Category Archives: Communication

No violence intended

A few weeks ago I talked about a locker problem with a woman of my sport school.
“I put my stuff in locker 8, but the door came loose.”
She smiled:
“Thank you for reporting. We’ll pick this and ..”

“then I moved all my stuff to locker 6.”, I continued at the same pace.
The woman halted. Wrinkles of concern appeared on her face.
“I could not close the door, because there was no current. Then I moved all my stuff to locker 4.”

I waited for a moment.
The woman could not wait any longer:
“What went wrong this time?”
“This one was all right.”
The apologising smile was back on full strength.
I got another set of apologies and a promise to fix.

Incoming heading

What about the rest?
It is not my purpose to leave a trail of bug reports behind. I just noticed something and I shared this with someone who was really interested.

I did not use any violence to break the door off. The hinges had been clicked to the locker. They just unclicked and the woman rememberedthis within milliseconds. I was also Non Violent. I used an element of Non Violent Communication.

What I did, was to tell my observation in an objective way. I did not use any upsetting adjectives like stupid or dumb. It was just a door.

I did not have to use the other parts of model, the feeling the need, and the request. The woman had enough information to fix.

In my previous blog post I already mentioned Non Violent Communication. I realised that I did not write enough about the non violent part. So this is my rebound blog post.

After the observation I could tell about my feeling. “I felt annoyed. ”
Wait a sec. Annoyed reads very offensive. It is a feeling that I had at that moment. I am writing for myself. It is not targeted at a person. I just had an experience and I was annoyed about it.

I know there are people who would consider this as an attack. This should not be the case. That is the responsibility of the person who hears my story.


That’s a proper heading.

I had a need for perfection. As a tester I am aware that this is not always possible. But the opening and closing of the lockers can easily be arranged. Common technology I would write.

My need is personal. Some people might whine about it or like it. That is their responsibility. I am the boss of my own feelings and needs. Of course you can help me to determine them, but I can tell which are appropriate. To me.


My request would be like:
“Would you please repair lockers 8 and 6?”

Please notice “Please”. This is a request. It is also used in other languages: bitte, s’il vous plaît, or alstublieft. It actually means: if it pleases you. So it is completely fair to disregard this request.

I just stress it again: it is no order. I am a customer and not a boss. The action would help me, who asks for this action. My bad feeling will go away and my need be fulfilled. That is rather pleasing. For me.

My sport school could do nothing with my request. Depending on previous requests from my side I could stop my subscription.

So I am heading to …

The closing section
Once I read a tweet of some one. I interpreted that this person had enough of a situation. I tweeted:
” I would determine my need and make a reasonable request.”

In my next blog post I will write about being Non Violent in the testing field.

House rules for bug reports

Some people liked the TV serie about a doctor with a walking stick. This blog is about rules, which are applicable in a company or an office

“There is 1 rule: There are no rules.”
3rd movie about Mad Max

“This is not logical.”
Leonard Nimoy

Let me finish
The most dreaded part of the game: she or he will win for sure. Or worse we have to hang on for another hour. Of mental mockery. This is a sign of unbalanced game. A game you only play once. I am not writing about life here. This is not serious.

Some smart people developed some house rules to balance the game or to accelerate the game. Preferably both.

There is also some serious stuff to do.

One of the basic skills of a tester is to write decent bug reports. There are complete courses for them. I want to share some of my thoughts about them. Particular how house rules are applied to bug reports.

The trick for a good tester is to find the house rules for bug reports. Sometimes they are familiar. Let’s examine an imaginary situation.

  • Select movie Monsters Unlimited.
  • Select two for tickets.
  • Press Next.
  • Add Cola.
  • Set Cola to 1.
  • Add Lemonade.
  • Set Lemonade to 2

Actual situation:
The following message is shown: “You ordered too many drinks.”

Expected result:
It must be possible to order more than 1 drink per ticket. A warning should be shown.

That looks like a pretty example, how to describe a problem.

Let me determine some house rules:

  • Every button press is described.
  • It is completely repeatable.
  • The actions are described in an objective way. No hard feelings. Devoid of emotions.

