30 Days Of Testing – My progress so far…

The Ministry of Testing is amazing at getting people together and talking about Testing. From the epic TestBash Conferences and Workshops to the excellent content that can be found on the Dojo. I saw a post on Twitter that mentioned 30 Days of Testing, I was immediately intrigued – A challenge with absolutely achievable daily tasks, some of which were outside of my current comfort zone, it was right up my street!!

 

I entered this Challenge knowing that I wouldn’t actually be able to finish it in 30 Days, not because I would have serious trouble doing any of the tasks but because my Wife is due to give birth to our Daughter in about 2 weeks…so I’m just trying to stick with it for as long as I can until I’m facing another new challenge!!

 

My Current progress as of 09/07/2016:

 

Current_Progress

 

The Challenges

Day 1 – Buy one testing related book and read it by day 30.

 

Day1

 

So this was a tricky one for me – There are several amazing books out there that people have recommended on Twitter or via their talks at conferences, I’ve had a few of these on my bookshelf for a while and for several reasons/excuses I’ve not read them all yet. I’ve had “An Introduction to General System Thinking” by Gerald M. Weinberg for over a year and it’s always scared me, so I thought now was the time to step up and take the plunge. I posted a message on Twitter and straight away it dawned on me that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to tackle such a beast. After many recommendations I brought “Thinking in Systems” by Donella H. Meadows instead, hopefully, this will give me a base understanding of System Thinking so that I’m much more prepared to attack Jerry’s book.

Day 2 – Take a photo of something you are doing at work.

Day2

 

It turned out that this day fell on a Saturday but lucky for me, I work from home and I have an office in my house. I wasn’t technically “working” but I was catching up on a webinar that I missed during the week. It was a talk by Alan Richardson called “Risk Mitigation Using Exploratory and Technical Testing”. Really solid information and I took loads away from it – You can watch it back here: https://www.qasymphony.com/blog/risk-mitigation-using-exploratory-technical-testing

Day 3 – Listen to a testing podcast.

Day3

 

I’ve never been a frequent listener of Podcasts but I do listen to “Testing In the Pub” when the guys have a new episode out – Dan Ashby and Stephen Janaway do a fantastic job, they always have great guests and really interesting subjects. As I’d listened to the latest episode already, I looked elsewhere to complete the daily challenge.

I saw Patrick Prill mention this podcast a few times so I went to check it out, it just so happens that as I was scrolling down the website I saw Patrick’s name in the description of one of the episodes – my choice was made. Alan Page and Brent Jensen were discussing Patrick’s recent TestBash talk – worth checking out both the talk and the podcast episode.

There are a few other podcasts that I’ve seen mentioned by the good folks on Twitter like Test Talks, PerfBytes and Let’s talk about Tests to name a few.

Day 4 – Share a testing blog post with a non-tester.

Day4
My initial thought was to share a post with a family member (Wife, Parents, Sisters etc.) but I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for at the time, There’s some great stuff out there by Michael Bolton and Katrina Clokie that would have done the job but I opted to share a post with a member of my team instead. I shared Michael’s post “testers get out of the quality assurance business” to my team’s Scrum Master.
Also, as I was in the sharing mood, I send this Whiteboard Testing video over to one of our developers –  He seemed to like it so that’s a good thing!

 

Day 5 – Read and comment on one blog post.
 
Day5
This post by Christian Kram is the one I choose to comment on. Reading blog posts is something I’ve enjoyed doing for a number of years now. The MoT testing feeds site was the first place I was made aware of testing blogs and from there Twitter has become the main source of the posts I read. People I follow always post interesting things that they have either written themselves or shared links to other people’s work. I find it very difficult to read everything I see, I make use of services like IFTTT or Pocket to capture and store posts that I can pick up when I get some spare time.

 

I also think that these guys do a great job at sharing blog posts that people have written, they have shared out a couple of mine over the last couple of years so I’m very grateful for this. Start following these guys on Twitter if you’re not doing so already!
Day5_01
Day 6 – Perform a crazy test.
 
Day6
What is a crazy test?! I was seriously stuck with this one and I went a non-software testing route (total cop out!).

