All posts by Mindful tester

Continuous Pitch Of Proposals

During the break I asked Mykola Gurov:
“Do you speak at Agile Testing Days?”
Yes.”
Me too.
“What are you talking about?”
“Exploratory Testing and GDPR.”
“That is hot.”

That thing called feedback

If I want to talk on a conference, then I have to submit a summary of my talk with other relevant information like email address and name.

An important thing for making a good proposal is feedback. For my first pitch of my workshop I got a clear mail. No clarification or feedback would be given on my failed attempt.

I was not really interested in a discussion, but only in some points to improve.

Mail me more.
(On the notes of “Tell me more” of Summer Nights)

One conference gave me a ray of hope for a related talk:
GDPR is important.
Bless you.

Another conference gave me specific feedback:
what are you exactly going to do during the workshop?
That is rather useful.

Feedback on diverse proposals

This year the Global Diversity Call for Papers Day held a workshop in Amsterdam. And there were many other places all over the world. This organisation really wanted to increase the number of diverse speakers.

During the workshop I gave my smartphone to one of the workshop leaders. She read my proposal and I started to talk.

Her response was: “I thought it was only about accessibility law.”

My initial plan was to talk about accessibility law and privacy law.
My workshop missed focus, so I dropped the accessibility law.

Another exercise was writing a profile. If a speaker has no interesting profile, delegates might skip his or her session. Or worse the proposal is not accepted at all.

The structure of the exercise was:

  • Tell about myself to 2 other people.
  • Write a profile including myself.
  • Listen to all profiles.
  • Collect the profiles for later use.

Feedback on structure

Within a month I spoke two men who had experience with teaching. I told about Stephen Covey who wrote several books about leadership.

He was able to convey his ideas to a lot of people at the same time. Above all he kept them involved.

Then I described the structure of my workshop and they loved it.

Feedback by rehearsals

Pitching is fine, catching is great.

When I needed people to practice my workshop, I said:
“It is about GDPR and testing.”

Map Your Audience

On Twitter I saw the doubts about giving a talk about basic stuff. A person reacted that beginners need this information.

I agreed.
My reaction was that you need to pay attention to the  Zone of Proximity.

Rejected and reinvigorated

In the summer 2018 my proposal for a talk about testing and General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR was rejected by a test conference. A bit more tweaking.

This did not stop me to take this talk to the same conference. No speaker dropped out, so I turned it into a blog post serie.

Another opportunity opened for me. In the meantime I had gathered enough material for a workshop. My proposals for a workshop and a talk for the subject were turned down again. A little more patience.

It was April 2019. In Rotterdam a WordCamp was organised. This is a 1 day conference for WordPress users. There was a contest for an open slot, which I lost. Close, but honoured to lose.

In May 2019, I was notified that my workshop “A Lawful Thing To Test” was accepted by Agile Testing Days. Only 1 year to get my proposal right.

Lined and dotted

My reason for picking the beginner level was that I had studied GDPR for 1 and a half year. Another reason was that laws are uncommon ground for many testers.

A workshop or talk is great, if I do some practice rehearsals. So how did I find audience in the past?

For my rehearsals of a talk about a performance test I had 2 persons. That is not a lot.

Looking back a simple scale from unfamiliar with the project to familiar with the project might give enough feedback. This way
I got two dots at the end of the scale.
Scale from 'unfamiliar with project' to 'familiar with project' and two dots on the ends!
Another way to map these persons was looking at the experience with performance test. This results in the following graph.
Graph with a scale for 'experience performance test’, one dot at the beginning, and one dot at the middle!

For my rehearsals for my workshop about juggling and testing I had 5 people. Nowadays I would use a 2 dimensional mapping with two axes for juggling and testing.
A two dimensional graph with a horizontal axis ‘juggling’ and the vertical axis ‘testing’ with two dots in the left bottom, and three dots in the right bottom!

For my workshop about testing and GDPR a 2 dimensional map is enough.
A two dimensional graph with a horizontal axis ‘GDPR’ and the vertical axis ‘testing’ with one dot in the left bottom, one dot at the middle of the botton, and one dot in the middle!
I might add a 3rd axis with security testing.
A three dimensional graph with an axis ‘security testing’, an axis ‘GDPR’ and an axis ‘testing’!

But why should I ask experienced persons to test my workshop for beginners?

Told and sold

Suppose I would direct the movie Monsters Unlimited. Kids want to go and adults have to join. If there are only kids’ jokes, then parents would say:
“It takes 2 hours, but your kids have a great time.”

