Serious people doing silly things

Kevin Harris and I think we have an evening session – 5 testers do silly things (some pre-recorded), and are judged on their performance. Kevin and James would be “TaskMasters”, setting challenges and running the show on-stage. We hope that the tasks, the subversions, and the interactions between contestants would be amusing and revealing. We’ll work to make it (in a subtle way) relevant to work, testing and agility. The format is based on “TaskMaster”, a popular gameshow which uses comedians (rather than testers). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taskmaster_(TV_series) In the next month, we’d cast a five-person panel.

Over the following six months, we’ll contact these people several times with “tasks” to be done over videoconferencing, recording those calls. We’d probably set 5, and pick 4 to edit down.


  • Find the most interesting thing that you can put under a mug, then show us
  • Take three minutes to put on as many hats as you can, then come back
  • Unseal the box we sent you, and follow the instructions
  • Draw a picture of how testing works 

We’d do a couple of live tasks in the session, probably at the start and end. The body of the session, however, would involve comparing and judging edited highlights.

We’d encourage plenty of interaction between participants, comparisons would be for comic effect, and judgement would be swift and often based on arbitrary qualities. Kevin and James would run the panel as a double act (but perhaps without the status games that underly the relationship in the TaskMaster show). We’d find lessons where we could. We may pre-record one task at the conference, to heighten expectations and to allow a task where all contestants get the same environment. Live tasks may be slightly prepared (example: contestants are asked to bring the worst thing they packed, person with the most worst thing gets to keep everyone else’s) or surprise (examples: Empty a bucket of foam using only what you have in your handbag / make the highest tower of coins on the wobbliest thing you can find).

Silliness is important, not only for the delight of the audience, but because it makes it more reasonable to subvert the task (so enabling more interesting approaches), and less meaningful (so making it less painful too if it goes badly).

Pre-recording is important, because editing allows us to find a story. It also allows more energy for the conversations (as that energy won’t be invested in the tasks), and enables contestants to judge their own performance.

We expect the tasks to be kind (we don’t want to embarrass anyone) but still to have some emotional / empathetic content (to raise the stakes). We don’t expect serious competition between panelists (though we'll cope if / when it arrives!).

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