Agile Australia Then & Now (AgileTODAY)

AgileTODAY is a publication associated with the Agile Australia conference. In the May 2018 edition I was invited to reflect on one of my past presentations and how it stood the test of time.

Craig spoke on “The Speed to Cool: Valuing Testing and Quality in Agile Teams” at Agile Australia in 2011. Craig is an Agile Coach and Director at Unbound DNA and works as a Trainer and Consultant at Software Education.

In 2011, my talk highlighted the need for a greater understanding of the changing role of testing in Agile environments and the need to build quality into our solutions from the beginning.

Fast forwarding to 2018, the community is improving in this space but still has a long way to go. The rise in popularity of DevOps has helped immensely in this area, although it astounds me how many teams and organisations I work with still do not have some of the basic building blocks in place (like continuous integration or sometimes, worryingly, version control). Many organisations still have a large focus on manually testing via the UI which becomes increasingly riskier and slower as the importance of digital continues to rise.

In my talk, I spoke about what is now referred to as the “three amigos” concept. In the ‘conversation’ around a user story, three key principles outline how to actually implement the work:

  1. When developers and user representatives collaborate we get a better understanding of the specification or the requirements.
  2. When testers and user representatives collaborate we get a better understanding of the acceptance criteria and how we will meet our agreed definition of ‘done’.
  3. When testers and developers collaborate we get a better understanding of quality, but also get the value of pairing on automated testing.

Approaches such as Behaviour Driven Development have risen in popularity and support the above model well but, as I highlighted in the talk, this requires behavioural changes across the team. Mainly:

  • User representatives need to have a greater testing involvement, working closer in real time with testers.
  • Testers need to build technical knowledge and work closer in real time with developers, understanding developer tests and interfaces to avoid rework and improve quality.
  • Developers need work closer with the user representatives on the requirements collaboration, as well as with the testers to ensure that testing artefacts are left behind.

We need to appreciate testing as a team skill set and not as a job or an anchor. While this now occurs more frequently in the Agile community, many organisations still have a long way to go. Testing remains an important skill, but mindsets and skill sets need to change to fully embrace an Agile way of working.


BDD In Action (Book Review & Summary)

BDDInActionI have known John Ferguson Smart for a number of years, bumping into him at various conferences since 2009. When I heard he was writing a book on BDD I was both excited and apprehensive – a number of people have attempted to cover BDD over the years to varying levels of success. I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome – “BDD In Action“.

I have long been an advocate of Test Driven Development (TDD). I have long subscrbed to the definition of TDD being developer test driven at the code level, ATDD being storycard level and BDD being the approach of testing behaviour (most popularly using the Given… When… Then… format. I do understand this is not quite the definition of Dan North, Gojko Adzic or John Smart (the terms are all interchangeable) but one thing I have appreciated more in recent years (particularly after spending time with Gojko) is the importance of the conversation.


BDD In Action kicks off with an in-depth explanation of what BDD is and why it is important before a good end-to-end example. One of the highlights of the book for me was chapter 3 which has some good coverage of different techniques for requirements analysis. Whilst it could be argued that these are not really BDD, they are included as good examples on how to ensure you are working on requirements that are adding business value. The approaches include Feature Injection, Impact Mapping and the Purpose-Based Alignment Model as well as Real Options and Deliberate Discovery.

John has always extended how I define the core roles on the development team (the three amigos) and this is described within the book as well. The second section of the book explains requirements gathering, through to specifications and then basic automation of a DSL at the scenario level. It seems to imply that the tester should be able to write the executable specification and the base automation, although this does not match my experience of most testers in the field.

Section three of the book covers the coding aspects of BDD, including the automation of tests at the UI level as well as the unit testing level. It goes into a fair amount of detail on how different tools work in different languages as well as a fairly comprehensive overview of TDD. The final section of the book introduces living documentation, mainly using tools like Thucyidides as well as how BDD fits into the continuous delivery world.

The book is full of diagrams as well as comprehensive code examples that are well explained and relevant. One of the main advantages of this book is that is not aimed at any tool – in fact it covers a number of tools and languages in a reasonable amount of detail. The other standout books on the subject have either covered the process in great detail (Specfication By Example) or a tool in detail (The Cucumber Book). This does a very reasonable job of both.

This advantage is also its disadvantage – I would hope testers and business analysts would read this book but may be discouraged by the amoutn of code examples which start from very early in the book. On the flipside, there is a good coverage of requirements tools at the beginning of the book that may discourage some developers. I hope that in this world of cross functional teams that this is not the case.

Overall this is a very well written book that covers the full spectrum of BDD (and TDD, ATDD and SBE). It is also good to see a book that has Australian examples in it for a change, including the Sydney train system and the Queensland Health payroll project.

My full book review and interview with John is available on InfoQ.


Here are my notes from the book:

The Basics

  • BDD was born – It was a response to a triple conundrum: programmers didn’t want to write tests; testers didn’t want programmers writing tests; and business stakeholders didn’t see any value in anything that wasn’t production code (quote from Dan North)
  • BDD is a mechanism for fostering collaboration and discovery through examples – the real goal is to use software to create business impact
  • 2011 edition of the Standish Group’s annual CHAOS Report found that 42% of projects were delivered late, ran over budget, or failed to deliver all of the requested features and 21% of projects were cancelled entirely
  • BDD practitioners use conversations around concrete examples of system behavior to help understand how features will provide value to the business
  • Queensland Health Department – initial budget for the project was around $6 million, cost the state over $416 million since going into production and would cost an additional $837 million to fix. This colossal sum included $220 million just to fix the immediate software issues
  • “When the terrain disagrees with the map, trust the terrain” (Swiss Army proverb)
  • one important benefit of BDD is that it provides techniques that can help you manage this uncertainty and reduce the risk that comes with it
  • Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) is a set of software engineering practices designed to help teams build and deliver more valuable, higher quality software faster
  • North observed that a few simple practices, such as naming unit tests as full sentences and using the word “should,” can help developers write more meaningful tests, which in turn helps them write higher quality code more efficiently. When you think in terms of what the class should do, instead of what method or function is being tested, it’s easier to keep your efforts focused on the underlying business requirements.
  • Acceptance-Test-Driven Development (ATDD) is now a widely used synonym for Specification by Example
  • A feature is a tangible, deliverable piece of functionality that helps the business to achieve its business goals
  • In Gherkin, the requirements related to a particular feature are grouped into a single text file called a feature file. A feature file contains a short description of the feature, followed by a number of scenarios, or formalized examples of how a feature works. Each scenario is made up of a number of steps, where each step starts with one of a small number of keywords (Given, When, Then, And, and But).
  • Given describes the preconditions for the scenario and prepares the test environment. When describes the action under test. Then describes the expected outcomes. The And and But keywords can be used to join several Given, When, or Then steps together in a more readable way:
  • Executable specifications are about communication as much as they are about validation
  • Don’t write unit tests, write low-level specifications
  • Benefits – Reduced waste, Reduced costs, Easier and safer changes, Faster releases
  • Disadvantages – BDD requires high business engagement and collaboration, works best in an Agile or iterative context, doesn’t work well in a silo, poorly written tests can lead to higher test-maintenance costs
  • Spock is a lightweight and expressive BDD-style testing library for Java and Groovy applications. You write unit tests in the form of “specifications,” using a very readable “given … when … then” structure similar to that used in the JBehave scenarios. The >> sign in Spock is shorthand for saying “when I call this method with these parameters, return these values.”

