Month: June 2016



A tester, or interested in testing, or learning and developing further – but not sure what to do or how?  The Ministry of Testing are running a “30 days of testing challenge” which has 30 straightforward and different things that you can do.

They range from the trivial to the complex, and they’re all differnt, but crucially they’re all straightforward, simple, achievable SMART objectives that you can knock off alongside your normal work – it’s “Do one thing” at it’s finest.

These are aimed to let you safely and easily explore outside your comfort zone.  If you do them all, I’m sure that you’ll find more than a few things that you’ll enjoy and do more of.

See the MoT Site for all the details.  Happy playing.




Games for Testers: Penultima


I like testing – by which I mean in this case I like investigating and understanding things – and so it’s not surprising that over the years I keep coming back to a few games that revolve around trying to work out what’s going on faster than someone else.  Penultima is one of these.

The rules are pretty simple:

Two players sit down at a chessboard and play a game of chess.  They take turns to play a move and the aim for each is to capture the opponent’s king.  However, the rules for each piece are known only to a third (or more) player who acts as both spectator and umpire.

On their move, a player attempts to make a valid move until such point as they succeed in a valid (though not necessarily good!) move.  Then it’s the other players turn.  They continue until one checkmates the other.

As a group we’ve tend to play such that the spectator/umpire names all the pieces to both players up front, where the names produce a theme and give hints as to how they might move.

Part of what makes this interesting, is not just that you’re trying to explore, discover and understand what’s going on, you’re trying to keep your understanding secret!  That means that you want to test your understanding in subtle ways – not just blandly play the best moves you think you’ve got.  On the other hand – you’ve also got to play the game, so don’t waste time making terrible moves!


UKTMF – Communication Games


Last month, I was at the UK Test Management Summit. One of the talks there was by Graham Thomas who showed us some games to help us think about how we talk to each other.

One of these was a form of Taboo, where we tried to explain well known ideas without using a group of bad words. The second of these was to write down what some of those well known ideas mean in (Up Goer Five).
This really made clear to me how much we use shared knowing of words.
The first game showed us that it was very hard for us to explain the very well known ideas without using the small set of bad words – and these were ideas that we all thought we knew very well (like <>). The words form a handle for the picture of the idea in our heads and in always using the word when talking to people, the picture inside our heads becomes less clear – so when we need to share the picture using other words, we find it very hard.
Even more interesting, when we came to break into groups for the second game – writing down the ideas in Up Goer Five – the different groups came up with pictures that were different in important ways. The same words meant very different things:
With Exploratory Testing, some people said the key part was not having to have a plan. For some people, the key part was being free to go where you want and not have to stay long in areas with no problems. For some, being able to use what you learn as you go. It was not until being made to write down our thoughts in Up Goer Five that we were able to see the different ideas.
I am planning to try this game with others in my place of work – to see what pictures we have in our heads for the different words we all use! I think that if you try it you will surprise (and maybe scare) yourself at the number of changes there are between what people who work together think is the same thing!
Foot note: This piece – except for the ties to other places on line – has been written in Up Goer Five, so using only the top ten-hundred most used words.