If I am smart, I would put in some jokes for grown-ups.
Advice could change to:
“This is a family movie.”

KYA or Know Your Audience is not difficult for a speaker.  My target audience for 1 talk was people unfamiliar with this subject. I asked, how many people had experience with performance testing.
I could not count the number of raised hands.

Brief panic.
Desperate joke:
“What are you doing here?”
I relaxed myself and continued.
I had intensively prepared myself for this.

This experience shaped my rehearsals.
My hands on workshop about testing and law is for beginner level and still experienced people might attend it. For all kinds of reasons.

  • Would you please accompany me to this workshop? You know about Exploratory Testing, so I can whisper some questions.
  • It is good for the group that we attend the same workshop. I know your expertise. Sorry, group first.
  • I have 3 years of experience with testing and GDPR. I might have missed something.
  • He writes good blog posts. I want to see him in real life.
  • He’s on Twitter.
  • He juggles.
  • Catan.

My challenge as a workshop leader is to provide information on 3 different levels:

  • If you see this, then you should do that.
  • If you use these patterns, you will find similar problems.
  • If you use this approach, then you can learn a lot more than now.

Finishing note

The Zone of Proximity is useful to let people grow in new jobs.

Minority Tester Report

This is not a science fiction movie set. It’s a blog post.

Minority tester

It is a good practice to define a minority tester before heading off.

Sorry, I prefer to tell about it.

In my career as a tester I can only remember one peer who had an engineer degree in Computer Science like me.  This is not the minority tester I want to write about.

In 1991 I wrote my first program for a software supplier. At the moment the majority of my peers in the industry are younger than me. This is getting closer to my image of a minority.

Most people in the Netherlands don’t look like me. I feel a minority tester, if they mention it.

The Good

During a hiring event I visited a company which really cared for their employees.
“If they hate the clock, I remove the clock.”
The CTO looked for potential in people, not for the other things.

I talked about IT and where testing is heading to.  There was no single question about how I looked.

Once upon a time  I clicked on a button in LinkedIn
and I got attention weeks later. My standard answer of “no test automation experience” was dismissed.

So I visited the website. This was the first time I saw a company explicitly encouraging minorities to apply. Benefits were also shown on the same page.

During the hiring event I spoke with a manager. We had a good discussion about testing. What are the limitations of automated testing? How could exploratory testing add advantages?
I felt appreciated for my experience and knowledge.

Another time another company.

10 minutes in the job interview I told about an idea popping in my head. There was an expectant silence. I told how Test Driven Development could be used with tools they used. They liked it.

The interview changed in a chat between peers exchanging thoughts about testing. My CV was referred to less and less.

The Ugly

Some of my red flags or alarm bells. Also known as some signs that I will not be hired.

  • There are managers who spent a lot of time on my explanations for changing jobs.
  • “We doubt there is a fit.”
  • “Where are you from?”
  • “No test automation experience. That is bad.”
  • I was never hired by a company where HR people used telephone interviews for the first round.
  • If I have no space left to tell something during the job interview.

Not Bad

How to get talented minority testers in your company.
Spoiler: there is an abundance available.

  • Use social media. There is strong Test Community out there.
  • Organise meetups with talks. In case of shortage of speakers hire a minority tester to give a talk or workshop. On a regular basis lists are exchanged on Social Media.
  • Sponsor diverse test conferences like TestBash, Euro Testing Conference, and Agile Testing Days.
  • Give a number of free diversity tickets for tech conferences away.
  • If you have experienced speakers in your company, there is an option to mentor diverse speakers via SpeakyEasy.
  • Listen to the answers of the job seeker and explore the reasons. My side project is speaking.

Happy hiring!

A Bit More Responsive

Years ago some websites looked terrible on my smartphone. They looked like websites viewed from 6 meters distance.

The first time I visited my blog with my smartphone, I was really anxious: “Does it look right?”

5 seconds later “What did I worry about?”

Disclaimer

I am not a legal expert. So please have a look at my used sources. Or contact a legal expert.

I am just a tester finding test ideas about accessibility. Thanks for joining in advance.

Some test responsiveness stories

My first tablet app to be tested was intended for an iPad. I had a Windows PC instead of the tablet. This was not right.

My solution was to install Safari and let it emulate an iPad. In other words: “I know you are a Windows machine. Now you function like an iPad.”
It sounds like a hypnosis act.
“What did I worry about?”