Starting at Requirements

  • Business Analysts will find it useful to identify four things: 1.  Why is the software being built (what is the project’s vision statement)? 2.  How will the project deliver value to the organization (what are the project’s business goals)? 3.  What stakeholders are involved in the project, and how will the project affect them? 4.  What high-level capabilities should the software provide for stakeholders to enable them to achieve their business goals more effectively
  • 1.  Hunt the value. 2.  Inject the features. 3.  Spot the examples
  • In his book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, Geoffrey A. Moore proposes a template for a good product vision statement
  • You can also write goals using the following “In order to … As a … I want to …” format: In order to increase ticket sales by 5% over the next year As the Flying High Sales Manager I want to encourage travellers to fly with Flying High rather than with a rival company
  • Some business managers use the SMART acronym: business goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound
  • The goals of most commercial organizations are, by definition, ultimately financial in nature. In fact, almost all business goals can be grouped into one of the four following categories: Increasing revenue, Reducing costs, Protecting revenue, Avoiding future costs
  • An impact map is a mind-map built during a conversation, or series of conversations, between stakeholders and members of the development team. The conversation centers around four types of questions: Why? Who? How? What?
  • Purpose Based Alignment Model – a feature will fall into one of four categories: Differentiating, Parity, Partner, Minimum impact
  • BDD places great emphasis on building “software that matters” and defines several processes for turning client requirements into something that developers can use to code against and that accurately reflects the core values of the software the client wants, that a project is meant to deliver and the features that will be able to deliver this value.
  • The aim of Feature Injection is to flesh out the minimum set of features that will provide the most benefit to stakeholders in terms of achieving their business goals
  • Project vision, a short statement that provides a high-level guiding direction for the project
  • As a software developer, your job is to design and build capabilities that help the business realize these goals. A capability gives your users the ability to achieve some goal or fulfill some task. A good way to spot a capability is that it can be prefixed with the words “to be able to
  • Features are what you actually build, and they’re what deliver the value
  • Business goal succinctly defines how the project will benefit the organization or how it will align with the organization’s strategies or vocation
  • Repeatedly ask “why” until you get to a viable business goal. As a rule of thumb, five why-style questions are usually enough to identify the underlying business value (known as “popping the why stack)
  • “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results”. George S. Patton
  • Not all features are equal. Some features will be areas of innovation, requiring specialized domain knowledge and expertise and adding significant value. Others, such as online payment with credit cards, might be necessary in a market, but won’t distinguish your product from the competition

Building Features

  • Dan North, “Introducing Deliberate Discovery” (2010),
  • In BDD terms, a feature is a piece of software functionality that helps users or other stakeholders achieve some business goal
  • User story is a way of breaking the feature down into more manageable chunks, user stories are essentially planning artifacts
  • Features are expressed in business terms and in a language that management can understand. If you were writing a user manual, a feature would probably have its own section or subsection
  • Dan Goodin, “Anatomy of a hack: even your ‘complicated’ password is easy to crack,”
  • Real Options in three simple points: Options have value. Options expire. Never commit early unless you know why
  • Deliberate Discovery is the flip side of Real Options – starts with the assumption that there are things you don’t know. Real Options help you keep your options open until you have enough information to act; Deliberate Discovery helps you get this information
  • Three Amigos.” Three team-members—a developer, a tester, and a business analyst or product owner—get together to discuss a feature and draw up the examples

Executable Specifications

  • Scenario starts with the Scenario keyword and a descriptive title: Scenario:
  • The Then step is where the testing takes place—this is where you describe what outcome you expect. A common anti-pattern among new BDD practitioners is to mix the When and Then steps
  • Tables can be used to combine several similar examples more concisely in a single scenario, or to express test data or expected results in a more succinct way
  • Scenarios are organized in feature files
  • One of the core concepts behind BDD is the idea that you can express significant concrete examples in a form that’s both readable for stakeholders and executable as part of your automated test suite
  • Scenarios are stored in simple text files and grouped by feature. These files are called, logically enough, feature files
  • At the top of a feature file is a section where you can include the description of the corresponding feature
  • The title should describe an activity that a user or stakeholder would like to perform
  • Dan North’s article, “What’s in a story,” for some interesting tips on writing well-pitched stories and scenarios:
  • In JBehave, the Narrative keyword is used to mark the start of an optional, free-form description
  • In Gherkin, you use the Feature keyword to mark the feature’s title. Any text between this title and the first scenario is treated as a feature description
  • The Given step describes the preconditions for your test – be careful to only include the preconditions that are directly related to the scenario
  • The When step describes the principal action or event that you want to do
  • The Then step compares the observed outcome or state of the system with what you expect
  • Both Gerkin and JBehave, any of the previous steps can be extended using and.
  • Good habit to keep “Given … When … Then” clauses concise and focused. If you’re tempted to place two conditions in the same step, consider splitting them
  • In Gherkin, you can insert a comment, or comment out a line, by placing the hash character (#) at the start of a line. In JBehave, a comment line starts with !–
  • Having a lot of similar scenarios to describe a set of related business rules is a poor practice; the duplication makes the scenarios harder to maintain
  • Data from a table is passed into each step via the field names in angle brackets
  • Presenting data in tabular form can make it easier to spot patterns
  • Good scenarios are declarative, not imperative. They describe the requirements in terms of what a feature should do, not how it should do it
  • The Background keyword lets you specify steps that will be run before each scenario in the feature. You can use this to avoid duplicating steps in each scenario, which also helps focus attention on the important bits of each scenario. In JBehave, you can do something similar with the GivenStories keyword
  • In JBehave, feature files conventionally use the .story suffix, whereas the Gherkin-based tools use the .feature suffix
  • The role of a scenario is to illustrate a feature, and you place all the scenarios that describe a particular feature in a single file, usually with a name that summarizes the feature
  • Useful to relate a feature or an individual scenario back to the corresponding issue, both for information and so that reporting tools can use this data to create a link back to the corresponding issue. In JBehave, you can do this using the Meta keyword.
  • Some BDD tools (Cucumber, in particular) also let you write hooks—methods that will be executed before or after a scenario with a specific tag is executed


