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. Testinsane.com 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: 2015.mindfultester.com/test_this.html”

[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. 2015.mindfultester.com 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 bit.ly 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 bit.ly 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 (arborosa.org). 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.

Story delivery

“The judge will also take delivery in consideration: the way you tell it.”
A colleague about a game.

Do you understand?
“Do you know how they work at Toyota?” I asked a manager.
After a remarkable silence he responded carefully with:
“They keep their inventory low.” Then he continued to talk about it.
I nodded. “They also use Andon.”
I told him, that every employee in the company was entitled to stop the process in order to improve it. Then I spoke about the benefits.
“I feel comfortable to tell you, what I think.” I added.
“I like to hear that”, he responded.

As a tester I frequently have to tell people, that something needs to be fixed. It is hard.

Why do people fail to deliver a good story outside their own company? Specifically at test conferences.

Whom did you choose?
In this paragraph I try to answer the question:
How is a good speaker selected for a test conference?

If there are two candidates with the same experience, it might be prudent to choose the one with confidence.
He is introvert, so…
So the next time there is huge chance, that the same person is chosen. He has more experience and more confidence.

Another way to create a bias in speaker selection is to use a proposal. I agree with people, that a good summary can be a good indicator for a good talk. I also want to write, that a talk is spoken and not written.
Yes, it is OK to read this blog post.
No, it is NOK to read the slides aloud.

If there is a woman eager to speak, then another bias might pop up. Most testers are men, so…

I once did an audition for a talk using my smartphone. It was a bad idea: I constantly look at the screen like child, who awkwardly observed a mirror for the first time. If I got a little help from a professional camera team, I would increase my odds twentyfold.
(But I am Dutch, so  …)

Another coloured opinion.
He has a Chinese name, but most testers I know, are white and male. So…

I am totally aware, that this is an unbalanced view of conferences.  There are test conferences, which actively promote diversity on their web sites or have a proper woman man ratio for speakers.
Last year I, a yellow male speaker, was greeted by an African European test conference organiser.
Last year I saw a conference adjusting his acceptance process within weeks.
This year a major test conference will have two female keynote speakers after a decent increase of 2.

Things are changing.  For better. Diversity.

Did you consider this?
A week after the Dutch Student Championships I had karate fight in the dojo. My opponent was better than me. He beated me all the time. I was in the student team, he not. So the best are not always in the spotlights.

Last year I asked a good tester, whether he would go to a specific conference. He answered with: “The usual suspects.”
BTW it is not the movie and I did not have to translate this from Dutch to English.

At the beginning of this century I heard a story about a famous tester. He knew how to be accepted at major test events. But
“He is telling the same stuff over and over again.”

Let’s agree about a few facts:

  • There are females.
  • There are people, who use the systems you test.

Suppose you want to have some small talk with the end users. With men it looks simple: drink a pint of beer in a pub. With female end users?

Back to work. How do you know, when female users are not pleased with the application under test? For agile methodologies this is important. Let me substitute “agile” by “all”.
That sounds much better.

According to the independent Central Bureau for Statistics (www.cbs.nl) roughly the half of the Dutch population is female in 2015. So the chance, that the gender of a common Dutch computer program user is female, is 50%. Probably getting close to 95 % for an embroidery app. That’s my best guess.

As a Chinese I belong to a minority. Only 1 of 5 people on this very planet is Chinese. Even a small percentage of more than 1 billion people can be a nice niche market.(I also heard stories about companies having a hard time in China. Maybe I am also hampered with a confirmation bias. 🙁
I am Chinese, so…

In 2000 I had to switch planes in New York. At the airport the signs were written in 2 languages: English and Spanish.

Who can help me?
For a hesitant speaker it looks difficult to change this process. There are ways for reverse selection.

Conferences are trying to find new voices for their stages. On a regular basis I get kind requests to send in proposals. Sometimes they are personalised. Years ago I had submitted several proposals to conferences and they didn’t forget me. I don’t mind this.

