Yes, developers should verify their bug fixes, but …

First of all, thank you to everyone who has spoken to me about this on twitter, on the blog, in person and even in the aisle of Tesco! 😉

This is part 2 of the conversations about my blog post “Should developers verify their now bug fixes?”. Thank you to all participants!

The main consensus is that “Yes developers should verify their bug fixes.”. And now come the many “buts” (is that even a word?).

Yes developers should verify their bug fixes, but…

  1. … still use the 4 eyes principle or two heads are better than one. It does not have to be a tester necessarily who helps with the bug verification, it could be another developer, a product owner/manager, scrum master or designer. -Basically, most have stated that another pair of eyes makes the team feel comfortable that the bugs were fixed correctly.
  2.  should this be a discussion about quality? I expect devs to replicate the bug and test it’s fixed as part of fixing it , regardless of if there’s another step in the process or not. –I would like to add here that I find the pointer towards quality interesting and want to explore that more. And I think both point 1 and 2 also point towards the fact that you should be owning your work and make sure it is getting the attention it needs.
  3. clear bug reports help build trust. – I totally agree. If you can rely on your team members to communicate issues effectively and clearly this builds trust and you know that if you follow the steps indicated you can then verify if the bug is now fixed.
  4. if we fall back to “aren’t the AC enough?” then why test at all? Aren’t the AC enough for a Dev to verify all their work? –I think this went in a slightly different direction. I still feel that testers’ time is well spent exploring stories and testing implementation of features. In the process they may find bugs and report these (hopefully clearly). And the steps and expected results in those bugs should be enough for anyone to verify the bug is fixed.
  5. is verifying a fix, not more than that? Is it not also retesting a full feature and doing a regression of the system’s area? Hence it should be a tester doing the verification. -Well, I think they are different tasks and exercises. At least in my current context. If the fixes to bugs are so large that the whole feature or area needs regression testing than maybe there are other process issues to think about.
  6. there should be testing expertise available if needed. -Yes!
  7. in certain context the risk is too high to not involve testers in bug verification. -This was generally the consensus from people working in financial industries. I totally agree and think this makes sense. These are often large legacy systems and you never know what you may find as a result of a bug fix. I mostly deal with newish code (less than 2 years old)

 

So this is my second post on this subject. I think a lot of my thinking comes down to team sizes and speed of working. I am trying to work out if we have enough testers across the projects and how we may have to change the way we work if more projects drop on us in the near future. One of these changes may involve the way we think about testing and what a tester’s role is on the team. Will their role still involve verifying all  bug fixes? I think i’d like to push for No and see what happens. More on this if I get somewhere, or not. 🙂

So far this has been great in getting an idea of how people may react and how it may affect the projects we are working on. Thank you all!

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Should developers verify their own bug fixes?

This is my attempt at starting to document this discussion I am having in my life about if developers should check their own bug fixes?

In my previous job, we worked very differently to how the teams I work in now work. Not only because my previous teams worked in Continuous deployment and delivery  compared to a more rigid 2 weekly release cycle, it is also partially due to the fact that I now work on projects rather than a product the company owns and develops and maintains through and through. The projects can be anything from 6 weeks to 2 years long with the long term projects being a newer thing.

In the old job we were 2 testers across around 2 product teams and our time had to be used in the most useful and productive way. One task traditionally executed by testers is to verify bugs are fixed. I had forgotten about this because I hardly checked bug fixes in the last 2 years. Why did I not verify bug fixes for 2 years? Well, one argument is that in general a bug report has a well defined steps to reproduce and an actual and expected result. Hence anyone should be able to check if the bug is fixed. Why not the developer? It hardly takes testing expertise to check a bug is no longer happening. With verifying bug fixes off of my plate, I could use my time doing exploratory testing of new features and user journeys through the application. I would of course still log bugs and discuss them with developers, but there was less of the bug fix ping pong going on.