This is logical.
Leonard Nimoy.

  • It describes what I would expect as a tester.

There are some serious drawbacks:

  • It is hard to read for a dev.
    One dev once gave up after reading my reports.
  • It took me time to write it well.
    You might have notice the tickets and drinks are set in different ways. And I am quite experienced.
  • A standard reaction is: “No user would ever do that.”
    Bug reports are not about proving the odds, but about telling the plausible.

So the trick is to modify or add house rules for bug reports. As a tester I have to make reports. As a dev someone else has to solve them.

It is time for Finding Marlin
“Finding Marlin you wrote?”
“Yep and I …”
“Don’t write any more.” [I just did.]
“It is about three fishes. Now the dad has been caught. Now his son and his blue thin friend whose name I always forget, go on a heroic journey to get dad back.”
What is your favourite sea dweller?”
“So the dolphins are going to help.

“Thanks for your help.”
“Huh, I was just brainstorming about a movie spoiler. ”
“You just described a realistic situation, what people do in a particular situation.”
“Talking about fish?”
“Yes and showing how people can act in a natural way. ”
“I just happen to like movies.”
“And that’s what makes this talk completely plausible.”

Actually, Marlin stands for ‘Make a real life impression now’.

If I can tell a realistic user story, then devs are compelling to solve the problem. It is not something like this:
“As a cinema visitor I want to order my snacks and drinks before the visit, so I can save time.”
This is an abstraction.

It is about thoughts and needs. Let’s read a mind.
“In the movie Monster Unlimited there are too many monsters, so Mike and his blue furry friend have to move to the desert. That thought makes me thirsty. I need 2 lemonades for sure ”

Is this plausible? I think so.
Let’s ask the PO or Product Owner. Fine with you? So what are we waiting for?

Let’s tweak again
I do a small rewrite of my three drink bug report:

  • Order two tickets for Monsters Unlimited.
    [Hey. That is great. I can order my drinks in advance. Let me see]
  • Order 1 Cola.
    [Looking at a desert makes me thirsty, so I take an extra drink.]
  • Order 2 lemonades.

Actual result:
A message is shown, that at most 2 drinks can be ordered. [I need that drink. This is ridiculous.]

Expected result:

It must be possible to order more than 1 drink per ticket. A warning should be shown. [I take the consequences].

Let me extract some modified and new house rules:

  • The actions are written in a more natural way.
    This speeds up my reporting and it is more readable. I am not programming the programmer. I wouldn’t dare to.
  • Thoughts have been added, so people can identify themselves with the user.
  • Emotion has been added.
    This is a dangerous one. It is extremely helpful in the steps and can become harmful in the actual result. My thumb of ruie is, that it is allowed for a customer and in a few cases for a tester. A customer is not always a tester.

Are you in for a little experience? Have another read.

  • Order two tickets for Monsters Unlimited.
  • Order 1 Cola.
  • Order 2 lemonades.

Actual result:
A message is shown, that at most 2 drinks can be ordered. [This is ridiculous.]

Expected result:

It must be possible to order more than 1 drink per ticket. A warning should be shown.

“This is ridiculous,” sounds a lot harder than in the first rewrite, when only 1 thought has been added.

I will come back to the emotional part later and a few decimeters lower.

A more important question is: Why did I stop the presses? I mean the description of presses on a button or mouse.

This might be a lack of detail for some people.
“You ordered 1 cola and 2 lemonades. Right?”
“So how did you do it?
Add 1 cola, add 1 lemonade and add 1 lemonade.
Or was it: add 2 colas, drop 1 cola, add 2 lemonades.
Or: add 1 cola, add 1 ginger ale. Drop 1 ginger ale, add 2 lemonades
I could even add some steps to go back, select Finding Marlin, order 2 drinks, change movie to Monsters unlimited, add third drink. But you wrote, that you did not do this. … Maybe.”

Sometimes programmers are great debriefers for testing.
What did you actually do? Why do you think this was a useful test? Did you also have a look at the other features? Did you also check the interaction with the other modules?

