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.

Crazy Test Investigation

Summer in Europe and it was warm. I was thinking about an upcoming challenge of #30daysoftesting. I had to create a crazy test.

What about a crazy test with the ultimate penalty, the loss of LinkedIn? That would make me crazy.
Can you imagine that?

It all started with this
This blog post was originally posted on LinkedIn.

  • #LinkedIn Changes I Use
    Some things never change in LinkedIn: total strangers who want to be connected, and a neat CV builder. During my fifteensome years utilising this very service – as we use – LinkedIn did change. This is my personal report about the changes I noticed and am still using.Nowadays requests to be connected can only be handled with a yes or no. To be more precisely v or x. In the past it was possible to have extensive dialogues by replying to invitations, but that is past tense. Apparently some people wanted a standard button.Even replies on job offers are streamlined with three buttons with standard brief answers. They can be summarised as Yes, Maybe and No using pictures of respectively v, a Rolodex card (!), and x. The job offers can still be used for two way communication without the exchange of email addresses.The options for the CV have been extended with voluntary work and certifications. The first is to show that I care about non related work items. The latter are in high demand by abbreviation loving recruiters and HR people (or in reverse order). Somehow they seem to be connected. There is still no proper place to mention, that I am a World Record Holder in juggling.

    A few years ago I noticed that LinkedIn became a more closed community. Profiles can still be found using search engines, but they cannot be viewed without LinkedIn account. The advantage is that I can track views of my profile better than a decade ago. Probably even my own views on my own posts. In particular cases companies and job titles of viewers can be determined. A blog post is not part of a profile, so information of the viewers is being collected. If you are the only reader of this blog post today, I can determine your job title, your location, and your industry.

    The biggest change for me is free blogging on LinkedIn. This is very appealing for a Dutch man. There is a reasonable editor, which offers basic functionality. My first thought was “What You See Is What You Get”, but that was temporary. Extensive editing added random new lines or even unwanted bullets in the blog post. This once led to an embarrassing moment, when I showed a colleague my poorly edited LinkedIn blog post.

    Editing during multiple sessions was an exercise in patience. For months I added a new dummy blog post in order to continue editing my draft blog post. Of course I removed the empty blog posts afterwards, but this was not user friendly. The normal and unusual way is to select “edit profile”, select “see more” in the posts section, and then go to my last draft version. In known blog software profile and blogs are different things. In LinkedIn the blog posts are part of the profile, so no information should be collected from the viewers when indicated. Hereby illustrating an inconsistency with a situation as described a few paragraphs above.

    For a person with no background in marketing like me it was quite challenging to position a picture in the header of the post. A seemingly random chosen rectangle or blow up is selected to be shown. This view can only be changed by moving it left or right. My first reaction was to decrease the resolution of the picture. Then I got a cryptic message, that the resolution must have a minimum specified size. Now I had to figure a way to count the number of pixels in two directions. This added another dimension to voluntary work.

    After having placed my first blog post I got a nice mail with statistics. It was quite hopeful: I scored likes and a decent number of views. Then I noticed some disadvantages: no mails are sent, if my blog posts were viewed a few times. And likes are noted as permanent instead of updated regularly. So my advice to the reader is not to brag about the number of likes.

    A legitimate question for me would be: “Why did you not describe the other LinkedIn changes you stopped using?”. My answer is: “This is a time saver.”

Try hard
Losing my Twitter account is bad, but my LinkedIn account would be worse. I would basically be non existent and therefore have no credibility at all. Especially for recruiters, if they still could find me.

In order to minimise the loss I made a backup of all my contacts, my blog posts , and my profile including recommendations. Check.

Then I hit the Publish button.

I got a final warning. I confirmed my action.

In the days after the publication I expected a polite mail from LinkedIn to express concerns with the contents of the blog post. And an explicit request to remove the blog post. Nothing happened.

Actually tensome people read my blog post. It did not go viral. Nothing to report about. But I just did.

Try hard eith a vengeance
A few weeks later it was summer in Europe and it was warm. I thought about my blog post, that did not concern any people, except me of course.

