Category Archives: Juggling

My Old Love

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

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

I got her approval.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaching = Learning

This week I sent 2 proposals for the Spring Event to TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing. One was for a presentation for 3 quarters of an hour, the other one for a workshop of 1 and a 1/2 hour. The process of writing proposals was time consuming and intense. My proposals will be rated and then ranked against the other proposals. Finally I will be notified, whether I have a speaker slot.

In 1992 I went to my first Dutch Juggling Convention. I was thrilled; I would be performing in the Public Show. It had taken me months to acquire the Blow Off Your Socks level of juggling. (I still dropped my juggling prop though.) The first part of the convention was a long warming up for my act.

On the first day I walked in the gym. I noticed a few people juggling, but a big white paper sheet drew my attention. It was a table. On one side time slots were mentioned, on the other workshop areas. 2 or 3 workshops had been filled in.  A marker was hanging on a string.

I am still amused, how simple it is to book a workshop for myself on a juggling convention. No rating, no ranking. Just write down my name, juggling prop, and level. Or one name and two nouns. (The only exception I experienced is an International Juggling Association convention, but that is another story.)

There are many possible reasons, why I signed up to give a workshop. I only wanted to share knowledge about juggling. My favourite juggling prop is the devilstick. Wouldn’t it be great, if there were more good jugglers with a devilstick? So this workshop was not planned. A coincidence to happen.

If there is a huge juggling convention which cannot be ignored by a mainstream juggler, then it is the European one. My first European Juggling Convention was in Leeds. This time I came fully prepared. I had rehearsed two workshops for devilsticking in English, which definitely differs from my native language Dutch. The schedule of each workshop I had written down and memorised. And the tricks and combinations were still evolving during my preparations. The most difficult part was to locate the workshop schedule. You still remember that big white thing on the wall attached to a marker. I had planned two workshops, but gave a total of 3 workshops. Good response can be a nudge in the right direction.

Looking back I notice exciting patterns:

  • Determine the biggest step people can take and still follow me.
    [Blank faces.]
  • Discover and share new tricks and combinations, because attendees love them.
    “Did you write a book?”

The most important thing I learned was to observe the attendees. A struggle with the devilstick triggered the reaction: I had either been unclear or combined too many movements. So their struggle became my struggle. By dissecting my juggling tricks for my workshop pupils I learned more than I imagined. I determined the elementary movements to make more combinations.

Once a young woman was impressed by my flurry of movements of the devilstick. Then a man remarked dryly: “He is just combining a few little tricks.”

Let’s go back to testing. It is my way to earn my living after all. In one consultancy company I had to earn my place as a teacher or workshop leader. I spoke with several colleagues about test courses. Yes, they were looking for new teachers. My pitch was: “I have more than 15 year of experience with giving workshops in juggling.”

In the meantime I started to teach mind mapping to my colleagues. The whole process of dissection repeated for me: why do you add branches clockwise? What is a fast way to make a mind map? A lot of questions, which bothered the attendees. I learned to mind map according to the rules, but also using mind map programs working around their restrictions.
BTW I wrote this post using a mind map program while commuting. I moved and added branches to make this a compelling story. Hopefully.

My pitch became: “I have experience with teaching mind maps to colleagues in our company. These are my scores from their feedback.”

Once I had a funny insight to illustrate testing Virtual Reality with juggling. I had one brilliant test idea to start with. My colleagues were supportive and a Bit sceptic (with a capital B). To everyone’s surprise my proposal was accepted in 2008. The preparation gave me lots of energy and inspiration. What is a good test idea and why? Let me break it down for you and show it to you with Real Life juggling.

Then I noticed that there were more people willing to speak than available speaker slots in a test conference. As you might have guessed: I did not speak at many test conferences.

I started to miss the thoughts in my head breaking down my testing examples and improving them. So I began to experiment on my work, but that was not enough.

Why not start a blog and write about mind mapping, SFDIPOT, and 2 screens?  Wouldn’t it be great, if there are more good testers? So this blog post was not planned. A coincidence to happen.

