Sunday, October 6, 2019

TestBash Manchester 2019 - About Learning, Daring and Enjoying

Looking back at the last week of TestBash Manchester 2019, I have to say this was an absolutely amazing week! Thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Brace yourself for quite a lengthy report. ;-)

Arriving in Great Company

Already when boarding my plane to Manchester there was the first nice surprise. Sven Schirmer was going to TestBash as well! The conferring part of conferences officially started for me then.

After arriving at the hotel, we joined the first meetup preceding the workshop days. I really enjoy meeting a few people already before the official program starts. This gets me into the mood and it's not as overwhelming as "meeting" everyone at once.

Together with Sven, Richard Bradshaw, Mark Winteringham, Maaike Brinkhof, GΓΆran KeroRick Scott and several more we had a great dinner and lovely conversations. I felt emotionally prepared for the workshop day.

Learning: Workshop Day

I really enjoy workshops for learning, especially when they are hands-on and interactive. This time, I could finally catch a workshop I wanted to join for some time now: "Using Dependency Mapping To Enhance Testing Techniques" by Melissa Eadon. It was great! Exactly met my expectations. Mel emphasized how dependencies are a huge risk in modern development and how everything is about communication. In working groups, each of us drew a dependency map of their team, product or a problem they had. The rest asked questions for clarifications, trying to identify where the problems are and what could be done about them. As simple as it may sound, this visualization exercise was extremely powerful. It helped to get the thoughts and knowledge we have from our brains onto paper so we could discuss about it together. It triggered us to describe the situation while drawing, and the resulting questions caused interesting insights. For example, I realized what part of our product I had nearly forgotten to draw at all; and indeed, this is a part that's not well covered with testing. Another example: by casually answering a question I realized that I had neglected testing one of the most crucial parts of our application! The identified risk areas are a great input to focus further exploratory testing on. Besides that, this exercise would be very interesting to do with lots of people in my team and also across teams. Everyone has a different mental model and this makes it visible, therefore serving as discussion base. As a plus: it's also a relationship-building exercise!

In the afternoon I had the chance to see Emily Bache in action in her workshop "Getting High Coverage Regression Tests Quickly". She introduced us to the concept of approval testing and its characteristics. How you can still do test-driven development, how to handle test failures, how code coverage and mutation testing can guide us. This approach especially comes in handy when it comes to legacy code, yet is also convenient for new projects. The best part of the workshop: Emily provided us four practice projects to work on, in the language of our choosing. Trying out approval testing and covering existing code with tests. One of the persons at my table could not get their IDE setup to work for approval tests, so we decided to pair up. Even better: he was familiar with strong-style pairing and showed great communication skills, so it was a real pleasure to pair up and solve the challenges together. It's just a lot more fun this way! :)

For the evening, I had missed the opportunity to sign up for another meetup, hosted at the BBC. So I ended up with plan B (which should have been plan A in the first place): dinner with Sven, Maaike, GΓΆran and Emily! I'm so much enjoying spending valuable time with my community peers.

After dinner, we decided to go for a drink to slowly end the day. And suddenly, to my huge surprise, Patrick Prill was standing in the room! He is the one I test all my talks with at a local meetup. Same about two weeks ago. Yet somehow I haven't asked him if he would also be at TestBash Manchester - I should have! This was an absolutely nice surprise. On the one hand because I really appreciate him as one of the kindest and most insightful human beings on earth. And on the other hand because of my talk. Granted, his presence also made me a tad more nervous, and yet I knew this would be the chance to learn whether I managed to improve my talk. What a nice surprise!

Daring: Conference Day

Then the time had come. The main conference started. Our compΓ¨re: the great Leigh Rathbone! Once more I sketchnoted most of the talks - besides the one directly before mine. Such a pity, I would have loved to learn from Areti Panou's story! Yet I knew I wouldn't be able to focus. I did so many conference sessions already, and yet I can be certain I will be super nervous just before, and super distracted right after my own session (so I didn't catch the 99 second talks either). I learned not to beat myself up because of that anymore.
This time I went last - a great honor, yet my nerves were on edge and showing. Also, this time it was not only a talk for me - there was an even more daring part included as well. On the one hand I shared my lessons learned on my #CodeConfident journey, and on the other hand I proved my increased confidence live on stage with my very first live coding demo! Small and short, and yet really extending my comfort zone. The demo gods were kind to me and all went well, so next time I'm ready for more! For here, I'll let the tweets speak for themselves.
After the conference we all came together for a meetup at a nearby location. Great food, even more great conversations - yet it was extremely noisy and I felt drained. So, a shorter evening for once; the next day another conference day waited for me! Time to get some rest.

Enjoying: Test.bash();

The next day it was time for the second edition of Test.bash(); overall, and my first one. It can be considered a more technical and hands-on focused version of TestBash - and I really enjoyed it. Lots of great talks all over the place, lots of live demos, too. Hosted by the wonderfully energetic Gwen Diagram! I got out of the day with more knowledge and even feeling refreshed.
Right after a great conference day, we all continued with a meetup hosted directly at our venue, The Lowry. Not only that, it was indeed inside its gallery! I love art, so this was a special treat. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to have both great conversations as well as some quiet contemplating time when looking at the great paintings and sketches by this artist from Manchester. Simply awesome. I loved this.

And once more: A great dinner with great friends. Elizabeth Zagroba, Joep Schuurkes, Patrick, Sven, and Geert van de Lisdonk. Thank you for a great time

Open Space

Only one more day to go before TestBash Manchester was finally over. I really looked forward to the open space day, hoping I still had enough energy. Lots of great topics made this easy, I learned a bunch.
  • "Testing without touching" by Joep Schuurkes and Elizabeth Zagroba. What a great session! Our group generated lots of great testing ideas and assumptions to verify, just by looking at the first page of an application. Great exercise, looking forward to taking this back with me to work.
  • "Threat Modelling" by Saskia Coplans & Jay Harris. Always awesome to learn from great security people. This time we threat modeled a service of our choosing to learn which requirements to fulfill to mitigate those threats.
  • "Motivation & Productivity" by Rick Scott. Great exchange about all things productivity hacks and self-motivation. It's not easy to get things done, and everyone is different so we need to learn what works for us.
  • "Accessibility Quiz" by Ady Stokes. This was super insightful! Ady handed out a page full of UI examples illustrating different types of accessibility issues. Great way to learn more how we can include all people and at the same time make the lives of everyone easier!
  • "Tester Growth" by Melissa Eadon. Mel asked all of us three questions: Where do you want to go? Where do you come from? How did you change? Great opportunity to reflect on our own situation as well as listen to the experiences and wishes of my peers.
  • "Practice Mob" session by me, additionally initiated by Joep Schuurkes and Elizabeth Zagroba (who mob with their testing community once a week). We wanted to work on something hands-on, practicing together - using the opportunity of having your peers in one place. Most people were simply interested to experience a mob for the first time, so we went for Joep's idea: let's extend MobTime, my (so far) favorite mob timer! Its drawback: an annoying alarm tone. On our endeavor to change it, we faced several setup issues as the project had not been maintained anymore for longer. Still, the session was great, we made progress, and most of all: so much knowledge was shared within just two hours of mobbing. Loved it!
How to end this evening best? Of course with a nice dinner and some goodbye drinks, with Mel, Joep, Elizabeth, Rick and Geert.

Now this leaves me only with one more thing to say: a huge THANK YOU to organizers and volunteers! You did an amazing job. This was my favorite TestBash so far, and I'll remember it dearly.