Our current Testability trajectory

I absolutely love Testability as a topic and to my delight, Ash Winter wrote a great post recently where he posed a series of questions – Naturally, I jumped all over these to see how my team measures up against these questions. In fact, I was a little too quick to react and came up with a score that wasn’t actually on the page (Blame the typo on Ash, not my poor reading skills).

I wanted to write this post to try and explain where I feel my team is at right now and give my answers to the questions. Some people may feel that I haven’t really answered the question correctly but I can only answer them based on my current team and in our current context.


1 – If you ask the team to change their codebase do they react positively?

For me, that all depends on what the change is you’re being asked to make and who is requesting the change. No one in the team is massively nervous about making changes to the codebase but the change has to be something that we, as a team, all agree on and believe it to be the right thing to push us forward. With any change, big or small, we will always plan it out together as a full team and walk through the changes to assess any risk that this may introduce, based on the current information and our understanding of our services. If there are gaps in the information during the walk through, we will spike ahead and try to uncover the answers to the known unknowns.

2 – Does each member of the team have access to the system source control?

I believe this is a fundamental part of being a member of a development team. In our team, as it stands today, only the Product Owner doesn’t currently have access. That’s not to say that he doesn’t because he’s not allowed, he just feels that he doesn’t really need it. Everyone apart from him has checked in “something” to source control over the last 18 months. This could be production code, a utility script or a testing tool, a JSON template for one of our monitoring Grafana dashboards etc.   

3 – Does the team know which parts of the codebase are subject to the most change?

Every member of the team has been on the project from Day 1, the collaboration and communication are something that I feel we excel in. Everyone is capable of working on any aspect of the project, we identified certain silos forming early on and made changes to spread the knowledge amongst the whole team so we don’t have a single point of failure. People will always be stronger in some areas but we all have a collective understanding of the changes being made at all times. We do a 3 Amigos on every story before starting the work and as we are quite a small team this generally involves every team member so everyone knows what changes are being made to what area.

4 – Does the team collaborate regularly with teams that maintain their dependencies?

Our API was released as a pilot a few months ago to a selected amount of customers who are giving us valuable feedback, as the project matures the data available to them is becoming a lot richer, which is of benefit to the end user, we are always constantly aware that our changes are not breaking ones as the API is being used to create custom integrations. Over the last few weeks, we have picked up some internal consumers that are creating an integration based on the data we provide. This has been very collaborative and it’s awesome from a testing perspective as we get super quick feedback and can react to this and make changes where necessary.    

5 – Does the team have regular contact with the users of the system?

Before the internal consumers started their integration we were only dealing with 1 or 2 main external contacts who were providing us with feedback. For me, this could have been better or more structured. The customer was based in the States so there were time zone issues to address and the general information passed back to us was hard to decipher and not clearly presented so it just ended up being a bit too much back and forth. It’s a lot better now but it could always be improved. At the end of the day, we’re creating software for our customers/end users so they should be involved as much as possible.

6 – Can you set your system into a given state to repeat a test?

This is one that I’m extremely happy with, as a tester, having the ability to control the system and put it into any state you want and at any point, is a priority. We have built Testability in from the start, there are hooks in place to stop a specific service, we can easily spin up or tear down services to get to a set point. We have also created a suite of tools to allow us to achieve many things, one favourite of mine is a tool that grabs all the events from any live interaction and replays these in a local environment as if they were happening in real time. This can be done in seconds and helps with debugging issues to get to a solution quicker.

7 – Is each member of the team able to create a disposable test environment?

We use a Vagrant development environment which is just awesome, the instructions are clear and well laid out which allows anyone in the business to bring up their own environment within a few minutes. There are a few requirements for certain applications and languages to be installed but a script has been created to pull down all of these items, this is also attached to the set of instructions. Each service has a set of rake tasks, so building the C# .Net services or the Node.js API and starting them up is just a single line in a terminal. Our team has created an events Simulator that will mimic a live Contact Centre (The core service of NewVoiceMedia) and feed these events into the locally running services. At this point the endpoints are available and requests can be made to get the data. I’ve not timed the installation but it’s pretty bloody quick to go from nothing to seeing a response from the API.

8 – Is each member of the team able to run automated unit tests?

Of course! This goes hand in hand with being able to access the source control and spinning up your own local development environment. I would have serious concerns if this wasn’t the case.

9 – Can the team test both the synchronous and asynchronous parts of their system?

This is very closely related to question 6 in my opinion, knowing what control you have over the system in order to put it into a specific state. More important than being able to test these parts, you first of all need to know where and when they occur in your system.

10 – Does each member of the team have a method of consuming the application logs from Production?