There are even special speaker slots for beginning speakers. This spring I surprised my colleagues, that I was not accepted: I was too experienced.

In April one test conference teamed up with experienced female testers to increase the influx of speakers of the same gender. Twitter showed a nice increase of proposals of the targeted speaker population.

Speak Easy is one of my favourite things. It is focused on diversity. Redirecting attention to experienced female speakers. Supporting wannabe speakers with crafting abstracts and talks. Securing speaker slots for newbie speakers. The mentors have a lot of experience, which can benefit first time speakers and conferences as well.

Where can I get practice?
Did you ever speak with friends, family members, colleagues, peers, delegates of a conference, attendees of meetups, or members of Special Interest Groups about testing? Or with total strangers? That can be scary.

There is no straight stairway to practice delivery of a story, but there are ample opportunities.

Some tips

  • My father told me, that I should learn to tell a good joke. For me it was a way to start.
  • Use a diary.
  • Talk with your spouse or friend about the funniest thing that happened today. Preferably with complete transcriptions of the dialogue complemented with the right tone and faces.
  • Write spoken language next to written language.
  • Learn to ask (obnoxious) questions.
  • More and more conferences ask for twitter handles, blog posts, and other on line pieces of evidence proving, that candidate speakers can engage people. And touch them.

Related posts
Teaching = Learning
The need for new speakers
Safety first
Do you want to talk about it?
In Case of Emergency Press 1

PS the picture at the beginning of this post is nothing special. I could make it a cliff hanger for the next blog post. That is not a good idea.

Some readers would like to prod me for the special cut technique I used to split the apple. The brand of the knife or the way I hold the fruit in my hand. The next obvious step would be to practice the cut for the next hours and then taking bets from ignorant friends.
[I already hear the sound of glasses, which are filled with cool refreshing amber coloured fruit juice.]






You’re still there.
Are you ready to read further?

You’re sure?


Okay. Here you go.

I was just lucky to slice the apple in this way and mindful enough to take a picture.

I wrote you: it was not special.

Story delivery is not about the package. It is all about the content and the story teller’s view.


Test Awareness

In my sight Out of mind
My kids were playing somewhere and I was relaxing. I did not have to entertain them. They were self entertaining. Then my wife asked: “Do you know, where the kids are?”
I took a good look. It was not possible to pinpoint them within a minute. Then my wife told their locations. I relaxed.

A few minutes later she posed the same question. This time I used a faster way to locate them.

Several quarters of an hour later “Do you know, where the kids are?”. This time I knew the last locations and the area to be scouted was a way smaller than the area I scouted the first futile time.

What’s going on?
In the past I was a test coordinator in waterfall projects. Some readers might remark that this is old fashioned. My answer is, that it depends on the context. For a few years I was responsible for performance tests. These complex tests needed a rigid string of tasks, but the durations were known in advance.

In order to coordinate 20 performance tests with my peers within a team there were the weekly meetings. These were real tough. It was a mixture of management and testing. There was a steep learning curve for performance testing. I got questions, which were incomprehensible at first. I was scrutinised on details in order to deliver good projects. I learned to do my homework and keep a good overview.

Out of sight You do mind
On a birthday party I was constantly turning my head and sh.. [word I cannot use without writing a disclaimer] to check my children. Then my wife remarked:
“The other grownups watch them.”
So I had to watch the kids in front of me. It sounded like a good deal while minimising the use of my muscles.

How are things going?
A call came in at the service desk. The agent answered the call of her colleague. By posing questions she tried to pinpoint the problem. Then she looked at me with the silent question:
“Would you please help me?”
I had tested the system; I had some inside knowledge of the system.

Another time another situation. The most boring part of an administrator job is browsing through log files. And I knew what to look for. Once in a while I had sneak view of the files. It was not a surprise, that I found some neglected situations, which I dutifully reported to the service desk.