Now with me changing my job, I saw an opportunity because a big time sink of the few testers I now work with is doing bug verification. I tried to argue that maybe they should not be testing the bug fixes but it should be the developers’ responsibility to test their own fixes. I heard some interesting pros and cons for this internally and through twitter as well. So here we go:

Pros:

  • Frees up testers’ time to do actual exploratory testing. Bug fixes could be classed as “checking” and the bug reports should be clear enough for anyone to check the fix.
  • Trust – no-one wants todo bad work and a bit of trust goes a long way for good team dynamics.
  • If developers do more testing, they may find ways of making it easier/faster by writing scripts or little tools, that the test team may not have the skills for doing on the fly.
  • It may lead to more pairing to avoid bugs in the first place.

Cons:

  • Lack of trust – historically bugs were not fixed properly and there may not be trust that the developer completely fixed the bug.
  • Would you check your own homework? Devs testing their own code is frowned upon, does this also apply to bug fixes?
  • Is it really fixed if no-one else has seen the fix?
  • What about knock on bugs that appear as a result of the fix?

 

What are your pros and cons for verifying bug fixes? Do you check bug fixes? Does it take away from your time testing the application?

I do think there is an element of “it depends” here as well. And this applies to the severity of the bug and the further risk of something else being wrong after the bug fix. But I would hope that someone checking a bug fix would notice if something else was wrong but maybe I have worked in very trusting environments the last 2 years and I need to re-adjust my thinking.

Joining a CD Team the experience report

Today is my last day at Songkick. It has been amazing. Unfortunately I am in no position to move closer to the office, which means commuting! Commuting has taken its toll on me and I decided to call it a day and cried a lot.

When asked during recent interviews what my dream job would be, I did honestly say, my current role at Songkick. It obviously had its challenges but I don’t think a role has pushed me and enlightened me as much. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to experience it.

With joining Songkick came the experience of joining a CD team. Amy did a great talk about the survival guide of joining a CD team at Testbash Brighton this year.

But what was my actual experience?

I cam from a scrum team. We had bi-weekly releases and a comprehensive suite of selenium tests that ran through the browser. By comprehensive I mean, we had 64 hours of selenium tests that when run in parallel took 4 hours. So if one test failed because it found a bug, is flakey, you name it, you lose another 4 hours.

This meant there was a 3-5 day code freeze before the release date as well. We also used a typical scrum board with columns including a testing column. Some were even so granular that there was a “Ready for test” and “In test” column.

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Any bugs that were raised during the sprint ended up in the to do column and needed to be fixed and regression tested before the sprint could be closed off.

Typical problems I had at this job were:

  • Testers become the “bottleneck”
  • Convincing team to help test rather than start new work
  • Defining acceptance criteria
  • Everything had an acceptance test
  • No unit tests

 

When joining CD teams it is worth understanding what the CD stands for. At songkick we have both products working in Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment.

At the very basic level both have an automated test and release pipeline but the Continuous Delivery approach still has a manual step to deploy to production, whereas Continuous Deployment would deploy the code straight to production.

This environment came with many learnings for me.

Ready for test:

Being used to the “Ready for test” column it was quite a shock to join Songkick and its continuous delivery and deployment approaches. Don’t get me wrong I joined because of these approaches as well. In conference talks this often appears to be a mystical world of software development where you test your code on production and developers have relatively good dev environment set ups that they can test well themselves.

But when do I test? Also where do I test?

There was something like a complete loss of control. In certain work environments (not Songkick at all) when a bug is found in production, the test team gets blamed. “Why wasn’t this tested?” is a common phrase. If you have worked in such an environment and then go to continuous delivery you can initially feel panicky because things move so fast and you may not be, or are very unlikely to be doing the testing.

What helped was understanding what is actually going on when new features are being developed. A thing that helped was that testing is happening everywhere all the time.

So discovering that everywhere testing is happening and can happen is invaluable. So you (not you personally but the team) can and probably is testing all the time everywhere. This starts with Kick off conversations. Here you get the chance to test the idea, the problem and the ideas around implementation. It is also a good place to state how you would test the feature.

A great tip from Amy was that in previous roles she learned that telling people what you will do for testing the new feature meant it would already get done by the person developing it and hence there will be less bugs.

So overall these kick off conversations become the most valuable part of testing for a tester at Songkick. They help inform what is just enough testing for this particular release.

