I’m running for the AST board of directors

The AST board of directors election will be happening this year between August 11th and 13th during CAST2014. I will be running, along with 6 other well-qualified candidates, for one of the four open positions.

Why I am running:

AST has been a significant catalyst for me in personal and professional development. I first discovered this group through a colleague at a company around 2006 or so. He was taking Bug Advocacy at the time, and I could see very apparent changes in the way he was working that really made sense. I wanted in on that. That lead me to signing up as a member, taking Foundations, and then Bug Advocacy, and then Test Design. It was a rabbit hole that lead me to CAST and meeting other people that genuinely cared about their work. I want to return the favor that AST has given to me by serving the community that has done so much for me.

If elected, here is what I will focus on:

These are topics dear to me, but also, I think they are very important to the continuing development of software testing as a craft.

  1. BBST is hugely popular, especially Foundations and Test Design. Those two classes are consistently booked 100% full well before the class and have wait-lists for folks interested in taking that session if a registered student is unable. I would like to grow BBST to support this demand and begin offering those two classes more frequently. This means we need more assistant and lead instructors.
  2. There is a clear market demand for testers with a technical skill set. I would like to begin developing a class to help testers meet that market need, but also to improve their ability to test software by developing technical skill and understanding. The idea of what this class is is still being conceived, but I imagine programming concepts, databases, UNIX/Linux, shell scripting, performance and load testing concepts, and Chrome developer tools / Firebug are all fair game. This could be a survey course in the same way that Test Design is a survey course. If you are interested in this or care about the development of this material, please get in touch.
  3. WHOSE is an AST sponsored event dedicated to studying and advancing self-education in software testing. The first of these was held in Cleveland, OH December 5 – 7 2013 and the result was the first version of a skills book which will be published  shortly via AST. The skills book is intended to be a living document that is updated by practicing software testers. I want to see this become a yearly event with a concrete outcome each time. A yearly revised skills book could potentially result from this.

If these initiatives are important to you, vote for me and we will make these a reality.

Stepping up as EdSig Chair for AST

About a month ago, Michael Larsen sent me an email telling me he was planning to step away from his role as Chair of the Education Special Interest Group for AST. Michael was explaining that he had served for three years now, and thought his time had come to step back from EdSig in order to put more energy into SummerQAmp and the many other interests that he wants to pursue.

I read through the email, not feeling great about it. Michael has done a fantastic job and I’ve enjoyed working with him as an instructor in BBST courses that continue to exist and thrive because of EdSig. When I got to the bottom of the email, Michael asked if I would be interested filling the role that he was leaving.

Much like Michael, when I’ve been asked to do something new that stretches a fair bit past my skill set, I have the complete inability to say ‘no’. This new role will be an experience to learn and develop new skills but more importantly, to serve a role that I think is useful for other people. I am passionate about the service role of the tester, and I think the education mission of AST is well aligned with that.

Michael posted this to his blog and the AST blog (and the relevant AST discussion groups) this past Wednesday making this change official. While Michael is transitioning out of his role as EdSig Chair, he will not be leaving AST, or BBST, or SummerQAmp, or any of the programs he has done a great job developing and fostering. I’m sure Michael will be as present as he ever was, I’ll certainly be bugging him for advice and counsel occasionally.

If there are things you would like to see AST do that help support the mission of education for software testers, please let me know. I’d love to hear about authentic problems of practicing software testers and find ways for AST to help. Following in the footsteps of MIchael, and Cem before him, is a tall order. I’m looking forward to serving to the best of my abilities.

If you are going to be at CAST2014 in NYC this year, maybe we can talk in person.

Lean Software Testing: The best 3 day conference I’ve been to

Last week I went to the best thee day conference I have ever been to, and got paid for it too! I flew from my home in Nashville to Denver, CO to assist Matt Heusser in teaching a three day class focused on lean principles in software quality and delivery.

Lean Software Testing is a one, two, or three day class created by Matt Heusser. The class combines years of research and experience on applying Lean concepts in software development with software expertise in practical problems of software quality and delivery. The result is a class that can help your test and quality team do their work smaller (we are talking about Lean, right), better, and faster. This is not an introductory class about software testing, but testers of all experience levels can certainly find value in the material and teaching. We have experience teaching this class to experience levels ranging from the newest interns all the way to the most engaged experts in the test community with 20+ years of experience.