Obviously the inconsistent use of settings was of no concern for any one. If someone looks to a LinkedIn blog post, the area, where the reader lives, the job title, and the industry of the reader are collected in sets. If I would have one reader a day, then I could easily combine the information. Nobody would flinch, if I told in which industry she /he worked. That left area and job title. This still had a low scary level.

I had the perfect plan to increase the level of craziness for my test by changing the tone of voice. So I twittered:

  • If you click on this link, I know where you live and your job title.
    #crazy #test
    Day 6 of #30dayssoftesting

On that day nobody clicked on the link . I repeat: On that day nobody clicked on the link . And no request to change my blog post. Fortunately.

Changing the Scene

Did I ever spend hours on a presentation? And my own money on traveling for this talk? On top of that vacation leave? Yes, I did.

When I talked about it with other speakers, it did not get even better: astonishment or silence.

I paid to speak.

In the second year of this century I was a volunteer at the European Juggling Convention in Rotterdam. This low budget convention needed volunteers to break even. So I paid for the convention and spent hours to help the organisation. Afterwards they paid any costs I made including the convention ticket. My badge of honour was and is the crew T shirt.

Being invited to speak at a test conference is considered an honour between testers. An invisible, but mentionable badge: I got congratulations. On a conference people shook my hand and wished me success with my talk.

There are several privileges for being a speaker. And still recognition in words may not be enough. Bills have to be paid. I was never hired, because I was a great speaker. Or an engaging blogger.

In 2015 Eindhoven University of Technology introduced the Nanny Fund to pay costs for children of employees attending conferences.

This year I changed my lifetime goal to give a half day tutorial on a specific test conference. I am still grateful for writing all my refused proposals. I learned to make better ones, My employer will cover some conferences and trainings, but as a born Dutchman I had to look at the costs.

This bold move was possible thanks to Maaret Pyhärjärvi, who made a spreadsheet. It is an overview of costs being paid by the conferences.

The next step was to look at delegate reports. What makes this conference great? How is the atmosphere? Can I learn there something useful? Do they share the same humour?

Basically where is all the fun?

This year Eurotesting Conference will cover the travelling costs of a first time speaker to a major test conference.

During my holiday I was challenged. Just search on #30daysoftesting on Twitter.  For one task I had to find an inspiring quote. That was difficult. I could browse blogs and books from famous testers, but that would probably not lead to a unique quote.

I still had a free pdf of Derek Sivers about attracting people as a professional musician. There were advises, which could easily be adopted by testers:
“If you don’t say what you sound like, you won’t make any fans.”
“Know who you are, and have the confidence that somewhere out there, there’s a little niche of people that would like your kind of music.”

Then I used the following quote:
“Every contact with the people around your music (fans and industry) is an extension of your art.”

A month later I was writing a proposal for a workshop for TestBash Netherlands. I was questioned to describe myself. Normally I would use a lot of credentials. I remembered my Twittered quote. Now I used humour to convince the program committee.

In August I got the news, that my half day workshop was accepted for TestBash. My adjusted life goal was sooner than I thought. And a bigger challenge than I had anticipated.  Some Huib used the word awesome to describe the line up.

This year EuroTesting conference interviewed every speaker, who had sent a proposal.

A week after the announcement of TestBash 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.

The fun had started.

My Old Love

When My Old Love came to the Netherlands, I just wanted to go. Months in advance I had been notified, that Almere was the place to be. I know that this place is lying about 3 meters below sea level. I live more than 6 meters below sea level. So no problems with the change of level.

As I was writing, I wanted to look at My Old Love. My wife was all business. I had to ask her, if I wanted to go.

I got her approval.

Of course she would accompany me and the kids were also going with us (for good measures).  So we were going to My Old Love, the European Juggling Convention. This yearly gathering of jugglers attracted more than 5000 visitors with interest in juggling, the art of throwing and catching things.

Stocked with juggling props we made our way to the EJC, European Juggling Convention, 2016. After parking the car we had to walk to the convention site and buy some tickets. Then my wife wanted to have a look at the whole site. I just wanted to juggle.

