Category Archives: Mind mapping

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.

We need to speak. Let’s talk.

Especially, if you want to speak at a conference in 2019.

My New Year’s resolution is to speak at one conference. But it takes a lot of actions from my side.

This year I tweeted about sketch notes for a workshop. This triggered me to write this post about using visual tools in 3 acts.

Ready? Set. Read.

Act 1

A conference does not need a complete presentation in advance. So this is a huge time saver. Call it a lifehack.
Serious. Hack.

I always look at the theme of the conference. Most of the times this leads to 2 proposals. A proposal is a summary of something.

Something is what I am mulling about in my brains. I only have to put it in a mindmap.

There are several structures. A favourite one is an experience report. STAR is rather useful:

  • Situation
  • Tasks
  • Actions
  • Result

Once I was a test coordinator and I was requested to execute a performance test. I hired a performance tester. The website could handle the load properly, but the web masters had to cope with long delays. So I opted for a hybrid approach: a computer for a load test on the website and human testers acting as webmasters.
The result were acceptable response times.

Another way is to address nagging questions. This could lead to a presentation about exploratory testing and regulations.

What about this pitch?
I used Exploratory Testing in the healthcare domain. My tests passed audits in 2 consecutive years.
Pretty cool.

A nice workshop is based on exercises. No sweat no gain.

Structure is something like 1 exercise per hour including setup, doing and reflection.

I always go to the submission form and find all questions in advance. While submitting I prefer copy and paste. I copy the text in the note of a branch in a mindmap and I paste the text in the answer in the submission form. I try to avoid situations like ‘That will take another hour to answer this question properly’.

Most proposals have the following elements:

  • Info about speaker including speaking experience
  • Description
  • Summary
  • Takeaways

Okay time for a visual tool. Enter the mindmap.

For more details just click on the pic(ture).

Mindmap with branches exercises, title, and English alternative
In case you noticed some Dutch words, it is my mother language. So I translated some words in English. For the record this proposal was accepted after more than 2 years.

At the office I worked with TDD. This lead to this mindmap.

Mindmap with branches timeline, setting, references,termen, summary, description, metadata, and Oud

The description. summary, and takeaways are shown in blue and bold. I wrote a lot of thoughts in the branches. This proposal was rejected several times, so I turned this in a blog post serie.

This year General Data Protection Regulation needed a bit of exposure.
A mindmap with the branches activity A, test ideeeen, Zelf, Reported website, mailings, purchase X, purchase Y. and Blad
This proposal was not accepted and also this one was transformed in a blog post serie.

This minimal mindmap was a remake of other mindmaps.
A mindmap with the branches Exercises, Proposal, and Writing
It took me several attempts to get my workshop for blogging accepted for a test conference.

Act 2

The last years I use a lined notebook to make sketchnotes. It is my way to be creative in a visual way. I feel like a Merry Potter.


“A lot of people think you can only use a laptop to write blog posts. Well, this picture shows my tools I use for blogging. And yes, marker and paper have impact on my writing. Sometimes I have to rewrite whole sections.”

Music notes followed by ‘Spotify iTunes”. “MUSIC” has an arrow with “?” pointing to “Blogs”.
“Would you please raise your hand, if you use Spotify or iTunes?
Thank you. As expected most people listen to these services.
Personally I think music is important.
I see people nodding.
Question: why do you not use music in your blog posts?”

"Getting in the flow " followed by a curly lined arrow. "movement" pointing to a typewriter with "Type" and a pen with "write".!
“One of the difficult things with blogging is paralysis. What is my first section, first sentence, or my first word? What I do, is start writing and get in a flow. Movement of the body also leads movement of my mind.”

"Finding" Picture of fish "Marlin"!
“When I blogged a post, I discovered the heuristic ‘Finding Marlin’ Marlin stands for ‘Make a real life impression now’”.

Readers recognise situations like conservations. I just describe what I see and hear.”

"Start" pointing to "0.1" and versa. The same for "Start" and "0.2". The same for "Start" and "0.3". Under picture "etc. Retell.”!

