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This mob might be the answer

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I’ve been talking to a lot of stressed out testers recently. These are people who take their profession seriously but don’t always think anyone else does, particularly when they’re told time and again that they need to learn how to code.

These aren’t folks who really want to be developers. As one said to me, “If I’d wanted to be a developer, I would have been. I want to be a tester.”

Is there a way for everyone to get along and get the job done? The answer might be found with mob programming, kind of like pair programming on steroids. Mob programming gathers 6 to 8 people in a room to work together to code, or perhaps even to test. Some, like Lisa Crispin, are calling it mob testing, and while she says she’s tried it, she’s not ready to talk about it yet. But Finland-based Maaret Pyhäjärvi, who calls herself a “collaborative software specialist with an emphasis on testing,” has tried mob testing and lived to tell about it.

On the one hand, she told me it brought her team together in a way she didn’t expect because they were all in a room together and you could actually see problem solving skills or time-saving shortcuts you had no idea existed before. The real advantage of mobbing, she said, is that no one had to explain anything because everyone experienced the same things.

That said, she did say it was difficult. Working in a mob “is a challenge when testers are not really programmers,” she explained. “They’re forced in to programming and my feeling is that some people are going to be more comfortable with that than others. This has the potential to be divisive.”

One of the challenges for testers is that you’re sitting close to the code and there’s a lot of “bored” downtime when the programmers are down in the code details. Testers are there showing support, but it can get tedious, she said. “I’m not certain if I enjoy this style of working in the long term,” she admitted. “For people with a testing background this can be very difficult for the first time because you’re really in to the code.” And she said the idea of taking a day and just working together can be a tough sell to management and developers as it can seem to be a waste of time.

Would mob testing/programming be the solution for your company? Let me know what you think!