Speaking at TestBash NL 2017

The bus was about to leave Utrecht. But TestBash was in Utrecht. I politely asked the bus driver about my bus stop again.

He put the blame on the broken system in his bus.
Seen that. Done that.
I had a workshop to prepare, mate.

Just a few things
A few weeks earlier.
With a rapid approaching workshop I tried to get a good picture of the room. Okay.

10 people would attend my workshop. I expected more. After digesting my disappointment I looked at the bright side: I could handle them.

Then slowly stress was getting me. On my shopping list for my workshop were a beamer and a screen. Huib mailed back: there is a screen. You do not need a projector.

So I repeated my request. The reply was to attach my laptop to the screen. I was puzzled. It took some time to realize it was a flatscreen.

As a speaker I was allowed to participate in a workshop. I selected Gitte’s in the afternoon.

Then I got curious: was there a way to get more information about the morning workshops including my own one? I clicked.

My workshop was sold out. Wow. Excuse me. Just had another look. My workshop was sold out. I freaked out.

Almost ready
Back to the workshop day.

After the scenic tour with the bus I involuntarily extended it. Using a public traffic app I located the street after some backtracking.

A short walk later I saw a place. Wrong place. The venue should be, where the foreigner with the small backpack was heading to.

He was out of sight. So …. I had passed a church. You’re kidding. Outside was a banner with a 7. The venue had a 7 in the name and it was situated at no 7. I entered the building and saw Rosie. Bingo.

I got my ninja sticker and was ready to prepare my workshop. Huib provided the paper, markers and stickies. And up we went.

He entered a lovely room. Ideal for a workshop: tables and chairs. Just, what I had in my mind.
“You have another room.”, Huib remarked.
Other pleasant thoughts about the room were immediately muted.

I ended in a small room with one big table. A door with a glass plate on top of it. Good enough for an agile tester.

There was a facility manager, which was quite convenient. “We’ve got HDMI.”, she proudly announced.

I showed her the side of my laptop. “I need VGA.” And off she went. Returning with some fancy connector.

Sound was also difficult. The line from the connector was too short. A box was brought up.

“Do you need something?”, the lady informed.
“I would like to have some coffee.”

I prefer to have my laptop in front of me, so I moved my laptop and the screen. After some shuffling I had my preferred position for my laptop on the big table.

Then this table became my next point of concern. 10 people would attend my workshop and I had only place for 9.

Big sigh followed by moving back all stuff in the old position.

“Do you need something?”, the lady informed.
“I would like to have some coffee.”

Already some attendees were present for half an hour. I apologised and continued with my preparation.

I got a glass of coffee from a member of my audience. Cheers mate.

At the end I connected the laptop to the screen and saw a black screen.

It was time to start the workshop after sending a HELP request to facility management.

Work hard shop
The atmosphere was a bit spoiled by moving all that stuff. I had partial fix by connecting my smartphone to the box. Hopefully the music had a calming effect on the audience.

So I started my workshop to talk about visual testing. Why I thought, it could use some attention from testers.

The facility manager came back. And solved the problem with plugging an USB connector.

I should have noted that connection. A photo was faster. Exploratory workshop preparation anyone?

Anyways my presentation was shown on screen.
Now I really could start.

Draw it again Sam
I used some tricks to get interaction with the attendees. Within 10 minutes I got verbal feedback on several questions.

Then it was time for the time out exercise. It was a tough one to do. Paper and stickies were scribbled upon with markers.

I saw people stopping and staring. I showed the next slide and explained the next step.

The advantage and disadvantage of a visual testing is, that I can notice progress in a few seconds.

“Take a new piece of paper and start again.”, I encouraged the attendees. People stretched their arms for the paper.

Some attendees started to scribble on the stickies. “Just take this post it as a starting point.”

After a few minutes the cycle of explaining and exploring restarted. Slowly the result ended in a state transistion diagram.

After showing the diagram I rattled off all missing elements in the model. Then I justified my choices.

On the flip chart I wrote YAGNI, You Ain’t Gonna Need It. This principle of XP, Extreme Programming, could also be used in testing. Why should I describe all details in my model, when it does not really add value?

Looking back I should have switched the time out exercises. Real life examples are pretty nasty.

There was a break after 1 and 1/2 hour and I just had finished the first hour presentation. 2 hours to squeeze.
I just entered the second hour presentation. I already skipped 2 exercises. This was going to be tight.

On the other hand Huib granted me extra time, because the lunch would take place in another workshop room.