  • Tools like JBehave and Cucumber can’t turn a text scenario into an automated test by themselves; they need your help.
  • Step definitions are essentially bits of code that interpret the text in feature files and know what to do for each step
  • The test automation library will read the feature files and figure out what method it should call for each step
  • Step definitions interpret the scenario texts and call the test automation layer to perform the actual tasks
  • The test automation layer interacts with the application under test:
  • If all of the steps succeed, then the scenario will succeed. If one of the steps fails, then the scenario will fail
  • Thucydides ( is an open source library that adds better-integrated and more-comprehensive reporting capabilities to conventional BDD tools such as JBehave and Cucumber. The specialty of Thucydides is taking the test results produced by BDD tools like JBehave and turning them into rich, well-integrated living documentation
  • JBehave ( is a popular Java-based BDD framework that was originally written by Dan North. In JBehave, you write step definition methods in Java or in other JVM languages such as Groovy or Scala.
  • Easiest way to build and run a JBehave/Thucydides test suite is to use Maven
  • JBehave step definitions are just annotated Java methods that live in ordinary Java classes. JBehave uses an @Given, @When, or @Then annotation
  • Cucumber is a very popular BDD tool from the Ruby world
  • Cucumber-JVM is a more recent Java implementation of Cucumber, which allows you to write step definitions in Java and other JVM languages
  • For pure Python solutions, there are currently three tools available: Lettuce (, Freshen (, and Behave ( Behave is the most stable, best documented, and most feature-rich of the three.
  • For a .NET environment, your best option for BDD is SpecFlow ( SpecFlow is an open source Visual Studio extension that provides support for Gherkin scenarios
  • Unit testing is well supported in JavaScript, and low-level BDD unit-testing libraries like Jasmine and Mocha are widely used including Cucumber-JS (, which is probably the best known of the JavaScript BDD libraries, and Yadda (, an alternative to Cucumber-JS that allows more flexibility in the scenario wording. Cucumber-JS relies on Node.js and npm


  • Most reliable way to set up your test database is to automatically reinitialize the database schema before each test. The next-best way to prepare test data is to automatically reinitialize the database schema every time you run the test suite. This is faster than reinitializing the database before each scenario, but it means that each scenario is responsible for deleting any test data that it creates, which isn’t without risk
  • most BDD tools provide “hooks” that allow you to perform actions before and after each scenario and at other strategic points in the test suite lifecycle.
  • When you write automated acceptance criteria, using layers can help you isolate the more volatile, low-level implementation details of your tests from the higher level, more stable business rules
  • Gojko Adzik, “How to implement UI testing without shooting yourself in the foot,”
  • The Business Rules layer describes the requirement under test in high-level business terms – scenario in a feature file using either a table or a narrative structure
  • Business Flow layer. This layer represents the user’s journey through the system to achieve a particular business goal
  • The Technical layer represents how the user interacts with the system at a detailed level—how they navigate to the registration page, what they enter when they get there, how you identify these fields on the HTML page, and so forth
  • Page objects—classes that hide the technical details about HTML fields and CSS classes behind descriptively named methods
  • Only need a web test for two things: Illustrating the user’s journey through the system and illustrating how a business rule is represented in the user interface
  • Screenshots from automated web tests can be a valuable aid for testers, and they’re also a great way to provide illustrated documentation describing how the application behaves.
  • Selenium WebDriver provides good support for Page Objects. The Page Objects design pattern can to help make automated web tests more readable and easier to maintain
  • Mobile apps can be tested effectively using Appium (, a WebDriver-based automation library for mobile apps, and the Page Objects pattern is applicable for any type of GUI.
  • It’s virtually impossible to do good BDD-style acceptance testing with Record-Replay tools
  • HtmlUnit for Java (, Webrat for Ruby (, and Twill for Python ( send HTTP queries directly to the server, without having to start up an actual web browser
  • PhantomJS ( provides a more accurate browser simulation, because it renders the HTML like a real browser would, but does so internally
  • HtmlUnit uses the Rhino Java-Script implementation, which isn’t used by a real browser. PhantomJS uses WebKit, which may have different behavior than Firefox or Internet Explorer
  • Several open source libraries for different platforms that can help you build on WebDriver to write web tests more efficiently and more expressively, including Thucydides, Watir, WatiN, and Geb
  • There are many open source and commercial load-testing tools, and most can be scripted. Popular open source options in the Java world include SoapUI (, JMeter (, and The Grinder (
  • number of more BDD-flavored unit-testing tools have emerged over recent years that make these techniques easier and more intuitive to practice. Tools like RSpec, NSpec, Spock, and Jasmine
  • There are two main flavors to fluent assertions. The first typically uses the word “assert,” whereas the second uses terms like “should” or “expect. The first approach comes from a more traditional unit-testing background and focuses on testing and verification. The second is more BDD-centric: the words “should” and “expect” describe what you think the application should do, regardless of what it does currently, or if it even exists

Living Documentation

  • BDD reporting completes the circle that started with the initial conversations with business stakeholders
  • Testers also use the living documentation to complement their own testing activities, to understand how features have been implemented, and to get a better idea of the areas in which they should focus their exploratory testing
  • In BDD terms, a feature can be considered ready (or done) when all of its acceptance criteria pass
  • Cucumber Reports ( provides more presentable reports
  • Thucydides provides feature-level reports, either directly with JBehave or with test results imported from other tools such as Cucumber, SpecFlow, and Behave
  • Organize living documentation to reflect the requirements hierarchy of the project, organize cross-functional concerns by using tags
  • Some automated acceptance-testing tools such as FitNesse and Concordion ( give you even more flexibility in how you organize the living documentation. FitNesse ( uses wiki pages to let the team, including business analysts and even users, write their own acceptance criteria in a tabular format

Continuous *

  • Each executable specification should be self-sufficient. Executable specifications should be stored in version control. You should be able to run the executable specifications from the command line, typically using a build script
  • Executable specifications shouldn’t depend on other specifications to prepare test data or to place the system in a particular state. Each specification should be able to run in isolation, and each specification should set up the test environment in the initial state it require
  • Automated build process needs to be able to run the right set of executable specifications for a given version of the applicatio
  • Automated acceptance criteria should be considered a form of source code and stored in the same source code repository as your application code
  • There are many build-scripting tools, and your choice will typically depend on the nature of your project. In the Java world, you might use Maven, Gradle, or Ant. For a JavaScript-based project, you could use Grunt or Gulp. In .NET, it might be MSBuild or NAnt, and so
  • CI relies heavily on good automated testing: without automated testing, a CI server is little better than an automated compilation checker
  • For teams practicing BDD, a CI server also acts as a platform for automatically building and publishing living documentation
  • the build pipeline is typically made up of a series of quality gateways, which run different sorts of tests and checks
  • This simplest way to publish up-to-date living documentation is to store it directly on the CI build server. Almost all of the BDD tools we’ve discussed in this book produce HTML reports, and most CI servers let you store HTML reports produced as part of a build

AAFTT Workshop 2012 (Dallas)

Agile AllianceThe Agile Alliance Functional Testing Tools Workshop (AAFTT), was one again held this year the day before the Agile 2012 conference in Dallas. Despite there being only a small group there this year, the discussion was still open and free flowing under the facilitation of Matt Barcomb and the organisation of Joseph Wilk and Elisabeth Hendrickson.

From Agile 2012

We created an agenda for the day:

From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012

Here are my notes from the day:

Enabling Non-Programmers

George Dinwiddie led this session which turned into a lively discussion! I had proposed what I thought was a related session on Specification By Example and had combined them, but the conversation never really had a chance of getting onto that topic!

