woensdag 28 december 2016

Agile Testing Days Diary - Second Day

Lean Coffee seems to be a problem for me to attend as I’m still sipping my coffee and eating breakfast as I see people flocking in the Fritz bar for this event. I didn’t even go to bed that late last night, comparing to other attendees who partied-on till 4-ish this morning. I remember a tweet of Richard Bradshaw, stating he brought his own pillow and thinking ‘what nonsense’, but I’m sure to bring my own pillow next year too. The Dorint mattresses are as hard as the pillows are airy; meaning that when you put your head on it: it’s gone - totally flat. I tried folding it in four, but that didn’t help much.

Well, I was on time for the keynote where Diana Larsen, also known on twitter as DianaOfPortland, presented ‘Liftoff: Start & Sustain Successful Agile Teams’.  Instead of using ‘Kickoff’, the ‘Lift Off’ is a better way of heading towards a destination called: “High Value Delivery”.  But before you can Liftoff, you must ask yourself if your product has a committed sponsor and identified product manager, if they can articulate the business case for the product, if someone has allocated the funding and a budget to start the endeavour and if the intention of what you want the team(s) to accomplish is clear.  If so, you can move on to the next step. But before getting to that, you must be aware- although many people don’t like the notion of being a ‘system’- that teams are complex, adaptive systems, with interactions, emotions and the occasional ‘naughty guy’. Being aware of this sets the basis of also being able to create the factors for success. You will also be able to work on something that is called ‘cohesion’ in teams, people that have worked in very cohesive teams will know what she’s talking about and Diana states that once you’ve experienced such a team you’ll always be trying to find a team like that again. Group cohesion is a multifaceted process with four main components which are; social relations, task relations, perceived unity and emotions. She also states: “One learns best when we feel more alive”  and she elaborates on the conditions to be set to promote learning. What I liked the best of this keynote however, was the part about appealing to the humanness. I thought up the term  ‘Sensatory Pleasing’, and my mind started to wander off to what one can do to please the senses, making people feel good and thus not only make the liftoff a success, but also help with group cohesion. Food, drinks, colors, pictures, music ánd smells; it might be very interesting to see if you put an effort into these aspects have that impact when starting a project....  I get back to the keynote again to see something on team chartering and setting goals. I was also charmed by the concept of a test-driven mission;  Make the tests during the Liftoff, test during the journey.  Because everything IS driven by testing in Agile. This keynote inspired me to get into dept of the matter more. If you are interested too, Diana has written a book about Liftoff: https://pragprog.com/book/liftoff/liftoff-second-edition and more information on Diana can be found here: http://www.futureworksconsulting.com/about/diana-larsen

The next track I visited was a ‘New Voice’ track. It was called ‘Sketching User Stories, Making user stories easy and interesting for the whole team and the new voice to be heard was: Viktorija Manevska (@viki_iki). I really like the visualisation stuff in software development and Viktorija does a good job in explaining the benefits of using pictures to get everybody on the same page. I like the statement: “someone explains 3 times and says 'do I have to draw you a picture'. If you could draw it why didn't you start with that?”. She explains how imagery triggers another part of the brain, stimulating to ask deeper questions.  She also shows the tools she uses, like paint and balsamic. Tools don’t have to be highly advances, as long as the meet the purpose used for. But a real powerful thing happens when she shows a description to fold a Christmas tree (origami like) from a piece of coloured paper. The whole room struggles to fold something into the requested item, but – as far as I can tell- nobody manages this in the allotted amount of time. Then she shows imagery of the way to fold the tree, a bit like the way IKEA uses images to explain how to assemble their furniture, and she assigns us to the same task. An behold; everybody is able to fold the tree and in half of the allotted time!  And to shamelessly plug my (Dutch) blog on TestNet about visualisation: https://nieuws.testnet.org/vak/een-beeld-zegt-meer-dan-duizend-woorden/  (to be translated in English in the near future on the FunTESTic blog)

I ran into a PACKED (!!!) room to hear Maaike Brinkhof on ‘Mapping Biases to Testing’, I was lucky to have one of the last seats, but ended up sharing two chairs –forming a provisionally made bench- with three persons. She started with a survey which worked partly. Again: the audio-video monster was haunting the premises and it affected Maaike’s presentation too. (slidedeck: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0By2lWBEOcdiocDhoYmdUc2lUeU0) . Whether we like it or not; we are all biased. Maaike explains some of the biases we as testers are influenced by. She elaborates on the ‘confirmation bias’, being the mother of all biases and effortlessly (she seriously has great English speaking abilities!) goes to the Halo-effect, ‘what you see is all there is’, availability heuristic and closing the loop with referring to the confirmation bias again. The anchoring effect is explained after that. She also refers to a must-read book, mentioned at least three times in her talk, which is called: thinking fast and slow from the author Daniel Khaneman. The book greatly influenced her apparently. I think everybody is biased in some way, I like that Maaike is explaining what certain biases impact us in testing and what behaviour is connected to that.
In the break I notice something: Huib Schoots who is doing the keynote after the break is really, very energetic and seems to become more so by every minute that passes, while I’m getting more and more quite now my workshop is approaching. Is this a different physical effect that is a difference between an introvert (me) and and extrovert (Huib)? In other words: do extroverts become more energetic and introverts more into themselves when a talk to be given by them is to be given? Hmmm..more food for thought...

After setting up the room for my workshop , I attend the next keynote; One upon a time by Huib Schoots and Alex Schladebeck. The keynote is all about storytelling and a commercial about ‘best buds’ is shown, where I –seriously- get emotional (sappy stuff!!!). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlNO2trC-mk We as humans have the capability of storytelling and it’s a powerful instrument. An exercise is done where we have to tell a story about our  project and our failure. The sound in the room is enormous and the energy produced is awesome. They also tell about the science behind storytelling. Although I like science facts, I can’t help but think that (yes... it’s the Halo-effect taking over) that everything has to have a scientific basis nowadays because else it won’t be useful, fun or valuable. I like to have some magic, some imagination and some thinking of my own left. I can’t help it, but I get annoyed because I blame certain ‘skools’ for this. Why can’t we just state things without spending numerous slides on the scientific basis and just be cool with that??? It ruins the keynote for me a bit. I notice I’m annoyed, angry and particularly biased at this moment. Luckily Alex is then telling about her experience with her violin and her special connection to it. Making the keynote having something special again. Storytelling to me is about emotions, tension, climax and inspiring imaginative processes. I feel strongly about the power of storytelling and in this matter I think this keynote is valuable. I also think that imagination and cold-hard facts are more difficult to combine. In my mind-cabinet, I’m making a note titled ‘scientific and factual storytelling’ to make a distinction with regards to storytelling for the sake of entertainment, motivation and other ways of storytelling.