 

Q&A Deployment Plan Meeting

Facilitator:  Thank you reading “In Case Of Emergeny Press 1“.  I’ve got green cards from numbers 95, 27, 38, and 23. Number 95, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 95: Did you consider Inspection according to Gilb and Graham?

Speaker: I am familiar with the Inspection according to Gilb and Graham. Frankly I did not consider this method. The question should be rephrased as
“Would you choose Inspection according to Gilb and Graham?”.
Looking backwards it is too far fetched. The people should receive proper training and there was just a block of few hours. Another disturbing element is mentioning the most biggest issues first. This can lead to a lot browsing forward and backward through the deployment plan. This can be quite disturbing.

 

Facilitator: Number 27, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 27: What was your role in the project?

Speaker: My role was a test coordinator.

Facilitator: I’ve got a yellow card from number 68. Number 68.

Attendee number 68: Why did you call for this meeting? It is not your task.

Speaker: I thought, that it was important. The next step is to make things happen: I planned in the meeting and I became the chairman.

 

Facilitator: There are no more yellow cards for this question on the stack. So we move on the next green card. Number 38.

Attendee number 38: Did the suppliers provide any deployment plans?

Speaker: All the suppliers provided deployment plans.

Attendee no 38: This looks like a time consuming operation. Was there any reluctance?

Speaker: One supplier did not see the benefits at first. Then he made a Deployment Plan after some talking.

 

Facilitator: At the moment I’ve got one green card from number 23. Number 23.

Attendee no 23: why did you need a deployment plan?

Speaker: I asked my test team the same question. One of the testers told me, that experience taught, that these plans were necessary. A few months before I personally witnessed a rollback.

Facilitator: we have a red card. Number 3.

Attendee no 3: What is a rollback?

Speaker: A rollback is, when the backup is restored. In this particular case also the old system was reinstalled.

Facilitator: we have a yellow card. Is it about the rollback? Okay. Number 17 go ahead.

Attendee no 17: Do you need to test it? The system, which was rolled back.

Speaker: Of course

 

Facilitator: There are no more yellow cards on the stack. I’ve got green cards from 54, 65, and 78. So number 54, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 54: Which format did you use for the Deployment Plan?

Speaker: I asked and got permission from one of the suppliers to use their Deployment Plan as a starting point. The advantage was, that it was familiar to the employees of this supplier.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from 65 and 78. So number 65.

Attendee no 65: Why do you call it an emergency? Nobody got hurt.

Speaker: How do you call a situation with a person cutting someone’s tent? And what would happen, if this person is caught in the act?
How do you call a situation with a system, which cannot be used right after the deployment?

Attendee no 65: [nods]

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 78, 95 and 24. Number 78, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 78: Looking at your technical background it seems easy to be a chairman. Do you know everything?

Speaker: I do not know everything. I cannot know everything.

Attendee no 78: Did you not feel vulnerable?

Speaker: At certain points of the meeting I was vulnerable. Quite vulnerable. But I was also confident, that we could make a deployment plan as a group. Sometimes I had to ask for support and I got it.

 

Facilitator: No yellow cards. Number 95.

Attendee no 95: So technical knowledge and experience are not necessary?

Speaker: The important thing is to have a safe environment. A place, where people can voice their thoughts.
In order to discuss all actions I chose a business way of meeting. Please stick to facts. And we’re all here to accomplish something like a group.
I watched for body language. If I was not sure, then I stated the action, looked to the person and became silent.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 24, 38, and 23. Number 24, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 24: You added a new blog category: A leader ships. Did you ship? A Deployment Plan is just an artifact.

Speaker: I once read something along the line like System must solve the problem. If the deployment is bad, even the best system cannot solve a problem.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 38 and 23. Number 38, you can ask your question.

Attendee no 38: What have juggling and testing in common? You are talking about a hobby and job. These are two separate things for me.

Speaker: I have question in return: would you please summarise both stories in 4 words?

Attendee no 38: What about: good planning withstands emergency.

Speaker: So you plan the emergency?

Attendee no 38: I need some What If Scenarios, if things go wrong.

Speaker: So you want to make a scenario for every possible situation like overloaded network, a comet paying a visit, etcetera. There are a lot of scenarios to ponder upon. I suggest: Plan to anticipate emergency. In this case: complete rollback.

