TestBash Brighton: Days two and three

Thursday

Day two at TestBash started after night two in the pod. Each night, I was arriving late and leaving early so I never saw another human. I couldn’t even hear them breathing or snoring, nor shuffling around in the quiet of night.

I was starting to think I was in an episode of Dr Who, and it would turn out that the people lying behind those eerie black curtains were some extraterrestrial threat just waiting for the right moment to convert me because the testing conference was actually a front for UNIT’s operations in Brighton. I was also terrified of annoying them, so although I had an alarm set for 6:45am, I woke up every half an hour throughout the night to check my phone so that it would never ever, under any circumstances actually go off and wake up… the others.

Question from my manager on Thursday morning

The previous evening had been awesome. I’d ended up sitting at a table full of MOT bosses and volunteers, and we talked about my scholarship application, and I told them about how much my life had changed in the last couple of years. They were super kind and helpful, and encouraged me to try again at doing a 99 second talk on Friday, even though I was certain I would fail to get out of my chair again. Jay even said that if I did one, he would do one so I was like okay. What harm could it do to write a little something.

I spent half the night writing out notes on my phone (while listening out for scary sci-fi noises) so I was pretty glad that there wasn’t a lean coffee meetup on Thursday, so I could life in bed a little later. Or rather, I could wander about town in the misty rain until it was time to go inside because of the things behind the curtains. I wish I could remember anything about that morning because I’m sure I met and talked to some lovely people, but there is just a big ‘ol blank in my brain between waking up at 5:52 and deciding I didn’t dare try to fall asleep again, and the start of the first workshop of the day.

I cannot understate how much I enjoyed this workshop, titled The Heart Of Testing by Ben Simo and Erik Davis. It took everything that we had learned the day before, and everything we did as part of our jobs, and put them in a little box. And then it zoomed out and showed us EVERYTHING ELSE. The context. All the bits of things that surrounds what we do, that we rarely think about but have a massive effect.

It started out nicely with a few definitions – and then a few more definitions. What is software testing? About ten hundred million different things, apparently. Every time I thought we had covered every possible definition, the next slide revealed a new take on it.

We were introduced to the idea of software being a communication amongst people, not just pretty patterns on a screen that let you click buttons. It’s obvious that the software is there for actual real people to use, why else would we be making it? But somehow when you’re testing it’s easy to get caught up in the tick-box mindset of ensuring a product meets pre-defined specs, forgetting that there are real life people at the end (and at every step) of the development process.

What I really liked about this workshop was that after some questions to open our minds, they gave us time to talk with each other and identify the people in and out of our organisations who affect the quality of our products. It was super interesting to hear how decisions about quality and testing are made in other teams, since I don’t have any experience outside of the work I do now. We spoke about our products, stakeholders, testers and tools, as well as how we perceived our companies compared to others (“small, inexperienced testing team; manual but fast; not much automation”).

Erik and Ben took us through a lot of concepts that seem really obvious when you already know them, but as a new tester aren’t always clear. Things like knowing what you’re looking for when testing – having a mission, not just clicking around to see if anything happens (monkey testing, I think that’s called). When you have a mission, a particular question you want to ask, then you can create a strategy for answering that question.

While I’m on about questions, the whole session culminated in one of those – one which we all struggled to answer: How do you test something that has no acceptance criteria?

Naturally, the first thing that came to our minds was to ask for clarification on the acceptance criteria – go to the product owner, the designer, the client and ask for some shiny boxes to tick please. This is a valid course of action, and definitely what I do when tickets come into the Ready For Testing column with acceptance criteria like “Bob to fill in”, “needs refinement” and “to be completed by dev before picking up ticket”. It is not, however, the only path available to us as testers.

“There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.” – Po, 2008.

