Testing The Time Machine – Lessons Learned / Retrospective

This post is about using the output from my Testing The Time Machine dojo to help me develop my exploratory testing, presentation & facilitating skills.

The previous post includes what I learnt from the session generally, in terms of organising a geek night & presenting. This post is about what I have learnt from the session output combined with the previous post in order to identify clear goals for my continued exploratory testing learning as well as improving the dojo.

I’ve been trying out different ways of displaying the post-its the group generated – I tried taking a picture, but the writing wasn’t that legible in the images.

Obviously, there’s the old faithful mindmap, but as I was thinking of adding the data into various formats, I thought I’d start with copying the info on the post-its into Notepad (interesting find – you can copy multiple rows from Notepad into an Xmind subtopic & it will add them as individual instances under that subtopic. Don’t know why this tickled me, but it certainly made my life easier!)

I then started a mindmap:

And I also stumbled upon Corkboard.me which closely resembles how I work on my current client’s site – post-its on a whiteboard. So I created my own Testing The Time Machine corkboard.

Anyone can update this corkboard, so go ahead & add any ideas you can think of (I’ve taken a screenshot so can get back to the original if anything goes array). You can left-click drag the board around to see all the post-its.

(As a side, I think it would be an interesting collaborative social project to see what this corkboard.me is capable of)

One thing I prefer about the mindmap is that you can identify relationships between different instances under the sub topics. I’ve partially tried to do this on the corkboard by putting them alongside each other.


Interesting patterns / concepts that came out of the session :

  • The groups suggestions tested the discrete parts of the time machine (system) – Delorean, driver & time travel components (a system in itself)
  • The groups suggestions also tested the time machine as a whole
  • No suggestions were made for discretely testing the time travel components
  • Not many suggestions for “Your Brain” – this could be due to several reasons I can think of:
  • Lack of Testers in the group
  • Lack of experience in verbalising how we ‘test’ products – we just do it, don’t know the label for it
  • Not enough guidance from me on what output I expected for “Your Brain” – I was envisaging the group would gather ideas from different heuristics they apply when ‘testing’ a product. As with previous feedback, this is an assumption which has failed me.
  • There was a reasonable amount of output for the given size of group, awareness of exploratory testing & heuristics and that this meetup was the first for most of the attendees.
  • My understanding of exploratory testing wasn’t challenged
  • It was great to see how users interact with a product :
  • how did the group tackle the dojo
  • how would the group tackle testing the time machine

So what goals can I take from this session to improve my exploratory testing & the dojo?

Exploratory Testing :

  1. Think about testing a product from different perspectives – help with creating personas & how they think in order to generate different test ideas
  2. Practice exploratory testing more pro-actively in order to understand the finer subtleties
  3. Making up your own heuristic is hard

Session :


  1. Learn what content I do have better – reduce nerves, increase confidence & hopefully audience interest
  2. Pay attention to the audience – see how they are reacting and adapt presentation accordingly
  3. Be prepared to take extra time explaining something more in depth & interacting with audience
  4. Try to use buzzwords & jargon as little as possible – make the content relevant to my audience
  5. Be clearer on what the expected goals of the session are prior to announcing the dojo


  1. Clearer definition of “Your Brain”
  2. Clarify what to do with a Sharpie & post-it
  3.  Try & challenge suggestions – why are they making that suggestion
  4. Structure the ideas according to the MARTY heuristic straight away on a big wall – initially I just randomly stuck the post-its to the whiteboard & quickly run out of room. I had to move them from the whiteboard to the wall & this interrupted the flow

Now to find another opportunity to peddle my wares on some unsuspecting victims! I’d really like to try it out on a bigger group so they can break into smaller groups & have greater discussion between themselves.
I’d also find it really handy to present to some exploratory testers for their feedback on the session & the output they could potentially generate.
I’m open to offers, you know where to find me!