[To be continued here.]

In Case Of Emergency Press 1

Speaker: Welcome to my writing “In Case Of Emergency Press 1”. My name is Han Toan Lim. I want to share some stories with you.

Facilitator: There is an opportunity to ask questions using K-cards. More information can be found here.

Speaker: In the weeks after the Dutch Juggling Convention in 1992 a new story circulated in the Dutch juggling community. During the Public Show some people had paid an undesirable visit to the camping site. There were no guards.
“Right after the convention I would be camping. The convention [in Delft] looked like a good rehearsal, then someone made some cuts in my tent.”, a juggler told me with a bit of disappointment.
Another juggler was really upset:
“They took my knife from my tent.”
Somehow this unwanted visit was not anticipated. Over the years the story was shared less and less, but it still stung me.

Now it is time for a flash forward. Several projects were weeks from the deployment. I had pressed for a meeting and finally my project manager had agreed. During the preparation of this meeting I had merged 3 Deployment Plans of the three systems on the same day. I had still doubts about the completeness of this resulting plan. All suppliers and other involved parties of the client were present. I was the chairman.

I began with stating the goal of the meeting: everyone should know, what and when they should do in order to deploy 3 systems on the same day. On the screen I showed a gantt chart made in a spreadsheet program. It was an updated version of the team lead of system administration. The time blocks for the deployments of each system was shown. Other time blocks were for preparation and wrap ups. Then it was time to go one level deeper. On the screen the latest version of the Deployment Plan was shown by me in a spreadsheet. The first activities took me some time to let the attendees make themselves familiar with the structure of the plan.

Facilitator: We’ve got a red card.
Attendee 95: What do you mean with “make themselves familiar” with the Deployment Plan?
Speaker: The Deployment Plan was a big table in a spreadsheet. So the size could distract the reader. So I first explained the heading from left to right. Then I went slowly through the first action. So the attendees could listen or read the information with enough time for reflection. Does this answer your question?
Attendee 95: Yes
Facilitator: I see no more red cards. So you can continue.

Speaker: The following pattern arised. I read the action aloud and made sure, that the person, who was assigned the task, fully understood the task. I questioned or let it questioned in different ways:

  • Do you really understand this action?
  • Are other actions needed?
  • Are the actions planned in the right order?

I preferred, that other participants voiced their thoughts. This was beneficial for the group interaction. It was not my one man show after all.

Let me focus on one particular action, restoring the backup. If the deployment would be stopped, then a rollback of the old systems had to take place. So a backup should be restored. But it takes a while to make a good one. To be more precisely one working day. So people had to be instructed, that the systems could only be used for retrieving information and not for storing new information. Some of these actions had not been planned in.

Because no abstract actions had to be discussed, it was relatively easy to describe the specific actions. If there was agreement about the action, then I immediately updated the deployment plan on the screen. If the description of the action was still ambiguous, then people had the opportunity to clarify it.

Then came the part of the failed deployment. Some attendees were reluctant to talk about it. There might be different reasons: the actual steps for a successful deployment were discussed in depth, so they probably would not be needed. Another guess of mine was, that after 2 hours of meeting people were tired.

Afterwards I got the compliment: “You did well.”

This writing I would like to end with a Lesson Used. So time for a flashback.

In 2002 I went to one of the organisers of the Dutch Juggling Convention in Amsterdam. He told me:
“I’ve got some flowers for you.”
Before I could digest the information, he continued with:
“Right after the Public Show we asked the volunteer coordinators on stage. We called Nienke [and gave her flowers].”
Then I said:
“The other volunteer coordinator is Han Toan Lim. He is not here. He’s watching the camping site.”
He waited a moment.
“They gave you the biggest round of applause.”
At that moment I was just relieved, that no bad things had taken place at the convention’s camping site.

I thank for your attention.

Facilitator: You can ask questions using this form. I have already 4 green cards.

[To be continued here.]

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.

