Fetching, fast and slow

Let’s start with a simple observation of the following sentence:

Do I communicate (without a mouse)?


If you were fast, then there is a high probability you were thinking: “The word mouse is used by the author instead of the word mouth. So the spelling is wrong.”

If you thought hard, then there is a high probability you were thinking: “The mouse is probably a computer accessory. So the question could be rephrased as follows: do I communicate (without a computer)?”

I once heard a great story from an experienced test manager René. He told me, that his project members were communicating with emails. It did not even change, when they sat in the same room. He just set a daily limit of 3 emails, which they could send. This lead to more face to face communication, which improved the project spirit and group cohesion significantly.

In the introduction I used a mind trick on you. This is a trick, which can be used to confuse people.  For the fast observations System 1 is used in most cases. This way of thinking provides fast, almost effortless way to digest information. Like walking to the office.

For the thoughtful observations System 2 is used. Doing complex operations like testing in the office. Both systems have been discussed in depth by Daniel Kahneman in the book Thinking, fast and slow. The title of this blog is based on the title of this book. And fetching is short for fetching coffee.

In March 2015 James Bach introduced the term testopsy. He analysed, what the tester did during a test. I thought about a post autopsy or blog post autopsy.  It is tempting to concatenate the strings post and opsy. But as a Dutch native speaker I do not take any chances. 

Just let me perform an autopsy for a blog post: how did I construct the blog post Do I communicate (without a mouse )?

Because I wrote the blog post, I have the original mind map, which was used as a basis. In the following picture I highlight, which System is used and the corresponding trends. System 2 is used in certain parts of the blog post and System 1 in other parts.


A manager would say:
“This is nice. And that’s all. The relationship between the parts of the blog post and Systems is meager at most. ”

Time for a graph make over.

Graph SOS
There is a British car program, in which they deconstruct and construct a beloved car wreck. For people, who earn it.  And as a reader you definitely earn a better graph.

In case you did not read this blog post Do I communicate (without a mouse)?, please do. It makes the following graph understandable.



In the graph above I show my usage of Systems 1 and 2 on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis shows the different parts of the post in reading order. So it is possible to observe, that System 2 is used less and less until the end of story.

A manager might be more interested in this graph than the previous one:
“So what you are basically stating, is, that people use System 2 for learning. And participating.”
Or even better:
“I wonder, whether System 1 is used during the meetings in my company .”

Breakdown 2
Over the years I saw a recurring pattern. Every time I boarded a project or got a new room, I had to change my coffee fetching list. And somehow I reduced the spent time. I eliminated waste: it looked to me, that I was lean. This story I carried with me for more than a year. Telling and retelling it to myself over and over again.

Then it was time to put it in a blog post. I started with the mind map with the condensed and descriptive title Coffee. The first branch contained the story. Then I added two funny anecdotes to add some flavour to the blog post.

In the meantime I had lost my favourite mug out of view: a bear, who juggles, while praising the owner of the mug. (That’s me.) After I had found the mug, I made a photo with my smartphone. The mug was on the foreground and my markers right behind them. Then I noticed my mouse: it was behind the markers and not on the photo. So I changed the view for the next picture: the mouse is on the background. Unreachable for normal use.

A few days later I noticed, that I was missing a photo with a funny text for the blog post. I needed something, that could be connected with coffee or tea. Then I remembered the picture of my mug, which was a major obstruction for using my mouse. A thought about communication entered my mind: Do I always need a mouse for communication? It was relatively simple to write an introduction from this point.

Most stories have a lesson at the end. I think, that it is highly predictable (and a bit boring). I wanted to give the reader a choice out of 3 lessons. But that was not entertaining enough. So I placed myself in the spotlights (again). If I could let my voices speak, then I would have a more recognisable situations instead of some abstract and concise questions without any explanation. I took the following voices:

  • The lean machine in me, cutting wastes on his way to the future
  • A woman constantly looking for her needs, while brainstorming and chatting
  • A service desk agent concerned about an implementation of a new functionality
  • A curious software tester looking for clues.

I somehow used a Dutch style form: the circle is round. I started with the title Do I communicate (without a mouse)? And ended with the same question.

Do I communicate (without a mouse)?

Just a bunch of thoughts popping up in my head, while looking at the picture:

  • Yes, I need some tea.
  • Yes, I need to make a note.
  • Yes, I need a mouse to communicate.

A Note As A Service
In the Netherlands people tend to be too busy to go to the coffee corner in the office. In some companies there is an unwritten rule, that you get coffee, tea, or water for your colleagues once every 4 hour.

The first times are hard. What is your name? What would you like to drink? How do you prefer to drink your coffee? Coffee is a difficult one. How strong, how much milk, what kind of coffee ? If you have 10 waiting colleagues, then you need some time to note their requests.

