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.

#AgileTD (2)

Agile Testing Days

From 14 to 17 November 2011 The Agile Testing Days took place in Potsdam (D). Here is my second impression of my visit there.

Preparation

I am an advocate of being well prepared when going to a conference. This enables me to  make informed choices of which tracks I really want to follow or not. This time I added two additional things to my preparation. First I did a poll on Twitter and LinkedIn. I wanted to know who else would be going to the conference and at what time they would arrive in Potsdam. I myself would be arriving on Sunday and wanted to meet other conference attendees. It always surprises my how well this works. On Sunday I met with Lisa Crispin and went out to have dinner with her and eight other testers, of which four were conference speakers. The second part of the preparation was more pragmatic. I wrote a number of blog posts an agile basics, gave a tutorial and a workshop at TestNet.

Surprise & Tutorial

Monday started with a quick breakfast and registration for the conference at which I got a bag with conference information, some tourist information (incl. a bottle of local beer) and also the program for Testing & Finance. A few months earlier I had entered a proposal for that conference and since I hadn’t gotten a reaction I was curious to see who, if not me, were on the program. To my surprise I found myself having a track at the end of day 1. A brief check learned that they had tried to reach me the day before at my home e-mail address that had not checked since I left home.

The rest of the Monday was filled with a one-day version of Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 course. This course I can only wholeheartedly recommend to both managers and testers alike. Besides the necessary theory, the course also is punctuated with reading tips and practical exercises. My personal take-away from this tutorial is the use of complexity theory and the notion that, despite of the fact that all models are fallible, several weaker models can be as effective and as a strong model, and certainly no better model. I will dig into that at some time soon and combine that with Jerry Weinberg’s books on Systems Thinking.

Some of the highlights of the track days

Keynote by Johanna Rothman – “Agile Testers and test managers”
In the keynote, the changing roles of testers and test managers were discussed. For example, testers will need to cooperate more intensively with developers. Test managers should be leaders in the organization and pursue the following key activities: Monitoring of the project portfolio; Removing organizational obstructions, Create confidential relationships, Leading the hiring process, Increasing the capacity of the organization and finally the Start up communities of practice. I liked the keynote enough to be following her tutorial at the Belgium Testing Days in March 2012.

Track by David Evans – “What testers and developers can learn from each other”
This track showed that testers and developers, while working on the same product, see this with a different perspective. Testers often seem more capable of changing perspective. By being able to do so testers can learn developers that there are different kinds of tests. A good model for showing this is the “Agile Testing Quadrants” as defined by Crispin and Gregory from the book Agile Testing. But I a will keep further description short as you can see the whole presentation on YouTube at, http://skillsmatter.com/podcast/agile-scrum/what-testers-and-developers-can-learn-from-each-other

Track by Rob Lambert – “Do agile testers have wider awareness fields”
This track went in to the need to be aware of your context and to use this awareness to your benefit as a tester. Perhaps it is the process or maybe it is the people? Or is the awareness field of agile testers is not wider at all? Agile testers however seem to display a higher ability to feel, to perceive, to know and to be aware of themselves and the world around them. Traditional testers often seem to have a more limited consciousness in terms of testing, and development roles. Even if it is wider, it is often less versatile than in an agile environment. There is however a distinction between social (situational) awareness and personal awareness. One reason for the difference in perspective among other things, is that the focus of testing in a traditional development environment is narrower than the focus of testing in an agile environment. A greater awareness and a broader focus, often leads to an increase in choices. This allows you to choose one of the possible paths instead of chosing a prescribed path. A greater awareness is also a first step on the path of change. However you can not follow all paths. It is necessary to have sufficient self-knowledge and to know your limits. More on this in this prezo.

Track by Huib Schoots – “So you think you can test”
Huib actually wasn’t on the initial program of the Agile Testing Days. But a few of the presenters were ill and since Huib happened to have his laptop with this presentation on it at the venue he offered to pitch in. The organization graciously  accepted his offer and Huib made his first appearance at an international conference. As the title suggests his talk was on what makes a good tester and how to become one. I really enjoyed his talk but rather than to describe it here I am going to point out a series of columns on this Huib is writing.

Keynote by Liz Keogh – “Haiku, Hypnosis and Discovery: How the mind makes models”
Liz put an extraordinary exercise into her keynote. She let the audience pair up to create Haiku’s. Together with Johanna Rothman and I came up with the following sentences that we combined to the following Haiku:

Foggy breath
An agile journey
Bright blue burst over the rocks

Or a more famous one from Matsuo Basho:
Furuike ya                  Old pond
Kawazu Tobikomu     Frog jumps in
Mizu no oto                The sound of water

Liz continued with a hypnosis session to explain that concentrated and focussed attention on positive experiences can bring a state of mind that widens perception and activates the ability to see patterns and models. Huib Schoots volunteered to go on stage and be hypnotized. It was impressive to see how more than half of the audience participate and was elevated by the experience.

Keynote van Gojko Adzic – “5 key challenges for agile testers tomorrow”
Gojko concluded the track days with an inspiring keynote talk on five challenges agile testers are facing:

#1 Shorter delivery phases
#2 Agile is now main stream
#3 Faster feedback
#4 Large “enterprise” projects
#5 Validating business, not software

His final message was to adopt principles, adapt practices, teach each other how to test, help business to define and validate actionable metrics, visualize risk value areas and to draw up contexts to inform testing. This definitively struck a chord with me. As I am working at a large enterprise transitioning to agile. I can fully understand that the energetic and all present Gojko won the MIATPP Award 2011 as “The most influential Agile Testing Professional Person 2011”

Final day

The final day was a series of parallel sessions with Open Space, Coding Dojo, Testing Dojo and last but certainly not least TestLab. To be honest I was both to actively involved and tired after the previous days to take sufficient notes. But what I can share with you that these possibilities to actively use what you have learned, to spar with your peers and to be coached by the organizers and speakers that are there makes this part of the conference potentially the most valuable part.

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