 

An Interview With a Juggling Speaker – The way to Runö part 4

Interviewer: Hello, welcome to Mindful Tester News. I am Han Toan Lim. Today I have the pleasure to interview Han Toan Lim, who happens to be me.
[Turning his attention to interviewee] Hello Han Toan. Thank you for coming to your own room.
Interviewee: It is my pleasure. Nothing has changed in this room since the last time I was here.

Interviewer: The reason for this interview is your workshop for Let’s Test next week. The readers would love to read, what you are doing in the following days.
Interviewee: At the moment I am still modifying my workshop. The slides are almost ready, but my story is constantly changing. I try to add jokes and that is quite challenging.

Interviewer : The name of your workshop is What I learned from juggling as a tester. That is an intriguing subject. I noticed my self, that learning to juggle has a lot in common with learning to test.
Interviewee: I fully agree with you. It is about becoming a craftsman.

Interviewer: I just got a signal from the director (or my self), that it is time to finish this monologue. So I have one last question. What kind of audience for the workshop you are aiming at?
Interviewee: The silent and concentrated testers.
Interviewer [looking surprised]: So you are allowed to say not a single word during the workshop?!
Interviewee [nods]
Interviewer [makes a fist and extends his index finger for closed lips]
Interviewee [smiles and puts thumb up]
Interviewer [smiles back, extends right arm to shake hands and then realizes, that he has only one right hand.]

Safety first – The Way To Runö part 3

When I started juggling, I juggled above my bed. This had some advantages: my juggling props did not break fast and my neighbours downstairs did not complain about the drops. Unconsciously I created a safe environment. An environment, where no one laughed, when I dropped a ball. An environment, where no one ridiculed me, when I let my juggling balls collide against each other .

Open session
One of the finest tools for review is Skype. For my repetitions of my presentation it was great. I could show my PowerPoint to my reviewer. At the same time I could see the reactions on the face. The tool enabled me to observe the reviewer struggling with a small exercise program, which I especially wrote for my workshop.

The first session was horrible. In the second half I had to force myself to finish the story. There were too many slides. It hurt me, that I had to cut them out of presentation. One exercise was so big, that it would cost me at least a half hour to execute it properly. Too big to be included.

Nevertheless I got the compliment, that it was a personal story. Particulary the part about the safe environment was good:

What do you think, what safe environment looks like? What are the characteristics of a safe environment? (Silence of 2 seconds) For me it is an environment, where I can make errors.

The second session went more smoothly than the first one. I had been able to reduce the number of  sheets. The feedback was: “This is you”.

Once I talked with a delegate about the experiences of events of TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing.  The answer was, that the test knowledge was not that important. I was surprised: there was so much knowledge and experience in the Congress Centre, The delegate must have noticed my astonishment and explained to me, that it was a big comfort, that other testers were having the same problems. Somehow this peer conference provided a safe environment to exchange experiences.

Time 2 Juggle
In my abstract I stated, that live juggling will be included in my workshop. But for me it had been a while ago, that I performed for an audience. So it was time to practice the juggling tricks. You might wonder where. Above the bed in my bedroom 🙂

The next step was to juggle, where people would notice me juggling. Preferably a group people with a technical background. So I chose my colleagues, who were having lunch on a bench in the sun. And eager testers at Tasting Let’s Test in Breda.

In 2008 my family went to the European Juggling Convention in Karlsruhe. More than two thousand people gathered in this place to share the joy of juggling. It was the first time, that my wife went to an European Juggling Convention. She was familiar with the Dutch Juggling Convention, so she considered the European one a safe place. Families with little children were camping on the convention site. There was a relaxed atmosphere.

Exercising the exercises
I love to play games. Therefore I consider exercises as small games. There is a set rules and the players have to figure out a way to win it. So I talked about the exercises with a family member, who is a teacher. I let a colleague wrestle with a program. For good measures I let my small Dutch kids explore an English program and they loved it.

So
I increased my zone of comfort in the last months. By talking, by playing, and by being in a safe environment.

BTW if you are interested to attend my workshop What I learned from juggling as a tester? at Let’s Test 2015, it would be great, when you bring juggling balls, clubs, and other interesting juggling props with you. Maybe you know a friend or colleague, who juggles or juggled. You might lend some juggling gadgets for the duration of the conference.

