Skip to main content

Cambridge Lean Coffee


This month's Lean Coffee was hosted by DisplayLink. Here's some brief, aggregated comments and questions  on topics covered by the group I was in.

How to spread knowledge between testers in different teams, and how often should people rotate between teams?

  • How to know what is the right length of time for someone to spend in a team?
  • When is someone ready to move on?
  • How do you trade off e.g. good team spirit against overspecialisation?
  • When should you push someone out of their comfort zone, show them how much they don't know?
  • Fortnightly test team meetings playing videos of conference talks.
  • Secondment to other teams.
  • Lean Coffee for the test team.
  • Daily team standup, pairing, weekly presentations, ad hoc sharing sessions after standup.
  • Is there a desire to share?
  • Yes. Well, they all want to know more about what the others do.
  • People don't want to be doing the same thing all the time.
  • Could you rotate the work in the team rather than rotate people out of the team?
  • It might be harder to do in scenarios where each team is very different, e.g. in terms of technologies being tested.
  • There are side-effects on the team too.
  • There can't be a particular standard period of time after which a switch is made - the team, person, project etc must be taken into account too.
  • Can you rotate junior testers around teams to gain breadth of experience?

What piece of testing wisdom would you give to a new tester?

  • Be aware of communities of practice. Lots of people have been doing this for years.
  • ... for over 50 years, in fact, and a lot of what the early testers were doing is still relevant today.
  • There is value in not knowing - because you can ask questions no-one else is asking.
  • Always trust your instinct and gut when you're trying to explore a new feature or an area.
  • Learn to deal with complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. You need to be able to operate in spite of them.
  • Learn about people. You will be working with them.
  • ... and don't forget that you are a person too.
  • Use the knowledge of the experienced testers around you. Ask questions. Ask again.
  • Make a list of what could be tested, and how much each item matters to relevant stakeholders.
  • Pick skills and practice them.

Where you look from changes what you see.

  • I was testing a server (using an unfamiliar technology) from a client machine and got a result I wasn't sure was reasonable.
  • ... after a while I switched to another client and got a different result.
  • Would a deeper technical understanding have helped?
  • Probably. In analogous cases where I have expertise I can more easily think about what factors are likely to be important and what kinds of scenarios I might consider.
  • Try to question everything that you see: am I sure? How could I disprove this?
  • Ask what assumptions are being made.
  • What you look at changes what you see: we had an issue which wasn't repeatable with what looked like a relevant export from the database, only with the whole database.
  • Part of the skill of testing is finding comparison points.
  • Can you take an expert's perspective, e.g. by co-opting an expert.

Using mindmaps well for large groups of test cases.

  • With such a large mindmap I can't see the whole thing at once.
  • Do you want to see the whole thing at once?
  • I want to organised mindmaps so that I can expand sub-trees independently because they aren't overly related.
  • Is wanting to see everything a smell? Perhaps that the structure isn't right?
  • Perhaps it's revealing an unwarranted degree of complexity in the product.
  • Or in your thinking.
  • A mindmap is your mindmap. It should exist to support you.
  • What are you trying to visualise?
  • Could you make it bigger?
  • Who is the audience?
  • I don't like to use a mindmap to keep track of project progress (e.g. with status).
  • I like a mindmap to get thoughts down
  • I use a mindmap to keep track of software dependencies.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Ideal Test Plan

A colleague pinged me the other day, asking about an "ideal test plan" and wondering whether I could suggest something. Not without a bit more information, I said. OK, they said. Who needs the plan, for what purpose? I asked. Their response: it's for internal use, to improve documentation, and provide a standard structure. We work in a medical context and have strict compliance requirements, so I wondered aloud whether the plan is needed for audit, or to show to customers? It's not, they replied, it's just for the team. Smiling now, I stopped asking questions and delivered the good news that I had what they were looking for. Yes? they asked, in anticipation. Naturally I paused for dramatic effect and to enhance the appearance of deep wisdom, before saying: the ideal plan is one that works for you. Which is great and all that, but not heavy on practical advice. --00-- I am currently running a project at the Association for Software Testing and there is a plan for

Notes on Testing Notes

Ben Dowen pinged me and others on Twitter last week , asking for "a nice concise resource to link to for a blog post - about taking good Testing notes." I didn't have one so I thought I'd write a few words on how I'm doing it at the moment for my work at Ada Health, alongside Ben. You may have read previously that I use a script to upload Markdown-based text files to Confluence . Here's the template that I start from: # Date + Title # Mission # Summary WIP! # Notes Then I fill out what I plan to do. The Mission can be as high or low level as I want it to be. Sometimes, if deeper context might be valuable I'll add a Background subsection to it. I don't fill in the Summary section until the end. It's a high-level overview of what I did, what I found, risks identified, value provided, and so on. Between the Mission and Summary I hope that a reader can see what I initially intended and what actually

69.3%, OK?

The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book, Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide responses to common questions and statements about testing from a context-driven perspective . It's being edited by Lee Hawkins who is posing questions on Twitter ,  LinkedIn ,  Slack , and the AST mailing list and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to contribute by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "What percentage of our test cases are automated?" There's a lot wrapped up in that question, particularly when it's a metric for monitoring the state of testing. It's not the first time I've been asked either. In my

Why Do They Test Software?