After more than fifteen minutes we finally sat down. I started to change clothes.
“What are you going to do?” my wife informed a bit concerned.
“I gonna juggle.”

Peer meeting as a service
Decades ago I lived in Delft with my juggling book. I was still making progress, but it was difficult. I needed space. A place, where I could juggle without the concern of breaking stuff.

To my surprise there was a weekly juggler meetup in my very little town. I contacted the organiser and became a member. The costs were low: a small contribution for the gym rent and I got free advice for juggling. Within a few years I became the meetup host.

Mike and I were the key holders. It was our task to open and close the gym. Soon things changed: music, a break with coffee and tea & a good atmosphere. This was a place to learn. It was a safe place to juggle. No hecklers included!

As you might have noticed in the blog name, my profession is tester. I test information systems. It was for me a logical step to become a board member of TestNet, the Dutch Special interest Group in Software Testing

For me it was not an honorary job. It was about providing a place to meet other peers. To exchange ideas and learn about software testing.

Let’s go back to My Old Love in Almere.
After the lunch I switched gyms. I wanted to meet other devilstickers.

Usually I give devilstick workshops on juggling conventions, but a last minute workshop would go unnoticed. I already spotted the workshop schedule though.

So I made contact in another way: find other devilsticking jugglers, devilstick, and exchange tricks. I found a small group, who swapped tricks. I showed some tricks and learned some tricks. Thanks Philippe for your patience and teaching me a new trick.

Back home I realised, that the European Juggling Convention had not changed. People juggling hula-hoops and kendamas were welcome. It still is a safe place to learn and practice.

Test Creativity, Inc.

Using the book ‘Creativity Inc.’ as a basis for this blog post, I made a mistake. I tried to craft a compelling story, how creativity could be used in every phase of software testing. But the post became a struggle for me. Then I realised that the book was not about creativity or management. It was about leadership. Let me write about it.

Learn, Struggle, and Tell
During one of my workshops about mind mapping I talked with a colleague, who was specialised in project support. She told me, that she already had been taught mind mapping during her master class. She was quite proud about the nice mind map as a deliverable of one master class group project. She described the beautiful details, but I sensed some reluctance to use mind maps for her daily work.

One of my kids had to give a talk. In the US it is called Show and Tell. An object is shown to the class and the pupil tells about it. The teacher of my kid would give a penalty, if no mind map could be shown.

Where’s the fun?

Flow and Tell
What I like about mind maps, is that they are playful in use. I can get in a flow, during which I can add and modify information in a continuous way. I can focus and defocus. With a single delete action I can remove a complete subtree of information.

A mind map makes a TODO list more interactive than a standard checklist. I can make sub tasks and move them around. It shows me, which things need my immediate attention.

This is useful fun for me.

Use and Tell
Years ago I used to work for a consultancy firm. This company had a special program for consultants between projects. One of the workshops was Introduction Mind Mapping, which appealed to me as a knowledge worker. The reasons to attend my workshop were different:

  • “I am curious, what mind mapping is.”
  • “I heard good stories about this workshop.”
  • “It might be useful for my work.”

During the years it became a feel good workshop. I found the right mix between practice and entertaining stories.

In order to maintain the quality of the workshops I was requested to collect filled in evaluation forms. Once I even scored a 10 for the whole workshop on scale from 1 to 10. You guessed right: 10 is perfect. For Dutch people this is quite exceptional. Most of the time I scored 8 or 9, which is good.

The feedback about the use of mind maps after the workshop was quite limited. One consultant used a mind map in a presentation, which I attended.

Another consultant had a long call with me to look at the use of mind maps as a vehicle for knowledge management. And there were a few more.

Show and Provide
There was not enough time to make a test plan. My project manager was quite strict: you have to do your job with the available resources. So I asked my project lead to use a mind map. The reaction was like “Sure, why not?”
I confirmed my request:
“You won’t get [word processor] doc, but a mind map.”
“That’s no problem.” she answered with a smile.

I went back to my computer and made one of the most compact test plans ever. I mailed the plan to her and started playing the theme of Mission Impossible in my head. I succeeded.

