Don’t get stuck, try something different

 

view when trying a new running route I saw a double rainbow!


If you don’t know by now, 5 months ago (5 months!!!) I joined Songkick.

One of the many things that appealed, apart from working with Amy of course, was to experience another way to develop software, namely Continuous Delivery.

So this post is a bit about, not getting stuck in your job, routine, thought processes, try something different when you can or if what you are doing doesn’t feel right!

How did I get into this topic?

Songkick has had quite a few new hires in the tech team over the past few months and as part of the on-boarding there is a an intro into how we test at Songkick.

For 2016 Amy has been mixing this up by making the session super interactive and it really works.

As part of this we spoke about exploratory testing over test plans and how your emotions can drive your journey through the system when you are hunting for information and bugs.

All this “huh!?”, “oh!”, “OH!?”, “ah”, and “erm” moments can drive your test journey through the application as a tester and developer.

On the flipp-side to this is boredom. Boredom is another emotional state to avoid. Question why you are bored. Have you exhausted your testing journeys, do you need to mix it up by using different devices?

Boredom and feeling a little stuck was what drove me to try something different.

First a quick back story.

As part of a merger in early 2015 Songkick is doing some re-aligning of technologies. To keep it as vague as possible. I have been part of one of those teams working towards one platform. This has been super exciting and provided a great learning experience as I could learn about both companies technological history.

But this means we have some (or a lot of) manual regression testing we do as a team. This is generally unusual for projects there but a way of providing confidence for the team and whole business.

Now where am I going with this?

My boredom (don’t tell my team, I keep telling them that all testing is fun) came from the fact that I was regression testing something that we did have confidence in, over and over again on different devices and browsers, but it is quite a risky project so we rather test twice and in person alongside automation.

In the retrospective I was surprised how concerned everyone was that the testing was left to one person while the rest of the team tries to finish off other tasks before the release date. 

One of our team members had the great idea to block out some time and get everyone to test for an hour together.

Go with the energy.

Straight away I jumped at this and expanded on the idea. We discussed that this 1 hour session will involve all team members and we will test on different devices and browsers.

I was however not keen on providing a list of testing tasks or test plans as I wanted everyone to feel free to explore, so I created some user scenarios for everyone to have and try. They were meant as inspiration of what to test and a way of visulaisin how the software may actually be used.

 This seemed to work well, although the volume of scenarios I supplied was frightening some initially, but by emphasising that these were ideas and did not have to be ticked off we got somewhere really quickly.

Make it as easy as possible.

One major thing with testing systems can be the test data. This can be time consuming to create and manage, putting people off spending time on testing. I took this away from the team and provided them with different test data options for the various scenarios. These were the same selection of test data meaning we had a mini performance test of several users, accessing the same data. Being in ticket sales though we generally deal with short and high spikes of data which we are testing using automation. 🙂

Entice them

This can be as simple as buying jaffa cakes or bringing in some home made cookies. Always works a treat!

 

Trying a new recipe!


Results?

We had a focused testing session and logged several issues. None of which will block our release, thank god, but some which would have taken ages to find for one person.

Also we logged improvements on usability, as our designers and usability experts took part and got to experience the app first hand in a repetitive situation.

Overall this was a success, we got many eyes and devices to be used at the same time and it was a great team experience!

So don’t get stuck but do try something new! You never know what you may achieve. 

Thoughts: Should I stay or should I go now?

  

 The last Testing in the pub podcast was about leaving testing and why do testers move on or stay in the profession. I thought it was a nice exercise to think about why I left testing once and why I am back and here to stay.

Spoiler: I am not thinking about changing away from testing in the immediate future. I still feel like I have only just discovered testing as a career and profession that I enjoy and grow in.

But I did reflect a little bit on the subject and why do I stay in testing, but maybe change job relatively often and how did it come to this? Well let’s start at the beginning because I have left testing as a whole before.

The Beginning:

Straight out of uni I knew one thing and one thing only, I wanted to stay in the Brighton and Hove area. This meant getting a job.

Being bilingual and having just studied German at university I looked into jobs which would utilise my language skills and found a localisation tester job for a 3rd party games testing company.

I passed their onboarding process and started to work there. It was semi-freelance in that you had to grab as many hours as you could to survive. But I loved the experience and often found issues that weren’t just language related.

I liked the fast paced environment of working on different platforms and types of games. There were a couple of issues though, the work was fun and didn’t seem like “work”, it was slightly unstable in that you had to fight for the hours on a project and I did not see a career path.

