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Exploratory Testing: Peer Conference #ET19

16th February 2019 in the FlyWire office, Valencia, Spain: the time and place for a memorable exploratory testing peer conference!

Important things first

  1. The statement of the peer conference was: “It is 35 years since Cem Kaner described and named Exploratory Testing. What has changed? Where are we standing?”
  2. Many of the attendees tweeted during the event. Look for hashtag #ET19
  3. Results, ideas, following material will be collected and published on https://exploratorytesting.org Give us time to fill it.
  4. Following events will be coming. Stay tuned if you want to participate.

Attendees and rules

I love this tweet from Marianne – it shows almost all of #ET19 attendees (few joined later) and the introduction of K-Cards.

We wanted to give voice to everyone and take voice away if it was misused or a person talked too much and didn’t let others to share their ideas. This is why we used K-Cards, which was new tool for almost everyone. During ETC I was sitting next to Elizabeth as she explained the rules to Alex, who during peer conference took uneasy role of facilitator. For the cards and usage of them we need to thank Paul Holland and his wife Karen. I am very happy that I could learn this method. I already started to create my cards and will use some of Marianne’s illustrations as inspiration. So hier are the cards and their explanation:

·         Green: Please place me on the new thread list – NEW IDEA
·         Yellow: Please place me on the same thread list – EXTENSION TO CURRENT TOPIC
·         Red: I must speak now (or important admin issue: e.g.: I can’t hear) – ANNOUNCEMENT
·         Blue: I feel this discussion is becoming (or has become) a rat hole. – NOT ON TRACK

We did not have any cards in blue, so we used orange as you can see in Marianne’s tweet. But I agree with Paul, that colours need to be really bright or neon. K-Cards helped us to stay on the topic and tracking who spoke, helped us to moderate that everyone’s voice gets heard. Surprisingly I was the first and only one whose voice was taken away, even to that point I have spoken only twice. As in every facilitated conversation the moderator has a lot of influence – to go on with yellow cards or green ones, to give or to take the voice. How I reacted on this action was that I started to save my speaking time for green cards, if I remember right I spoke only on 2 or 3 yellow cards and always at the end, when I saw that others are not covering that point. I would suggest to everyone who is used to speak a lot to follow a similar pattern.

Topics & Drawbacks

When we got the invitation to the peer conference, we got a homework as well. To think about our experience and to choose one of the stories we want to present to the group and to have a discussion about. After we met altogether and decided on ground rules (Twitter – yes or no?, does everyone is OK by taking and publishing pictures? etc), we got 2 minutes to write our experience story (one story per person) on post-it. We placed post-its on the board and everyone got 20 seconds to present  the story to the group. This was the first drawback: not everyone took the homework seriously and prepared something or thought about how the group could contribute, or what kind of help they expected from the group. After all presentations where done, every participant got three voting dots. It turned out that the majority of dots got people who we are used to see on the stage. I keep thinking, was it unconscious choice based on speaker or conscious choice of topic. I wanted to capture all offered topics, but after checking my notes, I realised that I did not…

If you want to know which topics has been presented, Marianne’s sketchnotes are irreplaceable!

  1. Teaching Exploratory Testing to Developers by Anne-Marie

2. Mobbing With Intent by Maaret

3. Exploring Unit Tests by James

4. Scaling ET in Dark Scrum Organisations by Eric

5. How To Explain Exploratory Testing In 5 Minutes by me. I am currently working on separate blog post to describe learnings in detail.

6. Microheuristics by Alex

Every presenter got 10 minutes to tell the experience story, we voted for. Clarifying questions from the group was included in those 10 minutes. Some presentations were really good, but it was not clear how we as the group can contribute to the topic. Timer rung that 10 minutes are over, so we started facilitated open session with the K-Cards.

Another drawback from my point of view – no matter whether the statement was clear, we tended to speak too much on “what is exploratory testing” and less on concrete tools and  “what we can do to improve it”. Because it was the first peer conference for many of us and the tools what we used were new, I guess if we would have had another day, we would have overcome these drawbacks with ease as we became aware of them thought the day .


I was amazed by the K-Cards. I was excited about the topic and statement. I appreciate Maaret for organising peer conference and Jokin & his team for being amazing hosts. A big inspiration was Marianne, who not only took sketch notes on the event, but after I revealed in retrospective that I did not feel safe to raise the orange card (sliding away from the topic), she took initiative and used it herself. Another thanks goes to Marianne for supporting my topic to stay on track. I thought I made clear in my introduction I do not want to talk about giving trainings nor that exploratory testing is important and it is important to learn it, but only how to  explain it in 5 minutes. Unfortunately the group did not get it, so Marianne challenged the group to do exactly what I asked them to do.

After the session James came to me and gave a short presentation how he explains exploratory testing for business people (I wanted to know it since I first talked to him about ET & puzzles). James has been giving trainings on exploratory testing for years. You can find his four exercises for teaching ET on his website; they are free to use. He is also the creator of different puzzles. Later that day, James slided a piece of paper to me. On it was his elevator pitch for exploratory testing:

“Systems are weird. Are you looking for trouble? Exploratory Testing can help you to find unexpected truth, about what you really got.”

Another experience exploratory testing trainer Anne-Marie has collected different sources on the topic. If you have not attended her training with robots, put it on your to do list!