Once I noticed, that I got a server error message instead of a proper reply after using a form on a website. It was a challenge for me to find another discrete channel to inform the owner. The reply on my notifying mail was most grateful.

Fortunately I worked with people watching me testing.


A stoic view on the Circle of Influence

This is a story, which matured over the years. Lingering in my thoughts waiting to be told.
So behold.
(Yes, it is time for a rhyme.)

Circle of Concern
At the end of the workshop Introduction Mind Mapping I told, that I was working on a workshop about 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Two young colleagues reacted immediately. All smiles and eagerness.
“I want to come. Where is it?”
This announcement was a typical case of skin in the game. I could not stop now.

I kindly informed the programme committee about my intentions. Also now I had strong reactions: offices were fighting for my workshop. I picked the first office, which had reacted. After the announcement other consult giving colleagues on projects reacted with:
“Are you willing to give the workshop in the evening?”

During my time as a consultant I visited the office regularly between projects. People had finally time to wind down after a busy period. There was also time to study books. The book of Covey was an intriguing one. It was hard to grasp and it was a must read. This was a real dilemma.

The first time I told about my plans. A friend reacted with:
“You are all smiling.”

During the first day of the workshop I introduced the Circle of Concern.
“The Circle of Concern contains things you bother about.”
A compelling example was easily chosen: that very evening a manager might call team members, that they were fired.

Circle of Influence
I also pointed out, that not everyone or everything in the Circle of Concern could be influenced. So I signed a Circle of Influence inside the Circle of Concern.
“Can you call some persons you cannot influence?”
After a suggestion I placed a dot with Manager inside the Circle of Concern, but outside the Circle of Influence. More options were discussed and more dots placed.
Particularly in the Circle of Influence.

On my way home I received a call from my emotional manager:
“I have to call you, because you are fired.”
I protested formally and the call ended.

That very evening I  concerned people by phoning them, that I was fired. Looking back at this period my wife said:
“You were really confident to get a new job.”
Due to the exercise I knew exactly what to do. There was no grief, only determination.

In the days after the dreadful call I was kindly requested to stop all my activities including the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Attendees protested to no avail. What I had planned as a viral workshop, was put on hold.

Looking back to this course of circumstances I might challenge the reader to point out a Circle of Concern and a Circle of Influence. There are multiple. What I want to write, is to give a philosophical view of the story.

Stoicism as a Service
I still remember the discussed options in my Circle of Influence. They gave me a direction to move. There were no emotions at that moment.

While writing this article I somehow became emotional. I tried to trace it back to its roots: I was reflecting the emotions of my manager and my co-workers.

Once I heard a family member quoting, that being fired is one of the most emotional things that can happen to people. The actual message of the firing did not influence my emotions. I somehow reflected the negative wave.

Until a week ago I did not give much thought about it. A common thought would be:
“I take this as a grown up. I won’t budge. No cry.”
But then I had no superman feelings at all.

Some people might say that I was past the denial phase. Or was it “Walk your talk”?

I was rational at that moment. Bad thoughts were not bugging me. I had a stoic attitude during those days. I viewed the loss of a job as a broken shoestring. I just needed a new 1.

Is a stoic approach not a bad way of living? A denial of emotions and focusing on the current steps. I once read a book about stoicism and one of the lessons was to shield myself against negative thoughts and let the positive feelings in.

I still remember that great feeling, when my young co-workers were excited about announcement of the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Or feel the excitement of my colleagues on projects. Or that warm smile of me, when I heard “You are all smiling.”, when I told my plan to a friend.

Does this Circle of Influence make me bullet proof against bad feelings? No.
During the writing of this blog post I felt the loss of my former manager and the disappointment of my colleagues. As a tester I am still busy to keep my emotions under control. And I think, that it can be useful to show, that I am not pleased with a particular situation.

I am a testing human being, not a testing robot.

