Free Testing Lessons Over Skype

One of the things I like to do is give testing lessons over Skype. I never charge for them, but there are conditions:

  • I don’t schedule them in advance. I do it as time is available.
  • I coach normally in text form, not by Skype voice, although I sometimes make exceptions.
  • You agree that I may publish all or part of the coaching transcript in an book, article, or blog post, as long as I remove personally identifying details (unless you want to be identified).

Here’s how it works:

1. You contact me over Skype. (ID: SATISFICE)

Contact me and say “I would like to have a coaching session. I have 90 minutes free right now. I have read your coaching policy and it’s okay with me.” Then, if I have time, I do a coaching session with you, right then and there.

2. My Motivation: I am motivated by people who entertain me with their passion for learning. Besides that, I want learn how to coach better. Finally, I’m developing material for another book.

3. The process is Socratic dialog: That means I ask you questions and pose problems, then you develop your answers. I also instruct directly as needed. My goal is to help you develop into a tester worthy of respect according to the standards of the Context-Driven School of Testing.

4. We work on things that matter to you: If you have a goal to learn a specific kind of thing, we work on that. Otherwise, I’m happy to walk you through my own syllabus of testing.

5. I may require you to do homework as a condition of further coaching. I may ask for permission to publish your homework as a training example.

6. I may want to watch you test over Skype screen sharing.

7. You are free to tell others that you are working with me.

8. If you ask me a specific question, I will probably ask you to tell me your answer, first. I will expect you to have googled around and thought about it some before we talk.

You should bear in mind that I’m a demanding tutor. I want to spread clarity and excellence in software testing. Don’t approach me unless you have an ambition to be excellent in your craft.

My offer is open to anyone in the world, as long as I believe I can help you.

(Thank you to Adrian Dinca for informing me how confusing my earlier version of this post was!)

20 thoughts on “Free Testing Lessons Over Skype

  1. This is a very interesting concept and I do not know of anybody doing this type of teaching. I sincerely hope that you will be blogging about it. I am interested in knowing more about this approach.

  2. It would be great if you recorded audio conversations of testing lessons (I assume you talk with people from time to time, but I could be wrong) and published them as audio podcasts (with or without any editing). 15 minutes would be a good start, not a lot of work to publish. I would be more than happy to let you know everything I know about podcasting, if you decide that is a good idea. I would even set up the site, edit the first few shows and stuff like that if you do not have the time.

    [James’ Reply: There are already a few of those floating around. I think Mike Kelly posted a couple.]

  3. James,
    On #4 – ‘according to the standards of the Context-Driven School of Testing’
    Did you mean principles? Or are standards and principles the same thing?
    Standards are mentioned a bit on , especially the closing note.

    I may be totally wrong, but I would prefer you used the word principles 🙂



    [James’ Reply: You are quite right. I should have said principles or perhaps values. I meant “standard” in the generic sense of the informal norms of my community.]

  4. James,

    Thanks for doing this for our current BBST Foundations class. As an instructor, I was surprised (and impressed) to see one of the Mission Assignment groups had contacted you independently and posted their Skype transcript for the rest class to see. I know I learned a lot about your teaching method just from reading it! 🙂

    [James’ Reply: Yes, Jassi charmed me into doing that. Actually it was that interaction which convinced me I want to dive into IM coaching in a big way. I enjoy it very much. I want to charge for it, but to do that I need to demonstrate to potential clients that they will get lots of return on their investment.]

  5. Sorry James,
    What I meant to say in my previous comment was can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘standards’ in #4 – ‘according to the standards of the Context-Driven School of Testing’?

    You never know I might be interested…

    It sounds like a great concept, oh and free sessions do sound rather cool.


    [James’ Reply: I meant to say “thank you” for you earlier comment, but I forgot.

    I’m talking not just about the documented principles, but some of the other formulations, such as our take on what exploratory testing is and is not. These tilt toward what I also call “rapid software testing methodology” which is my particular approach to context-driven testing.]

  6. @John Thank you for appreciating us.