A few weeks before class starts, Matt and I will have a discovery call with your team where we will mention a few of the concepts covered in the class and see what your teams experience level with the material is. Also, we will ask a few probing questions to discover what we like to call critical success factors: these are the things you must absolutely take away from the course to consider it a success. We want to provide a class that is timely and relevant to your team, this can help get us there.

Day one started immediately with a group exercise focused on team dynamics. This is a great way for people that may not know each other to get acquainted and also jumps right into valuable course work from minute one. After this we do a formal introduction, meet the attendees, and  explore what they want to get out of the class. The rest of the day is spent on studying and doing exercises on team dynamics, test planning, and comparing scripted and exploratory test approaches.

Day two is spent alternating between theory from Lean and exercises crafted to show exactly how the theory works. Where Agile training will tell you what you should do, we will explain exactly why approaching work in specific ways will help you deliver better software faster. This is practical information you can take back to work on Monday and use to provide real value. Value that your customers will be happy to pay for. Attendees will have a set os tools, but more importantly, they will know why those tools work so they can apply them across a variety os situations in your organization. We end the day with a one hour facilitated problem session where attendees discuss problems relevant to their environment and the group helps discover solutions.

Day three is emergent, we take lessons from the last group session on day two and mash them together with the theme of our course. We pull from our bag of LST content and present material that that is immediately relevant to your context. Some of the popular topics for day three are: tactics to help your group do regression testing faster and in a way that helps the business, a survey of test design techniques, test automation for non-technical people with live examples, and performing skilled bug reporting. There is much more, we are happy to customize content to the needs of your group.

Once the class is done, your testers are not left high and dry wondering how to apply everything they just learned. We provide lifetime support for all graduates of LST. Once class is complete, students are given access to the Lean Software Testing google group where they can talk about questions and real work problems and get support from LST instructors and graduates alike.

I can’t wait for the next teaching opportunity. If you are interested in getting Lean Software at your organization, please get in touch with Matt Heusser or myself.

Book review: This is Lean

This is Lean is a high level book about lean, the philosophy of lean, not the methods and tools. The book was written by Niklas Modig, a Swedish researcher. He spends most of the book framing lean as an operational business strategy. I’m sure there is a large amount of bias from his academic experience leading to that conclusion, so I wouldn’t mind reading another book that frames lean some other way. If you’re aware of a book like that, let me know :)

Summary
If I had to summarize the book in a few words, I’d say it is about two types of efficiency; flow efficiency and resource efficiency. Resource efficiency is the degree to which your resources are utilized. Are your machines running all day every day? Are your programmers spending 8 hours a day writing code? Then you have 100% resource efficiency. Flow efficiency is about getting whatever you’re making done as fast as possible once cash exchanges hands. I’m am not really sure what would constitute 100% flow efficiency though, maybe a product being completed with no wait periods.

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I’m speaking at CAST2014

There it is, I’ll be speaking at CAST2014 in NYC this year. I’ve mentioned on twitter that I was accepted to speak but haven’t actually written about it yet.

2014_CAST_Banner

Most simplistic measures for software productivity and quality fail, for reasons you don’t need a conference talk to explain. The problem is how to do better than that – how to “plus one” software measurement, or, at least, to choose measures and frame them in a way that will do more good than harm. Studying a little social science, specifically how social scientists do qualitative research, and measurement problems can help. Justin will talk about the development of qualitative research as a field of study, common problems with measurement in the software world, and some ideas from Lean. You will take back some tools to help you tell a more meaningful story to your business.

I’m in the session group before the last keynote on the last day. This feels a little ominous. If you include the tutorials, and TestRetreat before that, CAST is an intense 5 day marathon of deep discussions on testing and for me a bit of introspection. I will have to be sure to reserve some energy for the talk, especially since this is my first at a real conference, especially since I will be live cast over youtube. I have talks for the local testers group, and facilitated events and whatnot, but for me this is the big-time. CAST is the place.

The theme of this years conference is the art and science of software testing. My talk is themed around measurement. Mainly how it has been traditionally used in our craft, some of how it is used in the social sciences, and a bit on how we can make measurement a useful thing for software delivery and delivering value to the folks that pay for it. Measurement is a difficult problem, but I feel like talking about problems without offering alternate ideas to explore or solid solutions is not all that helpful. I’m hoping we can leave the room with some ideas on making the testers life a little bit better.