From Agile 2012
  • George expects the business people to be able to read and understand the tests
  • non-programmers should not be writing automation, it is the programmers responsibility
  • wants to be able to extract working tests into a step definition rather than needing to rewrite in Ruby (George Dinwiddie)
  • there is a difference between a specification and testing (Christian Hassa), this is a fundamental shift
  • building a DSL – talk about terminology and how we explore our domain – essential step
  • you don’t create a DSL, you build it
  • not a problem with the toolset but our training in thinking in a procedural way rather than an example way of thinking (Corey Haines
  • testers new to automation create large scripts because it’s their only hope in creating some sort of repetition (@chzy), it does not take a lot of effort and most business people are open to working this way
  • enable non-programmers by getting them to come work with us every day (Woody Zuill)
  • George is helping people make a transition, don’t want people to throw away what they have,
  • ideal is not to have step definitions call step definitions, Cucumber community is becoming a community of programmers and are moving away from this
  • Robot Framework is more keyword driven, more aligned to non-programmers, you can also make a mess, “it is a double edged sword” (Elisabeth Hendrickson)
  • testers like to test the negative cases, should they be expressed at a high level or expressed as a unit test by pairing developers and testers
  • if you are testers and you cannot write simple Ruby scripts, then you have no place on my team (Corey Haines), this opinion is probably shared by the Cucumber community (George disagreed…)
  • need to use the same design patterns in both Robot and Cucumber (@chzy)
  • in an environment that is test centric and BDD, Cucumber is the tool (usually environments with little to no QA),  in a business centric environment where you an get the business involved Robot Framework is your tool
  • Corey works in environments where there is very few Cucumber specifications per scenario, backed by lots of unit tests
  • Cucumber came out of environments where the team is predominantly developers, hence the desire to drill down to Ruby code sooner
  • at a large household name company – theyexpect testers to be more technical, happening more in the industry, eliminated the role of tester due to different pay grades (@chzy)
  • moving traditional organizations to a collaborative way of working is hard (@chzy)
  • wants simple refactorings that are are a bridge from one place to another (George Dinwiddie)
From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012

Not Testing

Joseph Wilk led this discussion on thoughts that are coming from the Lean Startup movement.

From Agile 2012
  • at a startup Joseph was at, tests were taking up to 8 hours to run and costs for distributed architecture was high
  • Forward Internet (London) – let developers do what they want – by not testing they could be faster and more interactive than their competitors – did testing in Production, a risk that sometimes things could fail – testing should not block deployment
  • in some situations it is just worth hacking it out, particularly in a lean startup
  • if it is faster to rewrite rather than maintain it, then don’t write tests (Fred George via Corey Haines)
  • a big question of this is the skill level of your developers – do you have the skill level to make the choice to not do it (Corey Haines), primary impact of success is the skill level of your developers
  • cost of failure?
  • complexity is in the eye of the beholder
  • Etsycheck error rates in Production (and decide whether to roll back or not)
  • Scribd – were having trouble with test speed and found out the developers were scared of breaking the PDF (which is the heart of the business) – they separated the PDF out to speed up development (so developers weren’t worried about breaking it)
  • quick delivery – need the quick feedback cycle to make this work, simulate production
  • need effective tests – small suite of tests that are 5-10 minutes long
  • test what you are most scared of
  • Silicon Valley’s issue is hiring – Facebook is stealing developers from Google because they hire good people and enable them to just hack it out
  • 2 software industries – small companies and large corporations, very different worlds
  • question everything – can only do this if you have experienced it before and understand it
  • need a model to help others adopt this
From Agile 2012

What Are The Better Ways To Specify Tests With Large Test Data

I unfortunately did not get to this session as it was running at the same time as the No Testing session, but here is the output from that session.

From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012

Deliberate Test Practice

Brandon Leiran led this session, trying to see if there was a testing equivalent of coding katas.

From Agile 2012
  • weekend testing group – choose a target, collaborate on Skype on their findings
  • Wikimedia Foundation – looking at ways crowd source testing to test infrastructure (rather than content) – more on this initiative to be announced in the near future
  • why is it any different to coding katas? Safer and smaller so you get more practice, practice collaboration too
  • organise a community like a book club
  • code roast – put the code up and everybody critiques it, be careful not to attach to a person!
  • get practice at driving different interfaces – Triangle Tester exercise, parking lot calculator
  • hard to practice test automation as it takes a lot of time upfron
  • take time to do charter writing sessions or test different items like cheap toys (how would you test this toy?)
  • demonstrate value of quality using simulations eg. origami games
  • add tests to open source – many of the existing tests are average
From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012

Holes / Editors

Chzy led this discussion to discuss holes in the existing frameworks.

From Agile 2012
  • the HTML report from Cucumber is very average – chzy is releasing a new gem based on discussion from a recent testing conference in Austin
  • editors – people now bundling these in TextMate, Eclipse and Visual Studio
  • JetBrainsRubyMine has gherkin support and refactoring support for Ruby, plus a lot of support for steps in Cucumber
  • big picture view of feature coverage – would be cool to map this to Sonar, suites represent functional areas, tags to represent cross-cutting concerns
  • SpecFlow is trying to map to story maps using SpecLog
  • Relish allows you to create higher level specification of your scenarios
  • there is a plugin for Cucumber that allows github integration
  • Thucydides has a built in feature coverage report
  • Twist has Cucumber support
  • test data management – FactoryGirl gem – build up snapshots but want to be able manipulate values down the stack, Faker, ActiveRecord
From Agile 2012
From Agile 2012

AA-FTT – The Future

Elisabeth Hendrickson led this session as part of her handing the leadership over to Joseph Wilk.

From Agile 2012
  • mission is to advance the state of the art of functional testing tools
  • community building is the best way to spend the money, tool builders and tool users
  • Yahoo group is main repository of knowledge, current wiki probably needs to be moved
  • need people who have time and energy and interest to take this forward
  • biggest issues with wikis is managing all the wiki spam
  • have a leadership issue to curate the content and grow the community
  • the other options are to create static content, like business analysts and leadership
  • important to have a knowledge repository that at least captures outcomes
  • would like have more organised meetings worldwide
  • is our mandate just functional testing? It has really been just about “agile testing”
  • probably need to rewrite the charter
From Agile 2012

Wrap Up

We finished up the open space by writing what action we were taking from the day and giving them to another participant to keep us honest (mine was to write this post!)

From Agile 2012

Another good open space, and good to catch up with many of the leaders in the testing community once again.


I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up AAFTT.

Rapid Software Testing

A couple of years ago I received an awesome opportunity to attend James Bach deliver his Rapid Software Testing course in Adelaide. At the time I was working with Sharon Robson from Software Education to help re-develop the Agile Testing course for the Agile Academy, and she thought it might be good for us to sit in the back. The two day course was awesome (one of the best courses I have ever attended), although the animated debate between James and Sharon over breakfast in relation to ISTQB is one I will never forget either.

One of the great things about the course is that the notes are freely available from the Statisfice site (slides and appendices). Although it is the insight and passion from James that makes the course extremely worthwhile. Unfortunately I did not earn my “testing stars” from James from this course, but I did learn a lot. I recently dug out my notes from the course and here they are below.