This work around did not stop me to demand an iPad. There is nothing like the real thing.

Responsive web design is basically about creating the best possible user experience in the assigned space on the screen.

This blog looks good on a mobile device and a laptop. The same features are shown only in a different order and in a different way, but it feels the same. Really responsive.

The last years I learned CSS or Cascading Style Sheets. CSS determines how the websites looks. It is even possible to change the locations of web elements.

If I look to this website in a browser on a laptop, I can make the window smaller by resizing the window. The effect is that elements of the web page are resized or relocated or not shown any more.

During a debriefing a developer showed me this resizing trick.
Resize and look for bad things like hidden buttons or partially shown texts.
It is a fast way for the first impression.

Can not install on my machine

All that resizing stuff is not an exact science and Safari … cannot simply be installed on a company laptop because of a company policy. So I did a bit of research. If you don’t mind.

Firefox has a special feature Dev Tools. It can be accessed using the F12 key. In the upper right corner of this sub window there is a button with two rectangles, which look like a smartphone and a tablet.
A green eclipse marking a button with a smartphone and a tablet in the menu bar of Dev Tools!

This opens a lot of options to test smartphones and tablets.

It also support the screen orientation like portrait and landscape.

Just look to this website on a mobile phone while holding it in portrait mode. Then change it to landscape. In portrait mode only the headers of my last blog posts are shown, in the landscape mode the last complete blogs posts are shown. Courtesy of my website software.

Chrome and Edge also have Dev Tools which can be accessed using F12 key. Both Dev Tools windows have an emulator tab for mobile devices.

Concerning responsiveness

One of the biggest search engines decided to give a higher ranking to mobile friendly websites. So support for small screens can give a positive boost to let a user find a website.

Most people have a PC or laptop with 1 screen. It is sometimes tedious to switch application. So I tend to resize the applications to fit more of them on my screen. My preference is squeezed and usable.

Another thing for responsiveness is language. Some customers prefer to use a website or application in their own language. OK is translated to OK, but Cancel to Annuleren or Annullieren. So the button should be resized after translation.

Responsiveness is not only about reshuffling web page elements. It is also about resizing the web page elements in case of bigger fonts.

Suppose I have bad eyes, then I need to make fonts bigger so that I can actually read the text. Pressing the Ctrl key and the + key at the same time will enlarge the text in browsers and Windows applications.

Problem solved?
No, I am so sorry.

As a user I have to scroll a lot. It is like watching a picture which is split over three different screens. I have to change my seat to get the whole picture.

In 2024 this could have some legal consequences in Europe.
In Annex 1 of the European Accessibility Act “flexible magnification” is mandatory for specific commercial websites.

In case of American customers for an e-commerce website there is a law already in place at this very moment. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) explicitly points to  the WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines on page 196 of Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations.

In WCAG  also attention must be paid to screen size and orientation.

One more chat

“How would you like your website?”
“Responsive please.”
“No problem.”
“Thank you, my dear.”
“You are welcome, grandma.”

House Rules For Rules

A few years ago my wife asked me to attach some tubes to the wall. I noticed that there was little room for a wrench. So I used a ratchet wrench as shown in the picture.

There is an unwritten rule to use a wrench for a nut and a bolt.

There is no rule for the type of wrench.

Proof in the pudding

In the kitchen one of my kids was stirring in a pan:
“30 seconds should be enough, but I think it is not enough.”

I stopped with my actions:
“Is that not long?”

“Last time it went all right.”
I tried to remember the taste, the structure, and the smell of the dish. But I had only positive thoughts.

I remarked:
“First you follow the rules. Then you must change them.”

“Must?” was the reaction.
“I mean: if you think it will make things better.”

“Your boss will not be happy.”, my kid remarked.

“If you stick to the rules, then you will not become better than your teacher.
Otherwise everything will remain the same.

Not all experiments will go right, so you need some room.

My boss is also experimenting:
“I have this product.”
Customers will give feedback:
“We would like to have another product.””

Link Missing In Action

“Know the ways of all professions”
– Miyamoto Musashi

UX designer

A few blog posts ago I told about my attempts to make this very blog more accessible. I just walked my talk.

For people who need a story:
As a user with no or bad view I want headers tagged as headers, so that the screen reader can read the headers differently aloud.

Web master

I changed the look of the headers in a lot of blog posts. I went in a flow and gained more speed in the process, until …

A small square disappeared. I just did an undo and continued editing.