A Delegate Report about Agile Testing Day Netherlands 2016

A few weeks ago I had ordered the afternoon ticket which included the last sessions of the afternoon, a dinner, and the evening sessions. (I am still figuring out, what an afternoon actually is.) A complete day filled with sessions would spoil my appetite for knowledge.
Luckily I was right.

Open Space
One of the strangest elements of the conference was the Open Space. It was a group of testers looking for answers and testers willing to share those. It was a setting requiring special attention and a good moderator. Alex Schladebeck took her role seriously by pointing out the rules (Look mom. Without slides!) and using her candour to illustrate several examples. With more questions than available slots two groups started discussing their questions separately.

Once again I noticed that there was not a single right answer. Looking at the context was very important. Attendees go to a conference to get more insights or answers for questions. And an open space is a safe environment to exchange thoughts with other peers.

Nowhere And Back Again
Thom Bradford is An American in Berlin. He was using cue cards like Gambit. No special effects were used, so the stage was not damaged during his talk. He recalled his last decades as a software engineer, who had some unpleasant experiences. It was obvious that he was reluctant to switch company.

Thom described the symptoms of companies which he tried to avoid: “Monolithic piece of code” or “Working students” assigned to solve bugs. Then he mentioned Drive of Daniel Pink. Good companies looked at

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

It led to the following situation. He had to break mastery: he showed Clojure to appalled Java programmers.

Thom had real doubts about code coverage as KPI or Key Performance Indicator. During the presentation he started an automated test, which showed an impressive 100 % coverage and only positive test results. Clean Code and TDD were better than code coverage. This sounded like a SOLID advice to me.  (Pun intended).

The Need For Speed
Emanuil Slavov had somehow dehydrated his ATD 2015 talk to 30 minutes. And he had more to tell than it was humanly possible in the allotted time slot. So the speed was really necessary. It was Flash as a Speaker.

With impressive numbers he showed the reduction of automated tests from 3 hours to 3 minutes.
“Three minutes sounded nice, so we aimed on this limit.”
A lot of measures sounded logical in hindsight like a separate test environment and a test database, which had a minimal set of records. There was also an unexpected (temporary) setback like moving to containers.

Emanuil also referred to three books:

  1. The Goal:A Process of Ongoing Improvement
  2. Toyota Kata
  3. Flashboys

I had read only one. Number 3 was unexpected.

Collaborative Infrastructure Delivery
“This session will be more technical than the previous one.”, Christoph Lukas began.
I smiled inwardly.

Infrastructure as a code has the same characteristics as code. Using TDD he first developed a test. The first test run led to an error. Of course! Nothing was executed or set up. Using a flurry of Xterms (?) he slowly built the desired environment with components.

Workshop previously known as Understanding and testing RESTful Web Services
Mark Winteringham introduced the delegates to Postman, which can be dowloaded for free from getpostman.com. This tool looked to me as a small and compact tool. Ideal to explore the interface.

In the briefing Mark explained, how http is used. He introduced his thoughts about web testing and then encouraged the attendees to go postal on an example web service.

Because of some technical restrictions I paired with another tester. I fell in a familiar trap: test without note taking.
(What could possibly go wrong in 10 minutes? A lot.)
Mark did a debriefing which provided a decent way to catch up with my notes.

In between I discussed the use of SoapUI with another tester. It was a more powerful tool with a subscription.

How we connect to the Internet of Things
In the last keynote at 08:15 in the afternoon Bart Knaack and James Lyndsay had a look at the latest hottest topic IoT or Internet of Things. Or Ignore other Things :). They started to model the internet and then focused on Things.
“This is Thing”, Bart explained.
An orange super hero was shown on the slide.

Then the gentlemen connected an electronic device with the Internet utilising IFTTT or IF This, Then That. This rule based web service was used to change the behaviour of the device i.e. flashing in the assigned colour in the assigned frequency. A Twitter message led to pink flashing LEDs laid out in a circle. It was cumbersome to connect with the smartphones of the attendees. Establishing the right connection for testing was really difficult.

