Five for Friday – December 15

I’ve enjoyed my string of FfF posts as an easy way to share stuff I like with little need to elaborate. It *will* continue, but I’m going to take a break for the last two weeks of the year. FfF will be back on January 5, 2018.

  • I recently read Ray Dalio’s, Principles. In the preface, he has a line that rings true (I think) to all of us who suffer from impostor’s syndrome.
    Before I begin telling you what I think, I want to establish that I’m a “dumb shit” who doesn’t know much relative to what I need to know.” That give me reason enough to keep on reading and learning more about what makes Ray tick.
  • On my last team at Microsoft, the team started using Git, and became over-excited about Gitflow – which I often describe as source control for those who like to add extra layers of confusion to their source control and release. We eventually treated ‘master’ as a release tag, and were (I think) close to working out of a single trunk. Now, Trunk-Based Development is a thing, and I think it’s a good thing.
  • I’m a huge believer in 20% time (invented by GM, and popularized by google as a way to give people a chance to self-direct and learn). I recently discovered that schools are using the concept to give students alternate opportunities to learn and grow.
  • A rare shot at cross-promotion. The year-ending episode of AB Testing will be out Monday. I’m really happy with how the podcast has developed and matured over the last few years.
  • Brent Jensen and I often discuss Modern Testing – but I recently discovered that Modern Agile is also a thing.

See you in 2018.

Five for Friday – December 8

It’s the FfF Moscow edition (I’m here for the Heisenbug conference.

  • As I approach my one year mark at Unity (and hopefully established a small bit of credibility), I’m beginning to push a bit harder on some topics. I’m reminded of this quote from Colin Powell, who says, “…leadership is sometimes about being willing to piss people off“. I’ve heard the substance of this phrase in many forms, so whenever I see it, it reminds me that making often change requires friction…and that’s ok.
  • I’m (finally) reading Principles by Ray Dalio. His story is interesting, but the way he approaches life and work is truly inspiring. Bonus quote this week (from above web site): “Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.
  • I visited a nuclear protection bunker in Moscow this week. Amazing to have such a structure so far under ground.
  • I have a minor addiction to the Advent of Code. I’ve completed the puzzles through day 8. Several times, I’ve looked at the puzzle, and declared, “nope – too hard”, and closed the web page, but I keep going back and plowing through the puzzles. Despite working at Microsoft for so long, I never really had a chance to write much c#, but for this project, I’ve been using Visual Studio on Mac to write c# solutions, and have been having fun learning the language and solving the problems.
  • Seattle is getting a Hockey Team (potentially). Too many commitments these days to drive to Vancouver to watch the Canucks, but I’m excited that we may have a NHL team here someday.

Five for Friday – December 1

Some of my favorite / most interesting thoughts and links from the week…

  • Yet another quote from one of my heroes, Simon Sinek: “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” I half-jokingly told someone on my team this week that “leadership is manipulation”, and it reminded me of this quote. The two sides of the “or” have similarities and marked differences that are important to remember.
  • The Tester’s Island Disc podcast with me came out early this morning.
  • We all heard about the apple root password bug this week. What you may have missed, is this nice writeup on what exactly was wrong (I love debugging – if you do too, you’ll like this).
  • I discovered a test conference (European Testing Conference) that wasn’t on my radar, and looks interesting. Program looks good, and hope it continues.
  • I’m a big (HUUUGE) fan of soccer, and last night, it was great to see the home team make it to the MLS Cup. I will be in Moscow for the final (kickoff will be midnight, local time), but hope I can find a place to watch it.

Conferences – again!

I took some time off from speaking (too much) at conferences over the past few years. I spoke at TestBash Philadelphia a year ago (and also spoke at the Online Test Conference last summer), but 2017 (and, IIRC, 2016) have been light on me in terms of external speaking.

But I’m going to kick off 2018 (and end 2017) with a small flurry of speaking events.

  • In December, I’ll be at the Heisenbug conference in Moscow, Russia
  • In January, I’ll be speaking at the QASig meetup in Seattle
  • In March, I’ll be at TestBash Brighton talking about Experiences in Modern Testing
  • In May, I’ll be at STAR East giving a workshop on web testing tools

Hope to catch up with some of you in person at those events.

Five For Friday – November 24

  • The US holiday is a time for us all to reflect on what we’re thankful for. This has been a year of transition, and I’m thankful for my family supporting me changing jobs, and for Unity for giving me a wonderful place to land.
  • Quote of the week is, “Automated user interface testing is placed at the top of the test automation pyramid because we want to do as little of it as possible.” This is from Mike Cohn (inventor of the automation testing pyramid) emphasizing that while UI tests have a place, a little goes a long way. Too many people forget this.
  • Dan Pink has a podcast!
  • I discovered the Plantronics Focus headphones / headset while at Microsoft, and bought a used pair from eBay after I left. They’re comfortable, have great controls, and even pause and start music if you take them on and off. They’re a bit pricey, so look for a used set if you want to try them.
  • Finally, I’ve recently subscribed to Imperfect Produce – they deliver organic produce that’s not-quite perfect at a substantial discount. Personally, I don’t care if my potatoes are too big or my onions too small – the produce is fresh, organic and perfect on the tastebuds.