After the break I started with another exercise. People used state transition diagrams and process diagrams. I was really happy, that they made a visual model.

During the last part of the workshop I focused on the most important parts of a new visual model. And I succeeded.

In the weeks before the workshop I memorised the mind maps of the hour presentation. I had looked to supporting stories and slides twice a day. It benefited me greatly.

San Francisco Depot or SFDIPOT
During my workshop I remembered, that test ideas could be found using SFDIPOT. This powerful heuristic almost cost me a quarter of an hour.
I just skipped the explanation: I wrote it on the flip chart – “Just search on SFDIPOT.” – and moved on.

That evening I had a talk and a few beers with Klaas. He also used it frequently in combination with FEW HICCUPPS.

FEW HICCUPPS is another heuristic.
Should I use his advice?
Does it count, that he is a world champion in testing?
Yeah… Probably.
Great, extra homework for me.

The next day I remembered thst I had blogged about it. So I tweeted this to my followers:

About connections
For the next exercise I needed the Wifi. Every attendee needed only 20 kb. It was too much.

Huib had already mailed me several warnings: the wireless network was not fit for workshops.

Ofcourse I had taken measures: I made my smartphone a Wifi hotspot. Within minutes every attendee was on the web.

Later in my workshop the screen went black. One of the attendees pointed at the loose adaptor. By all the moves of my laptop I forgot something to connect. Oops.

I plugged my laptop to the electricity net. It was time for a Fieldstone. I had a small role playing game or RPG.
“If you are familiar with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, he looked like Mewt Scamaunder.” And I let the game begin..

After the RPG I saw the login screen. I switched back to presentation mode.

Gravity in action
The workshop had to be finished in an appropriate way. I still had so much tell. I picked the Fieldstone with the Pendulum.

A few weeks before the workshop Katrina had written about a pendulum. She used it to illustrate to find the optimal way of testing.

I could not find my props, so I used the mouse. On the flip chart I wrote too deep and too shallow.

With my left hand I held the tail of the mouse. The right one grabbed the mouse and rekeased it at “too deep”. The mouse moved in arc until it lost all its speed. This was the optimum for testing.

In testing a lot of words are used. The trick with visual testing is to find the right balance between no pictures and too many pictures.

During my preparation I remembered Nassim Taleb telling the essence of Antifragile standing on one leg. I had the feeling, that I had done the same.

Relax man
In my mind I was still fretting about the fact, that I had to skip exercises and stories.  When I met Jean-Paul, I told him:
“I have so much material.”

He looked at my backpack and a cilindrical case on my back:
“You always have.”
Or was he really thinking about information, that could be shared?
I don’t know.

Our conversation continued about the small things which improved the life as a speaker like an available presenter. A click on a button of this laser device shows the next slide.
Use the force. Push.

That thing about courage
In the workshop about courage Gitte gave me homework. “Write on a paper the first step of something you are going to do next week.” It was about something that would require courage.

I wrote on my paper: “Short”. I wanted to write a short blog in a few days. Normally it takes me weeks from Fieldstone to blog post. I could reduce that, but how …

The week after TestBash I wanted to write about meeting people. Was there a way to change my way of blogging?
I focused on what I wanted to share. It was basically the feelings and thoughts I had. There was no test knowledge I would share.

Was there a message I could share?
Yes. Meeting peers is great. Surprises are great. The test community is .. you got the message.

I started with a mind map. Then I added notes. I made a funny picture. I gained more and more speed.
The result was the previous blog post BTW.

Soon afterwards I started this blog post. All kinds of memories about my speaking experience at TestBash I put here. Piece by piece. Day by day.

Look who’s speaking
The conference day started a bit unusual for me.
“Welcome mister speaker”, Huib said, followed by a bow.
I tried to find a funny answer. That was difficult without coffee:
“Hello mister organiser”

The day before the conference day I was asked twice:
“Will you speak tomorrow?”
How did they recognise me?

So on the conf day I asked, whether the colour of my ninja badge had an extra meaning. E.g. Talk in black. Workshop in green. Silver for free beers. Etc. Actually there was no silver. Mind you.

There was no connection between colour and role however. Maybe a Chinese with a Dutch accent is associated with a speaker. Or people actually recognised me from the program. Or I was carrying simply too much stuff in a backpack and case on my back.

In a room filled with goodies I got my badge of honour, a T shirt with a golden Ninja.
“Now you are one of the Golden Guys.”
I hereby can confirm there is a connection between the golden ninja and the ministry of testing.

