A night of games x 3

This month, I’m on a mini tour or sorts revolving around testing games. If you happen to not be aware of these, and can make it out, I would love to see you.

If you work at Hyland, join me on June 10th for the Tech Touch Tuesday event on Testing Games.

If you’re in the Cleveland, OH area on 6/18, join the NOTiCE meetup for a night of games.

If you’re in the Columbus, OH area on 6/24, I’m guest hosting at Matt Hutchison’s  Software QA & Testing meetup discussing, yep, games.

What a Year

Sooo…. yeah. It’s December. I realized this week as the year-in-review posts started popping up on Twitter that I hadn’t even thought about my year yet.

Though I’ve turned into a rather sporadic blogger, I have managed to write about some of the things I did this year that meant something to me.

For anyone who read last year’s post, I felt 2012 was an awesome year. It really was, don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t compare to 2013.

I started NOTiCE. I setup and hosted Matt and Pete for some on site training at Hyland. I helped (I think) convince Paul to come to Westlake, Ohio of all places to run RST. I attended a couple of MMTMD events. I got published in Tea-time with Testers. I SPOKE AT CAST! I participated in TestRetreat, and the AST Leadership SIG TLC event. I put together and submitted 2 collaborative proposals for Let’s Test, which got turned down by Rob Sabourin (not hard feelings Rob). I managed to turn one of those into a collaborative workshop proposal for CAST 2014 and am trying to turn the other into something too. I successfully completed BBST Foundations 2.0. I joined the program committee for NOSQAA (get ready speakers, I’ll be looking for 2014-2015 season spots soon). I hosted and participated in the WHOSE workshop. I met a TON of awesome people, from all over the world. Some from right around the corner; some from far off lands.

The biggest problem I have with this year is it still doesn’t feel like enough. Especially when I compare it to 2014. Next year is gonna be huge for me, and I hope it’s just the start of a trend. QA or the Highway selected me to speak in Columbus next February. It’ll be my first talk in a kilt (it’s a long story, for the short version, just blame Keith and Hilary). I’m going to Agile and Beyond that same week. In March I’m attending PSL, which has been a goal for me since I first learned of it at CAST 2012. I’m going to Let’s Test in Sweden, and meeting Maria, my soon-to-be CAST co-presenter (I’m counting on you Paul, I’m gonna sound like a real ass if we don’t get in). Speaking of CAST, there’s that. Speaking gig or not, I am so going. I know there will be some pre and post stuff wrapped around CAST and I will definitely be attending. I may have some things with the guy about the stuff going on throughout the year, and who knows what else. I hope to stay connected with all sorts of people, and I hope to help out anyone I can. I really love having people come to me for help or advice, or just a sounding board for ideas. I like feeling like I can contribute something to help someone else.

Well, I know about one other thing. I hope I can write about it soon, but just know that it could be a big deal for me. Let’s stay in touch on that one.

So on to what one friend said was my end-of-year-post thing (I suppose now that I’m doing it twice, it is a thing huh?)

The people:

Thank you Matt Heusser and Pete Walen for spending so much time with me in and around the training opportunity I brought them in for. I really appreciated all of the time you afforded me, on and off the clock. I just wish I was closer for the GR Testers events. TestRetreat and WHOSE were awesome. You two have some great ideas and I hope I can tag a long for some of the adventures. You both have been there to help me work through things and I hope someday I can return the favor.

Paul Holland, you gave me a shot on this blog simply because I knew Eric and he didn’t say I was a douche. I got to spend a ton of time hanging out and learning from you in and around RST. I also loved your tutorial at CAST, and getting to hang out some more. The interview was great, even if you did forget to turn on your mic. You kind of got busy what with the whole Per Scholas thing and all, but you still managed to help me out a few times when I needed it. Thanks.

Keith Klain, you are the most personable, hipster, boss to hundreds of testers, I know. I still get a little intimidated by you at times, and then I remember you’ve made time for me to call you up on several occasions to ask inane questions. I am honored that you put me on the list of mentors for the next class of Per Scholas students (even if you didn’t tell me). Oh, and then there’s the bit on my talk that you dropped into your CAST post (come on man, I already have a hard time finding hats that fit). You rock, and I can’t wait to see you in February and at CAST.