“They scare, because they care?”
That is not the appropriate way to write about devs. I do not have to fear, if I can answer their questions. And yeah I make mistakes like devs. Then I have to admit, that I was wrong.

Back to the example:

  • Order 1 Cola.
    [Looking at a desert makes me thirsty, so I take an extra drink.]
  • Order 2 lemonades.

Now I can make another house rule: take the shortest route.
Of course the devs have to agree. Then you have a new rule. In da house.

Can this lead to a discussion?
You bet.

“Did you test other combinations?”
“No, I was just exploring the web site.”
“Did you know you cannot order the lemonade in the winter?”
“So you better test it. It took me some time to program that.”
“Thanks for the information. I wonder how I can change the system time. Maybe you can help?”
“Well that is easy. You …”
I just leave these 2 techies alone. I have another interesting section coming up. In the meantime ..

is a scenic tour also plausible:

  • Order 3 donkeys.
  • Order 2 dragons.
  • Reduce the number of donkeys to 1.
  • Reduce the number of dragons to 1.

This is still the shortest route. Every step was needed.
You might call it Advanced Donkeys and Dragons. So long the troll stays away.

Lectori Ludum – Game for the reader
The game shown in the picture is the pocket version of the Hive. It is a 3 dimensional game and it has house rules.  And it is about bugs.
I like it’s complexity. In case you want to buy it, you could use this link.
End of commercial break.

Let me get emotional
I promised you to explain, why emotions are important. I already gave a small hint.

This is something I experienced.
I was in the hospital. The nurse behind the desk tried to formulate excuses to me:
“I did not give [your case] a high priority. You sounded completely in control. ”

This is a big disadvantage of being a tester. I had been programmed – I know: bad word choice. – to give an objective report, which put me in the middle of the line.

A bug report is a thing I not only make for work, but also in private life. If I don’t like something, then I want to get things fixed. So if I order a book and the book is damaged on arrival, I file a bug report. If the book seller does not provide a good service, I get angry. So why can I not show anger to get things fixed?

Do users of software have needs and feelings?
I think they do.
What about persona?

This is a description of customer with all her or his interesting characteristics. A good name can help a lot.

I do not have any experience with it. Personally I think it can be useful. No pun intended. I am a personal ally of the User experience or UX designer. That’s an intended pun.

Let’s start a thought experiment.
So we have the excited Kid, the bragging teenager, the unlimited cinema visitor, ….

Of course the excited kid will not handle the payment on a cinema web site, but she or he will definitely want to choose her or his own drink and snacks. “Dad, how can I order a Cola? It has already been chosen.”

A small side step.
For marketing people this is cool: can I sell packages to the kids?
For the regular movie visitor a limited collectible cup for the drink can be quite tempting. Gotta have them all.

Back to the Excited kid.
“Dad, did you really choose Finding Marlin?”
“Yes, I did. Just pick your drink and snack, dear.”
“What is a kid package?”
“I think it is a drink, a snack and maybe a toy in a box. Does the web site show some description?”
[A little silence]
“I can use a link. Yes you are right, dad. ”

[Another little silence]
“How can I get back on the page?”
“Push the back button.”
“It does not work.”
“Just close the tab.”
“It works.

Where is the page for the drinks and snacks? I cannot find it dad.”
“Let me have a look dear. That is strange I cannot find the tickets.
We have to start all over again.
O dear, all tickets have been sold out.”
This will start an outburst of emotions. In turn these form a good starting point for Non Violent Communication.

Last week while I was still assembling this blog post, I saw a tweet of Santosh asking about NVC. He had read a conversation between Jari and Lucian. And he couldn’t resist himself to “barge” in. I sent him a link to some basic  resources.

NVC stands for Non Violent Communication. This model uses 4 elements: observation, feeling, need, request. Luckily there is a cinema example available for use.

  • Observation
    The kid tried to figure out, what a kid package was. This led to a situation, that tickets were lost.
  • Feeling
    The kid is sad and the dad angry.
  • Need
    The kid has a need to share: to tell about the movie at school. The dad has a need for independence, that his kid can order her or his own drink and snack.
  • Request
    Would you please provide a way to show information about the kid package without losing the ordered tickets?

