Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Tester's Video Library ...

My son is a bit of a YouTube addict, and to him and his generation, this is something they turn to when they need to learn about an area and learn fast. This to me can seem quite lazy and almost a cheats way of learning, but as his depth of knowledge of Second World War history has shown, it can be very effective.

Yes - time to get with the 21st Century (so my son tells me).  Learning is no longer just about going to the library and "reading a book".  Today we have blogs, and through YouTube we have on-tap tuition when we need it.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been following his lead and trawling the internet to watch talks about testing – and I too have found it very educating. Some videos have touched upon pain points I'm all-too-aware of, others have really challenged me to raise the bar in my testing and work. And so I'd like to share them here

I'd like to thank my fellow Twitter testing wingman Kenneth Aarseth‏ for providing some of these links.  If you know any must-watch videos, please add them to the comments!

I first watched this in 2010 when it was recommended on the Yammer feed of the test consultancy I worked for. It had me hooked, and it's probably fair to say it inspired this blog. The idea (which I've previously discussed here) that any learning helps you to diversify and grow as a tester. Marlena Compton provided me her blog entry on the subject which she calls interdisciplinary studies, which is a good read.

That woman again. This video was filled with good stuff, of course a lot of it I knew from reading Janet and Lisa's book on Agile Testing. But the one thing which really stuck and challenged me in this talk was around “am I doing enough to make my testing visible?” to the whole project. Challenging. Am I making my testing visible? Yes I know I am. Are there ways to make it better visible to the people who matter? Erm … I think I need to reflect on that. There are always ways to do things better aren't there?

I loved this video, although many testers may not learn huge amounts from it compared to the others, it's still worth experiencing. Uncle Bob is an amazing storyteller, and takes us through the development of software and computers during his career. As I am an ex-developer in C I was rivited.

The main thing you will take home from this is how computers are changing constantly – they have evolved during Bob's lifetime, we'll see the same. Our skills can rapidly become outdated, so continuous learning throughout our career is something we need to embrace.

Michael challenging us on,
  • What do we mean by regression testing.
  • Can we benefit from automated checking tools?
  • Why human testing can investigate and discover issues checking tools will miss.

What I really came away with from this was the discussion about automated checking vs testing.  That using automation we can only check for the problems we could imagine when we scripted. There are all forms of issues which can quite easily slip through the net because you didn't plan your script to adapt and cover them (because you couldn't imagine them happening). This is where a sapient human tester can adapt and investigate where an automated script either grinds to a halt or even worse, carries on an the issue goes unnoticed.

I saved the best until last! Simply because it touched on so many points which are relevant to me this year. I recognised in this talk things I'm doing at the moment, but need to chase up from this talk and get better at. 

Key points in Johanna's talk were,
  • Testing is about gathering information on the product not ensuring quality
  • Manage your communications about testing via a testing dashboard
  • Learn to not spread yourself thin and to say “no” when needed
  • As a test manager, organise your testing portfolio. Make it transparent where you have no resources.
  • Don't move around testers between projects, you'll lose their expertise in areas, which is what makes good testers.

Some more Johanna, talking this time about managing your time and requests to avoid falling into the pitfall of multi-tasking.  Managing expectations - knowing when to say yes and when to say no, how to get people understanding your pressures and priorities.

Johanna Rothman: Lessons learned in project management

This is a must-watch if only for the piece at about 10 minutes about "all out people were good ... except testers, they let everyone down".


  1. Of course (and this might be a future topic) the difference between my learning model as a child "go to the library" and my son's "check YouTube" is whereas in my day they only tended to let you publish books if you had authority. YouTube will let you publish pretty much anything - facts are not an issue.

    So in this day and age it's important to be comfortable to challenge mentally any source of information you come in contact with, and perhaps rubbish it if it does not align with your experience. But at the same time, how can you possibly grow otherwise?

    [Like I said, future topic ...]

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