In the morning I remembered, that two attendees had asked me a strange questoon. So I twittered:
Attendee: “Do you give workshops for a living?”
Me:”No, I am a tester.”

In the afternoon other people started to like this tweet. Some of my testing muses did. For a short period I was energised and then drained afterwards.

Zone of what?
During one of the breaks on the conference day I had a talk with Marcel, who wore a sweater with the intimidating text:
“You cannot scare me. My wife has a PhD.”

I told him, that I was surprised about the progress during the exercises. I could solve exercises from my workshop within minutes.   He remarked, that it was all about the zone of proximity.

It is easier for me to transfer knowledge to someone, who has the same experience or only a few years experience less or more. She or he is in my zone of proximity.

This meant, that it would take me more time and effort to teach people, who have significant less experience in testing.

Within an hour I had a new follower on Twitter: a German guy, who had written a respectful blog post about the test pyramid. He looked somewhat familiar. And I had talked to him.

Look who’s speaking
A week after the announcement on the web I met Huib Schoots, the program chair. He asked:
“Did you see the program?”
“Yes, you were not on the list.”, I replied.

“I noticed, that Manon is on the list.”
“I encouraged her to submit.”, Huib admitted.

During the last break on the conference day I saw Manon sitting in the last row. So I informed about her workshop. We talked about tables and Wifi. Pieter and she had set up their own network. Another way to address a workshop risk. Jack in the box. Check.

After the break the audience was asked whether they had switched places. This conference was a way to meet other testers. I had moved from the front row to the back row.
Guilty as charged, Your Honour.

Thanks for the invitation Huib and Rosie.
And it all started here.

Four Meetings and uh View ‘Em All

My first blog post about TestBash NL 2017

Just before the Lean Caffee I saw one of my Twitter heroes.
I stood up and shaked hands with Patrick Prill.
“Nice to meet you.”
“We already met in Runo a few years ago.”
And I could not remember it. Hmmm.

During the Lean Caffee I was tapped on my left shoulder. Curiously I turned my head to the left: nobody.
O yeah, that old joke.
I turned my head to right seeing Bart Knaack smiling. Still in for a joke.
Always nice to meet him again.

So I asked the wonan with bright pink hair: “Are you @gwendiagram?”
“Yes.”, she confirmed.
Curiously she asked: “What is your Twitter handle?”
“@MIndfulTester.”,  I answered in a neutral tone.

A big smile came up:
“You are @MIndfulTester!!”
I loved the positive energy, which I felt. But I was puzzled about the reasons.

After the talks I told Mary Gilmartin about our talk in the pub the day before:
“I did not know you were talking.”

Somehow I was more surprised about this fact than our little chat about TDD.

A musing post

Some readers might wonder about the fact that I tweeted Lisa. Yes, the Lisa from the testing books. And yes, Janet was the other author.

Was this a typical case about courage? Nope.

If you would ask me, that I would use Twitter 5 years ago, then my answer would be: “No way”.

Today Twitter is my way to get updates from the testing community.

I want to stress that my tweet to Lisa is not about ‘Don’t fear your peer’.

I just grew.


Is it possible to find new ways of testing in a tester infected country like the Netherlands? Sure.
But there are already so many test methodologies and specialists.
So what?

Hark! The testing muses sing
[On the melody of ‘Hark! The Herald angels sing’ ]

An artist gets her or his inspiration of a muse. Some readers might think about a person, whose mere presence brings music or words in her or his mind.

For testing there are other muses. Do they sing Mozart? I do not know.

A muse like Lisa tweets. She writes.

Hark! The testing muses write
[On the melody of ‘Hark! The Herald angels sing’ ]

At this moment one muse Katrina is writing a book. The announcement led to great excitement in the testing community. And she blogs.

Read the stuff the muses wrote
[On the melody of ‘Hark! The Herald angels sing’ ]

I read posts from Maaret, a rather influential one. I read posts and books from Elisabeth, Alan, and Jerry.

I just grew.

An Appendix to Visual Testing
Last weeks I read some blogs, which I will incorporate in my workshop at TestBash NL. As you might have read, it is about visual testing.

I combined my thoughts and experiences with the ideas from blogs of my testing muses.

Now I am in the editing phase for my workshop: figuring out some logic in my slides, creating mind maps for structure, and using insights from sketchnotes.

It was and is a wonderful journey. (Hark! The muses co-create.)
Thanks for the invitation, Rosie and Huib. Other testing muses indeed.

I just grew.

