Anyone who has read chapter 6 of How to Break Software knows my fondness of mixing testing with pubs. Many of the training and challenge events I designed for my students actually took place in a pub. Somehow the pub atmosphere tore down walls and inhibitions and helped focus the conversation on testing. There were simply none of the usual office distractions to hold people back and pubs just give me a Zen feeling that few other places can match. Perhaps this effect can be achieved in other settings but I haven’t bothered trying those places. Indeed, the only other place I’ve ever tried is a soccer pitch, but that blog post can wait (let me know if you’re interested).

How wonderful it was to experience a group in England who have formalized it: PEST is Pub Exploration of Software Testing … that’s right, a group of visionary England-based testers meet monthly (or thereabouts) in a pub to talk testing and challenge each other’s knowledge and understanding of the subject of exploratory testing. The end result is clearer-headed (at least after the hangover the next day) thinking about testing, techniques, automation and many other subjects that they imbibe.

I had the pleasure of joining them July 17 at a pub just outside Bristol. Apparently in a nod to my work, the focus of this PEST was bug finding. They set up a total of four breaking stations: (1) a computer with the PEST website (still under development), (2) a vending machine (released product), (3) a child’s video game (released product) and (4) a machine running an app intentionally seeded with bugs. As attendees filed in (~40 in all) they were given one of 10 different beer mats and people with matching mats were teamed up for exploratory testing sessions. I helped adjudicate one of the stations and rang an old style hotel bell with every verified bug. The same happened at the other stations. Each team tested all four products for identical periods of time in a round-robin fashion and at the end of the night prizes were given for the team with the most bugs, the most severe bug, and the best test case.

The only problem is that as a designated passenger (and all the duties that entails on behalf of the designated driver), I was having too much fun to take notes and don’t have the official score sheet. Can anyone who attended please report the results for us? However, the quote of the night came from Steve Green of Labscape: “it’s quite strange actually, testing with other people.”

Steve (who clearly excelled in exploratory testing to the point that I’d hire him without further interview), please clarify for us whether the help was welcome! Please weigh in on the whole paired (or in this case, teamed) vs. solo testing debate! I'd love to know how this experience affected a lone Jedi.

And if anyone else out there is doing similar testing exercises, especially if they are part of a extra-company community event like PEST, feel free to share.