TL; DR: TestBash Manchester was amazing! I’d highly recommend going and / or sending your team there. The talks and the people were well worth it and even better than I thought they would be.
This post has two main purposes: I want to try and deepen the learning from a great conference by writing about it (as suggested by the lovely and sweet Vera Gehlen-Baum), and I also want to be able to look back on it later and see if I’ve put the learning in to practice. I’ll try to edit it as little as possible, or else I’ll never get it done!
Don’t Think So Close To Me: Managing Critical and Social Distance by Testing – talk by James Bach
The main message I took from this is that critical distance is good but social distance is bad. In other words, get as close to your colleages as you can socially and personally, but maintain enough distance to in order to provide valuable criticism and avoid shared errors. James used a really good image of trying to push opposing magnets as close together as possible, without making them touch. This will be a really interesting one for me to try and implement, as my position at work currently is a little strange – I’m involved with multiple teams without fully being in any team, so it’s important for me to build good relationships all-round but I also having to represent many opposing needs within the business. I’m going to have to think on this one more before I settle on how to really put this in action.
Also, James was really funny during his talk. I don’t think I expected that. I also somehow managed to avoid properly meeting him over three days, despite having had chats together online. Never mind – maybe next time.
Psychology of Asking Questions – talk by Iain Bright
From this talk, I want to try asking “Why not?” I’ve had the opportunity to do it in recent weeks, but for some reason, it hasn’t come to me when suggestions or ideas have been rejected. It seems like such a simple way to find out more and be in a better position to offer something more suitable.
Listening: An Essential Skill for Software Testers – talk by Stephen Mounsey
There were two main things I took away from this talk. One was from the comparison of reductive listening with expansive listening. The former was reported as being more common among males and the latter among women. I have to say that I identify more with the reductive listener – perhaps I’m “too eager” to try and solve some sort of problem – whether it exists or not. I should try more expansive listening that’s less clouded by what I think the aim of the discussion is and just listen to how it unfolds.
The second point was on ignored constants – the example very well used was the humming of a refrigerator in the room that most of the audience only became aware of when it was pointed out. In a later chat with Ash Winter, I suggested that perhaps this is when attending a talk that has a message / ideas you already agree with is still useful – you didn’t actually realise that that’s what you thought / believed, but now that it’s been pointed out, you can consciously action something based on those beliefs.
By the way, Stephen is an absolute sweetheart and his sketch notes are beautiful – you’ll find some on his website.
Testers! Be More Salmon! – talk by Duncan Nisbet
This was all about going up-stream and testing more, earlier. This is something I’d already been thinking about, but I want to come up with a more specific plan of how to put it in to action. It’s probably the kind of thing I’ve convinced myself I couldn’t do for some reason or other but I’m sure there’s something we could be doing better without causing too much disruption. I think the key here will be discussing ideas together and taking small steps / swims up the river.
The 4-hour Tester Experiment – talk by Helena Jeret-Mäe and Joep Schuurkes
The thing that resonated most with me was the use of the Shuhari concept. I’ve come across it many times before, but there was something special about hearing it in the context of testing: Learn the rules, break the rules, become the rules. Joep talked about feeling it “in your bone marrow”. Is it too cheesy to say that’s how I feel about testing and quality? We don’t do it because we have to, we do it because it’s who we are…
Don’t forget to check out www.fourhourtester.net to try and contribute to the exercises used in the experiment.
Is Test Causing Your Live Problems? – talk by Gwen Diagram
It probably F-ing is. I really want to watch this one back when it’s up on the Dojo and get my colleagues involved too. To be honest, I don’t have as much knowledge / control over my test environments as I should, and I’ll need help to change that. We’re already trying to cut out room for errors via manual processes, but that’s just the start. I know we could be doing better and there were lots of things to try in this talk.
Also, Gwen is so lovely and fun to be around! Her passion and enthusiasm shines through, and I wish I was able to chat with her more. She’s so good, she even got a job offer after her talk!
99 Second Talks – short talks by attendees
You’re in luck – they were all streamed online! If you can’t see the video below, you can try watching it on Ministry of Testing’s Facebook page.