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Risk and Testing in Las Vegas

June 9, 2009

So, here I am in my hotel room, at the end of the second exhausting day of the Better Software Conference and Expo, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Where to begin? The plane trip was good, the cab ride was terrifying, the Strip is unlike any place I’ve ever been. If you want more details about Vegas, send me a note, I’ll give you my full opinion. But let’s talk about software.

My first Tutorial was Ken Collier’s talk on Agile Modeling. Really useful stuff. I didn’t know exactly what I was jumping into here, so it was good to see that there was dialogue on a level I could participate in fully. Ken spoke well about the core principles of Agile Modeling, including the need to ‘travel light’ – no model will meet every need, so make the model that meets the particular needs of that stage in development. He went on to discuss domain modeling, architectural modeling, and usability modeling. He also gave a really useful run-through of use cases, use case personas, scenarios and user stories.

After that was Jeff Patton’s talk on User Story Mapping – building a better backlog. Jeff’s talk was good also – covering some of the same material as Ken did around user stories. One of the refreshing things about a conference like this is that you get to hear how different groups are using the same Agile methodologies. Or put another way, over dinner last night (a quiet little spot near the hotel that had slot machines right in the restaurant, imagine!) I remarked to Kevin that I’d heard two different definitions of a user story in the course of a single day.

One of Jeff’s excellent points was writing out a use case scenario and then making stories based on every verb in your scenario. This is a point that I as a Business Analyst sometimes miss – that we’re not trying to enable our users to be something, we’re enabling them to do things. This is one of those little shifts in approach that I know will make my work a lot easier when I get back home.

Today started with Julie Gardiner’s talk on risk-based testing. Immediately she explored how risk management involves three steps – identification, analysis and mitigation. She then walked us through four different approaches to risk management – the TMap approach, heuristic management, the STEP approach and an approach pioneered by Paul Gerrard. The latter was particularily enlightening, as it includes a means of factoring in existing testing capability as a means of prioritization. Definitely lots to take away.

As it was yesterday, lunch at the Venetian Hotel was a subdued and somewhat spartan affair. This place puts itself up as ‘The Italian Vegas Experience’ and yet, there was only one course of appetizers. Amateurs. You know what they say though – the problem with Italian food is that four or five days later, you’re hungry again. I couldn’t help but feel sorry, however, that I had to miss the Point2 Tuesday lunch meeting. Nobody back in Saskatoon ever gets after me for using the wrong fork. I guess I’m just homesick.

The high point of today, however, was Dan North’s presentation on Behaviour Driven Development. Really enlightening. A couple of points to consider – One is the simple point that we use all of these construction metaphors – builds, architecture et cetera – for an industry that’s inherently different and much, much younger. He summed it up with ‘The thing about software is, it’s soft. ‘ With that, he went on a fantastic rant (Now I know where Aidan gets it!) about moving towards a stakeholder-centric process that ensures just enough work to get just the right results.

…and yet another definition of what makes up a user story. As a conference participant I need a consistent definition of a user story so that I’ll know what the heck to put in my Jiras when I get home!

Well, I’m off. The sun has set on the Strip as I write this. If you’re in Vegas, look us up – we’re at the Imperial Palace. Kevin’s the one with the cane and the feather boa at the craps table. I’m the one writing the blog posts.


By: Dave Kellow

  1. mdchris
    June 10, 2009 at 7:01 AM

    Haha sounds like you guys are learning a lot, wish i was there! Looking forward to your presentations/workshops when you’re back!

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