Lessons Learned from TestBash2.0

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the TestBash2.0 Testing Conference on Friday, which was fantastic.
I would say that this year’s TestBash event topped last year’s event. It was bigger, packed full of influential people, and was such a friendly fun environment that was full of people sharing knowledge and stories.

There were 9 talks in total, followed by a handful of 99 second talks.

“A-Galumphing We Will Go” – James Bach

The first speaker on the stage to open the show was James, with his talk about “A-Galumphing We Will Go”. I’ve heard James talk about “galumphing” a few times before, but this time seemed a little more geared towards the philosophy behind Ashby’s law of requisite variety, which led James to investigate the different methods that he was using to inject variety into his testing.

One of these methods, that he discovered from a problem that he had when he was seemingly trying to follow a demo script that had been created by a developer, was relating to him interacting with the system in a way that it shouldnt have made a difference to the system… He inadvertently found a defect because of this. This then led James to label this kind of testing as “galumphing“, which is referenced in the Oxford dictionary as meaning: “to move in a clumsy, ponderous, or noisy manner“.

Overall, I found James’ talk to be very insightful and it left me with lots to research and think about: on incorporating galumphing more in my own testing, and on Ashby’s law.

My mindmap notes onJames’s talk

“Balancing Test Automation Techniques” – Matt Archer

This was my first time seeing one of Matt’s presentations, although I am a regular reader of his blog.
Matt started his talk off with some stage props – a red bucket, a blue bucket and a froggy soft toy. He gave a visual example of how a frog would react if he was put in the situation of being tossed into a bucket hot water and compared this with how differently the frog would react if it was put into a cold bucket of water, and then how the frog would adapt to the gradual increase in temperature of the cold water bucket… Matt then related this to people and how they react to change, and how we tend to adapt to change and accept it if it occurs gradually over a longer period of time.

This then led Matt to discuss 2 different techniques that can be used when approaching automation. The first technique that Matt described is “BDD”, which I think is probably the more common technique that companies think of when they think about automation. Matt gave some great examples of the BDD technique and walked us through using FIT tables in his example of how a BDD automation framework might work.

The second technique was “Semi-Automated Data Regression Testing”. This is where the automated scripts generate results in a way that there is no pass or fail, but more of a set of results that we can then evaluate ourselves. I’ve used this type of automation before in previous roles, where I’ve created scripts to aid me in my testing rather than to “check” the system and produce pass/fail results.

I really liked Matt’s talk and also liked his manner of presenting his talk. I could relate to everything he was saying.

My mindmap notes on Matt's talk
My mindmap notes on Matt’s talk

“Do It In Production – Testing Where It Counts” – Seth Eliot

Next up after the break was Seth Eliot. Seth’s presentation looked great! Very Windows Live-Tile-esque (which is right up my street, being a windows 8 and windows phone 7.8 / 8 fan).

Seth’s talk started off with him running through the concept of “big data”, and how “big” can mean different things to different organisations… “Big data” for Microsoft being Petabytes, Exabytes and Zettabytes!
Seth’s talk progressed into how we can use data: trend information, user feedback or social network information, etc, by analysing the data to improve the quality of testing.

He mentioned about different testing methods that can be utilised for testing in production environments, where the data is, and he detailed how various companies currently mine their data… “Dog Food Testing” sounding very intriguing, as well as other methods like “Beta Testing” and “A/B Testing”.

Seth then spoke about “Passive Validation” vs “Active Validation”, where Passive Validation is where real data and real users are used, and Active Validation is where synthetic environments and synthetic transactions are utilised to simulate a real environment.

Seth’s talk was great! It was very informative and his slides were awesome! I felt myself being mesmerised by his metro style slides so much that my notes below are probably a bit drab and don’t do the talk justice… Sorry! 🙂

My mindmap notes on Seth's talk
My mindmap notes on Seth’s talk

“Managing A Lean Test Team” – Amy Phillips

Initially, I didn’t think I’d be able to relate to Amy’s talk, as I thought it would be catered towards a test team management, from a people perspective, but I thoroughly enjoyed her talk and could in fact relate a lot of what she was saying to my own experiences.

Amy spoke about Lean test teams, and what it takes to be classed as a lean test team. She pointed out that the best and worst projects all seem to be dependant on the team, which certainly rings true from my experiences. Amy also spoke about the concept of being Lean, with regards to cutting out needless documentation and thinking about how to handle the documents that are needed, such as a test strategy – it doesn’t need to be so bulky, but might in fact be a diagram or whiteboard drawing.

Amy also spoke about something that I truly believe, regarding personal and team development. She spoke about team development never being a waste of time, which I totally agree with.

A good talk by Amy, about a topic that is completely relevent with todays testing industry.

My mindmap notes on Amy's talk
My mindmap notes on Amy’s talk

“A Tester’s Hierarchy of Needs” – Stephen Janaway

I have the privilege of working with Steve, so I get to pick his brain and have some good discussions with him regularly. And even though I had spoken to him a little bit before about the topic of his talk, I was still well impressed by his presentation!

Steve started his presentation with a little bit of background on Abraham Harold Maslow. Maslow was a psychologist, who was best known for his theory on the “hierarchy of needs”, which was later taken and interpreted into a pyramid diagram which represents the fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top.

