first quiz. It also made me smile to realize that so many people had that same experience, yet had overwhelmingly positive things to say about the course as a whole. That makes me feel confident that there's a great opportunity in these classes and I'm hoping to see them grow and expand.

I was able to be an attendee again for the final track session, and I chose to attend Sajjadul Hakim's "Understanding the Gut Feelings in Testing". I enjoyed hearing Sajjadul discuss the ways that both the conscious and unconscious mind work together. In reality, we all work on gut feelings, but the expert tester has more than gut feeling to work with. We have heuristics, we have ways of analyzing what we see, but often, we stil have that unmistakable "feeling" that makes itself known when they test. the best way to describe this is that they have already conditioned themselves to these ideas, and because they have conditioned themselves, they have a deep reserve of knowledge and experience to draw from. I find myself struggling with this myself, in that I have lots of intuition, but I don't really trust it much of the time. Many times, that intuition does prove to be true, but it's fallible enough to make us doubt our intuition.  But if we continue testing and seeing these things happen over and over again, then we get to trust that intuition more and more.

At the end of the day, Matt and Markus gathered Ajay, Elena and me together and anounced that, based on our performance in the CAST testing challenge, all three of us deserved to receive our black belts in the Miagi-do school of software testing. For the record, I respect both Matt and Markus a lot, and while I get the idea that the belt system in Miagi-do is a little corny and helps us not take ourselves to seriously, it does mean I had the chance to work with testers I admire and respect, and after several hours of intense focus, having them say "yeah, Michael, you get this, you are genuinely and solidly competent as a tester" really means a lot to me. For those curious as to how long it took me to update my blog with the new designation, the official answer is "two minutes"; enough time to whip open my laptop and get to the page to edit :).

Peter Walen and I were able to facilitate the Education Sig meeting and we had a good group come and join us. We discussed some cool ideas that we'd like to see the Education SIG take on, as well as opportunities for the SIGs to get involved in conferences or other events directly and make time so that we can complete initiatives that have been in limbo for some time. Also, we got word that the script and the syllabus for the Test Design class for BBST is finished and that we wil be looking at the class being available some time in late September or early October. Again, I'm excited to see it, and I'm looking forward to being a participant in it.

Tomorrow it will be the 1/2 and full day tutorials. By their nature, I'm guessing the twet stream will be a lot smaller, as most of the people at the conference will have left. I'm for sure attending Anne Marie Charret's tutorial on "Managing Testing Careers". We'll see what else tomorrow brings, but one things for sure, the adventure ends tomorrow at 5:00 PM and then it's time to get back to Sea-Tac and get on a plane to come back home.

That's it for me for today :).
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