 

Tried listening to this for as long as I could – Put it this way, it wasn’t the full 10 Hours!!

 

Day 7 – Find an accessibility bug.
 
Day7
Day7_01
This has been an area of testing that I have struggled with over the last few years, I’ve always focused my efforts in other areas so this was a great opportunity to learn something new.

 

As the challenge is a very well talked about on Twitter, I was able to find some new tools to aid me uncovering accessibility problems. I choose to use WAVE like many others did and pointed it at the Action For Blind People website – I thought that they would be all over accessibility…

 

As with most tools, this uncovered areas of the site that had accessibility problems but this is just an invitation to investigate and explore the site further. Maybe using other similar tools, that highlight these issues, ensuring that the tool that you have chosen to use is giving you the correct information. Screen Readers are another great way of backing up some of the issues that the accessibility checkers have brought to your attention – I really like pairing up tools this way as they tend to compliment each other really well.

 

How many people used WAVE to check the WAVE site? Come on, I can’t be the only one…

 

Day 8 – Download a mobile app, find 5 bugs and send the feedback to the creator.

 

I was looking on the App Store for an application that I could test – I didn’t really have a preference in mind. I came across “Event Countdown Free” – It had 4 stars and over 450 reviews but as it dealt with timed events, I thought it was worth checking out and seeing what I could find.
Event_Countdown
I created a report of what I found so that I could send it off to the Developer but I’ve haven’t been able to get in touch with them yet. The Developer website in the description on the App Store links to a Facebook page and as I’m not a user of that site I cannot leave any messages there.

 

These are the rushed details of my testing that I prepared – I made them available in a Google Doc with the intention of hopefully opening up a dialog with the developer and having a shared place where, if needed, we could talk through what I found.

 

The Findings from my testing:

 

Day 9 – Create a mindmap. 

 

I was starting to do a bit of planning for the future new arrival and decided to create a mindmap about a some of the important things…still a work in progress and something that I can add to when I think of all the thousands of items I’ve missed off!
Baby Labour Planning
 

 

Day 10 – Find an event to attend (Online or face to face).

 

I attended the latest Dojo Masterclass by Mark Winteringham. The talk was “How To Build A Regression Checking Strategy “

 

“To avoid common mistakes of brittle checks, bad choices in checking tools and wasted time fixing broken checks, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves why we are running these checks and what risks are we are mitigating?”

 

This was a great talk by Mark that I found really interesting, I took my new things away with me and I’m trying to work out how I can trickle feed some of his points into our Regression Strategy.

 

Stay tuned for more updates from the challenges….

A small step back in time!

I’ve never really been a “gamer” throughout my childhood, I’ve always had games consoles (NES, SNES, Mega Drive, N64, PlayStation, Xbox, Etc.) but for me, the novelty and excitement of having them wore off very quickly and I soon found myself just getting bored.

I always loved being outdoors and playing Football, I’m not an amazing footballer by my own admission but I’ve always been good enough to play for different teams growing up and into my adult life so playing computer games at home lost it’s appeal very quickly.

I have very fond memories from when I was about 14/15 years old, playing a particular game on an Amiga, my mates and I would camp out in the back room of their parents house and just have epic tournaments. The game was Sensible Soccer, it wasn’t the best game and is now so far away from where Football games are, that if you put this in front of anyone who has played any of the latest FIFA games then you would be probably laughed out of the room but I absolutely loved it then and still do love it now!!

A few months back a new Raspberry Pi was announced the “PiZero”. This was developed to enable everyone to have a chance to learn basic computer skills, the best thing about this incredible piece of hardware was its price….£4 ($5)!! Not only was this cheap but the Raspberry Pi Foundation were giving them away on the front of their official magazine “The MagPi“. I remember magazines having game demo Cd’s on the front not full on micro computer – I was hooked, I wanted one and made it my mission to get one!

Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea and all the shops I looked in, were all sold out so I went down the more conventional route of just buying one from The PiHut.

 

Pizero

My PiZero developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation 

Now a computer for £4 is amazing but it doesn’t really tell the whole story, a couple of micro connectors and other peripherals are needed to get the show on the road. Luckily, The PiHut sells a convenient little pack of essentials to get you up and running and as I had a few spare cables and an old phone charger I was good to go!