Finding courage

After more than 10 minutes of discussion the work item was clear to the developers and the product owner. Then the standard question was posed: “Are there any more questions?”

As a tester I had digested the information. I was not sure about the solution, so I raised my hand. Everyone looked at me.

What’s Up, Doc?

Currently I am the only tester in my team. If something has impact on testing or a quality related attribute, then I talk about it. It is something some people take for granted.

In the past people started rolling their eyes, if I questioned something. Until the main stakeholder supported me. Look who’s talking?

A few years ago I heard about a demo for a certain project. I tried to invite myself. My project leader objected with: “There is nothing to test.”

I persisted and attended the demo. Every now and then I posed a question. After the demo I heard no more objections about my presence.

Invitations for the remaining demos were even sent to me. The stakeholders obviously valued my input. Look who’s listening?

No harm intended
Last month the Skype rehearsal was not that successful. I had one month left to improve the exercises. They were crucial for my workshop at TestBash NL.

During the session I zoomed in on some exercises. In hindsight they were too big to handle in 1 go. Agile people might call them epic.

By breaking them down I got digestible mini exercises. I liked the idea.

Fast feedback for me and you.
[On the melody of Tea for two]

Some exercises had the complexity of my daily work. Using simple tests I might overlook edge cases. So let me complicate things please.

At the beginning of this section I wrote that the exercises were not that successful. I expected that the exercises went more smoothly than experienced.

Luckily there was useful feedback to improve the exercises. I had something to act upon. Things could only improve now. Also by writing down my thoughts and actions in this post.

During the preparation of every talk or workshop of mine there is a moment I think: “I cannot tell this.” And then the presentation is getting better. These experiences form my word of comfort.

The Skype rehearsal reminded me of #30daysoftesting: Lisa Crispin had doodled about experimenting. She was struggling, how to fit it in.

I tweeted her:
“There is no failure. There can’t be, if your only mission was to “see what happens”. ”

3 2 1 dissect

Looking for a new blog subject was not that difficult. At that moment I was making jokes.

The trigger for the post was my thought process during lunch. This painful moment reminded me that I have to careful with rehearsing. Especially in front of my family.

Jokes have to be rehearsed many times to get the right wording and timing. I do not mind a good joke. It just takes time.

The theme of the post was jokes. So I thought back which jokes I had used in the past.

This way I remembered the University of Technology. In my graduation year there was no presentation program. I wrote with a marker on transparent plastic slides and used an overhead projector to show the slides behind me.

I cut the slides to pieces, so I could add special effects like vanishing lines. This could be funny.

From then I started my journey to today. All kind of moments of used jokes I added to my list. After the first draft I had a mind map with two levels. When I looked more closely, I saw an unordered set of stories.

This is not particularly bad. Ed Catmull calls it the ugly baby. The creative process starts with rough ideas. At the early stages the writer has to be patient. It can become a beauty of a story.

This brainstorm did not automatically lead to sections. The paragraph about Harry Potter reminded me of a song of Queen. That became my first section title.

For another section I added ‘Expect the unexpected’. This advice is used too many times, but it was consistent with the vanishing walls

Next stage was to convert short word descriptions to snippets of stories. This was not difficult. At least I had some Fieldstones or stories to share.

It was time to continue in a new version of the mind map

mind map of first version blog post

In the second version of the mind map I continued to add notes to the branches.

The Fieldstones were short and hard to read. I had put pieces of my memory in a mind map without any transition, so I added some words to describe the setting.

Now I had to structure the mind map. I had already ordered some branches, so I added the first branches in one group.

It was about using jokes in the present and future. The next section was focused on my workshop at TestBash Netherlands. If someone without a test background can understand my jokes, then it is good.

The third section was about jokes in the office. Yes, I like the humour of programmers.

The last section was a transcript of some jokes during a presentation about a performance test. During the rehearsal of the jokes I thought about some visualisations to increase the impact of the jokes. These movements were added in the last weeks before the talk.

The grouping of branches led to the following sections: ‘expect the unexpected’, ‘practice makes people smile’, ‘it’s kind of magic’ and ‘what about this?’.

There was an extra section about twittering. I started with a simple story about my reaction on a single tweet. It began to grow. I still had the tweets stored in a mind map, so that saved me a lot of typing.

Then came the editor question: does it fit? I wanted to write about making jokes for my own presentation. I marked the branch with a red cross. It would not be contained.

A frequently used branch for me is Metadata. It is a way to remind me to add extra information to the post. I had found the Chicken picture beginning this year and this became the banner.

