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Online lean coffee (אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד Happy is the man who always fears)

On September 2, 2016, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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(An event report, so no Hebrew)

During CAST last lean coffee (or shortly after), Alex raised the idea of an online lean-coffee, and my initial, and fairly vocal, response was “I can’t imagine this would ever work”.
Well, I’m happy to say I was wrong.
I joined a session of Tuesday Night Testing that I found by sheer luck. I registered, and shortly after I got instructions by mail on how to join. Now all I had to do is wait.

On the technical side, we used appear.in to chat, and a google-doc was used as a table to put talk ideas on (or “in”, since it’s a document? not sure…). The video chat was quite nice, and despite missing most of the non-verbal cues of “I want to speak” (it’s quite difficult to use body language when people only see your head, and when there isn’t any peripheral vision in which those cues can be received) – we managed pretty well. It might do with the fact that we had a small group of 4 (Simon, the organiser, Mark , Nataliia and myself) or it might be the slower pace we took (up until now I participated in sessions where the timer would go off every 5 minutes, and here we had 8) but as the saying goes – if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

As things happen, we took a short while to write down some ideas, and after I spent the last week trying to find subjects I was interested in talking about (with very little success), once the session started, two more ideas came to my mind to join the three that already had, and the others had just as many ideas themselves and we found ourselves with the usual problem in lean coffee where there are more interesting subjects than there are points to distribute. The voting itself was a bit chaotic (which is fun) – where we got to see each other go from one subject to another and text was being added in multiple places in the document all at once. we got almost the same buzz like when meeting in person.  The discussion itself also went pretty well and was both engaging and interesting.

However, there were some differences between meeting in person and meeting online – The main difference, perhaps, is that once the event is done, it is really done. When meeting people in person, the event slowly scatters and people drift off together finishing some conversations. When it’s online – you disconnect at once. Also, it’s much harder to read people and see whether or not they are bored. With most of the non-verbal communication cut out, I was much more surprised with people voting about whether we should continue a subject. There are also a lot more distractions that were available to me – even switching between the video chat screen and the google doc took some of my attention away, and just browsing in another tab was just at the tip of my fingers (It would have scattered my focus completely, though, so I ruled this option fairly quickly).
Despite those differences, what I really took out from this event is that it’s all about the people meeting and changing ideas with each other. The rest is mainly flavour.

And, on a semi-related topic: One of the subjects that came up during the lean coffee was “what is missing in the testing community?”. At this point, I wondered to myself – which testing community? The others, who reside in the UK seemed to have it as a given that there is a testing community, and by listening to the discussion I think I got a glimpse on the feeling that I’m missing. In Israel, I can probably name five or six testers who are active, and count two community-focused events that are more-or-less recurring and relate to testing. In the UK there’s ton of stuff, or so it seems to me as an outsider.
I think it’s really cool to work in such an environment, where the question is “what is the community missing?”, instead of “how do we jumpstart a community?”

 

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