Hope to see you there!

Book Review: On Looking

On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes is a book by Alexandra Horowitz on observation. Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, all that good stuff. More than that though, On Looking is a book about perspective.

The book is broken into chapters where each chapter is a narrative from the author describing a walk she took around a New York neighborhood with some expert accompanying. The experts range from her toddler, to a geologist, to a person studying pedestrian traffic, to a person studying urban wildlife.

Each chapter stands well on its own. The stories were entertaining and the characters Alexandra walked with were endearing.

Certain characteristics of each expert jump out. Alexandra’s child likes to treat inanimate objects as if they are alive. Cars that aren’t driving around are sleeping, and when leaving steps you have to big them a farewell. The guy studying urban wildlife tended to notice not just the critters but also traces of their existence when they were not around. The man studying pedestrian traffic noticed things about how people walk (hints of illness) that would be invisible to most.

This is such a nice parallel to testing. Testing is sometimes thought of as a team sport. That can be interpreted as meaning that testing isn’t exclusively the job of people that self-identify as a tester. Developers, product folks, support team, and everyone else involved in creating the product, can test.

I had always taken that for granted and didn’t think about the reason it makes sense for multiple types of people to test. At a glance, it seems like the expertise is the important thing. Product people might have a tendency to test the product from a customers perspective, and developers might have a tendency to test in a technical or programmatic way. When I refer to expertise, I mean that in the Collins and Evans sense. But after thinking on this a while, I think there is more to it.

All the biases developed while developing an expertise shade how a person observes the world. This happens to the extent that you do things in an automatic way (system 1). A person studying typography doesn’t force themselves to notice the typeface on signs, it just happens because of years spent intently looking at typefaces. This has biased them to notice text very quickly and in a very specific way.

Tester friends have often commented on their inability to turn off the critical thinking that they have developed to make them a good tester. Developing this skill has changed how they experience the world and get along day to day.

When executing scenario tests, a tester has to role play. They put themselves in a mindset to think about testing in terms of how a user might behave in the software and the benefit they might get from its use. A product manager is biased to think like this because of their daily focus on people using software and the time spent developing their product management skills.

Back to the review. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I think this is a great text for deeper thought on expertise, bias, and how people experience the world in different ways. And, I think there are a lot of ideas that can be directly applied to testing.

Deciding if test retreat is right for you

2014 will mark the third run of TestRetreat and the second time I’m attending. The first was last year. Yep, two years in a row. I had a fantastic time last year and left with some useful tools. I’m confident this year will be no different.

I wanted to share some reasons here I think you should consider attending this event.

Presenting and conferring
TestRetreat is a small group of people, last year I think attendance was capped at 30 or 35 people. There is no pre-set agenda, this is a conference for the people, by the people. What I mean is that most every one that attends TestRetreat presents on a topic or facilitates discussion on something. This isn’t required, but it is encouraged and participation is what makes peer conferences like this great. Last year, I facilitated a discussion on testing skill. This was the first time I had put myself in front of a group and talked about something. If you are interested in dipping your toes into that pool, this really is a safe place to do that.

People you will want to talk with
This peer conference attracts people that care deeply about testing and developing their craft. Being held on a Saturday before another great conference means that people in attendance are people that are serious about being there. If you want to spend time next to writers, presenters, and independent testers, this is the place. You may see this appealing to authority, and it is a little bit, but it is a great group of people and you won’t find them all in the same room very often.

The conference below the conference
TestRetreat is an event preceding CAST2014 in New York. There are a few events surrounding CAST each year: lean coffee, tester games, tester competitions, after hours conversation over beers. CAST is a great conference. For me it is the conference, but it wouldn’t be the same without all the events just below the surface. TestRetreat is the one you don’t want to miss.

Great things begin at TestRetreat
Being present last year lead to me attending WHOSE, doing a lot more writing, and now speaking at CAST 2014. What great things will you do that get started here?

I hope to see you there!

QAOrTheHighway 2014

QAOrTheHighway was held this past Tuesday in Dublin, Ohio, a city just outside of Columbus, Ohio. For the most part, this was a very regional thing. A lot of people I spoke with were from Columbus or very near by. That was sort of surprising considering the speakers (keynote and presentation) they managed to get. Despite the small/regional conference feel, there were a pretty good number of attendees present.