My workshop is up next. It isn’t crowded at all. That at first feels like a disappointment. I’ve put so much effort in this workshop. But then the magic happens. The attendees that are there, and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not the numbers that count but the involvement (!!), are really engaged in the topic. Bearing with me. Although it might seem I’ve loads of experience in speaking, it’s a huge effort for me and I still get very anxious and nervous when I have to ‘perform’. I’m giving it all of my energy and luckily for me: it paid off. I think deductive games are a fun way to inspire and motivate our inquisitive mindset; so why not use those to help design better user stories and question specifications. I was really grateful for having such an engaging and enthusiastic group of people in my workshop and I felt really blessed. And thanks to Eddy Bruin, I now know that actually playing a game of WhoIsIt? Helps clarify the intentions.

I cleaned out the room afterward and was a tit-tat late for the keynote of Keith Klain. And what a timing to enter a room and seeing a slide stating: “I don't know what the #$%&! I'm doing” , why I wasn’t at the keynote from the beginning It felt like a completely appropriate slide at that moment.  I didn’t get much of the talk though, I was till unwinding and getting to myself from the workshop. Like I said, it takes a lot of energy and a lot of effort for me to do these kind of things, so the keynote; although I really wanted to snatch some learning stuff from it, It just didn’t stick. I did get something about ‘tool fetishism’ and the purpose of doing things. But I hope that the published slide-deck will refresh my memory again.

After the keynote the sponsors and exhibitors did a speed round and after that food and drinks were available in the lobby.  I planned and managed to attend the ‘Beer tasting and testing’ workshop by Eddy Bruin and Bram Bronneberg in the Fritz bar at 19:30. I was there early, because the places available were limited. Bram and Eddy had prepared a couple of rounds where everybody got a beer and a description of two beers on paper. By tasting the beers you had to figure out which beer was in your glass. I know one thing; I’m not good at tasting beer! I had the ‘Berliner Weisse’ correct (the other description was of the Saison). But tasting the difference between ‘outmeal stout’ and ‘schwarzbier’ was a bit more difficult and I failed to taste the distinction between ‘Belgian Blonde Ale’ and ‘Belgian Golden Strong Ale’ (which I felt quite embarrassed about since I like the Delirium Tremens a lot). I got the Belgian Dubbel correct, being not the ‘Doppelbock’, but managed to fail again with the choice between ‘Belgian Dark Strong Ale (Quadruple)’ and the ‘English Barleywine’. After the tasting, the ‘testing’ began. All attendees got a ‘bingocard’ and a description of defects in beer, that can occur when making errors during the brewing process. Apparently there are tablets that you can add to beer that mimic those flaws. The tablets were added to the beer and the attendees had to guess which error was made. That was very difficult and I managed to get them all wrong. But then again... I wasn’t really looking forward tasting ‘skunk-taste’, ‘sewage-flavour’ and ‘baby-puke’. Which respectively stand for ‘lightstruck  a strong skunk like flavour imparted to beer that has been exposed to sunlight for too long’, ‘mercaptan, a drain like flavour that occurs in beer due to aging and oxidisation once packaged’ and ‘butyric, a baby sick or cheesy flavour formed by bacteria during wort production or in sugar syrups’...

After the tasting and testing, I felt very jolly, I went to the cabaret by Mephistoteles Fassbinder. A role perfectly performed by Daniel Maslyn. I agreed to telling a story there. An anecdote about me being a simulation victim and about ‘hairy bits down-there’ (you know what I mean...*blush*). Don’t worry; it’s not having the actual hair ‘down-there’ but about a special made pair of trousers to do delivery-drills at the obstetrics department of the hospital. But it makes an hilarious story. I think it was well received, considering all the other acts performing at the cabaret. Like the awesome performance of Alex Schladebeck and Tomm Roden, Gil Zilberfeld, George Dinnwiddy (as Cat), Four Yorkshire men and a sing-a-long of Test me tender...

During the cabaret Morten Hougaard and me also had to perform some real first aid, when somebody bumped into a doorpost holding a glass, which chattered and cut up the person’s hand.. Luckily in first-aid there is an universal language J. Some of it wasn’t serious, but one finger was really cut up very badly and we send the person to the hospital, where 3 stitches were the result of the venture.

The evening thus turned out to be quite adventurous and when entering the bar I seemed to have started a trending topic, because both groups I joined were talking about body hair and shaving-anecdotes. At 1-ish I really became very tired and decided to leave the crowd to face the hard-mattress-and-flat-cushion bed. 

zondag 11 december 2016

Agile Testing Days Diary - Arrival and First Day

It took me some time to get there, because fog in Berlin was keeping the plane from taking off in Amsterdam, but Monday afternoon I finally arrived at Agile Testing Days (ATD) in Potsdam. It's my first ATD and I find it amusing that I'm experiencing the 'first-timer-excitement' again. 
The first thing I see, but they are kind of hard to miss, are the big white, blow-up, unicorns. There's a whole herd of them in front of the hotel registration desk and some specimens have found their way into the hallways and after I registered myself I'm lured onto one of them for a photograph. I decide to use it as a sort of chaise-longue and find out they aren't as easy to get off, resulting in a weird kind of gymnastics that passers-by must have observed. Luckily for me the tutorials were in full swing, so there weren't many witnesses. 