From Mindmaps To Powerpoints – The Way To Runo part 2

For a company training, which I followed, the trainer used a flip over, a whiteboard with markers, and a set of binders with hand outs. No PowerPoint, so no time was spent on editing and reediting the presentation. It looked lean to me.

Your proposal rocks
Last November I was regularly looking in my mail box. There was a small chance, that I would be invited to speak at the Let’s Test conference 2015. But nevertheless it was worth the try. According to the tweets of the conference the speakers would be invited soon. And then …. I got the invitation. I did not shout as I had planned. But I was ecstatic.

In 2014 there was Tasting Let’s Test in Utrecht. I noticed, that Huib gave the same presentation of Let’s Test 2014. So I prepared my wife, that there was a small chance, that I would give my presentation at Tasting Let’s Test Benelux in March and May. Instead other speakers were invited, which gave me more room to prepare my workshop.

Get. Set. Mind map.
After this surprising news I was busy notifying people. Then I realized, that my proposal was written from the jugglers’ point of view. The name of my 2 hour workshop is What I learned from juggling as a tester? So what’s in it for the testers, who would attend? That gave me a brief moment of panic. Luckily I had my mind map for the proposal. This became my starting point for my workshop.

The first mind map contained the five branches with takeaways:

  • Small tricks lead to nice combinations
  • Create a flow
  • Learning by teaching
  • €Find your own style
  • €Have an open mind

In the takeaway mind map I made sub branches Juggle and Test under the 5 branches. Under these branches I brainstormed.

The second one was my outline mind map for the presentation. It described, when which takeaway would be presented .

One evening my wife asked me, whether I was preparing my workshop. I confirmed that. I mind mapped on my smartphone.

Episode Mind Maps
Looking to my outline mind map I split my presentation in episode mind maps. The first episode mind map I called first year. This was my abbreviation for the first year I was juggling. For each slide I created a branch. I added branches for the content of the slide, things I would tell and sometimes a title of the slide. This all lead to a Slides mind map, which contained the title and the text of all the slides in the right order.

Test Slide Story
In the movie industry first the scenario is written, then the story board. This board contains images of the movie, so all involved film crew members have a better idea, how the scenes will look. I used this idea to create my slide board, a serie of rough sketches of the slides. Every slide was created using the slide board, my pictures mind map, and my titles mind map.

I used a pen and lined paper for the first version. Then came the fun part: I used a coloured fine pointed marker to make changes. I noticed, that I still missed some titles and pictures. This process I repeated another time. Images were popping up in my head. So I had to take action to make pictures for the presentation.

One of the challenges I faced was to get nice pictures. For my presentation at TestNet Voorjaarsevenement 2014 I used my own pictures instead of stock photos. There were 2 pictures of some else I really loved to use. So I formally asked for permission and I got it in both cases.

From Mind Maps To PowerPoints
The making of the PowerPoint was uneventful: just copy and paste. Even after all the editing steps pieces were missing. I added mind maps like additions, research, and demo. On one point I did not like the order. So I made Order Mind Map, which I reedited several times. When I was happy with the order, I changed the slides in the Powerpoint.

A few weeks before Tasting Let’s Test Benelux I played with the idea: what would I do, if I got a request to speak? I focused on the big errors in my presentation.

 A few days before Tasting Let’s Test I realised, that I had to make differences in the presentation. If the presentation would be the same like the one in the conference, then people might be disappointed. So I modified a few slides and also decided to change some juggling props. One slide had only title. It was good enough.

The day before Tasting Let’s Test I loaded the latest version of my presentation on my laptop. I had my MVP, Minimal Viable Presentation.

PS
The story continues here.

Do you want to talk about it?

Sometimes I need to talk, sometimes I need to write.

A few good speakers?
There are test conferences, which are always looking for new bright speakers. One way to find them is the Call For Proposals or CFP. In the past I had serious doubts, whether my proposal would be accepted. Today I pose my self two simple questions:

  • Was this subject presented on this test conference?
  • If this is the case, can I present it in another way?

Sometimes I have to repeat these questions several times to pinpoint my subject.