Later I heard that the plan was converted to a document. This was not entirely my intention.

Show them & They Tell me
Another time another mind map. This time I presented the test plan mind map to the stakeholders. It was scrutinised and becoming better after each feedback. Weeks later I requested information from a colleague, she answered with:
“I looked to your mind map and […]”.
Just imagine that smile on my face.

A few weeks later I got questions from another colleague. I opened my mind map and talked about the options. It was highly constructive. Test ideas were reframed with new facts and questions. The focus was on the content and not on the form.

There’s No Business like Show Business
There are many people, who already use mind maps like me. So my creativity is not that high. The use of test plans for management is standard in many companies. But the constructive discussion about the tests to be executed was quite unique for me. My test plan mind map was discussed, adjusted, and used to give a direction.

Am I a leader, because people follow me? Maybe they are chatting and not paying real attention. Maybe I am a leader when I tell the right direction in the back of the group. But they might follow another group or be led by some else in the group.

Real leadership is granted and not imposed.

A Delegate Report about TestNet Spring Event 2016

There are some main stream test events, which I cannot ignore. I just need to be there. Enter TestNet Spring Event 2016.

The Dutch Special interest Group in Software Testing, TestNet, had another free congress for his members: workshops, lectures, meals, etc. from 9 am to 10 pm. All for a yearly contribution under 90 Euro, which also includes an Autumn Event, peer meetings, and a congress with sponsored workshops. Did I mention the working parties?
It’s not cheap, it’s good.

Disclosure: I confess that I was a board member of this SIG, your honour.

5 lifehacks in a beginning scrum team
Eric van der Marck was called a first time speaker, who took his listeners with him on his journey through the scrum world. He talked his encounters with end users. He started to walk like a cowboy: “They are wearing a can of pepper spray and a gun.”

In order to illustrate his points he had nice examples with lots of interactions with the attendees. Pairing was useful even with different roles. He asked a programmer during a review about the code. He knew that he would ask irrelevant questions. And still there were some moments of hesitation and insight from the programmer’s side.

He also worked for a Police project. The agents needed a handheld device, which could be used in a simple way. My first reaction was unbelief, until he explained the context. If an agent talks to a possibly dangerous person, he /she wants to watch the person all the time. The same with a victim.

Eric had a preference for good documentation. Not only for the dreaded audit, but also for helping team members. An attendee asked why the documentation was not in the code. Eric responded that the documentation was also used by end users. Then he described the reaction of an agent looking at code.
“The moment I show him code I lose him. [Silence of 3 seconds]
They are smart. [Silence of 1 second]
In other way.”

With all kind of tools available he described, what happened, when test cases are attached to Jira tickets.
“For a regression test you have to browse through all these tickets.”
A rather unpleasant task indeed.
He advocated Confluence for test case administration and Gliffy, an add on for Confluence, to make process flows in order to track the test coverage.

Eric ended the story with coaching. How to make people better scrum members.

Agile Testing Survival Guide
Ingo Philip is an employee of a test tool supplier. I groaned inside. I was sitting in the front row and suppressed my urge to flee to another session. Ingo promised, that he would not mention his company again. I relaxed a bit.

Ingo remarked that there were redundant test cases. The basic cause is user stories, which might have overlapping acceptance criteria. These had corresponding test cases in turn. So he suggested to consider functionality grouped test cases. While blogging I started to miss a process flow test or data flow test.

Next he suggested to look at patterns in the past. Risk analysis was a helpful tool. For each feature good risk coverage should be obtained during testing. In an example some features had risk coverage of 50 %. Nice for statistics, but pretty abstract for me. Then I added all risk coverages of the features and got a result over 100%.

That was the moment to raise my arm for a clarification. Ingo noticed me and delayed the question to the Q & A section.

Heading towards the wall he described how test cases could be weighted using information from the past. He turned the steering wheel a bit by pointing out that deviations could not be predicted. Then unexpectedly he mentioned Exploratory Testing as a good supplement for test cases. ET could address unseen or other risks than test cases. Just missed the wall by a few nanometres.

