250 hours of practice – January

As said in my post a couple of weeks ago, this year I would try to spend 250 hours on practicing and enhancing my testing skills. This post is a report on how I fared in January 2012. (Leaving my personal favourite untill the end…)

I started enthusiastically on January 2nd by following up on a post about the “Follow the link exercise” by Jeff Lucas. In short the exercise is to choose a blog post of your liking. You start reading it critically and then follow every link mentioned in the post. You then pursue this with every post that you read in a one hour session.

In my session, that actually lasted two hours, among others I followed up on a link to Alan Page’s blog “Tooth of the Weasel”. This post contained an overview of posts Alan wrote in 2011 so there were enough links in there to follow-up:
My job as a Tester
What is Testing?
Test Design for Automation
Numberz Challenge
Beyond Regression Tests
Judgment in Testing
Lost in the weeds

Although I had heard about Alan Page I was not yet familiar with his work. It pleasantly surprised me with some useful ideas and even some advice for my personal goals for this year. Let me give you some quotes I found interesting:

“What you do or don’t define as testing may differ per context.”

Automated testing “starts the same as always. Design your test first then automate where eligible. Coded tests do not replace, but enhance human tests.”

“Do not only use automated testing for regression. Vary the data, the sequence, randomize, to find new information” data driven testing

“Are testers’ second class citizens? NO. Are they whiners? Yes; Figure out how to get and earn respect!”

My second (larger) series of practice session(s) started with watching the 2011 GTAC keynote by Alberto Savoia with the ominous title “Test is dead”. You can read more about this on the blog post I wrote “Is testing dead?”

My third endeavour entailed reading the hardcopy of the book “Essential Software Testdesign” by Torbjörn Ryber. The E-book is free to download, but I liked the content enough to want to own it. Some warning is in order however. Even the hardcopy has a somewhat annoying number of typos, illogical sentences and even faults. Nevertheless the concepts Ryber discusses are helpful for many a tester.

Early in January the DEWT’s met up again. This time to discuss and prepare the TestNet event about context-driven testing. On January 18, some 150 testers visited the event to watch James M. Bach and Michael Bolton do a one hour introduction on context-driven testing using Go to meet  (which btw. worked brilliantly). After the break the DEWT Zeger van Hese, Ruud Cox, Ray Oei and myself gave a number of lightning talks followed by Q&A. Themes of the talks were “On being context-driven”; “Spin-Off”; “Context-Driven expert”; “Test Plan”.

All in all these activities got me some 20 hours of practice bringing me well en route for the 250 hours of testing practice. But to be honest I am even more of a test nerd. I have spent another 10-15 hours on following Twitter feeds with a peak while participating in a #Testchat lead by Lisa Crispin asking the following questions:
Q1: Have you worked on a “test automation project” that succeeded? What helped it succeed
Q2: What do you think upper management should know about testing? (not limited to automation)
Q3: related some to Q2: How do you keep your testing transparent to others on your team and in the organization?
Q4: Are testers on your team treated with the same respect as programmers?
Q5: sometimes the tester is undone by the process. Documentation outdated leading to looking like lack of knowledge

The last practice activity however was, for me personally, the most engaging, emotional and gratifying one.

In December I contacted Markus Gärtner to ask him for a challenge to see if I was worthy enough to enter the realms of the Miago-Do software school of testing. This actually the first step of the challenge having found a member. Markus offered my “The light saber” challenge. Several times during the challenge I would sent Markus my test investigation results and as many times Markus answered. I used several heuristic approaches, tried to inform the customer based on his needs and eventually offered a solution using personas. Somewhat to my despair Markus’s answers were getting shorter and repetitive and I asked Markus to debrief me.

We organized a one hour Skype session and went on with the challenge discussing results, progress en feelings during the challenge. Eventually we came to the point where Markus would reveal if I was allowed to enter Miagi-Do. The result got me stunned, silent and humbled for a moment… Not only was I a new member I was one of the members to, fully endorsed by other instructors, become a Black-belt.

I can only say again. Thanks guys, I am honoured.