“A good story develops over time. The first time I write a story it is bland. It does not excite me. So I change a few words for more speed and flavour.”

“Meta Blogging”, followed by a rectangle pointing to a rectangle pointing to a cloud. There is also an arrow from the first rectangle to the cloud.!
“A blog post is something I put in the cloud. First I make a file. The text including markup instructions I copy to the cloud for multiple edits and  publication. I blogged about this process. The most left rectangle is the blog post about writing blog post and the resulting blog post. I call it meta blogging.”

A watch followed by "Time Traveling"!
“This trick is a nice one. In the blog post from 3 October 2016 I was really delighted to be invited to speak for my first workshop at an international test conference covering my travel and accommodation costs. The post contains:
‘The fun has started.’
It points to a tweet of 6 September 2016 with the text ‘Yes seriously’.

It looks like I did some time traveling: blogging in October, tweeting in September, and finishing blogging in October. I only wrote towards the tweet, that contained my punchline.”

Act 3

Most of the times I got ideas for pictures from my sketch notes. In order to avoid copyright issues I use my own pictures and sketch notes. Or ask and get permission.

While studying User Experience, I heard about a designer making 50 designs in 50 days. I really liked his work in Amsterdam.
As a Dutchman I am biased. Of course.

Back on course. He made a booklet for frequently asked questions. There were 4 categories with questions. In 2 steps an answer for question was likely to be found.

Now I had a writing exercise for a blogging workshop. Um. Wait, I could use a similar structure for this part.

4 quandrants containing a snail, signpost, someone looking up to a bar, and an empty thought balloon!

  • Snail  meaning “Slow”
  • Signpost meaning “Direction”
  • Empty thought balloon meaning “No idea”
  • Someone looking up to a bar meaning “Bar too high”

I made this nice obstacle map. Attendees could place a sticky note on the map. With 50 attendees I could get a quick overview.
Let’s get visual.

But how to keep up with a beamer? I had 20 mini presentations to handle questions.

Scrolling
is boring.

In my mindmap I placed links to presentations. My first version was solution driven.
Wait, how was I supposed to jump to solutions?
No idea.

I changed the solution to verification of the right context. What were the symptoms? I also would ask some additional questions. Nothing is worse to misinterpret a problem encountered. That is the moment my voice start to Rumble Or … I start to Fumble For …

OK time for a little demo:

A mindmap with branches "Direction", "No Idea", "Slow", and "Bar too high"!
Using the presentation mode only the speaker – that’s me – can see the mind map. I click on “Direction” and all subbranches are opened. Then I click on “How do I write this down? ” and my first slide is shown for the attendees.

TExt balloon containing "How do I write this down?"!

“So basically this is the question, what you are struggling with.”

A tweet showing a photo of "Perron 9 3/4" at Utrecht Central Station. It is overlapped by "Time for magic"!
“I took this picture at a Dutch railway station. ‘Perron 9 3/4’ can be translated to ‘Platform 9 3/4’. This seems impossible.
Writing a blog post looks like magic for a lot of people. Let me take this as a starting point.”

Eye and "Characters"!

“If you look to the books about Harry Potter, there are several characters. It is not all about a single hero. Every interaction adds to the story. If I write blog posts, I can use different views like the tester, the scrum master, or the manager.”

Disclaimer

This blog post does not offer 100% acceptance success of proposals. See act 1. Writing proposals and making talks take a lot of practice. And some visual tools really helped me.

BTW

if you are still hesitating to talk, please consider http://speaking-easy.com.

3 2 1 dissect

Looking for a new blog subject was not that difficult. At that moment I was making jokes.

The trigger for the post was my thought process during lunch. This painful moment reminded me that I have to careful with rehearsing. Especially in front of my family.

Jokes have to be rehearsed many times to get the right wording and timing. I do not mind a good joke. It just takes time.

The theme of the post was jokes. So I thought back which jokes I had used in the past.