Was IoT really different from other systems under Test? There was no difference with GSM testing on a higher level: protocol testing was demonstrated by 3 processes impersonated by Bart, James, and Alex.

Then I got the message:

  • Look at the differences in technologies.
  • Find a way to address them.
  • Look at tests performed in the past and
  • Reuse those test ideas.

And then
I hurried to catch my bus. I did not wait until the last one. This one was big enough for me.


How to Speed Up Mind Mapping

A few days after giving a brief introduction to mind mapping I met one of the attendees. The test consultant told me, how she used mind mapping during an interview. The most remarkable sentence I still remember, was:
“Excuse me. I have to change my marker.”
She had paper and enough colour markers. But not enough time.

Mind Mapping For Colour Blind People or Another Way To Mind Map Fast
Mind maps made by beginners often lack colours and pictures. These errors are so basic, that I should point them out. You might call it Standard Teaching Mode. My first mind map teacher had a refreshing look: if the mind map serves the purpose, then it is all right.

Years ago I found an intriguing question on a mind map forum:
How can you make mind maps for colour blind people?
Colours could not be used in a normal way. So I gave it some thought:

  • Draw the edges of the branch.
  • Fill the branch with a pattern.

Patterns for branches

Here are other patterns and a way to grow branches:

Other patterns for branches

Of course different colours can be used: dark and light colours.

Coloured branches

For a colour blind person this looks like this:

Black and grey version of branches

During my holiday I was preparing for my lecture about mind mapping and testing. I had only one pen and a notebook. A multi coloured mind map was out of the question. There was enough time though. I had to wait for a washing machine and a drying machine. I used some of the patterns described above.

Hybrid Mind Mapping
I had a paper with a mind map and a pen. The mind map generated by a mind map program contained test ideas for a test session with the supplier. I could not walk to my desktop to update the mind map, so I extended the image on the hard copy with my pen. I checked the used test ideas and discovered a new one:
“Would you please enter the following input?”
Four people including Yours Innocently saw the program crashing within seconds.

Things to explore
What I like about mind map programs:

  • It is easy to move branches by selecting and releasing them on the right spot.
  • Notes are great to add detailed information to branches. It saves me time to remember things.
  • I like icons and relationships to add an extra layer of information.
  • I like XL Copy & Paste between the mindmap program and other programs.Before the meeting I had copied the contents of some cells of a table to a text editor. A row of items were shown. At the beginning of the meeting I announced to my colleague:
    “I have to show you something.”
    I selected the text in the text editor, then I moved my mouse to the central idea or center of the mind map and released the left mouse button.
    The mind map program added new branches with the names of the items. I heard: “Wow.”
    Disclosure: first I tried to copy the data directly from the spreadsheet to the mind map, but I got a lot of empty branches. So I changed my demonstration. It just took me some exploration to save some time and score a Wow.

Did you notice that?
The program manager was not pleased, that I interrupted her during the meeting. Her anger increased, when I told, that a test environment was not available on time. So I was drawn in a new meeting.
“You make a short report about this meeting.”, was the undeniable request to me .

Minutes later two managers were discussing a test environment in the hallway. I had no pen and no paper. My hand automatically reached for my smartphone (Muscle memory in action!). I opened a mind map program and started adding branches with key words. I had enough time.



Q&A A Fistful of Spreadsheets

Facilitator: Welcome back to another round of questions and answers. This Q&A will focus on the serie Smart Use of Spreadsheets of Mindful Tester.   K-cards will be used in order to structure the flow of thoughts.

I’ve got green cards from numbers 43, 25, and 9. Number 43, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 43: I only read instructions. Why do you not add more clarification?

Writer: It is important to discover things myself. This way I get a better understanding of spreadsheets. In this serie I wanted to share this experience with you, the reader.