It was always my intention to use this little baby as a retro games console so that I could hook it up to a spare TV in my office at home and that’s exactly what I did with it! I knew of a project called RetroPie and followed their instructions to set up my PiZero. I’m not going to add the full set up instructions here as they have done all the hard work so I’d recommend checking out the site if you’d like to have your very own retro games console.

After a tiny bit of effort (took no time at all) and changing a couple of configs, I was able to get it all working and installed in my office.

My PiZero set up on the back of the TV in the office at home

I have a few extra items that I didn’t mention before, i additionally purchased these to tidy things up a little bit and not have the PiZero exposed and wires everywhere but it’s entirely up to the owner to get these extras if needed.

As much as this was a fun thing to do, it was also a little project i set myself to become a lot more familiar with the Linux OS. We use a flavour of Linux at work and i was never comfortable with using the Command Line as I have always used the MS-DOS commands on Windows machines and as the Linux syntax is slightly different i was always wary of it. So i wanted to change that! You should never be afraid of things – just give it go and you may surprise yourself!

I took a course on Codecademy to learn the basics and installed a VM with Ubuntu on my local machine and just messed about – I hate saying i messed about but that’s kinda what i did. I did this to get confident with interacting with the shell so i wasn’t afraid anymore.

I also wanted to access my PiZero through SSH (The reason why i have a USB WiFi adapter connected) – It did this using PuTTY and WinSCP. After changing the default logins and adding a new user i was in and navigating the file structure. There are some really good instructions for doing this on the Raspberry Pi website. With this access, you can add more games (roms) to your RetroPie – Using WinSCP for this is really good if you don’t want to use the command line. Games can be added in a couple of other ways so it is not too important to have your PiZero hooked up to a network – you should find the details of these different ways in the Instructions.

So i now have Sensible Soccer installed on my RetroPie and everytime i play it, i’m taken back to that time with my mates. It’s funny how something so simple can instantly spark a memory for your past – much the same a songs do when you haven’t heard them for a long time.

If you do have the time and desire to get something like this up and running, i’d love to hear about it! Happy Gaming!

Noted!

Most of the blog posts that I tend to write are as a result of reading other people’s work or watching an interesting video – This one follows the same trend.

I’ve just finished watching John Stevenson’s (@steveo1967) excellent Whiteboard Testing (@WhiteboardTest) YouTube video explaining the Cornell Method of taking notes – I’ve heard of this method in the past and watched a few similar YouTube videos on the subject but have never really applied it to my day to day testing activities. The truth is, I have never really formally been taught how to take good notes – It sounds strange that I would want that but for me it would have given me the foundations earlier on in my life so that I could then change, adapt and develop my own style into something that worked for me.

My past experiences…

Most of my previous working life I was made to carry with me, at all times, a Notebook and Pen – I was asked to show this to the Corporal, Serjeant, Etc. every day on the first Parade of the morning until it became just a normal pattern of life to have these items on you. When I was promoted, I would be asking the same question and punishing (restriction of privileges) the soldiers that did not produce these.

Looking back, I couldn’t see the reasons and importance of having a Notebook and Pen with you – This was vital for daily life in barracks during the various classroom-based lessons and also on Operations and Pre-Deployment Exercises, taking down important information that could prove life-saving in certain situations. I know that now but back then when I was a boy soldier of 17/18 years old, I just didn’t get it, and was going through the motions.

IMG_0784

Selection of Notebooks that I’ve kept from my time in the Army

I’ve kept many of my old Notebooks from that time of my life – I like to look through them to see, not only the types of notes that I was taking but how my style developed as I gained more military experience while progressing through my career.

Some of these notebooks included:

  • Helpful mnemonics and abbreviations
  • Instructions on Specific Infantry Radio Systems and Frequency ranges
  • Packing Lists for Exercises or Operations
  • Patrol Orders including the Mission, Commanders Intent, RV Grid References, Etc.
  • Ammo States of the Sections taken during Platoon and Section Attacks
  • Quick Sketch Drawings for a Range Card and Arcs of Fire for the Sentry position

Doing a very small amount of research while thinking about this blog post I came across a perfect article which displayed the pieces of equipment carried by Soldiers throughout the years – I’ve chosen a few examples and as you can see, a Notebook was a very important part of military life over many conflicts.

