Using gamification to explain and model testing Martin Jansson

In early 2013 I held a 7 week course on setting up a testing organisation that works well in an agile context. My intent was to explain my own approach and model of how testing is conducted, I wanted the students to see that they needed to create their own. For each part of the course there were exercises for me to evaluate the students knowledge and skill, they also needed to explain testing to me, with their own words and therefore using their own models.

I had one exercise that I wanted the students to do, but in the end I did not let them which I regret. I wanted them to gamify [1] testing. My idea was that by gamifying it they needed to explain all the intricate details of testing. They needed to identify activities that was considered valuable and motivating while at the same time identify activities that would be wasteful or meaningless. The students would need to model what testing is for themselves and explain that using gamification.

Jonathan Kohl has written many great articles on the gamification of testing [2] and has in a specific piece elaborated around the concept that Software Testing is a Game [3]. He identifies several aspects that need to be considered when applying gamification to testing. Part of my reasoning is inspired by my brother Ola Janson, who has been in the gamification domain for a long time.

This is roughly how I would suggest to go forward with this as an exercise.

Initially, you would need to identify what tasks and activities that we do in the testing domain. This part is a great opportunity to visualize and clarify what you believe you do when testing, how its parts are connected and what you found valuable. You will or at least should identify things that you probably do not find meaningful to do. An important part is also to categorize and group the tasks and activities in order to enable interesting modelling. Examples of these models are the Heuristic Test Strategy model [4] and the one that Jonathan Kohl has in Demystifying Exploratory Testing [5].

Next step is to create a framework with basic rules, challenges and rewards that would lead to meaningful, motivating choices.

Finding challenges is easy, but finding resolutions for them is hard. It is difficult to look at the full scope of testing, instead it might be better to start with one part. In a recent meetup focused on gamification in testing, we discussed what part to select and agreed that regression testing could be a valid part to start at. Everyone had ideas on how to make it more motivating. In many cases the discussion was about that the participants did not want to do regression testing in a way that was meaningless. The group identified several things that could be done to avoid doing tasks in a meaningless way. We considered how to add gamification mechanics to make it more motivating. One reflection that we had was that a lot of what we thought we could gamify had to do with feedback to others or from others, information sharing and basically about improving communication. My own reflection from the meetup was that it was possible to use gamification to communicate value in testing with people that might have different ideas on what testing was.

When working on rewards they would need to consider dangers of metrics [6], automation snake oil [7], automation politics [8], biases and fallacies [9] among many things. By taking all these traps into consideration when applying gamification, I believe they would better explain their own model of testing. Things such as bug top lists (ladders), counting tests or something similar would for instance be a demotivator instead.

My thesis is therefore that by letting someone gamify testing, they need to have great knowledge and skill in order to create a plausible model of testing. I have my own approach and model of testing that I am now gamifying in order to hone and sharpen my ideas even further.

How would you gamify testing?

Are you able to visualize your own model of testing?











Oscar Cosmo November 8th, 2013

Haven’t even read the entire but already I feel intrigued! I think I will let the rest of the article be until I’ve came up with a testing game of my own.

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