Monday, June 13, 2011

From Yeomen To Archers: Weekend Testing Plus?

A couple of months ago, Albert Gareev and I were discussing an idea relative to the way that Weekend Testing is constructed. In part, we have focused most of our efforts on one-off sessions, where the product does not repeat, and the testing goal doesn't repeat. It's self contained, people can come in when they want to, participate when they want to, and then go about their business. For most of the sessions, this is a perfectly logical model and it works well in most situations.

There comes a time, though, when the testing challenges or testing ideas need more time, or need multiple sessions to get a real handle on and have real discussions and practice with. Testing a website for an hour is one thing. Working on and practicing with a testing framework, or going through an extended level of testing RESTful services in a rich data web site, is a very different undertaking. The question we had was, how could we focus on testing that would fulfill both goals. Did it make sense to develop a second set of longer engagement Weekend Testing sessions?

Albert gave me a comparison to consider using Ancient Greece as an example (he knows I'm a total geek for history, so this metaphor worked for me :) ). The greatest body of Greek Hoplite troops, or for that matter English or French troops in the middle ages, were yeoman farmers. Another group that was developed were the Archers. Unlike the group of yeomen, the archers were expected to drill together and perfect their craft, often for years. It was with this comparison that Albert and I considered... what if we likewise were to develop some more open ended, more advanced test training ideas? Perhaps longer projects, related to one application with a greater level of engagement, possibly with the idea of making a squad of testers who worked on computer aided or automated testing, or in addition to finding bugs, worked and focused on fixing bugs where appropriate?

The first biggest challenge, of course, is that this would need to be a group of people that would meet regularly, and for longer than the two hour block normally set up for Weekend Testing. It might require an invite list, or some other self-selecting mechanism where team members would "sign on" for a project and commit to a particular period of time (Weeks?  Months?). The idea would be that there would be a deeper and more involved commitment for a group, and that that group would actively mentor each other even more actively than we do in the current Weekend Testing structure.

So here's the question  (and I welcome any feedback, positive or negative, on this idea)... Is there interest in pursuing such an approach, and if so, what would you as a tester like to see such a group cover?


Phil said...

Interesting idea - I like the idea of going deeper and working for a longer period of time with people. Count me in

Albert Gareev said...

There's even more in that word:

The term yeoman nowadays suggests someone upright, sturdy, honest and trustworthy, qualities attributed to the Yeomen of the Crown; and in the 13th century the Yeomen of the Chamber were described as virtuous, cunning, skillful, courteous, and experts in archery chosen out of every great noble's house in England.

The term is used in contexts such as:

The forester provided 'yeoman service' in finding the lost children in the woods.
The Hubble Telescope has done ‘yeoman service’ or ‘yeoman’s duty’ since it was launched in 1990.
He made a 'yeoman’s effort' to clean the garage.
The security guard did 'yeoman’s work' last night by staying alert and preventing a break-in entry after working very long hours in austere conditions.

The work of testing is 'yeoman’s work', for sure.

Michael Larsen said...

Phil, it would be an honor and a pleasure to have you take up bows with us :).

Albert, thanks for the m ind map and the information about Yeomanry, I think it makes for a grand adventure and I frankly love wild and daring ideas. I'm all for seeing what it will take to make this come to fruition :).