Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too much testing, too little clue

A couple of interesting things shook out of today's retrospective.  It turns out that we're well behind on our targets for the current project, and two of the culprits seem to be:

  1. Too much Selenium testing
  2. No card wall

The evils of Selenium

The right way to do Selenium testing is pretty well covered in Patrick Welsh's blog and in other places.  Talk about great timing - Patrick was at the office today to give a lunchtime talk on this very subject.

The team decided to handle the Selenium problem by writing tests for only the things that we absolutely had to test through the UI.  Most of us (we'll have to revisit this) also agreed that we would keep the Se tests as small as we could get away, with while still retaining a reasonable level of test protection.

VersionOne or card wall?

The second item is something I should have brought up before, but I wasn't sure of it until I had been on the project for a month.  We have been using VersionOne as our story management system, and doing all of our updates through it.

It's a nice tool and fun to play with.  Just one problem - I wasn't  aware that we were behind this week (as in others) until after it was too late to do anything about it.  Two reasons came to mind for this:
  • I'm lazy.  I didn't realize that VersionOne had a Story Board view because I didn't take the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool.  The task-oriented view has far too much information on it to give me an overview.
  • We didn't have a card wall that I can just glance up at to see how many stories were still not done and who was working on them.
The team focused on the second bullet - lack of card wall, and I think that is a wise decision. 

It doesn't matter  how good your electronic tools are.   There is no substitute for being able to just look up and see status without any mouse clicks.  It is also very powerful to be able to stand up with another team member or two, and point at cards as you talk.  The simplicity of the setup is what makes it so powerful.

What goes on a card...and on the wall?

I did a quick search for examples of story cards, and this one (scroll down a bit after you click the link) will work.  The best setup I have seen adds some refinements to the cards and their organization on the wall:
  • Write the names of the people working on it on the card, or have mini-cards with team member's names on them that you can post next to the card their working on.
  • Have some sticky notes handy with a bright color.  If the story is blocked for any reason (even if it's something you expect to get resolved the same day), write a few words on the note describing the block and stick it on the card.
  • Organize the cards in columns by status, such as "Dev Ready", "In Progress", "Test Ready", "Test Verified" and "Business Verified".
  • Write a "definition of done" where appropriate for each status and post it at the top of each column.  For instance, "In Progress" would have bullet points like:
    • Unit tested
    • Integration tested if it has external dependencies
    • Selenium tested if it has UI components
    • Reviewed in both IE and Firefox if it has UI components
I doubt that we'll go to such lengths this late in the project, but it's something to consider for the next one.  It isn't a panacea, but it does solve several problems.

Above all, it's simple.

(Image courtesy of J'Roo's Flickr page)