In the evening ATD has organized a dinner for the speakers. It's already dark and the drive to the venue isn't that long, but the short travel shows a lot of beautiful buildings and a elaborately lit Christmas market. I find Potsdam a beautiful town and I'm hoping that I'll find some time this week to be able to explore some of it by daylight. I thought the food was good and the dinner is closed with some digestives in the attic bar. A bus drives us back to the hotel and most attendees gather in the bar to extend the conference day. I'm not sure when the last people left, but I decided to finish at 01:00.

Gift bag Agile Testing Days with Breyk
Reading my twitter feed while trying to get out of bed, I see a post about a gift that is waiting for me on the outside door handle of my room. Strongly motivated (an curious as can be) I get up and get the bag that is there. It contains an Advent Calendar, a Santa Hat and a bottle of 'Breyk'; a beer brewed by Eddy Bruin and Bram Bronneberg especially for Agile Testing Days. How cool is that!
While I have breakfast, I can see people being very engaged in the Fritz bar during the LEAN coffee session. I tried to make it, but today is not my fittest day. I wish I could say the headache I have is from a luscious alcohol consumption the night before, for at least I would know it would go away in an hour or so, but alas this is not the case. It seems aspirin is going to be a big friend today. After breakfast I'm heading to the Opening Session, while walking over there I spot a dude wearing a Christmas suit and some people wearing a Christmas sweater. While waiting for the Opening a cube is passed (well, actually.. thrown) around which is called 'the cube of truth'. It's a cube made of cloth with a microphone in it, so you can throw it through the room, Cool solution to have a mic go around a big auditorium!

Testing ghost of the past, present and future
Alas; José Diaz is sick and not able to open ATD himself, instead Mike Sutton kicks off and introduces 'the very Agile person' and a well known testing cast, to tell and sing about the Testing Passed, Testing present and Testing Future.  It even had actual jingle bells in it, lights in a hat and we all finished singing the last part of the song to get into the spirit of Testing Christmas.
I felt goose bumps when the Software Testing World Championship teams were awarded in a ceremony; the music, those proud people on stage, it does something that touches me!

Then Abby Fichtner, also known as @HackerChick, enters the stage for her keynote called 'Pushing the edge on what's possible'. She tells a story of her childhood when her father bought her an Atari. I immediately think about the black box where you put the cassette tapes in, as did she when she was a child. But instead she got the computer variety, which she thought was even more cool, because the amount of games were far higher and she got to learn to code. So, now I’m thinking “ok, hackerchick ... code, she’s going to tell about hacking”, you know, the one like in ‘ethical hacking’. But just as with the Atari, it was about hacking, but in the meaning of being able to find an innovative workaround or solution. Taking an object and using it out of context in an inventive way, being creative with it and thus being able to enhance and advance. She also tells about how people that come up with these great ideas are perceived as odd, weird and having lost their minds. Because great ideas in a lot of cases look like bad ideas, but the problem is that bad ideas look that too. In history it was thought that the telephone was a bad idea so was the idea of the iPod. I myself think about the same ‘predictions’ by Watson (IBM) saying “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” or Darryl Zanuck, executive at 20th Century Fox who stated that the television wouldn’t last, but would only be a temporary hype. Abby also states that evolution is the ultimate ‘hack’, I find that comparison a bit farfetched myself, I can follow the line of thought, but evolution to me is about being able to adapt to survive, hacking is finding clever solutions and being innovative, I see some connections, but I can’t completely go with this statement. Nonetheless, the keynote was food-for-thought, entertaining and had good stuff in it.

After each track and keynote ATD has a break (fifteen for coffee breaks and an hour for lunch). Now I’ve been to a number of conferences and in most of them the fifteen minutes breaks are used to grab a quick cup of coffee (or tea) and then quickly walk to the next track. That’s not what happens at ATD. During these breaks attendees gather and confer. I guess this is a combination of the type of people (active, engaged), the type of conference and content (living up the Agile manifesto ;-)), the size of the venue (not that massive) and the way ATD is really pampering their audience with snacks, fruit, food and different kinds of beverages.

The second track I attended was ‘Testing your Emotions’ by Stephen Janaway. I had a bit mixed feelings about this track. The main message of what I got from the what Stephen was telling is that emotions play an important role in testing and that understanding emotions makes (us) a better tester.  Whether this is during the testing itself; the ‘gut feeling’ that you have when interacting with the software or the emotions we display and encounter when interacting with other people involved in development of the product (developers, managers etc.). He also used references to models to explain emotions (Plutnick, Lövheim). This is where I thought the track started to lose some of the strength. When the Plutnick model was explained I could still relate. The examples shown after that made the arguments and statements understandable and applicable. The Löveheim part however made it vague for me, don’t get me wrong; I understand how neurotransmitters and hormones physically impact / cause emotions, but I just couldn’t relate to this (empirically unverified) model. I couldn’t get the ‘what’s in it for me’. I thought this part weakened the talk, that was until then for me very good. Luckily the last bit of the track went back to the ‘gut feeling’ again. But during the Q&A questions were asked about the Löveheim model/cube; even creating more distance to the main message, because it focussed on the model itself and not on the ‘understanding emotions’ –message. Nevertheless most of the track had good points that I could take with me and refreshing my awareness on my own and other people’s emotions when software testing and the interactions around that.  The slidedeck of the talk can be found here: http://www.slideshare.net/sjanaway/testing-your-emotions

Brewing Beer, the Agile Way!’ by Eddy Bruin and Bram Bronneberg was the next track I attended. They told the story about how an observation of lots of people drinking beer at the previous ATD inspired them to brew a ‘perfect’ Agile Testing Days beer. They told about the research done to get to a recipe and the development process, including prototyping and scaling. During the track they showed the brewing of the beer itself, with Eddy vigorously grounding the rye by hand and Bram setting up the brewing kettle. When it came to scaling, because the beer had to be brewed for the whole ATD audience and they couldn’t assure consistency when having to do this with their own machinery (they would have to brew at least six batches that might have caused different results) they started to search for a brewery. They made a really nice comparison here with waterfall versus agile. Because the first brewery they contacted – Heineken- was able to brew the recipe, even being very enthusiastic about it, but it would take at least a year and cost about 50.000 euro’s, in that way it could be seen as a very waterfall approach; costly and taking a long time to finish. The brewery they finally found was able to do smaller batches, with less costs and in time for the ATD 2016, which could be seen as the Agile way. Bram and Eddy then proudly presented their product: a bottle of ‘Breyk’ (which actually was meant to be ‘Bryek’ because of ‘rye’) ; an Agile Roggen. They also presented their official ‘brewery name’ which, because their last names both begin with ‘BR’ is ‘
ewery’, also relating to ‘breaking bad’. They also got to be registered in Untapped and found – as is a testers privilege- a bug in there. Untapped – not being able to cope with brackets – now knows them as ‘Eaking Ewery’...I thought it was a very entertaining track, with some interesting facts about beer and the process brewing, and some nice analogies with testing.