Facilitator: I’ve got yellow cards from numbers 31 and 16. Number 31 it’s your turn.

Attendee number 31: That’s pretty abstract. I don’t get that. Would you provide an example?

Writer: In the last episode I described the use of Remove duplicates in order to get a set of pizza brands or a list of names, which are mentioned only once. During the test I needed a way to make a set. I explored the spreadsheet program to find an easy way. By letting the reader follow my steps she or he might see some functions of spreadsheets, which are unknown and useful in the future.


Facilitator: Number 16.

Attendee number 16: How did you find it?

Writer: By selecting a tab, which might contain an interesting set of functions.

Attendee number 16: Just curious. Did you know the function before the test?

Writer: No.

Attendee number 16: So you stumbled upon it during the test?

Writer: Yes, I did.

Attendee number 16: Is it not strange to start testing without an exact set of instructions?

Writer: No. Let me elaborate.

Attendee number 16: Sure.
[Facilitator relaxes.]

Writer: Is it possible to make a test strategy, which does not change? I think: “Not”, so making test cases should be postponed as long as possible or skipped when possible. Nothing is worse than hours spent for nothing. The same is also applicable for the use of tools to determine the most easy way to test the system under test.


Facilitator: A yellow card from number 33. Number 33 it’s your turn.

Attendee number 33: When do you skip test cases?

Writer: There are other alternatives like checklists and exploratory testing.

Facilitator: this is going off topic, so I am closing this thread.


I’ve got green cards from numbers 25 and 9. Number 25, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 25: In your blog post you are using a spreadsheet program. Why did you not use a database tool or Python? They are better equipped to handle data.

Facilitator: I see a red card from number 493. You have a question about the question?

[Attendee number 493 nods.]

Facilitator: Number 493.

Attendee number 493: what is Python?
[Facilitator looks for a snake.]

Writer: For me is Python a strong light weight programming language. Do you need more information?
[Attendee number 493 shakes his head. Facilitator relaxes.]

Writer: The question was: “Why did you not use a database tool or Python?”I have to take additional steps: install tools and figure out, how to use them. It would have taken me extra time.


Facilitator: I’ve got yellow cards from numbers 1 and 24. Number 1 it’s your turn.

Attendee number 1: This could have been a nice starting point to explore another tool?

Writer: Yes, but… The but is to look for long term benefits. For simple data manipulation spreadsheets are good enough. I did not expect complex data analysis in the near future, so I did not even consider using other tools.


Facilitator: Number 24

Attendee number 24: why did you not use the experience report to tell your story? This would provide more insight in the way you work.

Writer: it is nonlinear and it would confuse the reader, who is looking for a fast and linear solution.

Attendee number 24: Could you be more specific? I mean: could you share an experience?

Writer: The first time I used Remove duplicates I got the wrong combination of pizza brands and phone numbers. So I did a manual check for the remaining wrong numbers. Later I discovered that I ordered the phone numbers from A to Z instead of Z to A. So I used System 1.

Facilitator: I see a red card from number 493. Number 493.

Attendee number 493: what is System 1?

Writer: System 1 is used for automatic and fast decisions like walking to the supermarket. System 2 is used for the complex operations, which need thoughtful thinking like buying items on the shopping list.

Attendee number 24: So?

Writer: When I heard the word Order, I picked the order from A to Z. For System 1 this is the default choice. I had to use System 2 (Is the order really from A to Z?), before continuing the test. Adding this experience is likely to add confusion for the reader.

Attendee number 24: I think that you are smart enough to make a smart formula to automate the manual check.

Writer: Thank you for your compliment. There were only foursome numbers to check. I actually made an attempt to use a formula, but that costed me too much time.


Facilitator: Are there any more questions on this thread? Apparently not.

I’ve got green cards from numbers 9, 10, and 11. Number 9, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 9: Why did you not use a programming language supported by the spreadsheet program?