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I was planning to get there early on Monday, hangout with friends and work maybe a little, but it turns out February is not a great time for flying. My layover was cancelled and I didn’t end up at the hotel till after 11:30pm. Luckily a few friendly faces were still up to chat and catch up despite the late hour on the day before giving a talk.

The day started at 6:30 am with breakfast in the hotel lobby and then rushing off to lean coffee. Lean coffee is a testing conference fixture at this point. People ask for it by name. This one was really enjoyable as usual. I left with some useful notes on preparing to give a conference talk. Oh, did I mention that I’ll be speaking at CAST 2014 in New York, NY?

The conference was kicked off with a keynote by Joseph Ours. The theme was some ways you could tell if you (the tester) were undervalued within your organization and some things you might do to change that. Joseph did a great job and presented some old ideas with a fresh perspective. Some things I thought were interesting was the way he thinks of testers as information brokers and also something he calls the OURS method: Observe, Understand, Review, Serve. One important thing to note is that Joseph was not the scheduled keynote speaker. Keith Klain was scheduled to talk but could not make it and Joseph did a fantastic impromptu keynote.

The first session I went to was The New Tester Skill Set by Matthew Eakin. There was some stuff in this presentation that I didn’t necessarily agree with such as an emphasis on documentation, an emphasis on tools, and very little about testing skill or how that fits into agile but I think Matt had some great points elsewhere. Mainly in emphasizing restricting WIP to be very small at any given time, and also something he mentioned about how a powerful test might tell you specifically where a problem is.

Session two was by JeanAnn Harrison on A Debate on the Merits of Mobile Software Test Automation. JeanAnn is a great speaker and conversationalist, I thought this was a fun talk. This was sort of a socratic talk, a lot of the content was posed as questions for the attendees to consider. I really enjoy this style. Some of the questions were around the idea of defining best, defining need, and asking if the project is worth the investment. She also mentioned that she doesn’t highly rely on domain expertise in new hired because that can usually be picked up quickly. I generally agree with that sentiment.

Session three was about Disintegration Testing presented by David Hoppe. This is another session that I thought was very good. The content was useful and engaging. David talked about the value of looking at problems in isolation as opposed to completely integrated products. He did this via stories about automotive repair, scenarios focusing on how a person might test their amazon home page, and also a live demo of a test program he wrote. The presentation has a little bit of everything and the attendees really seemed to respond to and enjoy that.

My last session of the day was by Scahin Mulik, Four Questions Every CXX Should Ask About Testing. This started off by modeling testing questions around Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. I thought it was quite interesting. The four questions Sachin came up with based on the hierarchy were: Is the software not doing what it is not supposed to do; It is secure, fast enough, reliable enough; Is it loved by its intended audience; Is it faster, cheaper. After this there was as a bit on testing measurements with absolutely no foundation and no reference for where the numbers came from. I wish I had written down the measurements he referenced. One I do remember was defect removal efficiency. There were also some measurements that were somehow supposed to represent industry maturity. This part left me really dissatisfied with the talk.

After this was a closing keynote given by Matt Heusser. Regretfully, I had to miss this to catch a flight back to Nashville.

I was in Columbus for about 20 hours total, not even a full day. If I go next year, I’ll try to hit the 24 hour mark.

Practice makes progress: exercise for stickyminds

I get only 5 tests, conveniently I see that there are five possible lots to choose from in the ParkCalc UI. The requirements are also in a nice tidy group of 5. Clearly, this isn’t the only way to structure the tests, but as of right now it seems like a decent place to start based on the information I have. Since I’m limited to 5 tests, I want these to be powerful. By powerful, I mean I want each test to have the possibility to expose multiple issues, provide multiple types of information, and be representative of how a person might actually use the app (according to my imagination).