We mainly use Papertrail (we also have other tools available) to aggregate the logs (All Staging, Pre-Prod and Production environments) I have set up groups within the tool to make it easier to see what is happening on all our boxes in one central place. I’m all for consistency and the group names are the same in each environment, apart from the environment identifier. Papertrail is great at what it does but I find the UI not amazing to look at so I use a Chrome extension called Stylish to present it in a way that works for me. It just manipulates the CSS to present the page in a way that you want, I tend to use colour to show specific pieces of information.

Sylish_Logs
The same log output but the top image has “Stylish” enabled

11 – Does the team know what value the 95th percentile of response times is for their system?

We have gone a bit mental in this area, the team loves monitoring and performance based metrics. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort so that we are answering questions about the impact of increased load and stress on the services, with data rather than a best guess finger in the air measurement. Not only do we cover performance but we have also exposed the state of the resources (CPU, memory and disk space, etc.) on each box. We have multiple different Grafana boards giving us constant real time feedback. 

Dashboards
One of our many Grafana Dashboards

12 – Does the team curate a living knowledge base about the system it maintains?

At NVM we use Confluence from Atlassian, each team has its own space as well as the wider department spaces. Our team has built up a wealth of information about all aspects of the project. We did this from the start to document our journey but this has grown and improved as the platform has matured. It’s full of useful information about our architecture, environments, how-to guides, team culture, deployment and release information etc. We periodically curate the content to ensure that it’s still relevant and the space is just not full of dead/redundant information.


Hope my answers provide some information about how we function as a team and gives you an insight into things that we feel are important. For things that I would add, currently, we also deploy our services to multiple regions around the world so having a team based understanding of how that all pins together is very valuable. We are still learning and growing as a team, we started out on this project with the intention of having Testability baked in from Day 1 – I personally think we’re doing pretty well but we haven’t stopped yet so maybe I will have an updated list of answers in a few months.

Any questions you would like me to answer based on my responses, please leave a comment below! Cheers for reading!

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That…

ANGTFT

Sometimes you do certain tasks that become normal and you kind of go into autopilot, blindly repeating the same thing over and over again. It normally takes someone else or something else to spark something in your mind and give you an idea that there is always a simpler solution.

My spark came in the form of Alan Richardson, I’ve been a huge fan of his work for a while and I love the content that he creates and the weekly YouTube videos! A couple of weeks ago he released a short video about creating a bookmarklet to change some static text URL links on a web page, into actual clickable links, that open up a specific web page, a Twitter profile in this case. I thought that was really cool and looked like something that I could have a go at myself. All of the JavaScript code for doing this was written within the Chrome DevTools console – Perfect, I’m familiar with these already!

Recently, I’ve been using a strategy when testing, that involves creating “Test Queues” within RabbitMQ (The message broker that we use for our microservices) that siphon all the messages from the queues that our microservices are consuming – The Test Queues hold/store them, so that I can investigate deeper into the message data. Unlike the actual queues, these do not have consumers so the messages will stay there until I choose to delete them, adding an extra layer of control. I could just manually stop the service and grab the messages from the service queues but I like to give myself a separate option.

Screenshot from 2017-06-03 11-13-34
RabbitMQ – Publisher > Exchange > Queues > Consumers…

For context – My Test Queues would live alongside the red ones in the image above but will not have consumers, the arrows to the right of the red queues…hopefully, that makes sense. 🙂

My boring repetitive problem…

RabbitMQ is an awesome message broker and like it says on the site “Messaging that just works” what they haven’t concentrated on is the usability of their UI management console, why should they, that’s not their main focus – they currently just have something that’s good for now. As much as having these queues is really useful, clearing them out or purging them is a tedious task, it’s made worse by the fact that I follow the same process several times a day…

Click on the queue name > scroll to the bottom of the page > Click on the “Purge” button > scroll back to the top of the page > Select the Queue tab to get back to the main view…repeat…yawn!

I’m a fan of getting a local instance of the technologies that we use within our feature team and exploring lots of different aspects so I feel more comfortable and more informed about the tools I’m working within. I knew the RabbitMQ has a HTTP Restful API with a limited amount of features, I can use some of these to my advantage!!

RabbitMQ has been around for about 10 years now so I had a hunch that someone has probably had the same problem as me and wanted to use the API to purge the messages within a queue…I headed over to Google…

Basically, the first result that came back was about 90% of the solution that I required…Bingo! I found this from 5 years ago – Like I said, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted so I needed to adapt the code to suit my requirement.

I grabbed the code and pasted it into a new Snippet within the “Sources” tab on the Dev Tools, I love this feature, it’s like a little playground for practising and running basic JavaScript. The code in the gist deletes the messages from every single queue which was the main part that I needed to change, I tend to apply a simple naming convention to my queues and prefix them all with “TestQueue_” – This is just so that they are all grouped together within the management console.

TestQueues_RabbitMQ
My Test Queues with lots of lovely messages…

I only needed to refactor the code slightly and add an IF statement that checks to see if the queue name starts with the “TestQueue_” name if so, purge the queue. All the other queues are unaffected. Job Done!