Browsing through these four elements makes the request reasonable. I am tempted enough to call it logical.

[Answer on, why his parents married]
“That was logical.”
Leonard Nimoy [TV serie]

By the way it took me a while to determine the need of the angry dad on A need is personal. The basic thing is to describe the point of the view of the user. As an observer I have to be very careful to fill in the need of the user. It is not possible to read one’s mnd, but it is possible to ask about someone’s need.

Now I am quite close to the heart of the bug report. If someone asks to solve a bug report, then it is easy to program the expected result. If I test something, it is easy to check only for the expected result. And of course I can test all the other impacted functions and data, but does it really solve the problem?

Let’s have another look at the kid package problem.
A programmer could program the interaction as follows:

  • if the mouse is on the kid package, a small message will be shown containing the description of the package.
  • The message will disappear, if the mouse is moved.

As a tester I can easily determine, that the impact on the data and features is minimal. So it looks easy to test.

Well. There is a huge problem lurking there.

Let’s take a closer look
“So I have 2 tickets for Finding Marlin, 1 cola, and 1 carrot.”
“A carrot?”
“What’s up, doc?

So I go to the ticket counter and get tickets, the package, the drink and the veggie.”
“No, you only get the tickets. The rest you have to collect in the shop.”
“There is no place for all the snacks and drinks.”
“Sounds fair to me.”

“If I enter the shop I pick up my order and continue to the movie.”
“You actually have to collect all your ordered stuff yourself.”
“Just imagine a cola standing there for a few hours. It might have less bubbles and is warmer. Now think about ice creams. Or your carrot’s waiting days for a nibble.”
“You’ve got a point.”

“But where does it state that I have to collect all the stuff?”
“It is on the voucher.”
“Which voucher?”
“The one you get at the ticket counter.”
“Okay. Can you please show me 1?”
“Sure. Here’s one.”
“Hm that is small font.
That means I still have to be 10 minutes earlier to collect my order.”

“So I order, I show my voucher and see the movie.”
“Yes, you just go to the counters to claim the voucher.”
“Wait. You said counters. But I do not have to pay again.”
“The counters have a scanner for the vouchers. There are so many orders, that there is no standard voucher.”
“Okay, let me summarise again.”
“Collect order, go to the counters, show voucher and see movie.”
“You’ve got it.”

“So I go with my voucher to the voucher queue.”
“There is no voucher queue.”
“Wait a minute. I have to get in the same queue like the other people.”

“But there are no real benefits to the service. I only pay in advance.”
“Yes, but I like the idea of a special voucher counter.”

“The user story was:
‘As a cinema visitor I want to order my snacks and drinks before the visit, so I can save time.’
If I look for a need, i would say the need for ease. Within minutes I should get everything: just show the tickets and collect everything.

What about this?
How much time does it take to collect the order for a customer?”
“3 minutes.”
“So if I couple the GPS location of the customer to the order, then it is easy to collect the order. What about that?
Faster service and happier customers. Just make them smile.

And I could continue writing about what to do with the money in case if the customer does not show up. Or the customer changes his mind over the snack. Every solution should be focused on the need for ease.

Let me speed up the reporting
Navigation can be compressed using arrows. E.g. Menu => New.
If too many arrows are used, then the user experience should be improved.

It is possible to save time by adding bug descriptions in the comments instead of linking new bug reports to the report. If the devs can keep up with your pace of reporting, this saves lots of time. In one project I had a supplier, who had no overview and was slow. Then separate bug reports were extremely handy.

During my first year in an agile team
“I found a bug.
Do I have to report it?”
“You can talk about it?”
“So I do not have to write it.”, I wondered.
“We are talking.”, my scrum master answered with a smile.

Let me think
Post Ludum [After the game]
A continuing thought from me: are there other house rules to break? For better quality of life and work.

Why am I now thinking about retrospectives? It must be a flash of insight. I just wrote one : )







Let me write
I thank you for that.