In the company there were leads who were mostly project managers for a certain language or game but there was no progression to stay in testing. This made the job seem like a dead end to me and I didn’t look into it any further when a different language based (sales) job appeared locally.

Leaving:

Eventually (because I hated sales) I found games testing again. This time as a full time tester. It still just seemed like a fun job and not a career but then something happened.

  1. I was working with someone (now an amazing friend of mine) who had been a professional software tester prior to this job and pointed me in the direction of great articles and testing practices. And she just made me think, a lot! In a good way!
  2. I had an amazing QA manager who made you aspire to be like her. She was awesome, inspiring and supportive even though she was based in Canada while we were in the UK. (Still sad we never worked closer together).
  3. I became curious and started to google more about software testing and not just games and localisation testing.
  4. I won a ticket to go to a software testing conference.

This all happened within 18 months and shaped my mind for the future.

After the conference where I tried to speak to as many people as possible I realised that testing was not just what we did. There are many forms, more engaging environments and also more challenging environments and I wanted to see more.

The next steps I took were to activate my twitter account and to start posting in the Software Testing Club forum.

 

Leaving – with a purpose:

Why did I leave that testing job? There was no room for progression. Learning was stifled, management wasn’t great locally and it seemed like every day was full of negativity. Don’t get me wrong I loved my role (mostly) especially when it involved doing more stuff with the teams abroad (as challenging as cross time zone working can be).

Being curious about actually testing software and not doing what seemed like a glorified editor job, I applied to as many positions as Brighton and Hove had to offer and eventually got lucky.

I would like to think that my enthusiasm and involvement in the community helped a great deal in securing the job. And I would also like to think that maybe I helped to start a small testing revolution that Emma is continuing. 🙂

Leaving again!?

Unfortunately due to personal reasons and when an opportunity occurred that would solve some of my personal issues, I left that job. If I could have stayed I would have but the other opportunity was great and my personal issues meant that long term I couldn’t afford the commute to the previous job.

So sometimes we leave testing jobs for other testing jobs due to personal reasons which is also fine I think. Maybe we can see this as location being a factor and maybe also renumeration.

This next job was a bit bigger and initially maybe more than I could handle but I think I did it to the best of my ability.

I hired and managed a small team of testers within a year of starting there. This pushed me a lot and I learned a lot and engaged with the community in a totally different way. I guess initially I spoke mainly to peers who were also testers that report to someone but not managing anyone and then suddenly I was trying to find good testers and also provide a good environment for them (shame the business wasn’t quite up to that though).

Leaving again again!?

The community can be such a great place to network. Attend meet ups and just strike up conversations.

This is how  I came to leave again and end up where I am now. The challenges are completely different and I am learning a lot which was part of the appeal to move on to a new role. Also in the podcasts the guys mention that sometimes you move on to work with people you admire and respect and this was the case this time round as well.:)

So why did I leave testing jobs:

  1. No career progression
  2. No learning or development opportunities
  3. Location and renumeration (in combination with new challenges)
  4. New environments and testing challenges to explore
  5. Gaining experience
  6. No room for creativity
  7. Slow development progress
  8. Personal reasons
  9. Opportunity to try something new like managing and hiring
  10. Opportunity to work with great people from the community

 

Why haven’t I left testing?

  1. It is always challenging
  2. Problem solving
  3. Creativity
  4. There are inspiring individuals in the community
  5. The community
  6. Love testing and contemplating and thinking about it
  7. Love for technology
  8. Love for design and how it affects users
  9. Provides the opportunity to be a certain user (almost like acting which I wanted to do but was always too scared to)

 

Have you thought about your journey and why you are still in testing or not?

 

 

Thoughts: Starting a meet up

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Cornwall April 2015 – Arthur’s Castle

Myself and Emma with help from loads of others have been running the Brighton tester meet up for a year now.

As we start 2016 with 2 meet ups already planned which you can find here and here, I thought I would put my thoughts on on how to start a meet up in my point of view.

January meet up – Introduction to stubbing and mocking using Wiremock

February meet up – Ghostbusting User Stories with Alan Parkinson

 

Whenever we post a meet up 9 times out of 10, I get asked if we can organise meet ups somewhere else too but you don’t need us, you can do it. 🙂

In my view there are some simple ingredients to starting and then being able to run a meet up.

 

Find a set up you like

First of all, attend some meet ups and find formats that you like that you may want to replicate.

 

Venue

Find out if there are local venues with wifi and projector facilities that do community events for free. A lot of them do! In Brighton the Skiff is such a venue and there are a few pubs as well. Just make sure it is not a football night.

Think about your audience size and choose a venue where people won’t be too crowded and hot and also not too far away from each other. The idea is to encourage people to chat and network.