The next time I let the square disappear, I had already updated the blog post on the web.

Hit the OK, Jack.
[on the melaody of “Hit the road, Jack”]

This was not good for my user journey. I did not want to lose a user by a missing link. Just stick around.

Tester

There was an easy trick for finding missing links. On the internet there were free websites and add ons for browsers available.

Marketeer

As a marketeer I had some problems with broken link reporters. A reporter had to hit every page and every link in it. So the number of hits would increase significantly.

Even worse there are web pages referring to other web pages. So some pages are counted double. Then there are categories and months referring to pages. So some pages are counted more than twice.

This would hide the real traffic in my daily reports. But this is not a company web site. Otherwise I should have to add a note about a maintenance period. For an auditor. So I could skip this role.

Tester again

First pick of a broken link service stopped half way. The second looked promising, but it had terms and conditions.

Legal expert

Now I was curious. I clicked on the link and landed on a page with lots of legal sentences. Must be American thing.

I tried to distil the information. The most important message was that the service was provided as is. There were no financial consequences for the service providers.

I have a website which does not provide me any income.
So what was I waiting for?

Enter my website and show my broken links you can find.

Author

Now it was the turn for the author to have a fix.
Yeah. Sure.

The first broken link was ejc2008.de. This is short for European Juggling Convention 2008 in Germany. More than 10 years ago. This must be an old-timer.

I entered the URL in the browser and got an error message. After 10 years the website was taken offline. But I needed a link.

Then I looked for internet archive wayback machine in my search engine. This website stores all versions of visited websites. I entered ejc2008.de and found my website.

I picked a link to 2019 copy and replaced the link in the blog posts. This way people can still read about a convention which was visited by more than 3,000 people sharing the fun of juggling.

In my list of broken links I found a link to a Let’s Test conference in 2015. I had a better link available, so I just updated the link. A similar situation for the first TestBash conference in the Netherlands.

It was a simple test tool. No need to switch to tester mode.

Another run of broken link test revealed that I had not changed the About me page. Why did they show up now? No idea.
Anyways. Fixed.

3rd test run revealed no more missing links. But something was wrong. I missed the comeback of the square. Popping back in view.

Web master again

In my memory I tried to locate the square. It was during header 6 handling. Then I remembered the use of anchors.

An anchor is a fast way to get a reader at the right place in a blog post instead of the top of the post. This saves the reader some scrolling. Example time.

In my blog post about a test exercise the following code is shown in my code editor:

My last upload before my workshop was for me <a href="http://mindfultester.com/a-look-behind-the-scenes/#disaster">another exercise in exploration</a>.

In my blog post “A look behind the scenes – in Runö” the following code is shown in my code editor:

<h1><strong><a id="disaster"></a>Flirting with disaster</strong></h1>

A broken link checker only checks whether the link exists and ignores the presence of an anchor. So it was an anchor missing in action.

Now I had to check the 90ish blog posts for anchors. Preferably automatically and not clicking all links myself. Please.

If I could only find them. I got a flash of insight. It was possible to find blog posts with a search engine in my Content Management System or website authoring program.

I looked for #. And yes, all blog posts with anchors and links with anchors were listed. Now it was easy to add missing anchors.

Professions

So I was

  • Tester
  • Marketeer
  • Legal expert
  • UX designer
  • Author
  • Web master

I skipped the auditor though.

Conference Digest Mind Map

This is my small tribute to Tony Buzan, who died on April 13th 2019. He was the inventor of the mind map. Rest in peace Tony.

Mind map with central object "Todo Wordcamp Rdam 2019 v1a" with main branches presentations, Notes, Goodies, Books, and Actions. Main branch presentation has sub branches Stomme post, Hashtag, http headers, Get fast and Live.  Sub branch Hash tag has sub sub branches #ewmrtc and a part of an URL. Sub branches  Goodies has sub branches Camera sticker and highlighter. The main branch Actions has sub branches 404, host, security.txt, xmrpx.php. Markers, and “words pictures”. The sub branch Markers has sub sub branch Backpack. The sub branch host has Csp and .htacess. The sub branch Books has sub branches “safe website”, “performance wordpress site”, and “SEO starters”!

Quick breakdown of my mind map

On my smartphone I use Mindjet Mindmanager. It is a rather dull looking mind map program. I can add colour, but that will slow me down. For me mind mapping is jotting ideas as fast as possible.