Let me talk
I wanted to write a small blog post about bug reports and it almost turned into a talk. Too many stories in my head. So …

my proposals for talks for test conferences will be sent in the following months.

Let me thank you.
Thanks for reading. Real thanks again.

That Feeling a Lone

After my talk about a performance test I spotted two other speakers. I just joined their conversation: “How did your talks go?” A moment later I heard Rik Marselis asking behind me: “Han Toan, how did your talk go?”

The other speakers turned their attention to me and I talked about testing. Then I remembered Rik. I turned my head, but he was gone. That evening I did not spot him anymore.

Later that week I mailed him a 20 line mail about my talk.
Did I do this, because he is a known tester in the Netherlands?
Did I do this, because he was the president of TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing?
I wrote him, because he was really interested in my experiences. I just sent him a Reverse Polished Notice.

@ Conf Alone
A few weekends ago a speaker reflected on a test conference. It was good, but it was difficult to make real contact. There were only 2 tweets which lead to a massive discussion. The second tweet touched the members of the test community. People were suggesting solutions and sent words of support. In turn this lead to strange reactions like “It was a great conf and I felt inclusive.”

It all boiled down to the question: what would happen, if I join a conversation? To be more precisely, if I join a conversation midstream.

Suppose you are the chairman of a meeting. All participants are people you can talk with freely. At one moment two people want to say something. You pick Cecilia and John has to wait. After Cecilia had her say, what would you do?

When I come home, my kids really want to share some stories with me. I hear the first sentences of different stories from different kids. So I have to pick. What would I do after one story has been told?

I am not really super human. Luckily, my wife is taking care that I am taking care of …

Does it fit?

Fancy restaurants have little delicious dishes and standard spoons, which might not fit.

Take that
“We cannot combine the automated test and the performance test.”, Scott stated. “They don’t fit. It’s a waste of time.”
Alice looked hopeful.
George brushed it away:
“Instead of testing you are talking. You’re the one, who wastes time.”
Scott was a man, who did not mind a good discussion:
“We’ll lose a lot of time, if we do not split the tests. ”
“My decision is definite.” George answered.
“Don’t you understand?” Scott shouted.
Alice started to look white.

“You can leave the room NOW.”
“You cannot run away from decisions.”
George stood up:
“You bet. I will have a little talk with HR right now.”
He went out the room and slammed the door.
Alice looked miserable.

The door opened slowly. George looked inside and said:
“That did not go quite right.”

Take Me To St Louis
“Scott, do you know a person you never shout at and who knows as much about automated tests and performance tests as your manager?” George asked.
Scott was silent for a few moments.
“My mother. ….!? Wait a sec. You are not involving my mom in this discussion!”

“Hi mom”, Scott began.
“What is the matter, son?”, George answered.
“I want to thank for the apple pie you made for me.”
George raised an eye brow, Alice smiled.
“Did you come to talk only about the apple pie? ”
“No, for my work I have to combine automated tests and performance test.”
“I am sorry, son, but I cannot help you with this. Just do, what they told you.”

Scott was shifting gears in his head.
“A performance test for a car is to look, whether it can handle the load.”
Alice put a thumb up.
“I understand: if I can put all ingredients for an apple pie in the car, then it can handle the load.”
“No mom, that is the purpose of an automated test. That one is focused on the functionality of the car: can I open the door, put the ingredients in the car, close the door, and drive away?”
George looked puzzled:
“What kind of load do you mean?”

George nodded.
Scott made another attempt:
“A load for car software are heavy conditions. Does the car ride well with four adults, luggage for long holiday on slippery roads in a dark rainy night?”
“I only fetch my apple pie ingredients in my car during daylight, when the weather is good. ” George explained.
Scott threw his arms up in the air.
A frown appeared on Alice’s forehead.

Take 5
“You are close.”, George assured Scott.

“You know, mom, that a car has a lot of software.”, Scott stated.
“You say so, son.”, George answered. Scott continued with:
“The dashboard must show the right information at the right moment, if I am speeding on the highway. In this case the computers in the car must work very hard. That is the purpose of the performance test.

