|Last week, I embarked upon the first paired testing session of my testing tour. As I’ve only done a couple of paired sessions in the past, I felt I needed to focus on the mechanics of this in my first session, so that I can decide how to best to structure future sessions in the tour. Therefore, I started my tour fairly close to home, in a team with a similar role and product set to my own current job. This minimised the effort spent getting my head around new context and maximised my focus on the effectiveness of the pairing.|
We set out to use strong-style pairing, with my pair as the navigator as he had the domain knowledge and context for the session, and me as the driver. I quickly learnt that the job is not done once you’ve agreed on a pairing style; it takes active effort throughout the session to stick to it.
During the session, we hit a problem with the set-up that we needed to investigate, and it was whilst debugging this that we first slipped out of the strong-style pairing. At first, I tried to ensure we both stayed involved, but it was clearly much more efficient for the tester with familiarity of the test rig to debug. I have a general concern that during my tour I will be detrimental to my partners’ efficiency without adding sufficient value to offset this. Because of this worry, and as I couldn’t see any value in me driving the debugging, I let my pair press on with the debugging on his own. This became the first question I want to answer on my tour: how do we (or can we) add value to debugging by pairing?
At another point in the session, our pairing broke down in a very different way. This time, it began with us straying into an area where I had more testing experience, and so I was able to contribute navigation ideas. We organically started switching pairing roles based on who had an idea (i.e. “I’ve got an thought, why don’t you try…”). This flexibility felt positive and we seemed to be making good headway in our testing. However, it began to lead to confusion over who was navigating and how we should progress. We found ourselves formulating test ideas together, which meant it was unclear who should drive them, and also both coming up with conflicting ideas of where to head next. I realised that I had not thought enough about how the session could work with role-switching, having assumed that I would remain the driver throughout.
So, did I achieve what I wanted to with the first stop of my tour? I think so, yes. I learnt a lot about strong-style paired testing, and I’m very hopeful that the observations, lessons and ideas I gained will mean I’m better prepared to focus on other things in later sessions. I have since written an FAQ-style list to send to my future testing pairs in advance of our sessions, so that they know what to expect from me and what I am expecting from them. I plan to update it after each session, and will post ideas from it here (and perhaps the full list, when I’m completely happy with it). Overall, I’m glad I’ve had the chance to work some of these details out before I stray much further from my comfort zone!