We have a great tool as testers, one hidden in plain sight. That tool is us – the combination of our experiences and knowledge against which we can compare the product. Is it consistent with what we already know of the company, the world, the user desires, the claims our CEO made on twitter? I honestly felt like Po, coming out of this workshop, after he realised what the dragon scroll was designed to reveal. It can often feel like your value as a tester comes only from the tools and techniques you’ve been trained to use, and I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – we add so much value just from having lived a life. From being part of the world, and having a history and identity. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

The workshop rounded off with a lively activity in which we were presented with a website and asked to test it with no previous knowledge or criteria. We used FEW HICCIPS (Familiar, Explainable, World, History, Image, Comparable Products, Claims, User’s Desires, Product, Purpose, Statutes/Standards) to test the web page from a bunch of different perspectives.

There were naming inconsistencies, language problems, unintuitive user experiences and missing days, among a tonne of other issues. The one that bugged me most though was a button that was not the same size as the others. I don’t know what it is about that type of visual inconsistency, but I simply couldn’t hack it. I could not concentrate until I had fixed it, and then fixed the next thing too. And the next, and the next until quite soon it had gotten out of hand…

BUG-REPORT-1129 Some of the flags don’t appear to have dragons on. Assignee: Bruce.

I feel saddened that my recollection of events is fading. I can’t remember who in particular I sat next to at lunch on any given day, or what we talked about even though I know I got value from every conversation. I do remember that there was beetroot in the lunch on Thursday though. shakes head sadly

The afternoon workshop was more hands-on, so I don’t have as many notes to remind me of what we did. I was at Realising Testing Value Through Deployment Pipelines by Ash Winter and Suman Bala. They were both really knowledgeable and friendly, so it’s saddening that the workshop was slowed by a lot of technical issues getting Jenkins up and running. This meant that we had less time for talking theory and pipeline design, where and how to integrate tests into the deployment pipeline etc, which is what I was there for.

I still think it was a great workshop though – we grouped around laptops that had successfully installed Jenkins (which to be fair, we were all supposed to do before the workshop began…) and then condensed further around the smaller selection of laptops which had successfully run Jenkins. This was because of the large number of people trying to use the guest wifi at the same time. It kept cutting out or dropping people, resulting in lots of failed steps.

Even with the technical difficulties, I came away with a lot more confidence that I could get started with Jenkins if I need to – we use Circle at the moment, but they’ve had some horrible queueing problems in the last couple of weeks so who knows. The explanations were also very clear, and Ash and Suman took the time to help individuals or groups who needed it.

They did go through the CALMS model of pipeline design, which I think is super useful. It includes a heap of considerations you should take when designing a deployment pipeline, and is exactly what I came to the workshop to find out.

Should I have scanned this instead? Yes. Yes, I should have.

The workshop also gave me more of a chance to speak with Mike Smith, testing hero, mentor and all-around good guy. Unrelated, but he is very warm. Not just in personality, but literally – we swapped chairs at one point and I was instantly transported to my childhood in rural Wales, coming in from cutting wood in the snow to warm myself by sitting on the AGA. I then precedeed to follow Mike around the room, sitting in every chair he got out of. It was probably very weird, but being the good person he is, he didn’t say so (also he owes me a Guinness for this one time I did not take his chair when he got up to get water).

On Thursday night, I stayed at the evening social until we were kicked out and then we went to a local brewery and stayed there until we got kicked out – and then we got food and went to another pub, and stayed there until we got kicked out a third time. (For the time, not for bad behaviour). I couldn’t recount every great, funny, meaningful conversation that happened even if I tried, but let it be known that there were many.

In particular, we had a great discussion about what progression means in testing. Does it mean starting out as a junior tester, then a tester tester, then a lead tester and a test manager and up and up and up the beaurocratic scale? Or does it mean learning more, doing more of the things you want to do and fewer of the things you don’t – ie less manual, checking boxes and more exciting work. The answer is pretty much “whatever it means to you”, since your journey as a tester is personal to you and only you can define what progress means on the path you choose. It was so, so good to hear some different opinions on this though. I was very much of the former school of thinking, that I wouldn’t be progressing until I had upped my job title and pay, when actually I haven’t been using either of those things to measure my progress until now.

I just want to learn. I mean, being paid well would be good too because it really sucks not being able to buy things I need or save for the future – but if I have one thing in my life that I value more than everything else it would be my learning.