A few years ago TestNet, The Dutch SIGIST (Special Interest Group in Software Testing), asked for subjects for their peer meetings. I suggested mind mapping. A few months later I noticed, that the subject was put on the calendar, so I volunteered to speak about it. The reply was, that TestNet needed proposals. I made two: one about the basics of mind mapping and another one about the use of mind mapping during testing. The latter was accepted.

A word of comfort for starters
I once read an article about the 100 Man Kumite. One man had to fight 100 man in an extreme short time. One Dutchman wrote, that he feared two types of fighters: the beginners and the experts. The beginners did unexpected things.

During one of her theater workshops Franki Anderson asked:
“Is every voice heard?”

Give me 5 minutes more
There might be a misconception, that an idea must be presented in 5 minutes. In the office 5 minutes of full attention of your manager, team lead or product owner can be a known restriction. You either learn or learned, how to squeeze your message or request to the bare minimum.

If I talk to my peer testers on a conference, I have enough room to sketch the situation. I have enough time to tell them about the problems I had to tackle. This can take about 20 minutes. Then I switch to the actions I took, taking 10 minutes. I end with 5 minutes looking at the results and lessons learned. In the Netherlands STAR is used: Situation Tasks Actions Results.

So, what would really trigger the organisers to accept your proposal and invite you as speaker to their test conferences? Exercises. Delegates or visitors of the conference go back home (to the office) with new ideas and real hands on experience. If you have any doubts about it, just look at TestLab. This popular activity is scheduled on different test conferences for years.

Let’s go back to my suggestion for mind mapping for the TestNet peer meeting. If I just talk about mind mapping, I can fill one hour. Participants get the idea, tell about it and forget it eventually. Exercises spice up the whole participant experience. I used to give 3 hour workshops about mind mapping for colleagues, who work in the IT. They made two mind maps during the workshop. The only thing I had to do, was to narrow the workshop down to testers. Instead of an one hour talk I now had an highly interactive workshop of 3 hours.

If you might have noticed: test conference organisers are looking for special sessions. I would suggest the following format for the workshop:

  • Describe the Situation and Tasks.
  • Let the participants perform the Actions.
  • Discuss the Actions and Results.
  • And repeat the STAR.
  • At the end share your own Actions and Results.

Getting to Stockholm
On my quest for knowledge I stumbled upon Peers with Beers on Friday October 24th 2014. Some participants are well known in the international testing community. For a ridiculous low price I could spend all office hours with them. I also joined the dinner, so I extended the time with another 5 hours.

During this peer meeting the participants were expected to present their ideas about testing in the future. The presentations were chosen based on the title. My presentation was not chosen. I realized, that I had a bad title. Too generic. Joris agreed with me:
“A good title is important.”

After each presentation the contents was discussed using K cards. I primarily observed the other peers: the way they discussed and the jokes they made. It was difficult for me to get in the right gear to exchange ideas. Huib remarked, that I was a bit silent.

During the dinner that evening the call for proposals of Let’s Test 2015 was discussed. Two days later was the deadline. Derk-Jan told a story about a rented car.  “We should make proposal for it.” We had a lot of fun about it. In the call for proposals there were no restrictions for the sessions. So this was totally acceptable. At the end of the evening Joep gave me a final advice:
“‘Do not forget the takeaways. ”

Weeks earlier I noticed on one of the pictures of Let’s Test 2014, that people were juggling with balls. I thought:
“I can teach them this easily”.
I gave many juggling workshops.

On the day of the deadline for Let’s Test 2015 I went to my PC and opened my mind map with the attached notes: What I learned from juggling as a tester?. I think, that creativity is necessary to become a good tester. As a juggler I have to amaze my public with my creativity. In my proposal I added a remark, that I would be able to extend the lecture with an one hour juggling workshop.

On November 6th I got the exhilarating news, that my proposal for a 2 hour workshop about juggling and testing was accepted. A total of seven proposals from Peers with Beers were accepted for Let’s Test 2015. So apparently, I was in good company.

[Updated:  Ard had a special Crime Investigation Game. This was held secret until the first day of the conference. So I increased the number of accepted proposals.]