RabbitManagementConsole
Slightly refactored code with an IF Statement…

During the testing of the code, I added some logging just to sanity check that I was getting the correct queues that I wanted and discarding all the other ones. All the “null” entries below are queues that do not start with “TestQueue_” so are ignored.

Getting_Queue_Names
Iterating over all the queues to get the ones I want…

Once the Snippet was run, I could see that the correct requests are being made…Yay! The messages were deleted from only the queues I wanted.

Console_Output
Console Output showing the DELETE requests…

I have created a gist of the code that I used to Purge the Queues – https://gist.github.com/DannyDainton/2bae06e3ca898440cdc0452a727ee7bf

I could have just settled for that solution and ran this script from the Dev Tools each time but I wanted it to be even easier for me (I’m very lazy) so that’s where Alan’s bookmarklet app comes in handy, you can take any piece of JavaScript code that you have coded to do something on a page and it will create an encoded link that you can add to your browser bookmarks.

Bookmarklet App
Creating a new bookmarklet with my JavaScript code…

So I now have a link on my browser that saves me the pain of going through the tedious repetitive task to purge each queue. It’s the simple things in life that make me happy.

Alan wrote a post to accompany his video that references lots of links about how others have used bookmarklets. One of those is this excellent blog post by Abby Bangser, which I read a while ago before I saw the YouTube video. She explains how she utilizes the bookmarklets to quickly fill in form data – It’s really interesting and I would recommend trying to give it a go yourself.

Hopefully, that has been interesting enough to spark something in your own mind and attempt to give this a go – I would love to hear from anyone who has created a bookmarklet to solve a problem.

Cheers!

30 Second APIs…

In the UK we have a chef called Jamie Oliver and over the years he has created lots of TV episodes and also a book on how to make a complete family meal in 30 Minutes – The premise of this, is that time doesn’t have to be an excuse not to make healthy food for the family.

30_Min_Meals

Now, if you’ve ever seen these episodes or tried to follow this, it takes a lot longer than 30 minutes!! It’s more about a “mindset”, which is a lie, it’s about having everything prepped and ready to go so all you’re doing is cooking the food and not chopping things up and getting the pots and pans ready.

So what does this have to do with APIs?!

In my current context, making requests to a RESTful API and analysing the response data is something I’m perfectly comfortable with doing but that’s only because I’ve been working within that space for a couple of years now. I truly take for granted many of the skills that I’ve learnt over the last couple of years and I forget, that you need to start somewhere, in order to build up your knowledge of a certain area.

There are loads of public APIs out there that you can use but these can be tricky to set up. In my experience, most of the documentation that comes with these is confusing and sometimes it’s lacking vital information. Another way forward is to create your own basic API but this can be a daunting task coding it yourself, although a very rewarding once you get it working!

What if there was an even easier way that would allow you to have control over the requests that you make and the data that you want to see in the response?!

I’ve found this node module called json-server that is very handy and super quick to get you started. It’s only a couple of commands from a terminal and you are up and running and making requests within seconds….seriously!

The 30 second API mindset…

So following Jamie’s lead, before starting we need to do our Mise en place…We require a couple of things in place before we get cooking.

Prep Work:

  • Download and Install Node.js
  • Download and Install Postman
  • Create a new Folder on your machine
  • Open a Terminal in the new directory

Your starting point should look something like this – depending on your terminal/Postman colour preferences…
Starting_Point

First of all, we need to globally install the json-server module. In the open terminal, type the following command:

npm install -g json-server

Once this has been installed you’re basically ready to make requests. Quick right?! As you have installed the module globally (using the -g flag), the server can be started from any directory but we will be using our newly created one.

In the terminal, type:

 json-server db.json

json_server_db_file
As you do not have a db.json file in that directory, it will conveniently create one for you and populate this with some default values. These are good for now, just to get you started and making basic requests. Later in the post, we will talk through how to create data files containing the data that is more relevant to your context.

We’ll be using Postman to request the data from the db.json file but it’s entirely up to you, use something that you feel comfortable using. You can now send a request and get a response containing data from the file. The available routes are displayed in the terminal, you can use either of these routes in your first request.

Copy one of the routes below and paste this straight into Postman, you will get the data returned from that Endpoint.

 

GET_Request

Sending a GET request is easy right, the best thing about the json-server module is that it gives you the ability to also practice sending POSTs, PUTs and DELETEs. I would attempt go through each one of these methods but the documentation on the json-server GitHub page explains these methods better than I ever could. This also covers a number of awesome features that you can make use of when using the application.

I don’t want to use the Default data file…

Fear not, as this is essentially just a JSON file that you’re using, you can have any data you desire. You’ll need to stay within the applications format for the way it parses the routes/endpoints from the .json file but apart from that, it’s up to you!