Friday

I woke up Friday morning feeling like not only had something crawled into my throat and died, but that it had probably been a restless family of hedgehogs. I decided to skip the Lean Coffee meetup because I would have to be insane to do anything involving human communication when I could barely even hum, let alone speak.

(I wasn’t the only one who woke up feeling rough this time, for this was the dreaded night of #alarmgate at the Ibis. Two seperate false fire alarms in one night, ouch!)

So anyway, the lean coffee went well. There were perhaps two or three times as many people on Friday as there had been on Wednesday, with more wandering in as the session went on.

I also met Geraint. Now, I don’t know why it was that upon looking around the hall after getting my first cup of tea of the day, that my brain honed in on this one man among many but I am very glad that it did. Maybe it was fate, or maybe it was the Welsh dragon blood calling, but I went over and said hi. We then very quickly realised that not only were we from the same neck of the woods, but that we went to the same secondary school – “one or two years apart”, he said with a chuckle…

How did we not win #tbtestbash ???! Look at these beautiful faces!

The talks started out strong with Cross-Team Pair Testing: Lessons of a Testing Traveller by Lisi Hocke. She spoke about how she went on a testing journey, pairing with various people of different specialisms to gain skills and knowledge. You can see her blog here, where she documented the sessions and what insights were gained from them.

I believe that pairing and mobbing with fellow testers from the community on hands-on exploratory testing and automation will result in continuously increasing skills and knowledge as well as serendipitous learning. I’ll know I have succeeded when I noted down at least one concrete new insight or applied one new technique per testing session and shared that with the community.

Lisi Hocke

Her talk inspired a lot of event-goers to start something similar, or at least to start planning it. A bunch of us have spoken in this thread on the club, which summarises her method and tips better than I could, so if you think you have something to add (or something you need) then it’s worth taking a look and talking with people there.

I am very much in love with the idea of doing this, and I am making plans to do so but I’m not sure my confidence has increased quite so much that I’ll be able to pull it off. In order to pair with someone on a topic, you have to do one of two things: 1. believe that you have something to say that the other person could benefit from; or 2. expose just how little you know about that topic, and how useless you are as a tester and human being and how you should basically not exist… Well, not that far but you do have to admit your own ignorance, and that can be a really difficult thing to do. It should definitely be done, and I have said “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll take a look and get back to you” and “I don’t understand, could you take me through xyz later this afternoon?” more times in the last week than I had in the entire year before. It might just take a bigger change than that though.

The second talk was on security testing, and I took a lot of notes. Claire and Jay (“oooh this guy is the one I swapped hats with!!!! I should have talked to him about security testing instead haha”) shared the different types of security testing, as well as how threat modelling works. It would take all day to summarise all the takeaways from this, so I’ll just recommend that you watch the video when it’s available on the Ministry of Testing website. It showed that security isn’t some strange, disconnected thing that should be done by experts only and never touched by the likes of us common testers. In fact, we are often the best equipped people to do it.

We swapped hats! You needed this information, I am the best reporter

Someone later asked me what I thought of this talk, in front of Jay, and I totally blanked. I could not remember the contents of any specific talk by 6 o clock in the evening, after three full days of conferencing, so I totally mind blanked at that time and probably gave poor Jay the impression that it was a rubbish and forgettable talk with no valuable learning outcomes whatsoever. Nothing could be further from the truth. xD

During the break, we got the chance to visit the UnExpo, a series of stands that asked questions or gave information for discussions on all sorts of topics. Looking back, I should definitely have taken more photographs in general because I have nothing to refer to here. While innocently wandering about like the unsuspecting victim I was, Lee (who I think seemed to be in charge of the UnExpo, but this might be incorrect and I should have challenged my own assumptions) cornered and heartlessly peer-pressured me into agreeing to run a temporary stand for the afternoon session. I do like doing things though, and I’m perfectly capable of saying no (I think? This theory has not yet been tested) so he’s not that much of a villain.

