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!