In part II of our Testing the Limits interview with Jon Bach, we get his thoughts on responding to change in the testing world; what his brother James Bach has been up to; his criteria for hiring testers at eBay; mobile challenges; searching for defective pocket change and more. If you missed the first session, you can read it here.
uTest: It looks like eBay wasn’t able to keep you off the testing speaker circuit (woohoo!). In fact, you were at STPcon earlier this month – care to give our readers who couldn’t make it a summary of what you covered?
JB: Two things: A workshop with Dan Downing of Mentora, who approached me at the last WOPR (held at eBay in November) and had a cool idea to bring a little slice of WOPR to STP. It’s for anyone who needs to build a game plan for performance testing. He called it “Arming Yourself for Performance Testing: War Stories from the Trenches” — http://www.stpcon.com/Item/1032/.
I also spoke about an idea that I’ve been experimenting with after James came back from a business trip and talked about how to respond to project change and chaos: http://www.stpcon.com/Session/13/My-Crazy-Plan-for-Responding-to-Change
uTest: Speaking of James, he has been doing some interesting things the past year as well. What’s the latest testing topic of conversation among the Bach brothers? And did he have any words of advice for you in starting your new job?
JB: He came to eBay and spent a week with me. I sat him in the cube next to mine and he did some testing from outside the firewall on the guest wireless. I gave him a charter and he executed it beautifully. The secret about James is, he’s really friendly and service-minded if you’ve managed to win his respect.
We talked CAST 2011 (I’m conference president, he’s my program chair); we talked about new tester games; we shot a new CAST promo video; we talked about Egyptian democracy and systems thinking (how it affects the price of gas). But just when we were in the thick of testing eBay site page compatibility with IE 9.0, the Japan quake hit and we took time to watch the footage with the rest of the world. Then we did impromptu research and found out more on nuclear plant meltdowns, which led to being curious about microseiverts, which led to an article about Byzantine failures.
About eBay, he gave me no advice per se, just ideas for tactics. He offered some free consulting, which he gave, then said, “I’m proud of you, man. Kick ass.”
uTest: Part of your new role at eBay will be to hire and recruit a top-flight team of testers (in addition to the ones already there). What sort of traits/skills/attributes will you be looking for in particular?
JB: The ability to come up with ideas – either old or new – and execute them in a way that helps us improve notions of Search. For years, I used the triangle program in test auditions. Now I use something more simple. I draw a long horizontal rectangle on the whiteboard with a little “Submit” button below that. I say “this is a text input field for Search, just like the one you see on the eBay site. Help me create a test plan for it.” I’m hoping that instead of an interview, it comes across more like an invitation to a real collaboration.