Simon Peter Schrijver, I first learned of you when you Five Blogged some post of mine. I got to finally meet you at TestRetreat and then all during CAST (thanks to you and Ray for the ride to hibachi). I feel like I really got to know you preparing for, and then during WHOSE. You are an awesome facilitator and man are you ever dedicated to your craft.

Wow, this is getting long… OK let’s see.

Eric Proegler, we didn’t get to hang out at all this year, but next year will be better. A little time in Malmo (finger’s crossed) and at CAST (come one man… NYC). You helped me ton this year, whether you know it or not.

Martin Hynie, you pain in the ass Ottawanian you. You just love to poke at things to make stuff happen, which is what I love about you. I had an awesome time hanging out and getting to know you at CAST this year. Thanks to you, and our shared flight to Detroit, I now have a submitted workshop proposal for CAST 2014 with Maria Kedemo and, if we can get out shit together, a second collaborative proposal with you, also for CAST 2014. Yeah, I just wrote that. Is that enough of a push?

Maria Kedemo, the fact that you bothered to listen to me when I first sent you messages along the lines of “Hi, I know Martin, and he said you are awesome and we are similar and we should proposal a talk together, do ya wanna?” still sort of amazes me. It’s been an interesting exercise so far working on both iterations of our proposal, and I am super excited to run this thing at CAST (yes I know, I am crazy optimistic, but it’s going to be awesome, they HAVE to select it). I am really looking forward to meeting you before Let’s Test. How often will I get to say I did work while riding a train in Sweden?

Phil Kirkham, how could I forget you. Despite your threats, you failed to heckle me too much during my talk at CAST (work on that, will ya?). You’ve managed to keep me on a better-than-it-would-have-been-otherwise pace with my blog (which is sad to say). I hope to get to see you again at some more MMTMD events, and hopefully at CAST again.

Claire Moss, I am still dumbfounded at the rate at which you can tweet. You are the only person I know who runs tweet macros (for lack of a better term) to speed up your tweeting.

Ben Yaroch, you ran an awesome conference this year. I loved the tweet printer (even if others didn’t). Thanks for understanding when I utilized some of the down time during interviews to offer the interviewers beers. Somebody hire this dude already. Come on now.

Eric Brickarp, your CAST talk still sticks with me today. I’ve managed to complete everything on my list for this year. I am behind a bit on pulling from the backlog for next year, but it’ll happen soon.

Hilary, I’m so glad I got to see you come out of your shell a bit at the MMTMD events. YOU NEED TO RUN MORE OF THEM. You have an awesome, no-nonsense personality. I still don’t remember how exactly we got there, but knowing you’re doing your QA or the Highway talk in a corset while I’m in my kilt makes me smile. (do we need smoking jackets for this?)

Ahhh! OK It’s getting late and I want to submit this before I go to bed or else it won’t come out until 2014. Let’s do the lightening round:

Marcus Gärtner, I was honored to meet you at TestRetreat and CAST and I was very excited to learn that you were the lead instructor for my BBST Foundations course. Ilari, I’m still not sure what I may have done to make you interested in meeting me, but it was a pleasure. Nimesh, it was awesome finally meeting you in person. I wish we could have collaborated on BBST group work, but it was still awesome having you in my session. Julie, you are awesome, and you need to speak at events more. I am so glad you ended up having to do you CAST lightening talk in the big room (I promise I didn’t cheat too much in the voting). Nick, you really should get your ass on Twitter man. There’s a lot going on out here that isn’t just the same old same old going in inside our four walls at work. Keep at it. Anna, it was great getting to see you again at CAST and to work with you at the TLC event. I promise I will get going on the AST Leadership SIG video project soon (I finally have a camera). Meike, I couldn’t forget you. From the instant I met you, you seemed like an old friend. A very huggy friend that is good at hugging and enjoys giving hugs.

