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.

scrum-task-board-template-powerpoint

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?

 

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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?

 

 

Sharing is Caring

 

Here is my blog post about sharing at Songkick, I promised Helena I would post a month ago. Oops!

First a bit of a back story.

I joined Songkick over 6 months ago now! This seems crazy! Where does the time go?!

Time has flown by. I also cannot believe that it has been a month since Testbash Brighton. If you missed out the videos are online now here.

Anyways back to the back story:

If I think back to 6 or 7 months ago and how little I knew and how much I know now (and how much I know I don’t know) about the company and the tech, the domain, the people, job roles and responsibilities, that is an incredible amount of information to have to learn in a short time.

Luckily Songkick does a couple of awesome things that really helped with this. Here are a few ways in no particular order:

On-boarding:

This is new and still being trailed, so it is important to give feedback but the idea and general execution was good.

So what is on-boarding at Songkick? Regardless of the job role you joined as, during the first few weeks you will be invited to presentations (mostly remote ones for me), from different people of the business. These cover many different topics, some are about the domain, certain departments or processes.

This may feel like information overload, but the most important thing to remember from on-boarding sessions, I think, is the topic and who to associate with it, so you can ask more detailed questions later and know who has the information.

These sessions were quite intense, but for me they became handy very quickly, as I knew who to contact to help me figure out who uses a certain system and who we would need to help test a scenario, or even find out what a scenario may be.

Understanding how your users (internally and externally) use the systems your team builds is such valuable information for testers.

Testing specific meetings:

Being the first, second tester in the company for a long time, this was unstructured, which has its benefits and downfalls.

Luckily the approach has been taken that if you have been asked to explain something, you write it up. So there was lots of relevant documentation on how to test certain things. These were super useful, as I did not have to rely on someone to be around, but could figure things out.

We also did mind maps of areas to have in depth sessions on, so I could learn about the other details of the system that may not be obvious. I found it interesting to make a learning plan using mind maps. It has been a nice experience though and I like the informal format of those sessions.

What was important too, was to learn about the history of certain features, to be able to look for backwards compatibility if needed.

As a downfall for an unstructured approach, you could say that, we may have missed stuff in my on-boarding process initially, but then I am not worried to ask if I come across something to be given the information instead. Sometimes that is a more rewarding experience, and also the information is more likely to stick if you had to seek it out yourself.

Dev Talk:

Every Wednesday lunchtime there is a slot reserved for the technology team to do a talk. This is accessible remotely, so anyone interested can dial in.

The topics for this can be anything, new tools, discoveries, experiments, oddities of screen sizes in Android, key takeaways from conferences, etc. Our next one is actually a Docker workshop!

These are relatively informal and more often than not inspire a nice discussion. I like these because they are generally technical and it is a good intro for me to learn some terms and then research them further.

Outcomes of experiments are always fun as well, because they are generally trying to solve a deeper tech problem which is outlined first and then a possible solution is presented. This always gets me thinking about testing the new solution and also if we are missing anything in the current one.

 

Show and Tell:

Show and Tell is a special thing. This for us in the UK happens on a Friday afternoon, involves the whole company, and generally some alcoholic drink. I don’t drink so I don’t care about the alcohol but it seems to be a nice tradition.

Show and Tell is open to anyone in the business but whatever you show cannot exceed 5 minutes. The format is very informal and usually is more of a demo than a presentation. The sort of stuff we see are:

  1. Developers showing improvements to a tool, process, feature.
  2. Business development may show some interesting campaign they won or lost.
  3. Support may show case a nice, angry or funny support case.
  4. Any internal tools that improved productivity.
  5. UI and UX guys may show a new concept or something they learned from research.

What I love about this, is that someone is always showing something. And you get to see what people are passionate about and that they care about their job. It also gives you an insight into problems teams have with tools or products and may give ideas on how to solve them. The other things that is great is that this is that the whole company gets involved to show something.

 

Breakfast Code Club:

I have not been able to go to many of these yet but they are quite fun. The idea is that something to do with code can be shown off. This does not have to be work related. It can be a side project.

For example:

  1. A game
  2. Trying to solve poker algorithm
  3. A pun generator (my fave!)
  4. Solving ciphers.

Sometimes the stuff showcased is work related and this time can be used for a code review as well.

The other selling point is that it is a nice way to mingle with colleagues you may not naturally work with and also there are pastries!

P.S:

The film Breakfast Club was released 31 years ago … yep we are getting old! 🙂