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Testing in the Dark: Lessons in Cross-Site Communication (MEWT 2015)


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Testing in the Dark: Lessons in Cross-Site Communication (MEWT 2015)

  1. 1. Testing In The Dark: Lessons in Cross-Site Communication Neil Studd, Amido
  2. 2. About Me (and my teams) • Worked with teams around the world • West: USA (Los Angeles, San Diego) • Europe: Croatia, Germany, other UK remote-workers • East: India, Malaysia • Also been a remote worker occasionally myself • Recurring, non-company-specific issues in these situations
  3. 3. What goes wrong? • Misunderstood messages • Loss of meaning (“crossed wires”) • Ambiguity of language (reduced nuance) • Uncertainty of whether anyone’s there • Unpredictability of response time • Generally taking longer to achieve the same thing • For me, a worse communication experience than face-to-face
  4. 4. Why might remote communication be harder? • Removing the visual, and often also the audio • Higher interaction cost for beginning a new conversation • Face-to-face = you just start talking • Telephone = initiating a request to talk • Video conference = finding a time when suitable, presentability concerns • Non-native speakers: less time to react in real-time conversation • Some people like the boundary walls which are created by distance • So when you’re just left with words, how much meaning is left
  5. 5. Albert Mehrabian: “7% - 38% - 55% rule” • Silent Messages (1971) • Face-to-face, one-to-one exchanges conveying a feeling/attitude • How we weigh our liking of a person • 7% words • 38% tone of voice • 55% facial expression • To maximise “liking”, all 3 parts must be congruent (no mixed messages)
  6. 6. Mehrabian’s research: Often overgeneralised • “55% of messages received and processed by your brain are based on your body language…” • “38% of messages are processed based on your tone of voice…” • “Only 7% of your received meaning will be based off the words you are saying…”
  7. 7. Albert Mehrabian: Implications of generalising • Do you understand 93% of a foreign speaker’s message, just by looking at them? • Do you understand 55% of a speech when it’s on mute? • Is IM only 7% as effective as face-to-face communication?
  8. 8. You can overcome the lack of visibility… • Words matter, more than many would have you believe! • But there’s more to communication than just interpreting words. • Looking more closely at email & instant messaging
  9. 9. My gripes with email and IM communication • Uncertainty about when message is received • Overcompensating for the above: read receipts! • Getting stuck in large distribution lists/chains • Difficult for people to track several distinct points in one discussion • Emoticons/smilies are poor substitute for visual cues :/ • Nuances, turn-of-phrase, sarcasm: all evaporate (Poe’s Law) • If there are language barriers: reduced opportunity for clarification/correction
  10. 10. How I handle email and IM communication • Avoid them; favour real-time method • When I have to use them: • IM for a quick response to a simple question • Email if I want to summarise more complex information • Email: “Inbox Zero” • Filters and Rules • Try to communicate urgency (or non-urgency)
  11. 11. Email/IM tips from Karen Johnson at TestBash • Use same language/style as your speech • Open with a personal anecdote • Help understand the pressures/events in your office (the “why”) • In other words, give context which the medium otherwise omits • Give examples of helpful answers • Share profile pages
  12. 12. Communicating across timezones • Delay in message delivery/receipt • Can take days to exchange basic information; more with each additional back-and-forth • Each additional bit of information adds complexity and reduces chance of getting all points addressed
  13. 13. Communicating locally… • “Has build 52 been deployed to the test environment?” • “Which test environment do you mean?” • “Sorry, I didn’t realise there were several. I’m using UAT-3.” • “OK – yes, I deployed there this morning.” Time to communicate: 10s (spoken) to 30s (typed in IM)
  14. 14. Communicating to Malaysia… • THU: 10am BST / 5pm MYT “Has build 52 been deployed to the test environment?” • FRI: 1am BST / 8am MYT “Which test environment do you mean?” • FRI: 8.30am BST / 3.30pm MYT “Sorry, I didn’t realise there were several. I’m using UAT-3.” • FRI: 9.30am BST / 4.30pm MYT “Actually we’ve done build 53 today. I can revert to build 52 on Monday if you need?” Time to communicate: 24 hours, potentially more
  15. 15. Improving cross-timezone communication • Focus on eliminating the lag in communication: • Know when your working hours overlap (World Chat Clock) • Keep these times free for cross-site discussions/standups • Information radiators (no need to ask “is build 52 ready for testing?”) • Dashboards (but watch out for “data puke”!) • Kanban board: Trello • Collaboration tools: Hackpad, Evernote, OneNote
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  17. 17. Conference calls: Meeting without seeing • Technology ramp-up: The start time is never the start • Disconnections/connection issues which disrupt the call • Lag producing the overlapping communication spiral • Balancing background noise vs muted participants • Mixed degrees of attention (or, in my experience, ridicule) Isn't there a better way?
  18. 18. Meeting costs increase with # of attendees Conference, 90 people, guessing £100ph rate for each. After 45 mins:
  19. 19. How I handle… Conference calls • Er, don’t do them? • Videoconferencing can help (if latency/quality is good) • Or 1-2-1 video chat (Skype etc) • There are better ways to have productive group discussions
  20. 20. One productivity tool to rule them all? Sqwiggle • Tap thumbnail(s) for video chat • Visual presence, not just “Busy/Away” • Intrusive/weird at first • “Now I can’t code in my pyjamas?!” • You get used to it • Requires team buy-in (Plus everything else you’d expect: text chat, file sharing, tool integration)
  21. 21. One productivity tool to rule them all? Slack • Meaty chat app • Quick, deep searching • Potential email replacement • Tool integration • Range of platforms/apps • Don’t mention the hack (It does this better than Sqwiggle, but lacks equivalent webcam integration) Honourable mention: HipChat, mature but not quite as dynamic as Slack
  22. 22. Thanks for your time! Any questions?