Tuesday, 30 June 2015

ASOS Testing Community - Coding Challenges #1

Here @ASOS we're trying to build a community for testing, and dare I say it, but it is slowly happening, over the past couple of months we've been getting real traction with regards to a community feel, attendance at our meetups but not just attendance but people voicing opinions and being passionate and wanting to improve themselves. 

Anyway, at the last meeting it was suggested that we do some coding challenges, some quick challenges that anyone can pick up and do, I understand that not everyone understands or knows how to write code, but by adopting a pairing approach it was hoped that everyone would get something from it.

Anyway, a colleague sent me this website: https://projecteuler.net/archives it has a long list of coding challenges that people have completed and whatnot, so I took about the task of finding a suitable coding challenge for the meeting. It was important to choose something that wasn't going to:

a) take too long to complete
b) be too hard to complete

Luckily, this didn't take too long and I found a suitable problem:
Each new term in the Fibonacci sequence is generated by adding the previous two terms. By starting with 1 and 2, the first 10 terms will be:
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, ...
By considering the terms in the Fibonacci sequence whose values do not exceed four million, find the sum of the even-valued terms.
I thought this was challenging enough, but wouldn't take too long to complete, and if people finished it early, then it would be good/useful to write some unit tests for it...

I sent an email round before the meeting so that people could read up about it and have a think about a solution beforehand, and then hopefully come the meeting there'd be lots of discussions in the pair about how to approach the solution.

We had 4 groups of 2 turn up, and as luck would have it, the pairings worked our reasonably well with stronger coders in each of the groups. We'd even had people who had worked on the solution itself before the meeting, and whilst that wasn't really the point of the meeting, it showed 2 things:

  1. They were eager and willing to learn
  2. They came prepared and with ideas to share with their partner
So it's really difficult to complain about something like that! 

We had varying levels of success, although all but one completed the task at hand (and even they finished it after the meeting), we had many different approaches tried by the pairs, some of them used a list and then used LINQ to extract what was needed, some people just wrote one method that would do what was needed and some people even adopted a TDD approach and went about writing tests first that would then fail.

It also ties in with some other things I want to try and implement, and they're inspired from a recent conference I attended (Unicom - Next Generation Testing Conference) and a talk by Raji Bhamidipati where she discussed the benefits of Paired Testing, we've done things around Pairing before, and how it's not just for developers, so I'll definitely be trialing this out in future as well.

It's definitely something we will do again, perhaps even create a seperate session for completing coding challenges I guess it's about finding the right mix of technical challenges and discussions etc. It's definitely going to be an exciting few months in the Testing Community here! :)

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