The categories were more difficult than usual. How would I categorise a post with jokes? So I introduced ‘Fun intended’. It is a variation on ‘Pun intended’. Fun rhymes on Pun, so that’s good. Fun!

mind map of second version blog post

My work title of the blog post was ‘Adding humour’. That was good enough. So I made a link from the title to the central object.

The Office section contained a reference to Harry Potter and that is difficult to follow for people who do not know this character. I solved this by using some common sense humour.

This was one of the few times that I used a joke as a writer in this post. Normally I add more jokes to make a post more digestible. But this would lessen the effects of the described jokes.

The Twitter section was still in my mind. Was it really off theme? I noticed that I was not the only one cracking jokes. Other people like the street artist and the scrum master made jokes about things unrelated to my workshop.

What the heck.
So I decided to put it back in the blog post.

Then the editing started followed by reediting. Etcetera.

The research part is a rewarding one. I checked facts in my blog post. For the Harry Potter section I had added a joke about muggles. While watching a movie I heard the American word for muggle. I went into a bookstore and looked up the word in the book with the screenplay.

The proper spelling of the quote from a song of Queen was checked using a search engine.

mind map of fourth version blog post

This ends my dissection of my previous blog post. I hope that you and I learned something. I certainly did. I basically wrote down my steps and thoughts.

mind map of this blog post

On my work I have test charters and bug reports which describe my actions. I can justify my tests.

For me it was one step more to tell a story to testing peers at a test conference.


Maybe you have something to share. Really. Just take your time.

Some experiences of you are really worthwhile for your peers. Especially things you just do automatically like me writing a blog post on a smartphone using mind maps.

There is a supporting testing community out there constantly looking for short and long stories, talks, and workshops for testers.
Please have a look.

Adding humour

Expect the unexpected
In a white room I was asking questions. After each answer I posed a new question. Then I asked something and the whole joke collapsed. Nobody noticed, but I had taken a wrong turn. I felt bad.

The white walls vanished. I realised that I was having lunch at the kitchen table. One of my kids looked curiously at me. My wife had a concerned look: “Is everything Okay? You were shaking your head.”
“I was just thinking.”

A century earlier I was making a presentation. One of the must do’s of a graduation is a talk. And I really disliked the formal nature of the talk. Why could I not add some jokes?

After my graduation talk a female student said with a smile: “This was not what I had expected.”

Years later during a company meeting I showed the last slide with Edutainment in the footnote. It contained the name of a founder of the company. A saleswoman started to laugh out loud.

After the lecture the smiling Practice Lead gave me a high five. Somehow I had the right mix of statistics, testing, and jokes.

On the European Juggling Convention in Rotterdam I met a street artist. He was a small ugly man and had the look of Catweazle. It was hard for him to earn his money.

When he did not have enough money, he told, that he would stay in their village. And marry one of their daughters. “Then they would give me enough money for the bus.”

Practice makes people smile

My standard procedure for adding jokes is to do this in the last weeks before the presentation. This time I started months in advance.

For my slides I needed pictures. After taking the picture I asked one of my kids to have a look at my workshop slides. “This is the place where I will put the picture.” Then I took the time to explain the English joke in Dutch. I saw a big smile.

Weeks earlier I showed my slides of my workshop at TestBash Netherlands to a friend with no IT background. He smiled faintly.

IoJ internet of Jokes
This Fieldstone is not particularly focused on making jokes for my own presentation. It is only about the process of joking.

March this year on my way home I saw a tweet of Bart Knaack: “Test”. Some other testers reacted and he replied that he was using IFTTT. ‘If This Then That’ can be used to automate steps.

Wait a minute. He was preparing for a presentation of a test conference I would attend. It was about IoT or Internet of Things.

In my mind I visualised his presentation platform. So the tweets to him would be processed by IFTTT. This on line service would trigger an IoT device which in turn would perform a useful action for Bart.

If I tweeted him during his preparation, then I surely would draw his attention. I would tweet an explanation for IoT. I thought about the Rule of Three. Make that three explanations.

In the train I noted them in a mind map program. Why not three tweets? I continued to combine the strangest English words I read or heard while using different interpretations of I and o.

After crafting 3 tweets I just went on. This was fun. Then it was time for a tweet storm.

