Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Some notes from SWET5 - Small and Intense

Edition #5 of the Swedish Workshop on Exploratory Testing (SWET5)

Place: Högberga Gård, Stockholm
Date: 6-7 April 2013
Theme: Mindmaps and Mindmapping in Testing
Twitter tag: #SWET5

Participants: Henrik Andersson, Mikael Ulander, Simon Morley, Rikard Edgren, Martin Jansson, Michael Albrecht, James Bach

Due to injury, illness and other reasons SWET5 was depleted to 7 participants, but I think each of us had the same response when we saw who was still in the game - "yeah, I'd like to spend a day and a half talking testing with those guys!"

I think it was Martin that remarked that the room had a high density of testing thinkers...

We had one newcomer (Mikael) and the others that knew each other from at least 2 SWET meetings each. During the checkin there was a common theme - yes, this is small, but we all know each other so this is going to be a different (and maybe more intense) type of peer conference.

Talk I
First up was Rikard talking about a testing feature interaction model that he had used to help in his testing of a product. As usual, the real depth came out during open season where we discussed how the model/map/list was constructed, what made it onto the map and what didn't - this was the real use of the map/list. Rikard admitted he was a "list guy" - which was why he drew a map with limited levels (mostly one). The discussion also touched on areas of how the map might look for different SW builds, how the map was personal and that it was an aid to communication an not the communication itself. Compare "mapping" to the "map", "planning" to the "plan", "reporting" to the "report".

It made me think of the model in the communication equation, ref [1],
Communication = Artifact (model) + Discussion (dialogue)
Rikard also mentioned some heuristics, "one more test" and ?

Other parts touched on in the discussion - where we didn't discuss to consensus - were problems with drawing out tacit knowledge from a map. I also started thinking about multi-dimensional clustering of feature risks - but I need to explore this further...

Talk II
Next up was Mikael, who described a per sprint usage of xBTM and the usage of mindmaps to illustrate ideas for TBTM and SBTM. In open season there was some discussion about why the graphical method was particularly appealing. We maybe didn't get to the bottom of that, but we sensed that was a crucial discussion point. Why use a graphical method, why use one form of a mind-map in contrast to a list. There's something there that we didn't conclude...

Another aspect that was touched on during open season was a discussion about when the mind-mapping and xBTM was discontinued (in Mikael's experience) - and here the discussion explored the aspects of PR - discussing and talking about what you're doing and why. If your manager/stakeholder/organisation doesn't buy into your method, then it won't really be adopted - and there is a difference.

Talk III
James talked about an experience of three teams (plus himself) producing mind-maps for a given exercise. We then looked at the resultant differences - that four different maps were produced for, ostensibly  the same mission. There was some discussion on how four maps could be combined into one - that maintained it's readability/usability - probably by appointing a scribe. But the question remained, in which cases would this be a problem. Another area of the discussion touched on the personal/subjective aspect and so whether it mattered how the resultant maps looked. This lead to the report vs reporting issue again - that observing the construction of the mind-map might give more information than the final map.

The discussion moved on to mind-maps' place in the communication - from spoken word, written, lists, pictorial, what next? Specific tools or formats? Intermediary step to where? Do mind-maps do it or are they a gap-filler? No conclusions...

Talk IV
Finally, I gave an experience report on using a mind-map as a basis for a strategy discussion - with the positive and negative experiences from that. The open season delved into areas and reasons why the map or the communication didn't work, some aspects of why they might not have worked. The problems discussed were generic to communication and not specific to mind-maps.

One interesting observation that I made of my mind-mapping experience was that mind-maps tend to channel the description into inherently "positive" or "visible" ways of thinking. What does that mean? Well, my map (and in some ways many that I see), essentially lay a track of "this is the route we'll follow because these are the parts I want to show, discuss, record..." They don't intrinsically show, "these are the things we will do/record PLUS these are the things we won't do/record because they're not useful or productive". In my experience report this would've translated to "the strategy looks like this, because these are the problems it's trying to tackle PLUS these are the issues it will avoid..."

This may mean that - as with any communication means - they are more suited to some tasks rather than others. I think this is an area I need to dig into more.
An aspect not concluded was the cataloguing of those areas and limitations. This could be a useful follow-up.

During the evening/morning there was some discussion about testing and checking. The consensus that we could agree on was the wish to advocate testing as the starting point in a good testing practice.

Check-out was positive and there was a feeling that the smaller group had led to more involved discussions. I enjoyed it, well done to Michael for organizing SWET5. Roll on SWET6!

[1] The Tester's Headache: Challenges with Communicating Models II

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