My BBST experience – the musings of a student

This is an account of some of the activities I wish I had focused more on during the one-month Foundations course. The article is peppered with nostalgia for my fellow students and the activities we did together, but it ends with something awesome to look forward to: signing up for Bug Advocacy, the second part of the BBST course.

Almost two months have passed since I finished the BBST Foundations course, and the desktop on my laptop is still left unchanged, with all of the files created during assignments scattered across my screen. This is by no means an unusual occurrence, but it did got me thinking about how I usually go about doing things…

When I work on something that requires a considerable amount of time and effort other things seem to become less important, like keeping everything neatly tucked away in folders.

Hopefully I’m not alone in doing this, though. I imagine that my work would become much clearer for others if I kept some sort of order while I was doing it, but I seem to find my way in the general chaos just fine. After about a week or so, I usually realize what a mess my desktop is and eventually clean it up; all the while wondering how I ever got any work done at all.

This time though, something is different.

I’m just sitting here, staring at my cluttered screen and I’m trying to figure out why. My first guess would be that I’m not quite done with the Foundations course yet. Thinking back on it now, there are a lot of things that I opted out of during the course. Don’t get me wrong, I spent well over twelve hours a week doing assignments, answering questions, and debating ideas with my fellow students, it’s just that there was a lot more I *could* have done.

For instance, I totally skipped the Quiz debates which was a forum dedicated to discuss or simply snarl at questions and answers from each quiz we took after every lesson. Apart from one question, to which I had a simple solution to, I did not participate in these debates at all (I used the following solution: I evaluated the answers to a particular question as a logical expression and decided to choose the right answer based on that. Anyway, I think I got this question wrong on the actual quiz though.. 😛 )

I did read a few of the discussions in the Quiz forums as they unfolded and thought I could have added to the value of these conversations, but due to something, be it laziness/lack of motivation/other stuff that got in the way, I just let others discuss and debate while I got busy with life in general.

An important part of the course was the Exam cram, a series of exam questions for us to discuss and attempt to answer. A kind of study guide if you will. I wholeheartedly intended to either start debates or participate in ongoing ones in this study guide, but could not find the time to word my answers properly (you see, I constantly reformulate anything I write until I deem it fit for human consumption) so I decided to focus on a few questions which seemed to attract a lot of attention.

There was one debate in particular, that I liked. It was still ongoing when the final exam started. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to divulge any details about the question that started the debate, but let me just say it involved two password fields and a huge number of valid inputs. 

BBST certificate

Another part I could have focused more on was writing peer reviews. I totally ignored the fact that we were encouraged to give feedback to other students. I have since learnt that giving effective feedback, be it positive or negative, actually takes skill, and you only get better at it if you practice. Unfortunately, I failed to see this at the time and ultimately ended up giving the bare minimum of reviews. 🙁

I’m afraid I wasn’t the only one who missed out on these online conversations; some of the students didn’t even set their virtual foot in the Exam cram section, let alone participate in the debates. There were even a few who decided to drop out of the course. I was sad to see some of my fellow students go (Moira, I hope you still have your towel! 😀 ). I can honestly say that I understand them on some level, and I guess at some point, life gets in the way of things and you need to get your priorities straight and focus on what is most important for you.

There is a silver lining in all of this though; some of my fellow students were once dropouts (couldn’t find a better word, sorry) who had returned to give this course another try because they saw value in doing a good job at it a second or even a third time. I can only hope that those who dropped out this time plan on returning as well.

There were a lot of reasons to stay in the course too though, the group activities were thought out to be quite engaging, but it wasn’t always easy to coordinate our efforts, being spread across the globe as we were.

One such assignment consisted of coming up with bugs that certain well known companies would find imperative to fix while others would not even consider logging.

Talk about a great way to exercise choosing your oracles! 😀

I have to say, I never connected Blizzard and “testing before, other than on a gamer level (their games have an almost impeccable release and they are very quick in offering solutions in case a bug does get released), and this task actually made use of the fact that I used to play video games and actually know a lot about the companies that we needed to emulate. This also implied a kind of job reversal too, we were no longer investigating and trying to reproduce bugs, we were actually inventing them. 🙂

Another group activity relied heavily on defining our roles and tasks based on the context of the software we were about to test. One of these could also have benefitted from my gaming experience but sadly I was picked to be in a group with a different makebelieve software to test; I still kept an eye on their progress nevertheless; our group did pretty well I guess and I might be biased, but I think they did an amazing job at explaining their test strategy. I even adopted their way of simplifying things and improved our own strategy by removing buzzwords and “best practice”-y elements like “low and high level functional testing using an exploratory approach” and tried to come up with a simple way to define our actual testing objective.

These activities were very enjoyable and quite different from my day to day activities at the time; and for the most part the enjoyment came from doing them in a group full of enthusiastic testers guided by these awesome instructors. 

I’d like to go back to why I have yet to clean my laptop screen of response-snippets and half-reviews that never quite got to the standards of this awesome class. Although I successfully passed the course I would still like to redo some of the assignments on my own, and re-read the required material. Besides this, there are still things that I need to dwell on before I move on. I suppose that the files on my laptop remind me of everything that happened or in some cases did not happen during the Foundations course. With all this said, I am looking forward to at least one thing:

There’s a Bug Advocacy class starting in October and I plan on signing up! 🙂

Also, If everything pans out, I will actually know someone in the course this time around; I definitely see the potential in debating the course material with someone who is sitting next to me. Looking at the curriculum for Bug Advocacy, I think that the second part of the BBST courses will prove to be more of a challenge for me because I have trouble defending my point of view sometimes. But I know I’ll be okay as long as I enjoy what I do and get to have thought provoking conversations and receive honest feedback from my instructors and fellow peers. 

I can hardly wait!

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