I know there are a ton of people I am missing here. If you are one of them, please know I really appreciated the stuff you did, but know that I am getting tired and I haven’t yet pasted all the links in this post yet. I’m kind of regretting name dropping so many people. This part is gonna suck.

Have a great New Year everyone, and an awesome 2014!

Taking a Break – What taking time off from pretty much everything can do for/to you/me

Wow.  I haven’t been on here since … August? Oh wait! I replied to a comment on September 5.

How fitting of a discovery for my first post since taking a break from… well.. pretty much everything testing related (other than work).

So what led me toward taking a break from things? I’m glad I asked. Let’s see:

  • Took and successfully completed the BBST Foundations 2.0 course hosted by AST – Yay!
  • Narrowly avoided a breakdown three weeks into the course – <>Yay!
  • Found out I was not accepted to speak at Let’s Test 2014 –  !=Yay!

So yeah, that kind of sucked a little. The BBST course almost broke me (I’ll write about that in detail, including some advice for future attendees in a separate post soon). The Let’s Test rejection, even if it was well founded in the end, didn’t feel all that good either. I lost interest in all of this. I felt defeated and disinterested. So I decided to take a break. I most of my momentum on pretty much everything “extra” I was doing professionally, and I really felt like I just needed to get away from everything.

I spent most of that extra time working through some family things going on, getting a shed delivered and setup, winterizing the yard, etc. I went to work. I came home. I hung out with my family. I played some games. That was it.

So where did it get me? Well.. all that time off showed me a few things. It first showed me that taking a break from things was OK. Sure I had waves of “but.. but if I stop blogging/tweeting/reading/collaborating/other ings bad thing X will happen”. In the end though, nothing bad happened. Well, other than Phil gently harassing me about some promised blog posts. Mentally, I needed the break so I took a break.

In the end, I also learned that I really missed all of it. I missed the community. I missed being engaged in something bigger than me. That feeling started to trickle back in two or three weeks ago. Now, I feel like I’m totally here again. I’ve got a ton going on, I’m excited about all of it and I think it shows.

Was it OK for me to take a break? Absolutely. It helped me get over my funk. It helped me recharge. I see it sort of like that thing the Amish do when they send their kids off to the non-Amish world to get on a television show about how much they drink so see if they will return to the farm. I decided I liked … sorry, I can’t keep that analogy going any further, it’s insane. In the end, I came back. YMMV, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, or stretched too thin, take some time off. If you blog constantly, and it’s wearing on you, stop for a while. It’s OK. If you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions, take a breather from the non-critical things.

Everyone needs time to stop and relax and sometimes, just be.

What now? Well, since everything I just finished describing, I started looking at Twitter with a little more regularity. After a few good conversations there, I ended up with a small group of people who wanted me to blog about various things (I think this is the first of four I need to write soon-ish). This then is my rough timeline of things I’ve done since my pause:

  • Hey, Twitter!
  • The CAST Live interviews went up, including mine
  • Elected to the program committee of NOSQAA
  • Accepted to speak at QA or the Highway (2 for 8 is better than 1 for 6!)
    • Did I mention I have to wear a kilt? Thanks Hilary
  • Started working on a bitchin’ proposal for CAST 2014 with a cross-Atlantic co-presenter
  • Finagled a way to attend Let’s Test 2014 as.. well… an attendee
  • Asked to write some stuff for the thing (can you tell I talk to Matt a lot?)
  • Began some secret research.. hopefully I can write about this in the future
  • Discovered Paul didn’t wipe my blog off his server (thank’s Paul)
  • Figured out how to log back in to my blog
  • Started writing this post

I really think I’m back now. I took some time off, my brain got better, and now I’m here again. Hell, I told someone today I should try to take a sabbatical from work to bank some family time next summer so I can attend /another/ conference. Who does that? Seriously?

Editor’s Note: (yeah, it’s just me still) I get this isn’t the best post, but come on, I have to restart somewhere. I’m rusty at this writing thing. Hopefully the BBST, AST grant sponsored NOTiCE meetup, and testers to follow on Twitter posts will be better.

