WTA05: Two-fold Mission + Bonus

Posted by Albert Gareev on Jan 18, 2011 | Categories: WTAmericas

Last Saturday I joined Weekend Testing Americas session #5 as a “special guest” tester, introducing testing challenge I prepared under Michael Larsen‘s revision to fit WT environment and conditions.

  • For those, who have not heard of Weekend Testing: it’s an online event, where testers gather up and practice their craft in collaboration. As it’s time constrained (2 hours for all), and the mission and attending participants are not known until it begins, it has to be planned and organized in a special fashion.


The session had two mission goals.

A Programmer’s Hat

This part was of educational type. By playing the game from level to level the participants learnt basics of programming concepts. Facilitators helped doing that while bringing attention to the concepts discovered in use: algorithm, structuring code, reusable functions, refactoring and recursion.
A dedicated post on these experiences to come out. [Update: published, follow the link.]

Test the Envisioned

The mission was stated as “explore and report what kinds of threats to the value such product may impose if implemented in the real scale”, i.e. if such a solution would be implemented in a real factory or a warehouse, with a programmable robot.
I’ll blog on this part as well.

A Community of Learning

As a bonus I want to share some personal observations and experiences I gained through WTA sessions.

Break Out of Routine

Being a contractor, I’m used to change of working environment. However, many companies (especially big ones) still follow generally the same working routine. Now imagine if someone works in the same environment for years? In the same working process, using same technologies and methodologies, testing same applications… It’s stagnant for professional development.
Now, Weekend Testing gives an opportunity to break out from the daily routine. It encourages and re-enables learning. Gives a chance to try new techniques. Explore new applications. Learn of new approaches. And – the most important – share your thoughts with fellow testers, discover new angles and new layers of testing, and inspire and get inspired. Charged with this new experience people may come back to their desks and do the job at a new level!

In a Fast Pace

The whole session is 2 hours long. Last 30 minutes block is for debriefing. In 1 hour you need to carry out your mission, while responding to the group chat, coordinating with your partner, if you’re paired, making notes and reporting your findings. Pretty overwhelming, huh? Yes, it is a stress of some sort. But a stress under control and in a safe environment. And you get used to it, and do even better. Just like vaccination.

Value for Customers

If you don’t want to waste your time verifying features that have no value for the customer, or miss threats to the real value of the product, you should continuously question your testing. Explore about the context (See more on that in Michael Bolton’s blog, DevelopSense). Probe if you are unsure.
In Weekend Testing, the applications chosen are quite small and simple. Testing charters are direct and communicated as clearly as possible. And yet we observe confusions. (Some deviations result in beautiful insights, though!) But again – we can fail safely, we enjoy diversity of thoughts, and learn through the feedback.

Feedback for Testers

As testers, we reveal and provide information about the product. We give a feedback that they use. But we could also use a feedback! Sometimes we receive it on our own products – on bug reports, for example, and we may use it to improve our writing skills. But what about refining our testing skills? I believe, we could use a feedback for such only if we get it from our colleagues. In Weekend Testing, we have a culture that encourages it. Nice catch!

Bringing Job to Home

When I was preparing the mission for this session, my 7 years old son was mostly interested in the puzzles themselves. However, he also asked questions why I’m not simply playing but trying it different ways. Once I explained the notion he gave out a few testing ideas on his own!
When Michael Larsen, our facilitator, was setting the mission, his son, Nick, asked if he could join. And he joined, paired with Shmuel Gershon, and this team produced quite an impressive test report!
Isn’t it a great chance to demonstrate what you’re doing for your family? Our children always watch and copy us, whether we like it or not. You’re tester, you have a job you are passionate about – lead by example. Maybe they won’t become testers but they will remember your drive.

And, overall, big thanks to our family members understanding and supporting us!


Light’em Up! 
The original testing challenge linked to the page on my blog

WTA05 – Light ‘em Up!
The experience report with chat transcript.

Weekend Testing Americas #5 – My Son Joins In!
Experience Report by WTA facilitator Michael Larsen

  • One response to "WTA05: Two-fold Mission + Bonus"

  • Darren McMillan
    22nd January 2011 at 5:36

    Excellent write up Albert!

    It did indeed sound like a fantastic session, one which I’m sad I couldn’t attend. I did get the chance to play about with the game afterwards once I’d saw the buzz on twitter about the challenge.

    A fun simple little game, I can see why others enjoyed the session so much.

    I think you highlighted the key goals of these testing sessions.

    -A safe environment
    -A place to exercise your skills on new applications
    -A place to learn from not only others but also yourself.

    Thanks for sharing.

    [ Albert’s reply. Thanks, Darren. To get even with you I need to start attending WeekNight sessions :) ]

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This work by Albert Gareev is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.