    @James. First I would say thanks from the bottom of my heart not just for asisting us in BBST assignment but also for helping and guiding me.

    and regarding publishing the edited Transcripts with name attached, I have no issues, in fact I would be glad if it would help our fellow testers.



  7. Re: Željko Filipin’s comments: If you plan to publish the audio, you’d probably better prepare some sort of release for your participants to agree to. Creative Commons, maybe?

  8. Hi James,

    Thanks for you time and effort to coach me how to do ET over Skype.

    It’s a wonderful experience here to do ET and focus on ET.

    I summarized some wonderful words here to share all guys:

    don’t assume it, just try it.
    if you don’t know it, just ask it.
    try some useful tool to crash the AUT.
    maliciously or accidentally make the product die might be happen, not must be happen.
    do quick testing to get myself warmed up or do slow, meticulous testing later.
    alternate back and forth much better.
    notetaking and explaining your work and prioritizing your work and systematically generating ideas

    ET is a flowing process,that is controllable and manageable and learnable

    Thanks a lot !!

    waiting for another session for ET.


  9. I’m feeling better and ready for more homework. I also replied to reading you slides about model based testing to “I’d really like to argue with James about this!” I realized I’ve never had the desire to argue with you before, so maybe it’s a sign that I need more homework.

    [James’ Reply: You replied? Where? On this blog?]

    I don’t so much want to argue with you as tell you why I think you are missing some potential with models for testing. I agree with the limitations you point out, but did you try to use them for test planning? I have, and they can be really useful for collaboration too. You can split up the model and have each person go make charters, come back and pick the most important ones as a group and go to it! Models are a good exploratory exercise in some cases. I mean in practice! You might be shocked at how useful they can be with people who don’t speak English as a first language too because they are visual. Too many test artifacts are all wordy. Less wordy is good for maintaining. Harry may not know how useful these things are outside of automation, but I think they are less limited than your slides indicate if we don’t limit them to only what you code around. Ok, I’ll get on skype for real when I have time and stop my monologue here.

    [James’ Reply: I’m confused. Where and when did I ever suggest not to use models in testing? In fact, nearly ALL testing is based on models (whether or not formally specified). It’s hard to find an exception. What I’m warning about is the reliance on formal models, I’m suggesting that whatever model you are working with, you ought to keep firmly in mind its limitations. A model is a STORY, not reality.]

  10. Hi James

    I strongly believe that this is required. The complete mindset for folks who are either aspiring testers or testers as professional has to be given food for thought. They need to realize and understand what is meant by –
    -joy of finding fatal bugs

    As you rightly put it sometime back ……do not start testing as soon as you get some testing work, first step – ask questions- understand- explore as you test.

    I always try to suggest new testers -Just following a process or a procedure may not always take you there. It could be scripted. As a tester it is essential that you break a few rules. Where you reach will be realistic face of that application. Be innovative as you think towards testing.


  11. I’d like to edit my last comment. I’m talking about where you are pointing out the limitations of models because of the complexity of most software under test in practice. I want to ask you about these slides because they seem to be against the idea of a visual model as a tool, yep other times I have seen in writing you advocate modeling for testing.

    [James’ Reply: The key slide is #9. Look at the text on that slide. Is there anything telling you not to use models? I think if you listen to the live presentation (I sent you the link on Twitter) you’ll get a better idea of what I was trying to say.]

    I think that models are very useful for testing.

    [James’ Reply: I think mental models are essential. Formal models can be useful, too, if you’re careful. My presentation is about understanding the limitations of formal models.]

    Like anything else they aren’t a magic bullet nor are they appropriate for every situation, but I’ve seen them clearly communicate functionality when words fail to get consensus. I’ve also seen them clear up invalid assumptions and teach testers about an area they have forgotten to write tests for. Even the practice of making a model is very educational sometimes. I really like models and believe that there is something special about visual representation of data that speaks to the brain in ways that words can’t. I haven’t read enough research on that, but I’ve seen it work wonders for understanding a system when words can’t make it through.

