Blog: EuroSTAR Trip Report, Part 2

In this post, I’ll highlight a few more of the people that I met at EuroSTAR 2010. Please note that because there were so many people that I’d like to mention, there’s still more to come in subsequent posts. Also, I’ve included tons of links to these people and their work. Please use those links!

Shmuel Gershon (@sgershon on Twitter) was in the Test Lab a lot, only one of the reasons that he won the Test Lab Rats’ informal yet prestigious “Most Enthusiastic Tester” award and T-shirt. Rapid Reporter, Shmuel’s tool for taking notes in exploratory testing sessions, was prominent too. Shmuel used a number of strategies for meeting other people at the conference; he announced a pizza-and-drinks session for old and new members of the Vanguard community (also known as the Rebel Alliance or, for this occasion, Danish Alliance), and he used a cute strategy for introducing himself. On a personal note, Shmuel also helped me enormously by agreeing on the spur of the moment to act as my interviewer for an upcoming EuroSTAR “Take 10” video spot. After the conference, Shmuel and I spent a pleasant afternoon at Copenhagen’s Experimentarium, browsing the exhibits, chatting, discovering bugs in the displays, and exploring patterns of exploratory testing. I was also pleased to beat him in a virtual bicycle race. Fortunately for me, my bike was the one with the seat. And the doctors say I’m recovering well from the experience.

Teemu Vesela (@teemuvesela on Twitter) received the second award from the Lab Rats: “Most Evil Tester”. He established his reputation by asking for—and getting—the Lab’s server and router passwords from the Lab Rats. His claim was that he needed that information to see if he could perform exploit of the applications that were installed in the Test Lab. But maybe, just maybe, he was testing to see if he could obtain the trust of the network administrators, just as one would try to do in a real security penetration test. Teemu exuberantly investigated several potential vulnerabilities, found some cool bugs, and enthusiastically told concise little stories about weaknesses in system defenses. And now I’ve got someone new to talk to when I want to learn quickly about potential security risks.

Henrik Andersson (Twitter: henkeandresson) is a long-time student and advocate of the practice of exploratory approaches to testing, especially within the Swedish testing community. His success has been all the more remarkable considering that, for many years, he worked for an organization that advocates strongly scripted approaches. Henrik gave an excellent talk on his experience introducing exploratory testing extremely rapidly at a large corporation that was, in general, resistant to the idea. His focus was on the role of champions—passionate people who will support and sustain excellent work, philosophically much like those in the Vanguard. Henrik described his approach: little experiments followed by intensive debriefs; granting people the freedom and responsibility to design and evaluate their work; emphasizing the roles of discovery, learning, and feelings. Within the constraints, he was quite successful, but once again incomprehending middle management provided only tepid support.  Thanks to the ubiquitous Markus Gärtner (of whom more quite soon), here’s a detailed account of Henrik’s presentation.

Fredrik Rydberg—someone whom I didn’t know before and (alas!) did not meet in person—gave a superb experience report titled “Can Exploratory Testing Save Lives?” on using exploratory approaches in a regulated, medical context.  His conclusion was an emphatic Yes.  There’s a lot of nonsense in our craft that suggests that you can’t or shouldn’t do exploratory testing in a mission- or safety-critical environment. In fact, as Fredrik made clear, it’s exactly the opposite: if you want to reduce risk and save lives, you must take an exploratory approach to develop tests, to incorporate new information, to continuously re-evaluate your work, and to reveal previously unrecognized risks. Fredrik aptly pointed out that curiosity, patient communication, and networking skill are crucial to a successful exploratory approach; indeed, they’re important to collaborative work of any kind. I hope to meet Fredrik and chat with him more in the future. We need more stories from him, and more stories like his.