Forget about “Ready for test” columns. Everything is continuously being tested and not necessarily by you. Think about how you can integrate your tester mind-set to be heard.

 

Ultimate shift left:

Get in on the planning discussions, requirements, stories, kick offs, whatever you call them, just invite yourself to the meeting and ask questions such as:

  • What is the problem?
  • Who is having the problem?
  • Why are we fixing it now?
  • How will we test it?
  • What is the risk of shipping bugs?
  • Do we need to consider non functional testing such as performance or security?

 

Team and trust:

Build good relationships in your team, because you will be on holiday for a week and there will have been 50 small releases to catch up on that were not tested by a tester.

For me this was about letting go and trusting your team members. Remember no one wants to write bad code and ship broken features.

Like I mention above I felt lost in the beginning, where do I fit in? Who is testing all of this?

A lot of that was about letting go of control issues. Discuss things you care about in a team setting, such as quality features and processes so you all feel comfortable. We did a great session on what quality and quality features means to us and how we define “just enough” testing. This can vary across products and teams but is so valuable to talk about.

 

Mindset change:

Testing becomes more of a proactive role, where you do the testing early on by pairing with developers, or going through unit tests, or liaise with the business to make sure you have the right acceptance tests in place.

Some of this mindset change may be to embrace more of a coaching mindset and sharing experiences and testing knowledge with team members.

At least at Songkick you are an expert in your field and can leverage this to help the team get better at testing in general.

 

Forget a “release date”. Communication is key:

If something is ready to go it will be released. Establish good communication with teams affected by changes. Release log emails, cross functional team updates in slack or regular catch ups.

This was an awesome change for me, to see how much the team is communicating with other departments to let them know about changes.

 

Test in production

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Get to know your production data really well, as a lot of testing will be done in the live environment. This has great advantages as the code is being tested where it is being used with real data but it can be daunting, as you could be affecting real reporting. Liaise with the relevant departments to help sort this and avoid any confusion.

I was always worried I would notify people about fake events. Liaising with the relevant teams and setting up data in a way to not disturb real fans was fun and scary at the same time and we actually found a bug that we could then fix asap.

Joining Songkick was one of the best things I did and I am super sad to be leaving today, but I am also excited about sharing what I learned and bringing this to a whole new role on the near future.

Have you had any experiences joining CD teams? Any learnings to share?

 

On Positivity: What is positive psychology?

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In October I was fortunate enough to share my story at Testbash Manchester of how I turned my frown upside down.

The talk is now on The Dojo of the Ministry of Testing alongside all the other awesome talks. Check them out!

During my research for the talk I decided that I will explore this a bit further and apply it to testing and maybe even evolve my talk in the future.

To help myself with that I decided to do a small series based on interesting articles, books, podcasts, talks or videos I have seen while researching my talk and since.

I have also had some great and insightful feedback full of suggestions of side topics and other materials to explore.

Hopefully you will join me in this research and find it useful for yourself.

Note: If you are interested in what each talk of Testbash Manchester was about there is a great summary of the day here.

Let’s get into the series.

Introduction: Why I chose this topic

When I started testing I think I was good, because I loved pointing out problems and faults, not only in the systems I was testing but also in my everyday life. I was almost naturally wired to look for the negatives (which actually we all are, some more or some less.)

 

I lived a life all about problems, finding and ranting about the negatives in every situation.

Nevertheless in my opinion, I did ok in my career with this approach even though I did fulfill the stereotype of the moaning tester, one with a martyr complex that hated people (not great when you are meant to be a team player).

This may have been a side effect of the waterfall projects I was involved in, or just my personality at the time.

But everything changed when I joined (supposedly) agile teams and realised I needed to communicate in more ways than just with a negative connotation. I therefore decided to try and turn my frown upside down.

In this series I want to explore my uses of positive psychology techniques in my own personal journey but also link it back to testing and software teams in later posts.

Intro: What is Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing rather than the decline, and has looks for and suggests approaches to increase human functioning. Instead of asking what is wrong and dwelling on this, positive psychology looks at how we can be the best we are able to be.

“It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive. Positive Psychology is grounded in the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within them, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play (Positive Psychology Center, 2016).”

