The amazingly little (visible) testing universe

So AST has 600 members? You go around online and you identify the most important/loudest voices in a few weeks? Try that in graphic design, please.

Just how is it possible that in such a tech-heavy age where coding/programmer craftsmanship conferences are uncountable, where Martin Fowler and Uncle Bob are like rock stars, where software (development) is often just a big frustration for the people using or managing it and yet, testing is talked about so little?

I don’t think I understand systems thinking, but reading just the first chapter of Weinberg’s Introduction to General Systems Thinking made me realize why software development is so interesting. Because so many people working together on a system not knowing exactly what are they creating makes the software a symptom, a result of nature interacting with itself. Eventually, it’s out of our own hands. Working as a tester feels like you are in a morgue, where you get to put the body of a murdered person on the table to examine it, to study it looking for clues. And you are in the same room with the killers.

I got distracted. Oh well.

Here, read an other short one about the European Testing Conference
Losing my testing conference virginity
Losing my workshop, lean coffee and open space virginity
Was I an outsider?
The food was very okay
What is going on in Romania??
So what did I take away?

Losing my workshop, lean coffee and open space virginity

So as I watched a lot of testing videos already online, I was looking forward to meet some of the testers that I knew about (through these videos or the twitter and things) and the more informal, interactive sessions.

Meeting someone is pretty quick, so I guess there is not too much to say on that front. Except that I can get a bit intimidated by someone just because I saw them online before. Anyway.

Participating a lean coffee (b)eats reading about it for breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning. Now I see. I will not describe the format because participating a lean coffee (b)eats reading about it for breakf…

Same goes for a workshop or the open space format. I’m so happy and satisfied that I’ve seen these happening from the inside. “Will I be disappointed about other #testing conferences if there is no open space and lean coffee? #EuroTestConf” (I hope this fits twitter’s character limit).

Continue reading “Losing my workshop, lean coffee and open space virginity”

Losing my testing conference virginity

What a click-bait title!

I was losing my testing conference attendee virginity for 2 days at the first European Testing Conference ( It is as personal as it sounds, just like this series of short blog posts. I’m no journalist, you see.

I heard before that conferences are for conferring and talks don’t actually give you too much. With a few exceptions this seems to be true.

Although I bravely volunteered to mob-security-test, because of Linda Rising’s keynote, where she told us that you shouldn’t be trying to look good in front of others at all cost (and that you shouldn’t say to your kids that they are smart). I certainly didn’t look good in the mob-testing session, so I guess that’s a win, right?

Linda cited a Hungarian initiative (!heroes-square/c12fl) for breaking out of the fixed mindset, home-country related warm feelings, check.

Here, read an other short one about the European Testing Conference
Losing my workshop, lean coffee and open space virginity
The amazingly little (visible) testing universe
Was I an outsider?
The food was very okay
What is going on in Romania??
So what did I take away?

Image is from Altom’s facebook page (

ISTQB too much? – and now… the answers!

This summer I was looking for a job and I, of course, met the ISTQB mnemonic a lot on my interviews. I said I’m not certified, because my former company didn’t offer it and I wouldn’t spend my own money (no one asked me though if I ever did anything else testing related outside of work) on it. Because other testers made me realize that the ISTQB knowledge is not actually being applied to testing and it’s only scary trying to find a job without it as long as you don’t know any better.

But I didn’t have a comeback on two arguments:

– ISTQB knowledge gives the co-workers a common vocabulary.
– test cases makes it easier for new colleagues to know what should be done.

People who are saying these must have never watched themselves carefully. There is no common vocabulary. The illusion might be there. I have worked with the very same people that told me these things and they themselves told the story on how it failed: Once upon a time a testing team which was responsible for a layer of testing (system) had a greatly different and broader understanding of “smoke test” than the someone who wrote down that the integration team can only start the work after the system team finished their smoke test. So this someone went complaining of course, what’s taking so long, then the integration team called a meeting, then…, braaah, kill me now.