I’ve used mockaroo to create some random data. You can grab this from here and save the .json file to the same directory. Stop the current server instance (Ctrl+C) and spin up a new one using the new dummyUsers.json file:

json-server dummyUsers.json

Requests can now be made to access the new data – Try a GET request to http://localhost:3000/users or how about selecting just one user http://localhost:7000/users/{id}

Request_Single_User

Handy Extras…

If like me, you have applications running on certain ports on your local machine, you will need to either stop that process or give json-server a different port to use. This can be done from the command line before you start the server:

json-server <file.json> -p <port number>

When making changes to the .json file manually in a text editor you will need to stop and start the server instance that you have running, for the changes to take effect, which obviously sucks because you want to be able to see your changes straight away. Luckily, there’s a command line flag to get over this:

json-server –watch <file.json>

Any manual file changes made will be automatically detected and the server will be restarted for you and you’ll be able to continue making those lovely requests.

To Finish Off…

So that’s it, you now have a platform to practice making requests to an API that you have control over and all without writing any code. I’ve only covered a small part of what json-server offers during this post, I would advise you to have a look through the GitHub page once you’re comfortable using the basic function of the application because it offers so much more.

Good luck and let me know if you find this useful. If you have any questions just drop me a message!!

An Extra Helping…

I’ve added some more information about using a collection within Postman to make different types of requests and interact with the dummyUsers.json data. Hope it helps!!

https://github.com/DannyDainton/API-Postman-Practice

Bringing external content in-house…

Being an active member of the test community, I sometimes don’t appreciate how difficult it must be for other, not as involved testers, to find great resources outside of their workplaces.

I have the benefit of knowing or being aware of certain prominent testers who write about topics or have a specialist area that they tend to blog/talk about – it’s easy for me to say “he’s blogged about that lately” or “she’s spoken at a conference about that topic recently” and straight away I have an entrance point, so that I can expand on an idea I may have and go from there to move things forward.

I’m probably one of the only people left in the test team at NVM that is always on Twitter or watching conference talks etc. People learn in different ways and subscribe to other channels to get their testing information – I get that, it’s a personal learning and development thing. What I wanted to do is expose/share some of the great resources that I love, with the test team, in a not so “in your face” way. I didn’t want to push anything on other people, that they didn’t want to read or watch so I set up something that they could tap into or look at if they have some spare time.

So much to choose from…Where do I start?

There really is so much content out there, that I could absolutely flood my team with lots of blogs, articles and videos but I don’t think that would be useful and could potentially have the opposite effect and scare people away. I started with 2 resources that pack a lot of items in a couple of links.

I saw this tweet from Katrina Clokie where she mentioned one of the resources I had in mind, I love that see was recommending people to follow the Testing Curator!! I’ve followed this account for a while, as it really is something special – well worth subscribing too!! Great job Matt!

 

katrina_tweet
Go and follow @testingcurator

 

 

Making the content easily accessible…

I’ve blogged in the past about using Hipchat at NVM, although some people may prefer Slack, this is fine for us and suits our current needs. Hipchat has an API, like many other platforms, that allows you to send messages into “rooms”. Our Test Team has its own room where we can exchange test ideas, test improvements, new things that we’re learning etc. This seemed like the perfect place for these new testing resource feeds. As well as the Testing Curator feed, I’ve added Simon Schrijver‘s 5 blogs feed. This is excellent and provides the team with 5 new blogs to read each day! Thank you so much for providing this service!! I love that the blogs are not only about testing, it’s a great mix!

 

hipchat
Hipchat messages

 

 

A Helping hand…

Although I’m loving coding little applications at the moment and I could have attempted to do this from scratch but…I thought “What’s the point?!” I would have either epically failed or it would have taken me too long to achieve. I’m a huge fan of integration services like Zapier and IFTTT – they are just really simple to set up and so useful for what I wanted to do. I’ve chosen Zapier for my integrations, I love that it has really intuitive UI and you can test each step as you go, so you can clearly see what’s happening.

This is an example of the 5 blogs “Zap” that I have created, It’s triggered by a new item on the RSS feed and then sends a configurable (see image below) message to the Hipchat room. Simples. The task runs every 15mins, looking for changes – there are different account plans that you can have on Zapier but the free plan is sufficient for what I have it set up to do.

 

zapier_hipchat_integration
5 blogs Zap

 

 

message_configuration_
Configuring the Hipchat message

 

So that’s it…Something that is extremely simple to set up and has hopefully provided my fellow testers with additional testing knowledge. I’m not forcing people to click on the links and read the blogs, it’s all there if they want to take a look.

These integrations can be set up on Slack, etc. in exactly the same way so if you would like to provide your team with some excellent content I’d recommend taking a look. Once it’s set up, it’s going to just run in the background.

I would love to hear if anyone has a similar sort of thing set up already and how it went down with the rest of your team.

Cheers!

Hipchat Custom Commands – Continually Improving our processes!

