250 hours of practice – February/March

It has been a while since my last post. It was not that I have been procrastinating. No I actually was too busy to write a post. There were many reasons for this and most of them are covered in this post. So lets start with the biggest time consumer.

BBST Foundation

For those who do not know what this is I can almost hear you thinking.

“A foundation course? Doesn’t this guy have enough experience already and now he does Black Box Software Testing Foundation course. ”

Well let me put it this way. There are foundation courses and foundation courses. The Black Box Software Testing (BBST) Foundation course is as it says a foundation for further education and it is a good place to start your testing career. It’s just that it has a distinctive approach to it. First of all it is a four-week online course. Which is longer then almost any other course on software testing. Second it focusses on getting the participants to become critical and thinking software testers. It does this not by handing you any predefined recipe. It gives you the ingredients and the possibility to work with them. Let me, as an example, give you a short overview of the content:

Basic definitions                                              Programming fundamentals and Coverage
What is a computer program                               Numbering
Types of testing                                                   Storage
.                                                                           Representation
Strategy                                                               Data and Control structures
What is testing                                                     Coverage
Testing missions
Testing strategy                                              The impossibility of complete testing
                                                                          The basic combination rule
Oracles                                                                Paths and sub paths
System under Test                                              Data flows
Heuristics                                                             Sequences
Consistency oracles
More types of oracles                                       Measurement

All captured in :

  • 20+ articles and several books to read
  • 306 slides
  • Over 3 hours of video lecture
  • 5 quizzes
  • multiple individual and group assignments
  • Exam and exam grading
  • Over 70 hours of thinking, preparing and answering either individually or with team members from multiple time zones

Given that I also have worked these four weeks and maintained a family life I have made long days in February. But it was all worth it. Even if you have, like me, some experience in software testing it is a splendid (re)sharpener of your critical thinking skills with regard to software testing. Not only with the content of the course itself, but also with the interaction you have with the twenty or so other participants. Especially the group assignments and the assignments that need reviewing each others work give you a good insight in cultural and thinking differences people have. And from this and from the comments you can get a lot of more wisdom.

So some seventy of so hours spent on BBST Foundation. Well on my way towards the end goal of two hundred and fifty. But you might have noticed that this covers only February and this post is written half way March. So what more have I done.

Proposals

The end of February and beginning of March was also the time in which several deadline for calls for papers came in to view. I do not know if this really is considered practice, but it gets you to think and write about software testing anyway. Within one week I entered five proposals for a track and one for a tutorial for EuroSTAR, TestNet spring and autumn event and the Agile Testing Days. And I already am more than happy to tell you that the tutorial on the use of mind maps in testing, that I thought of together with testing buddy Huib Schoots, already got accepted.

But not only did I spent time on my own proposals. Zeger van Hese, this years program chair, invited me to help review some of the many proposals that EuroSTAR has gotten this year. And even if the amount of, anonimized, text is not so much I did want to do a serious review and evaluation of the proposals. (Like I would like others do with mine.) Some of them were good, some were bad and for some I was indecisive.

TestNet book

And there was more time spent reviewing. A couple of months ago I had committed to reviewing the TestNet jubilee book on the future of software testing. Obviously at the time I had not imagined to be this busy. But at the cost of some sleep I managed to finish the review prior to my next challenge.

The book itself is a great reference to over think where testing is going to and what choices you as tester need to make to make yourself both comfortable and future proof the coming five years.

Conferences

Although I have given talks and workshops before I had never been a speaker at a major international test conference. March 14 I made my debut on the international stage at the Belgium Testing Days. As I will be spending a separate post on the content of my talk I will limit for now with the remark that it was great fun to do and that it was great to meet both familiar and new  faces.

Meanwhile during this period Markus Gärtner published an interview with me on his blog as prequel to Europe’s first context-driven testing conference “Let’s Test“. The only downside for me seems to be that I am actually not able to attend, due to a lack of funds.

To complete the conference experience for the coming period I am invited to be a test expert at the Dutch Testing Conference (agile, context-driven testing and exploratory testing) and I invite participants to ask me questions during the conference.

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A journey to #agiletd (1)

Agile Testing Days 2011 – Potsdam

In October I started a series of posts on agile. For me there were three reasons to start writing those posts. First, I worked in an agile environment, second, I felt there had to be more to agile than its most commonly mentioned method SCRUM and third it was a way of preparing myself to go to the Agile Testing Days. Now that I have returned from the conference I would like to share my experiences with you in several posts. I am going to use the discussion  with Huib Schoots about going to conferences as a starting point to describe the social aspect of going to a conference. Other posts will go deeper into the content when I have digested the information bombardment.

