LEWT and Test Puzzles

I’ve just arrived home after a whirlwind trip to London for LEWT (James Lyndsay’s London Exploratory Workshop on Testing). Great fun discussing testing with a fabulous set of people! And since I was only in London for 48 hours my body didn’t have a chance to adjust to the time difference. Result: no jetlag when I got home. Yeah!

Anyway…about LEWT. The topic of LEWT was diagnosis. Our discussions included such questions as “How do we do it?” and “Should testers even be doing it, or is it a developer responsibility?”

In the context of testing, I interpret the verb “to diagnose” to mean “characterizing the conditions that lead to a failure.” So I most certainly believe that testers should diagnose. So should developers. Everyone on a software team should have a hand in understanding bugs well enough to fix them and prevent them in the future. But I think the “should we?” questions arose because the word has connotations from a medical context related to identifying diseases and prescribing cures. And I don’t think testers typically ought to be prescribing cures, or pinpointing the line of code that needs fixing, unless those testers are also developers on the team, responsible for writing production code.

However, I digress.

What I REALLY wanted to share from LEWT are James Lyndsay’s marvelous black box testing machines.

For years, James Lyndsay has used little Flash programs in his Exploratory Testing courses. Most of his machines have colorful buttons that you click, and your task is to understand how your actions are related to the machine’s responses. Sometimes the connection is straightforward. In other cases the relationship between the input you give the machine and what it does is downright puzzling. That’s why James refers to his machines as “crosswords for testers.”

Given that it’s the week right before the holidays, and you probably aren’t going to get much done at work anyway, why not hone your testing and diagnosis skills on James’ machines?

Think Globally, Act Locally

In the global category: It looks like my vision of experiential virtual training will become a reality: I’ve taken the next step and signed up for a WebEx subscription. (No, they aren’t paying me to say that. I don’t do blogvertising – except for promoting my own services, of course. WebEx just did the best job of meeting all my requirements.)

Many, many thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. Your encouragement, along with some private emails, made all the difference in my decision process.

By the way, I really do mean “experiential” and not “experimental” when I talk about my virtual training. Experiential training involves distilling lessons learned through experiences rather than being told what to learn by an instructor. The experiential nature of my classes is what makes it such a challenge to translate them to an online venue. But experiential training is generally more powerful and engaging than lecture-based instruction. So it’s worth the effort.

I’m really excited about this. If I can make it work, it means that I can make my style of training available on a global scale, all from my local office.

Anyway…next steps: I’ll be working toward a formal announcement in the coming weeks. Look for news about an online version of my Exploratory Testing class after the New Year.

In the local category: All my recent travel has been fun. I’ve met fantastic people all over the world. But a message from a colleague asking about local exploratory testers made me realize that I’ve lost touch with my local testing community. It’s been months since I hung out with testers here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’d like to rectify that.

Now I realize that in the SF Bay Area, there are at least two groups that meet once a month: SSQA and BAQA (can’t seem to find a website for them…). I’ve participated in both groups. Great people, good times. If you’re in the SF Bay Area and you don’t know about these groups, consider dropping by to say “howdy.” (And if anyone has a pointer for BAQA, that would be great…)

So. I could reconnect by going to those meetings when I’m in town. But each of those groups is more about Quality than Testing, and there is a difference.

What I’d really like is to connect with those who are more interested in testing topics than capital-Q-Quality. Yes, the two are related. But when I say “testing topics,” I mean: Agile Testing, the evolving role of the tester-developer/developer-tester, Exploratory Testing, and test automation with open source tools.

So…if there’s already an active group meeting regularly in the SF Bay Area where folks focus on such topics, and not on capital-Q-Quality or process stuff, please let me know.

Otherwise, if you’re interesting in talking testing, you’re in the SF Bay Area, and you’d be interested in connecting with other people who are as Test Obsessed as you are in the local area, drop me a note in the comments or send me an email. If there’s enough interest, I’ll work on pulling together a local meeting of some kind, probably in early January shortly after the holidays and before I begin my next insane round of traveling.

Maybe an Example Would be Handy

I confess surprise. Not one person has dropped me an email or a comment to say, “Hey! Online experiential training would be cool! Yes, you should offer it!”

Speaking as a business person, the resounding silence suggests that I should probably be saying to myself, “Gosh. Not a lot of demand. I’ll move onto my next project.”

But I’m stubborn. I find it difficult to believe that no one is interested in this. There’s plenty of demand for my in-person training. And there’s demand for teleconferencing solutions. So I just have to believe that there are people out there who really wish it would be possible to get a deep and rich experiential training experience online.

So instead of giving up, I’ve been thinking to myself, “Perhaps I have not explained what I mean well enough to capture people’s attention.” Brian Marick’s catchy slogan “An example would be handy right about now” is running through my mind. So let me try again.

Imagine you are in my (as yet unavailable) online Exploratory Testing class.

You look at the right side of the screen, and see the smiling faces of me and your fellow classmates. In the first session you got to know them a little. You recall that Bart is mischievous, Marisa is good at spotting little details that others miss, and that Dana is new to testing.

In this session we’re talking about how to look for “test opportunities” while learning the software – things we want to try changing such as input values, operating conditions, user actions, timing, etc. We’re using a web-based application as an example, and that you’ve already had the opportunity to explore as part of your pre-work for the class. You have access to supporting material and have skimmed it. You haven’t taken the time to read it in detail yet, but that’s OK.

I launch a shared browser running from my machine. I talk about looking for input opportunities and show an input on a form and inputting into the URL. Then each participant takes a turn driving the browser and showing other types of inputs. Bart shows how a malicious user could insert JavaScript into a field. We then talk about – and show examples – of timing-related test opportunities. And we talk about varying user actions. Marisa shows how hitting the back button reposts the last data sent to the server. Dana shows how opening a link in a new tab causes the site to lose the frame. You still have access to the test application, so you try out a couple ideas on the side, then report your findings back to the group. You drive the shared browser to show a bug you found.

Toward the end, we talk about the clues that led each of us to recognize the particular test opportunity we chose and distill a list that we title “How to Recognize Test Opportunities.”

By the end of the 2 hour session, you have several pages of notes of things you want to try in the software that you test, and several questions to ask the developers about how the features work. The session material was immediately relevant to what you’re working on right now, and you didn’t have to take three days away from the office to get it.

NOW is anyone interested?

And if not, I’m really curious why not.