With the help of my friend in testing (@zzmolnar) I can tell you now that you should form a local common vocabulary within your company or project, teach your workmates to ask questions and not wait for a world-wide organization to give you that. How many of you only passed the ISTQB exam so that you can just have the certificate? What terms do you remember? What do you mean by them now? Does the term “black-box testing” means the same to you, your lead and someone sitting in Brazil, working with a completely different domain? Meh…

Test cases! Go back and read your own test cases from 6 months before. Seriously, do it. (khm.. are they up-to-date?) I know you said that you wrote them in a manner that “anyone from the street should be able to execute this test by following my steps“. But that just never happens. Even yourself will have difficulties with it. But even more importantly: remember the last time you went to a new place in the city and was led by someone? And what happened to you when you went again and tried to the find the place by yourself? Remember? Most of us gets lost. Mindless execution and repetition does not generate understanding. I’m sure someone famous said this.

I found several testing jobs with 3 years of experience as a tester, with sociology studies, with no ISTQB certification. I’m a freer man than before the summer and it wasn’t always like this:

Read more: (Hungarian!)

A nice memory of my first contact with ISTQB:

Testing a bridge – part I. – testing the requirements

Not so long ago my brother organised a weekend retreat and since most of his friends together with him are civil engineers, he came up with the idea of building a bridge out of pallets that we got from my mother’s workplace.

He then quickly wrote up a draft about the requirements and a detailed drawing about his first idea. I instantly thought that this should be the other way around.

Here are the requirements and my attempt to make them clearer:

We are building a bridge:
– in the garden
– out of pallets
– wing-spread: 5,5m (later: new info on pallets, we have to reduce this)
– 20 identical pallets (later: there is only 16 pieces)
– pallets are free
– they are so-called “block pallets”
– 1 kilo 100mm nail
– 1 kilo 65mm nail
– 10 m rope
If done 6 person has to walk over it.

I hope your brain got going just like mine when reading this. I spent an hour brainstorming on this and came up with a critique of the requirements.

– We are building a bridge
Who is going to use this bridge? Is it important that children, older ones, handicapped, blind or people with crutch could use it?
For what this bridge is going to be used? From where to where will it go? What will it bridge?
What weather conditions it has to withstand? Think about the wood, the rope, the nails.
If the bridge has to be dismounted later, is there a plan for that? What’s that like? Maybe that should be considered while planning.
If the bridge will stay, will it be easy to move it around if necessary?
Is there any requirement about it’s weight?
Is there a similar team that has built a similar bridge, with similar equipments and requirements? Can or should we talk to them?

– In the garden
What’s the soil like there? How is the weather?

– Wing-spread: 5,5m (later: new info on pallets, we have to reduce this)
Is there a maximum or minimum to the wingspread?
If we have to reduce, with how much exactly? (will that be a minimum? or a maximum?)
Is there anything else required regarding the size?

– 20 identical pallets (info later: there is only 16 pieces)
When can we verify that they are indentical? Is that important?
Can we expect these requirements change again?

– Pallets are free
Could this be a problem? Maybe they tell us something about their quality?

– They are so-called “block pallets”
What does this mean? Is it important? What other types are there?

– 1 kilo 100mm nail and 1 kilo 65mm nail
Would it make more sense to list this requirement in number of pieces?

– Once ready..
Maybe we should try it already as soon as it’s possible before it’s ready

– If done 6 person has walk over it.
6 people? What people? Maybe this requirement should be given in kilos?

There were some people who didn’t really understand why I wrote all this up, some people understood where is testing in here.

ISTQB too much?

As I’m going on several job interviews these days, naturally ISTQB comes up. Recruiters, managers often asks why I didn’t do it, I say I will not spend my own money on it as I never really saw anyone applying this knowledge in their daily work.

Then they say, yeah-yeah, but it’ good because it:

– gives the co-workers a common vocabulary.
– test cases built on them makes it easier for new colleagues to know what should be done.

