Webinar Review: Tips for Writing Better Charters for Exploratory Testing Sessions

by Michael D. Kelly

Webinar URL:
Webinar Summary
Michael’s webinar focuses on one of the more challenging parts of charter-based exploratory testing – writing effective charters to help drive the exploratory testing process. He defines exploratory testing as simultaneous learning, test design and test execution (a James Bach original I believe) and focuses his ideas within the Session-based Test Management (SBTM) framework. He scaffolds this idea with an outline of the elements of SBTM along with some explanation about each element to help provide some context for those who are unfamiliar with SBTM. Here the following elements he includes as a part of SBTM:
     -session notes
     -team prioritization – talk about risks
     -ad-hoc test documentation – document what comes up as useful to be documented
     -ad-hoc test automation – automate what you encounter as useful to automate
     -dynamic metrics and reporting
Michael goes on to talk about the three essential elements of a charter: Defining Risk, Coverage and Timeframe. The idea being that a charter should be written in a way so that a tester can understand the why I am testing this (Risk), the what I am testing (Coverage) and how long it needs to be tested for.
The remaining part of the webinar covers Michael’s ten suggestions for creating better charters:
List specific risk and coverage targets
Mnemonics for risk and coverage ideas
Risk and Coverage Knowledge Base
Compare missions (i.e. charters)
Charter Template
Charter for smaller sessions – then possibly use affinity maps to create larger sessions
Thumb Vote
Testing Polarities
Let Charter Emerge Over Time
Tracking Metrics
The Q&A session was also helpful in several areas, especially in talking further about metrics and session debriefs.
My Take
The webinar is first-rate, full of concrete ideas that are abstracted from specific practices enough so as to be easy to apply or adapt in a variety of work environments or teams. In many ways I feel like these are details that I was missing to help guide my exploratory testing efforts to be more effective. Michael covers his ten suggestions with good detail and I found most of the ideas to very helpful, even though some of the ideas would require a team to be able to implement (since they involve ways of comparing or filtering through charters to help determine the priority or acceptability of charters). Probably my favorite suggestion for creating better charters was the template idea that Michael shared for beginning to write effective charters. As with any template, in sharing the idea one runs the risk of it being considered “the” way to write a charter, which is obviously not the case here, there are many ways to structure or write a charter. For a tester who is a novice in charter-based exploratory testing, this structure can be really beneficial in jump-starting your use of charters and exploratory testing. As my English teachers liked to tell me, “Once you learn the rule well enough to never break it, you can have the freedom to break it whenever is needed.” That’s kind of how I feel about his template idea.
As a tester who wants to improve my skills, I found Michael’s discussion around debriefing sessions and metrics to be helpful as well. The metrics may be different than some of the traditional software testing metrics, but they are robust enough to help tell the “story” about the testing that you are doing, though I can imagine it takes some time to tell that story well and help the stakeholders involved to feel comfortable with them.
In summary, I cannot say enough good things about the webinar. It was simply full of practical ideas and useful explanations to help anyone improve the charters they write to help drive their exploratory testing efforts.
My Rating
Well Worth Watching