  • the secret – “watch people test” – then follow the patterns
  • traditionally testers muddled through, as you got more experienced you just muddled better
  • there is lots of practices yet to be written about
  • James is “walking through an orchard rip with apples”
  • “nobody expects a tester to be right about anything” – we are in the evidence and inference business
  • tester tip – did you do “booja booja” testing? Your answer should be “not by that name”
  • method of concommonant testing – vary x for y (eg. dimmer switches) (John Stuart Mill – A System of Logic)
  • you test under uncertainity and time pressure – if not you are about to be laid off!, organisations keep testers at minimum number
  • heuristics – essential to rapid testing, eg. walking into a foreign building – “I’ll know it when I see it”
  • “creep and leap” – leap is the most outrageous test you can do, creep is to gently shatter the pattern in your mind – creep and leap may fail because you don’t leap far enough or you don’t creep enough
  • minimum number of cases has no meaning – infinite – no light flashes when you have finished testing / understand the pattern
  • pattern in the test cases is just the pattern in the test cases, not the program
  • need to leap beyond imagination
  • rapid testing is not about techniques – a way of thinking, a set of skills
  • what do testers do? – they are the “headlights of a project”, don’t need testers in the daylight (no risks)
  • testers don’t ensure quality of a product, they report the quality of the product
  • key definitions: quality is value to some person (who matters), a bug is anything about the product that threatens its value
  • testers represent the people whos opinion matters
  • defect is a bad word legally; not sure it is a defect when you find it, assumes more than you know (emotional word: bug, issue, incident)
  • testing and questioning are the same thing
  • there is a motivating question behind each test (if not, a zombie walk)
  • first principle – know your mission – allows you to test what matters, gets you more focussed
  • we are chasing risk
  • quality criteria – what is important, who are users
  • curse of expertise – people who know a lot, don’t always see a lot (why you need developers and testers)
  • need an oracle / result – otherwise you are just touring (an oracle is a principle or mechanism by which you find a problem)
  • rapid test teams should be a team of superheroes – what is your super power? Seek test teams that have variety
  • critical thinking – “huh”, “really”, “so” – say these words and you are on the road to critical thinking, you have to make assumptions to get work done
  • “huh” = what exactly does that mean?
  • “really” = what are the facts, how do we know it is true?
  • “so” = does any of this really matter, who cares?
  • safety language – this desk “appears” brown, have “not yet seen” a number 127 work, when you see this language your brain keeps thinking about the problem (interim conclusion only)
  • if you have stopped questioning you have stopped testing (and turned yourself into a test tool)
  • video tape your tests – take notes at timestamps, good for audit when you need that
  • The Amazing Colour Changing Card Trick – look from a different angle, view things more than once
  • ask a question without asking a question – make a statement / fact and wait for a reaction
  • model it differently – look at it in a different way
  • need to have the ability to slow down your thinking and go step-by-step and explain/examine your steps and inferences
  • exploratory testing is about trying to de-focus – seeing things in a different way
  • there is no instruction you can write down that won’t require some judgement from a human
  • irresponsible to answer a question without knowing some context – allows you to establish a risk landscape
  • James remembers his testing approach as a heuristic – CIDTESTDSFDPDTCRUSSPICSTMPLFDSFSCURA (his notes go on to explain this one!)
  • when you hear “high level”, substitute “not really”
  • HICCUPS(F) heuristic, a set of patterns all testers seem can be an answer to justify why something might be: History (something has changed), Image (OK, but something makes us looks stupid), Comparable products (like another system), Claims (said in a meeting, hallway), User’s expectations (do you understand users), Product (consistency), Purpose (why and what is it trying to accomplish), Statutes (something legal), Familiarity (a familiar feeling)
  • Oracles – calculator (ON 2 + 2 =4; not heuristic, answer won’t be 5, burst into flames, number won’t disappear), Word saving files (came up with 37 alternatives), Notepad (this application can break, Microsoft suggested it was not a bug)
  • Ask for testability – give me controllability (command line version and visibility, text version of display), when developers say no send email so you have documented evidence on why didn’t or it takes so long to test
  • ask “is there a reason I have been brought into test this?”
  • ad-hoc / exploratory does not equal sloppy
  • testing is not the mechanical act but the questioning process, only people who have a goal of 100% automated testing are people who hate to test, don’t hear about automated programming (what about compiling?)
  • everybody does exploratory testing – creating scripts, when a script breaks, learning after a script runs, doing a script in a different way
  • exploratory testing acts on itself
  • “HP Mercury is in the business of avoiding blame”
  • script – to get the most out of an extremely expensive test cycle, for interactive calculations, auditable processes
  • mix scripting and exploration – what can we do in advance and what can we do as we go, James always starts at exploratory and moves back towards scripting
  • use a testing dashboard – break down by key components in the system, all management cares about is a schedule threat so get to the point, count the number of test sessions  (uninterrupted block of testing time – 90 minutes) as management understand this (session test management), the key is simplicity, what does management usually ask for / need (usually a different measure), counts give the wrong impression, numbers out of context, number of test cases is useless, use coverage (0 = nothing, 1 = assessed, 2 = minimum only, 3 = level we are happy to ship) and status (green = no suspected problems, yellow = testers suspect problem, red = everybody nervous)
  • equivalence partitioning – you treat differences as if they are the same, models of technology allow us to understand risk (eg. dead pixels on a button), critical tester skill to slow your thinking down (is that a button?)
  • galumphing – doing something in an intential, over exuberant way (eg. skipping down the street), some inexpensive galumphing can be be beneficial, takes advantages of accidents to help you test better
  • An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Gerry Weinberg, 1974) – basic text of software testing
  • many people are hired to fake testing – not to find bugs but to point fingers (“we hired testers”)
  • good testers build credibility
  • testers question beliefs (we are not in the belief business) – cannot believe anything that the developers tell you
  • lots of people can test – like surgery in the 14th century
  • reality steamroller method – maximise expenses from the value that they are going to have – record decisions, do your best to help out, let go of the result, write emails to get your hands clean (helpful, timestamp documented)
  • get all of the documentation and create a testing playbook – diagrams, tables, test strategy
  • The Art of Software Testing (Glenford Myers) – introduced the triangle exercise
  • calendar exercise – visualise your test coverage whenever you can, plot times on a grid, bar chart, wheel
  • choose a number between 1 and 20 – 17, 7, 3 – 20 is the least popular – what about pi, floating points – choose because they look less random
  • bugs with data types (eg. string in JavaScript) and bugs in tables and labels not found by boundary tests – this is when you need to run inexpensive random testing
  • anti-random testing – heuristic – every molecule trying to get away from the other molecule – as every test is trying to do something different
  • Crazy Ivan Testing Manoeuvre – defocussing  approach, looking for approaches you weren’t looking for (The Hunt for Red October)
  • finding bugs – testing exhaustively, focus on the right risk, indulge curiosity, use a defocussing strategy
  • curiosity – urge to learn something you don’t need to know
  • good usability checklist (medical devices) – ISO 60601-1-4
  • base testing on activities (what a user does) rather than on test cases
  • playbook – table – goal, key, idea, motivation, coverage, etc… – is just a list of ideas
  • you can’t check an always – but you can test aggressively for confidence
  • stopping heuristic – piñata heuristic (when you have enough candy), cost vs value (when cost exceeds value), convention (what is expected of you), loss of mission, ship
  • basic boundary is testing is not one over / one under –> fairy tale boundary testing

STANZ 2011: The Future Tester At Suncorp – A Journey of Building Quality In Through Agile

STANZMy presentation from STANZ 2011 that I delivered with Adrian Smith and Dallas Thorneycroft called “The Future Tester At Suncorp: A Journey of Building Quality In Through Agile” is available on Slideshare.

