Teamwork for building in quality

I can’t say it enough: it takes the whole team to build quality into a software product, and testing is an integral part of software development along with coding, design and many other activities. I’d like to illustrate this yet again with my experience a couple days ago.

Some of my teammates at our summer picnic - we have fun working AND playing!
Some of my teammates at our summer picnic – we have fun working AND playing!

Recently our team has been brainstorming and experimenting with ways to make our production site more reliable and robust. Part of this effort involved controlling the rate at which the front end client “pings” the server when the server is under a heavy load or there is a problem with our hosting service. Friday morning, after our standup, the front end team decided on a new algorithm for “backing off” the ping interval when necessary and then restoring it to normal when appropriate.

Naturally I had questions about how we would test this, not only to ensure the correct new behavior, but to make sure other scenarios weren’t adversely affected. For example, the client should behave differently when it detects that the user’s connection has gone offline. There are many risks, and the impact of incorrect behavior can be severe.

I was working from home that day. Later in the morning, the programmer pair working on the story asked if we could meet via Skype. They also had asked another tester in the office to join us. The programmers explained three conditions in which the new pinger behavior should kick in, and how we could simulate each one.

The other tester asked if there were a way we could control the pinger interval for testing. For example, sometimes the ping interval should go up to five minutes. That’s a long time to wait when testing. We discussed some ideas how to do this. The programmers started typing examples of commands we might be able to do in the browser developer tools console to control the pinger interval, as well as to get other useful information while testing. We came up with a good strategy.

Note that this conversation took place before they started writing the actual code. While they started writing the code using TDD, the other tester and I started creating given-when-then style test scenarios on a wiki page. We started with the happy path, then thought of more scenarios and questions to discuss with the programmers. By anticipating edge cases and discussing them, we’ll end up with more robust code much more quickly than if we waited until the code was complete to start thinking about testing it end to end.

There are so many stories in this vein in Janet Gregory‘s and my new book, More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team. We’ll have more information about the book on our book website soon, including introductions to our more than 40 contributors. The book will be available October 1. It takes a village to write a useful book on agile testing, and it takes a whole team to build quality into a software product!




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