    [James’ Reply: I agree with you, but I think you may be using a narrow definition of model, and I urge you to consider a more inclusive one. I have a particular definition I find expansive and useful that I teach in my class: a model is any idea, activity, or object that represents another idea, activity, or object, such that working with the model helps you work with the thing it represents. A model might be in your head or it might be a picture on a wall. A model might be a prototype. One product might serve as a model for another product.]

    Anyhow, the last homework you gave me was to think about what a test is. It was a very useful brain exercise. It seems simple on the surface but it isn’t. I think models are the opposite in some ways. They seem complex on the surface, but can communicate the big picture in a simple way. Why would a person consider them all inclusive? Do they need to be all inclusive to be useful? I say no. They are a useful summary of functional interaction, and that is enough in some cases. They allow a tester to organize more detailed functionality at a lower level and even make it easy to show real test coverage by circling an area of the model.

    [James’ Reply: In other words, you are saying models are heuristics. You’re right about that, but of course there are bad models that don’t help, and there are useful models that are abused. The purpose of my talk was to help people stop abusing models.]

    The collaborative potential of models has yet to be explored! Imagine a group splitting up the model, making charters, agreeing on charter priority, and all starting at different areas to get major test coverage right where intended? There is great potential to organize testing with the models and yet we are still using all of these words and missing interactions because we fail to even model out the big picture in some cases. I don’t mean to make this a rant, just after reading these slides I was wondering why you were arguing against the use of models. Was there a specific use that was the issue? Is there an abuse of models happening? I just expected more consideration in these slides of the usefulness of models and I didn’t see it.

    [James’ Reply: I do a lot in my class on the subject of modeling. You’d appreciate it. Also, I have a talk on visual test strategy, which is all about using diagrams to help test better.]

  12. James,

    I have passed this to my colleagues at my company and have recommeded them to have conversations with you. As an IT Services Testing managers – their questions might be on “running software testing business” as opposed to being excellent testers themselves.

    [James’ reply: I know something about that.]

    You might want to add that dimension (that is different type of “Testing (people) problem”, I believe) of dealing with managers and consultants who “do” the business of selling testing services.

    [James’ Reply: It’s not really an interest of mine.]

    Few of the questions that might come from them are of the type:
    “how to setup a test factory”

    [James’ Reply: My answer will be that a sharp blow to the head often cures one of the desire to set up a test factory. While in recovery, you can re-evaluate your priorities.]

    or “What role a tester can play in reducing COQ (cost of quality)” or
    “how to estimate testing effort”

    [James’ Reply: A psychiatrist can help you stop worrying about COQ. I find I can go for years and not even think about it.]

    That is only me talking …I hope that few will approach you. That reminds me #8. They have a local student of yours (that is me) with them already.


  13. Interesting approach to teaching. With the tools and technologies we have available to us today, it opens up creative ways to work, learn, teach, communicate, socialize, with people from around the world.

    I was just blogging about the exchange we had regarding Exploratory Testing on the LinkedIn thread, and I think I’ll add a note of this creative approach you are offering to help others learn.

  14. I am just practicing my proof reading skills 🙂

    written: If I’m not charging you than it’s on an “as available” basis.
    expected: If I’m not charging you then it’s on an “as available” basis.

    * ‘than’ to ‘then’

    [James’ Reply: Thanks! Fixed!]

  15. Hi James,

    I want to be your student, but before being U as a my Test Guru.

    Choose option: 8. Do suggest me.

    Thanks and Regards

    [James’ Reply: Contact me on Skype.]

  16. Hi James,

    I am new to the testing field .Came to know about you from one of my friend.Read your blog
    (a few posts though).i want to be coached.Can you guide me?

    kanchan Agarwal

    [James’ Reply: Okay, catch me on Skype.]

  17. Hello Sir,
    I am very fascinated by your lecture on software testing and feeling very proud to talk to you with this post. I want to ask you that what kind of prerequisites are there to learn software testing like programming knowledge as well as framework, etc. I want to build my career as software tester. Please help me out. awaiting for your reply…


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