My friend Rachel Kibler asked me the other day "do you have a blog post about why we test software?" and I was surprised to find that, despite having touched on the topic many times, I haven't. So then I thought I'd write one. And then I thought it might be fun to crowdsource so I asked in the Association for Software Testing member's Slack, on LinkedIn , and on Twitter for reasons, one sentence each. And it was fun!  Here are the varied answers, a couple lightly edited, with thanks to everyone who contributed. Edit: I did a bit of analysis of the responses in Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 2 . --00-- Software is complicated, and the people that use it are even worse. — Andy Hird Because there is what software does, what people say it does, and what other people want it to do, and those are often not the same. — Andy Hird Because someone asked/told us to — Lee Hawkins To learn, and identify risks — Louise Perold sometimes: reducing the risk of harming people —

Testing is Knowledge Work

  The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book, Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide responses to common questions and statements about testing from a context-driven perspective . It's being edited by Lee Hawkins who is posing questions on Twitter ,  LinkedIn ,  Slack , and the AST mailing list and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to contribute by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "We need some productivity metrics from testers" OK. I'd like to help you meet your need if I can but to do that I'll need to ask a few questions. Let's start with these: Who needs the metrics? Is there a particular pr

My Favourite Tool

Last week I did a presentation to a software testing course at EC Utbildning in Sweden titled Exploring with Automation where I demoed ways in which I use software tools to help me to test. Following up later, one of the students asked whether I had a favourite tool. A favourite tool? Wow, so simple but sooo deep!  Asking for a favourite tool could make a great interview question, to understand the breadth and depth of a candidate's knowledge about tools, how they think about an apparently basic request with deep complexity beneath (favourite for what task, on what basis, in what contexts, over what timescale?  what is a tool anyway?) and how they formulate a response to take all of that into account. I could truthfully but unhelpfully answer this question with a curt Yes or No. Or I could try and give something more nuanced. I went for the latter. At an extremely meta level I would echo Jerry Weinberg in Perfect Software : The number one te

Trying to be CEWT

I attend, enjoy, hopefully contribute to, and get a lot from, the local tester meetups and Lean Coffee  in Cambridge. But I'd had the thought kicking around for a long time that I'd like to try a peer workshop inspired by MEWT , DEWT , LEWT and the like. I finally asked a few others, including the local meetup organisers, and got mostly positive noises, so I decided to give it a go. I wrote a short statement to frame the idea, based on LEWT's: CEWT ( Cambirdge Exploratory Workshop on Testing ) is an exploratory peer workshop. We take the view that discussions are more interesting than lectures. We enjoy diverse ideas, and limit some activities in order to work with more ideas. and proposed a mission for an initial attempt to validate it locally on a small scale. Other local testers helped to refine the details in usual the testing ways - you know: criticism, questions, thought experiments, challenges, comparisons, mockery and the rest - and a list of potential at

Fail Here or Fail There

The First Law of Systems-Survival, according to John Gall, is this: A SYSTEM THAT IGNORES FEEDBACK HAS ALREADY BEGUN THE PROCESS OF TERMINAL INSTABILITY Laws are all-caps in Systemantics . Not just laws, but also theorems, axioms, and corollaries. There are many of them so here's another (location 2393-2394): JUST CALLING IT “FEEDBACK” DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT HAS ACTUALLY FED BACK There was a point when I realised, as the capitalised aphorisms rolled by, that I was sinking into the warm and sweetly-scented comforting foamy bathwater of confirmatory bias. Seen, seen, seen! Tick, tick, tick! I took the opportunity to let myself know that I'd been caught in the act, and that I needed to get out of the tub and start to challenge the content.  Intervening at that moment was congruent: I was in a context where I would accept it and prepared to change because of it. Of course, I enjoyed the deep irony of nodding along with Gall when he talked about

Testing and Words

  The other day I got tagged on a Twitter thread started by Wicked Witch of the Test about people with a background in linguistics who’ve ended up in testing. That prompted me to think about the language concepts I've found valuable in my day job, then I started listing them, and then realised how many of them I've mentioned here over the years .   This post is one of an occasional series collecting some of those thoughts.  --00-- In The Complete Plain Words , Ernest Gowers notes, acidly, that: What appears to be a sloppy or meaningless use of words may well be a completely correct use of words to express sloppy or meaningless ideas. It surely sounds trite to say it but our choice of words can make a significant difference to how well our message is understood, and how we are judged. We choose from amongst those words we know, our lexicons . The more my lexicon agrees with yours, the greater our chance of us achieving a shared understanding when we converse. But lexic

Use the Force Multiplier

On Fridays I pair with doctors from Ada 's medical quality team. It's a fun and productive collaboration where I gain deeper insight into the way that diagnostic information is encoded in our product and they get to see a testing perspective unhindered by domain knowledge. We meet at the same time each week and decide late on our focus, choosing something that one of us is working on that's in a state where it can be shared. This week we picked up a task that I'd been hoping to get to for a while: exploring an API which takes a list of symptoms and returns a list of potential medical conditions that are consistent with those symptoms.  I was interested to know whether I could find small input differences that led to large output differences. Without domain knowledge, though, I wasn't really sure what "small" and "large" might mean. I prepared an input payload and wrote a simple shell script which did the following: make a