However this does not mean that positive psychology is not interested in how and why things may go wrong or the importance of understanding this, but it is intended to complement more traditional psychological approaches. The idea is to place an importance on using scientific methods to determine how things do go right and how we can apply this more widely.

The positive psychology movement in a way, is credited to have been started by Martin Seligman, American Psychological Association President, who in 1998, “…suggested that psychology turn toward understanding and building human strengths to complement the traditional emphasis on healing damage. Psychology had neglected the positive side of life, having spent much of the last half century primarily concerned with psychopathology. As a result, psychologists and psychiatrists can now measure with considerable precision, and effectively treat, a number of major mental illnesses. However, this progress came at a cost. Relieving life’s miseries made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority (Seligman, 2002).”

Positive psychology, in a nutshell, seeks to emphasise the origins and the effects of psychological wellness, such as positive emotions, positive experiences, positive environments, and human strengths and virtues (Lyubomirsky, 2007).

This was a short intro to Positive psychology. Let me know if this does not make sense or what else you would like to know.

I am making the series up on the fly, but I think next I will look at how other people have evolved the field and based their research on these initials proposals of positive psychology.

 

Thoughts: Accessibility testing for the web

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Myself and Emma recently organised an intro into accessibility testing with the awesome people at Test Partners.

They are really up for doing talks or tutorials with companies and are super friendly and knowledgeable. Do reach out to them if you have any questions on how to get started.

Why is accessibility important?

Up to 20% of the UK population has a disability but moreover research shows that 57% of the UK population benefit from accessibility features:

    • 20 million people over 50 in the UK – diminishing eye sight
    • 6 million + people with dyslexia in the UK
    • 1.5 million people with arthritis in the hand or wrist – use keyboard shortcuts over a mouse
    • Anyone can have a temporary accessibility need – like breaking an arm or hand

 

I have been aware of accessibility testing and really enjoyed the talk by Michael Larsen on the subject at the end of last year but did not look into it anymore.

This is a shame really because the internet is meant to be for everyone and therefore be inclusive but many websites are not.

Do we as testers do enough or even know enough about accessibility testing to point these things out? Are we knowledgeable enough to have these conversations on why we are excluding certain members of the population on using your website or services?

Have you ever had these conversations?

One place I worked at, I had just hired a new tester who came from an external testing services provider. He knew quite a bit about accessibility and started to raise bugs against our website for the images missing alt text for example.

On the one hand the things he was raising were just good practice to have really. But why did we not raise this before?

I never knew what to look for. I was more focused on functionality for able bodied users, maybe because I could easily be that sort of user.

The positive effect the other tester had, was that the designers and front end developers became more interested in how to make the website more accessible and started to reform from within. They started to design good patterns in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. I think this is the hard thing when it comes to accessibility, you can raise bugs and therefore awareness against accessibility features missing or keyboard navigation not working but if the designers and front end developers and maybe more importantly, the product team are not considering accessibility from the start then it is really hard to add it back in.

Why do we not learn about these things when we start our testing career? Was I just blind to it? The ISTQB certainly did not tell me about it.

If you are on the dojo there is a great resource to get you started. Maybe there will be a 30 day testing challenge for accessibility testing soon as well. I would love that.

One thing that Steve and Paul from the Test Partners showed us was this tool. You can add the bookmarklets to your browser bookmarks toolbar and then click on them to get visual feedback on how your website is built.

This helps with understanding the semantics of your page. How it is built and structured. For example headings are usually large and lists usually have bullet points. However, the semantic structure also need to be conveyed programmatically by means of tags in the source code. And these bookmarklets highlight where something has been tagged as a list or image for example.

This is a good starting point I feel, to understand what flaws your page may have for screen readers. Screen readers use the tags in your source code to tell the user what the item on the page is and does.

I would love to pair with some users of accessibility related tools at some point. On a similar note this podcast on a blind architect was incredible to find out how blind people actually use screen readers. TL;DR at a way faster setting than you think.

Have you ever paired with a blind user? Or someone who cannot use a mouse? Or maybe someone who uses a magnifyer?