CAST2016 and AST Elections

You might already know about this, hopefully you already know about this, CAST2016 will be held in beautiful Vancouver, BC August 8th, 9th, and 10th. The theme this year is focusing on how testing helps propel software development projects forward. If you find yourself in a organization shifting toward more technical test techniques, this is the conference for you. As always, we will offer a full schedule with something special that you won’t find at most conferences, time to talk with the presenters and have deep conversations about their experiences.

TestRetreat, a peer conference, will be held the Saturday before CAST2016. TestRetreat is a little different. The attendees create the schedule and for the most part, run the event. If there is a specific topic you want to talk about, or a practical problem you want to work on in a group, this is a great forum. I have attended all but the first TestRetreat and will be there this year.

AST Board of Directors Elections

My first term on the AST board of directors will end at CAST2016. I served one year as VP of Education and Chair of the Education Committee, and my second year as President. Over the course of those two years, I was:

I will be running for my second, and last, term on the AST board this August. If I am elected again, I would like to focus on three things:

  • Continuing to help develop and promote our public education offerings like BBST, webinars, attending and reporting on academic software events.
  • Further decentralizing some aspects of work traditionally done by the BoD by fostering an engaged membership.
  • Discovering new ways to expand the reach of AST and good testing practices.

If you are happy with the work I have done so far, and what I might do over the next two years, I hope you’ll vote for me this August in Vancouver.

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.

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.


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!

WHOSE 2013 recap

WHOSE 2013 was held at the offices of Hyland Software December 5-7, 2013.

A note first, this is my own experience of the workshop. I’m sure there will be other experience reports popping up soon, and they may have different, but perfectly valid personal experiences to share.

Jess Lancaster, Jon Hagar, Doug Hoffman, Jeremiah Carey-Dressler, Nick Stefanski, Pete Walen, Rob Sabourin, David Hoppe, Chris George, Alessandra Moreria, Justin Rohrman, Matt Heusser (facilitator), Simon Peter Schrijver (facilitator), Erik Davis (facilitator)

Day One
Day one began with presentations from:
Jon Hagar on current industry resources for skill lists and education resources such as ISO standards, IEEE standards, SWEBOK, and ISTQB.

Matt Heusser spoke on the goal of the workshop, defining what a skill is, discussion on how and if we should model the skill list any particular way. The working definition we came up with for skill is any activity which can be isolated, demonstrated, evaluated, developed , and observed.

After presentations, we went around the room and did introductions and a brief statement of why we were there, what we planned to contribute, and what we hoped to take away from the event.

List creation
After this we began creating and categorizing the skill list. This activity took place by individuals writing single skills on index cards over the course of 45 minutes or so. I’m not sure how many cards we ended up creating, but I would guess it was over a hundred. Some were very similar, and some overlapped to a degree. We categorized the cards by theme (examples: social, tech, test design) and this categorized list became version .000001 of our skills inventory. Every skill noted was something someone in the room felt relates directly to the activity of software testing.

After this we formed groups and began to get the categorized list into a wiki. This initial version was a working definition of a skill, and a few resources of where someone could go to learn about that skill. At the end of the day, each group presented on what the work we had done. We were mostly unhappy with what we had at that point.

Day Two
Day two began with a brief recap of the previous day and some talk about new tactics we could take. We “mobbed” one skill as a group and came up with a very good example of what would be the basis for the remaining work. This new style of skill list was significantly more time consuming to create, but, in my opinion, has far more value. We continued working in groups in this style for the remainder of the day with another recap at the end of the day. This work was mentally exhausting.

Day Three
We was a half day which ended at noon. We spent the day closing the workshop. This consisted of talking about the remaining work (who was going to do and how would it get done), and closing remarks.

Some personal notes
Being in a room full of smart people, all actively working side by side to improve the craft of software testing was an amazing experience for me. I have never participated in a facilitated LAWST style workshop before, originally this was intended to be in that format. Groups formed and gelled very quickly, so there was little to no need for facilitation. I heard comments by folks that have been to and facilitated many LAWST workshops that WHOSE was unlike any other workshop they had been to.

The CDT community has a reputation for being contentious and having a certain amount of infighting. I witnessed absolutely none of this. Groups had cordial, open discussions with disagreements without any negativity or personal attacks. I think that is an important thing to note.