When Suncorp started down the path of rolling out its agile program over four years ago, it was viewed by many internally and the industry with much scepticism and angst, yet now it is approaching mainstream adoption in the industry.

One of the key challenges of becoming agile was improving our approach to testing and quality.

In this talk we will talk about why we had to change, why we had to improve the “speed to cool” in relation to testing, our challenges and approach and our blueprint for the “future tester” at Suncorp.

Like our agile journey, our vision for testing has been regarded as ambitious, so join us to hear why we believe raising the profile, empowerment and skillset of testing is critical to our (and your) future success.

STANZ 2011 Day 2 Review

STANZDay 2 of STANZ 2011 in Melbourne, here are my notes from the sessions.

The Future of Quality

Goranka Bjedov from Facebook gave this somewhat controversial talk first up, the slides and videos are available here.

From STANZ 2011
  • value of quality is lower than the price of quality – quality is dead
  • you may get a quality product (sometimes) but you always get an expensive product
  • quality matters for human life, security and money
  • systems are designed for redundancy these days so most of the time nothing will go wrong
  • people value free over quality
  • we live in a world where quality doesn’t matter, we are used to things failing
  • restructure what you are doing – don’t focus on catching big bugs, but focus on productivity testing, reduce the cost of development and speed it up
  • it is cheaper to fix a bug when the customer finds it now we are moving to the cloud
  • organisations are now paying people to find security bugs, people will test for free for a free device, some companies will offer jobs if you find a bug
  • need to start communicating value of work in a language people understand – how much did we save?

Test Process Improvement: Testers Get Out Of Your Cave!

Jan Jaap Cannegieter presented this session.

From STANZ 2011
  • TMMi – maturity framework for testing, public domain, find out how mature your test processes are
  • CMMi only has 5 pages on testing
  • TMMi has 5 levels – initial > managed > defined > management and measurement > optimization
  • start at level 2 when assessing
  • results from some TMMi quick scan assessments in 20 organisations – test reporting 30%, test planning 41%, test monitoring 47%, test design 60%, test environment 59%
  • test design is probably high because it can be influenced within the testing team, whereas planning and reporting, etc.. require people outside of your team
  • testing teams are in a cave, need to get out of the cave and use the rest of the organisation
  • stakeholder definition – the most important people at the BBQ – the hold the power, they have mindset and ambition
  • it’s all political – politics is a way of life – you need to get in front of the leaders and stakeholders and have political skills

Why Model-Driven Testing is of Great Relevance to Test Managers and Test Analysts

Thomas Hadorn from Tricentis gave this very vendor driven presentation.

From STANZ 2011
  • Gartner believe model driven testing will become dominant in next 5 years
  • capture/replay is too fragile, develop/replay test frameworks are too costly because they need to be programmatically extended
  • model driven only one type of test – no scripts to maintain

The Future Tester At Suncorp: A Journey of Building Quality In Through Agile

I presented this session with Adrian Smith from Ennova and Dallas Thorneycroft from Suncorp. The slides are available in a separate post.

From STANZ 2011
From STANZ 2011
From STANZ 2011

Testing Skills : How To Find and Develop Skilled Testers

Goranka Bjedov from Facebook led this hands on workshop.

Amongst other exercises, she introduced the game of Set.

  • card has characteristics – colour (purple, green, red), pattern (full, empty, striped), shape (oval, diamond, squiggle)
  • when a characteristic matches or is different on all 3 sets you have a match
  • very hard to get a set
  • deal 12 cards
  • makes testing fun

She also introduced the dice game and auction game using decks of cards.

STANZ 2011 Day 1 Review

STANZThe STANZ (Software Testing Australia New Zealand) 2011 conference was held in Wellington and Melbourne on the last week of August (into September). I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Melbourne event by my good friends at Software Education, who were the promoters of the event.  I rolled up on the back of a flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane (and then Brisbane to Melbourne) a little jet lagged, but got heaps from the event.

From STANZ 2011

Here are my notes from day one of the conference.

Am I Creating Value With My Testing?

Jonathon Kohl presented this session, a copy of his video and his slides is available here.

From STANZ 2011
  • ask questions of the CEO about the vision and what the product is supposed to do, listen to customer support calls, talk to marketing, talk to the developers about what bugs they value
  • what are the top 10 things people love and hate about your software?
  • look for efficiency – use checklists instead of test cases, forget about regression testing and use the computer to be more efficient
  • testing is about creating value for the people who matter most, your customers
  • people need an emotional attachment to your product – the share market is an example of a product driven by emotion
  • we need to create value for our customers, but just as importantly for ourselves
  • we can’t just focus on business value – it’s a big stick that will erode morale
  • talk to your customers – what do they need, what do they like, dislike, what is missing?
  • talk to team – what do they like about your work, how can you be better?
  • self evaluation – what is new in the field, am I enjoying work, what do other team members focus on or find things that I miss?
  • avoid blame – excuses rather than finding and solving real problems – “we wouldn’t have this problem if we we doing agile”, “management don’t get testing”, etc… – feels good to say but is not constructive
  • don’t expect tools or processes to rescue you – look out for your own best interests, know the problem you are solving and use the tools/process to solve it and ensure you have a way to measure it
  • the key to creating value is alignment – people in different jobs or teams often have different goals
  • leaders – clearly articulate vision and goals to the testing team and how does that align to our goals for the product and company, leadership comes from everyone in the team, leaders need to manage the politics (an organisation with more than one person will have politics)
  • need to continually inject change and keep people interested
  • people have skills, they are not resources – find your talents and invest in it
  • understand your context – every team will be different
  • tangible quality can be measured by understanding if the stakeholders needs are met and if you are meeting ROI, intangible quality is important and not often taken seriously – would you be afraid if you mother used this, would you like your name on the splash screen?
  • impress the most important stakeholder – you!
  • most people don’t know what great testing is – you can be shocked and appalled by what most people think is good, strive to be better
  • tangibly getting better – learn about planning and strategy and exploit the opportunities, write good bug reports as developers really value this, be good at communicating what needs to be done and where we are going, take more responsibility and display competence in basic technical skills
  • intangibly getting better – be in demand for your testing service, have good problem solving ability
  • use external communities to develop your testing skills
  • work as though your favourite person in testing was coming to visit
  • need to be able justify your work – is your testing defensible
  • use repeatable or intermittent bugs as a clue to something bigger – don’t ignore the anomalies
  • testing is like journalism – need to do crazy things to get the story, move towards the issues, people need the news today not tomorrow
  • need to have a technical curiosity about what is going on in the community – what is coming down the pipe, what are the people that have the ability to change things doing?

Overall this was a refreshing session to see a passion in testing and improving skill, with some excellent sound bytes along the way.

What Does A CEO Want From Testing

Mark Feldman from IV&V Australia delivered this presentation.

