Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reviewing More Agile Testing



Working as a reviewer on Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory’s More Agile Testing was an interesting experience.  I was “recruited” towards the beginning of 2013 when Janet and Lisa began working on a follow up book, for which there was a huge appetite.  When the original book came out in 2009, “agile” (certainly in New Zealand) was a relatively fringe term.  But certainly by 2013 where the bulk of the book was being written it was getting more and more rare to come across people who were unfamiliar with the concepts or had no experience with agile at all.

The world had moved on in the five years since the first book, and teams which had “gone agile” were finding themselves faced with a whole new set of challenges as technology and business approaches moved on.  Indeed, this was seen inside the book itself in the peer reviewers – in the original book Janet and Lisa had emailed each chapter to individual reviewers who were almost ignorant of each other’s existence. 

However for More Agile Testing, they were able to make use of cloud drives to share chapters, and built up a community of reviewers (16 in all) from various walks of life and cultures.  Through this forum as reviewers we were able to have our comment, and even “write acceptance criteria” for what we expected from the finished product.  The challenge for Janet and Lisa was to deliver the goods!

What’s great about Janet and Lisa is they don’t just sit down say “hey, we’re really smart authors, look how successful our last book was, here are our great ideas”.  They wanted a good deal of challenge and feedback on the book.  Although they reserved the executive decision on the book, they wanted it to reflect more than just the experience of just “Janet and Lisa”, one of the reasons they felt the sidebars which tell of the experiences of other testers in applying an idea was such an important part of their original book.  It’s one thing to talk about the theory, but the individual testimony of “we did this, we put this into action, here’s the benefits and challenges we faced” are powerful stuff.  Theory is nice, but as testers we’re always a little “show me this in action”.  And the new book includes contributions and tales from 40 other testers from around the world ... myself included.  That's a hell of a resource of experience there!

I know from myself, reading Agile Testing in 2010, there were elements that originally went over my head at first.  I almost always seemed to take the role of challenging for people like me who can be initially slow on the uptake.  A key thing I kept asking was “do I need to have read the previous book to get much out of this one?” – nope, More Agile Testing can be read by itself, but it’s enhanced if you’ve read the previous book. 

As mentioned above the agile world in 2014 is very different from that in 2009, with many of the concepts which seemed radical to me when I read in 2010 now firmly in the testing “public domain”.  Even so I would occasionally push for “wouldn’t a quick recap of the principles for X help here?”.

Janet and Lisa really thrived from this.  As said before, this wasn’t an exercise in us deferring to their experience, they wanted genuine challenge from their peers to shape the book and make it as relevant as they could.  They didn’t take up every suggestion I made, but often I found myself asking why they’d said something one way, to find there was more to it than I’d imagined.  And there was a huge difference between the initial and final drafts – the fruits of the dedicated reviewing community they’d built around them, and their efforts at authors (did I mention they were holding down day jobs whilst they did this?).

Over the series, we reviewers would sometimes hijack the reviewing forum to ask our own questions to the assembled community.  Some of these will have ended up in the book in one way or another,

  • Was co-location for agile teams a must? 
  •  What do people feel is the etiquette around giving people on an agile team “private time” vs “time it’s okay to interrupt for”? 
  • Experiences with exploratory testing / Kanban / branching testing 
  • Learning through humour – and indeed the importance of humour in the workplace.  I doubt you’ll see that as a chapter, but turned out to be quite important, and will occur occasionally as a theme throughout the book 
  •  The impact of social media on testing.  Again a huge area of change since the first book

For myself it was a great experience – I’m a notoriously slow reader, but could read as fast as the author could put it out.  Being able to ask questions directly of the authors, and occasionally challenge felt almost surreal – we’re used to a book being a “static” thing, not something we can influence.  I’m really pleased with the end result from Janet and Lisa, proud of my own part, and enjoyed being able to share ideas with a much larger group of peer reviewers.

And it could not have come at a better time.  Whilst the book was being written, my major project was transitioning from waterfall to agile, with the help of Nomad 8 consulting.  This meant the book passed the most important acceptance test of all, as it was being written, my team was putting whole chapters into practice.

That, at the end of the day, is the greatest measure of a book's worth …

2 comments:

  1. Is there a theme of cross-functional team members, where developers can test and testers can cut code?

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    1. Hmmm - don't remember that, but looking forward to revisiting the book. I remember a lot of talk of not being afraid to step into a BA role, and help the team define solutions when you don't have a dedicated resource.

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