Why should testers attend conferences?
My argument at the time  was: “Conferences typically are the place where you can learn the latest developments and opinions, submerge yourself into the testing mindset, confer with your peers, refresh your ideas and expand your network”.

Well at the Agile Testing Days this was absolutely true. But, and this is something I will have to be adamant about, this does not happen automatically. There are a few conditions to consider. Preparation You need to prepare yourself; for instance by knowing who the speakers are and what their subjects are. And not only to determine to which talks you want to go but also to ask yourself if it would be interesting to talk and discuss with them about it. Being Approachable Most of the speakers and delegates, as I have experienced, are very approachable and like to talk to you about almost anything. A conference can be so much better if you are open to this yourself and are courageous enough to step up to others and start a conversation. Look beyond the program Conferences, typically those that host different nationalities of speakers and delegates, do not stop when the talks are finished. Get together with the people you meet. Go out and have dinner with them, or get a drink at the bar. Why would you lock yourself up in your hotel room. A conference is not like a class room where you enter at a scheduled time and leave once class is over. Enjoy Go and talk about what you have on your mind. It does not even have to be about anything from the conference or testing even. There is great stuff to learn, great people to meet and lots of fun to have. And even if you think you have nothing to talk about there is a lot to gain by listening and watching the interaction. But I am pretty sure once you are there conversations will happen.

So what did I do?

Having said all of the above you might question how I fared myself. Well I started with inquiring who else, other than my colleagues (Frank Pellens, Huib Schoots, George Stevens and Robert Copoolse), was going to go the Agile Testing Days by sending out a few tweets on this matter. As it turned out there was a division between either the Agile Testing Days and with EuroSTAR within my followers. After some conversation Lisa Crispin and I agreed to meet on the Sunday evening before the conference. Now having set a date others would be able to join in. We ended up having a very enjoyable and entertaining dinner at Petite Pauline with Tamara Taxis, Liz Keogh  (Picture: Liz folding origami animals from Euro bills), David Evans, Stephan Kämper, Huib Schoots, Bob and Lisa Crispin and myself. Back at the hotel we went for another drink at the bar and found that several people that we as a group knew, like Michael Bolton, were to be found there also. So even before the conference had started I was meeting new people, talking to them and started a rolling snowball that would keep on growing during the rest of the conference.

Now that I had made contact and kept an open spirit I found myself getting to know lots of new and interesting people during the conference. Additionally I reconnected with people who I had met before and all of them added to my story of these Agile Testing Days. A story that enriched me and let me have much more content, context, depth and interactivity during the conference than when I had only gone there to listen.

PaTS

One of the other highlights was something Huib Schoots and I organized. Having heard about lightning talks and rebel alliances at other conferences we kind of felt the Agile Testing Days should have something similar. And if it were to happen we wanted to be part of it. So what better way to ensure that than to organise one ourselves. We contacted the guys from Diaz-Hilterscheid and after some explanation we were allowed to rent a room at the venue. Shortly after we made an initial selection of people we would like to meet and that we knew were coming to the Agile Testing Days. In that mail we called our gathering the Potsdam agile Testers Session or PaTS. We planned to start with the people who reacted positively on our mail and would see who else would like to join us whilst in Potsdam. On the third day of the conference we (Rob Lambert; Rob van Steenbergen; Daniel Lang; Janet Gregory; Simon Morley; Brett L. Schuchert; James Lyndsay; Stevan Zivanovic; Jim Holmes; Bart Knaack; Lisa Crispin; Olaf Lewitz; Mike Scot; Jurgen Appelo; Thomas PonnetCecile Davis; Michael Bolton; Huib Schoots and myself)  got together in the TestLab, ordered some beer and pizza and started talking.

We started by making up a prioritized list of subjects of which we did the following:

    • What makes a good tester (Nice post on this by Olaf Lewitz); Quote by Michael Bolton: “To see complexity in apparent simple things And to see simplicity in apparent complex things.”
    • Manage / lead testers to become great; Qoute by Michael Bolton: “Learning does not stick if it does not sting a little bit.”
    • DEWT / Peer groups (DEWT = Dutch Exploratory Workshop on Test)
    • Acceptable level of risk

My following posts will be go deeper into the content or the conference and PaTS, but for now there is the following post by Jean Claude Grosjean; “Agile Testing Days 2011: Day 1 – What a fabulous day