During lunch my headache is really acting up and since I really want to participate in the workshop by Lisa Crispin and JoEllen Carter, I decide to go to my room, take a dose of aspirin and catch some z’s. This means I’m missing the keynote by Vasco Duarte on NoEstimates. In hindsight that is really unfortunate, the buzz around the keynote I hear afterwards is amazing and during the ‘cube of truth’ session on Wednesday morning it is mentioned a couple of times. I also heard he plugged his book several times (http://noestimatesbook.com/) so I have to check this out I guess to catch up on the missed info. It is even more unfortunate because the workshop I wanted to attend and for which I passed the keynote turned out to be completely full and I was asked to leave the room. I felt really disappointed by this, but as the conference is all about ‘being Agile’, I quickly chose an alternative.

The alternative was the ‘consensus talks’, three short talks on different topics. Gerd Doliwa’s talk was named ‘code your infrastructure the agile way’, Felix Elinger’s talk was named ‘how to test with 50 billion things in one hour’ and Jeroen Mengerink talked about ‘Test improvement for Agile’. I have to be honest here; the first two talks weren’t my cup of tea and I was also trying to catch the tweets on the workshop I was missing, so I wouldn’t be doing both speakers credit. It was not the speakers, but – and yes, I’m also thinking about the ‘emotions track earlier’ – it was totally my emotions relating to disappointment not being able to attend the workshop in combination with the large dose of aspirin hindering active listening.  The third one however was more of interest to me, Test Improvement for Agile. Jeroen related to improvement processes and mapped them to aspects of testing in Agile environments. I’m a person who likes processes and models, so this talk was more up my alley. I also noticed that 20 minutes talks are – for all three speakers- quite a challenge, they all three have a lot to tell, more than fits those 20 minutes. But when a talk motivates me to look into something and investigate more, it is a good enough talk for me. So I’m definitely checking the stuff that Jeroen also blogged about here: https://www.polteq.com/weblog/test-improvement-4-agile/

The next thing I went to was the keynote (last one of the day): ‘From waterfall to agile, the advantage is clear’ by Michael ‘The Wanz’ Wansley. What an amazing, entertaining keynote this is. The speaker is clearly gifted with the ability for interacting with an audience, all seems to go so effortlessly and supple.  But what strikes me is what I might call ‘voice artistry’, using different tones, emphasis, colour and pitch of voice. It makes the talk energetic and fun. I think every speaker (to be) should learn about this aspect of presenting. ‘TeeWanz’ as he’s also called talks about his career at Microsoft and he has some really good one-liners that stick, like ‘We are the power in Powerpoint’, ‘Testers have the ‘why-gene’, ‘Collaboration is what sets us apart working in agile’, “You're using your brain power to increase the collective intelligence to produce something that nobody sees” and “testers are the rear right wheel of a car - no one sees it, but we are there and our work matters”. This keynote feels like being at a really good feel-good show with the added benefit of expertise relevant lessons.

Christmas Market in front of the hotel
But the last keynote of the day is far from the last activity at ATD. Because the evening is also packed with activities and fun. Walking outside the hotel a genuine Christmas market is build on the front lawn, with fires, heaters, ‘beer gartens’, food stalls with ‘bratwurst’, ‘gruhnkohl’ and ‘crepes with apfelmus’ and a curling-track. A band is playing various Christmas classics and there’s even a stall where you can buy Christmas decorations. Although the temperature is around freezing, people are gathering to have a good time, talking around the fire and drinking mulled wine or the (now almost famous) ‘breyk beer’.

But even this Christmas market isn’t the last thing to be done in a day at ATD, because at eight the ‘Ho-ho-ho-ly STWC & MIATPP’ award night was starting. The announced theme of the party is ‘christmas and winter’ and lots of people have dressed up in costumes.
Dressed as Elsa
I myself dressed up as ‘Elsa’ from frozen, the wig that I had was actually a bit heavy and I forgot some bobbypins to lock it in my hair, so I walked and sat quite carefully, which some people perceived as ‘stature’ fitting the ‘royal nature’ of the Frozen princess. Talk about a bug that has actually a good feature as a result ;-).  I thought the market was intended to be also the dinner for the attendees, but as it turned out the award night was also including a whole dinner, with really good food. We also took up a ‘mannequin challenge’ which had an awesome movie clip as a result. After dinner the Software Testing World Cup winners were announced. The Dutch team won (and they also had awesome snowmen costumes by the way). Also the Most Influential Agile Testing Person was announced which was Maaret Pyhäjärvi. Deserts were then served in the hall and music started in the dinner hall, making people get up their feet, indulge in sweet bavaroises, pudding and dancing. I decided to go to bed at ‘twelve-ish’ but the party went on – as I understood- way longer than that.  ATD-people are really party-people!