Also do not rule out local companies. You would be surprised how many are happy to host a networking event right in their meeting rooms. All it takes is meeting someone, getting an office manager or HR contact. Maybe try their twitter or contact pages and just ask.

 

Hosting

Hosting is also really important. Be the host or find a host. A host is a great idea because it means there is someone anyone feels they can approach. The host can do a general welcome, and introduce people. A good host can really put everyone at ease.

 

Food/Drink and Sponsorship

During tech talks I generally have experienced there to be beer and pizza. Be careful not to alienate your audience though. For example order veggie and meat pizzas and have soft drinks available as well.

For providing drinks and food you may want to look for sponsors especially when your audience grows past 15 people. Or ask for a donation at the end/beginning of the event.

To be able to get sponsorship, have a sales pitch ready. What do you offer in return? Any advertising, space for the company/person to do a pitch of their product?

 

Speakers

Finding speakers can be really hard but I would suggest actually approaching and inviting people instead of putting out an ad asking for speakers. Use the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon (since social media it is only 3) and find someone who likes to speak at events and invite them directly.

 

Social Media

Then find yourself a twitter account with an unusual hashtag and tweet the hell out of your meet up. Also using meet up platform really helped us be found.

I like to also scour local technology event calendars and add the meet up to those. If you don’t meet too often this is not too time consuming. And you could always double up with someone and be a co-host to split the tasks.

 

Have you got any questions or suggestions on how to help others start to organise events? Why not come to one of our events this year and then give us feedback, meet other testers and snoop around company offices. 🙂

Real Life: How to survive commuting?

 

Picture taken on the commute home


I watched a presentation by @medickinson on presenting/public speaking for introverts. She makes a great point on how introverts get over stimulated more easily than extroverts.

There is actually some science behind it in terms of how we actually have different tolerances to the stress hormone dopamine.

During the presentation of this data I realised that maybe I am not imagining that going to big cities makes me really tired. Big cities can be really overstimulating.

We are presented with tonnes of adverts, it is noisy, there are tonnes of people, there is less space than in the countryside. Just now I realised that me being an introvert means that it is no wonder that this tires me out.

This gave me the idea of the introverts survival guide to commuting.

To put into perspective I have commuted locally in all sorts of ways, by bus, walking whenever I can, cycling, driving etc.

But what I had never done before was travel really far and do that by train.

This changed 3 months ago, when I joined Songkick in London.

With no intention of moving to London I knew this meant tackling the commuter train.

 

My platform at 6:30am


The commuter train to and from London is sort of special. You get different types of people at different times.

The earliest I have managed is 6:31 to London and it is full of snoring people and zombies.

Today someone was asleep opposite me with his eyes open! Scary!

I am also a sleeper even at 7am, but I wasn’t initially. I think the actual commuting and being in the city has made me so tired that I need the morning to myself sleeping.

In case sleeping in carriage full of people worries you, here are some other survival tips:

1. Noise cancelling headphones – Great for those noisy snorers, loud eaters, or blocking out the ones that actually talk to each other!

2. Kindle – light, easy to hold and read. A book will do as well but can be bulky to carry around.

3. Tablet/Phablet – download videos onto your tablet or phablet. This can be some great distraction, or even learning experience. I download Ted talks on a regular basis. 🙂

4. Podcasts –  my new favourite! Podcasts are a must for at least the morning if not evening as well. My general favourites are: Criminal, Your are not so smart, Serial, This American Life and Welcome to Nightvale.

5. Music – maybe even try new music! You will hardly ever get an hour to yourself to just listen to something new. Then when you like them and want to see them live near you, why not download the songkick app.!? 😛

6. Good backpack – What do I mean by good!? Well it depends on your use cases but I need one that is cushioned, has a laptop compartment that is cushioned, big general compartment for running gear, lunch, water bottle and other bits and pieces. Waterproof is a major win as well, especially if you walk around London a lot like myself. I also like wide and well cushioned straps that you can also fasten across your body. I know the look sucks but if you are late and need to run you don’t want the bag to jump all across your back.

7. Water – I have broken out water separately here because recently I have been feeling faint on the train, especially when I have had to stand up. It is very important to keep hydrated during your commute, kids!

8. Snacks – In similar vain as water, you never know how long your commute may be. In three months I have had 4 or 5 trains be on time. Carry some snacks with you in case you don’t make it home in time for dinner.

9. Notepad and pens – The commuter train can be a great place to unwind and let your thoughts wander! You never know what great ideas you will have. Make sure to have pen and paper to hand to write them down!

