together for an hour-long debrief, during which testers share their ideas, challenges, frustrations, etc.
There is a good mix of regulars—those who actively participate in multiple chapters of the Weekend Testing sessions week after week—and those who are new to the format (and some new to testing in general). When I facilitate a session, I look for the newcomers and often will invite them to be part of my breakout testing session, where I encourage them to participate and ask questions to help guide them into exploring different ideas.
Weekend Testing works because of Skype. While there may be other technologies we could use, Skype has the benefit of being globally available, no cost to install, and able to host large-group communication. Due to the varying levels of technology and network infrastructure, we limit the testing sessions to Skype chat, though when testers pair they can use any sharing method they like. We do not endorse specific tools, but we have seen some tools emerge as de facto standards and favorites.Skype has become a standard tool for testers to share notes and edit documents together in real time, and RapidReporter, developed by Weekend Testing regular Shmuel Gershon, has a lot of fans and its use is spreading. (We even used RapidReporter as one of our testing challenges for our third session.)
One of the most interesting aspects of putting together this chapter was the discovery of all the things that happen on the back end. When a tester joins up with a Weekend Testing event, he often participates in a chat session, joins a side testing session (usually in a paired arrangement), and then comes back to talk to the group. When you are facilitating sessions, you have to think about all of the participants and what they might be experiencing. Though we are an Americas chapter, we also get attendees from Europe, the Middle East, and India. We have to be aware that many individuals do not have the same network speeds that I have here in metropolitan San Francisco, as our first two sessions made clear. Many of our testers couldn’t even download the application we were testing during the two-hour session, while the download took me only twenty seconds.
Each week that we host a Weekend Testing session, we learn a little more about distributed teams, test management, paired testing, and the challenges we all face testing in a global environment. We also learn new skills, make new friends, and often forge relationships that extend beyond the Weekend Testing sessions. Some of the most interesting correspondence I’ve had in the past few months has been with Weekend Testing attendees. There is so much to learn, and there are so many willing to help us get better at our craft. So, the next time you see an announcement for Weekend Testing Americas, please make the time to drop in. The chances of learning and improving your testing craft are very high, and it’s likely you’ll make some great new friends as well.