What’s your come-back on these arguments?

Some answer I found since then:

How to lose an employee

You don’t really react to her problems.

You make promises without follow-up.

You don’t really care about her day-to-day job.

You hire people without communicating why are they there.

You then increase hierarchy.

You then still give no follow-up on your promises.

You then fail to form a company culture.

You then start to build a profile that is seemingly in struggle with the previous one.

You then fail to inform the troops about this.

We then shouldn’t act surprised when it turns out that these are only accountable for the 33% of a quitting story. You have no power over how someone fails in her attempt to better her work conditions (another 3rd) and how she wants something new (the last 3rd), even if the old one has only one flaw – that it’s the old one.


How did I wake up and tried to awaken the testers at my company?

On the first week I started to work as a software tester I looked around on wikipedia on the subject, it didn’t touch me too much. I might have been just too new to the field to resonate.

After a year I found a reddit jobfair thread and from there the software testing/quality assurance subreddit, but it seemed to technical to me at the time. No talk on the softer skills.

Then after two years into my current job I googled software testing. I regret not remembering the motive behind this exactly, but this way I found the most popular video, the open lecture one from James Bach from Estonia.

I then, of course, quickly identified the Context-Driven guys. They resonated with me very well, because I have a non-IT background (sociology) and never went near the ISTQB. Until then I thought I’m a second-class citizen in the society of the testers.

My real interest in testing sparked when I realised that we build something and then even we forget it’s behaviour. And then everyone comes to the tester when they want to see the bigger picture. When I realised that the developers are not necessarily smarter than me. And they also don’t know what they have built.

After reading up and virtually talking to the testing community out there online for a good half year, I thought it’s time to talk to my own colleagues and see if we have things to share. Here is how I went about it:

I thought starting out with a video, something to watch then talk about would be efficient to see where we are. Most of the testers around me are older and I felt that I have nothing new to tell them (yet) and don’t yet have enough self-confidence.

So I almost shitted my pants a few times on the way, but I got out there and in a span of two weeks I talked to every tester at my company (12 person out of 70) and everyone’s direct superior. I asked the testers if they would feel like watching a talk on testing during working hours and asked the superiors if they would allow it. No one said outright no, but also no one asked what would be it really about after I described the video in a few sentences.

Three days before the screening I sent out an e-mail only to the testers to remind them and booked the room for 15 o’clock on a Friday. No team had nothing to ship that day. That’s a perfect time for a laid back session before the weekend, right? I didn’t order pizza. That was a mistake? 3 out of the 12 people came (plus me). We watched James Bach’s CAST keynote from 2014, we laughed a bit, talked about ISTQB, a bit about our role, it felt great actually talking about testing after two years at my company.

Not too much has followed unfortunately. I looked for videos that are similarly to James’ video is a good and entertaining video and general enough talk on testing. Any recommendations?

Few weeks later I invited everyone to a local meetup, organised by the local ISTQB (they are the only ones in Budapest who do something), no one came with me, and then I got a pretty good testing challenge (where the expected result from me that a Web UI should behave as “used to” after a major refeactoring), started a conversation about it through the emails I collected, but no answer came, even from the colleague on my team.

Now I’m stuck – I talk with two other colleague in the organisation about testing, just sit next to them and talk through some current issues, giving each other test ideas. One of them has just left.

Not so long ago we had an all-office meeting where one of the developer didn’t know what the sales team is doing. That gave me an idea to prepare a set of slides to talk about testing to other roles in the company. It should be about our day-to-day work, but also a general talk. Or should it be some kind of workshop? Some kind of fun and interactive way showing the mindset of a tester? Any input on this would be much appreciated. I’m hoping it will help the other testers to respect themselves a bit more.

This is where I’m now. We shall see.

UPDATE: Not too long after finishing this post I quit my job. My journey in shaping a testers community at my company has almost nothing to do with it.

Lead picture from James Lyndsay’s Black Box Puzzles (puzzle 6a).