10. Knitting – Now I unwind with crafting. I can’t really sew on the train (I don’t do hand sewing) so I knit. I have so far made a cowl, a hat and working on a jumper. It can be really nice to not feel like you are wasting your time by just waiting.

 

This has been knitted 80% on a train


11. Coffee – Now a good coffee can make the day! Make sure you are friendly to your coffee provider so they start recognising you and make you your usual! This saves time in those moments where you got out of bed a few mins later than usual and you can still catch your normal train!

 

Coffee! (although I have since given up – no coffee for a while now)


Also keep your stamp cards. Commuter train coffee can really drain your pockets!

12. Apps and Social Media – make sure your trainline’s twitter account and news page is easily accessible! You never know when there may be too many leaves on the tracks causing a delayed or cancelled train! You will be thankful for making checking these part of your morning routine, because they may enable you to have another half hour snooze!

These are some ideas to get you started. I left out actual work here, but do feel free to do some work on the train or write your next blog post up, as I am doing. 🙂

But let me tell you it was not easy! Now after three months of commuting it is getting better, but I struggled with exhaustion, travel sickness, leg cramps (suddenly walking 8-10km a day) and I even passed out on the train (this showed me that commuters can be nice and helpful).

Agile Testing Days: Making a web for everyone by Michael Larsen

Wow Agile testing days is in a class of its own. So relaxed fun and full of friends old and new! Everyone is a hugger so be prepared. 😛

This morning I listened to 2 sessions. One by Michael Larsen I want to mention now as it was about a topic close to my heart, accessibility.


In my places of work we have ignored this in the past and actually it goes hand in hand with good UX design and responsive design so why don’t we make that extra effort up front?

Here are my notes from Michael’s talk.

Why accessibility as a topic?

  • We should build products that are designed to allow as many people as possible to access information.
  • Allow people with disabilities have a similar experience as their normative counterparts.
  • Good design that helps all of us.

Why focus on accessibility?

  • In some countries it is the law. Why limit your user base.
  • It is the right thing to do
  • It is good business.

Can you put yourselves in peoples shoes? What about blindness? Deafness? How would that affect your app usage? Have you ever turned on the screen reader on your computer?

Michael highly recommends the following book for more information as well. A web for everyone.

Types of disabilities:

  • There are normative/primary disabilities: Deafness, blindess
  • But there are also secondary disabilities, that we all can related to. IE. phone call at a loud concert.

Products are not just designed for a small group of people. We can all go from normative to significantly disabled without notice. What then?

Principles of web accessibility:

  • avoid making assumptions about your users’ ability
  • you can only guarantee that someones tech can send texts thats it
  • users time belong to them not us – don’t take control of either without good reason
  • provide good text alternatives for non text content
  • use widely available technologies
  • use clear language to communicate your message
  • make your sites usable, searchable, navigable
  • design your content for semantic meaning and maintain separation between content and presentation
  • progressively enhance your basic content – allow content to degrade gracefully

Heuristic Be HUMBLE

  

Humanise – understand the emotional content

Unlearn – step away from your default, maybe with using duct tape to resritct movement or using gloves. Try to control your computer with your voice.

Model – use personas, consider pace and behaviour differences

Build – learn about the tools to test with and discover the barriers

Learn – what are the barriers how do users perceive understand and operate

Experiment – put yourself in literal situation, collaborate with designers and programmers and provide feedback

Different terminology

Design accessibility up front – be agile about it – but use a different term. Accessibility has baggage associated with it this tends to be around money and law suits which has a negative connotation.

Use inclusive design

I really enjoyed this session and can’t wait to explore the topic further and order the recommended book. 🙂 Also a tip from my last place. If you just start paying attention to simple things like using alt tags and nudge the team you can make a real impact without much effort to your user base!

MeetUp: Brighton’s #Testactually at MatchboxMobile

Shameless plug about our next Tester meet up in Brighton. RSVP here to make sure we have enough food and drink!

It is on Weds 11th Nov, and this time food, drink and venue is sponsored by Matchbox Mobile.

The talk will be on a really interesting subject called Dark Patterns by Emma Keaveny.

Have you ever found yourself downloading a tool bar you didn’t want?  How about suddenly receiving emails because you accidentally signed up for a mailing list?

Well if you have, then you have been whacked with a Dark Pattern!  These patterns are designed to fool you, into applying or buying things you had no intention of getting.  In this presentation I will be going through the different types of dark patterns that are out there, how we should approach these as testers (is there a right way or a wrong way to deal with them), as well as covering some pros and cons on these controversial barely legal techniques that are used more frequently than you would think.