1815 Private Soldier, Battle of Waterloo (bottom left) 49 – 1807 British Army drill regulations and leather covered notebook

1916 Private Soldier, Battle of the Somme (bottom right) 8 – Notebook and Service Warrant Card

1982 Royal Marine Commando, Falklands War (bottom centre) 18 – British army notebook and pens, compass and protractor, which were used for marking maps, for example, plotting minefields.

2014 Close-Support Sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmand Province (top centre) 5 – Notebook

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11011316/Military-kit-through-the-ages-from-the-Battle-of-Hastings-to-Helmand.html

How good are the notes that I take now?

Note taking is a skill and like any other skill you need to practice it – If you’re not prepared to put the effort in, then the notes that you take during your exploratory sessions are meaningless and don’t tell the story of your testing. Rob Lambert (@Rob_Lambert) mentions in one of his posts about making your notes 60 Days proof – This means that you can pick up that notebook or open that file and still be able to recall exactly what you meant when you first made that entry. I’m not amazing at doing this but i’m working towards getting there and looking at ways to improve all the time. Internal Company presentations and also short TED Talks are great ways, that i have found to practice note taking skills.

I continue to fight with myself over what works well for me and my own style has changed and morphed over the last couple of years, I’ve used different bullet points, checklists, mind-maps and also created templates in order to keep things consistent but i haven’t found the one thing that fits me….yet. That’s what I love about learning and experimenting – you tend to do it for every aspect of your testing, i don’t think i will ever stop trying to improve on what i’m currently doing.

I would love to hear from people and hear the way they take and capture their testing notes. Are there certain applications that you find useful (Rapid Reporter, Evernote, One Note, etc.). Do you consider who the audience is when writing notes? How did you find your style or if they are like me, are still trying to get there?

Please feel free to get in touch!

A few great resources about taking notes and techniques to improve your note taking:

Michael Bolton – http://www.developsense.com/presentations/2007-10-PNSQC-AnExploratoryTestersNotebook.pdf

Rob Lambert – http://thesocialtester.co.uk/explaining-exploratory-testing-relies-on-good-notes/

Alan Richardson –http://blog.eviltester.com/2013/09/10-experiments-to-improve-your.html

Shmuel Gershon – https://testhuddle.com/resource/recording-your-story-note-taking-in-software-tests-with-shmuel-gershon/

Paring is caring…

Recently I’ve been reading lots of great articles and blog posts about pair testing and paired working. This awesome post a couple of weeks ago by Katrina Clokie (@katrina_tester) was the latest one I read. This has a great “Experience Reports” section at the bottom of the page with extracts from other blogs on pair testing – Worth checking out!

I love doing paired work and I try to do it as much as I physically can while working on stories within my team. This is not the only time that I’ve adopted this paired approach – Over the last couple of months I’ve had the pleasure of some paired learning with Gemma Lewington (@GemmaLewington) one of the awesome testers at NewVoiceMedia, she is a serious ninja and someone I have learnt so much from during the last year and half. We both identified a desire to learn more MySQL so we thought it would be a great idea to try to learn this together.

We all have to start somewhere….

We needed to establish “where we were at” skill level wise – I can only speak for myself here but before i joined NVM I couldn’t even explain to you what a very basic SELECT statement did – why would i know?  It was never something that i had any exposure too in my former roles. Gemma had the great idea of creating a skills matrix:

MySQL_Skills_Matrix

We chose some of the popular statements and assigned a 1 to 5 score to these – 5 being “Very confident”. We had our starting point!

How did we progress our learning forward?

One of the first things we did was talked, that sounds like a stupid thing to mention because it’s so obvious but we work in different teams and on different pieces of work so our daily work patterns are slightly out of sync. I also tend to work from home a lot so we had the added pressure of finding a day that suits both of us, to set up a learning session. The best thing about this experience was that we were not being told to do this or to make time to learn something we didn’t want to – We were doing this off our own backs so if we did miss a meet up day or let it slip by a day, it was never a big deal.

