Five for Friday – December 14, 2018

I am going to take the rest of the year off from bullet points (and computers as much as I can) while I catch up on rest and other odds and ends. That said, here’s the final five for 2018.

  • A huge, HUGE shoutout to heytaco – they have a fun “reward” system for slack teams, and they gave us a sweet deal on tacos for Truly a class act.
  • I never thought about what made a company a “tech company” until I read this article.
  • I gave a workshop and a keynote at the Test Leadership Congress in NYC last spring, where Anna Royzmann organized and hosted. Apparently, she has had some medical problem in Turkey – a friend of hers has started a gofundme to help with her. I/ABTesting made a donation to her cause, and I hope a few readers do too.

HWTSAM Ten Year Anniversary

What a difference a decade makes. Amazon tells me that Dec. 10, 2008, is the release day of How We Test Software at Microsoft.

Before I reflect on the content, take a look at this photo from the back cover:

Or this one from a few months later at Barnes & Noble:

I’ve aged (at least) ten years since then – but I don’t think it’s too bold of me to claim that I’ve aged better than the contents of the book. Again, this isn’t the first time I’ve stated that a lot of the material isn’t relevant anymore…but I re-skimmed the book (I still own one copy), and thought it would be fun to reflect on the book and talk about what I’d do differently if I was writing it today.

Part 1

The first three chapters – Software Engineering at Microsoft, Software Test Engineers at Microsoft, and Engineering Life Cycles don’t represent anything happening at Microsoft (or most other places) anywhere else.

At the time, Microsoft had nine-thousand testers and eventually grew to almost 10,000. Today (or at least when I left), there were almost no full-time test positions. I wrote about how a few teams at Microsoft were using Agile practices – that’s something more popular today – as it is everywhere.

A 2018 version of HWTSAM would require a absolute complete rewrite of this section of the book.

Part II

This section of the book covers test design – a bit. For a current-day rewrite, I’d probably just write a lot about test ideas and where they come from – I discovered mind-maps after writing the book, so I think they’d get a lot of attention. I’d also emphasize that these testing ideas could be developed and explored by anyone on the team (not just dedicated testers) – and I’d definitely include a huge shout out to Elisabeth Hendrickson’s Explore It! for further reading.

In hindsight, BJ’s chapters on functional and structural testing dove a bit too deep into the details, and there were other areas of test design that deserved more coverage.

Part III

This section of the book covered tools and systems. Ten years ago, it included nothing on open source tools, nothing on mobile testing, and is probably the most irrelevant of the sections in the book.

Most notably is a huge part of Chapter 9 (Managing Bugs and Test Cases) where I discussed how to write a good bug report. While still possibly relevant to some people, a discussion on the subject today would definitely include a section on zero-bug backlogs and working without a bug database.

I wrote a chapter on Customer Feedback Systems that seems to barely scratch the surface of what Microsoft (and most companies) do today.

Ken Johnston wrote the final chapter of this section, and it is probably the first chapter to lose relevance – possibly even losing relevance between the time Ken wrote the chapter, and the time the book was released. Testing services and micro-services has matured massively since 2008 – possibly enough for a whole new book on the subject while I attempt to retroactively delete this snapshot of history.

Part IV

The final section of the book was about Building The Future. At the time, I don’t think I realized exactly why this section was important. It covered Quality Culture, Quality Ownership, and the various Test Communities at Microsoft.

Readers who pay attention to my recent ranting will probably note that community is something I believe in strongly as a method for discovering new information; a place where ideas can meet; and a place to vet existing ideas. At the time, I spoke of the groups at Microsoft, but not the value of community. While none of the communities I wrote about exist anymore, I now recognize some of my earliest thoughts on the power of community.


Writing the book was fun, and I know that benefitted Microsoft a lot (recruiters handed out the book to nearly every SDET candidate). It was also a lot of hard work, and due to a long story of effects, Ken and BJ and I received exactly $0 from the sales.

Even so, I’m still glad we wrote it, and in a way, I’m actually glad that so much of it became dated so quickly.

Unless I’m still blogging for some reason ten years from now, this will probably be my last ever post about the big book about testing at Microsoft.

Five for Friday – December 7, 2018

I’m well over the one-year mark in writing these weekly posts. I’ve enjoyed doing them, but pleasantly surprised on the positive feedback.

In fact…

Monday is an important anniversary, so if I remember, I’ll post about it then. Otherwise, see you next week.

Five for Friday – November 30, 2018

Once again – here are five things I found worth sharing this week.

Five for Friday – November 23, 2018

Here are some of the interesting things that passed my way this week.

Five for Friday – November 16, 2018

I think I’m at about a year of this experiment of sharing 5 things I found interesting every week. I still like it, and hope you have found at least a few interesting links here over the past year.

  • I’ve been reading Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great (I’m also reading a few other things, and I really need to stop the habit of reading several books at once). It makes the point that communication and storytelling are critical to self-development.
  • Here is a highly (and sadly) accurate list of the 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers.
  • Interesting article from Greg Paciga on Rethinking Velocity.
  • Unity won an Emmy for Baymax Dreams. I’m in no way connected to the work, but still very proud.
  • As I type this, the bookshelf behind me contains hundreds of Marvel comics – most from when I read and collected in the 1970s and 1980s. As I’m sure everyone knows, Stan Lee died this week. His work remains a huge part of my life, and while I know a lot of people know him mainly for his cameos in Marvel movies, his greatest cameo is more likely his appearance in all of our lives.

Five for Friday – November 9, 2018

Well, that

  • First is that I love it when people share music with me. One of my team members introduced me to mouse on the keys, and I am enjoying their music so far. One of my favorites is ‘spectres de mouse‘ (Spotify link)
  • The New York Times built a nice visualization of election results – quick and simple and tells a story – all good attributes of data viz
  • I will save a link to this infographic on Scrum vs Kanban. It highlights the pros and cons of each (ftr, I have a strong preference for Kanban). The cons list remind me that no matter what model you choose if you fail to follow the principles of the model, it’s probably not going to work for you.
  • I’ve taught a lot of developers how to write better tests. This article on why good developers write bad unit tests reminds me of a lot of that coaching
  • I saw Bohemian Rahpsody last weekend, and you should go see it too. As a long-time Queen fan, I admit I had a bit of a hard time with the movie’s subtle and fictional strays from the history of the band, but the story and acting were fantastic

Five for Friday – November 2, 2018

I’m getting to a stage in my career where I’m beginning to realize that some of my biggest growth happens when I’m doing nothing but thinking.

But, I did leave my head a few times this week and found a few interesting things to share.

  • Quote I’m thinking about: “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” – Ayn Rand
  • If you’re reading this in the US, please vote. If you’re not in a mail-to-vote state (or even if you are), there’s likely relevant information here
  • This article that asks, Is it time to bring data to managing? brought back a few memories of the awful performance management at msft – along with some reasonable ideas on doing better. 
  • Also on the leadership front is this article on leading with love (actual title is less fluffy). It reminds me of the care personally aspect of Radical Candor, which is something I continually try to do better.
  • I love solving debugging mysteries and figuring out those WTF moments in software. I found this article on debugging an AWS issue that was fun to follow. One punchline – “Why Amazon S3 returns two different errors for the same problem is beyond me, but that’s not important here.

Five for Friday – October 26, 2018

Five for Friday – October 19, 2018

I’m preparing for some meetings with some colleagues in Europe next week and I’m a little frazzled. But this is what my frazzled brain liked this week.