In the last part of the talk Ingo described a case about a regression test: test case reduction using the previously described method including the risk coverage, automatic test data generation, automated tests in several forms and frequencies. I recognised a pattern of another talk: determine a small set, which can be used for a fastback feedback, and distribute the tests over several servers to reduce the execution time.

At the end I finally got a chance to ask about risk coverage. I picked up factors like frequency and potential damage, then the facilitator stopped the explanation. Ingo gave me an invitation to go to the booth for more information. But I came for the talk. His talk.

time to leave the premises. A few things to mulch about. Or blog about.

Free Gift as a Service

A few months ago Jokin Aspaziu gave a gift to the Test Community. He added Spanish subtitles to an online video. is doing the same with a big set of mind maps. On a Saturday someone placed a question on a forum about a checklist for testing. I just referred to this big set of mind maps.

So here is my gift, which costed me more than 100 hours of work in my free time (and another 4 hours for blogging this). I am sharing this for free by giving multiple views on a software test exercise. After all it is my way to put my thoughts on the web.

The exercise
[Preparation teacher:
Explore the program extensively yourself before using the exercise.
Be sure, that there are enough smartphones (iPhones are not supported 🙁 ) and laptops plus wifi for the exercise.]

“You have to test a multiplication. You have 5 minutes to prepare. I am the PO or Product Owner. You can ask me any question.”

[My observations for this and similar exercises:
Two things can happen:

  1. Attendees are writing a lot of test cases.
  2. Attendees ask a lot of questions.

FAQ teacher
Q: why do we need to test a multiplication?
A: this is written in a new programming language.

Q: what can be multiplied?
A: all kind of numbers.

Q: are real numbers supported?
A: yes.

Some advices:

  • Give only information, when asked.
  • Act, if you know everything.
  • Tell a consistent story.]

[After the five minutes]
“What are you going to do?”
Or “What did you find out?”

[In case of silence or answers about test cases you can ask the attendees:

  • What is your mission?
  • What are you going to test?
  • What are the priorities in testing?
  • Etc.]

“You have 10 minutes to test the application. Here is the link to the application:”

[Additional information:
Give only information when asked.

Depending on the purpose of the context of the exercise you can encourage people to make notes.

In the past there were several reasons why I had to part from my smartphone:

  • It does not operate on an iPhone.
  • The battery of an attendee’s phone is low.]

[After 10 minutes of testing]
“Time is over. I want you to form pairs and debrief each other.”

[In case of uneven number of attendees let one attendee debrief to you.]

After the debriefing
“What were your experiences?”

[If people continue to talk about bugs, you can ask about exploring or notes. Did you accomplish your mission?

Other question:
“I was the PO. Why did you not ask me about [program]?”]

A workshop
The reader is of course advised to embed the exercise in a workshop. A good example is note taking during testing as subject. What must be noted during testing?

The first part could be focused on personal experiences and information from bug registration tools. An overhead projector can be used to show some notes as used in practice.
Let people voice their opinions and let them discuss the options.

In the second part theory could be presented like ET templates. ET is short for Exploratory Testing and not for a cute little stranded traveller looking for a roof and candy.

The last part is the exercise. As described above.

I was looking for a way to engage all attendees at the same time. It would be great, if they could do the exercise at their own pace. Not everyone has a laptop, but smartphones are quite common these days.

So I wanted to have a tool to make an app for mobile phones. The development environment and deployment of the application for workshop should be free and it should be able to support more than 20 attendees at the same time. Hum, these sentences sound like requirements.

I looked to different tools. There were a lot of cloud based tools, but they had restrictions on users or mobile platforms. Also had time consuming pitfalls like learning to code. I try to avoid proprietary code.

Then I noticed Twine. This tool had a similar interface of a CMS or Content Management System for web sites. It was free and simple to use. Twine is used to tell a story with branches. So I could add several happy endings. Or in the case of a bug a bad ending.
It can even be used for a RPG or Role Playing Game: please enter the room. Hit the baddies and take the loot. Cheers. Have another healing potion. Rinse & repeat.