Five for Friday – November 17

  • I’m heading back into a flurry of travel after taking it light for several months. This time, I plan to take Austin Kleon’s advice on Never pay for wi-fi to heart and take the travel time purely for reading, drawing, and reflecting.
  • I’m still reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning and thinking a lot about the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition, and how “Advanced Beginners” due to the Dunning-Kruger effect, often overestimate their (our) skills. In knowledge work, we see this all the time, and it’s good to notice it and see how we can help with the inherent problems with this.
  • Marcus Purvis share this article from Pinterest on (more) Lessons from Scaling Pinterest. This is a follow up to some earlier points (link in article), but this one is a lot about leadership, and a lot of good lessons for those in leadership positions.
  • Last week at the (internal) test summit, one of my employees re-introduced me to the Software Testing Cupcake anti-pattern. It was relevant, funny, and worth reading for everyone.
  • If you want learn more about Unicode, get some new testing ideas, or just want to see some scary exploits, check out this article on Five things everyone should know about Unicode by Gojko Adzic.


The Worrisome World of Words

In software testing, we use a lot of words – some well known, others less so – to describe our testing activities. For as long as I’ve been in software (which is longer than most of you), we’ve debated and argued which descriptions, and which combinations of words best describe the various activities that fall into the world of testing.

Is that a smoke test, or an integration test? Is it a load test or a stress test? Is it automated testing, tool smithing, or computer-assisted software validation? Is it testing, or checking? Is it manual testing or human testing? I fully understand the debates – words, do indeed have meaning, and words can mean different things to different people. Some (including me) often call most of these debates “semantic bullshit”, but I admit I do see the reason for nuance and discussion. I will even openly admit that I was part of a working group at Microsoft once who tried to develop a taxonomy of testing terms.

My stance has changed.

The more I think about it, the less I care about what people call their testing activities. I’m increasingly becoming a fan of labeling tests “small”, “medium”, and “large” (and when necessary, “enormous”).

“Bu-bu-bu…but we need to know what the test does…!”

No you don’t. But you do need to know why you’re running the test.

In Start With Why, one of my heroes, Simon Sinek talks about how starting with the question, “Why?” (rather than “What?” or “How?”) is a better way for leaders to inspire the right actions from their team. It hit me recently that there’s a strong parallel with his leadership mantra and why I am caring less about the words we use in testing.

We don’t build software to beat our competition, or to satisfy our own intellectual curiosity. We create software to help our customers solve problems (customers don’t want software – they want their problems solved).

When testing software we should focus on why we’re testing the software. What are our quality goals and why are they important for the customer? I believe that if the software team is aligned on mission and purpose, that the words we use to describe activities toward those goals have far less meaning than if we focus on describing what we’re doing.

As I type the sentence in bold above, I realize that I feel even more strongly about that phrase. Yes, words have meaning, but mission and purpose carry far more weight in the journey towards software quality.

Five for Friday – November 10

Had my entire team visit me in Seattle (Bellevue) this week, so I’m a little slow on this week’s share.

  • This quote about Agile is something I think I’ll repeat frequently – “Agile is worthless unless it serves as a catalyst for continuous improvement. ” The full article (here) is also worth the read.
  • Twitter appears to have rolled out double-length tweets for everyone. I’m not typically anti-change, and I usually know why I don’t like things – but I’m still pondering why I don’t like this.
  • I’m currently reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning. It’s been on my about-to-read list for years, and I’m sorry I waited so long to get to it.
  • I found a few leadership gems in this article on – most importantly, “Culture comes from what you do, not what you say.
  • I used a Macbook for my last 6 months at Microsoft, but switched back to Windows when I joined Unity. After 9 months of really bad experiences with Windows, I gave up and moved back to a Macbook. It’s been an easy transition, with far fewer (so far) isues.

Me, elsewhere

I shared an article on rotten automation on the testproject blog here –

A was also part of of Engel Jones 12-minute podcast series. My interview (very little about testing) is here –


Five for Friday – November 3

Here are five things that caught my attention this week.

  • I created a mind-map for an article I have coming out next week. It reminded me how valuable mind-maps are for communicating information. I’ve had a lot of luck using them as test strategy docs, as the visual nature gets much more engagement and feedback than a more traditional word-only based plan.
  • I read Susan Caine’s book, Quiet years ago, and still put this quote in presentations from time to time.
    But the idea…is right. To innovate, we need environments that support imaginative thinking…heated discussion, even arguing

    It’s so important to not avoid conflict in order to create and innovate – but do it in a way where respect and trust are always part of the environment.

  • This article from HBR reminded me how important it is to balance purpose and strategy in an organization. I saw (and fought against) a lot of this at Microsoft, and do my best achieve this balance in my work organization as well as my family.
  • This week, I learned about the Motte and Bailey fallacy. I see this one pop up in the twitter-verse and in some aggregated blot sites a lot – it’s where someone treats a smaller part of the whole as the whole, and uses defense of the subset as a defense of the entirety. Look for it in writing and in your own decision making.
  • I fell away from inbox zero for a while. I was lazy and didn’t spend a lot of time mucking around with email. I adapted most of what I read in this article, and now I’m easily back to my Inbox-zero lifestyle.
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