Writer: I didn’t know the language.


Facilitator: Number 10.

Attendee number 10: Why did you not use a blink test to compare?

Facilitator: I see another red card from number 493. Number 493.

Attendee number 493: what is a blink test?

Writer: A blink test is a test, during which the tester processes a lot of information in incredible short time or in a blink of an eye. In this particular case you can switch fast between the two spreadsheets. Differences can be noticed: characters change.
[Attendee number 493 nods.]

Writer: The blink test has some disadvantages. Spreadsheets can be so big, that you need a lot manoeuvring. Some spreadsheets have cells with default width, so not the complete content is shown to the tester. Non-readable characters can be contained in cells. My favourite is that trailing spaces cannot be spotted with the naked eye. “Text” looks the same as “Text<space><space>”.


Facilitator: Number 11. You can go ahead.

Attendee number 11: You copy the calculated values instead of the formulas to the last worksheet. [Speaker nods.] That is a smart move, but it looks like a redundant step to me.

Writer: if everything is OK, then you are right. It there is more than 1 NOK, then odds might change for me. In this case I have to verify the formulas. If they are right, then I have to analyse the data. Values can better be manipulated than formulas.

Attendee number 11: Like?

Writer: Spreadsheet programs support auto filter, which contains nice features.


Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 21, 562, and 23. Number 21, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 21: You already advocated against the use of database tools and programming language in this context. Why did you not use spreadsheet comparison tools?

Writer: It would only save me one step: to learn the tool. I have to admit that I am not familiar with these tools.


Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 562 and 23. Number 562.

Attendee number 562: Why do you not change the background colour of the cell to red, if the cell contains a NOK?

Writer: It is an extra step. For analysis of complex patterns of NOKs it can be considered.


Facilitator: Number 23.

Attendee number 23: I found a neat trick. If I have to compare a new sheet with one in the map, then I copy the sheet in the map and rename the tab. What about that?

Writer: It is a tricky one: after months it is not clear, which spreadsheets have been compared. More particular: what were the sources of the sheets? Also there is a risk of different numbers of rows. You actually have to refactor the spreadsheet.


Facilitator: A yellow card from number 21.

Attendee number 21: Could you give an example of refactoring?

Writer: I would an extra row above the table and add a text with information over the source. You still have to watch the formulas though.

Facilitator: A green cards from number 372. Number 372.

Attendee number 372: Why do you not use the standard compare function of the spreadsheet programs?

Writer: Good question. I’ll have a look.

Attendee number 372: Sounds like a new blog post?

Writer: The last blog post about spreadsheets took a considerable amount of time.

Attendee number 372: Why?

Writer: I was refactoring the solution.

Attendee number 372: Is that not contradictory with your previous statements about being lean?

Writer: You’re a smart girl. I blog in my free time.


Facilitator [a bit surprised]: I see a green card from number 493. Number 493.

Attendee number 493: What do you mean with “=b”?
Writer: “=” is an underarm and “b” a hand.
Attendee number 493: Thanks. =b.
Writer: Thanks.

Facilitator: Thank you for all questions about spreadsheets, testing, and… Hey, I miss the pizzas. Anyways I hope you enjoyed this Q&A.

Keep on questioning things!


A Fistful of Spreadsheets

In this episode of Smart Use of Spreadsheets I focus on comparing spreadsheets and an example of basic set algebra. It is time for Techie Stuff.  [On the background a nice tune starts and the smell of hot pizza and cola is entering the nostrils of the reader. That’s you.]

The Mood, the Mad and the Muggle
Data is useless, unless it is used for other uses than only occupying space on a disk. Computer programs can be used to show the information on screen, but also to tag information. E.g. give me the phone numbers of pizzerias, which deliver at my home more than 6 meters below sea level. (The strange fact is that they do exist in the Netherlands. I say: “Cheese.” )

In this imaginary sanitised example I introduce a program, which compiles a list of all pizzerias in the neighbourhood of my home. It can export the list to a spreadsheet.