At NewVoiceMedia, like many companies, we hold Hackathons each quarter. This is a chance for everyone (not just developers) to create something that will be of benefit to our customers or help improve an internal process of the business. These small projects could be a proof of concept or a small feature that is ready to go straight into the Live product.

In the past, I’ve helped out on tiny projects with a couple of developers but for the last few hackathons, I’ve used it as a chance to improve my coding skills and create tools to help out other people. There has been a process that has bugged me for a while and we do the task every week, so I thought that it was a perfect place for improvement. We manually create/construct a URL that displays the release notes for our service, based on the “start” and “end” commit numbers, the “start” number being our deployed production version.  Like I said, this is a weekly task as that’s our current release frequency. I knew there was a better way and more efficient way to get this done. The URL in the images below is an internally used NVM address so it, won’t work anywhere outside of our Company.

A while back I read a great post by Neil Studd, He created a bot that was accessed via a custom slash command within the Slack platform. I thought it was impressive and it was something that I wanted to try to replicate myself! So I had a slight problem at the very beginning, we don’t use Slack at NVM (not my choice), we use Hipchat instead. I needed to figure out how I could get a custom slash command to work with that platform, thankfully, they do have their own version of this feature.

Similar to Neil’s method, I wanted to use Heroku to host my application, I mainly wanted to try this out because it was unfamiliar to me and it was a great opportunity to learn something new!!

Creating an MVP

I’ve recently been dabbling in NodeJS and creating little test tools that I use on my team, we also have a production API that uses this language so I’m quite comfortable in that space at the moment. For what I wanted to create, it was a perfect choice. I created a tiny Node Express app with a single POST “/notes” route, this was going to be the entry point from Hipchat. Once I got those two things hooked up and talking to each other I was sorted – because I’m a noob and couldn’t understand the Hipchat API Documentation fully, it took me bloody ages to figure out what was being sent from Hipchat and how I could grab that data to then start the next phase.

I found a video that really saved my skin and allowed me to move forward, the demo video used a tool called Requestbin that gives you a URL for Hipchat to POST the ongoing request. The Requestbin site then just displays every single piece of information in the request!! I was in business and I could navigate through the JSON, in the body of the request to get what I required.

Now that I had what I needed, I was able to use some Node modules to do most of the donkey work and get a working solution up and running quite quickly – At this point it was quite basic and very buggy, I think I broke it on the second request that I made to the application. I wasn’t actually thinking like a tester during the coding part, I was just trying to get something working. I actually don’t know why I didn’t plan and approach this like I would a normal project but you know, you live and learn.

 

mvp
My MVP

 

Bringing a tester onboard….

I needed to put my tester hat on and actually, think how I would use this application from a consumers point of view. I made a short bullet point list of possible ways that I can think that someone might use the tool or possible edge cases that I can mitigate against.

  • Entry point
    • /notes (I wanted this to be the only entry point)
    • /NOTES (I didn’t want this to return anything)
    • /NoTeS (I didn’t want this to return anything)
  • What could the user enter?
    • /notes valid number (/notes 12345)
    • /notes without a number
    • /notes number of digits (1, 2, many)
    • /notes and repeatedly entered 5 digit strings (/notes 12345 12345 12345)
    • /notes position in the sentence (“some words /notes 12345”)
  • Is the returned URL in the message a hyperlink? (Hipchat API auto picks up links, if in the correct message type “text/HTML”)
  • How do the other built-in slash commands behave (/code etc.)
  • What happens if the external GET resource is not available or returns the wrong data?

These are some of the questions that I was asking myself, I had many more but this is the general gist of the ideas in my head. The whole time that I was making changes to the code and then testing the outcomes I was thinking that I wanted to add something that would let me know what was going on behind the scenes of the application when the users were making requests. We recently had Richard Bradshaw come into our company to deliver his awesome Lego automation workshop, in this he mentioned “Giving your automation a voice” – This wasn’t test automation but I did want to know what was going on, it was only going to tell me if I actually told it too. I added log messages to the application at key points so that I could track what was actually happening rather than just seeing an output in a Hipchat room.

 

app_logging
Giving It A Voice

 

Another approach I was thinking about while testing was Ben Simo‘s FAILURE mnemonic if users were entering the wrong information, I wasn’t telling them (oops), It just didn’t return anything to the Hipchat room. That didn’t sit right with me and I used Ben’s heuristic to guide me, I wanted to give the users some feedback and let them know that “Something wasn’t quite right” with the data that they had inputted. As I could tell which Hipchat user sent the request, I grabbed that information from the JSON and made my returned messages (both good and bad) a bit more “friendly”. Manners don’t cost anything, as my Mum used to tell me.