maandag 28 november 2016

Scrum, burn-out and the Tai Chi-spective

(translated TestNet column)
According to research done by the Central Bureau of Statistics in the Netherlands and TNO, the percentage of IT-personnel that succumbs to burn-out is 17.2%. That is 3.2% higher than the national average. According to the investigation done, the causes are to be found in -amongst others- a higher work pressure and a higher emotional involvement for work.
During a workshop about absenteeism that I attended not so long ago the 'burn-out' was also discussed. One of the observations made in one of the discussions was that it seemed that especially in the younger population burn-out seemed to be increasing. We philosophized further on what could be the cause of this 'trend'. Was it the high work pressure? Was it the higher emotional involvement? We didn't thought this was the biggest issue. We made a link with the increase of working in an Agile way.
The Agile way of working, we were focussing on Scrum, is a way of working where the team is expected to have a high degree of (team)responsibility. The team as a whole is responsible for the results, and as a result one feels more involved. That is what makes working in a Scrum-team challenging and gives a high degree of autonomy. That autonomy is an important factor for motivation of employees, as various researches confirm. Thus far, there isn't any problem as it seems and one can safely conclude that working in a Scrum-team is both motivating and stimulating. Most employees will probably confirm that this is indeed the case, I'm convinced of this myself too.
But all that stimulation and performing can also have its downsides. Particularly, but not limited to, a young population. In the 'traditional project world' a 'youngster' was gradually introduced to the IT world by a test manager or test coordinator or mentor. Now these youngster are added to a Scrum-team where immediately the (team) responsibility for results count. Also 'oldies' experience this 'burden' in some cases, especially when they have worked in a micromanaged environments previously. Responsibility isn't a given fact, responsibility is something you have to dare to take, but sometimes you have to learn to take it.
Off course, one isn't responsible as an individual but as a team. But let's be honest, many teams perceive the new addition as a decrease of their velocity and this has to be brought up to speed as soon as possible. The expectancy is thus again relayed to the 'newbie' who, in all his or her enthusiasm and will to please excepts the challenge, not wanting to let the team down. The organisation asked for a sheep with five legs, excuse me- centipede- and the youngster is eager to comply. That can work out fine, but it can also backfire with absenteeism as a result. One has put his whole soul into his work, but loses his sanity in the process. When Vincent van Gogh stated this, he wasn't that crazy after all.
But I didn't get the 'aha-erlebnis' for this article by the 'burn-out-discussion' during that session about absenteeism, but during a course on Scaled Agile Framework. At a certain time there were a lot of references made on LEAN, KANBAN, Kaizens, GEMBA and what not more. I made a link with 'oriental' , and although Scrum hasn't got oriental roots, I noticed that a lot of Agile stuff has a link with the orient. I remembered the 'burn-out' discussion and the ((non)existing) relation with Scrum and made a connection.
A known concept in the orient is 'Yin and Yang'. These are Chinese concepts that refer to the opposing principles of forces in all aspects of life that permeate the universe. There in the Orient (yes, I'm generalizing now) people are more occupied with achieving the right balance and 'in the West' we tend to address this as 'hocus pocus'. There hardly arent any numbers on burn-out in the Orient, but if you search for researches done on the topic, burn-out is mostly seen in Western countries.
My argumentation: when developing in an approach with an oriental basis in a western country the chance of developing burn-out is bigger than in a country of oriental origin because apparently something is done differently.
What makes that difference? What doesn't one do, that is done in the Orient? I think it's because the awareness of the previously mentioned Yin and Yang and consciously being aware of these. When you walk through the average town in Asia and you pass a park or a square, you'll notice groups of people moving harmoniously. People charge themselves when they are tired, people take their rest when they are tired. People practice Tai Chi! which refers to a philosophy meaning one extreme (ultimate) and the other extreme (best) and refers thus to the philosophy of Yin and Yang.
So. My conclusion is that there is no other way than to add an extra ceremony in the Scrum-process to prevent imbalance and burn-out with employees; The Tai chi-spective (combination of Tai Chi and retrospective). I love to observe the teams and investigate what the effect will be!

donderdag 24 november 2016

Lullabies to Paralyze

For those of you who are expecting a blog about the 4th album by Queens of the Stone Age: I have to disappoint you. This blog has nothing to do with 'little sisters', 'broken boxes' or 'medication '. It has to do with testing, software testing that is.
I can no longer ignore some of the expectations and assumptions that are made about testing, I have to speak up. I have observed, for quite some time now, that testing service providers, independent testing professionals, testers, etc. etc. are advertising their activities in a way that I find is not what testing should be about and it worries me. It bugs me and as a tester I really dislike bugs...
I assume this advertising is done because companies who hire them (or the actually the people who hire them) have a soft spot for this kind of message. I find this alarming. Time for a wake-up call.
Slogans and sentences like: "Be Quality Re-assured", "we are testing so you don't have to lie awake at night...", "We will take your worries away", "hire us and you'll be certain and assured of...", they have one thing in common: they are lullabies that paralyze!
Testing should not be about taking worries away nor should it be about giving the customer a warm and cosy feeling. The customer on the other hand shouldn't be expecting this. They shouldn't assume that hiring testers or paying for testing(services) will suddenly make every worry go away nor should they think having 'testing' in place will abstain them from certain responsibilities.
Lots of testers (and/or companies) have taken up the role of pacifier, they are singing their lullabies and the client let's them sing. They feel comfortable, they don't have to worry and everything is alright.
People who know me a little, know I fancy a sturdy rock song. Maybe sometimes it's uncomfortable to listen to and a lot of lyrics are about ugly truths, but it certainly keeps me energized, aware and awake! Testing should be like a rock song, not the lullaby that features little white, fluffy sheep, soft and warm kittens and twinkling little stars...
Letting testing become the lullaby has its downsides. A lullaby has the goal of making you sleepy and that is exactly what I see happening in an alarming rate.
When you think everything is all right and warm and cosy, you won't be as receptive for dangers and risks.
Testing won't take away dangers or risks. Testing is about providing information, about providing insight on fitness for use, performance, security and what not more. But you'll have to act upon this information to actually mitigate dangers and risks and to address issues with performance, security and other things that testing will point out. That's not a responsibility of testing departments, testers or testing services; no matter what they tell you or what they promises.  That's the responsibility of the organization or team as a whole.
I think that as organisation you should be aware of testers (or services e.a.) that sing lullabies, that make you feel comfortable, that make you feel completely at ease and where you feel you haven't got a thing to worry about regarding your software and systems. Testers that 'Rock' are the ones you want. Testers that make you aware, energize you and wake you up. They make you think!
Organisations should also stop wanting to listen to those lullabies. I've got plenty of examples where the information provided by testing is ignored, because - like in a lot of rock songs- it contains some painful, ugly truths. If you don't want to listen to the songs, why buy the record? 
Thirdly I'd like testers, testing service providers etc. to stop lulling their customers into sleep. Besides the downsides I've already mentioned, they are also digging their own graves businesswise. Because when somebody feels very safe and has nothing to worry about, why would you pay for testers? Hey... no risk, no test right?
So from now on the only Lullabies to Paralyze you are listing to are those by The Queens of Stone Age J