One thing that I think helped us in the early weeks was that I suggested that we both pick something for the other person to teach, in the next session – So I would say to Gemma ” I’d like to know more about ALIAS” and she would in return say to me ” I’d like to know more about JOINs”.

For me there were 2 main reasons for doing this:

  1. It forces you to go and research the topic in greater detail and prepare to teach this back to the other person. Practicing the art of verbal explanation.
  2. It gives the next meeting more focus and structure, it sets out an agenda rather than turning up and spending 30/60 mins not really going through anything.

What made use of the W3Schools website to give us something to build from, the templates were kind of perfect for our needs.

We could take something like:

Extract from W3Schools

SELECT o.OrderID, o.OrderDate, c.CustomerName
FROM Customers AS c, Orders AS o
WHERE c.CustomerName=”Around the Home” AND c.CustomerID=o.CustomerID;

Then apply this to our context by using our databases and tables etc – It made them come to life and it made it easier to explain and visualize the end result in our minds.

Really picked up the basics in a very short time….

After a few weeks we were starting to get really confident and were using lots of things in the same queries like Multiple JOINS between Databases, ALIAS for every table, renaming columns,  INSERTS etc. We would send each other random queries that we knocked up while testing and kind of showing them off in a “Check this out!!” sort of way. It was great.

We added things that we found useful to a central “Useful SQL Queries” page so that other members of the team could reuse these, I’m not saying these were perfect (mine at least) but there was no point in just making throw away statements, when these could benefit others.

Not keeping it to ourselves… 

As this was a sharing experience, was chose to present this experience to the rest of the test team in our weekly meeting and explaining that having the confidence to get in to the database and not be scared about all the data in there can be a massive help to our daily testing. Being confident enough to give queries that I had written to a developer was a massive step forward for me and it proved how far I’d come. We will continue to practice these newly found skills and increase our knowledge and ninja MySQL skills.

I would encourage everyone to get some paired learning going, not only with people within your companies but with others in the community – only good can come out of this!!

How do i learn something new?

After reading this great post by Dan Ashby (@DanAshby04) about self learning it got me thinking about how I personally manage my time, in regards to doing extra learning. I feel it’s an absolutely vital part of being a tester – Everyday should be a learning day.

I don’t really have much experience of formal education, I left my senior school at 16 years old after taking my GCSEs, to join the British Army. A lot of children of that age in the UK would go on to College and then University, that wasn’t something that ever interested me. I gained nearly all of my experience in being taught a particular “thing” within the Army.

The main method of teaching within the Army is normally as follows:

  • Explain
  • Demonstrate
  • Imitate
  • Practice
  • Questions

I know that questions is at the end of this list – this is not entirely accurate, people always have questions when learning something new. It’s placed at the end of this teaching cycle to have a dedicated period of time to ask questions following a lesson (Kind of like having questions at the end of a talk or presentation). This method will be applied to almost all aspects of military teaching from learning how to take a rifle apart, how to read a map, how to shave (Yes this happens!) and so on. It’s a method that works in the Army and has been around for years. Since leaving the Forces nearly five years ago now, I find it hard to think of an occasion when I have been taught anything in this way.

How does this relate to the way in which I learn something new? It doesn’t. Just thought I’d tell you….

Self learning is a very personal and unique thing – Something that works for someone else might not work for you. Some people might have a set of topics they want to solely concentrate their efforts on or they have goals that they want to achieve by a certain time frame. In the early stages on my test learning, I wanted to read everything – so my approach was what I would call the “Shotgun” method. It wasn’t at all concentrated or focused, it was in fact all over the bloody shop!

Something had to change…

I now centralise the blog posts that catch my eye and would like to read using Pocket, if I’m flicking through Twitter and I see something of interest I send it to the application to work through later in my spare time throughout the day. I have also been more efficient in the way that I use my Evernote account, I spent the time to tidy it up and create notebooks for specific learning topics – Moving forward, by having recipes on IFTTT I’ve been able to cut the time it’s taking me to place things in the areas that I want them, this has given more time back to focus on the reason for having them there in the first place.