So here goes, here are my five tests

Valet Parking
Requirements:
$18 per day
$12 for five hours or less

Test values:
Start: 01:32am 01/09/2014
End: 06:32am 01/13/2014

Total time: 4 days 5 hours 0 minutes

Expectation: (18*4)+12 = $84
Result: $84

Some stuff I think this test tells us:
non-round numbers for time handled
$18 / day calculation
$12 / <= 5 hours calculation

Short-term hourly parking
Requirements:
$2.00 first hour; $1.00 each additional 1/2 hour
$24.00 daily maximum

Test values:
Start: 01:32am 01/09/2014
End: 04:17am 01/10/2014

Total time: 1 day 2 hours 45 minutes

Expectation: 24+2+2+1 = $29
Result = $30

This seems to have exposed a bug. I didn’t spend much time investigating what the bug is but I did notice that the cost of full days and 1/2 hours is not how it is described in the spec. In the app, a full day costs $26 and 1/2 hour (after the first hour) cost $2.

Some stuff I think this test tells us:
full day calc
first hour calc
additional 1/2 hour calc
info about rounding to 1/2 hour

Long-term garage parking
Requirements:
$2.00 per hour
$13.00 daily maximum
$78.00 per week (7th day free)

Test values:
Start: 1:32am 1/9/2014
End: 4:02am 1/17/2014

Total time: 8 days 2 hours 30 minutes

Expectation: 78 + 13 + 6 = $97
Result: 97

Some stuff I think this test tells us:
week calc
day calc
hour calc
info about rounding for times between one hour

Long Term Surface Parking
Requirements:
$2.00 per hour
$10.00 daily maximum
$60.00 per week (7th day free)

Test values:
Start: 1:32am 1/9/2014
End: 4:02am 1/17/2014

Total time: 8 days 2 hours 30 minutes

Expectation: 60 + 10 + 6 = $76
Result: $76

Some stuff I think this test tells us:

Economy lot parking
Requirements:
$2.00 per hour
$9.00 daily maximum
$54.00 per week (7th day free)

Test values:
Start: 1:32am 1/9/2014
End: 4:02am 1/17/2014

Total time: 8 days 2 hours 30 minutes

Expectation: 54 + 9 + 6 = $69
Result: $69

Some stuff I think this test tells us:
week calc
day calc
hour calc
info about rounding for times between one hour

Recap:
So, 5 tests and one bug was the outcome here. I’m pretty pleased about finding a bug of course but I’m not so sure I would call the software unfit for use because of this. I suppose that all depends on the person using the software. My opinion is that the difference in calculation is slight, and if the actual amount charged from the lot it correct, then it’s all good.

What skill(s) does this exercise help develop?
I’ll just make this a list of the stuff that jumps out at me:
domain testing
scenario testing
testing directed by a specific mission
note taking
thinking critically about how a bug affects a person(s) / thinking about value
describing the purpose(s) of a test
creating powerful tests

This year and the next (2013 recap)

2013 was an exciting year for me as far as tester stuff goes. I jumped into a lot of new stuff that I hadn’t done before, that’s sort of my style. Being in an uncomfortable area seems like a good thing, it really pushes you (me) to explore and learn and grow.

I have been instructing BBST classes with AST for about a year now. I got an email from Michael Larsen one day asking if I had time to lead a class, oh and he was going to be away on vacation for the first week. I said yes of course. Why turn something fun like that down, really? That’s the brief story of how I started being a lead instructor for BBST classes.

This year marked my second CAST and first Test Retreat. For the second time, CAST was a formative event. The conference is really really good, what’s even better is getting to hang out with friends after. This is where the magic is. Test retreat is what lead to me getting to WHOSE2013. I did a session on tester skill lists, and it just happened that other people there were interested in the same thing. Who’d have thunk it. Test retreat also spawned a book club that I’ve been enjoying a lot. Next year I’d like to go to two conferences, I’m not sure what the second will be though. Maybe QAOrTheHighway.

I worked with Michael and JeanAnn a lot this year while contributing sessions for WeekendTesting Americas. Weekend Testing is a great thing for so many people. Participants get a free place to work with groups on new testing topics once a month, facilitators get a place to pursue whatever topics are interesting to them at the moment. All it takes is a good idea and 2 hours of your Saturday. I’m looking forward to more of these next year.

Writing is not something I’m particularly comfortable with, most times it is a struggle. So, because of that, I started writing more often here. Writing and reading a lot really help to make writing easier. I also started to do some writing outside of my personal blog. I’ll be writing one other place, at least for a few months, early next year. I want to thank Matt Heusser for that opportunity.

I’m not really sure what 2014 will bring, but whatever it is I probably won’t say no. There are a few really interesting in the air right now and if any one of them panned out I’d be pretty happy.