maandag 3 oktober 2016

Bad-tester stamps, The why and Lingual Bias

Last week I saw a slide. The slide was posted on twitter.
Maybe the slide was pulled out of context (as many slides are that are posted from conferences), maybe the slide was made with the best intentions (aren't they the what pave the way to hell?) and maybe the message to be read (or understood) had more to it then met the eye (mostly slides accompany a spoken text).
But the slide did nevertheless anger me and the tweets and the blogs that followed didn't take away that anger (or maybe it's being annoyed that better fits the bill here). It bothered me, it still does.

I started reflecting what it exactly was that made me feel this way and I found that there are different things that have an influence. I decided I wanted to share them with you. Firstly because I felt I needed to 'justify' myself, maybe even find redemption of some sorts. Secondly because I think that something that I found, might help people in the testing community (or at least I like to think so).
Yes, this blog is self-centered. I hope in this way I can make some people understand why I do things the way I do them and I even hope some people can perhaps relate (or even identify themselves) and in this way I hope to create an understanding for those people as well as they might have the same way of coping with things. And yes; I also want to get some things off my chest, which is what I will start with.

Some years ago I was tagged a 'bad tester'. I was also told on another occasion that I wasn't a real tester and I was told that if I ever wanted to be a serious tester I could take a certain training. It didn't stay with one person stating this, it grew out of proportions. More people started to treat me as 'tainted goods'. I was shunned from and silences from a part of the testing world that I wanted to learn from and ask questions to. And all because I got this 'stamp' of no-good.

What that did to me, was triggering an older hurt. When one has been (extremely) bullied during their schooldays they know what it is I'm talking about. You want to learn and want to participate but not by becoming something you are not, it feels awful when you get locked out because of that.

I think I was tagged because of bad judgement and wrong assumptions that lead to prejudice. The first incident I remember is stating I was proud of my ISEB-P certificate. Although I left a wide opening to ask the question 'why', it wasn't asked. Instead it got me a load of scorn. I would have expected a bit more inquisitive behavior of people that value questioning and investigation with high regards, but that was apparently a stupid an naive assumption. For those of you that have made up their minds regarding this 'incident'. Here's the reason I'm proud of that certificate.

Most of you might not know this, but I have an extreme form of exam anxiety. Although my rationale is telling me otherwise, my body doesn't cooperate. My palms get sweaty, my face starts producing this minuscule drops of sweat, my mouth becomes as dry as the desert and my heart-rate goes up twice the normal beats and one of the really big downsides is that I black out. That is what happened the first attempt I went to the ISEB-P exam; I blacked out. I got to answering the first question of the three hour written exam and the next thing I know is that the supervisor is telling me that I only have a quarter left to finish. So I really prepared the next attempt. I got to specific therapy for the anxieties, I got some beta-blockers, learned (yes the theory!) my ass off and gathered as many practical cases and experience as I could so I could relate to the question. I went to the exam again and I managed to sit it through, despite the anxieties, and I passed. Not with brilliant figures, but I managed to cope with all the stress and I did it! So it's not the ISTQB/ ISEB stamp that makes me particular proud, it could have been any exam (although multiple choice is a bit easier for me), it's the victory on my exam anxiety that was the anwer to the 'why' that was never asked. Does that make me a bad tester? I believe this is not so.

Some of the people that shun me have strengthened their bias because I am involved in ISTQB via the BNTQB. Again, they have failed in asking the 'why' question. I believe, like lots of testers out there, that the ISTQB-F certificate particularly doesn't tell anything about skills. What is worse is that organizations value the certificate to be something it isn't. I joined the BNTQB because I wanted, and still want that to change. I want to at least make the attempt to add some skills to the foundation, to make it have some value. I want to make an effort on when that's not an option to at least inform organizations on what ISTQB-F actually is: a glossary of terms that can be learned  from a syllabus and doesn't say anything about the skills of the owner of that certificate. I also believe a learning program can have its benefits, but it has to be very clear what it embodies and what the value is. And yes; I have my doubt, as do others in the field, about the current curriculum of ISTQB, but I also know I can only take on so much at a time. Does that make me a bad tester? Does that make me a person not serious about the profession or a 'real tester', I think it doesn't.

Another thing that put another 'stamp' on me is my venture with the ISO29119. I was at the very start of the initiative; a workshop at EuroSTAR2006 and I got intrigued. Mind; I had only been in software testing for two years back then. The idea of a triptych that could serve as a guideline (book of knowledge) for testers worldwide was appealing to me. One part would be the document that would contain all the different (national) old standards, it would be complemented, updated with more recent stuff and be more broad then the 'component' testing focus it used to have. The romanticism of then has long gone, I got disappointed in what the document finally has become because of the 'standard for standards' of ISO. Is it a bad document?, I think it isn't, but it's important to value it for what it is and what it contains. It's important to inform (educate) organizations that aspire to use the ISO on the exact usage so they don't  'just apply' it without any thoughts and without context and adjustment, just to 'follow rules'. Do I advocate the usage? No I don't. Nor do I advocate the rejection of the standard. That doesn't make me a person who doesn't care, you retracts from responsibility. I just don't feel that its my place to advocate anything about this standard to a community or organisations.  And I certainly don't sign a petition just because someone says I have to. And that doesn't make me a tester who is not serious about the profession as was stated or a bad tester.

