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May 19, 2016 - 5 minute read - Conferences Evil Tester

National Software Testing Conference 2016

On 17th May, 2016 I presented “The Art of Questioning to improve Software Testing, Agile and Automating” at the National Software Testing Conference.

It was only a 20 minute talk. So I had to focus on high level points very carefully.

You can read the slides over on my Conference Talk Page. I also wrote up a the process of pitching the talk, which might provide some value if you are curious about the process that goes on in the background for an invited talk.

The presentation draws on lessons learned from various forms of fast, brief and systemic psychotherapy. With a few simple points:

  • Why? is a question that targets beliefs
  • How, What, Where, When, Who - all target structure and process
  • We all have models of the world and our questions reflect that model
  • Answers we give, reflect our model
  • Responses to answers give information on how well the models of the question asker, and answering person, match up
  • Testing can be modelled as a questioning process
  • Improving our ability to ask questions improves our ability to test, manage, and change behaviour.

You can read some early work I did in this area (2004) in my ‘NLP For Testers” papers.

The conference is aimed at managers so I thought that psychological tools might be more useful than Software Technology Tools.

I spent a lot of time between talks speaking to people and networking, so I didn’t get a chance to see many talks. But those I did get to see I made some notes on that I will have to think about.

A few of the talks overlapped - particularly Paul Gerrard, Daniel Morris, and Geoff Thompson. At least, they overlapped for me.

Paul Gerrard from Gerrard Consulting provided a good overview of how important modeling is for effective testing, and he mentioned his ‘New Model of Software Testing’ to illustrate how the ‘checking’ or ‘asserting’ part of testing is a very small subset of what we do. Paul also described some work he is doing on building some tool support for supporting exploratory testing. I’m looking forward to seeing this when Paul releases it.

Daniel Morris overlapped with Paul when he was describing the various social networks and online shopping tools. Daniel was drawing attention to the multiple views that social networks and shopping sites provide. They have a rich underlying model of the products, and the customers, and the shopping patters, what people buy when they buy this, the navigation habits of the users. etc. All very much aligned to the content Paul described and the tool support that Paul was building up.

Both Daniel and Paul described some of the difficulties in visualising or collating the work of multiple testers, e.g. when testing how do you see what defects have already been raised in this area - if we were navigating a shopping site, we would see it on screen as a navigate, also ‘*****’ starred reviews of ‘how good is this section of the application’. I found value in this because I’m always trying to find out how to better visualise and explore the models I make of software and I found interesting parallels here, and obvious gaps in my current tool support.

Geoff Thomson from Experimentus described some ‘silent assassins’ for projects and stressed that companies and outsourced providers seem to be moving to a focus on ‘cost’ rather than ‘quality’. Geoff also provided different views of project progress and cost, again demonstrating that ‘model’ of the project can be represented in different ways.

I also saw David Rondell provide an overview of various technologies and the rate of change that testing has to deal with. Container based technologies and rapid environment configuration tools like Docker, Mesos, Ansible, Vagrant, Chef, etc. were mentioned in many of the talks. Very often we don’t have time at a management level to really dive deep into these technologies but it was good to see them being discussed at a management level. (There is a good list of associated technologies on the XebiaLabs website)
The Gala in the evening gave us a chance to network further and I received an excellent masterclass in Sales from Peter Shkurko from Parasoft, it is always good to augment book learning with experience from real practitioners. I asked Peter a lot of questions over dinner and Peter’s experience helped me expand my model of sales with tips I hadn’t picked up from any Sales book or training.

For any conference organisers - if you can get the vendors to present, not just, ‘their tools’, but also their experience of ‘selling those tools’ e.g particularly in selling software testing, or selling software tools. I think participants would find that useful.

I tried to pay Peter, and the rest of the table back by contributing testing knowledge and experience in the Gala Quiz. (We got lucky because there was a 4 point value WebDriver question that we were able to ace.)

The result of our combined sales and testing knowledge meant that our table won the Gala Quiz and received ‘golden tickets’ which will grant us access to the European Software Testing Awards in November. Because sales, marketing training, development and testing can all work together.

- in Conferences Evil Tester

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