After we left the peer conference most of the group went to coffee place or direct to the hotel. But I needed some quiet time to rethink and categorise my thoughts, so I was extremely happy that Jess shared the same necessity. We walked and talked for three hours. We talked about many things, but the most important piece is this: we would never expect that somebody would be able to play violin after several hours show & tell, so why do we expect that from people who wants to learn exploratory testing? I have been thinking about this since then. As a trainer I know how many people are missing basics, many are using terms in context without understanding. I think we need to stop assuming what others know or understand and to start to teach exploratory testing from very beginning. I am looking forward to the article written by Jess.

Next Steps

Inspired by the conferences (ETC & peer) and conversation with Jess, I decided to create a training which explains basics of exploratory testing. I like to use similarity to music – nobody learns to play an instrument in day or two. I used to play flute and every week we had at least two lessons in solfége, what other kids hated. I loved it, because for me it was like mathematics, another subject what I loved. No wonder that one of my favourite books is The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. With all that in my mind I am playing with thoughts to create a training as solfége,  7 questions just like 7 tones. Typical human voice covers 2-3 octaves, that would be 2-3 exploratory testing sessions, each 1-2 days long. Oh, I already have so much fun!

Goodbye 2018

I love to write yearly roundups! It is the time when I put numbers to my feelings and celebrate my personal development. So, here it goes! 2017 was an amazing year, a lot of change and most of it positive. To compare, 2018 was much calmer year. Real working bee year.

What did go well


In 2018 I gave 29 trainings in 2 languages (DE & ENG, still hoping to give a training in LV) in 4 countries – Germany, Austria, Finnland and Rumania. I gave trainings around software quality, more specific testing and requirements, with and without agile dimension. From those 29 trainings, 17 was in-house trainings (in-house are not displayed on trendig website). I like to think that I helped 17 teams to become better with software quality. One team was special because all 9 students were developers. Some of them were giving trainings (agile, TDD etc) themselves. Their thank you for the testing training I gave them is one of my highlights this year. This training was special in another context as well. One of developers scored 100% in certification exam. This happened for the first time in my training career. I build trainings on stories and put more focus on discussion and less on exam questions, many of my students get 90something %, only 5 did not make it with first try. Anyway if I managed to bring just one team of developers closer to testing world, I mark 2018 as successful year.

I also worked on improvements and creation of new training material and wrote two articles. My first trendig article was on quality assurance, written mostly for managers and executives. Second article is addressed to whole delivery team about transition, testing and working as a team. In first whole team article I could scratch only the surface, stay with me others will follow soon.


In summer 2018 Anna-Marie and Fiona due involvements in other projects decided to handover SpeakEasy. Abby and me, we were mentees and after delivering our talks supporting SpeakEasy already for some time, so for us it was only logical to take over. But because we are heavily involved in several other projects we were cautious to commit. In that situation Maaret came as saver, she overtook organisational part and takes care of communication with conferences. We were lucky to have Ash on team as well, she enriches our start team with perspective and gentle push to find the focus and round up.


I am pretty happy with my two appearances in conferences. For the first time I did a workshop and for the first time I paired with someone. This someone was Lisa Crispin and I am still amazed how easy it was to work with her together. Working together with Lisa is my conference highlight of the year. I also like the workshop we created a LOT and hope to be able to give it as much as possible in upcoming conferences. I have already some confirmations, but need to wait until organisers will announce the program.


I wrote few blog posts less then previous year, but got more traffic (see the picture on the top). I am still searching how to shape my website and blog. I am writing for myself, but I am aware that others are reading as well. By look on topics where the traffic goes it gives me strange feeling and reveals delta between what I want to write about and what seems you want to read about. This is top 3 of most viewed posts:

  1. AM I A SEXIST?                                                                  with 941 views


  3. EXPLAINING SOFTWARE TESTING                        with 212 views

Unfortunately, articles which are important to me, like Attracting Girls To Engineering(71 views), Words Has Meanings – QA(51 views) and Today I Learned(47 views), are not under top 14. To serve readers, but to stay true to myself I decided to improve my blogging and to share more everyday stuff, things what I do as a trainer, consultant and speaker ( I thought it is boring, but after some private conversations discovered the opposite).

I notice other bloggers to put information about advertisements, paid products or affiliate programs. I guess this is the right time to say that I am not using any of it and everything I write, I write because I want to share or because I wanted to understand it better myself, did little research and then wrote a summary. Yes, I work at trendig and they pay me salary, but they pay me for being a trainer and not for writing my personal blog.

What did not go well

I got sick and could not really get well again. I had to cancel several events and despite of support of my team, I felt like I am letting them down by not carrying out with my commitments. Only after longer break, reflections to my last working years and acknowledgement what I did wrong, I could rejoin my team. Thank you, Jana for being there for me when I needed. I am happy to work for CEO, who cares for people so much.


TestParadies was project which suffered the most. To compare with 9 events in 2017, in 2018 I managed to organise only 3. Unfortunately due my current work situation there is no improvement to expect. I am calling for support. If no-one will be willing to help or overtake, I will have to close the meet-up.


Wishes for 2019

First and most important one – I want to get my health under control. By “health” I mean physical, but everything is connected, so… whole health.

Second,  to keep my believe system strong and keep changing world to be a better place by changing myself to be a better person. Leading by example works, I verified it.

Update: just noticed that this is my 100th blog post! Another reason to celebrate tonight, juhuu! 💃💃💃 Happy New Year, everyone!

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