I keep thinking that I don’t want this to just be a go-through list of every talk that happened that day, and then I get to the next talk in my notes and I’m like “oh but I can’t skip this one out”, “ah this one was so funny” and “oh man, I learnt so much from this speaker…” So here it is, a go-through of every talk and what I liked and learned about them. Enjoy!

Jim Holmes’s presentation was about changing testing culture – “he says we shouldn’t worry about writing everything down but I am so there”. He started by giving us all a code for a free copy of his book, so I was ready to listen to pretty much anything he had to say. Including a side note about how “y’all” is singular and “all y’all” is plural. This has changed my life, as I had been using both of these frequently and inter-changeably. I have corrected my coworkers on slack many times since.

He took us through a story of change at a company he worked at (he couldn’t name which one, but it was a Fortune10, 110 year old car manufacturer with four letters in its name and a famous car named after a horse…), as he conducted an epic battle of influence against the beaurocracy and fiefdoms he found there. I can’t remember how the story ended, probably with some degree of change and more way to go. There will always be further to go, so it seems like the small changes you make aren’t worth much in the grand scheme of things – just cos it’s a little bit less rubbish now than it was before, it’s still rubbish – but Jim had some advice for this, too. Celebrate your wins. No matter how small or big, celebrate them.

He also had some useful advice around making arguments for change you want in the company. You gotta use Business Level Communication, ie lost time, lost revenue etc. If you put things in terms the uppers like, you’re more likely to get what you want. This was a really useful lesson to me upon returning after TestBash with a million ideas on what we needed to be doing next. Optimistically, I posted a big ol’ list in the slack channel of things I should do, and the team should do, and the company should do to make positive change. And the product owner swooped right in there and asked me to frame that in business terms, to prove that the invested hours of work would bring about specific value for the company. Which I then did. Thanks Mr Holmes!

The next talk was Owning Your Craft by Mike Smith, who I had tweeted so that he could feel comfortable and assured that I would not steal his chair for warmth when he got up to do his presentation (in front of 300 people!!). Apparently, this was a horrific waste because he later told me that he was extremely warm. I regret everything. The talk was a series of really insightful anectodes about learning skills after admitting you didn’t have those skills already, and working hard to end up pretty good at that stuff.

I didn’t take a whole bunch of notes because I was too busy laughing (at the jokes, not at Mike) but here is a selection of quotes from my world-renowned accurate and amazing reporting:

“omg he’s such a good human I can’t even, such a wholesome intro”
“when you admit you don’t know a thing, people will actually help and not be like YOU FAKER O:”
“I wish I could tell you all how hilarious he is in his delivery. Learning to hate your job through osmosis because everyone else hates your job, and like how do you show you love your work?”
“When a bug is found, you can think f*@$ why didn’t I catch that? or you can think oh cool that’s interesting, wonder how that works pokey poke.”

I had another go around the unexpo at lunch, and largely avoided talking to people because I needed to save my crumbly voice. There were also significantly more people present on the Friday than had been on the other days, so I realised there was no chance of me being able to talk to every single one in so short a time. I think I gave it a shot in the evening though!

Talk 5 was about building communities in really big companies, though I will be honest I’m not sure I lifted my head from the Picard-facepalm after they rickrolled us all. Lindsay Strydom and Gareth Waterhouse led a really fun presentation, with tonnes of nerd-culture(?) and 80s references, on how to create a sense of community when you have a lot of people that are potentially quite fragmented. They work at a big company (something in online fashion retail, I think it was ASOS but don’t quote me on that) with possibly the largest number of QAs I have ever heard to exist in one place outside of TestBash. They really struggled to keep up meetups and social gatherings as the number rose, split across offices in different locations. They fizzled out because they’d run out of people to speak at them and attendance rates had dropped.

And then they started them up again, this time more flexibly with a bunch of different formats! Someone from the audience asked a question I think all meetup-organisers have in their minds – “how do you make people keep coming to the events?” – to which Lindsay had my favourite and most true answer: “Well er, people like snacks.”

