Monday, August 9, 2010

Cast Curtain Call - Part 2 - Conversations

I was very fortunate this last week to have had extended conversations with several people, some "movers and shakers" and some "well respected testers" and some "regular folks." Rather than sort out which is which, I'm going to focus on some of the great conversations I had, starting Sunday evening, through Thursday.

The hard part is picking out the bestest ones. So, I'm going to summarize some and the mental meanderings that resulted.

Monday, chatting with Griffin Jones, he asked bout the mission and charter for the group I work with. We had been talking about techniques and some of the on-line forum conversations around exploratory/ad-hoc/fully-scripted testing in light of Michael Bolton's blog entry on Testers: Get Out of the QA Business. He asked about this after what I thought was a tangent that was around the question of "what works best for what kind of environment?"

His simple question got me to wondering, other than the slogan on the company's internal wiki about the QA/Testing group, what is it that we are about? For some time, we have been working toward getting more people involved in the idea of tangible requirements, of QA helping define requirements and acting as a bridge in the design process. But that begged the question - What is our mission?

I wonder how many testing groups (or whatever each group calls itself) have a "slogan" but no "mission" or "purpose" statement that can be pointed to, where everyone knows about it. If you don't know about it, is it reasonable for people to act towards that - its a goal, right? How do you achieve a goal if you don't know what it is (I feel another blog post coming on, but not right now!)

I had several brilliant little chats with Scott Barber. It helps when you're sitting next to each other at the Registration table. We talked about a bunch of stuff - For those who have read his stuff or have read his articles or postings in various online forums for that matter, he really is as smart as he seems - Holy Cow!

We got onto the "mission" of testing groups and "doing things right" vs "doing things well enough." What most theory-centric folks sometimes forget is that there is a cost to "doing things 'right.'" If the product will be shipped for 2 weeks late because you want to run a 4 week duration system load test, costing approximately $1M, what will the company gain? What are the risks? If you're extremely likely to see significant problems within the first 8 to 12 hours and the likelihood decreases over time, what will that extra two or even three weeks going to get you - other than a delay to delivery and a dissatisfied customer? That, in itself, is one reason why testers should inform and advise but not make the final go/no-go decision.

Yeah - there's another blog post on that in detail.

Other people I met included Jeff Fry, where DOES he get all that energy? Then Selenia Delesie was holding court on lightning talks in the lobby. WHOA! Crazy-smart and the nice as the day is long. Selena gave two really good presentations - unfortunately, while I read the abstract and supporting paper, there were not enough of me to get to all the presentations that I wanted to get to. I think that's a sign of a fantastic conference - too many good simultaneous presentations.

Other folks I met included Michael Hunter, the Braidy Tester - What a guy, although he's now braidless. Paul Kam from DornerWorks is another really smart guy. DornerWorks was one of the sponsors of the conference. They did a lot to make this happen.

Tuesday night the "Rebel Alliance / CASTAway Social" was a hoot. Tester games and chicken-wings and varied and sundry edibles and drinkables - Thanks to Matt Heusser for making that happen. He's another one who is just crazy-smart and really friendly. If you have not seen his TWIST podcasts, check them out.

After the social, a bunch of folks went to dinner and had a fantastic time. If I recall correctly, there were 15 or 16 of us. I scored a major triumph by having Michael Bolton sit across from me at the end of the table. What an amazing time. Melisa Bugai was sitting with us as we discussed the likely causes of why the lights on the deck of the restaurant kept going out. Yes, we tested the theory when Melissa unplugged the rope light going around the railing. They all stayed on after that. WHOO-HOO!

The conversation, as any conversation with Michael, took many twists and turns. We talked on language and literacy and music and education and mental discipline and CBC radio shows and how each touched on testing. What a mind-bendingly enjoyable night.

Wednesday I had the great pleasure of dining with Lynn Mckee and Nancy Kelln - and my boss. Best part is, the boss picked up the tab! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Another night of fantastic conversation on testing and wine and great food. Did I mention we talked about testing?

There were so many other great conversations - How can I give a recap of all of them? As it is, there is much to think on.


  1. From Griffin -
    Pete - Thank you for the kind words. I try to get my test team and the program / project managers to grok my preferred testing charter:

    "We are a service organization whose job is to reduce damaging uncertainty about the perceived state of the product."

    (Taken from Brian Marick: )

    Sidebar: ... and for a Quality definition I use a blended of extended Weinberg:
    "Quality is value to some person (who matters), at some time.

    And Crosby:
    "Quality is conformance to requirements."

  2. Thanks, man! Oh! and for those where were not there, Griffin did recite the charter as we were sitting there in the "Fireside Room" of the Conference Center. I love it when people are that focused that it just comes out! Conversations like that are the true high-points of conferences - Thanks!