What did I get out of today’s testingdojo

It’s funny to see how difficult it is to get a group of people, who work with one another daily, to talk freely and share their ideas, even when their manager is not present and they are amongst their peers.

During today’s testingdojo, which again was supposed to last an entire day focussing fully on working with FitNesse, we started off with a talk about what we aim to achieve at our customer’s with test automation. I tried to enthuse the group by pushing them to think about the possible difference between “test automation” and “computer aided testing” and if there are differences, what does one mean and what does the other mean. From there I hoped to get to insight into what they think we should aim to achieve and of course whether or not their ideas make sense to us, as the leads on implementing test automation.

A real discussion on this never took flight unfortunately, moreover, the two people we have been working with closely on the implementation remained most silent of all. I am still not sure what the cause of this silence from their side was, natural shyness, cultural pressure, or something else. Instead I ended up pulling some keywords out of the group and discussing my thoughts on them. Not too bad either, but I do not believe I should have been the one talking this much about the subject.

The second part where I hoped to create a bit of discussion was on what the group believes to be good practices in testautomation. This also took some pains from my side, along with some poking, probing and planting the occasional seed, but some discussion arose on this. After a while one of them remarked that in the end it seemed that all things that can be considered good or best practices in testautomation also fly for manual functional testing.

This insight led me nicely back to clarifying the first point, what are we aiming to do: trying to remove manual testing all together or trying to create more free-space and time to enable them to do more and different manual testing? I do believe I got the picture across that we are not trying to take away manual testing, but rather trying to help them remove repetitive work. Since repetitive testing of the same items and same or similar functionality is quite likely to create a form of feature-blindness.

The term feature-blindness seemed to be a new concept for a big part of the group; however I managed to get this concept explained fairly easy by example.

In the end the morning session was not exactly what I hoped it would be, but it clearly did get the points I wanted to make across. Which were: think of what you want to test, try to describe for yourself why you want to automate something and then read it back in order to figure out whether it indeed still makes sense to automate this. Try to keep your tests small, self contained and reusable. Refactor your FitNesse tests into reusable scenarios, but also keep an eye out on over-complicating things by making everything a scenario, e.g. do not make a scenario for the sake of making it, only create it if you indeed have several identical tests which need different input data. And the most important of all as far as I am concerned in functional testautomation: Keep It Simple and Stupid. Even fancy stuff you should be able to keep simple, readable and brief. If at a first attempt you fail at doing it, don’t worry, move on and come back at a later stage to refactor your test.

One not so nice thing about today’s dojo was that for the second time in a row the second part of the day was rudely disturbed by some very unexpected downtime of our test-environments. We were told in advance that one of the environments would be taken down for urgent maintenance and patching, unfortunately both environments went down during this change which resulted in us sending the group off earlier than anticipated.

Main takeaway for me: I really enjoy doing these knowledge sharing and coaching sessions, I like it a lot and see it as a great bonus to my work as a consultant, especially since it makes me (and hopefully my colleagues) think about why I am doing things they way I am doing them.

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