From STANZ 2011
  • the CEO is accountable for delivery, protecting his reputation
  • the CEO is not going to check test cases unless you look like a risk (ie. front page of the newspaper)
  • governance is a CEO buzzword that covers a bunch of things
  • need to provide more than alignment – creativity and innovation
  • looking for thought leaders and competitiveness enhancement not 80/20 maintenance work
  • CEO wants creative disruption along with well run divisions
  • testing needs to be proactive rather than reactive
  • have some answers about the cloud – how it affects the team
  • CEOs like ERP because they believe there is less risk

Working With Remote & Distributed Teams

Karen Johnson delivered this session.

From STANZ 2011
  • we are not alone – through Twitter and Skype you can connect with great people
  • understand time zones and calculate meetings for each persons time zone, put the number in the meeting request
  • rotate inconvenient team calls – when people are in very inconvenient time zones such as India
  • recalculate time differences again when people are travelling
  • important to have a usable workable space – particularly when working from home
  • some people have trust issues, so ask what have you done for them to have doubts
  • you just can’t work from Starbucks, could you invite your boss to your home workspace
  • be aware on calls when people are not in the room – handing out documents or drawing on the whiteboard
  • get to know your remote people and get to meet them in person when you can
  • observe with your ears – look for clues to mood and listen for tone

From Jaded To Jubilant: Invigorating Your Test Team

Anne-Marie Charrett delivered this presentation.

From STANZ 2011
  • wanted a team that had long term motivation, so could not motivate with carrots
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – mostly people are successful because they are in the right place at the right time
  • before you can motivate a team you need to ask yourself how motivated you are – what gets you up in the morning about testing
  • know your testers – give your testers a testing challenge to understand how they test, also understand what they want to get out of testing
  • important that your test team knows that you believe in them and that they are being listened to, important that they get excited about testing again
  • testers are paid to think – test scenarios often go against that
  • think about for every test, how is it adding value to the company
  • testers need to take responsibility – make and defend decisions
  • you sometimes need to let go of your own goals – the team need to feel empowered
  • exploratory testing – the tester needs to decide when it is good enough, this is the way testing is and it is hard to estimate – session based test management (SBTM) and Rapid Reporter (enter your charter/objective – time stamps and records test sessions)

I really enjoyed this session, although it reminded me how many organisations still have large test separate teams.

Test Planning for Mobile Application Projects

Jonathon Kohl delivered this session, based on some Techwell articles (part 1 and part 2).

From STANZ 2011
  • implications – power, display size, portability, connectivity, radios, large number of devices
  • less power than a PC – multitasking can freeze memory, interactions with O/S can have a big impact, kinetic input (tapping, touching, pinching) can have strange behaviours, needed to test using physical movement to replicate locking
  • connectivity – strange things happen when moving between WiFi, 3G and 4G, driving also causes issues
  • distribution – you do not have control of distribution in app stores, read the guidelines and understand the timelines early
  • mobile project issues – time pressures due to market competition, smaller applications, constant change in environments, handsets, software, very programmer centric environments so planning, testing, etc is viewed as a bat anchor, lots of competition, high risk if your application does not work as expected
  • testers need to prove their worth as rigid approaches will leave you behind
  • key is to focus on test execution rather than planning, because everything is going to change anyway
  • need a strategy on how you are going to test, what devices you are going to buy, how are you going to manage the devices/cables because they go missing easily (had to chain cables to a hubcap!)
  • find out strategies that you are targeting so you can procure equipment
  • emulators are useful for basic testing, better to use real device of target platform, developers would have used the emulator anyway
  • supporting IOS 3 to IOS 4.1 resulted in 104 combinations between multiple devices, etc – classification trees are good to explain permutations and combinations
  • automation is still in initial infancy – not as nice as web applications at this point
  • devices are being exploited to do combined activities so need to exploit this in testing
  • we use these devices in environments where we do not use a PC – they are addictive and are part of our lives
  • testing will involve leaving the office and moving around to mimic what the users are doing – determine high value because everybody will want to do this testing!
  • tricky to get devices that you are targeting – standing in line for the iPhone!
  • may need to target different carriers and plans as technologies can be different
  • think about logistics of storage, charging, etc…
  • ergonomics are an issue whe testing mobile devices – shorter work days, can be painful on fingers, people are 25% less productive on these devices than PCs
  • health is an issue because devices are shared and illness spreads fast – hand sanitizers, wiping devices after use, washing hands frequently
  • need to factor in training as there are lots of way to use devices
  • taking screen shots is a lot more painful than web applications
  • usability testing – no standards unfortunately, look for user emotions, perceived lack of performance, one of the most important things on these devices
  • performance testing – no real tools, can jailbreak IOS, some emlators have rudimentary tools, can affect performance of device, use stopwatches, spoof the headers, emulate on a machine using small memory footprints and look for speed
  • security is often a trade-off with performance
  • can automate using emulator in a browser, tools are rudimentary, vendors are clamouring in the space, Opera has a mobile mode


  • influenced by James Bach’s Statisfice Test Plan Evaluation Model and Test Planning Guide
  • planning needs to be a parallel activity, do just enough in regulated environments, video can be good to replace test cases, need to meet their intent and needs but rather than giving them what they ask for give them something better
  • research your customers for your scenario tests – how they will use the app, are they locals or visitors, is it easy to understand outside context (eg. train schedules)
  • trick – search ” sucks” to find and exploit common problems
  • allow time to keep up-to-date with platform changes
  • remember to test technology like GPS, graphics, camera, video, sound, messaging, data
  • Smashing Magazine – good resource for usability
  • modeling state allows you to get understanding quickly
  • risk vs reward testing – focus on what is value – if you need to demo to get funding, test that the demo will work and not crash
  • quality attributes – HP’s FURPS
  • may need to set time aside for guidance documentation
  • put structure and timebox around exploratory testing so that everybody knows what mission and goal is – look at application from different perspectives
  • express completeness as how have we done and how much we have to go from different perspectives
  • Session Tester – video is good for brining new testers in, easier to digest than written down test cases
  • estimating – use uncertainty models (Software Estimation by Steve McConnell), Galton Estimation tool – like to use P90 – give a range, use S curve to give confidence matched to dates
  • regulators are worried about repeatability – they like formal session based testing
  • adapted James Bach’s testing dashboard

10th Anniversary Conference Dinner

Anders Sorman-Nilsson, author of Thinque Funky, gave a very entertaining and thought provoking dinner speech.

Agile 2011: The Speed To Cool – Agile Testing & Building Quality In

My presentation from Agile 2011 that I delivered with Adrian Smith called “The Speed To Cool: Agile Testing and Building Quality In” is available on Slideshare.

Ensuring that the approach to testing and quality is understood and appropriately valued in an agile world can be a struggle for many organisations, especially when resources are limited and our customers are expecting business value in a timely manner. In this session we will define what quality means and share a number of tools for measuring it, discuss approaches to improving the skills, empowerment and role of testing in the organisation and share why testing is the coolest role on the team and why it is everyones responsibility.

Some of the comments on Twitter included:

@BrianGress: We tend to test only what we can see. #agile2011 @adrianlsmith

@tonyrockyhorror: @smithcdau Speed to Cool was best talk I’ve seen all week. It will take a mighty effort to top it. #agile2011

Adrian also posted about the talk on the Ennova blog.

