25 September 2013

Transpection Tuesdays

A couple of weeks ago me and Helena Jeret Mäe sent a few cryptic tweets about "Transpection Tuesday". Since then Helena has written a great summary of our first session and to add to that here are my thoughts so far.

What is Transpection
The best explanations I've found are James Bach's explanation of transpection and Michael Bolton's transcript of a transpection session. But basically it's one person asking questions to another person with the twist that the one asking has already tried to answer those questions. The result is you get two sets of answers, hopefully less biased from each other.

What is Transpection Tuesday
When I first met Helena it was during Let's Test earlier this year. She had tried to grab me a few times but sessions and other conversations had interrupted us. So suddenly during lunch she stood up and said: "You sit here!", and pointed at the chair in front of her. And so I did, which was one of the smarter decisions I've taken as a tester.

Transpection Tuesday happened in a somewhat similar fashion:

Helena: Hey. I was thinking this morning that we could have Transpection Tuesdays (because it rhymes :P) or something. if there's something each of us is trying to work through and solve, then we could try this transpection thing out. It's a bit random thought
Erik: Sounds cool... I'll take care of the kids alone tonight since my fiancé is working so suits me perfect... with the possible problem that a kid wakes up and I have to leave very suddenly and might not come back .)
Helena: I understand that and won't hold a grudge :P
Erik: In that case I'm in! Usually kids are asleep after 19:30 CET, hopefully there's no change tonight

So after some technical difficulties we started a Skype call with video. By the way, video was awesome for this since it made sharing visualization easier, body language is useful when trying to explain something and it helped, at least me, stay focused.

So to summarize:
Transpection Tuesday is simply a Skype session ~3 hours long, happening every Tuesday evening between me and Helena, dedicated to talk about testing.

Okey, so what we've done so far has been far from just transpection. Instead it has more been like a weekly dose of conferring where we discuss topics that matters to us in various forms; where form depends on mood and topic. You could argue the name thus is misleading, and it probably is... But we like it.

What did we discuss?
Helena shared our combined notes, from the first session. I won't write anything detailed about it now but if something in those notes seems interesting, feel free to leave a comment and I can try to write a future blog post about it (my guess is some of the more "community challenging" stuff would fit that criteria).

How did we discuss?
I recognized five different "styles"/formats used during our talks, plus one suggested that we haven't tried yet:
  1. Transpection
    I tried this briefly when speaking about why/if we should send people to courses and Helena did it much more extensively during the last TT when speaking about bias. When talking about these topics one of us asked questions we already had answers to but felt we wanted to improve/challenge. What makes this powerful is the person answering last get slightly less biased since he/she hasn't heard the first person's answers which gives you interesting answers to compare.

  2. Conferring
    Most of the talking was just quick questions being thrown out and then we together tried to answer and discuss them. I would say this is the style we use most (it's like our "go to" style) and for those of you who've been to Let's Test or CAST, this is very similar to the discussions you typically end up in during lunches (which is a good thing!).

  3. Challenging
    I plan to do a lot more of this going forward because it felt like an awesome way to learn. Essentially it's one of us asking the other to clarify something to a great level of detail or challenge a claim being made (similar to what happens during RST for instance). Very powerful as assumptions were uncovered and you constantly had to be on your toes.

  4. Role play
    We take opposite roles (e.g. the manager who questions the professionalism in ET versus a context driven tester considering ET a good approach in the current context) and simply fight it off with the goal to pressure each other to explain/motivate something at a deep level, as well as highlight assumptions. We have actually done this very briefly but I don't think enough to really call it role play, more quick imitations and reactions to that.

  5. Transfer
    Simply one of us telling the other something without any questioning going on; so basically a monologue about a topic. What was interesting to me was the information I received this way really seemed valuable but missing the interactive aspect hampered my ability to connect it to something else/make "lasting connections". Also I often felt the energy was lost a bit when one of us talk for long stretches.

  6. Interview
    Similar to Transfer but more driven by questions so basically the receiver "choosing" what information he/she is interested in. Better than the monologue version but still a lot less valuable than any of the more interactive ways. It was like, even with questions, I didn't get my brain into gears, so new information simply didn't stick as it was when e.g. Conferring.
Here are a few things I've noticed:
  • Having a clear topic helps as we got fewer side tracks and thus easier could focus on going deep into the current topic. Side tracks are not evil per se, but too many and too big ones seem to make discussions rather shallow (my feeling so far).
  • Having prepared followup questions would had been helpful, we have improved this for next week, will be interesting to see the result.
  • We did get deeper into the topic during our third TT as we pressured each others to better explain what we meant and why even when agreeing. Think we can do this to much greater level though.
  • I need to try to quickly structure the information in my head, before starting long rants/monologues about something.
  • I think both of us could benefit from monitoring our own speaking trying to stop ourselves during long monologues. It's much harder for the other person to recognize a good break point.
Wrap up
So, Transpection Tuesdays are not so much about transpection but rather about weekly conferring. I already look forward to next week (preliminary topic: "Arguing for Exploratory Testing") and that's a great sign. I hope this turns into a long lasting tradition and it will definitely be the foundation for many future blog posts!

1 comment:

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