Steve has managed to take this diagram along with Maslow’s theory and relate that with the world of software testing, where the lowest level on the pyramid represents Maslow’s “acceptance” level relates to “Testing just being a job”, with the scale increasing up the pyramid to being a “recognised expert testing master”, which is representative to Maslow’s “recognition” level.

I thoroughly enjoyed Steve’s talk and I think every tester can relate to the testing hierarchy pyramid!

My mindmap notes on Steve's talk
My mindmap notes on Steve’s talk

“Minding Your Own Business” – Lisa Crispin

This was the first time that I had managed to listen to Lisa present too. She touched on the topic of “T-Shaped” testers, where the T relates to breadth and depth of the tester’s multi disciplined skills, which I found very interesting.

Lisa then spoke about the importance of learning from the customers – Learning about what they do, what their needs are and the valuable feedback that they can offer you on the systems that they use. She spoke about the investigation required for the “who”, “how” and “why” questions that are based on the “what” that is delivered by the stakeholders.

Lisa went on to mention various ideas about how to learn from the customers and users, such as shadowing the various users in different areas in the business.

Lisa then led the presentation into a discussion with the audience, where people got to detail their own experiences relating to things learned from the users about the projects that they have worked on. There were a few good stories, one was about a situation where management had commissioned that a new system be built to replace an existing system, which was going to cost a lot of money, but it turned out after communication with the actual users that all they were looking for was a couple of extra minor functions added to their perfectly adequate existing system!

My mindmap notes on Lisa's talk
My mindmap notes on Lisa’s talk

“What Testers Can Learn From Social Sciences” – Huib Schoots

Huib delivered probably my favorite talk of the day. He started on discussing the way the brain works – with critical thinking and system thinking, and how we act irrationally. Huib referenced one of my favorite books – “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.

The presentation then flowed into how biases and fallacies affect your testing and decisions. There was a great quote that I took from Huib’s presentation at this point, which is: “Dont try to prove yourself right… Prove yourself wrong“. I think this relates nicely with testers. We are always trying to prove that things dont work. If you are given a logic puzzle to prove, testers always start by trying to disprove it…

Huib then spoke about the social sciences and briefly discussed the basics of economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, didactic/pedagogy, ethics, etc. This lead him on to “Inattentional Blindness”, which is a topic that I have done lots of research on and actually blogged about previously.

I really enjoyed Huibs talk. He also referenced some books that I hadn’t heard of before: “Critical Thinking: A User’s Manual” by Debra Jackson, and “You Are Not So Smart” by David McRaney… So has given me further reading material to sink my teeth into!  After the presentations, Huib also gave me ideas on a couple of blogs on this topic that I might find interesting, which was great.

My mindmap notes on Huib's talk
My mindmap notes on Huib’s talk

“Context-Driven Security Testing” – Bill Matthews

I’ve always been interested in web app security testing, and how I can incorporate this with my exploratory testing that I do, and Bill definitely gave me plenty of food for thought in being able to do this.

Bill started his talk by detailing how he performs web app security testing. He went into “Threat Modelling” and why to model threats. This led to him talking about the different ways to model threats – 2 of them being through the use of “Data Flow Diagrams” and “Threat Trees”, which is what Bill then went on to explain.

He then went on to talk about his “S.T.R.I.D.E” model (which stands for: Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service, Escilation of Priviledges). I found this very informative and useful – I definitely plan to utilise this model for incorporating security tests in a more structured manner into my testing during my exploration, so am keen to read more about it.

Bill then went on to start producing a mind map of the different ways that a user account might be subdued to unauthorised access, with members of the audience contributing to the different ways that the login screen might be hacked.

My mindmap notes on Bill's talk
My mindmap notes on Bill’s talk

“You Messed Up. Your Code Is Terrible” – Tony Bruce

Tony’s talk was last on the bill and it was a great talk to finish on. It was based on some research he had been doing recently about testers having an aura of negativity about them.

He started discussing why people might be negative, from boredom, to being stuck on a project for a length of time, to not enjoying your work the way that you could be… This then naturally led to the affects that negativity might have on surrounding colleagues and projects, from affecting the working environment to there being a lack of communication, which in turn decreases productivity.

Tony then spoke about the concept of “T.H.I.N.K before you speak” (which stands for “True?”, “Helpful?”, “Inspiring?”, “Necessary?”, and “Kind?”. Utilising this model will help dispel the possibility of coming across negatively.

Then came the penultimate question: “Is it good to always be a positive person, or is it necessary to sometimes be negative?”. This sparked an interesting debate with various members of the audience, some saying that you should always be positive, while others implied that negativity is a must due to the pessamistic nature of being a tester.

Tony’s talk was very interactive and he did very well in getting the audience involved! He has a great sense of humour too, which was shown throughout his talk.

My mindmap notes on Tony's talk
Mindmap notes on Tony’s talk (created with the help of Clair Bennett)


Overall, the TestBash was fantastic! It was very useful with lots of great testers from all over the world there. I got to meet many testers that I was only familliar with on twitter, and all of the talks stemmed many great discussions and ideas with them. I’m thankful to all of the presenters for inspiring and sharing their knowledge, and I’d also like to say a huge thankyou to the people over at Ministry of Testing for putting on such a great day.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming TinyTestBash in June!

5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from TestBash2.0

  1. Thanks a lot Dan for sharing the session in so much detail. I started feeling like as if I was attending and learned many new things.


Please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s