A First-Timers Guide to CAST (from a soon to be second-timer)

Today @bennet_nj asked if I had any advice for a first time CAST attendee. After trying to condense this all down into Tweetable size pieces, I decided it better covered here. Please feel free to add your own items, or question mine, in the comments.

Here’s what I came up with based on my attendance of CAST, for the first time, last year.

  • Review the schedule information for sessions ahead of time (that means before you get there).
    • This will give you an idea of what topics are covered and which speakers are attending.
    • Come up with a rough list of what session you want to attend.
    • BUT, be prepared to switch at the last-minute. You are bound to bump into someone you know, or end up in a conversation that sways you towards a talk you originally weren’t interested in.
    • If possible, bring friends (I am) so you can cover more sessions that one human could.
  • There is a lot going on; if you don’t like a session early on, move to another one, or to a lightning talk, or to a side conversation, or to a game, or … It happens, and the speakers are OK with it.
  • Try to get to, or better yet present at, the lightning talks.
  • Go to the keynotes.
    • The topics are good, but the facilitated discussion at the end is awesome.
  • “Big name” testers are people too. They will likely talk to you, play tester games with you, share their scotch or get frustrated that you are not drinking their beer. (all true for me last year)
  • Go to all of the events you can.
  • Sign up for a tutorial.
  • Attend sessions/lightning talks all day.
  • Eat with the attendees, conversations are bound to flourish. This includes dinners off site. Find some testers, introduce yourself, and go out with them.
  • All of the “networking” events are good places to meet people you only know online. They also let you spend time with people whose names you see on books.
  • Find out where informal things are going on and go to them.
  • There are pre and post CAST events, look into them and go if they sound interesting.
  • Despite what the schedule says, there will always be games at night. Somewhere. Find them.
    • You can get Set yourself and start now, this is the go to game for many.
    • Zendo also pops up, but requires some investment. Better to wait and try it out at CAST with those who already have it.
    • Don’t try and prep for anything else, that ruins the experience.
  • Confer between sessions!
    • There’s a reason the breaks are so big.
  • If the ongoing discussion in an already ended session interests you, follow it to it’s offline location and continue.
  • You will get cards (K-Cards) to allow for facilitated participation at the end of each talk and keynote, USE THEM.
  • If something bothers you, bring it up to the AST people running the show.
    • They too are just people and will talk to you, and rectify things that are wrong.

What else can you think of? What did I miss? I look forward to your additions below.


Three Phases of Testing Experience

This is a quick replay of a response I gave to a new employee about what it meant to be a tester. Posting here as it’s far easier than tweeting.

Phase 1: DO testing – Someone tells you what to do, you do that thing, observe the results and report them back. You are effectively a machine and could be replaced with a script.

Phase 2: THINK about how you do testing – Someone may tell you what to do, but you think about the request, the system you are to test, the possible inferred requirements, etc. THEN you test. Congratulations, you are a thinking, human tester. Despite claims of the potential ROI, it would be difficult, if not impossible to automate you out of a job.

Phase 3: Think about how you think about testing – You study and bring understanding of multiple disciplines to testing software. This could include things like programming theory, tools, interpersonal communication and group dynamics, economics, social sciences, psychology, sociology, UX design, an understanding of oracles derived from prior experiences (you know how other things work, so you can relate what you are testing to them and compare), vertical specific knowledge (this is how things are expected to work in the back office of a bank, etc).

Two Step Addendum

Does ‘Give a shit, Prove it‘ mean you personally have to take ownership of, and single handedly complete the thing for which you are giving a shit?

Great question, thanks for asking. My short answer is no. My long answer follows.

You can absolutely care enough about something that you DO something to make it happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to work in solitude.

It also doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stay with it until it’s done.

Here’s an example.

