WTA-17: Who Do You Want To Be Today?

WTA-17: Who Do You Want To Be Today?

Date: Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011 (11:00 a.m – 2:00 p.m PDT)

Participants: Adam Yuret, Ajay Balamurugadas, Albert Gareev, Dawn Haynes, James Bach, Justin Rohrman, Linda Rehme, Lanessa Hunter, Michael Bolton, Michael Larsen, nabarun, Rajesh P, Stephen Hill, Shmuel Gershon

This was an interesting session, and it was interesting in ways that I had not anticipated when I proposed it. Our goal was to look at a mind mapping tool from Mind42. The mission that I chose was to focus on group collaboration and editing mindmaps together, so that we could share information. As I prepared the mission, I felt unsure as to whether or not it was a solid enough mission, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Within the first 15 minutes, I was able to see, thanks to James Bach and Michael Bolton, that I had indeed crafted a too vague mission statement.

James suggested an alternative, which became our mission for the session:

“Please work together to evaluate Mind42 as a collaborative tool for creating mind maps during a time-limited event such as WTA. By interacting with the product, collect whatever information you need to support an informed decision to make routine use of Mind42 during future WTA sessions.”

As we tested,  we discovered many areas of the program that were challenging for a large group to work with. When two people edited a map, it worked well, when 10 people made simultaneous edits, we witnessed a number of browser crashes and other unusual behaviors. We quickly determined that we were not going to be able to use the tool as we intended… and here’s where things got interesting.

During the session, James Bach made the following suggestion/offer:

“I want to suggest a WTA session specifically on creating mission statements. I’m happy to run it”

I plan to take him up on his offer!

As we were discussing the mission, and the vagueness of it, it was clear that I had made a mission statement that was too broad to be useful for such a super short time period. It became clear that the challenge was deeper than the mission statement, it was identifying who I was as the facilitator. Was I the product owner? Was I working for the product owner? Was Weekend Testing the product owner?  Each of these seem little distinctions, but they make a difference in the end goal and the framing of the questions. As facilitator, it would have been wiser to have had someone  else in advance take the role of product owner, and get a clear consensus of exactly what we wanted to do for the session and why. since I was acting as both the facilitator and product owner, I was unable to effectively switch the contexts necessary to effectively communicate what I wanted.

Note: we as Weekend Testing Americas, through the testing that we did, got our answer, and it was clear. With the load and continuous updating that we want to do, this application does not scale to what we originally envisioned (a live and active collaboration tool for many testers in real time). Our thanks to all of the participants and all of their comments, some of which went well past the scheduled end of the session, but which have been preserved because of their value to the discussion.

Full chat transcript can be seen here.

About the Author

I’m a software tester working with Socialtext in Palo Alto, CA. I have worked in a number of different fields and in a number of different capacities. I started my testing career in March of 1991. I am co-founder and primary facilitator for Weekend Testing Americas. I am a black-belt in the Miagi-do School of Software Testing, a member and Teacher in the Association for Software Testing, and the producer of Software Test Professionals' "This Week in Software Testing" podcast (now on hiatus).