Weekend Engagement

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We encourage participants to publish TWST discussions and findings, if there are findings. The only restriction is that the author must credit the TWST conference for a given session, as well as all of its participants, in the publication. Above all, TWST is fun and inspiring—and TWSTers keep coming back for more. I know of several LAWST-inspired peer conferences in different locales in the US, UK, and India. Two pairs of TWST 5 attendees plan to start conferences in their own cities. But these represent only one model of an event where testers can grow by sharing and practicing their craft.

Weekend Testers
I recently learned about an entirely different model invented by a wonderfully creative group of friends who call themselves the Weekend Testers (WT; formerly the Bangalore Weekend Testers). Some time ago, eager to practice and enhance their exploratory testing skills, Parimala Shankaraiah, Sharath Byregowda, Ajay Balamuragadas, and Manoj Nair began doing a loosely organized form of peer testing in their spare time. Eventually, they developed a more structured approach and invited others to join WT in regular weekend tests of open source software products.

Here's how WT works. First, the organizers line up candidate products for WT to test, looking for variety, complexity, an element of surprise—anything that will throw testers out of their comfort zone. For a product to qualify, its developer must first agree both to having it tested and to publication of the resulting test reports and bug reports. Each week, testers register via the WT email account to participate in the coming weekend's session. So far, they've had as many as fourteen testers in a session. Testing is scheduled for one hour, starting at 3:00 p.m. Saturday. An hour before the session begins, the facilitator announces the open source software product to be tested. Participants join an online chat program at 2:30 p.m.

One of the four organizers acts as facilitator for a session, each of which has a mission such as "find functional bugs in this product" or "find problems limiting testability." The facilitator announces the mission, and testing begins. Testers are free to choose the components or features they want to work with. They work from their own homes, interacting via online chat as they do exploratory testing of the product. After testing, everyone stays on for an hour to share experiences. The facilitator leads a discussion about approaches taken, challenges encountered, bugs found, and other learnings from the test.

To wrap up, the facilitator prepares an experience report with a list of participants, a bug summary, and a description of the oracles and heuristics used and publishes it on the WT site within twenty-four hours after the session ends. To date, WT has run nine sessions, testing the open source products VisCheck, TinyURL, WireMaster, Freemind, Google Calendar, TuxPaint, Bing Maps, Areca Backup, and SplashUp. They've had positive feedback from the product developers, three of whom have provided testimonials praising WT's work. Like TWST, WT is multipurpose. The organizers want to provide a challenging and fun opportunity for exploratory testers to practice on types of products they may not encounter in their regular work. They want to serve the community in other ways, too. WT testing helps open source developers make their products better for all of us. And, WT wants to propagate their idea to help the testing community, with WT chapters of passionate testers in different locales. Already, another WT group has sprung up in Chennai, and the original organizers are mentoring the new group.

Talking to the WT organizers, I was bowled over by their energy and enthusiasm, not only for testing and learning, but for serving the community. They're having a lot of fun becoming better exploratory testers, and they're also learning about human interactions, sharing, communication, and facilitation.

About the author

Fiona Charles's picture Fiona Charles

Fiona Charles is a Toronto-based test consultant and manager with thirty years of experience in software development and integration projects. Fiona is the editor of The Gift of Time, featuring essays by consultants and managers of various professions about what they've learned from Gerald M. Weinberg. Through her company, Quality Intelligence, Inc., Fiona works with clients in diverse industries to design and implement pragmatic test and test management practices that match their unique business challenges. Her experiential workshops facilitate tester learning by doing, either on the job or at conferences. Contact Fiona via her Web site at www.quality-intelligence.com.

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