An automated test can be used to check, whether all buttons and displays of the dashboard work properly. If I drive fast, I am not using every button on the dashboard. So the automated test and performance test cannot be combined. It does not fit.”
Alice put her right hand on her chin.

“Thank you for the explanation, son. You definitely earned an apple pie.”
Alice started laughing merrily. Scott joined in.

After Alice had stopped with laughing, Scott looked at Alice:
“Do you need more arguments, Boss?”

Alice sobered up. She got a focused look:
“You know, that there is a lot of pressure. So I tried to take a shortcut. I notice, that you have a lot of anger. I assume, that you have a need to be understood. Am I right?”
Scott just nodded.
“This basically means, that a choice must be made between quality and functionality. “, Alice continued.
“At the moment Quality has the best chances.”

Alice turned away from Scott.
“George, I really want to thank you for ..”
George’s chair was empty. He had left the room.


FAQ for Tester Recruiters

An imaginary situation decades ago.
[Phone rings. I pick it up. Interested, who is calling]
I: “Hi”
Caller: “Hi. Joe mentioned you were interested in a blind date.”
I [Pleased to be called]: “Sure.”
Caller: “Are you intelligent?”
I [Ignoring the undertone]: “I am studying at the university.”
Caller: “That’ s great. Can you talk about computers?”
I [Internal sigh]: “I am studying computer science.”
Caller: “Are you attractive?”
I: “Just pretty.”
Caller: “Hum”
I [Annoyed]:”Why can pretty people have no blind dates?”
Caller: “Do you look good in a bikini?”
I [Upset]: “Excuse me. I am a man!”
Caller: “I just thought you had a low voice. Sorry for wasting your time.”
I [Angry]:”What the …”
[Caller ends conversation.]

Standard questions from tester recruiters, which are usually asked at speed date speed
Are you interested in a job?
Yes. I don’t have a job.

[LinkedIn] Can we connect?
If I do not know you, then I will not connect with you. I connect with you, if I trust you.

Would you please call me?
If you provide enough information about your company or customer, I might be willing to call you. It is also handy to provide a phone number.

Would you like to send me your CV?
All relevant information is on LinkedIn. I will send you my CV, if I am interested in the job.

Where do you like to work?
In the Randstad and the area southward to and including Breda.


Do you work and think on an academic level?
Yes. I am an engineer graduated at Eindhoven University of Technology.

How long have you tested?
In 1996 I started with my career as a professional tester. The information can be retrieved from LinkedIn.

Do you have relevant test certificates?
Yes, look at my LinkedIn profile.

Do you know the following test automation tools [tools names]?
I have no experience with test automation, but I have theoretical knowledge. At the moment I am experimenting with Selenium, Eclipse, and Java. I have more than 5 year experience with programming in C and C++.

Do you have experience with scrum?
Yes, one year.

Do you know Cucumber?
No. But I can pick it up.

Do you want to freelance?

I’ve got a job for a test coordinator. Is this interesting?
It depends. I can make test plans and test reports, if necessary. But I prefer to test hands on most of the time.
Do you want to be a senior tester?
Yes. Please.

Do you know other testers, who might be interested in this job?
Yes, I know a lot of good testers. Even excellent ones. In the past I suggested some names. I did not get proper feedback, so I decided to stop mentioning names.

More preferable questions for me from tester recruiters
How can I contact you?
Just send a personalised e-mail.
What is “personalised” according to you?
If I replace my name by the name of a random fellow tester and the mail is still applicable, then it is not personalised.

Do you want to know more about my company or client?
Yes, of course. I am really interested in the way they work, the company culture, and the products / services. I am all ears.

What kind of company are you looking for?
A company, which has agile projects in house.

What is important for you?
I like a company, which is committed to go to the next test level and where I still can develop myself.

How do we stay in touch?
I prefer one contact person.

How often can I ask you something?
If there is an interesting job, you can ask any questions. Please don’t ask the same questions twice. It’s extremely annoying for me, especially if you have my recent CV.

When should I thank you?

  • After I sent you an e-mail.
  • For this blog post.

I wrote this blog post on 8 December 2015. Things might have changed in the meantime.

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!?”