 

release_notes_helper
Making It Friendly

 

error_handling
Appropriate Error Messages

 

Finding bugs in the wild…

I wanted to add an additional feature for users to specify a different environment when making the request (e.g. “/notes 12345 cloud4“), I initially defaulted the response to our main production node when users entered “/notes 12345“, as this matches the current behavior of the main internal release notes creation tool. I wanted to be a little bit more flexible, I had the opportunity to add extra functionality and let the users decide what the returned data was going to be. I added the code and rushed through the change, “It worked” so I left it and communicated out the new feature, giving an example of “exactly” how this worked. Great success! Maybe not…

 

cloud_request
Location Matching Feature

 

I’ve used Regular Expression in a number of places to capture certain things, I’m new to using Regex so I had a little help from the Regex101 site and also practised some of the Regex in the Chrome Dev Tools console (This was super useful!!). It turned out that my Regexfu is not so good and I omitted the “i” from the expression. meaning it was case sensitive so if someone entered “cloud4” it would return what they thought it would but “Cloud4” and “CLOUD4” wouldn’t return the same thing. From a users point of view, you would still get back a valid URL as it defaulted to a certain value if you didn’t enter exactly “cloud4”. I’ll get back to this issue.

Logging and Monitoring…

Using Heroku, I could access their built-in raw logs and could see what was happening while people started using the application. These were great and showed me what I wanted to see, the only trouble was, I had to go on to the Heroku site each time. At NVM we use Papertrail and I know that I could bolt on this log management tool to my Heroku app and feed the log messages into there. Great, I know this app and the search syntax so I was sorted….not quite, because we use in at NVM it annoyed me that I had to login and logout each time I want to see either the work logs or the ones that my app was producing.

Up stepped LogDNA – it was another option from the Heroku list, so I gave it a whirl. Luckily, the search syntax was very similar to Papertrail and it was extremely easy to get it set up in the way I wanted. It also had a feature where you can set up a notification on certain searches so that you get emailed when things start going wrong or just have something that lets you know who is using the app.

 

email_notification
Email Notification

 

Coming back to the Regex bug that I found earlier, I basically only saw this because of the logging that I had in place. I could see that a user had made a request, that should have failed (in my mind) but it returned the default value. I was able to spot the issue, fix it, test it and then deploy it again in super quick time without it impacting the users. Testability win!

Distribution…

I’ve now added this app to multiple Hipchat rooms and I’ve seen the usage steadily increase, which make it all worthwhile. I’ve also created an internal wiki page so that people can add it to any Hipchat room and it also explains some basic instructions with examples.

As well as doing this internally, I’ve knocked up a very simple bare-bones node app and placed this in a Github repository for anyone to use/rip apart etc.

You can grab the code here: https://github.com/DannyDainton/node-hipchatbot-basic

That was an epic read but hopefully, it makes sense and encourages other people to give things a go and try and improve a process that annoys you too!

Cheers!!

I kinda didn’t go to TestBash…

It seems slightly strange to be writing a post about a conference that I didn’t physically attend but the awesomeness that is TestBash, made me feel like I was part of it anyway!!

Testbash has been part of my own personal journey for a number of years now, It was the very first testing conference that I attended back in 2013 and I was hooked! I’ve helped out Rosie at a couple of the events and I have also been an attendee at a couple too, both of which were wonderful and rewarding experiences. When I heard the announcement for TestBash Manchester, I was instantly thinking, I’m going to that event!! I bought my ticket (not before Chris Chant…because no one does…) and was looking forward to seeing the talks, familiar faces, meeting new people and of course learning loads – but I also had something else very important going on this year. My wife and I were expecting our first child so, I had a dilemma and a choice to make. I made the decision, the only one I was ever going to make, to stay at home with Sophie and my Wife.

As a huge fan of Testbash, I wanted to ensure that someone else would be going in my place – It would have been easy to get the money back but I wasn’t really interested in that and I wanted to pay it forward. I’ve sponsored a ticket in the past so this is not a new thing for me and I wanted to do it again. I met Patrick Prill for the first time, in person, at TestBash in Brighton after talking to him on Twitter for several months. This guy is awesome, not as moody as his profile/any other picture suggests and I couldn’t think of a better person to gift the ticket too.

Making me feel part of the day…

I was up early on the day of the event, I normally am anyway since the arrival of our little lady. So there I was, feeding Sophie and a flood of messages came rolling in from Twitter!

*UPDATE* – Can’t believe I missed this photo of Patrick (semi-smiling) and Rosie!!

testbash_05

 

Patrick had attached a sticker to himself, with my name on, and was having photos taken with lots of lovely people. It made me feel really happy and part of the conference! This is what I love about the test community, you get moments like this that make you feel valued and part of something special. Throughout the day I was getting notifications about different things that were happening and finally, I received a mention/shout out during Patrick’s 99 second talk! It perfectly rounded the day off for me. Thank you!!

From a non-attendees viewpoint…

I’m completely bias, so I’m always going to think that TestBash is awesome, no matter where it’s held! There was something different about this one and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Richard Bradshaw has a huge part in this I feel, along with Rosie, they made TestBash Manchester very special. The social media buzz was amazing to see, maybe because I’ve found myself on the outside looking in this time – Everyone looked and sounded like they were having a really great time!!