Webinar Review: Co-Leadership – How being a leader is within your reach

By Bram Bronneberg

Part of my webinar review series on the EuroSTAR webinars

Webinar URL

Webinar Summary
Bram starts off by defining Co-leadership as shared leadership, horizontal leadership, collective leadership or distributed leadership. The concept here is that we all have a leadership role, even if it isn’t a formal role. He goes on to define what he saw as the three main responsibilities of a leader:
  • Inspire
  • Give Direction
  • Incite Change
He then proceeds to use Bob the tester, a fictional person, and follows his story through starting out as a new tester, who then experiences some challenges with his colleagues and falls “down the mountain”, with the mountain being a metaphor for one’s outlook or confidence in his team and his abilities. Bram defines four phases of this move down the mountain with confident and contributing being the attributes of those atop the mountain, moving downward one finds doubt, fault-finding followed by lack of caring as the element that characterizes being at the bottom of the mountain.
The final section of the webinar discuss Bob the tester’s experience and considers it from two perspectives. How Bob can avoid moving down the mountain and the responsibility that Bob (and other team members) have for helping other members of the team move up the mountain. He also makes an important point that those who help the team succeed, those who assist with the leading, cannot effectively do it from the bottom of the mountain.
Some of the steps or suggestions he provides including “patting people on the back” (i.e. complimenting or encouraging them), providing feedback when they look for it and confronting them when they have given up (he even mentioned insulting them to motivate them if needed, though I disagree with the characterization of insulting and would use “challenge” them instead). These specific ideas coincide with the big ideas of what leaders do (inspire, give direction, incite change).
He closed his portion of the webinar presentation (there was some Q&A afterwards) by highlighting some additional points for co-leadership to work among teams:
  • Know where you and your colleagues are on the mountain
  • Help each other back to the top
  • Step up to the plate personally
My Take
The concept of co-leadership was an interesting one to me and I was intrigued by the story he was going to use as the backdrop of his presentation (Bob the new tester) because I felt like it might pertain to my situation. Unfortunately, I found that using a fictional representation to drive the narrative and main ideas behind the webinar made it feel too theoretical. There were not enough real experiences to allow me to connect with and understand how his ideas occur or are implemented in “the real world”.
I still find the idea of shared leadership/responsibility to be valuable and the idea feels like it should be very applicable to agile teams especially. The part of this co-leadership idea that resonated most with me was the concept that I have a responsibility to know where I and my colleagues are on this “mountain” he speaks of. I think this idea (this responsibility really) is one that can be useful to me moving, however the rest on the webinar just did not have enough concrete examples to be as valuable as it could have been.
I have also decided to use the following scale to provide a final rating/summary of the webinar. The scale is composed of the following options: Well Worth Watching, Take it or Leave it, and Skip It. Well Worth Watching means I think a tester should definitely view the webinar. Take it or Leave it means that it might have some ideas you would find compelling, but I’m on the fence about it. Skip It means I think you can get more value out of your learning time by viewing another webinar.

My Rating: 
Skip It

EuroSTAR Webinar Review Series

(This was a blog entry from my previous software testing blog that I have migrated here. I’m going to be bringing that content over a little at a time but I am also going to use the idea in my original blog post and pick up the webinar review series to complement my blog series on the software testing learning mindmap. In that spirit, I have slightly edited the post from its original)

I look for learning opportunities wherever I can get them and I’m generally of the opinion that we can learn from a diverse group of people, including those we may not always agree with. That is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to doing a review series on the webinars available on EuroSTAR’s website as a series of blog posts over the next couple of months. They have 74 listed on the site, dating back to 2008, and seem to come in bunches throughout the year, with an occasional large gap of time between them. At first glance, they look to be a valuable resource for a software tester’s learning plan and cover a wider array of topics, ranging from process, technique, strategy, documentation, management and more. I’ve perused the list and culled it down, somewhat, to the 45 I’m going to highlight in my webinar review series.

The impetus behind this project was really Erik Brickarp‘s session at CAST 2013 (see his blog here) about his experience in developing as a tester over the past year. One of my big takeaways from his session was the need to have some concrete goals that I am committed to in order to focus and create momentum for my learning and improvement process as a tester. I’m still formulating some additional goals for the upcoming year and thinking about how to incorporate another of my takeaways from Erik’s session, which is to step outside of your comfort zone to accelerate the learning and improvement process, but this is my first step. This goes hand-in-hand with the goal of starting a testing blog I have had since I entered the software testing profession just under 2 years ago. I found my experience in the education profession enriched greatly by my blogging efforts and blogging regularly helped to encourage my passion for the profession, as well as helping me to articulate and reinforce the learning and ideas I had. I felt like blogging about my software testing experience would benefit similarly, but haven’t really been able to get going with it. I realized as I encountered the EuroSTAR webinar series and attended Erik’s session at CAST (as well as reading Michael Larsen‘s on-going blog series based on the 99 Things You Can Do to be a Better Tester, for which he needs a blog post that is a table of contents for the series), that this combination of things could be the motivation and structure I needed to get blogging again and make the learning experience from the EuroSTAR webinars more meaningful. So with that backstory, you can always view the posts in the series by clicking on the category to the right.