The Testing Social Network

Last Wednesday I presented to Midlands Testers Meetup on the topic of “The Testing Social Network”. It was my first time presenting to the Meetup, and aside from my 99 second talk at TestBash Brighton, my first time presenting outside of work.

The reason for my topic is that whether you are the sole tester in a company, or one of dozens (or even hundreds) at a company, there is a greater network and source of information available. When I first started in this industry, I wasn’t aware of it, and it was only from my own investigations years later that I started to find all of this out. As such, I wanted to help others learn this information, as well as getting other attendees to share their own experiences.

My presentation covered the following areas:

  • Meetups
  • Twitter & Blogs
  • Slack Channels
  • Forums
  • Conferences
  • What else?

Meetups

Due to being at one, I decided that talking about Meetups was the most sensible way to start, and what I have experienced by attending them in the past few months. I referenced one particular session where we were shown by Santhosh Tuppad how to hack into a website in real-time, how a hacker can look for exploits, and what information they can find such as the language the website was written in, the version of the server, open ports, and much more. Even though that information isn’t something I would use here (I’m not testing websites but internal reports), I found it both informative and interesting.
I asked if there was anyone who attended for the first time, of which there were two people who had. I followed by asking them what made them decide to be there, with one pointing to the other saying he asked him to join him, and the other saying he lived in the same city and found it when searching for information on testing, and that as it is free he may as well attend. Finally, I opened the floor to ask what other Meetups people would recommend, with an agile-focused Meetup in the area around technology that was suggested people attend.

Twitter & Blogs

My second section was about the joint areas of Twitter and blogging, where I gave examples of both that I follow, including Michael Bolton, James BachMaaret Pyhäjärvi, Dan Billing and Simon Knight.
I see both Twitter and blogs as similar, yet their own strengths and weaknesses keep them apart. With Twitter it allows you to plant seeds of ideas, where the character limit forces you to be concise with your statements/questions/answers. It is also published to the world, and even those who don’t follow you may see it due to hashtags, or from others who comment, like or re-tweet your post and then get noticed by their followers. Meanwhile with blogs it allows you to go into detail that would not be possible with Twitter, as well as grouping posts together by tags. With both mediums, the ability to comment is what helps the community and social network grow, as the interaction is what makes them different to a book. With a post that you agree or disagree with, you can leave a comment for the creator or another commentator, and from my own experience I know it’s great seeing that someone has taken the time to comment in some form. Again, I opened up the floor, asking if anyone has a blog or Twitter feed they use, as well as asking for any they would recommend.

Slack Channels

My third section was about the two testing Slack channels that I’m a member of, Testersio and Ministry of Testing.
I started by asking if anyone had not heard of Slack (as until last year I hadn’t heard of it myself), of which two people raised their hand’s. I explained its a large chat room, with teams creating their own dedicated channels, and from there they can create sub-channels to make it easier to keep themed conversations together. With the testing channels, I gave examples of some of the channels they have, from ones dedicated to certifications where people ask about the ISTQB certification (generally if it is worth working for, a discussion I don’t wish to continue here!), to broader ones such as automation where users can ask anything about automation from the benefits to queries about specific tools.
I again gave my own experiences with it, such as how I’ve used it for advice in general, as well as random events which has happened such as the Slack test community creating a Spotify playlist.

Forums

My fourth section was about testing forums, such as SQAForums, uTest, Reddit and even LinkedIn groups.
They were the first way I started learning more about testing, following a recommendation from a former contractor we had who suggested I looked at a SQAForums as a way to get a broader understanding of testing and the types of tools that are out there and being used.
The advantage to them is that the information is easier to search against, and unlike a blog where you are building up your own followers, forums will have their own existing community that you join and are able to get information from much sooner. It is also useful if the posting speed of Slack makes it difficult to stay up to date, where I gave an example of after being away for only a day I might see a warning that there are 200+ messages since I last logged in.
Personally, I prefer the speed of Slack and how you are more likely to get a response when you have a problem that is urgent. One other attendee did point out that for tools which have dedicated forums, they are a great source of information and will may even have the company responding directly.

Conferences

My fifth section was on conferences, including Ministry of Testing’s TestBashes, TestExpo, Agile in the City, and EuroSTAR.
They are the only times you get a large number of testers together, and is the ultimate example of the testing social network in action, as well as the most tangible. I compared them to a Meetup, except instead of being a single presentation for an hour, it is at least half a dozen a day, with some conferences only being a day and some being over multiple days. Whilst it may not seem possible to engage with the community being talked to be a presenter, or being a presenter and talking at them, the main way of being involved with the community are the breaks and evenings, where attendees can discuss what has been said with each other, or ideas in general.
I mentioned how at the last conference I went to I had a conversation about tools for screen recording, and was advised about a tool that captures your screen and then turns it into an animated gif (which I am looking to trial where I work). Others than talked about conferences they had attended, or even presented at, which one of the co-hosts for the Meetup has done and will be doing next month.

What else?

In all of the previous sections I have used them and been able to talk about my experiences. But I also know there are other ways to get involved with the community that I’ve yet to try myself. The main two are Podcasts and Videos.

With podcasts, I have tried listening to them but I find I can’t focus on them at work and also my work with the risk of being interrupted and thus making me unable to focus on what is being said. I also have a short commute by bike, which means one of the main ways people find time to listen to them which is their commute to and from work are not suitable options for me.
Whilst I don’t listen to any myself, if I do ever decide to give them a go myself, I would go the feed over at Ministry of Testing to find recent podcasts, and from their go through their back catalogs to decide if I want to hear more about them.

With videos, I know that more and more conferences are making their seminars and even workshops available online, but the main set of videos that I am aware of are on YouTube on the Whiteboard Testing channel, by Richard Bradshaw.

For both, whilst they my seem unable to create a network and instead by a means of presenting information much like a conference, I see them being able to be interacted with due to being able to comment on their site for podcasts, or their videos in the case of YouTube. Plus, you may one day be able to be a guest and share your own experiences, or invite guests where you already do these and thus expand the network with new people.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to be involved with the testing social network. By reading this you are more aware of the possibilities than some of your peers may be. I hope this encourages you to get involved with things you didn’t know existed, and share that information, as by growing we will only get stronger and improve each other.

Finally, I recorded this presentation, and once I have reviewed it I will link the video here so you can watch it all and share it to those who would rather watch/listen than read.

Images shamelessly stolen from Meetup, taken by Venkat Natraj

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