Speaker:

Emma Keaveny is an enthusiastic eager and always learning tester.  For the last year she has been working for Interica on archive and retrieval software.

She is also co-organiser of BrighTest Actually, a Brighton based testing meetup where fellow testers get together either for a few drinks, games or some interesting talks.

TinyTestBash or my first speaking event

 

Last Friday #tinytestbash took place.

On the Thursday before we already met a few testers at the pub. Some faces I knew from other test bashes and many new ones!

Friday started with a lean coffee event that I cannot say much about because I didn’t go. I do recommend going though if you can. These session always seem to be really helpful and great to start getting your mind into gear for the conference.

My speaker nerves took over and I had to take the extra time to prepare mentally, hence I did not go.

The venue was nice and open. We had a little podium which some hated, as they wanted to walk around but I embraced because I didn’t have a remote control for changing the slides. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to speak again so didn’t invest in one. Remotes with integrated laser pointers were very popular though. 🙂 (unless that was the same one provided by the venue).

TinyTestBash Talks

The opening session was by Maaret. I loved her style. Even though there were 100ish people in the room she made it feel really personal. Her story focused around moving testing and testing activities to other business activities such as questioning requirements, business analysis, looking at wire frames.

 

She advised though to remember your commitment to the team is to test the software, but to think about opportunity cost. Moving her testing upstream in the development cycle means she may have less questions and hence her actual testing is performed quicker.

The second talk was a lovely double act my Jokin and Marta. They told the story of hiring and being hiring. I liked the dynamic of the talk and the 2 POVs. Made me wonder if I can find a similar personal story to tell as I have enjoyed the hiring process in my previous role but also have learned a lot about it.

 

Next up was my own talk. I told my story of how I integrated testing professionals in a company which for 7 years never had testers and how I hired and then tried to create my dream team. It was great to be able to reference Joikin and Maaret in my section about hiring. I think doing something like that makes the talk more natural as well.

During the break I was approached by a few people (sorry I have forgotten names, I was in a daze), and we chatted a bit more about my story which made me think it went well. 🙂

The 3 pre lunch sessions were by Stuart (@HowWright) who had a similar story to me but with a very different backdrop of the mobile games industry. I liked his fearless approach that he described, making a team from local testers and giving them a great environment to work and thrive in.

 

I also loved his slides. They were mainly awesome images that really gave the talk a certain feel.

Before lunch we had Guna. She told her story of how she found testing and interacts with the community and what she gets out of it. I still love her poignant remark in her 99 second talk which felt like a nice extra point that as much as she wants to be a tester rockstar, she has realised it takes a team to become a rockstar team where everyone shines. I loved her analogy that she saw a band where the guitarist overpowered the main singer and just did 20 mins solos all the time.

After lunch we had Emma. Me and Emma worked very closely together on our talks, so I felt really nervous for her but she smashed it. Nice balance of humour and education and such a great topic. I won’t say much more because she will do it again on the 11th Nov in Brighton, come and see for yourself.

 

A very visual talk was given by Stephen (@stephenmounsey) about using sketch notes. He showed us many and how he remembered what they were about giving us a variety of great hints and tips. He then took it a step further and showed us how visualising tools and gamification tools have helped him promote good testing. I remember meeting Stephen in the spring and he showed me some of his sketch notes and I can still recall a lot about their delivery pipeline. Visuals work!

 

Next up we had another personal testing journey story from Frank. He worked at lego now but his journey of how he got there was very interesting. Maybe it was a reflection on the Danish tech industry. I would have loved to explore that further through a chat with him.

The afternoon was rounded up by Dan’s talk about security. I love that he integrated the newly revealed attack on talk talk and he made up his own nemonic based on his love for doctor who.

Dan is inspiring because he didn’t start as a security tester but it became a topic he was fascinated by and he just started learning and now shares his knowledge whenever he can.

Richard had the final spot of the day. He talked about being an automation tester that has found mobile testing does not necessarily work with automation. He shared some great tips about lining devices up to do the same task, how to make sure your colleagues don’t steal your charging cables, and to go outside and test.

Sorry if these aren’t in the correct order but they mostly are. 🙂

What stood out about tinytestbash was something that Rosie summarised well here.

2015-10-28_1314

I agree it was very honest and a very inclusive event where everyone was approachable.

For the first time speakers it was a great setting with supportive audience. I was also told that someone found it inspiring how many female speakers Rosie had found.

I hope this event will happen again as it is a nice platform for newcomers to share how they got to where they are now.

Let me know if I have missed anyone’s blogs or twitter handles and I will add them. 🙂