Last week I organized the first meetup in Toronto under the banner of the Ministry of Testing. There have been tester meetups in the city before, but they tended to be infrequent and or short-lived, with the event I was aware of almost a year ago. With Toronto as a fast growing tech hub, with software development focused meetups almost daily, it seemed like there should be an audience for something focused on testing. Certainly I felt like I could be learning more from others in the area.
I think first got the idea to organize one myself last year at CAST when I asked Richard Bradshaw what the chances of bringing a TestBash conference to Canada would be and he said it usually goes to places with a well-established MoT meetup already. With precisely zero in Canada, prospects didn’t look good. Now I have no delusions that this newbie meetup would grow to TestBash-hosting levels any time soon, but it was further motivation. (I later found out about the nearby KWSQA conference and though it is still on the wrong side of the border, TestBash Detroit is practically down the street.)
Being a first-time organizer
This was the first time I’ve ever organized a public event like this, but my husband joked repeatedly that it was much like planning our wedding: find a venue first, set a date, send out invites, arrange food, obsess over how many RSVPs come back, and plan some entertainment.
The most stressful part for me by far was finding a venue. I went through several false starts before I finally secured something suitable. We had 100 people in the Meetup.com group, so I figured we might get anywhere from 3 to 30 people. About 25 people signed up, and half that showed up. Since I was planning to run it as a group discussion rather than get speakers lined up, having about a dozen people was actually the perfect size: enough to get a variety of input without having to break up into smaller groups.
I billed it as “Lean Coffee style” since I knew I may not stick to that format exactly, and didn’t want to run into issues with anyone being pedantic about it. It turned out that I was the only one who had done Lean Coffee before, so that alone was something new for people to learn. We covered 4 main topics in about an hour.
I was acting primarily as the moderator, so these aren’t necessarily my thoughts on each, but here are my notes on what we discussed.
1. How do you start setting up automation from scratch where everything is tested manually?
- Don’t try to automate everything!
- Start incrementally; fix one thing at a time.
- Try changing just one step of a manual process to make it easier.
- Something as simple as a keyboard macro or other little shortcut to set something up can be a start.
- Don’t want to go too deep with huge time investments until you can prove that the changes are going to be valuable and sustainable.
- Not everyone in the room was sold on the value of automation in the first place.
2. What metrics can be used to describe the quality of software?
- The metrics to use really depends on who’s asking.
- What does “quality” mean in the first place?
- Try being specific about what quality aspects you want your product to have.
- Defect Escape Ratio came up, but it quickly becomes difficult to measure in agile contexts. How do you even count bugs? Do you want to?
- Business KPIs should inform or be synonymous with quality metrics.
- Things like up-time or how many support requests come in might be less obvious ones to think about.
3. What tools do you use to help improve quality?
- Jest, Postman, Cypress, Selenium, Appium, XCode, and various browser extensions all came up.
- Pros and cons of Cypress vs Selenium, the main ones being that devs seem to love Cypress, and Selenium is so widely used that the tons of bad Selenium code out there give it a bad rap.
- The Big List of Naughty Strings and several stories about bugs it helped uncovered.
- Process as a tool: CI/CD pipelines, pre-push git hooks, and writing tests before development even starts.
- Heuristics like “INVEST” for writing testable stories; unfortunately I didn’t write down what INVEST actually stood for!
4. Is anyone doing QA in Agile?
- Yes! (But only about 3-4 out of 12)
- Interesting correlation: Those of us working in agile are also the ones doing test automation.
- Common struggle is the work being “bursty”, with all dev work done towards the end of the sprint to be tested… but then are you just doing a mini-waterfall project?
- Working with devs on unit tests is a good way to get them thinking about edge cases.
- One person described applying TDD to API development with Postman collections.
I have yet to make any decisions about what the next meetup will be, but people have already asked about it so I take that as a sign of the success of the first one. Tentatively, I hope to plan one more in the fall, and keep to about one per quarter. My main goal is just to get into a routine so each event gets easier and I can keep up the kind of regular cadence that I missed with previous tester meetups in the city. Monthly would be great but one step at a time.
If anybody is in the Toronto area and is interested in presenting something at a future meetup or helping with logistics, let me know!
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