Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have I Found What I'm Looking For?

As those who follow my blog might notice, I tent to mangle pop culture references to make my titles or make other post points when I write here. Today is no exception.

As many of you may be aware, I started a new job on Monday, November 19, 2012. You might also notice that this blog has been quiet since Tuesday, November 20, 2012. That is not a coincidence! Much of my time the past two weeks, with the exception of Thanksgiving weekend and some much needed time with my family, I've been dealing with a single minded focus; coming to grips with the paradigm shift I've undertaken.

For years, I was the lone gun. I was the guy who either had the answers, or needed to get the answers. I was mostly responsible to myself, and mostly took care of things on my own. Today, I'm the polar opposite of that world view. I'm part of a testing team with some rather talented people, and we communicate about our findings... a lot. Socialtext uses a tool called Colloquy, which is, effectively, an IRC client. There's two main chats that go on all day, every day. One's for dev, the other is for testing. When I say these conversations go on all day, that's exactly what I mean. We all contribute, we all share what we see, we all keep each other updated as to what we see and what we find, and those chats inform where we go next, what we do next, and what the developers see next. So I'm on that window and I'm typing a fair amount each day... and I came to a realization as I was doing it.

There's somewhere else that I do this. Once a month, for a couple of hours, I and a number of other testers get together, via a chat mechanism, and we talk testing. We pick an app, we explore it, we find issues, we talk about them, we decide where to go next based on what we learn, and we discuss what we learn. If what I'm describing sounds a lot like Weekend Testing, that's because it is what I'm describing. A couple of years ago I lamented "oh, wouldn't it be really cool if an organization actually used the Weekend Testing model? Think of what we could all learn! Think of what we could share! Think of how much wasted time could be avoided because we are actually communicating!"

For the past few years, I've dreamed of seeing something like this exist. I've hoped, but had my dreams either dashed by indifference, or the feeling that there's no time to do such a thing. I often wondered, though, what would a company look like that actually did this? Now I know. It looks like Socialtext. It looks like that because they actually leverage what they learn and they use it together. If something is going off the rails, we all know pretty quickly. If something looks promising, we're encouraged to explore it. Explore and share what we find. Feedback is almost immediate, and it's refreshing, exhilarating, infuriating, exhausting, maddening, and enlightening, all at the same time. It's the chance to live the Weekend Testing model and ethos full time. The funny thing is, though, it's left me with little energy to do many other things, at least for the near term.

So, for those wondering why I've been so quiet as of late, there's the reason. Also, be careful what you wish for... you just might get it :).


Jokin Aspiazu said...

Hey, this rings a bell for me. I would love a example of this chat. Is it something like

- I'm testing feature 123
- I'm trying long chars
- I'm trying to save with all blank fields
- Ups found a error 500

... definitively I need to enroll on weekend testing to figure out ;)

Michael Larsen said...

Jokin... yeah, that's pretty similar to a few chats we've had (LOL!). It sounds trivial, but it really is a powerful tool to keep you and your team on track and focused on what each other is doing, and it's a really good way to pair test, too. It's the model of Weekend Testing, or at least is what we have frequently done. It's funny to work in an environment that does the same thing... and as far as I know, none of my other co-workers have ever participated in Weekend Testing sessions.

Phil Kirkham said...

I think most of your readers knew why you'd gone quiet, pretty understandable.

Good to read that it's working out well but is there any confirmation bias going on ?

Do the all day chats distract from the testing - using the Weekend Testing experiences, I ( and others ) were often distracted by all the dancing pencils that indicated someone was saying something.

Hoping that as you get more settled in you get more chance to blog about your experiences

Unknown said...

Nice one. I'm sure there are restrictions in freedom as well not being the "lone Cowboy (in a good way)" anymore.?
Along the lines of Phil's question, do you have PMs that know that not all team members work on the project x% of their time?

I like that approach but as we know it needs some structure as well - who's providing that? Are people taking turns, is it organised within the team or is a test manager doing that?
I'm interested in the mechanism to see how it "may" work for us.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Great post! This is really interesting. I have been in a similar situation too being the only tester for the majority of my career as a tester.

I currently use GTalk to chat with developers about bugs n test ideas, etc. Nothing in great detail though, and it's only as and when required as I much prefer to chat face to face with them about defects etc.

I've never taken part in any weekend testing events, but they sound interesting.
If the testing chat is anything like Jokin's example, then it sounds very similar to the types of notes that you take when performing session based testing.
Sounds like a great way of learning!

It could be difficult if there were alot of people in on the chat though. If you had 30 testers, all testing and chatting their test ideas at the same time, then I'd imagine that it could be a bit busy! :)

Michael Larsen said...

@Phil, you may be right, it's a new world and I'm excited to be part of it. Good thins is that there aren't any scribbling pencils a la Skype, so i find I don't wait to see who writes what. I just note a plink when my name comes up, and I look then :).

As Jokin said, I find it helps to kind of keep notes about things, and go back and scan and see what we found and what would be worth additional scrutiny. Perfect solution? Of course not, there's no such thing, but it's a lot better than what I was doing immediately before. Time will tell if I stay enthusiastic :).

Michael Larsen said...

@Thomas, the chat details are mansged, at least on the QA side, by our Quality Director, and he's a stickler for making sure no one wastes the testers time. the fact that we have multi-national located people makes this approach somewhat necessary.

Overall, I think it's a cool approach, and it works well with pair testing... as I said, it feels a lot like doing a Weekend Testing session, so it's a natural fit for me right now (of course, as Phil said, because it reminds me of WT, maybe that's why I'm just seeing what I like ab out it ;) ).

Michael Larsen said...

@Dan, we have about 20 people that take part in the dev chat, but only about 5 of us in the QA chat. that makes it a lot more manageable, and then we step into the dev chats when needed. Again, I've only been here two weeks, check back with me in a months and I'll let you know if I still fee the same way ;).