One of the things that I felt was a master stroke was “The Teshbash Challenge”. It was an absolutely perfect way to get everyone talking to each other and a fantastic ice breaker. I love talking to other people and I don’t really mind walking up to strangers and having a chat, others are not so comfortable doing this but by having this challenge open as part of the event, it meant that it would be far easier to talk to other people during the day.

testbash_challenges

Photo by Phil Hargreaves

All is not lost…

Although I missed the event itself, as a Pro Member of the Ministry of Testing Dojo I get to watch the talks back in my own time when they get uploaded to the site. I don’t think I’ll go as far as trying to hold my own TinyTestbash Bristol in my house but I will enjoy all the talks over the up-coming weeks.

If you’re not a member of the Dojo already, I would thoroughly recommend signing up to it. Not only does it have all the previous TestBash talks it’s also home to lots more great content and is getting added to all the time!! Go check it out!!

I’ve already sent out a pre-advance warning to my Wife so I’ll be at the next UK based Testbash event in Brighton next year – Hopefully, I’ll see many of you there!!

Good Luck to everyone involved in TestBash Philadelphia and TestBash Netherlands – I know that those will be equally as awesome!!

My experiences as a Remote Worker

This week I had the honour and pleasure of being interviewed for an episode of the wonderful Testing In The Pub podcast. I love this podcast and it’s one that I’ve really enjoyed listening too since the first episode went Live. Stephen Janaway asked me if I’d like to come on and talk about being a tester on a remote team…

I was actually a little bit nervous, which is strange but I didn’t want to sound like a fool and let anyone down. I obviously missed points that I wanted to talk about and glossed over some of the points that I did talk through – This post hopefully adds to the topic and fills in some of the missing blanks.

You can check out the full podcast episode here: http://testinginthepub.co.uk/testinginthepub/testing/testing-pub-episode-36-part-remote-team/

How did I become a remote worker…

Being a remote worker is not all fun and games, it’s really not for everyone but it works for me. For the last 18 months, I’ve been pretty much a remote worker – The pure hardcore remote people would probably call me a fraud as I’m not full-time at home but I feel I do this more than enough to have some personal experiences to share.

I joined NewVoiceMedia at the beginning of 2014, it was always going to be a move that would either make me or destroy me. I wanted to work for them, they had a huge reputation in the test community, Rob Lambert was leading the test team at the time and they had some amazingly talented people who I knew I can learn so much from – The trouble was that it was just under a 4 hour round trip to get there and back. Looking back now, I think I had my rainbow-tinted glasses on and was only seeing the learning and personal development aspects of the job and not the huge strain physically, financially and mentally that I was about to put myself under.

Luckily, the role involved the ability to work from my home during the week and that was key to me jumping on board and accepting the job offer.

During my 3 month probation period I was in the office 5 days a week, it was a killer! I was overwhelmed by new surroundings, new people, new well….everything! I’ve always said that this is when I became a tester, this was my first proper testing role so as well as all the new environmental changes I was learning how to be a tester!!

Thankfully they wanted to keep me on after the probation period and then after establishing a good working relationship with my feature team and the members of the test team, I started to work from home once a week, this over time, increased to 4 days a week and that where I find myself now…

My pattern of life…

Most people, in my experience, have a Pattern Of Life that they follow. They tend to wake up at the same time, have a standard morning routine in regards to getting ready/having breakfast, they catch the train or bus at the same time and sit roughly in the same seat, they read, watch or listen to something similar on the commute each day, get the same coffee at the same shop before going into the office etc.

A daily routine has always been part of my life in the British Army, for 11 years I was told what time I had to get out of bed, what time to eat, what uniform to wear, what location I had to be at certain times of the day, etc. – It was an extremely structured life.

My daily routine during the week would always follow something similar to this:
0600 – Reveille/Rouse
0630 – Block Jobs (Cleaning)
0700 – Breakfast
0800 – First Parade
0830 – Platoon Administration
1000 – Physical Training
1230 – Lunch
1330 – Rifle Drill
Etc.

I’m a creature of habit and some things have stayed with me since leaving, I follow a loose routine when working at home. These actions ensure that I’m not letting my own personal standards slip and that I have a level of structure to my working day, while at home.

I tend to stick to this daily routine more or less, there are occasions that timings slip but I don’t let myself feel bad about that:

0700 – Morning Dog Walk
0730 – Breakfast including reading a selection of blogs from my backlog
0830 – Showered and Dressed for work
0900 – Get into my office and fire up my laptop
0915 – Daily Stand Up
1230 – Lunch (Timing dependent on the morning meetings or tasks )
1700 – An hour of personal learning

I only have semi-set times on the things that I can control, every day is different in terms of the work that I’m doing so those activities are harder to predict. This might seem far too rigid for a lot of people but if you look back and analyse your day in the office you may be doing something slightly similar without even knowing it.