So far for the 'chest' part. Now back to the slide-thing and the blogging following that.
From one of the blogs I got that when we present on stage, keynote or not, that is an act of leadership and with that come responsibilities. I understand this. I also put as much as possible effort in thinking on how my actions help or hurt others. I also agree that we all have the right of response when a speaker takes a microphone to keynote (or otherwise have a presence) at a conference and I'm also a promoter of debate.

But I feel there is a catch here. I feel it's important to point this out. I feel this is something that I should share so that people in the community are aware of this. Maybe it will help in making things (feel) safer again. I just hope it helps.
I call it the lingual bias.
I'm as guilty in having it as I feel the native speaking English are guilty of it.
We take for granted that the English we use, in slides, during talks, on twitter, in debates is understood by others as we mean to communicate it. I also think native English speakers take for granted that - even more maybe because of that- the message that they send is understood as the way they intend them.
It is, I know from experience, not the reality of things.

When I 'go on stage', I prepare. Vigorously. It's necessary for me since I also get the reactions of the 'exam anxiety' when I have to speak (want to speak). I first type out the text in Dutch, then I translate it to English. I prepare for possible questions, I also find out the wording in English that might come in handy. I plan extra time for explanations and add extra examples to clarify. But you can only prepare so much.
One of the things that are very difficult, although I love a debate, discussions and dialogue, is the direct responses and dynamics.

The thing is: I'm not that good at spontaneous debates. I like to sculpt my answers, like the sculpture takes time to form his/her object. I want to think about answers, play with the thoughts in my minds before I can word them. That makes debating sometimes quite difficult, especially when emotions get involved. At more then one occasion after a debate I have thought of my answers and what I could have said or would have said would I have been given a bit more time. That is why I like dialogue and more paced discussions more then debates. Even more so because I feel in a debate with a native English speakers I'm already 3-0 behind, because of the language difference.
It happens on twitter too, although I can take my time composing answers and thinking about the answers, the lingual bias has more than once caused misunderstandings. Sometimes just a question, nothing more to it, was answered with a certain aggressiveness (perception by me, mind!), even blogs - as I'm certain this one will too- have the hindrance of the lingual bias.

The lingual bias, added with a sniff of prejudice it can make that you get a stamp that you feel you don't deserve, that you feel is unjustly put on you. The stamp also causes that answers are always read or perceived with a certain bias up front.  Sometimes even with broader consequences and it make you feel unsafe(r) to speak up. I certainly feel this way, hence my retracted behavior on different media to engage in debate. It's not that I don't care.
Maybe the question 'why' can help with the lingual bias or maybe it's a little bit more tolerance and kindness or compassion, maybe some like kindness...

just saying: in non-native English that is.

woensdag 24 augustus 2016

The sheep with five legs is dead, long live the centipede!

[This blog was originally published as Dutch article in TestNet Nieuws

In the past few months it has become clear to me that we, whether we are testers, quality directors or -engineers, T-shaped testers, qualisophes or whatever self-made variation of the validating- and falsifying professionals, must no longer advertise ourselves as the ‘sheep with five legs’ but as a genuine centipede,. By doing so, we also fully align with the latest trend of ‘meat’ being ‘out’ and insects are ‘the next thing’.

If I had to describe this centipede derived from all the articles, presentations and discussions it would be as follows:
The person has to be a male with a ‘feminine touch’ or a woman with a strong pair of ‘cojones’. He or she (for readability purposes I’ll use ‘he’ further on) has received a solid education, where he has cum-laude graduated from far ahead of schedule. The education distincts itself by having combined a sturdy practical approach common to higher professional education with the theoretical foundations of a university and a ‘school of life’ approach where it all depends on which context something will develop. This educational institute was also the only one providing the full testers curriculum developed by TestNet. He has done, purely out of personal interest, some extra modules that include technical informatics, creative education, didactic skills, psychology and multicultural communication. He also was able to attend two masterclasses at Nyenrode; the first on Sales and the second one on Consultancy. His parents brought him up bilingual; English and Dutch are his native language and during his studies he has been on several exchange programs in foreign countries, where he mastered German, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi, while not perfect in writing, he knows enough to express himself verbally sufficiently.  

The last ten years this person has been building experience within the testing profession in the broadest sense. He can excellently perform the role of test analyst but has no trouble at all to step into the shoes of a test manager of even expert where he can easily advise on strategic level. The ten years before he got involved in ‘testing’ he was employed in a diversity of non-testing roles, also managerial ones, with service providers in both private and public sectors where they developed financial products for non-profit organizations. He is truly a jack of all trades! He possesses the overview of the sector concerned and its developments, but also has a thorough knowledge of the domain specifically. He really is an IT-specialist but also a domain expert. In the last two years of his career he has been – besides engineer- the SCRUM-master in a high performing SCRUM-team.

The person has got a thorough knowledge of all testing methods, approaches and techniques. He is also an expert in SQL, XML, C++, JAVA, JAVAscript, Python, Ruby, .Net and he can use nine-out-of-ten test tools, like (but not exclusively) Jira, Visual Studio Test professional, HP Unified Functional Tester, Selenium and the Tricentis testsuite. He is also fairly knowledgeable on the topics testdatamanagement, security- and performance testing, test environment management and mobile testing. Prince II project management, SCRUM, LEAN, Kanban and TOGAF are also topics he has packed into his rucksack as test- and all-round IT professional. He is up-to-date with all the latest trends and has a very complete historical overview and accompanying historical awareness. When he lacks a certain piece of knowledge he finds it no problem to learn, he loves to learn after all! He is even willing to invest a large part himself in both time and money for the benefit of this expansion of knowledge and skills.
In the area of soft skills he has been able to build up a broad palette in the past years. Communication is by far his strongest competence. Negotiating techniques, conflict management and active listening are key-concepts that fit his personality. He is a great sparring partner for the business. He is highly emphatic and has a high organizational sensitivity.  He knows how to enthuse, stimulate and motivate others.
He is mentally strong and is also emotionally connected with his inner self. He is flexible, agile and
and able-bodied. He is a passionate professional but also a family man. The values of both his company and his family he holds in high regards. He has good work ethics, has integrity and is very honest. He knows to balance quality and speed. He finds intrinsic rewards much more important than extrinsic rewards. That’s also the reason why he works for a (minimum) wage where he can live from, but doesn’t pursue any luxury. He is both introvert as extrovert, depending on the situation at hand. He can be a leader but also a follower, a predictable and also surprising team player that is very able to do his work autonomously.  And… last but not leas: he is only 21 years old!

