Weekend Testing = Weekend Best Thing?

Posted: November 5, 2013 in Testing Lessons, Testing Profession, Testing Skills & Education

When time permits, I like to learn. Some of my learning is externally motivated (e.g. university deadlines), but a lot of my learning is internally motivated and largely solitary (e.g. a udemy course).

As a result of seeking new avenues of learning, I’ve became connected with the growing Australian (and international) context-driven testing community. Biased though I may be (at least in this particular circumstance), I believe getting involved with communities of like-minded individuals is possibly the best way of increasing your expertise, getting a lot of encouragement and useful feedback in the process, and ultimately making a contribution to that very community.

One of those avenues I’ve unearthed in the past few months is the Australian and New Zealand chapter of Weekend Testing (WT). An organisation 100% run by a small number of incredibly dedicated volunteers, it’s yet another example of testers pushing beyond the bounds of conventional education and helping one another out.

So, what is Weekend Testing (other than the obvious “testing that takes place on the weekend”)? In 25 words or less…

A group of people assemble on Skype, test websites with a topic in mind, and then discuss their findings.

19 words. How efficient.

Since WTANZ has been resurrected (due largely to the ceaseless efforts of Alessandra Moreira and Rich Robinson), I’ve attended 4 sessions. All have had different topics, targets and participants, and all have provided a veritable cornucopia of insight into some angle of software testing.

What did I learn from each session? In very concise form…

WTANZ 13 – How to better use oracles to determine whether a bug is a bug
WTANZ 14 – Paired testing is a lot harder remotely than it is in person
WTANZ 15 – How to use heuristics to better guide test planning
WTANZ 16 – Learning to question your (often unvoiced) assumptions

Those descriptions are quite simplistic, as it’s hard to describe the whirlwind of discussion and creative provocation that occurs throughout the WT session. I’d encourage you to peruse the full experience reports for a more detailed description of “what went down at da sesh”.

So, why do I enjoy spending a couple of hours of my weekend testing after spending the working week doing much the same? Glad you asked (or read the question in your mind, which is practically the same thing)! Allow me to expound a few reasons…

1. WT provides an environment where involvement and trying new things is encouraged. Sticking your neck out to try new ideas or approaches can be intimidating and challenging for novices or experts alike to attempt in their work, so providing a “safe place” for this is extremely valuable (and sorely needed in a testing industry that largely seems reluctant to explore self-improvement).

2. WT provides a forum where inexperienced testers and very experienced testers not only mix, but actively co-operate. For many “newbie” testers, there may be no better place to learn than in a community of willing and knowledgeable experts. For the experts, it can be extremely satisfying to pass on their knowledge to a new and enthusiastic generation.

3. Whatever the subject, the discussion never fails to throw up a lot angles or ideas I would never have considered. They may not always be revolutionary concepts, but they often provoke, challenge and force a re-think to my attitudes and approaches on a particular topic.

4. The networking aspect is not something I immediately appreciated, but it can play an important part. Becoming connected with a community of like-minded individuals is arguably one of the best ways of kick-starting an education, a career or even a “legendary voyage of self-discovery”™. It may also be the first step in establishing your reputation on an international stage.

In following the spirit of Point 1, I tried my hand with facilitation of a Weekend Testing session a couple of weeks ago (the responsibilities of which are well explained here by Michael Larsen). It was somewhat daunting, as the conversation flowed thick and fast, even with only half a dozen participants. But somehow I survived. Alessandra proved to be an excellent coach and I learned how things worked.

In the past few months, Weekend Testing has been a fantastic learning experience, and the chance to facilitate was a (hopefully not unique) opportunity to view how it works from the other side of the fence. I’m looking forward to getting down and dirty again with Weekend Testing in 2014. Maybe I’ll see you there (and if I don’t, I’ll come looking for you… I know where you live).

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  1. […] Weekend Testing = Weekend Best Thing? Written by: Dean Mackenzie […]

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