Today is the day, the 1st day of the EuroSTAR 2019 Software Testing Conference! The 1st day traditionally is a day of tutorials. I chose “Work and Play: Games to Help your Team Think about Testing”, by James Lyndsay with the aid of his lovely assistant Bart Knaack.
This tutorial engaged a sequence of social and technical oriented games out of which insights were gathered from the audience about technical and socials aspects. And of course, associated with the testing profession. I think that a number of those games are perfectly suited to play with colleagues or your team with the purpose of just (re-)discovering these insights.
We started with small groups playing with some simple webpages displaying buttons and lamps. It was interesting to observe the default behavior of all participants, including my own. After each session we reflected as a group and tried to change personal behavior to see what happens.
We continued with a questionnaire ‘Question for Testers’ (https://github.com/workroomprds/QuestionsForTesters). A set with quite some surprising multiple-choice questions. With this play, the group got to know each other somewhat better. In my view perfectly suited to find out things you never knew about your colleagues and to open up to each other!
After this, things got more technical by playing around with an API using the browser only. Functionally the API was sort of associated with the first play, but then without a GUI. The approach to this game was therefore totally different. The discussion about these differences was interesting and of added value to me.
Before the break, we got a simulation of discovery and diversity. If you have code with known varied bugs, until what point is effort spend in testing effective and when not? Pretty quickly according to the simulation. Adding extra testers with similar focus and skills does not contribute to productivity. A huge increase in productivity with respect to finding bugs is gained if those extra testers have different focus and skills. A single tester that can switch focus is also very effective. This simulation confirmed my beliefs, so I loved it, but actually it is simulated so does it reflect reality? We’ll find out. That summary for me is that diversity of thought matters.
After the break, we played Repair a Spaceship (https://spaceteam.ca/), a wonderful game of cooperation in which you will always die. It really starts as a game of shouting. But if you do a retrospective between games, you can improve on the next game. Lots of fun, pretty addictive I imagine, but I expect fruitful in gaining insights concerning social mechanism and communication.
The game after this was supposed to be an exercise in writing code to satisfy tests. It failed, however, and from that we got some insights as well.
We continued with ‘Defuse a Bomb’ (https://keeptalkinggame.com/). A game that simulates a conversation between someone who must defuse a bomb on a timer and an expert with an extensive manual. A game in which you can improve per gameplay, but perfectly reflects in real life that when working together as time evolves you’ll need fewer words – less documentation in terms of ‘just enough documentation’ – to understand each other sufficiently.
We finished off with chocolate tasting! The focus was on finding out with the group some scales with which characteristics and quality can be determined. Food for thoughts (pun intended) is the conclusion that a set of objective criteria (i.e. scale from sweet to bitter) tend not to enable the determination of the outcome of subjective criteria (i.e. scale from unhappy to happy).
All-in-all, I experienced today as a pleasurable tutorial where play and study can coexist. What makes me proud is that VX Company in the past few years, has also used games for the same purpose. Last year, a colleague (Franka Buurmeijer) gave a talk at EuroSTAR about games she invented to increase awareness of testing within her team. VX Company wants to build cool software and promote cool innovation and this affirms to me that we are on the right track.