About a year ago, I heard about Coding Dojos for the first time. Getting back to work, I nearly immediately tried out the idea with some colleagues. The implementation was great, and we had a lot of fun. Every since I wondered how to get testers involved into this deliberate learning. It took me some time and thought, but now I ended up with Testing Dojos. We ran several of them at work so far. I decided to provide you with some know-how that should get you started as well. In case you’re looking for personal experience, I will be presenting the topic together with a sample session at the XP 2010 conference in Trondheim in June this year.
What is a Testing Dojo?
A Testing Dojo is a meeting where testers come together to work on a testing challenge. The testing challenge can consist of testing a product, or generate test ideas for a particular software, or even exercise bug reporting. Mainly the testing challenges will use Exploratory Testing.
Testing Dojos take testing into a safe environment without schedule pressures and deadlines. Testing Dojos are a way to train testers new to the profession in a collaborative manner.
For a testing dojo there is little you need to prepare.
- a meeting room large enough
- access to a computer
- a video projector so everyone can see what’s happening
- pen and paper, a flichart or a whiteboard to take notes
A meeting room with a computer and a projector are usually available. Pen and paper for note taking are easy to organize.
The facilitator introduces the rules of the testing dojo. The facilitator provides also a mission and clarifies the structure of the dojo. Any testing may be done by a single tester in front of the computer or in a paired setup. The missions given may vary between test this product, evaluate the usage of the following up to use this new approach to check if we may incorporate it into our testing process.
In a single tester environment there is a single tester exercising the product in front of an audience. On a previously agreed upon time the tester is exchanged by a tester from the audience. The new tester then continues to follow the mission tackling the product under test. When the individual tester may get stuck, he may ask for support from the audience. Otherwise the remaining participants remain silent.
In a paired session two participants sit in the front of the computer. One of the testers is working on the keyboard, while the other than takes notes on test ideas and found bugs. After a previously assigned timeframe (i.e. 10 minutes) the pair switches. The tester who was in front of the keyboard gets back into the audience, the note taker takes the keyboard and the empty seat is filled up with a tester from the audience for note taking.
During a paired session the testers in front of the computer need to clarify their steps taken on the mission so that everyone in the audience understands what they’re doing. They should at least talk as much as test, probably talk more than test. The pair may involve the other participants when they get stuck just as in the single tester setting.
In this section we will take a brief look into possible missions for a testing dojo and give some recommendations.
The classical mission involves to test an application. The variety of applications may include open source programs, commercial software available in your organization, or even your company’s latest product. Thereby such a session may end up as well as a bugfest. The facilitator needs to check the proper availability before the session starts. For examples, the company’s firewall may block some content on a web page. For unstable network connection testing a web page may become cumbersome.
A mission to evaluate a tool may include to use mindmaps for test ideas, or to try out a particular test tool for the whole session. For such a mission the product under test is usually the tool itself, but you may run the mission also for a common program that you test at work, and compare the results directly with your daily work. Evaluating tools serves mainly the purpose to decide whether or not you may use it on a more regular basis.
Learn new approaches
There are many testing approaches to try out. Focusing the mission on some particular mnemonic like FCC CUTS VIDS or use soap operas to generate test ideas. Similarly to evaluating tools, this type of mission serves the purpose to try out and learn about new approaches to testing. After these sessions the whole team has made some experience and can make a more informed decision – like if and when the approach is useful for them.
This is the concept behind Testing Dojos as it stands today. Please, let me know when you tried them out at your company, and what worked for you, what didn’t work for you, and what you found worth to add or to try out above that.