Why should just the developers have all the fun?

Back in 2009 I attended my first coding dojo. It did not take long for me to realize that it was fun, and all the programmers in that setting learned a lot. Ever since I was convinced about what some call Deliberate Practice. It’s a practical exercise to help you learn a deeper understanding of a skill – most often accompanied with a mentor or coach that provides you feedback. Let’s take a look into various formats that are suited for testers.

Testing Dojos

Back then I started to investigate in an idea called a Testing Dojo. Initially the setting was basically the same as in a Coding Dojo. Someone prepared a problem for the audience, introduces it, and the group goes to do their thing. We started with paired testing, and testers changing back to the audience every 5-10 minutes. That worked quite well in smaller groups, but became sort of a pain while dealing with larger groups.

That’s when I experimented with changes to the environment. Nowadays I use multiple pairs on the same program together with debriefing sessions in between. I called these Testing with a Stranger. Eventually I also use the same format for my Exploratory Testing class, leaving a bit more time to provide the introductory concepts in the beginning. I am quite happy with that format.

Weekend Testing

Weekend Testing came up at the same time as my Testing Dojos idea. The idea is to meet online rather than in person. Tester receive a mission, test for an hour, and come back to a facilitated discussion after that. Most learning happens during the facilitated discussion.

I co-organized Weekend Testing in Europe for nearly a year. One guy, Mike Scott, started to organize Weeknight Testing in London. In early 2011 we organized a connected Weeknight Testing session spread across the globe at Hamburg, Germany, London, UK, and San Francisco, California, USA. We worked mostly among our local groups (we had 9 in Hamburg, if I recall correctly), and did the facilitated debriefing together through video chat. That was awesome – but took a lot of energy. Maybe that’s why it didn’t happen again, yet.


Earlier last week I was contacted by who is organizing a Testathon in London. The idea is pretty simple: test stuff with other folks, learn from them, and maybe win a prize. A Testathon is a Hackathon for testers. I was surprised to hear about that idea – and I look forward to the results and reports. Unfortunately I can’t make the date, but I would like to organize one in Germany at some point. So, if you are interested – have an app, a prize, or willing to co-organize – drop me a line.

Exploratory Testing Retreat

Since some time, I am thinking through a concept that brings together the format of a Code Retreat with Exploratory Testing. I think I have some ideas that would work well. The biggest challenge though will be to find something similar as the “delete your code” statement from the Code Retreat format.

The idea would be to work with 6 different pair partners over the course of the full day. The facilitator would throw in different constraints for every session, and help the pairs during the testing. For sure, we would run the testing in sessions. I hope to run one or two of these within this year.

Moving forward

Of course there are other formats like the Test Lab found at regular conferences, testing challenges given out during evening events at conferences, and so on. Testers should have fun, and ideally would be coming by their intrinsic motivation to these events. Some swag does no harm, though. Some money can also raise the attention of new testers to put their best efforts in. Though, that shouldn’t be the primary goal to attend such events.

Since a few years, I set up a website in order to collect some of the missions and products to test at such events. You can find the website at testing-challenges.org. I think a growing knowledge base for such challenges can nurture the larger community that appears to grow around the topic of deliberate practice. If you are willing to help me maintain testing-challenges.org drop me a line, and I might provide you writing and editing rights to that wiki.

Overall, I think these initiatives help move forward our craft. It will eventually also lead to more developers becoming more interested in testing. I consider that a good thing, and look forward to that brighter future.

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