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Impressions from CukeUP! 2016 London - Day Two

Last month, I attended CukeUP! 2016 London, the definitive BDD conference in Europe. It was a fantastic experience: I got to meet many interesting people, to learn (and try out) new insights and techniques. Here are my thoughts from day two!

Keynote: A BDD Manifesto

The keynote of day two was delivered by Jenny Martin. She invited us to think beyond the techniques of agile and BDD, and to think about why we are doing all this: to discover the business goals, and deliver value early. She discussed an outside-in model for doing this, called OOPSI for Outcomes Outputs Process Scenarios Inputs. You need to begin with the end in mind, because if you do it the other way around it ISPOO. As we explore the examples, we need to looking for dragons, otherwise we will get burnt (again).

CHEESECAKE – The story of Typeform’s automatic test suite

By Aida Manna and Gloria Hornero of TypeForm. They described their road of discovery of using test automation effectively. Not much new information for me but it did confirm that I am not alone in facing the problems I had with test automation in the past.

Workshop: Workshop: Modelling by Example

Moderated by Konstantin Kudryashov and Ciaran McNulty. We used scenarios about an airline offering a “miles programme” to design a domain model. We went through a couple of iterations of talking to a business representative, writing down our insights in the form of examples, and using those examples to drive the design of the classes in our domain model. Konstantin and Ciaran repeatedly stressed the importance of using the scenarios as a help to understand the workings of a system, and not as test cases.

Update 5 May 2016: My main takeaways:

  1. By keeping the language and the wording of the examples clear, you can use the examples to define the entities and actions of your domain model (this in addition to using the automation layer to define the methods of the domain model as per Outside-In Development).
  2. When you align the domain model closely to the business language, then problems that are difficult to express in business language tend to be difficult to implement and problems that are easy to express in business language tend to be easy to implement. That makes it easier for business people to get a feeling for the implementation difficulty.
  3. It’s really important to use the terms the business people use. Try to watch for clues in the communication that indicate you are using the wrong words. For example, in the context of a frequent flyer programme: the IT person talks about “points” and the business person says “what? Oh, yes, points” while thinking “we call them ‘miles’”.

Workshop: Bringing User Stories to Life

This workshop was my highlight of the second day of the conference. Led by Gemma Cameron, this workshop was all about transforming boring (and often meaningless) user stories into something you can identify with. User stories are called stories for a reason: there is a story behind a feature request, a story that explains how people who use the software will benefit from it.

Gemma asked us to write a user story in the classic “as a … I want to … so that …” format. For one story per 4-person table we elaborated on the story behind it, and finally we made the story come to life by drawing a little comic that tells the story. Going through this process builds empathy with the people in the story, and motivates you to actively want to build this software and to do a stellar job of it.

BDD in Moderation - A talk from the Trenches

By Keith Salisbury and Joe James.

Keith and Joe talked about their journey toward effective use of BDD. They evolved from having many small scenarios that each tested a small aspect of the system to having a few large scenarios that showed a journey through the system to having a few small and concise scenarios that explained the behaviour of the system.

Some of the techniques they used to achieve this was having a few sets of well-known data for the scenarios that were set up in the background.

Behaviour-Driven Development: The Bigger Picture

By Paul Rayner. He answers some common questions like “If [BDD] is a collaboration tool, [then] why is it used to automate tests?” and “who writes the gherkin files?” by giving a big picture overview of the different stages in the flow of using BDD in a team. I recommend people who are new to BDD to watch the recording of his presentation.

Lightning talks

BDD for 8 year olds B-D robotics

By Colin Deady where he talks about using BDD to control robots (Behaviour Driven Robotics). He uses those to introduce 8 year old kids to BDD.

Fixed mindset is sabotaging for you and your team

Another talk by Ulrika Malmgren. A very personal introspection about how having a fixed mindset - a mindset where everything is set in stone, where you are either perfect at something or no good at all - will hinder or even prevent you from accomplishing anything significant. It is only when letting go of that, when allowing yourself to go through the intermediate stages of learning, that you can grow and evolve beyond your current state.

As someone who suffered from a fixed mindset myself, I can very much relate to Ulrika’s tale, and I admire her courage in getting up in front of 150+ people and talk about this very personal topic.

Thank you, Ulrika!

Simple expressions in steps instead of regular expressions

By Jens Engels, the maintainer of Behave, the python implementation of Cucumber. He talks about his efforts to reduce the usage of regular expressions in step definitions, and to replace them with placeholder names and types. It does make step definitions much more readable!

The Delayed Gratification Principle

By Stephen Anderson. The Delayed Gratification Principle means you code the bits that you don’t like first. First you code the unhappy path, and only then the happy path. This will help preserve your enthusiasm over the course of a project: initially you have a lot of enthusiasm, and when the enthusiasm diminishes, you will be in the happy path phase and derive enthusiasm from that.

How can a living documentation help me and where do I get one

By yours truly. Of the three goals of BDD (Common Understanding, Living Documentation and Outside-In Development), the first and the third receive a lot of press. The Living Documentation is sometimes mentioned in passing but there’s not a lot of in-depth info. In my talk I briefly explain what makes a documentation living, how you can use Pickles to create one, and why it is important to have one.

Property based testing

By Mathias Verreas. An excursion into functional programming, this talk describes how to use properties of a function to randomly generate some interestingly permutated test data that verifies the implementation of the function. For example, a function that doubles its input will always produce a positive output, so you might feed it some negative inputs to verify this.


In summary, I can honestly say that CukeUP! London 2016 has been a fantastic and uplifting experience. I had many interesting conversations with many different people, and listened to some pretty interesting presentations. I learned a lot, and feel highly motivated to continue on this new path of being a BDD Coach. I hope I will be able to return to next year’s conference!

Dirk Rombauts

Dirk Rombauts is a Software Developer with more than 10 years of experience working in .NET. He has been working with Behaviour Driven Development for several years now and thinks it is the best thing to happen to software development since the invention of coffee.

He is the maintainer of Pickles, the open source Living Documentation generator and is in the process of setting up Pickles Pro, a company that aims to make you self-sufficient in all matters BDD.