Next up we had a dinosaur in a top hat and bowtie, also known as Eric Proegler. He has a recipe for CPT (continuous performance testing) whose ingredients and methods I tried my best to capture, but he had a lot to fit into a 30 minute talk. The recipe was something like rapid feedback about risk (capacity “if you’ve engineered a system that doesn’t grow as you throw more hardware at it“, I/O latencies, scalability “if software sucks running one thread, it doesn’t get better running more“, concurrency and reliability) from automatically executed (use a tool such as JMeter (I wrote JMepet in my notes and got very confused)) and evaluated tests (you need a reliable and validatable measurement) –missing information, possibly– that provide the right information (reporting should be succinct and inspire action – if you ran a great test and nothing came of it, was it really worth the time?)

I feel like my note-taking at this point had become quite robotic, as it was coming towards the end of the conference and I’d neither rested in the day nor slept much at night – but I still had so much to learn, so many people to meet and conversations to have. I wasn’t ready to accept defeat, but I didn’t have the energy I’d had on Wednesday to really take in everything that was going on. I was still walking on air, but also running on empty if that makes sense.

Conor Fitzgerald did some magic tricks on stage in The Surprising Benefits of Exploring Other Disciplines and Industries. I thought I didn’t remember anything else about this talk, but apparently I do. He talked about the blameless culture used at Etsy, where upon finding a bug or problem they will assume goodwill, identify causes instead of culprits, and take their time. This is really lovely, and something I could definitely learn from. xD Conor also talked about the most important type of development. You’ve heard of behaviour driven dev, and test driven dev, but now is time for a new era. The time has come for us all to take on biscuit driven development. The idea of this is that every time you want something from a developer or other member of your team, you take some biscuits with you.

My mind was melting further at this point, the last thing I wrote before the break was “My ability to pay attention with my brain is diminishing horribly…”

Regardless, I had agreed (been pressured) to put up a temporary poster at the unExpo hall. The break was only about half an hour long, and most people had already been around the hall on the earlier breaks so there was only a small window of time, and a small number of people during the afternoon break. Which was fine by me.

My poster was about diversity in testing, and contained two questions – what did you do before you were a tester? and what are some words you use to describe you?

A photo Lee sent out on twitter. And yes, I drew a better looking version of myself on the poster – but I did add a disclaimer that my face doesn’t actually look like that

I chose those two questions because of the great range of people I met over the three days, and the diversity of backgrounds people came from. Since the unExpo wasn’t very busy during the last break of the day, it didn’t get super many responses but they were all great. I do have a photo of what it looked like at the end, but my camera is so rubbish that you can’t really read them. I was going to squint at it to try and work some out to list here, but then I was like wait. Why should I do that, when I could just get you to do it?

Yup, those are certainly some words, for sure.

Ok, ok I will list some for accessibility reasons. Some jobs people did before testing were: developer; education spectre (I may have misread this one); welder; debt collector; pharmacy dispenser; retail; project management; farmer and another dev. Words people used to describe themselves, including my example post were: sarcastic; conical (I may also have misread this one); pessimistic; geeky; skinny; weird; friendly; non-binary; Welsh; learner; cheesy; bisexual; tattoo’d and… badass? heckler? I’m really not sure about that last one.

It seems like people found it a lot easier to answer the first question than the second, which I totally get. I mean, if you say rubbish things about yourself then it seems pants but also if you say amazing things about yourself then everyone will think you’re bragging. You just can’t win. It was awesome that there was so much variety in even the small sample of people who replied though! From sarcastic to friendly, farmer to education spectre (Professor Binns, is that you?), we are a diverse lot in testing.

