Let’s Test 2015: My Retrospective of Day 1

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending Let’s Test in Stockholm, Sweden, which is my 3rd time attending a big software testing conference (Agile Testing Days and Test Bash being the first two, both in 2014) and it was brilliant! I had the pleasure of travelling with Dan Ashby (my friend, work colleague and workshop co-presenter) from London all the way to Runö Conference Centre (a small secluded hotel about 40 mins drives from Stockholm).

As soon as we arrived at the conference centre, conversations were buzzing, games were running and the beer was already flowing and those three things are almost always a good sign of things to come! 

9:00am - Opening Keynote: There was not a breach, there was a blog.

*Let's Test!*

The conference kicked off with an ace keynote by Ben Simo, titled "There was not a breach, there was a blog.” Now you don’t get too much context from the title, but soon enough Ben started to enlighten the audience with a very shocking story about how a simple task of purchasing health insurance for himself and his family, soon became a mind numbing nightmare. 

Just to set the scene a little, healthcare in America has always been a problem and in a nutshell it basically sucks! When President Obama was campaigning for his presidency back in 2009, he stated in his manifesto about significantly improving the American healthcare service, which many referred to and still refer to as Obamacare. So this was a pretty big deal for all Americans when Obama was voted into office. 

So Healthcare.gov is born and like most Americans, Ben as I mentioned above wanted to purchase health insurance. Let’s put it this way, he couldn’t even succeed to create an account and after a few attempts, Ben put his tester hat on and started to test the live website. Slowly bugs and security issues started to surface, bringing to light some pretty big gaping holes in the healthcare.gov website. After trying (and failing) to get decent responses from customer the support team, Ben decided to blog about this incident. His blog attracted a lot of media attention and resulted in this issue being discussed in the congressional hearings, where he was known as “a sort of skilled hacker”. This media attention also resulted in eventual fixes to the site! 

The talk pretty much left me with my head in my hands, thinking “how can governments get away with such poor and dishonest promises to the public? Leaving them with such discontent and fury and telling the them to “keep trying!” 

Ben Simo - There was not a breach, There was a blog.                                                                   Photography by: Martin Nilsson

Ben Simo - There was not a breach, There was a blog.                                                                   Photography by: Martin Nilsson

It was a brilliant way to kick off the conference and I encourage not just testers, but anyone who is involved in developing software systems to check out the talk (This link is from CAST 2014).

Also - here are my sketch notes from the keynote!

0:30am - Time for coffee!

*Must Refuel!*

After the keynote, we had a quick break to refuel ourselves with much needed caffeine and to have a think about the workshops we wanted to attend first! 

11:00am - Equipping you for the Unexpected challenges of testing.

*Decisions Decisions*

The first workshop I attended was run by Emma Armstrong (top lady!), about different types of challenges we face as testers! It was a brilliant 2 hour workshop where we learnt about testing heuristics (FYI: a heuristic is a practical method of using different techniques to discover and solve problems. It is also known as a mental shortcut that allow people to make quicker judgements), which we can apply to not just developed software, but also to paper prototypes early on in the initial stages of developing a new system - a practice which I am a big advocate of! I even got to pair with The Michael Bolton and that was not only a treat but pretty intimidating! For those of you who have met Michael, will know that he REALLY loves to share his opinions and it was no different this time round! He started to share how he would approach testing a piece of software (mind maps started being drawn, ideas were flowing!)  It was great! Some of his ideas and thoughts that he also put on paper, were skills and ideas I knew or was aware of, which made me think “I might not actually be out of his league!”.

Emma Armstrong - Equipping you for the Unexpected challenges of testing.                                               Photography by: Martin Nilsson

Emma Armstrong - Equipping you for the Unexpected challenges of testing.                                               Photography by: Martin Nilsson

Back to the workshops. Emma also gave us some great content around the 8 Golden Rules of interface design and we even conversed around the complexities of people and social dynamics. Great session Ems!

Here are my sketch notes from the session! 

1:00pm - Time to Eat! 

*Must Refuel!*

Lunchtime came around very quickly on day 1, although I didn’t really get a chance to eat as Dan Ashby and I (my workshop co-presenter) wanted to prep for our own workshop which was due to kick off at 2:00pm, straight after lunch! It was the first time I was running a workshop, so I was was very anxious - and this wasn’t like any of the talks I had done in the past! This was 4 hours (not 40 mins), new crowd (with whom I would have to interact with) and a new topic (self taught), so yeah, I was nervous! But as 2:00pm rolled on and the attendees started to filter into the room one by one, it was game on! 

2:00pm - Visual Creativity: Using sketchnotes & mind maps to aid your agile testing!

*Time to start panicking!* 

We kicked off the session with some introductions about ourselves and then delved straight into learning about how sketch noting and mind mapping can be great tools to use for testing. We talked about the some of the ways you could utilise both techniques and then started practicing each skill. It was very interesting to see the reactions of the crowd as they stepped out of their comfort zones to try something new and challenging! There were great questions, intrigued expressions (well expressions I chose to interpret as intriguing), and definitely a few puzzled looks. At times it was also quite hard to guess what was actually going through people’s mind, but everyone participated and seemed to enjoy the session. 

One of the great things about running (or better yet testing) a workshop for the first time, is the expressions and interactions you might get which you never anticipated. So Dan and I certainly had our tester hats on and as always we wanted to understand how we can make the workshop better. We ran a simple retrospective (4 L’s) and asked the attendees to list the things they “Liked” about the workshop, things that were “Lacking” and what they “Learnt” and we received some brilliant feedback.

Visual Creativity: Using Sketch Notes and Mind Maps to aid your agile testing.                                             Photography by: Martin Nilsson

Visual Creativity: Using Sketch Notes and Mind Maps to aid your agile testing.                                             Photography by: Martin Nilsson

All in all I would say it went better than I expected and I am very much looking forward to reading through the feedback so we can do an even better job next week at The LTG Workshops! (If you’re around come and join the session!).

6:00pm - Time to finally eat!

*Hats off to the chef!*

After the long 4 hour workshop, it was time to have some food especially after a long day without both breakfast and lunch! So I was STARVING! Food was great! Massive kudos to the catering team!

7:30pm - Conversations, beer and games!

*SET!*

After dinner the workshops continued, although I decided to spend some time retrospecting on the day with Dan. I even had the pleasure of meeting and having some great conversations with John Stevenson! Great lad - if you ever cross paths with him, defo say hi! 

A few beers later we started to play a few games and I finally learnt how to play SET! I was even part of the winning team for the “Let’s Test Quiz” (Free beer round!! Score!) Thanks to the awesome Huib Schoots, Dan Billing and the extended team for organising this! Great fun!

1:00am - Great Success! 

*Eyes seem to be closing*

By 1:00am, I was beat and it was now time to head back to my room to rest for the day 2, but not before Duncan Nisbet (another top lad!) asked for my learning of the day - “All feedback is great feedback!” If you want to hear it in person here you go!

Conclusion: Awesome Day - Here's my entry for day 2!