This description might look a bit far-fetched, but yet it is mostly what I have gathered from a diversity of published material (including real job adds) in only 3 months’ time enriched with some things that are generically said about the ‘ideal employee’.  And I also admit that some of the ads where for very specific vacancies that require very specific skills or knowledge and I díd incorporate them in the description anyway, like I did for ‘test automation expert’.
What I also noticed was that there was a lot of mentioning of that ‘every employee’ had to be fitted into a specific description (very generic) but that it also has to be a unique and authentic individual.

Anyway. The sheep with five legs doesn’t fit the bill anymore, but a genuine centipede has to fulfill the needs nowadays. Now I don’t know how it is with you, but in my vision the Human Centipede’ (= film) doesn’t reflect my image of the ‘ideal creature’ and isn’t that viable. I prefer being my good old self: human, with two legs on the ground, sturdy grounded and sometimes with both feet in the clay!

dinsdag 26 juli 2016

Ratting out the Loaded Term

In the last couple of years my job has shifted from 'hands-on' tester to a more advisory, coaching, leading and determining strategy kind of role. It has it's downsides of not experiencing the thrill of finding a serious bug as much any more and I miss the - almost Star Trekkian - feel of going where no (wo)man has gone before in different applications. 

The upside is that I think my work has become enriched with all kinds of other things that are affiliated with software- and system testing. When I think of talks like 'the tester is dead' or 'testing is dead' and the discussions that followed about the future of testing and the different roles in testing, I think one of the paths to grow to is becoming an adviser on how to gain insight and grip on risks in an organisation that flows from implementing new software- and system components but also to help organisations and the people in that organisation to be more efficient and effective in getting that insight, that can -but is not limited to- testing. Whether this is by coaching people, helping setup an automation framework or even teaching testing to non-testing personnel. 

But that is not what this blog is about. This blog is about something that I noticed during the years that I have been involved in testing, but is not necessarily a testing thing. My job involves a lot of explaining, clarifying and teaching. But also learning. Until recently I was unaware of this phenomenon that apparently has a big impact when trying to change things in an organisation; it's a thing called 'the loaded term'.  The skill that comes with it is a skill I call 'Ratting out the Loaded Term'. 

The loaded term is a term or a jargon that is or has already used in an organisation, group or team (etc.). This term is misused or doesn't have a particular positive vibe to it. When people speak of the term, they do that with a certain amount of cynicism. When you talk about this term with those people the body language shows 'anger', 'dislike', 'disgust' and sometimes a 'rolling eyes' movement is seen accompanied by a *sigh*. Sometimes somebody starts laughing, not because it's so funny, but because of pure contempt. This is the impact of the loaded term. Knowing about the loaded term is important when you want to get your message across, not knowing about the loaded term will let you fail in your endeavors. 

A loaded term in the testing community is for example 'best practice'. There's a whole group of testers that dislike, even scorn this term. Best practices don't exist; only good practices. The are dependent on the context. But an average person still uses the phrase 'best practice' without knowing this is a 'loaded term' within that group of testers. When that person would give a presentation in that group of testers a disaster is bound to happen.

I would argue that the group of testers in this case would be a bit lenient and would explain with a certain amount of patience and kindness to that person that there is no such thing as 'best practices'. I could also argue that the person in this case could also have done some research on this group of testers before doing the presentation; communication is a two-way-kind-of-thing, n'est çe pas? But is this to be expected of someone? Expectations and assumptions... well we know what we say about assumptions in the testing world!

In my own example the 'loaded term' was "expert lead" and also "thought leader". Apparently the terms were used once and they weren't perceived as positive roles. In the past it was a role people got reckoned on in their appraisals or expectancy of the organisation of those roles were not aligned. When trying to set up a sort of knowledge community this proved to be a problem for me, when encountering these loaded terms. I even found out that using affiliated terms were not-done. So what to do. I needed people, not necessarily the most knowledgeable on that specific topic, to be the 'go-to-person', a person that could get colleagues together to discuss a problem on a certain topic to come to a solution and to share that knowledge. I also needed a lead-of-leads, somebody that could help the leads to be able to organize and coach in their group of expertise (the go-to-for-help-and-coaching-person). 

During a meeting about this role (roles) I anxiously tried to avoid the term and became very focused to talk about the tasks and activities of the role. But nonetheless the question came; how do we call those people? The need to have a stamp (name) for the role was very real and not to be ignored. I confess: I "uhmmed" a bit here. 

But suddenly I said 'Mumsel'. Why I said *that* I don't know. It was a word from my imagination*. It sounded funny, it didn't have any meaning. And that was exactly the point!
So I started defining the 'mumsel' from scratch. The mumsel is an employee who independent of seniority has the task to be the single point of contact for a subjectmatter. When a question, problem of interesting topic around the subjectmatter arises. He/she has to organise a meeting (of some sorts) where the question, problem or topic can be tackled with all other personnel involved with the topic. This is for the benefit of sharing the knowledge directly with every person that is involved. If the topic, question or problem is too specific for the whole group, he/she might be able to help him/herself directly of to redirect to the right person in the organisation. 

What I'm advocating here is that it is important to be able to rat-out the loaded term. Pinpoint it, discuss it and - without ridiculing or creating a whole new organisational vocabulary - redefine or recreate the needed term. Be aware though that only so much terms can be imaginary, non existing phrases; it's has a low saturation threshold. Imagine coming into an organisation where mumsels are organizing a brainwave session to tackle a problem on a topical. One would think to have landed in a sanatorium instead of an organisation with loaded-term-issues... on a second thought.... :-)

(*note here; I did some afterward research and the term 'mumsel' is sometimes used in childsplay at summercamps where they have to find the 'mumsel' (person in disguise), sometimes used as another word for 'mademoiselle' and sometimes to be used as 'my love' :-))