My first action was to make my conference notes readable. My handwriting is quite awful. The use of sketchnotes did not improve the quality significantly.
Just wait and see.

My notes were about WordCamp Rotterdam 2019. There were some really technical talks. It is almost impossible to translate technical stuff like settings of analytics programs or Cascading Style Sheets to images.
Yeah. You’re right.

Okay. The Notes branch was needed as a reminder that I would read my notes without thinking too long.

Almost immediately I added a branch with presentations. If needed, I would read the presentations in slow speed. Just before blogging I realized I made an error. I opened Twitter search and entered the hashtag “#wcrtm” and “slides”. #wcrtm stands for WordCamp RotTerdaM. All the presentations of the interesting talks popped up.

Another branch is Goodies. These are gifts of sponsors. I lost my highlighter somewhere. I marked this branch with a red cross. Then I remembered that I had a camera sticker from a previous conference, which I found and placed. So I marked this branch with a green V. For the English people: Jack in the box.

I got some booklets / books about SEO or Search Engine Optimalisation, performance of a website and website security. The reason, that I did put this branch under the central object, was to balance the tree. This tip was given by a business consultant. The way I interpreted was that I had to avoid a mindmap with too few main branches.

Back to my Books branch. This branch contained information which I could use. Not immediately, but it was something I could not put away lightly. The Goodies branch was more like: done and forget.

Now comes the most important main branch in my mind map: Actions. Sub branches were added during my note cleanup.

This website still had no proper 404 screen. Yes, there are some plug ins, but is there a more elegant way to solve this problem? Also too many plug ins will slow down my website.

During the conference there were lots of configuration suggestions. As a newbie WordPress administrator I asked, how I could configure this. The answer was to contact the host provider. Actions from my side could collide with actions from the host provider. Bracing for impact.

I still have to place a security.txt on my website. More information can be found in securitytxt.org.

On the web I read some disturbing information about Xmlrpc.php. On the conference it was strongly suggested to remove it.

Another action was to collect all my markers for future notes. A final action was to put extra information about text in my pictures in the Alt Text.

Depending on my progress and feedback of my host provider I will adjust my actions in my mind map.

Tweaking My Blog Accessibility

Accessibility is something which is within my reach. It just took me some years to use it properly.

If you are in a hurry, just go to the Accessibility Tips. If you have more time, you can start with the next paragraph. Next.

Sleight of thought

For my blog I use a default WordPress theme. I try to compensate this standard look and feel with humour. Am I kidding? No.

My first blog post was a struggle with looks. I did not like header 1. The font was too big. I just used bold to make the headers. That looked just right.

During an online computer course I had my first encounter with a screen reader. Users with bad or no view can use this program to read a web page aloud.

My trick for nice headers using bold was backfiring: a screen reader would not recognise them as headers. I really needed some header tag. So I ended up with header 6. This looked good, but it was still not right.

Just a little more

After tensome blogs I started to use the alternative text of the image.

In the attachment details of the pciture the location of the Alt text has been marked!!
In the past this was primarily used for people with slow internet connection. This way they still could get an impression of the webpage, when the text was shown.

In another online course I learned that the screen reader could use this for the communication. Then I read a tweet about using a proper description. So “another mindmap” was not really helpful.

Now I had to compress the information in a picture in a few sentences. That was really tricky, if some graph was involved.
A line graph is shown with three different colours: orange for beginners, green for proficient, and blue for expert. There is a green circle "Skill IQ 135" in the green line, which is connectd to a vertical line with "40th percentile" at the foot!"
The Alt text is as follows:
“A line graph is shown with three different colours: orange for beginners, green for proficient, and blue for expert. There is a green circle “Skill IQ 135” in the green line, which is connected to a vertical line with “40th percentile” at the foot!”

Maybe you noticed the exclamation mark or ! at the end of the text. This is a trick I learned later one: the screen reader reads this text differently aloud.

I even made a blog post with a few screen reader tricks. In this particular post a screen reader user has a big advantage over a user using a normal view.

More exploration from my side

The trick with header 6 was not right. I just knew. A lot of people start counting from 1, programmers from 0. But 6 is not the right exception.

It was a matter of months that I read about a confused screen reader. So I better start from header 1. Which was not my big favourite.

On Twitter I saw a tweet of a user with a bad view complaining about bad contrast. Within minutes another blogger reacted by adjusting his website.