AAFTT Workshop 2011 (Salt Lake City)

Agile AllianceThe Agile Alliance Functional Testing Tools Workshop (AAFTT), held the day before the Agile 2011 conference in Salt Lake City, was once again one of the highlights of the conference. Organised by Jennita Andrea and Elisabeth Hendrickson, it was as always a wide variety of participants with a passion for testing and testing tools. Here are my notes from the day held on August 7, 2011.

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

Energy Kickoff & Networking

The session was facilitated by Ainsley Nies, and all of the official session notes are stored on the AAFTT wiki:

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

We started the day with some networking and sharing some areas of passion. Some of these included:

The theme of the AAFTT is: “Advancing the state of the art and the practice of Acceptance Test Driven Development”.

From AAFTT 2011

Ainsley started walking the circle to explain the day and how open space works, but frankly it make me feel a little dizzy! She went on to explain that Harrison Owen invented the open space idea as he noticed the real content at conferences was the passionate conversations. The rules of open space are:

  • whoever shows up are the right people
  • do not hang on to pre-conceived ideas
  • it starts when it starts
  • discussion does not need to be over until it’s over
  • wherever it happens is the right place
From AAFTT 2011

The law of mobility and responsibility (also known as the law of two feet) is if you are not learning or contributing where you are, go some place where you will. Also, butterflies and bumblebees cross pollinate ideas.

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

Finally, we were warned to be prepared to be surprised.

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

Developers are testers and testers are developers – how do we dissolve and combine the roles 

This was the first session that I attended.

From AAFTT 2011
  • there are two mindsets – offence and defence, testers are defence
  • job is not to find defects but to prevent defects – build quality in
  • define quality and what does it mean to us
  • startups don’t often have the problem – multiple skills required
  • what is the biggest impediment – are we missing the skill
  • there is no team of quality anymore – drive quality through the organization
  • functional testers tend to exploratory test and drive from the UI, technical analysts tend to multiple-skill
  • you need to have a team focus and a product focus
  • don’t start with practices but start with a common vision (eg. zero defects)
  • fear of losing identity if you dissolve roles
  • understanding the historical roles sometimes helps understands why things are the way they are
  • need time – Lisa Crispin mentioned that in her company they were going out of business because the system was not good quality, so management were smart to support the initiative
  • helps if everybody on the team has experienced the entire value chain and needs to understand the value of everybody’s piece of the chain – tendency to optimise the piece of the chain you understand
  • developers often underestimate the precision of data and scenarios and developers underestimate the difficulty of some requests
  • personality issues often get in the way
  • mostly about having the right people – need to let some people go
  • we assign labels to roles which create barriers – break down on teams but need to break down at the HR level
  • payroll is also an issue – need to compensate for people taking on more responsibility
  • need to put queue limits on the testing queue to drive behaviours
  • pairing with developer if they do not understand the scenarios
  • some people have the questioning mindset, some have the practical focus – need both to make sure you ship a quality product
  • mini waterfall problem – long tail feedback loop, change workflow that developer needs to work with tester, avoid lean batching problem
From AAFTT 2011

ATDD Patterns

Jennitta Andrea led this session about the work so far in this space:

Last Mile Tools

Elisabeth Hendricksen led this session on tools that are attempting to solve the problem at the last mile.

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011
  • NUnitLiz Keogh – were using Fitnesse but added another level of complication, wrote a DSL that separates tests to make it easier read, WiPFlash is the automation tool, examples are on the website, can call the fixtures from another testing tool like Fitnesse, capture scenarios on a wiki first to get the best out of the automation tool
From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011
  • SpecFlow – Christian Hassa – similar to Cucumber, scenarios written as steps that are bound to execution, uses Gherkin parser (this is a plus as a number of tools use this)
  • SpecLog – maps of your product backlog, capture results of collaboration with the business (Jeff Patton’s story maps), data stored in a single file, stories are initially mapped to a feature file but ultimately get linked to a feature tree
  • SpecRun is under development currently, not bound to SpecFlow or test runner/execution, currently Windows only
From AAFTT 2011
  • Limited RedJoseph Wilk – uses the probability of failure to run those tests first in Cucumber, can then get failure statistics at a feature level, working on a refactoring tool at the moment
  • Relish – publish Cucumber features to a website
From AAFTT 2011
  • The Smallest Federated WikiWard CunninghamJSON for data scrubbing, thin columns to display well on mobile, refactoring is the number one edit so allow it to drag and drop refactor, fit for any analytic or outcome-oriented endeavor, sponsored by Nike, under very early development, meant to take spreadsheet data to the next level
From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

Business Rules

Mary Gorman led this discussion.

From AAFTT 2011
  • business rules – conference website has rules, such as group pack for 5 registrations, what happens to the sixth person, what if someone pulls out
  • need to capture these to describe what our system does
  • business rules manifesto – Mary gives a copy to everyone she work with
  • separation of concerns – a rule is separate from the action which makes the process more brittle and more difficult to test
  • rules are a form of requirements and live beyond the building
  • one process is to extract the rules of a legacy system and then the regression tests – code archaeology
  • the business does not always know the rules of the system or how they got there – rules get added to the system over time or evolve and documentation is unlikely to get updated
  • one insurance company had spent $100 million dollars to bring in a business rule engine, returned investment in two years due to being able to be able to look for conflicting rules
  • put analysis of rules in the hands of developers for way too long
  • simplest part of business rules is having a glossary
  • rules engine enables our rules in productions, and use examples to ensure the engine works correctly
  • testing could look like this – given this data when these rules are applied then I expect this output
  • you need both rules and examples to test them – you need enough examples for now, need to be different paths, decision points, infliction points rather than different values
  • examples are not as expressive as arithmetic, but they are not as understandable
  • lots of rules that we do not think of as business rules because they are baked into the process eg. security access, database schemas
  • “business logic is not” (Martin Fowler)
  • you can’t read English as if it were rules, so we need to use examples
  • the worst systems are the ones that do not have a manual override, humans are usually the best at determining this
  • lots of business rules change due to jurisdiction
  • something will always fall to the bottom – rules need to be valued on risk and value – where is the tipping rule
  • rules are the expression of intent
  • Mars issue – crashed, six week window too costly to fix
  • guts to keep it simple – reporting system (Ward Cunningham) – resisted urge to put in a formula system, wait for requests from users, got 6 requests, sold system based on simplicity of the system
From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

Other Sessions

As with any conference, there are always sessions you would have liked to have got along to.

Richard Lawrence led a discussion on Static Analysis for Gherkin which turned into a discussion on design patterns for Cucumber.

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

George Dinwiddie led a discussion about conversations between roles:

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

My mate Jason Montague led a session on Building Conditions Conducive for ATDD Adoption.

From AAFTT 2011
From AAFTT 2011

Closing Circle

We shared some takeaways in the closing circle, he were some that stood out at me:

From AAFTT 2011
  • issues with dealing of people was a theme
  • what are good ways to express a large amount of test data
  • challenge to get corporations over the hump to release data, plus have good tests and examples around the rules
  • testing needs to be a nation, not just a community
  • it’s time we got more respect in our organisations, it’s time we show more respect to those we work with
  • teams need to dependent on the production of the build
  • federated wikis could help solve the test ownership problem

As for me, my comment was the day had renewed my energy again. ATDD is hard, and as a community we need to try harder.


Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up AAFTT.