Because I am Chinese, I can make the following joke to make people relax. “So you take numbers 7, 14, and 22.”
Then  I get surprised looks.
Probably thinking: “Our coffee machine has no number 7.”
Then I continue with a heavy Chinese accent:
“One Babi Pangang, one Fu Yong Hai and …”
Then often a smile appears.

Accelerated note taking
Of course this process can become faster than I described. The names of the persons were abbreviated by me. I used codes for the beverages like C strong for a strong black coffee.  The waiting time during a phone call could be reduced to seconds by asking his or her colleagues: “What does he / she prefer to drink?”

I once noticed a serving tray. The type, which is used in the canteen. There were more than 20 circles on it. Every circle contained the name of a person, preferred beverage in the morning, and preferred beverage in the afternoon. When I called an end user with question about domain knowledge, I got the reply, that she was fetching coffee for her colleagues. So I told, that I would call back after a half hour.

Association and reduction
The next trick was to discover patterns: he always drinks black coffee in the morning. Or she prefers hot water for her tea.

Visualisation is also great: imagine the face of someone you fetched coffee for: cappuccino. Or look at the desks and the corresponding beverages: this is the tea corner.

My question became: “Would you like to have a black coffee?”
A few weeks later: “Black coffee?”
A few weeks later drinking an imaginary cup of coffee and waiting for a nod.
A few weeks holding an imaginary cup of coffee and waiting for a nod.
A few weeks a slight raise of the chin and waiting for a nod.

Questions I ponder upon
To spice things up I added some fictional thoughts and talks. )

  • Am I lean?
    I fetched coffee and tea for 8 persons within 8 minutes.
    Not bad!
  • Can I handle changes?
    “For a change I would like to have real hot water from a water cooker. Earl grey, sugar, and a real tea spoon. I hate those flimsy plastic reeds. Can you still remember it? The next time I’ll fetch you some tea. Or maybe I should take green tea. My neighbour really loves it. Nah, I just stick to the dark tea. Anyways….”
  • Do I communicate (without a mouse)?
    “Yes, Earl Grey. By the way I noticed, that you are testing the upload function. There are customers begging for it. Did you know that?”
    “I was wondering, whether the following item is mentioned in the user story!?”


Mindreading 101

A mind trick is a trick, which can be used to confuse people. The following mind trick, which I used, happened in the real world. I changed the names of the mobile provider on purpose in this real tale.

A Tale of Two Techies
Once upon a time I had a phone call with a programmer of a supplier. He excused himself for being unreachable. I asked him:
“Are you in Rotterdam?”
[Immediately; strong voice] “Yes.”
“Are you using UVWXYZ [mobile provider]?”
[A little hesitation; normal voice] “Yes.”
“Do you use an Android phone?”
[Long hesitation; trembling voice] “Yes.”

The end

The weekend before I had problems with my mobile phone. So I called my mobile provider. There was a problem in Rotterdam. I asked how I could be reached on my Android phone. Then the customer service agent gave me instructions, how to configure my phone.

When I talked with the programmer, I knew that he was in the office. As a thumb of rule people, whose office is close by the customer’s site, are assigned to a project. Rotterdam was my best guess. Then UVWXYZ became the plausible cause of his unreachability.

The last question was my best guess. Programmers like to tweak things; Android phones are highly tweakable.

Now comes the worst part of my analysis. I really wanted to help this man: tester’s honour. As a tester I provide information to people to let them make an informed decision or perform an informed action. I only get information by asking.  But with my fast moving questions I frightened the man.

At the end of the phone call I had helped the programmer. He could use his mobile phone again.


  • Score three times yes in a row for unrelated questions and people start freaking out.
  • Put your victim at ease..
  • Be mindful on things happening around you. Especially people.



A look behind the scenes – In Runö

When I mentioned at Let’s Test Conference in  2015, that I came from the Netherlands, the following question was likely to be asked:
“Do you know Huib Schoots?”
My standard answer was:
“Yes. And he knows me.”

At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam I was waiting to check in my suitcase. Behind my back I heard: “Hey ugly man” I turned around. Ready to confront this man. Huib was looking at me with his characteristic wide grin.

When I arrived at the belt to pick up my suitcase at Arlanda Airport, Huib was talking with Bill Matthews:
“Do you know him?”
“The juggler.”
Huub confirmed that with an
“A huh”.

Shifting gears
On Sunday May 24 I arrived for the Let’s Test conference in Runö. In the conference centre one of the first testers I talked to, was Henrik Andersson.
“You asked me to do an extra juggling workshop. When would you like me to give this workshop?”
“This evening would be great.”
I agreed. On Twitter I had already seen a suitcase of Paul Holland packed with games.

