I love lightning talks. I probably get most of my inspiration from watching them. They are short, with no time for anecdotes or elaboration. The speaker has to be brief, to the point. The message needs to be explained in a clear and concise manner, but within a time limit. The listener can take that message and interpret it in any way they want. From that message comes new ideas.
The Star East conference took place between April 28th and May 3rd 2019 in Orlando, Florida. I’ve never been to one of the Star conferences, including this one. However, they always make a selection of talks available to watch online for about 3 months after the event. This includes the lightning talks.
Seretta was one of the speakers at UKSTAR this year, where she delivered her talk “Why Cats are the Best Test Automators”. I’d opted to attend a different talk during this time slot, however it was nice to hear a highlight of the full talk during the Star East lightning talks.
Why are cats the best automators? Seretta provides a few examples of how the personality traits of a cat can apply to test automation engineers. A few reasons given include:
- They are lazy – don’t waste time repeating things. Instead they automate it. However, they do recognize the need for manual and exploratory testing when required.
- They are cunning – they don’t just do something. They study and come up with a strategy do make the tests as maintainable and efficient as possible.
- They provide feedback – cats tell you what they want and need. A good test automation engineer provides good feedback to management about metrics.
This talk was about changing our language in order to change our minds.
Our language often creates an us and them attitude:
- Developers vs. Testers
- Test Automation vs Manual Testers
- Management and executives vs everyone else
- The Customer vs Us
Language can influence our mindset and define us, including our surrounding culture. Start using team based language. Doing so can completely change the overall tone in an organisation. Together, we are a network of folks trying to achieve a common goal.
Language should include: We, Partnership, Teams, Shared goals aligned with customer
Angie asked the internet for unpopular opinions related to software testing.
One thing that came up was “You don’t have to argue with people all the time to get a good tester”.
Testers can have a bad guy persona. This shouldn’t be the case. The best testers understand they are not meant to just find bugs. The best testers integrate with the team. The best testers start testing as early as the design phase, analyzing the requirements for potential defects before any coding has taken place.
There were other unpopular opinions discussed, but this was one that stood out for me.
Jason provides the perfect interview question:
A text box and a button labelled count. The purpose of this button is to count the number of A’s in a string entered in the text box. The tester can run only 10 test cases before release.
How would a good tester approach this scenario? Jason provides several examples of test cases, things to consider, questions to ask, the number of possibilities are infinite. However, it is important for the tester to ask questions, be critical of the requirements and test for the long term.
“You could speak at this conference!”
As someone who is just starting out with conference speaking, this talk was definitely an interesting one. Isabel talks about how anyone could speak at conferences, and they should do so to build confidence. She also gives some great advice for writing submissions that will be accepted:
- Actually apply, you won’t get accepted unless you apply. If you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback.
- Spell check, you won’t be accepted if you spell qualtiy wrong. (yes, I’ve included a typo on purpose)
- Make sure that you present evidence to backup your idea.
- Do not use bad language.
- Do not assume we know who you are.
- Most importantly, Tell your own story. This is what makes your idea compelling.
In your conference submissions and talks, you should be engaging, interactive and inclusive.
Chandra delivered a story about how the QA Trasnformation Journey at his organisation with the aim of bringing the team together.
The change was centered around building BDD scenarios. The team were taught about the new technology, with additional training provided to help with building domain knowledge. There was a focus on developing a common language which would make it easier for colleagues to provide feedback. The overall aim was to integrate QA practices with developer culture to encourage team collaboration.
Adam answered a few questions that he’d been asked during the conference:
- What are the best tools for continuous testing?
- Whatever you have. If you want change, start with what you have, then identify issues with these tools before choosing new ones to solve these issues.
- Should UI tests be included in the pipeline?
- Yes, but be aware that they are slow and you need a robust framework. Time will be needed to maintain them. This is why we have the testing pyramid, triage the tests so that there are more robust and reliable unit tests and fewer slow and expensive UI tests.
- Do we need Manual Testing?
- We will always need manual testing. A recommended book is ‘How Google Tests Software’, they have manual tests. Think about how you use automation and manual testing.
- Issues with Test Data Management?
- Test data management is a big constraint. You need to setup synthetic data as it may not always be possible to use production data.
- How to include developers in the process?
- Educate, show them how failed tests and other issues slow them down.
As a final piece of advice, at conference ask questions. If there is something you want to know, ask either at a talk, during networking, or find a speaker and ask them.
In this talk, Lloyd suggested a scenario where a group of testers are playing a game of the weakest link. They are each asked, how many tests have you run in the last hour?
- Tester 1 – 300
- Tester 2 – 30
- Tester 3 – 2
- Tester 4 – 0
Tester 4 – you are the weakest link, goodbye!
On paper, it does look like tester 4 is a terrible tester. Is this the case? Each of these testers had a different view of the perfect test case.
Tester 1 preferred running short tests that took less than a minute to run. In some cases this could be as simple as clicking a button. Tester 3 and 4 prefer running end-to-end tests which can take more time. In some cases, this could take longer than the hour.
With this in mind, is tester 1 really the better tester because more tests were run? Is tester 4 the worst tester because they ran fewer tests?
As a metric, number of test cases run is meaningless without context.
Does change always solve problems? When embracing the new, we sometimes forget the old. Just because something has been round for a while does not make it useless.
Dorothy sings us a wonderful song, using the tune “These are a few of my favourite things” from the Sound of Music.
In this song, Dorothy talks about her favourite testing techniques. Just because some of these are old doesn’t mean they should no longer be used. The full lyrics can be found here.
The range of topics that appear in a lightning talk round can be really diverse. With only 5 minutes to speak, its amazing the amount of information you can gain from them. I hope you enjoyed reading my summaries.
Main image taken from https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/