Internet of Thieves?
Ignore other Things?
Imagination or Truth?
: ) “

Insalata on Top?
Interesting or Threatening?
One Zero Two?
: )“

I offer Tests?
Intelligent office Trolls?
Instant overall Talk?
: )“

Immense ogre Tokens?
Increase ostrich Traffic?
Imploding oblivious Tension?
: )“

Incoming orange Truckers?
Instill or Tranquilize?
Integrate old Thoughts?
: )“

A short explaining answer of Bart followed: “Internet of Things”.

I was in turbo joking mode and tweeted back:
“In other Thoughts
– One option Though –

Internet of Things

Ten Thanks“

Fun achieved.

It’s a Kinda Magic
During the stand up my boss had some doubts about my actions.
“I dropped it hard.” I stressed it.
“Hopefully it was not broken.” My scrum master remarked.
“If it is broken, then I just need some glue to fix it.” I replied.

During my testing career I had noticed that programmers had their own kind of humour. It is a wonderful way to make contact.

Let me sketch the context of another situation. In one book a favourite main character had to board a train on Platform 9 3/4. He had some difficulties to find it. This is completely understandable for muggles and No-Majs.

One morning I showed my smartphone to a dev:
“This picture I took at Utrecht Central Station”: Platform 9 3/4. He started to smile.

How about this?
At a Spring Event of TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing, I had one of the last talks of the day.

I advised them to put you at the end of the schedule, because “Han Toan can tell in an engaging way.”

I had just started my talk about a performance test.
“This year they finished the renovation of Rotterdam Central Station. In the hall you can see this light.” A picture of the light with lots of bulbs and poles was shown on slide 6.

“My wife really liked this light. I did not consider to give it to her on Mother’s Day.” [a few days earlier]
“The lights are blinking.” while opening and closing my hands continuously at shoulder level.

“If I would place this light in my house, I could not walk straight up in my living room and my kitchen.” I lowered my head in an uncomfortable position. Smiles appeared.

“This light is to indicate the meeting point.”
“Ze noemen de lamp De Wolk. In het Engels The Cloud.”
[They call the light The Cloud. In English The Cloud.]
“For the performance test we used the cloud.”
Now I had the full attention of the audience.

Thank you for your attention

“I think I found something.”
All developers were looking straight to their screens. So I waited for a reaction.
“You can talk.” the Scrum Master said. “We are listening.”
I started to tell about my observation. One dev stood up and looked on one of my screens. He went back to his workplace. After a couple seconds I heard:
“I know where the problem is.”

We are both looking

A few years ago this actually happened to me.

The recruiter stood up and made a gesture to the desktop at the other side of the room. “Now you can show your presentation.”
I liked the comfortable sofa, where I was seated on.
“I can show it here.” I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket.
The recruiter seated himself next to me.

“This is the presentation I will give. It still is a draft version.” After flipping the first slides I started a casual talk about a performance test in the past. “On this slide […]” I described the situation.
“I am familiar with performance tests.” the recruiter remarked. I just filed his words somewhere in my memory. Hey, I can still remember them.

“If you look at the graph, […]” I zoomed in on the graph and talked about the lines: what did they tell me?
Slowly the storyteller came up in me. My tone of voice changed. I started to talk in an animated way. The story started to grip me.

I had something to tell.

Excuse me for the interruptions
Last week I started a delayed Skype session with my friend. After some small talk it was time to look at my workshop for Testbash Netherlands.
“Okay. I gonna share my screen with you.” He saw nothing. This was similar to a broken beamer. There was no reason to panic yet.

I switched to Plan B. “I will send you the presentation.” I picked a PDF loaded with Fieldstones.
“Did you receive the presentation?” I kindly informed after a minute. I got no for an answer.

A few moments I heard that my mail was in his spam box.
He put me on the Whitelist.
You’ve got a friend in me.

After he had opened the file, I did a walk through in my native language Dutch. “On this slide I will say […]”
“On slide 4 [….]”

Later in the session I explained an exercise to him and off we went. “What would you do with the sticky note?” I got a reassuring answer. Now I came to the difficult part. He had to connect the imaginary stickies.

I could not give him visual clues. Therefore I focused on his voice. It sounded lower than usual. He was hesitating: there were too many options. So I added a constraint to the exercise. The tone of his voice became higher: that was positive.

Beginning this year I had visualised the solution within seconds. Now I had to breakdown the solution in small pieces for him. I took a metaphor to explain the first step. Confusion was on his mind.

Now I had to be patient.
I repeated the solution several times. Nope. I used other words. I did not hear anything. Then I revealed the solution a little bit and got a good response. Phew.
So I will have to simplify this. As simple as that.

