Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WeTest Weekend Workshops 2014 theme: Evolve

This last weekend (29/11/2014), we had our second WeTest Weekend Workshops 2014. The theme was "Evolve".

On reflection, it seems particularly apt with the resurgence in controversy over ISO29119 that occurred this year; a standard being, by definition, an attempt to prevent evolution; to hold a process static.

Three ingredients are needed for evolution to occur: mutation, replication, and natural selection.

A small mutation that gives an organism a survival advantage over those without the variation means those changes have more of a chance of being replicated, and over successive generations, more of the population will carry the new variation.

Mutations in biological systems are those little errors in copying, and spontaneous changes that happen within the strands of DNA that define life.

Mutations in our field are those little experiments we do; when we tinker with a process, when we try something new, and discover a different way of thinking or of doing.

We knew these mutations were happening in organisations, because we’d hear about them when we talked with people, we observed people in their organisations, and we see all these little innovations or the opportunities for them. We met enthusiastic, smart people with fresh approaches, and alternative views.

And we even started seeing similar variations created independently in multiple locations. People performing exploratory testing in one organisation without knowing what was happening in another. People encountering the same issues and problems, experiencing the same insecurities, and thinking they were the only ones. The problem was isolation.

The next ingredient needed for evolution to really happen is replication.

I'm sure you're all familiar with how replication occurs in nature! Replication of ideas in our field occurs when you have a conversation, or read a book, or attend a conference, and take those ideas away and act on them. The good ideas survive and continue to be mutated, and replicated, and the bad ones die out.

In theory.

The replication aspect was - and is - broken. And it is broken because our main replication channels - conferences, text books, education courses - are usually monopolised by the same old voices; espousing the same old models, and repeating the same old folk-lore. Talking about maturity models, and best practices, and metrics, and test cases. The actually interesting stories from the front lines weren't being heard; weren't being replicated. And that was one of the main motivations for Katrina and me to start the Wellington Testers Workshop (WeTest) .

As an aside, natural selection is also broken in many organisations. Broken by the artificial selection of mandated procedures in both waterfall and Agile methodologies. By insistence on unquestioningly following The Process, you are suffocating a natural robust process of evolution by preventing mutation, and preventing the natural selection of practices by the practitioners themselves!

Best practices, maturity models, standard templates, ISO29119, test cases, test scripts, all that old testing folk-lore; all those dinosaurs can be made obsolete by evolution.

So everyone, let's do our part for evolution right now, and let’s start replicating those stories, adapting them, altering them, keeping the ones that work, and continuing to spread the stories of survival far and wide.

ps: Once you start looking, the evolution of ideas is everywhere. Take the WeTest conference format, itself (apologies for any facts I get wrong. Please let me know of any historical inaccuracies):

It's lineage can be directly traced back to Los Altos, California, February 1997, where the first Los Altos Workshop on Software Testing (LAWST) occurred. Of course, the LAWST format had its own origins, and I'd love to dive into that more, but as far as I can tell, Cem Kaner and Jerry Weinberg had a lot of influence on the initial format.

October 1998: Division between clarifying question stage and open season stage instituted after fiery LAWST 5, when Doug Hoffman could not get through his ER due to constant objections by James Bach.  It was also recognized after LAWST 5 that ER's were better than normal idea talks at preventing terrible arguments.

On October 2, 2003 the first WOPR conference began (Workshop on Performance and Reliability) which had a format that looks to be directly influenced by the LAWST format (Focus on experience reports, followed by facilitated discussion. Participation is expected etc). James Bach facilitated WOPRs 1 & 2.

September 8, 2004, Paul Holland facilitates WOPR 3. Ross Collard asks Paul to facilitate WOPR 4.

September 8, 2005, at WOPR 5, K-Cards made their first appearance to replace hand signals to communicate with the facilitator. (fascinating story about the evolution of K-Cards here: http://testingthoughts.com/blog/26)

June, 2010, Brian Osman asks James Bach how to build community in New Zealand....

June 24th, 2011, the LAWST-style format hits New Zealand soil for the first time with the first Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing (KWST 1) which I attended.

June 2012, Both Katrina Clokie and I attend KWST 2.

Sometime later, in 2012, Katrina, Brian, and I meet in the foodcourt at the bottom of the BNZ centre in Wellington and work out a way to make the KWST format accessible to a wider group, and happen more often. WeTest is born with the values of openness, community, diversity, and accessibility at its core. The focus was on hearing stories by practitioners about what did, and didn't work for them. All presenters must have 'skin in the game'.

October 25th, 2012: Katrina and I host the very first WeTest Workshop in a back meeting room at St Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington.

September 26, 2013: First Auckland WeTest Workshop is held

November 30th, 2013: First WeTest Weekend Workshop is held with 50 registered attendees. Includes a mix of LAWST-style facilitated ERs, and hands-on practical workshops.

November 29th, 2014: Second WeTest Weekend Workshop is held with 85 registered attendees.

2015: Watch this space...especially if you live in Christchurch.

pps: The DNA of LAWST can also be found at CAST conferences, Let's Test conferences, PEST in Estonia, SWET in Sweden,  as well as WOPR, WHET, WTST & DEWT.


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