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Friday, March 20, 2009

PEST on Tour - the SIGiST experience March 2009

Following on from our inaugeral SIGiST experience in December, we were very excited to be asked back for a further session in March - where we took the PEST experience on tour!! We got great feedback from the attendees - either 4/5 or 5/5 responses from everyone. I guess that means we did the right kinda stuff in the right kinda way.......

The February PEST event had a bond theme, so we brought some of the trimmings with us to give the SIGiST event a bit of a lift. Richard wore his Dinner Jacket for the occassion to add a certain something, and of course we had the bond cut outs, movies and a little casino going on too.

In the session we had three teams who each tested the same bug ridden Bugzilla instance against the clock, and at the same time.

The first team had nothing to support their work -> they just got stuck in and did some prime exploratory testing.

The second team had a specification for the application which gave them something to test against.

The third team had a business analyst who sat with them and gave them guidance.

Over a forty minute period the teams battled it out, and the results were very interesting.

The most defects were found by the team with the BA present. They also found the most 'out there' stuff, including testing in French.

The most impactful and technical defects were found by the team that was purely focused on exploratory testing. This included a security defect and a field truncation issue.

The team with the spec found a lot of defects with the spec itself, as well as with the application and while the spec had helped them it also created problems for them in that they had to try to understand the spec before they could really test anything and there wasn't anyone to ask when things didn't make total sense.

Our mission was to demonstrate how different techniques yielded different results, and indeed this was true on the day. In a world where we are feeling quite a squeeze to budgets, time available, staffing available, we need to pick the right approach for the context of the project and the system under test and indeed as our SIGiST session showed one approach does not fit all.

I really enjoy the SIGiST events, there are some great people there, and some real names are coming along quite regularly now so it is not as dry as it has been in the past. That they are open to our test offs and activities like PEST is also very encouraging. Stephen Allott seems to have his head screwed on right, and he's brought a great deal of innovation to the forum already.

Hopefully things will continue in this vein, and more sessions will become practical and show you how to do stuff, rather than just talk about it. I know the talking has its place, and some of the heavyweight stuff just wont get done if we all spend our time 'playing', but I like the fact that testers do stuff, and it seems unlikely that we can share our knowledge all that effectively without showing people what we do and doing more of it in environments where the collective community can get involved too.

In my opinion there are too many process experts around and not enough test experts. To get more of these, we need forums where we practice our craft and get shown by real experts how to do stuff. We also need places where we can try stuff out (in a micro fashion) to see how it might work when we used it on a project. A day spent at somewhere like a SIGiST, experimenting and learning from others could save us weeks on a big project, maybe even longer. Now that has to be good investment.

To see more about the SIGiST go to:

Come along to the next one. Hopefully we'll be doing test off stuff again -> that is if the BCS still think its a good idea.

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