My turn

I did quick check of my blog. It was all black characters on a white background. Then I noticed that my quotes were vague.

Now I had to find a way to change my headers and quotes. Time to explore the Content Management System or software to maintain my blog. Mine is called WordPress.

I first focused on the desired look of my header. I opened my word processor for note taking. My goal was to have my header 1 to look like header 6.

There was a nice tool in my browser: Dev Tools or Developer Tools. In my browser on my Windows machine I pressed F12, scrolled down to a header, selected the element, and saw the properties.

After the selection of header 6 in the upper window the properties of this element are shown in the right bottom window!

I did the same sequence for the quote. In HTML it is called blockquote. Fine with me.

The colour was grayish. I started to play with all kinds of colour codes. Until I realised that “black” was also good description for a font colour.

Dev Tools allowed me to experiment with the properties of the block quote without an intimidating program.

The color of the bloack quote has temporarily been changed to black!

Easy does it.

Now I had two pieces of code. Somewhere I had to fit them in. I started touring the CMS or Content Management System and found Additional CSS using the following path
Dashboard => Appearance => Customize => Additional CSS.

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. Suppose I change the look of header 1 at 1 place. It will affect the look of all headers 1 in my whole blog. Cascading is cool.

I was too early for claiming my victory. Header 1 did not change in the visual editor. I did a preview and it looked right. Okay, found something.

In the left window Header 1 is shown in the Visual Eidotr, in the right window header 1 is shown in the preview!

At the end I had changed all headers 6 to headers 1.
So I only had to modify all the headers of my remaining blog posts. Great. Extra work.

The change of colour in the block quote went smoothly. But I was not pleased with the vertical alignment of the quote. It was too close to the left margin.

On the web I discovered that margin of an object was used to place a rectangle around the quote. Another search led to padding. If I could pad the text in the quote, then it would shift to the right. Left padding was enough.

Additional Css contains: "blockquote { 	color: black; 	padding-left: 5%; }  h1 {     font-size: 16px;     line-height: 1.5; } "!

Because I had only used block quotes for quotes, all quotes in my blog were automatically modified.

Accessibility tips

  • Use header to mark headers instead of making them bold.
  • Add an alternative text ending with an exclamation mark to all pictures.
  • Make the contrast of the colours of the text and background bigger instead of using some gray colour on a white background.
  • Use Additional CSS in WordPress, if you are still not pleased with the look of the elements on the page.
  • Look for other ideas on the Global Accessibility Awareness Day website. For the record it is the third Thursday of May every year.GAAD almost encircled by a powercard attached to a keyboard!

Ending notes

  • I know that there are enough readers willing to check the accessibility of my blog. The status of accessibility on my blog is in progress.
  • At the moment of publishing this post there are still words in bold who look like headers in my first blog posts. There are still pictures without an alternative text and/ or exclamation mark.
  • I would not be surprised that there is still work to be done after all these updates.

Escape The Consultant Trap

During a talk at a test conference a consultant told smilingly to stick to customers. The woman next to me was bristling. Her company hired consultants.

Is there a way to make this situation more painful for me?
You bet.

As a test consultant I had given her a ticket for the conference.
Ouch.

A good consultant makes herself or himself dispensable.

Definition obliged

Looking at the Dutch job market there is a cry for test automation experts. Even testers with a few months of experience have a distinct advantage over the inexperienced testers. They have a proof that they can use the demanded tool. And they are hired.

So if a company really needs test automation and no candidates have been found, then a test automation expert is flown in. This gives the company a real advantage. Or wings for the intended pun.

What is the consultant trap? After a while there is a test framework and lots of scripts and impressive heaps of test data which must be executed, updated, and maintained. In good order.

It is like buying a car which needs intensive care. If it is neglected for too long, then the car will not ride.

All the test automation stuff can be compared with a car. The mechanic is the test consultant.

No consultant means no working test automation, which means no edge, less revenue, and stronger competition. The company is trapped. This also hurts the revenue.

Path obliged

There are some managers who would object with

  • “This is a proof of concept.”
  • “The product is at the end of the life cycle.”
  • “The consultant is only hired during the holiday of one of my employees.”

These sound like sound arguments.

In this blog post I want to focus on test automation experts who are the only ones to operate the test automation in a company.
That’s bad.

Suppose you are a manager and you have the task to improve test automation. Now you have to avoid the consultant trap.

But you still need a consultant to teach test automation to your team member.
Hummm.