Then the painful embedding of Twine html in my web site started. It looked bad. Some forums did not have proper information, so I had to place it outside this blog space.

But I had still more than enough Mb left over in my hosting space. So I cruised through my personal Command and Control Centre of my hosting provider and discovered that I could use subdomains. That sounded pretty cool. was born.

The next step was to move the file to the internet. I used ftp. Very primitive, but good enough.

Another speed limit was imposed by the awkward URL. That is a lot of typing. On Twitter I discovered, that is used frequently. It reduced the number of characters to be entered after the slash to a reasonable digit. I looked on the web site. It was free. What was the business model? Marketing could use the information of the click behaviour. Rather useful for keeping tracks of campaigns. Only this information would cost money.

A similar tool is the QR code. The user needs a QR reader or a photo to URL converter on his smartphone. On the Internet I found several QR code generators for free use.

The difficulty with bugs is, that they are small and sometimes hard to detect. With a high reproducibility bug reports I had to investigate a lot. The consequence was that programmers got a reproduction path with more than 10 steps. From me.

My basic idea was to make a calculator with buttons for digits and a lot more. I first tried a rough version to explore the possibilities; it worked and I was happy for a short time. A calculator lookalike would cost me lots of work, so I skipped it. So the prototype slowly evolved in the program of the featured exercise.

How would I be able to keep track of the right state of the program? A state transition diagram offered a simple way to design it. Then a new proof of concept or PoC was needed to verify, whether I could program it. Then I PoCed again and again.

My auto generated html file looked good on a desktop. There were some drawbacks on a mobile phone: small characters and difficult to manoeuvre. So I added some space to handle big finger tips.

In 2014 I was invited to give a 2 hour workshop for the Let’s Test conference. In the last years I had developed a strong preference for a work and learn experience. So I wanted to have some exercises, which could be done by the participants. The featured exercise is one of the three.

When I read the blog posts of previous conferences, I noticed a pattern. Surprisingly not every tester at this context driven test conference was extrovert. So the exercises should be done by introvert testers. At their own pace in their own Circle of Comfort.
Then I used all my humour to convince them to come to my workshop.

On the first day of the test conference I met a shy tester. She was looking for an interesting talk or workshop. I suppressed the urge to mention my workshop. This would not be consistent with my blog post and invitation for introvert testers.

In hindsight the exercise was out of place. With all the hours spent I did not consider to drop it. What were the bad signs?

  • I flipped through the slides, until I discovered that I had to do two exercises in succession. So there was no good mental hook for this exercise.
  • The exercise was linked to the message: little tricks lead to nice combinations. Were the actions of the attendees really tricks? On a high level of abstraction maybe.
  • I ran over my 45 minutes limit with 100 %. The exercise was one of the causes of this time expenditure.

Another observation was, that the QR code and did not accelerate the start of the actual testing.

Related posts
For the testing of this exercise I used different people.

My last upload before my workshop was for me another exercise in exploration. The actual exercise was not completely smooth.

Just for fun
Why is it not possible to explore outside the domain of software testing and make decent notes?
And make a smile on the face of the reader?
Just by breaking a bike lock.

Special mentions
The one, who inspired to write this blog post, is Matthew Middleton. He asked a puzzle for testing on a forum.

In order to get so many views on the exercise I used a variation of the Rule of Three. This rule basically states, that there are at least three questions to be asked. Why not views?

Have another one. Take a health potion mind map.

Mindmap of this blog post

Hit the baddies road and take the loot exercise. Cheers.

I want to thank Michael Bolton for experiencing his calculator exercise. Thanks for Carsten Feilberg for his workshop about Exploratory Testing at Tasting Let’s Test NL. Also thanks for Elisabeth Hendrickson for writing about her experiences with ET and Jean Paul Varwijk for putting ET templates on line ( And finally special thanks for Ray Oei for making me rethink testing.

I can make a test scenario with 100 % coverage of the shown tests and only good positives. Some might call it checking.

I can make a test scenario with more variations in state transitions, which leads to some good negatives. Some might call it testing.

Some people would love to automate tests.