Another exercise followed. The slides were not ready, but I had enough information for him. It took him some time to read it. That was something I could not influence as a workshop leader.

Then I told him his assignment. He told me in a steady flow, what he had found. He picked up the right information. Then he was sidetracked.
“O no”, I thought and kept my mouth shut. I really had to listen. He kept talking. By using logic he figured out the right solution. This went quite smoothly after all.

This exercise was too easy for the middle part of my workshop. I looked for it in the mind map for the second hour, but it was in the First Hour Mind Map. That was just fine with me.

I got valuable feedback by carefully listening and questioning.

A few weeks earlier I showed some slides to my wife. She was more than happy to recognise some pictures. But one slide was really bad and she had good arguments. Right. Make that wrong: I still need to tweak that slide. And yes, my wife is right.

I thank you for reading and the reminder to improve that slide. And uuuuh …. something else, which drew my Attention.


Just give me a couple of blog posts. It will spring in my mind again. Cheers.

Zoom out. Zoom in.

On the Kanban board was a sticky showing me what to test.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
The test plan had acceptance criteria for this functionality. I picked the first criterion.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
In the knowledge management system I went to the test department and clicked to the application section. Then I looked for the test case.
Yes, I like to modify my input on the fly. In this case a data file would save me hours of testing.
I could not locate the file.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
I went to the PO or Product Owner. He also started looking:
“Maybe I sent you the file.”

Zoom out. Zoom in.
I went back to my desk. In the mail program I could not find the right file. Then I remembered that this functionality had been covered in one ticket. I found a zip file. This contained other zip files.

Another zoom in. I unpacked a zip file. And repeated this for another contained zip file. I found the data file and expected results.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
I went to the PO to tell him the good news.

Before I went home, I zoomed in in the knowledge management system. I uploaded the found files. The names explained the contents of the files. The next day I would take time to tidy things up.

Zoom out: out of office.

Rat’s Head, Ox’s Neck

I grabbed my notebook with the sketchnotes for my workshop at TestBash Netherlands. In my head I went through all possible visual solutions for a test exercise. I drew the most simple one. At that moment I had no more details to fill in. I almost came to a stop. A workshop in distress?

Centuries ago Musashi Miyamoto had an advice for warriors:
Rat’s Head, Ox’s Neck.
If you are too preoccupied with details, then work on the big picture. If you are too preoccupied with the big picture, then work on the details.

So I switched to my mind maps with the global structure for each hour of the workshop. I moved branches around and clarified thoughts for myself. Another brake was about to stop my flow of thoughts. I could lose valuable information, if I deleted too many branches.

Digital mind maps are easy to save. So I copied the mind maps on my smartphone and set the previous versions on a safe place. What had been bugging my mind? Time to delete some stuff.

One exercise felt out of place in the Second Hour Mind Map. I moved the whole branch to the mind map of the first hour. The number of exercises per hour was almost equal. I love balance.

Then I noticed the theme of the first hour: time out. Wait a minute. That was not a time out exercise. I visualised the exercise: this was about states. I moved the whole branch back. I prefer theme over balance.

The fun with markers is that I can number the branches. So I changed their order a few times. In the meantime no slides were adjusted or removed. I was editing my workshop on a high level at high speed. Look mum. Without presentation program.

In between I switched to the mind map Extra stuff. After opening I hoped to find some Fieldstones I could use in my workshop. But I was disappointed: it was a list of workshop materials I had to take with me.

That was not in the name, so the file was renamed by me. This was an advice from a Cleancode session at my office. And I could add extra stuff like a whiteboard. Sorry, I mean equipment.

Apologies now. I love the smell of smiles in the morning.

Time to switch between the Hour Mind Maps. I did some dry runs in my head. Then I was not ready, because in another mind map I had still some funny pictures to include in the slides.

Luckily I had grouped them around a subtheme. Some pictures I really wanted to use. I reopened the Hour Mind Maps and added branches with funny pictures. There were stories or Fieldstones attached to them.

Another dance of branches in the Hour Mind Maps started. This was creativity at work. Feel the Flow Luke.

I also found my Story Fieldstones Mind Map at last. Some I placed in the Hour Mind Maps. Others went to my sideboard. I also had some floating Fieldstones which I could use at any moment in my workshop.

I heard my name mentioned in the hallway. My wait was over. Within 1 hour I had reshaped my workshop. The next time I could work on my slides again.

I had seriously enjoyed myself. 🙂


Thanks for reading.
Yours Mindfully.

Can you picture that?

