Test Retreat UK’s 2nd meetup

Test Retreat UK’s 2nd meet up was held on the 4th of July in Bournemouth. As before, it was held at Redweb‘s amazing Loading Bar.
The meeting began at 6:00pm, with a networking exercise followed by an Exploratory Testing session run by John Stevenson (@steveo1967). Attendees: Rob Lambert, Danny Dainton, Dave Wardlaw, John Stevenson, Adrian Howard and Lee Harvey.


  • current testing conferences – which ones are interesting and which are not!
  • blogging habits of testers
  • communications patters between testers and the rest of the company
  • cultural isolation of teams
  • state and coverage of automation – when is it enough etc.
  • the role of social media in helping build a testing community
  • how to increase awareness of such communities
  • stereo types of good and bad testers
  • difficulties faced in hiring good testers
  • a few more that I have forgotten about… 🙂


Exploratory Testing session

As planned, John started the Exploratory Testing session in a similar fashion to the sessions held at http://www.weekendtesting.com. John started by explaining what Exploratory Testing is and why it is important. It was surprising to discover that many highly regulated industries such as the drugs industry or the banking industry do not emphasise on how testing is performed. All that is required is evidence that planned testing had been completed. The structure of Exploratory Testing provides this evidence whilst freeing up time to spend in introducing ways of working, planning, writing scripts, reporting etc.

To make ET novices such as me understand the concept of Exploratory Testing, John had asked us one by one to tell him how we would get to Bournemouth International Centre. We found that directions given by different people were very diverse! Assumptions played a big part in deciding the route each person was going to take. I am a local to the area so could decide which route to take instantly without researching. Whereas others who had come from elsewhere started with by explaining that they would research the location and consider factors such as distance, fastest route, fastest mode of transport etc. and then formulate directions. It was clear that each person approaches a task in a different way.

Rob then explained that context is very important when implementing ET as every company and industry that a tester works in might work in a different manner. Each company’s priorities define the extent of Exploratory Testing that can be performed. John explained that he follows Session Based Testing where during the planning session, various charters are drawn and each charter is allocated a set session time. Each charter has a mission (goals) to achieve in the set amount of time. It is worth noting that charters are not test cases. James Bach defined a charter as ‘which states the mission and perhaps the tactics to be used’.
I will try and cover my understanding of Exploratory Testing in a separate post as I would like to focus on Test Retreat UK’s meet up in this one.




Rob and John had decided to give a fairly easy (so they say) testing mission for our hands on session. None of us had an idea of the application that we would have to test until we were handed the charter with the testing mission and time allocated for the mission. John also provided us with an Elisabeth Hendrickson’s test heuristics cheat sheet to help us during the session. Rob and John told us that they themselves use this cheat sheet quite regularly.


We had 30 minutes to complete the session and try and achieve the mission. Whilst the team were busy working on the session, Rob and John helped us by giving tips and reminding us to use the cheat sheet. We were also told that we did not have to test in isolation, i.e., that we could discuss our findings amongst ourselves and help each other out. It was really surprising to note that each participant had a very different approach of testing.


After the allocated time for testing was up, we moved onto a debriefing session. It is key to discuss findings with the rest of the team, be it a test team or a project team. This was the purpose of the debriefing session. 
John had a debrief proof that we used. The proof contained questions such as:
  • Past – What happened during the session?
  • Results – What was achieved during the session?
  • Obstacles – What got in the way of good testing?
  • Outlook – What still needs to be done?
  • Feelings – How does the tester feel about all of this?
  • Learning – What do you still need to learn? What have you learnt?
  • Adaptation – Did you need to adapt anything?


These questions provided the basis to get the debriefing started. I was asked to ask Dave the questions and was allowed to deviate from the questions if needed. 
During the process we sometimes stopped with the debrief and discussed related topics such as importance of making notes during an exploratory testing session, implementing exploratory testing practice within an organisation, finding time to trial exploratory testing so on and so forth.
Throughout the process many questions arose: Am I doing the right thing at this time? Is this a complete charter? Do I need to write up any more charters? Do I continue with this charter or come back to it later? How do I document my findings? These questions are questions which testers would be faced with at one time or another while testing.
In the end it came down to engaging in critical thinking. It is up to the tester to be able to decide the best way forward and act appropriately.


All in all we had a great meet up.  A lot of us had not done any exploratory testing before and this meet up provided us with hands on exercises to get started with. Thanks to John for running the session and to Rob for helping us along the way.
It feels as if I have only just started on the journey of getting a software testing meet up running, and yet I have managed to organise 2 meet ups already! Time does fly, especially when you are enjoying what you are doing.

2 thoughts on “Test Retreat UK’s 2nd meetup

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s