In the software development community there are really smart people. Another day I met a programmer, who refactored my pizza list program. The functionality remained the same, but the code was in better shape and maintainable. That last word sounded like music from my smartphone.

So I only had to test it (and like that). You know that thumb sign: =b. But comparing spreadsheets is quite boring and can affect my mood in a negative way (=p). Fortunately I do not have to be a wizard to get this tested fast and fully.

  1. Start the current version of pizza list program.
  2. Make a list and export it to spreadsheet with the name List Current Version.
  3. Start refactored version of pizza list program.
  4. Make a list and export it to spreadsheet with name List Refactored Version.
  5. Open the spreadsheet List Current Version.
  6. Rename the tab to Current Version.
  7. Make a copy of the worksheet to a new map.
  8. Save the map as Comparison Map spreadsheet.
  9. Open the spreadsheet List Refactored Version.
  10. Rename the tab to Refactored Version.
  11. Make a copy of the worksheet to Comparison Map.

Now it is time to add some smart things in the map:

  1. Add a third worksheet in the Comparison Map and call it Comparison Lists.
  2. Copy the heading from the worksheet Current Version to the first row of the sheet Comparison Lists.
  3. Use the wizard tool to make the following formula in cell A2 in  the sheet Comparison Lists by clicking on the right cells:=IF(‘Current Version’!A2=’Refactored Version’!A2;”OK”;”NOK”)
  4. Copy the formula by placing the mouse on the right lower corner of the cell with the formula, press the left mouse button, move the mouse right until the most right cell of the heading of the table and release the left mouse button.
  5. Determine the number of rows in the tab Current Version or the tab Refactored Version.
  6. Select the cells with the formula in the second row in  the sheet Comparison Lists, place the mouse on the right lower corner of the selected cells, press the left mouse button, move the mouse the previous determined number of rows downwards  and release the left mouse button.
    The formula has been copied to all cells.

And finally it is time to determine the results of the test:

  1. Select all cells in worksheet Comparison Lists.
  2. Add new worksheet Results.
  3. Paste by selecting Values.
  4. Search for “NOK”.

For a Few Pizzas More
My nifty pizzeria list program works as follows:

  • Find all pizzerias in the Netherlands.
  • Tag all pizzerias within 20 kilometres of my home.
  • Put the tagged pizzerias on the list.

In this extension of the imaginary situation there was a customer, who wanted to know all the pizzerias in Amsterdam. So he asked my company to modify the program. And of course to test it. So the program will work as follows:

  • Find all pizzerias in the Netherlands.
  • Tag all pizzerias in Amsterdam.
  • Put the tagged pizzerias on the list.

After a while the customer changed his mind he only wants to have one phone number for every pizza brand in Amsterdam. So no more pages of Best Praised Amsterdam United Pizza. Just one line of this brand in the complete list. So the programmer modified the program, that only the phone number, who has the first position in an alphabetical order from Z to A. The first version with complete Amsterdam list was good. This means, that every step was already tested except the tagging.

  1. Ask a programmer to make a list of every pizzeria in Amsterdam with the corresponding phone number by using a query in the database.
  2. Export the list to spreadsheet .
  3. Select the complete table without the heading.
  4. Sort the table first level on pizzeria name from A to Z and second level on phone number from Z to A. (Use the Sort function in the Data tab)
  5. Determine the minimal set of pizzeria names by removing duplicates. (Also a function in the Data tab)
  6. Start the single line version of Amsterdam pizzeria list program.
  7. Make a list and export it to spreadsheet .
  8. Compare the spreadsheets using the trick described from the previous paragraph.

NB some functions may not be available in all spreadsheet programs.

Who ordered the Q&A?
After three episodes about using spreadsheets in a smart way there is a Q&A for people, who want to get more in depth information.
So Use the For…..m Please.

See You Next Post.