Recurring situation in my family.
“Where is dad?”
“He is taking a picture.”
Moments later:
“What did you see?”
“I saw something funny.”

In my previous blog post I wrote about Fieldstones. Jerry Weinberg used the metaphor of building a wall using Fieldstones to describe the writing of a story. I have to be mindful about my environment and then … I notice something. That can be told as a single story or part of a story. I just wonder and make a note.

At the moment I am trying to find the right pictures for my workshop at TestBash Netherlands. My basic idea was to use sketchnotes as Fieldstones. But the pictures in my notes had to be visualised.
O yeah, I’ve got a camera in my smartphone.

I thought about a Dutch windmill, so I had to cycle through the polder to make a nice picture. It required some timing from my side: with a full workweek and less sun every day I had to do it in the weekend.

All the elements of a typical Dutch landscape were present:
a windmill, a polder, and a nice greeny dike
photographed by a Chinese on a bike.

What makes a good conversation starter? In my case it is a good story about visuals. It can be the awkward use of words. I can tell for minutes, but making a picture stops or slows down my flow. It gives my listener a moment of rest to reflect on my message.

A picture can also give another view on a situation. As a tester I make models of programs, so I can perform better tests. There are words to describe them: test techniques and heuristics.

Which ones do I use? Most of the time it boils down to a small set. Once in a while the same tools are used too often. A simple statement of the end user can make me aware of what I am missing. Then I have to adopt: choose another way of testing or extend my test technique or heuristic. That is the most important part of my workshop.

Is there a way to determine, whether I use the right way of modelling? Maybe if I find bugs. Or when a content customer calls.

Until I will stop with testing, I have to observe and ponder upon my way of testing. This requires Continuous thinking about what can be improved in this context.


I think: “I just wrote another Fieldstone.”

Blimey, I intended to write about using funny pictures in my slides, but this Fieldstone was shaped in another way.

Can you picture that?

Sketchnoting Fieldstones

My workshop “An Appendix to Visual Testing” had been accepted. It was time to make sketchnotes.

Patient with Proposing
This spring I created a 30 minute presentation about Visual Testing for a test conference. On Twitter I had read about last minute changes because of other obligations of the speakers. Although I had not been selected for replacement, I still carried my presentation with me on that conference. Digital files are so easy to carry around these days.

Using the Fast Fast Forward button I could show the delegates some highlights of my testing solutions. I try to avoid this style. I prefer Try and Remember.

With no conferences on my program I stocked my presentation on my hard disk. For the record, before 2016 I was not particular fortunate with this proposal at at least three other test conferences on this planet.

“Some day my conf will come.” [On the melody of “Some day my prince will come.”]

In the following months I reused the workshop idea twice for different conferences. Two polite thankful rejections followed. I still had faith in the workshop, so I pitched it again. Then I got good news: a half day tutorial at Testbash Netherlands.

Creative with Crafting
Given a half day is 4 hours when I have a presentation of a half hour then I have to fill another 3 and a half hours. Emily Bache once talked about Arrange, Act, and Assert. At last I had arranged my workshop. So I had to act in order to assert that I would have a half day tutorial.

Luckily my presentation was a dehydrated version of a workshop. With enough water I had a 3 hour workshop: 3 examples including supporting stories with in depth exercises.

One of the first things I did was buying a small notebook. You know one of those booklets with lined paper pages and no battery included. In this little book I captured my ideas visually for this workshop. I intentionally put mind mapping aside for a while. I wanted to make a visual journey for my delegates and myself.

The last years I saw sketchnotes. I had my doubts, but I started to like the doodling, the seemingly unstructured way of drawing and writing. Instead of the clockwise structure of mind maps I had more freedom to make my notes. I even could draw first and write later. That is a big + for a visual tester like me.

There were more surprises with sketchnotes than I expected: one in depth exercise started as a simple design exercise. Within a week it lead to another intriguing exercise. My homework is to describe the solution using visual stuff. There are some times some things do not feel like work.

The introduction of the workshop was another creative process in progress. By making a story board I could draft more than 10 versions and find the right start.

Just Collecting Around
During the preparation I slowly picked up mind mapping again. I used it for structure and overview. In the meantime I found other things to share. Jerry Weinberg calls them Fieldstones. I used to call them Blog Ideas.

In my quest to improve my blogging I found “Weinberg on Writing – The Fieldstone Method”. This nice book gave me some hints to gather pieces of information and group them later on. While I thought about my workshop, I made notes.

My fieldstones were sketchnotes which filled my little notebook. Things waiting to be told.