Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Help Your Testers Succeed in 8 Minutes

2017 has been a stressful year for me so far. I bought a really ugly flat in February, then found myself with two months to make it habitable and move into it. While frantically arranging appointments with trades people and deliveries of essential things (like carpet and furniture), a call for speakers came up for the Agile North East Lightning Talk competition.

I was already so stressed out from trying to move house, the stress of giving a talk felt insignificant by comparison. So I decided to throw my hat into the ring and enter the competition.

I knew the audience would be a diverse group of people, with only one or two software testers in the room so I wanted to come up with a talk that would be interesting to everyone. I came up with a working title of "Things you can do to help your software testers succeed" and wrote the following abstract, it was quite short and a little bit vague in places...

"Testing software is hard. Hiring good testers is hard. Some testing jobs are set up in such a way that testers can never succeed! If you have good testers in your organisation the last thing you want to do is drive them away. I'm going to tell you how you can help your testers succeed and enjoy the many benefits that happy testers can bring to a team."

I found out a few weeks later that my proposal had been accepted and I was in the competition!

It Will Be Alright On The Night

I now had an 8 minute slot in front of a captive audience of people which shared an interest in Agile development. I knew straight away that I was going to have to make each minute count. I wanted to use the opportunity to try raise awareness of the problems software testers face.

I wrote my slides and practised a little bit with a timer to see how much information and advice I could actually jam into 8 minutes. Turns out an 8 minute talk is actually quite a tricky duration to handle because you don't have enough time to get into really detailed explanations, but its long enough that you do have to start explaining concepts.

The day of the talk arrived and I got to the venue about an hour before the event was due to start. The building chosen for the event was a historic listed building, the Northern Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. I was able to scope out the 1895 lecture theatre where the talk would be taking place, see where I would be standing, where the audience would be sitting etc. This really helped reduce some of the stress and nervousness I was feeling on the night.

I was very thankful that some of my friends and co-workers were able to come along to the event. Having a few people there that I knew genuinely wanted me to succeed made the task of speaking mentally easier for me to cope with. I checked with the event organiser that I would be able to make an audio recording with my smart phone and was told this would be fine. I have been trying to record myself every time I speak so I can listen to myself afterwards and find ways to improve.

My lightning talk, "How to Help Testers Succeed" is now up on YouTube.

I was voted 3rd place by the audience and I was absolutely shocked that the 1st and 2nd place winners didn't choose the Lego prize. This let me choose the Lego Millennium Falcon. I haven't built it yet, I need to find someone to help :)

This post was also published on my company's blog Scott Logic Blog

Monday, 16 January 2017

Foreign Currency Trading Heuristic Testing Cheat Sheet

Happy New Year everyone!

For the last 18 months I have been testing software designed to trade foreign currency, known as FX or Forex trading software.

I consider myself lucky as I joined the project on day one which enabled me to learn a lot about testing trading systems.


Financial software, including trading applications, can be some of the most incredibly difficult complex applications to test because they contain many challenges such as:

  • Many concurrent users
  • High rates of transactions per second
  • Large numbers of systems, services and applications that all integrate with each other
  • A need to process transactions in real time
  • Time sensitive data e.g. the price to buy a Euro can change multiple times every second
  • Catastrophic consequences for a system failure, bugs can cause financial loss
  • Extremely high complexity level

At the start of my current project, I found very few resources available for testers covering complex financial systems. The few resources that I was able to find were quite dated and generally advised to write detailed plans and document all tests before executing them. I simply couldn't find any information about approaching testing of financial systems in a modern, agile, context driven way.

I was very fortunate on my project that I was able to implement testing with agility and focus on risk. Long checks historically done manually by human testers were replaced with good automated integration test coverage. The team also chose to release to production as frequently as possible, usually once a week. Not having to constantly repeat manual checks of existing functionality gave me time to do a LOT of exploratory testing. Almost all the really bad bugs, the ones with financial consequences, were found during exploratory testing sessions.

Heuristic Testing Cheat Sheet

Given the high level of exploratory testing I was able to do on my project, I generated a lot of ideas and identified some high risk areas and common mistakes. I have decided to put together a heuristic testing cheat sheet for anyone carrying out exploratory testing of trading software.

The full size version of my FX trading heuristic testing cheat sheet can be found here. I wanted to combine my knowledge of trading with some of the ideas I generated. On the sheet my ideas are written around the knowledge in magenta coloured boxes. I hope this may be useful to anyone working on trading software.

This post was also published on my company's blog Scott Logic Blog