Skip to main content

Cambridge Lean Coffee

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

My favourite context-free test is ...

  • Turn everything up to 11. Put all of the settings on their highest levels and see what happens.
  • Power cycling rapidly and repeatedly.
  • Sympathetic testing. Just getting a view for what the product offers.
  • Simply trying to use the product.
  • Smoke test.
  • Try to do the opposite of what any documentation says.
  • Ask how the users will use it.
  • Ask what the customer wanted.
  • Find someone without prior experience of the product to look at it.

How do you enhance your personal development in a busy environment?

  • We are given time for personal development at work, but I end up dong work stuff instead. 
  • The company empowers us but it's on us to use the time.
  • I don't want the others on my team to feel that I am slacking by taking the personal development time.
  • I might come in to work early to do some personal development but then find myself picking something up from the backlog.
  • I want to learn python but, because I know I can do it, I'll always revert to bash for quick scripts.
  • I did a Masters degree and the structure, and deadlines, particularly exams, helped me to focus on it.
  • Book slots in the diary for it.
  • Make joint commitments with others because you'll keep them more reliably.
  • Our company puts tasks into backlogs for training, so it's explicit.
  • Can you find goals that can be done on every project, rather than needing time set aside?
  • We might like to do a hack day.
  • We had an internal team conference.

A development process with no mention of testing.

  • Our company has produced a process for architecting or rearchitecting software, something all teams must follow.
  • It says things like "talk to X before going too far down the road in such-and-such an area".
  • ... but it has no mention of testing in it. Should it have?
  • If it's about rearchitecting, perhaps there are already tests? 
  • Or you can use the original implementation as a reference.
  • It's on you to explain the value of testing.
  • Any change to the code base can yield bugs.
  • "We're just moving classes around" being safe is a dangerous assumption.
  • Where's do you think there might be problem? For example, is it that there's no mention of testing in the document, or that you think that nothing you'd call testing will happen, or something else?

How do you avoid mini waterfalls in Agile?

  • There is a natural process: work has to be done and won't be ready until the sprint end. Then it's handed over and needs testing!
  • Are sprints a necessity?
  • No. Some teams work in continuous flow.
  • Could you try pairing, to remove or reduce the impact of the handover point?
  • Could you break work down into smaller chunks?
  • Could you have predetermined acceptance criteria? (And non-acceptance criteria?)
  • Could the stories be closed earlier (e.g. are the developers hanging on to them after finishing?)
  • Could there be too much work in progress, so stories progress slowly?
  • Can you sit with the developers? Proximity breaks down barriers.

What is a good job interview?

  • From whose perspective?
  • Do you ask interviewees to do a task, write tests, talk through their CV?
  • How do you react to tasks as an interviewee?
  • I've rejected roles because of how the company has come across to me.
  • I've accepted roles because the task was interesting and enjoyable.
  • Interviewee: show their best in whatever respects are important to them and for the role.
  • Interviewer: facilitated in a way that let the interviewee show their best in areas that are important to the company, got some sense of the interviewee as a person, and saw how they can think.
  • I think of interviews as auditions.


  1. How do you avoid mini waterfalls in Agile?

    I had this in a previous role, where we were working with a remote team and where we did not get our hands on the deliverable until after their sprint had finished. We ended up setting our "Agile calendar" one sprint behind the dev team. In exchange, they built time into their estimates for their next sprint for picking up bugs we found in their previous one. We would have a conference call every Tuesday morning to triage the identified bugs for the week. It ended up working well (sort of).

    The odd thing was that we were only 100 miles apart - us in Leicester, the devs in That London. (UK) On the next project I worked on, the devs were located offshore, in Moldova; but we were much more collaborative, we used video conferencing to participate in the daily stand-ups, IMs for conversations, and we ended up with a far better relationship with the dev team than in the first project and working in a more Agile way.

    What is a good job interview?

    I had a job interview with - let's call them Company A - where at the second stage, I was talking to the CEO/company owner. I'd been made redundant from my previous role because the company's distant venture capitalist owners had decided that in-house dev and testing was "an unaffordable luxury", and they'd gone out and bought the company that produced the main competitor product to Company A's to replace the in-house provision. I talked about this to Company A's CEO at the interview.

    Feedback to the recruitment agency was that I'd out-performed the only other candidate who'd made it to that stage, but they were still thinking about what I'd told them. It took them a week to decide that I "wasn't a team player". This mystified me, because I'd talked a lot about team roles and team working as it was really how I'd worked for the previous twenty years.

    In the end (and it took me a few months to realise this), I reasoned that there had just been a complete mismatch of ideas. I'd dissed the owners of my previous employer because they were distant and we were just an entry on a balance sheet and they showed me no loyalty, so I owed them none; but the Company A CEO had taken that personally because he was the owner and most likely thought that I had a dim view of all company owners. He never said that in the interview, so all I can assume is that we had a complete mismatch of views.

    Stuff like this just happens. There's not a lot you can do about it. Sometimes, in an interview, you just have to chalk it up to experience, attach no blame and move on to the next one.

    1. Thanks! In the mini waterfall case, can you say what made the Moldovan developers more collaborative? Was it them, one of them, you, your team, different technology, something else?


Post a Comment

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