There were only two more talks between me and my arch nemesis… the 99 second talk. I had been spacing out the strepsils throughout the day, after noticing that the breaks were at the exact timings recommended on the box. It was meant to be. The last two talks were ones I had been looking forwards to seeing from the time I first read about them on the MOT website, so I put aside my nerves and went back to rigorous note taking…

It washed right over me for the most part. Patrick Prill did an awesome talk on testing machine learning algorithms, and it went right in my ears and eyeballs and then out my nose. But it was not for nothing! Some of it did stick, and got me really interested in finding out more about the inner workings of MLAs because they can seem almost like magic even to the people who made them. And how do you test magic? There are types of testing you leave to the developers – ie how correct is the classification of new data you’re feeding the algorithm? Anyone can do that. Testers can ask questions like when the answer is wrong, why is the answer wrong? and what does it do with data is doesn’t recognise? and is it so aligned with the training data that it doesn’t work in the real world? For that last one, Prill told us of an algorithm developed to listen to recordings of a protected forest live. If it heard the sound of a chainsaw indicating illegal logging, it would notify someone and protect the trees! Except it turned out it was so specifically trained that it was only able to recognise three brands of chainsaws, in a country where people’s kits were usually hacked together from all sorts of parts, which affected their sound greatly. In a neat training environment, it worked great, but it didn’t do so well against the horrible human factor.

I was so exhausted I resorted to photographing slides. Some encouragement from my manager, who infiltrated my personal note-taking channel on slack. Yes, there is a custom emote of my face.

Last up was Ash Coleman’s talk on Combating Bias with Heuristics of Diversity. I genuinely wish that I had been able to listen better to this one because she is an amazing human so you should totally look her up if you don’t know of her already. I was just so shot with nerves about the imminent 99 second talks that I couldn’t concentrate even on a subject I am usually super passionate about.

We did a series of exercises around diversity and bias, which were really interesting. The one I remember most was the Circle of Trust. You write a list of 6-10 people you trust the most – not including family (hence the scribbled initials in mine). I am not very trusting, so there are only three people on my list. Ash then told us to put a tick or a cross next to their name showing whether or not they shared certain characteristics with us. I can’t remember what order the characteristics were, except that gender was second, but it included things like similar age, ethnicity, education etc.

You then have to add up the total, and how many of those were ticks, and give yourself a percentage. My trusted group are 80% similar to me, from the criteria Ash listed. This is pretty annoying for me, considering that I think of myself as an open and awesome human – but then this exercise is about uncovering unconscious bias, so it wouldn’t be the same if I’d be conscious of it. xD

The three people I trust outside of family. I counted my partner as family, but after thinking about the reason for excluding that group (they will almost always have similar characteristics to you, and you don’t usually choose who they are), I should probably have included her.

All of the talks so far had been around the 30 minute mark, and I’d lost my schedule card so I wasn’t able to check the timing on this, but it got to 16:30 when I thought Ash’s talk would wrap up and the 99second’ers would have to go up, and she was still up there. My heart started beating faster, adding the anxiety of uncertain timing to everything else that was spinning around in my head. Then it got to 16:45, the time the talk was actually due to end, but it was so good and there were so many questions that no one in their right mind would enforce an end time. I was trying not to jiggle in my seat. As each question was asked and answered, I started wondering if they’d just forego the 99 second talks. No time.

What a horrible shame, haha. I’d have gladly gone right off to the bathroom to have a little panic and a cry in the stall in that case. I was thinking – all that time spent in the middle of the night, writing up a little poem, all the energy spent worrying about it would all be wasted. But at least I wouldn’t have to actually go up on stage in front of hundreds of people to talk with my mouth.

I had been fretting in this way for a full half hour when at 5pm it was finally announced time for the last part of the day… the 99 second talks. Would everyone doing one please go to the stage to queue up?

I won’t lie, I sat there in my seat without moving for a few long seconds, already having basically convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen. Then I turned to Erik Davis, who I had sat next to most of the day, and said something along the lines of “oh wait I’m doing one of these, I almost forgot”. Super casual like. As if I could possibly have forgotten. So I got up and stood in the queue for an eternity while people in front of me talked about – probably – very worthwhile things I should have been listening to. I did listen to Marissa, another newish tester like me, do a talk about how she learnt the technique of sketchnoting and used that to take valuable notes all day. I was so impressed that she could go up on stage and talk about something she’d learned to all these people. She’s a really great person with a dedication to learning I admire.