That evening I packed 6 devilsticks with 12 hand sticks. When I arrived at the hall, Henrik saw me. He smiled and gave a thumbs up. I chose the bar room, because there was a lot of traffic. The chance, that people would join me juggling, was great. Henrik joined in. Even a man with a ponytail started juggling. The following moment I noticed, that Michael Bolton was juggling with one of my devilsticks. I did not believe my eyes. I thought about one of my advices in my conference workshop:
Don’t fear your peer.

I was so focused on my workshop, that I forgot to exercise answering the standard questions like

  • What is the name of your company?
  • What kind of products or services does your firm offer?

I was completely in the presentation mode: I had not practiced my small talk English. The proper translation of the Dutch word patiënt is patient?!

Flirting with disaster
On Monday morning I could not sleep any more. It was the early sun rise. So I opened my laptop to add another bug for my exercise. For some reason testers like to find bugs. The modification went well. Within 30 minutes I had finished it and tested the program. The last thing, that I had to do, was uploading the file to a server. I opened a connection. I got confirmation, that the upload was successful followed by a cryptic message about a data connection. I looked on the server: the old file was removed and it was not replaced by the new one.

At that very moment I realised, that I had made a major error. I assumed, that the connection was safe. So I did not take any precautionary measures like renaming the file, which had to be removed. So I gave it another few tries to no avail. In plain English I had just ruined an exercise.

Then I looked on the internet. The plausible cause was the firewall of the hotel computer network, which did not support uploading files. So I used my smartphone (with a mobile provider) instead to upload the file and everything was all right at the end.

Speaker‘s Corner
After the Monday morning sessions I was tired. So I went to my hotel room and had a long nap. Then I returned to the main building. I saw Ruud Cox, who was listening to Huib Schoots. The latter was talking about the building blocks of his workshop the next day and the time estimates of these blocks.

During his workshop on Tuesday Huib said:
“I always ask feedback.” And
“Tell every day to a colleague, what you have done that day. ”
“If you cannot find someone, place a rubber duck on your desk and start talking.” 

So I went to an empty table. Then I noticed, that more speakers were gathered in the same room: Jean-Paul Varwijk, Joep Schuurkens, Michael Bolton, Laurent Bossavit (?). Probably improving their talks. I went through my slides of “What I learned from juggling as a tester” on my smart phone and juggled a little bit.

Sharing the fun
My facilitator was Duncan Nisbet. The familiar question popped up: “How shall I introduce you?”I mentioned 3 things, which should be included. Then I referred to this blog for additional information. Then Duncan introduced me as a “good storyteller”.

I had never told him a story before. I was just sharing some on this blog. Anyways … 

Then I started with a story about a boy missing a foot and most of his fingers, who wanted to learn juggling from me.

On my ride to Runö I was sharing a cab with Bill Matthews, Chris Grant, and Dan Billing. The latter said something about the inner tester. The following morning I knew I had the perfect example for a story. Just before the keynote of Ben Simo I asked Dan permission to use this single sentence in my workshop. He agreed. On the last evening of the conference I told him, how I used it. This lead to a wonderful conversation about “needs, values and relationships”.

There’s a mismatch
On one of my sheets I am wearing a dark and a white sock. Nobody mentioned it.  Maybe you do notice now.

On the other hand two unexpected bugs surfaced during my exercise: there was a huge error in a sentence. The second one was, that my exercise was not usable on an iPhone. I forgot the portability test.

Oops sorry
During my workshop Henrik Andersson had entered the room. I was so concentrated on my presentation, that it looked to me he appeared out of nothing. I started talking about discovering a juggling trick. On the sheet the following text was shown:
“Create a framework to correct errors”.

“I did not discover this trick [helicopter], because my framework was too strict.”
Then I apologised to Henrik:
“Yesterday evening I gave a workshop. Henrik Andersson was present.
[Turning my attention to Henrik] If you cannot learn the helicopter, it is, because I gave you a too rigid framework. So I apologise for this.”

A question, which back fired
I showed a sheet with frequently asked questions about juggling to the audience. One of the questions was: “Do you juggle with fire?” I repeated this question aloud, followed by:
“This question was asked right before this workshop.”
One of the delegates got a red face and laughed hard.

Thanks for the workshop
While I waited for my cab, Kristjan Uba came personally to me to thank me for the workshop. I recognised him, because the evening before he was intensely observing Tobias Fors (?) and me solving the dice game. This was hosted by Michael Bolton. Kristjan wanted to learn the finer details of coaching this game.

Trying to look friendly I searched my memory for this man. Luckily Kristjan helped me by telling about juggling the devilstick himself. Then I noticed the ponytail. It was the juggling workshop on Sunday evening. So I juggled with 2 famous testers and a speaker.