Sunday, August 14, 2011

CAST 2011 - First Impressions

Preparation for CAST 2011 blog post is here.
Continued here...

Aug 07th  09:00 pm US time: 
I finally reached Seattle after a long flight journey. I was tired. I wanted to go to Courtyard Marriott hotel and on inquiring, I found that it would cost close to 200 USD for a cab. I wanted to board Shuttle Express as per Lanette Creamer. And the cost was just 26 USD. After a journey close to 1 hr, I reached the hotel.
At the hotel lobby, I found Matt Heusser, Lynn McKee and Nancy Kelln. I was sharing the room with Michael Larsen. When I went to the room, he was awake even though it was close to 10:30 pm US time.

Aug 08th  - Friends meet!
Michael & me went down to the hotel lobby and we met Markus Gaertner, Michael Bolton, Matthew Heusser and few other testers ready to walk to the Lynnwood Convention Center. After close to five minutes of walking, we reached the hall. We were at the registration desk of CAST 2011. I saw Jon Bach talking with  a tester. The moment had arrived. I shook hands with Jon and proceeded to the registration desk. I collected the T shirt, conference kit from Dawn Haynes and saw Sajjadul Hakim busy with his laptop.

I saw James Bach, Anne-Marie Charrett, Adam Yuret, Lanette Creamer, Carsten Feilberg, Simon Schrijver, Fiona Charles and Pete Walen. I was so happy. As Jon Bach said: "It felt like a big party". All the online friends I had were in the same hall as me. The day started with Jon, James welcoming everyone and Michael Bolton's keynote. There were no slides as there was some problem with the laptop/projector combination. I remembered my dream :)

Michael Bolton's Keynote
A keynote without any slides. Michael once again highlighted the CBC show - Ideas and the 24 part series of "How to think about Science"
Notable quotes were:

  • Decisions about quality are political and emotional.
  • Shake the constraints. Refuse to accept the apparent constraints.
  • Testers know that things can be different.
What if there is no time to find all bugs?
We find the important bugs.
What if there is no time for that?
We would conduct a Risk-Analysis.
What if its wrong?
We also take an approach which considers non-risky areas. We will learn from mistakes.

Do we accept failures? No, we accept reality!

We testers discover how the product actually works. We do not confirm that it works.

Acceptance of the reality is maturity. We need to remain skeptical [Rejection of certainty]
Michael also highlighted that testing should focus on human values. The document by Dr. Cem Kaner can be found here. Testing as social science provides partial answers which might be useful.

Michael recommended the study of Philosophy, Epistemology, measurements. Testers should be able to tell both the testing story and product story. We need to be beware of bogus metrics. Also, testers need to be aware of Safety language. There is a difference between "It seems" and "This is". It is important to recognize the difference between observation & inference. "The vs A" problem was also discussed. "The terrible problem" sounds so different from "A terrible problem". Heuristics play an important role in a tester's life. We need to learn & unlearn rapidly. Every minute of the keynote was filled with great learning moments!

Troubleshooting Skills by Chris Blain
After the keynote, there were few RED cards flashing across the hall. There were K cards being used to facilitate the discussion. My cards were numbered 186. After the keynote, it was time for some fruits and the track sessions. I attended the 'Troubleshooting skills' session by Chris Blain. I did not attend Markus' session as I had already seen it at EuroSTAR 2010. Troubleshooting skills are important specially when you do bug advocacy. Chris Blain pointed that as testers, we should not take anyone's words for granted. We should work on improving our skills by learning a range of systems. Systems thinking, modeling, thinking from different perspectives and asking lots of questions to gain information might help troubleshoot better.

Multiple tools like the Process Explorer, Visual Studio, WinDBG, Registry Viewer, DTrace, WireShark, Fiddler, ChainSaw, Log Parsers were highlighted. Some interesting stories like the accidental shaking of a wire causing static electricity and a bug was narrated. When I asked about the books, he highlighted the 'Advanced Windows Debugging' by John Robbins. Chris asked us to be aware of the cultural differences too in troubleshooting.

Weekend Testing presentation by me
After lunch, I presented about Weekend Testing As I had dreamed, there was no laptop and I had to borrow James Bach's laptop. Though I logged in to dropbox and clicked on download against the presentation, it failed to download. I soon realized that creating a rule made the download possible. All set, I entered the room. There were close to 15 members in the audience. I was happy to have James Bach, Michael Bolton, Jon Bach, Michael Hunter and Michael Larsen along with Elena Houser in the audience. Every time I present about Weekend Testing, some titbits which were never shared before come to light. After close to 40 minutes, many questions were asked. One of the question was what is required to participate in the session. I told that as long as a tester has passion, skype and knows english, he can participate!

Jon Bach highlighted how weekend testers tested eBay and helped him gain more information to his questions.      He facilitated few sessions with missions on eBay and those were really useful sessions to the weekend testers. Michael Larsen, Co-Founder of Weekend Testers Americas highlighted how weekend testing was a different experience from a facilitator's perspective. Jon, James, Michael liked my presentation style. I was happy to present at CAST :)

Presenting a Compelling Testing Story by Benjamin Kelly
Ben started with a video of a movie and how a junior finally convinced his senior to agree to his views.
"Give compelling reason to take specific action" was the lesson.
He narrated his story where he and his team presented a 15 page report to the senior management. Whenever the management asked if there was any problem, he replied that nothing more than what was present in the report. The Green flags of the project slowly turned to Red. When management was shocked, Ben was even more shocked. The reports were never read! Ben realized that he had used a wrong medium and a wrong format to present the report. The manager was not willing to spend so much time reading the 15 page report.

People do not respect your testing if they don't like your test reporting. As testers, we need to present the test reports in formats which is appreciated by the stakeholders. He highlighted the different ways how we format information - verbal, written & visual. Ben started with Modeling. Asking questions helps gather information and understand what stakeholders want.
Questions like - What would describe project success, what should happen to achieve project success, what might look like failure, what are the most important aspects of the project to each stakeholder help bring every stakeholder to a single page.

Meta modeling - model of model was also highlighted. As testers, we need to compare our meta models to the models of the stakeholders. What is different, what they don't know and learn what they tell you?
Once we learn about the different models, Ben moved to Reporting part!

The two types - Push Reporting & Pull Reporting was described. Mike Kelly's MCOASTER heuristic was also recommended for effective test reporting.
Pull reporting is when someone asks you for a report. If you are not comfortable, ask for time, Ask for clarification if it helps. There is no point in giving a wrong report without understanding the exact questions.
Push Reporting is when you provide information. The most important aspect is that the audience is briefed. Ben suggests that you as a tester take time to ensure that your audience is briefed. Examples are bug reports, critical bug discovery and risk report.

Prepare, know the purpose, have the story, know the model of audience, understand the difference between your model & the audience's model. Also, pay attention to the audience's model of you. Speak the language of the audience!

The next blog post is about the CAST 2011 tester competition.


Anonymous said...

My heart felt congratulations Ajay.
Read your complete blog, your story is inspiring and the passion you have for testing is awesome.
Hope to join you in Weekend Testing, i want to be an efficient tester as yourself.

And what is miagi-do school of testing, never heard of it. Tried googling, couldn't find much info.

And Happy Independence Day


Ajay Balamurugadas said...


Miagi-Do School of Software testing is a non-profit school founded by Matthew Heusser. This is a school where students are judged based on their performance on the testing tests. Interested to join?

~Ajay Balamurugadas

Deeps said...

I'm very much interested to join Miagi-Do school of Software Testing.
How do i initiate the process, ill be glad if you could share any information vis-a-vis Miagi-Do School of Software Testing.