Day two was long and exhausting, I hit a wall around 2 and was struggling to produce good work after this despite a constant flow of coffee. This kind of work is far more difficult that I imagined prior to the workshop. A monumental effort was put in over the three days and I’m proud of what was created. It will take some time to get the work into a more complete, presentable state, but I’m looking forward to that day. Feedback and contribution from the testing community will make this living document even more valuable.

CAST 2013 recap

CAST has once again come and gone. I’ve had a little bit now to let the experience simmer in my brain so it seems like a good time to write some notes down.

Prior to cast this year there was a full day peer conference, test retreat. This was my first experience with the peer conference format so it was a lot to take in. It will be really difficult to spill what we talked about in a blog format so I’ll settle with listing the sessions I went to for now. Each of these was lead / facilitated by the person that suggested the topic. I suggested the deliberate practice session. This is a very difficult topic and my main take away was that there is a significant amount of work that can be done here and that I want to be involved in it.

  • experiential simulations (Jesse)
  • deliberate practice (mine)
  • stop faking it (Michael)
  • interviewing testers (rich)
  • exploratory test retreat (markus)
  • write stuff (matt)

CAST started for me with a full day tutorial on coaching software testers via skype put on by Anne-Marie Charrett. This was a wonderful experiential session. The tutorial was organized around a model of coaching developed by her and James Bach. We worked through the tutorial by discussing some aspect of the model and then working through that theme in a live coaching session. If you have not had a skype coaching session with Anne-Marie, I definitely recommend it.

This is what I attended during day 2 and 3 of the conference:

Day 2:

Day 3:

It really is difficult to share the experience that is CAST in the medium of text. It is unlike most conferences out there. I encourage you get there next year and experience it for yourself.

My three months in BBST and ending radio silence

The last three or so months I’ve been a little more quiet than normal. Yep, even for my normal introverted level of quiet. I’ve happily committed a pretty sizable amount of time to the BBST Test Design, Instructors course, and co-instructing my first class for AST (Bug Advocacy).

The instructors class was really useful, mostly in the sense that it gave a good base of education theory and also in the sense that it gave a good method of communicating with students. The one area I found lacking in the course was how instructing works practically. Things like class flow, how to do certain common things within moodle, how much or little to interact with students, and so on. Some of this was resolved while co-instructing for the first time which I’ll speak to in a bit. Overall though, the class was a pleasure and very informative. The instructors manual created by Dr. Kaner, Dr. Fiedler, and Doug Hoffman was wonderful, useful during the instructors course and even more so for my first time co-instructing.

On to my first time co-instructing a class. Though the students have finished their parts of the classwork, there is still work to be done by the instructors. I participated minimally his time and frankly felt lost quite often despite talking with the other instructors. It seems like this is a common experience for first timers though. Learning the administrative side of moodle as well as figuring out my role as a co-instructor was trying. The experiences in the first class should make the next classes much better. That’s a good thing since I plan to lead classes eventually. I think early communication with new instructors and having some set of tasks specifically for new instructors to ease them in would go a long way to make that experience better. Actually, just something listing typical tasks that new instructors are generally successful with would be helpful. I aspire to participate much more for the next class which is in January if memory serves.

Oh! I’m also really excited to be helping with TWiSt an an editor. I edited my first episode this past week. If you haven’t listened yet, you can download the mp3 here. Free registration is required.

BBST Test Design review

The second BBST Test Design course wrapped up this past weekend. Figured I would give a little review while it is still fresh on my mind. Test Design (in my opinion) was the most difficult and time consuming of the BBST courses. Like foundations and bug advocacy, it was recommended that a student spend up to 14 hours per week on the class. I may have gone a little bit over that.

As Michael Larsen said, this class is like drinking from a fire hose. Test design is a survey course and as such it is intended to be that way. My main take aways from this course were practical usage of the James Bach HTSM (mapped out in xmind), practical experience in risk based testing, and a thorough overview of domain testing. Many other test techniques were mentioned (survey course, remember?) but these were the focus.

The BBST instructors course starts October 10th. I’m registered for that and ready to get started.

A short diversion.
I have started doing some skype coaching for miagi-do. So far, I have focused on socratic coaching by picking some topic and just talking it over and meandering however feels right. I’d like to mix it up and try some more practical challenge based sessions as well though. If you have experience with software coaching over skype, I’d be love to hear your story.