I have an agreed learning time in the evenings after I finish work, while my partner watches rubbish on TV. I have time to research topics, read blogs/books, look up a new word I’ve heard mentioned that day, practice techniques, basically whatever without feeling guilty about how much time I’m spending doing it. Having this time each day gives me focus and forces me not to waste a second of it.

So this is a small part of the way I learn, I’m in the very lucky position of working with folks that share the same passion for testing as me and there is always someone there to talk through a topic or technique that interests me or I can jump in on a lunchtime learning session.

I’m always interested in the way that testers manage their extra learning, what do they focus on? How do they capture this? Do they use certain applications to aid them?

Please share, I would love to hear from you!!

My chance to give something back…

2014 was epic for me in so many different ways, on the kick starting my testing career front – I joined Rob Lambert and his team at NewVoiceMedia, finally fulfilling my goal of being an actual software tester rather than some bloke with a massive obsession for the craft. I attended both TestBash and Agile Testing Days during the year and focused all my efforts in to providing valuable information to my new feature team and sharing whatever I could with our test team at NVM.

From a personal point of view I got engaged and started to plan a wedding for Feb 2015 (Arh crap, that’s this month!). In January 2014 I set myself, at the time, an achievable goal of writing about my military experiences and how I think these relate to software testing….basically I epically failed to meet that goal! I put all of my focus and attention on learning my new role and giving everything I could to support my team at NVM.

I feel much more settled now and I WILL pick these part finished posts up again and publish these this year!

So why am I writing this post?

TestBash 2015 is nearly upon us, this will be my third year in a row helping out Rosie, Simon and the team down in Brighton. Honestly, I bloody love it there, I’ve had some great laughs and awesome chats at the pre conference meet ups and at the conference itself. I’m in the very lucky position of getting a free place at TestBash for helping out, I kind of feel bad for the guys and girls that really want to attend but can’t get the funding, be it through self funding or through their companies. I was in that place in 2013 and it was horrible.

This year I wanted to change that for someone, as soon as I saw that you could sponsor a ticket for some lucky person to attend, I just knew I had to buy one. Last year Emma Keaveny (@EmJayKay80) was a breath of fresh enthusiastic air, it’s very hard not to like her, she’s awesome! I’d love to see someone with that visible passion for the craft win my sponsored ticket and get to be amongst, in my opinion, some of the best testers in the world.

The speaker line up this year is epic, I’m very much looking forward to hearing what they all have to say and also the great mini conversations that happen during the breaks and at the meet ups. I’m especially looking forward to meeting the person who has won the ticket and hearing their story and reasons for wanting to be there.

Also, I’ll be looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and meeting many more!

See you there!

If you don’t ask, you don’t get…

I’ve been suffering from a little bit of writers block of late (few months), I have loads of unfinished posts that NEED to be completed but i thought i would ease myself back in by writing a very short post first.

Over the last few days my twitter feed has been absolutely taken over by all the awesome testers that I follow talking about #CAST2014….to be honest, I’m completely jealous!! It looks and sounds like it’s going to be a hell of a conference and one that I’ll be following closely during next week.

It’s not all doom and gloom for me – I was always told that “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” and if you never ask, the answer will ALWAYS be no. So i thought i would take the chance at work to ask “Is there and chance that i could go to Agile Testing Days?”. I love attending and being a part of conferences and as it stands I’ve only been part of the awesome 1 Day event that is TestBash here in the UK. Obviously i was keen to attend an overseas event, the chance to see the talks and also to share experiences with other testers around the world is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while now.

So to cut a long story short – my amazing company newvoicemedia are footing the bill to send myself and two others to the event in Potsdam, Germany. As you can see from the ATD Program it’s going to be a very very very hard decision choosing which talks I want to see. One I’m looking forward to hearing is by Sami Soderblom (@pr0mille) “They made me a combat medic?!”  – coming from a military background this one jumped out at me straight away and I will be very interested to hear his take on things.

I’m looking to take as much away from these talks as I physically can and bring all this new information back to the office and share it with my awesome test team. Also it’s a chance to meet up with testers that i’ve already had the pleasure to meet and to meet some new ones.

What are the things that you want to do? Is there anything that someone can help you with? If so, ask – You never know, you might get those lovely Y E S letters back.