Feeling like part of the team…

In your office environment, people can physically see you with their own two eyes, remote workers don’t really have this as an option. Members of my team obviously know that I’m working because they would have seen and spoken to me during the daily stand up but after that call – It’s very easy to become invisible. I love talking, I’ll talk to anyone so I’m often on a text chat or video chats with my developers. Collaboration is key and the only way to ensure that we’re all talking to each other is by…actually talking to each other!

We use Hipchat as our main method of communication, every team has their own room that people can drop in and out of if they need anything but teams also have “banter” rooms where its open season. I work with some very funny guys and if I haven’t laughed at least once from something that has been posted to the room, there’s something going wrong.

I also stay very active with people outside of my team, this can be asking questions in the other rooms or responding to other people’s questions if I know that answers. I love to try to improve things for the test team at NVM, I have created a personal Trello board with areas that I would like to make changes – Communicating these ideas and changes to the team via Hipchat or Emails, has indirectly made me more visible. It’s also made me feel less isolated and part of a bigger team.

Access to all the things…

A big part, for me, in knocking down any home vs office mindsets is ensuring that I have access to everything that I can get my hands on. I don’t want to every use the excuse of “I can’t get to that internal page from home” – I don’t ever want my location to dictate what I can and cannot view. Nothing is impossible to get access too, it may take a little time and effort but it’s not unachievable.

I’m inquisitive and I also love having control over my own environment, If I can’t get to an admin page on the local network because the firewall is blocking me from doing so at home – I’m going to be contacting the relevant people to set up a proxy or provide me with a workaround. You never want to feel reliant on someone in the office to make changes for you, you lose the element of control and that’s never a good thing.

One person is remote, we’re all remote…

I’m not the only person in my team that works from home, during the week we will have at least 1 person from the team at home. We have an ethos within my team, if one person is remote then we are all remote. This basically means that all of our meetings are done online and not in an office meeting room. We could only have 1 of the team at home and the rest in the office and we will all still jump on the call individually. This ensures that we can all hear and see each other, one person will share their screen so we are all looking at the same thing – It works really well for us and saves us all fighting to hear each other in an echo-filled meeting room with terrible audio and visual equipment.

This has really helped with things like 3 Amigos, Sprint Planning and Retrospectives. We are able to have a productive meeting rather than fighting with any sort of tech issues or getting access to meeting rooms. Personally, I feel that we are more focused and productive during our meetings.

The challenges…

Currently, we’re in a very good place. We all know what call to be on and at what time. We have team specific permanent Skype links that we always use or tools that we know work for us to achieve a certain goal. I don’t ever feel like I can’t get hold of someone quickly or feel like I’m on my own. It hasn’t always been this way…

Working from home used to be a very painful experience, I remember a couple of things in particular. We would have our morning stand-up meeting in the office, the guys in the office would gather in a circle and run through the standard set of questions. We had 1 person remote working so we would grab an Ipad and dial them in via Hangouts. We would then pass the Ipad around like “pass the parcel” style – god knows why it even began let alone lasted for as long as it did! Another painful one was everyone using their own favourite tool for communication, at one point I was monitoring…Lync, Hangouts (lot’s of different ones), Hipchat, Email, GoTo Meeting – it was insane!! I don’t know how we actually got anything done!!

One last thing that we have thankfully sorted ish, the audio and visual equipment in the meeting rooms was very poor – Pair that with the dodgy network at the time, this made being part of meetings a non-event. I had several occasions where I just dropped out of the meeting completely because is was absolutely unworkable.

Not everyone in the business likes remote working, your company may have a culture that lends itself to this way of working but companies are made up of people. If they have had a poor experience of remote workers in the past, it’s very difficult to change their mindset.

Things that have helped me the most…

  • Invest (get your company to pay) in a decent Headset and Camera – I had a rubbish headset and my laptop webcam was pointed at the side of my face. As soon as I got some new ones, conversations and meetings were 100% better!
  • Try and organise an office day to get the whole team together. Make it a social event and not just about work. Get to know your team mates!!
  • Have a space in your home that’s just for work – avoid working in your family space. You need to have a clear divide between the two or you never really finish work for the day. Leave work at work.
  • Have patience – People in the office are not actively ignoring you. Their status may say that they are free but they could be talking to someone at their desk. If you really need them, try speaking to someone from another team and ask them to get “eyes on” they can give you a much clearer picture of the office.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave your desk, people in the office do it all the time. Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong by not being chained to your desk.

I can’t tell you how to succeed at working from home, there’s not a one size fits all approach to it I’m afraid. Experiment with different things and see what works and what doesn’t work for your team. Good luck and if you ever need to speak to someone, give me a shout on Twitter or Skype and we can have a chat about it! Always remember, you’re not on your own.