Carsten Feilberg (@carsten_f on Twitter) blew me away at the CAST 2008 conference, where he provided a mischievous foreign element during a simulation in Jerry Weinberg’s Tester’s Communication Clinic. His impishness appealed to me, but there’s far more to Carsten than that. At EuroSTAR 2010, he gave a fabulous talk on Session Based Test Management (SBTM). One of the biggest takeaways was the simplest, yet psychologically the most powerful: he took the subtle step of renaming the practice to “Managing Testing Based on Sessions” (MTBS), in order to emphasize to managers the significance of the management aspect. This allowed him to obtain rapid buy-in from skeptical managers at his organization. That simple trick reminded me of Thomas Huxley’s wonderful observation on Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: “How stupid of us all not to have thought of that.” He also provided an elegant visual metaphor for the development process. He started by showing a picture of a cartoon elephant (“the requirements”)—smooth, uniform, clear lines.  Then, over a part of the cartoon elephant, he superimposed the kind of view we’d see after testing: a photograph of the same part of a real elephant—wrinkled, lumpy, hairy. It was a great image, and a great visual explanation. He gradually revealed the bits and pieces of the elephant—and noted that the real elephant had tusks, where the cartoon elephant had none. Exploring the actual product allows us to see things that we wouldn’t see otherwise.

Carsten’s experience report underscored the fact that SBTM/MTBS makes exploratory testing more legible—more readable, more understandable—for managers who might otherwise see it as undisciplined, unstructured, or incomprehensible. I’ve written a couple of blog posts on some approaches that might help clear things up here, here, and here particularly.  Yet if you want advice on how to persuade management to recognize and adopt exploratory testing in your organization, it would also be a really good idea to contact Carsten.  Alas, his presentation slides are not yet online, but Markus Gärtner’s report on Carsten’s talk is.

Ah, Markus Gärtner, another of those fellows who was everywhere, all the time, and he has the blog posts to prove it. In the Test Lab, he was a vigourous participant, asking questions, probing for ideas, and sharing insights. At the conference presentations, Markus was like an old-fashioned on-the-scene radio reporter, “blogcasting” live and typically posting his transcription of the presentation a few seconds into the question-and-answer period. He also gave a presentation on self-education for testers, which for the Vanguard means not only study, but actively practicing testing. Apropos of that, Markus was one of the founders of the European chapter of the Weekend Testing. And apropos of that

Weekend Testing was started in Bangalore, India, by Parimala Shankaraiah (@curioustester on Twitter), Manoj Nair (@manoj_mv), Sharath Byregowda (@sharathb on Twitter)), and Ajay Balamurugadas (@ajay184f on Twitter). The latter was at EuroSTAR to tell the story of how the movement began and how it has developed since then. Inspired by Pradeep Soundararajan (@testertested on Twitter), and soon assisted by Santosh Tuppad (@santhoshst on Twitter), the founders decided to take responsibility for their own education and training. On August 15, 2009, they began meeting online on Saturday afternoons to practice testing, to challenge each other, and to help each other develop skills. Sessions were structured as an hour of testing (typically in pairs) and an hour of group discussion and sharing afterwards. Side effects quickly followed: their reputations blossomed; several open source projects benefitted from their testing; and the larger community became engaged. Weekend Testing quickly sprouted chapters in Mumbai, Chennai, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and (finally!) North America. Ambitious and eager testers have come out of the woodwork, and more senior colleagues have facilitated sessions. The great conversation of skilled testing goes on, and the Vanguard is growing! I’ll mention more of its people in the next post.

Want to know more? Learn about Rapid Software Testing classes here.

3 responses to “EuroSTAR Trip Report, Part 2”

  1. Pete Walen says:

    Thanks, Michael for these reports and descriptions. It is a tremendous help for those of us who followed tweets all during EuroStar, to associate more than a twitter handle with the messages from that week. You and the other participants blogging about this event is a great service for those of us who could not be there. Thanks – amazing.

  2. Very good Michael, this is the kind of stuff I enjoy! I’m looking forward to hearing all about the rest of the people who’ve made an impression on you. I echo Pete’s comments, thanks for sharing these experience reports.

  3. Michael, thanks.
    I’m very proud of being counted with such great company, the names in these 3 EuroStar posts. I’m happy to have such friends.

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