According to me a good teacher doesn’t make the homework of a pupil. In terms of test automation a consultant is helping your team member with learning instead of putting all test automation in place.

Don’t touch everything.

Is there a way to determine whether a consultant is a good teacher?
Sure.

Ask to explain how to set up test automation in plain language. Or ask for possible first steps in your company. Other useful resources are recommendations of other customers, talks, or blog posts.

My suggestion is to keep the number of hours of the consultant low and the number of hours spent by your team member high.

My favourite way to learn something new is pairing. As a pupil I like to share the same computer with an expert while figuring out what is happening. The teacher (she or he) demonstrates things to me and then let me struggle.

Pairing is an activity for 2 persons. I do not like searching the right note with fast scribbled words on it because of the high pace of demonstration. And then interrupting my teacher who is teaching someone else in the meantime.

Attention!

While I was learning Test Driven Development, a junior DevOps engineer was watching every step I took.

Once in a while he made remark. Then I told my thoughts aloud and he would gently lead me to the right solution. He had an educational degree and earned my respect.

In short it is about finding the right balance between demonstrating and experimenting.

Another way for me to learn is exploring. Elisabeth Hendrickson made a nice concise format for this:
Explore < target > with < resources > to discover < information>.

I personally like exploring because of the hidden treasures I might find. Dungeons and diamonds.

OK. Back to the Example.
(No DeLorean included.)

A consultant could suggest something like
“Explore data driven testing with Postman to discover a concise way to maintain test scripts.”
A bit vague.

I tend to ask questions.
“What is data driven testing?”

A good teacher will give some examples:
“Suppose you buy 2 items costing 1 Euro each. What will be the total cost?”
“2 Euro.”

“And if you buy 4 items costing 1 Euro each. What will be the total cost?”
“4 Euro.”

“6 items for the same price?”
“6 Euro.”

“23 items.”
“23 Euro.”

“What did you notice?”
“The question became shorter. And you only changed the number every time.”

“So the numbers are data. What I described were 4 simple tests. In Data driven testing a tester or developer extracts data from the tests. So you only need 1 test with a set of data.”

“What would be a good to store the data?”
“A table like in spreadsheet program.”

And this conversation and experimentation could continue for hours.

After the session a debriefing can take place to reflect and determine new points of interest.

After a while I could explore on my own. If I get stuck, then I could contact the consultant.

Let me write about exploration of data driven testing on my own.
“What is the first place to look for?
I don’t like manuals.

Wait. This is cool:
TestAutomationU offers a free online course from Amber Race about Postman.

It contains a section about data driven testing.”

For the video I used sketchnotes for note taking. When I did some experimentation in this course, I used a word processor for notes.

Also now a debriefing is the way to reflect and to determine new steps. A consultant or colleague can be a person to speak with.

Proposal obliged

If there is a company where I would like to work, then it is the one with experimentation and growth mind set. It will earn my loyalty.
Hold my engineer degree.

As a manager you might complain about the time spent. As an Agile practitioner I would answer that competitors might outperform your company by learning and teaching.

In summary hire people with ability to learn and ability to teach test automation.
Thank you for your attention.

Okay time for the legal stuff.

Disclaimer: I have no experience with this approach to escape the consultant trap. I did not do any research. But I do welcome feedback.

According to me this proposal is agile. You learn and adapt. Luckily agile is in high demand.
Say Cheese.

Disclosure: at the moment of publication I wa jobless, so I was biased.

Struggling to become a DevOps engineer

Sometimes when I am cooking, a bored kid asks:
“How can I help?”
My answer is:
“You can cut the vegetables.” Or
“You can stir in the pan.”

When my kids were smaller, they loved to make pizza. And even small hands are handy for peeling off the brown layers of an onion.

Pair programming

The Test column was empty for a few days and I had finished all preparations for the items in progress. Was there a way that I as a tester could help the DevOps engineers?

“We can do pair programming.”
I was all ears and eyes. So I joined a programmer while he was coding. Once in a while he said his thoughts aloud.

“Okay, now it is your turn.”
I looked at the DevOps engineer expectantly:
“What do I have to do?”
“Programming”
“I mean: what must I program?”

A short dialogue followed. My knowledge of the development environment was almost zero and I did not know everything about Java.
“You better take a course at Pluralsight.”

Pluralsight and Java

In this company every DevOps engineer and the tester (that’s me) had access to Pluralsight. Courtesy of the employer. Pluralsight is an online course platform with a massive load of courses.

