6. The Great Unknown – Part Four: Testing Software Testing

The next step on my task list was to find an environment (or environments) where I could get my hands dirty and try out some testing myself.

I was expecting to make a lot of mistakes, and learn from them. I needed to find a place where I could screw up and be advised where I went wrong, without putting my job in jeopardy.

For this, I looked into crowdsourced testing.


Most people have heard of organisations like Kickstarter or Givealittle where a person or business has a goal that they need funding for, and ask for a small contribution from a lot of people to reach their target.

The idea with crowdsourced testing is pretty similar except rather than asking for funding, a company will ask people to try and find issues in the web/mobile app and record them in a way that the company software developers can identify/fix easily.

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Testers are generally rewarded for their efforts by being paid for each bug they find, and the severity of the bug. Testers are asked to replicate the bugs and collect screenshots, video, and crash logs as evidence to support their bug. If testers can’t provide the evidence, they can’t get rewarded.

For the companies involved, it is a good way to get a lot of different people looking at issues rather than paying for a full-time in house tester.

I’m not convinced that crowdsourced testing is a perfect replacement for a dedicated tester (or a fulltime job), but I can see the benefits in using such a service.

Anyway, back to it.

I started by researching crowdsourced testing companies online and tried over 10 organisations, but for the sake of the blog I’ve narrowed my list to the following:

TestBirds

TesterWork

uTest

Of the three organisations I tried, I found that uTest was the best fit for me.

TestBirds had a good onboarding process with their bird school and practice test case, however I haven’t been able to get involved in another test since then and although they have a blog function it does feel very “top down”. By that I mean it looks and feels more that it is just TestBirds writing to their community, not their community interacting with each other.

Testerwork was fast and simple to get started, but for someone completely new I found that it was lacking in instructional videos/lessons to get started.

I have seen a lot of test invitations come through for testerwork, but they usually expire very quickly – and for someone with an NZ timezone, it can be hours before I wake up in time to see emails from the UK/Europe/USA.

I managed to get into a couple of tests and found they were quite strict on what they considered to be a bug and were quick to reject bugs without giving a tester opportunity to fix their submission.

uTest has quite an involved onboarding process made up of lessons, a user guide, and an invitation to a sandbox program before you can qualify for paid work (I had to wait about 2-3 week in my case, some people are faster or slower).

While you are waiting for a sandbox invitation, you can get involved in the uTest Academy test cycles. I really enjoyed this feature as you are involved in real tests and have support from Test Team Leaders and other testers on the test cycle through the chat service. There are lessons and examples on how to use specific tools, and the uTest Community has a real social network feel to it with members contributing content and connecting with each other.

Once you are qualified and invited to paid test cycles, you are ranked against other testers by merit of your experience (how many accepted bugs you find per test cycle, and of what severity), and your social contribution (badges for adding articles, number of followers etc).


091713_bloghackaservecom_BugBounty.large

Another option is to enroll in Bug Bounty programs, which are like crowdsourced testing, but directly from the interested company rather than going through an intermediary such as uTest.

These appear to be a much higher level of testing than the crowdsourced testing sites, and lean more towards white hat hacking.

I haven’t tried this out yet but might have a look later in the year.

I found a good list of Bug Bounty Programs for 2018 through Guru99.


To date I’ve completed 22 test cycles with uTest, all of which were in the Functional category (the other options are Security, Load, Localisation, and Usability but these cycles don’t come up often for beginners).

These tests gave me exposure to following test cases, and what to add when making a new test case.

I learned about various tools such as screencast-o-matic, Charles Proxy, and mobile video capture applications which have continued to be useful in my “real” job.

I found exactly what i was looking for in crowdsourced testing, an entree to the main course. Somewhere I could practice and learn before moving on to a fulltime role.

There are ways and means to use uTest as a full-time job, but to me it looks like a huge investment of time that could be better spent getting into a full-time testing role with regular and consistent pay.

I’ve given up on the other sites, and slowed down on uTest since starting my new job and the birth of our second daughter. But I still check in to uTest from time to time.

I found another great blog from Stephane Colson on his experiences in crowdsourced testing


This wraps up the “Great Unknown” section of my blog.

I was able to:

  • Learn about some of the fundamental theories in Software Testing, and get certified.
  • Learn who to follow and read about in the industry
  • Find a helpful and supportive community
  • Get some practical experience before starting my full-time role.

If you are starting out in testing, or looking to find a job in software testing I recommend taking a similar journey to my own – if nothing else you’ll have fun and learn along the way!

Thanks for reading.

Mike

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