Live Blog: The Bounty Conundrum: Incentives for Testing, Shaun Bradshaw, STARWEST 2013

Noel Wurst's picture

I’d been waiting for Shaun Bradshaw’s conference-closing keynote all week long. Shaun and I did an interview a few weeks ahead of STARWEST where I’d gotten the opportunity to get a sneak peak of what he would be discussing—and he did not disappoint come conference time.

The final keynote of an intensive, weeklong conference, especially with the magic of Disneyland just blocks away, has got to be a tough sell for attendees, but the attendance at Shaun’s speech would prove otherwise. I was thrilled with the number of people in the crowd, and I was even more excited to see the number who stuck around to speak with Shaun personally, long after the keynote was over.

I can’t say I was that surprised at the size of the audience; when the topic revolves around how best to pay testers for their work—interests are piqued.

The keynote began with a really intriguing comparison between the flawed concept of paying testers for the number of bugs they find (something many in the crowd had experienced before) and rewards given to those in the past who captured cobras and rats. Shaun pointed out that even though he himself loves to find bugs, there is a better way of rewarding his, and other testers’ work.

Though the keynote revolved around really well crafted stories (a gift I feel that many of us from “down south” possess,) Shaun closed with six “rules for rewards” that really hammered home the overall message he was trying to get across.

  • Don’t promise rewards in advance
  • Keep rewards small
  • Reward continuously, not just once
  • Reward publicly
  • Reward behaviors, not outcomes
  • Reward peers, not subordinates

In true agile fashion, the methods for dishing out rewards at Shaun’s own company came with not so much trial and error, but more so in a continuous improvement fashion. While he suggested following the six rules mentioned above, it was the story of success through experimentation that made the concept less controversial and shocking to the audience than it certainly could’ve been—especially to those in the crowd who’d never been rewarded by anything other than the bug bounties that were being proven detrimental by Shaun with relative ease.

I can’t say enough how happy it made me to be a part of the large audience, even though I knew what was coming up next throughout most of the speech. Like reading a book first, and then being excited to see the movie, this was once instance where it played out beautifully in front of the crowd. I hope that everyone who attended found some new ways to be paid for their work—especially after giving Mickey and his pals so much of their hard earned paychecks throughout the week like I did.