“There is a test to determine how good you are.”
Sure no problem.

A line graph is shown with three different colours: orange for beginners, green for proficient, and blue for expert. There is a green circle "Skill IQ 135" in the green line, which is connectd to a vertical line with "40th percentile" at the foot!"

A lot of readers might think:
“Wow, I would hire Mindful Tester.”
Sorry girls and guys. Up to 40% of all people got this level. This basically means that 2 out of 5 people knew as much about Java as me. Not enough to make complex changes.

Now Pluralsight had another nice feature called learning path. So I dutifully cruised through the courses. I had the advantage of two screens, so I could play the course on 1 screen and program on the other 1.

I had some doubts about the courses. It was like a typing course. Just enter the text and you have a working program. Tada.

Another doubt was the absence of Test Driven Development. I shared my concern with a bright DevOps engineer. He reassured me:
“First focus on the language, then the rest will come.”

The same engineer noted the lack of challenge, so he referred me to project Euler. This free online platform had mathematical / programming problems. Afterwards he reviewed my Java code, which I really appreciated.

Java is great, but my team used more tools to develop programs. So I followed courses on Spring and Maven.

At the end of the course I could get some certificate. With no real practice I had some knowledge. On the other hand my experienced DevOps engineers loved Pluralsight. They set the video speed to double speed and picked up their nuggets of knowledge.

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

“I noticed that you focused on layout.” my scrum master said.
“We need someone who can design good interfaces. Maybe you should focus on the front-end.”

In this company the front-end was a website. So I had to study HTML or HyperText Markup Language, the basic programming language of web pages. I was familiar with HTML. <b> hello </b> is shown as hello. b is short for bold.

I picked a Pluralsight course for advanced web development. This was both horrifying and clarifying.

So I should have basic JavaScript and CSS knowledge. I picked a course with JavaScript: CSS was needed. I switched to CSS. Only HTML was needed. Phew.

What is CSS or Cascading Style Sheets? In my own words it is a way to style a website in s consistent style. E.g. all the buttons look alike and the web page can respond to different screen sizes.

I followed two courses of CSS. They were practical, so I was able to modify the look and feel of a website without changing the functionality.

Next stop on Pluralsight was JavaScript. In my own words this language is used by browsers on the computers or mobile phone of the users. This programming language basically reduces the traffic between the front-end (e,g, website) and the back-end, where the important things happen like handling a payment.

I was lucky again. There were some basic courses which gave me some practice with JavaScript.

If I look at Pluralsight there are some good courses, but it took time to find them.

Edx.org

The biggest disadvantage of Pluralsight was no examination. My scrum master found an interesting alternative, edx.org.

You could call it freemium. The course and examination are free, but you have to pay a premium for the certificate.
Freemium is “free premium” without ” pre”.

I picked HTML5. The course was for beginners. But I was really happy with all the Pluralsight knowledge obtained. The course gave me a good insight in HTML5, but it also showed its limitations.

Next certificate was CSS Basics. Again I had an advantage and obtained enough points for a certificate.

ReactJS should be possible with my basic knowledge of JavaScript. In my own words ReactJS is a language, which can better interact with users than HTML5. The course was tough and I dropped out.

Edx.org and Pluralsight

Edx.org had the same choice problems as Pluralsight. I had to follow course parts to determine whether there was a click.

A major difference is, that Edx.org courses are time bound. After a deadline the course is closed and only accessible for old students of this particular course.

Edx.org has a slight advantage that it offers up-to-date information. Pluralsight has some old courses. For a Maven course this is tricky. Old versions as shown in the video cannot be used.

Another deadline disadvantage of edx.org is that timing is personal. Several courses acquire 2 hours a week. For someone new to coding this number is too low. Sometimes one block of 2 hours would take me 40 hours. There is also a deadline for a certificate. My advice is first to get the required numbers of points and then buy the certificate.

Once I bought a discounted certificate before getting the required points. Let me write it was not my best investment. There are limitations to be aware of.

Security, privacy, and usability

A DevOps engineer does more things than programming. So I learned about website security, privacy laws, and usability.

In the meantime I acquired some DevOps skills like looking in and understanding log files.

Status update

In April 2018 I got the disturbing news, that I was fired.
No bingo for me.

In case you want to know what I am doing right now.

Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it. Cheers.

Other online courses

This year Trish Koo asked for some online programming courses In the answers there are some online platforms I will try the next time.