You can’t go home again

This train of though starts with Pete Walen posting an “overheard” tweet

I don’t have any experience making wine but I have made beer a few times. The thing about beer making and testing is that there are innumerable variables. If you buy a kit or a set of ingredients based on a recipe, the best case scenario is that you come *close* to what the recipe author intended. There are so many things to consider. The mineral content of your water, the yeast you’ve managed to procure, the harvest conditions of your grain and hops, temperatures at various points during the process.

This immediately brought to mind the phrase “you can’t go home again”. The general idea here is that experience changes your perspective in ways that you can’t account for. This makes it difficult to leave the place you grew up and then return and still call it home.

I think this idea applies to testing too and that made me think of a You can’t go home agian heuristic. If you have run a test once, chances are if you try to run it again you will be running a new test. The world is conspiring against your ability to do things in an identical way twice. Maybe you unintentionally take an alternate path through the software, maybe the timing of your actions are different, or maybe there are system changes that you are completely unaware of. Any of these things cause you to be performing a fundamentally different test and learning novel things about your software.

Nashville Lean Coffee #1

I facilitated a lean coffee meetup for testers in Nashville this past Wednesday. This was my first time doing something like this so it was a pretty interesting experience. The participants seemed pretty happy so I’ll call it a success! I wish I had taken more pictures but I’m no live blogger. It is tough to get involved and do that kind of active observation.

Date: 10/16/2013
Participants: Read Blankenship, Alexa Riter, Michael Alexander, Kendall Joseph, Justin Rohrman

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Lessons Learned:
Timing
I really like doing this in the morning because people can be hesitant to cut out some of their evening free time for things like this. The problem with mornings is 7am comes early and it seems even earlier when it happens to rain all night and morning. The rain caused some people to be a little late but it was no big deal and we rolled with it just fine. I suppose you can please all the people all the time so any time will be inconvenient. I may take a poll on when the next event should be.

Strength in Numbers
This time there were 5 people total participating including me. I was hesitant to add my cards to the pile because I was trying to play the role of the facilitator and let everyone get their ideas on the table but in hindsight more cards may not have been a bad thing. There is definitely a benefit to having more people at lean coffee. You get more variety in topics and you get more people with varied experience to talk about each topic. Some things I did like about the smaller group was the intimacy of the group and how obvious the energy level is to watch with fewer people. We were able to get in a groove and ended up not having to vote much on whether to go onto the next topic.

Problem Solving is Energizing
Once we got into talking about each topic the group really got into it. Realizing that we can in fact solve our own problems is really empowering. Also, realizing that the things we were working on at 7 am could be used at 8:30 when everyone made it into the office was energizing.

Facilitating ie rewarding
I really like facilitating events like this, the people that come in and really make the event aren’t the only ones benefiting. I benefit because it makes me feel good to help others help themselves and also I get to hone some facilitating and problem solving skills. The lean coffee format helps to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about problems they have and things they need help with. Also, it helps to create an environment where people that care can give the best kind of help, solicited help.

I’ll probably try to do another one of these in a month of so. If you are a tester in the Nashville area I hope you’ll join us!

Does your opinion matter?

How many times have you been testing something for work or some extracurricular activity and found something you though to be really super duper extra important only to have no one care? I’ve done it a few times, most folks I know have. This is a difficult situation to be in. rejection is tough. No one likes to spend time reproducing, isolating and whatnot just to find out that no one cares about your issue. That was a RIMGEA reference for my bug advocacy friends out there.

In my opinion, this is one of things at the heart of the context-driven community. Finding relevant information in a timely manner and presenting it to people who care. Here is a great anecdote from Perze.

Direct communication with the people who rely on your information certainly goes a long way to make your work worth while. Things like clarifying your information objectives, your mission, your test charters have been really helpful to me. Have you ever been in this kind of situation? How did you resolve the conflict, how did you reduce the chances it would happen again?

The pursuit of scrutiny

I was listening to this interview with Keith Klain the other day at work. Having something on in the background helps me get in the groove. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it is a testing conference session or keynote, but this time it was this interview recording.

One phrase he spoke really struck me, I don’t remember the context but Keith was talking about the pursuit of scrutiny. So much of my life revolves around this right now. Peer groups, BBST, weekend testing, my testing day job and so on. Exposing yourself to others scrutiny can be a bold and empowering thing. I really recommend listening to the interview.