And then I was like… Wait, I should have prepped a talk on something I learned at TestBash. Like, at the workshops or the talks. I learnt so much new stuff, but instead of that I wrote something about myself. I always make everything about me, I’m a terrible human being. No one wants to hear a poem about me, for goodness sake Bruce. It was pretty much only the embarrassment that would result from backing out in front of so many people that kept me in the queue. If we’d been waiting behind a curtain or something, I certainly would have bottled.

I’m saying all this because people came up to me afterwards and said I seemed reasonably confident, and I was not at all.

Picture stolen from twitter ❤ I bought that shirt literally for the purpose of wearing it with my chest binder at TestBash and I think it looks rather cool

So it got to my turn and I thought to myself everything will be fine, just don’t look up. Everything I wanted to say was written in the notebook, so I just had to say it and then walk away and never ever ever look up at all the humans. I took the mic and I walked up to the podium thing, and I read out the first intro part I’d written hastily on my phone to avoid the scenario of “hello I am Bruce, a terrible person”. Once I’d read that part out, I realised that in order to put my phone away, I would have to look away from the notebook.

I wasn’t about to make a rookie mistake like that!

So I tipped the page to make my phone fall on the floor, and carried on. This was entirely intentional, and not at all the accident people seem to think I recovered so well from. All part of my cunning plan.

This is already a really long and tedious blog post, so couldn’t possibly be made any worse by me adding the entire thing I wrote here:

If you’d asked me a year ago
What testing is, mainly
I’d have told you – oh,
It’s what the world does to me.
If you’d known me a year ago
You’d say something else.
You’d say Testing? Ah,
That’s what Bruce does to herself.

Cos before becoming a tester by trade,
Tests were true statements I had made
Binary acceptance criteria to click
A bunch of booleans and boxes to tick:

Am. I. Good. Enough?
Am. I. Doing. Enough?
Do. I. Deserve. More. Than. This?…

*quiet, dramatic pause*

No.

But after a year of seeing real bugs,
I saw that I was assuming too much
False knowledge on the system of me,
So I defined new tests to really see:

Am I growing?
How do I perform at times of peak stress? (like now)
What’s the average response time?
Am I interacting correctly with other systems?
What’s the recovery time after a critical failure? (we’re about to find out)
Am I meeting the expectations of users?
How abstract should I be going with these metaphors?

And most importantly:
Am I a total f’ing legend?

At this point, I was supposed to say “Yes” in contrast to the answer I had given the first set of questions. However, I found it utterly impossible to go up on stage in front of goodness knew how many people, and proclaim myself to be a legend. Who does that? It was a really bad plan on my part.

Luckly, people really love audience participation so a chorus of voices answered for me.

I looked up from my notebook then, and I would like to say that I felt an overwhelming surge of some positive emotion (which did come later) while gazing upon the wonderful faces of all these humans who thought I was great. Instead, I rushed off and hid behind a curtain to have the long awaited panic-and-cry. (Thank you to the lovely people who noticed and brought me some water and comfort <3)

So I guess this is the end of my TestBash post. I have tried my best, but not even the massive number of words I have used could adequately describe how going to this conference and meeting all these amazing and encouraging people changed not just the way I look at testing, but the way I look at myself. It is incomprehensible and insane and so, so amazing.

Honestly, I am so grateful to everyone I met, to everyone who ran an activity, to the volunteers and organisers and the caterers (I didn’t have to go off-site to find vegan food, it was just there, like magic) and all the punters, and the people who bought me countless Dr Peppers so I could stay up half the night talking with you all. And thank you to Ministry of Testing for the scholarship that allowed me to attend. There’s no way I could have made it without that.

(If you feel like you’d benefit from going to a TestBash, but you don’t have £££ and your company can’t/won’t pay for anything, then you can find details about the scholarship and how to apply here.) You have no idea how tempted I was to rickroll in that link. Or maybe I did. Have you clicked on it? Maybe you should, just to make sure…

2 thoughts on “TestBash Brighton: Days two and three”

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