I was on a committee focused on managing a specific process. Over time, we found ourselves spending an ever-increasing amount of time discussing the limitations of the current system in which the process lived. Eventually I got fed up enough with the ‘going nowhereness’ of these discussions that I took ownership of the project to migrate to a new system (build a new system to be more correct). Did I have the skills to build this system on my own? Absolutely not. So we found a team of people to work on the project under my direction.

I ran this project team for months, relatively successfully in my eyes. After some time, it may have been close to a year I don’t remember exactly, I realized that the manager of the employees working on my project would be a better fit to run the project. He had better connections to the other teams involved in the eventual implementation, he had visibility to the non-project work assigned to the employees working on my project, and he had knowledge of the infrastructure involved in running the soon-to-be system.

So I handed it off.

Did I fail? Did I do something wrong? Should I have never touched the project if I wasn’t the right person to see it to the end? I say no, no and no, respectively. At the point in time where I realized I was not the best person to see the project to completion, I did feel a bit defeated. But with hindsight, I can see that I helped get the ball rolling. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t know that the project would have even started by the time I handed it off if I hadn’t gotten frustrated and started it. Because of that realization, I feel I did something good for the company.

The Birth of a Tester Gathering Part 4 – First. Event. Ever.

This evening, NOTiCE met for the first time ever.  We had a total of six attendees, which for having seven RSVP isn’t so bad. The topic for tonight was “Why did you become a tester, and what tests did/do you use to feel you are getting good at it”. Since I work with most of the people who came (all but Raj), my nervousness was low, though I was still paranoid that the topic would fizzle (no offense to Martin who helped me flesh it out, I am just like that when I put things together, especially if they impact others). We managed to get through introductions, and made it around the room covering each of our stories on how we got into testing and what testing was like for those of us in our second, third or fourth testing job.

I blinked and an hour was gone.

Then, instead of moving into the “what means do you use to know you are good at testing” we steered into a discussion, for the second hour on how we all learn and stay current on testing. Raj and I discussed the various people we follow on Twitter, the piles of blogs we read (Raj is much better at limiting his scope and using RSS feeds to know about updates… I need to set that up soon). We discussed books and courses and conferences.

In the end, we had no trouble using up the full two hours. At the end, we discussed the next meetup. I told them, based on the discussion I had with Martin, I had thought of taking the second meeting to discuss the use of safety language (Martin corrected my initial topic idea of “why you got into testing and how you know you are any good at it”, using safety language, and made into a teachable lesson for me and the group). After mentioning that to the group, Raj brought up the idea of a lean coffee style event (yeah, I told him Matt already suggested that). After discussing the pros and cons of that style, and the fact that everyone who attended tonight was engaged and participating, we decided to try it out.

So, I think I figured out how to let group members suggest topic ideas ahead of time on our meetup site.  This way, I can let the group participate in choosing topics, but if that doesn’t work, I will know walking in that I need a backup topic (helllllooooo safety language).

So what have I learned from this experiment:

Advertise externally as much as you can.

Sure, I had five coworkers there, and that was awesome, but I need more non-coworker peers in attendance. Yeah, OK so I know not everyone was available, but come on. I need to reach more people.

Unless told not to, advertise in-house!!

I took the approach of not wanting to inundate people info about my little group (words I use in my head), so I posted one message one time on our internal testing forum. Problems with this approach 1) not everyone in test reads the forum 2) I posted this maybe a month ago. The outcome of this? I have one person tell me TODAY that they just learned I made a meetup because they saw an ad for it on meetup.com. Awesome. What else? I happen to mention something about the group to an awesome (imho) tester and all around person I work with and they have no clue what I am talking about ?!?!

For the people I work with, prepare for emails soon.

Worry a little less.

Look, this is just like last year when I freaked myself out when I got myself involved in multiple presentations at our user conference.  I went from hating presenting, to successfully (words of others) presenting to rooms of over 120 people.  If I can do that, why can’t I talk to a handful of people about something I am passionate??

Buy supplies the day before.

At least for the next meeting, I already have markers and name tags.

Alright, it’s late, I had a great day talking testing with people who wanted to come out and do the same. I made a thing I am proud of, and now I can see that it can work. All I have to do is keep it going.