This way I remembered the University of Technology. In my graduation year there was no presentation program. I wrote with a marker on transparent plastic slides and used an overhead projector to show the slides behind me.

I cut the slides to pieces, so I could add special effects like vanishing lines. This could be funny.

From then I started my journey to today. All kind of moments of used jokes I added to my list. After the first draft I had a mind map with two levels. When I looked more closely, I saw an unordered set of stories.

This is not particularly bad. Ed Catmull calls it the ugly baby. The creative process starts with rough ideas. At the early stages the writer has to be patient. It can become a beauty of a story.

This brainstorm did not automatically lead to sections. The paragraph about Harry Potter reminded me of a song of Queen. That became my first section title.

For another section I added ‘Expect the unexpected’. This advice is used too many times, but it was consistent with the vanishing walls

Next stage was to convert short word descriptions to snippets of stories. This was not difficult. At least I had some Fieldstones or stories to share.

It was time to continue in a new version of the mind map

mind map of first version blog post

In the second version of the mind map I continued to add notes to the branches.

The Fieldstones were short and hard to read. I had put pieces of my memory in a mind map without any transition, so I added some words to describe the setting.

Now I had to structure the mind map. I had already ordered some branches, so I added the first branches in one group.

It was about using jokes in the present and future. The next section was focused on my workshop at TestBash Netherlands. If someone without a test background can understand my jokes, then it is good.

The third section was about jokes in the office. Yes, I like the humour of programmers.

The last section was a transcript of some jokes during a presentation about a performance test. During the rehearsal of the jokes I thought about some visualisations to increase the impact of the jokes. These movements were added in the last weeks before the talk.

The grouping of branches led to the following sections: ‘expect the unexpected’, ‘practice makes people smile’, ‘it’s kind of magic’ and ‘what about this?’.

There was an extra section about twittering. I started with a simple story about my reaction on a single tweet. It began to grow. I still had the tweets stored in a mind map, so that saved me a lot of typing.

Then came the editor question: does it fit? I wanted to write about making jokes for my own presentation. I marked the branch with a red cross. It would not be contained.

A frequently used branch for me is Metadata. It is a way to remind me to add extra information to the post. I had found the Chicken picture beginning this year and this became the banner.

The categories were more difficult than usual. How would I categorise a post with jokes? So I introduced ‘Fun intended’. It is a variation on ‘Pun intended’. Fun rhymes on Pun, so that’s good. Fun!

mind map of second version blog post

My work title of the blog post was ‘Adding humour’. That was good enough. So I made a link from the title to the central object.

The Office section contained a reference to Harry Potter and that is difficult to follow for people who do not know this character. I solved this by using some common sense humour.

This was one of the few times that I used a joke as a writer in this post. Normally I add more jokes to make a post more digestible. But this would lessen the effects of the described jokes.

The Twitter section was still in my mind. Was it really off theme? I noticed that I was not the only one cracking jokes. Other people like the street artist and the scrum master made jokes about things unrelated to my workshop.

What the heck.
So I decided to put it back in the blog post.

Then the editing started followed by reediting. Etcetera.

The research part is a rewarding one. I checked facts in my blog post. For the Harry Potter section I had added a joke about muggles. While watching a movie I heard the American word for muggle. I went into a bookstore and looked up the word in the book with the screenplay.

The proper spelling of the quote from a song of Queen was checked using a search engine.

mind map of fourth version blog post

This ends my dissection of my previous blog post. I hope that you and I learned something. I certainly did. I basically wrote down my steps and thoughts.

mind map of this blog post

On my work I have test charters and bug reports which describe my actions. I can justify my tests.

For me it was one step more to tell a story to testing peers at a test conference.

 

Maybe you have something to share. Really. Just take your time.

Some experiences of you are really worthwhile for your peers. Especially things you just do automatically like me writing a blog post on a smartphone using mind maps.

There is a supporting testing community out there constantly looking for short and long stories, talks, and workshops for testers.
Please have a look.

Zoom out. Zoom in.

On the Kanban board was a sticky showing me what to test.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
The test plan had acceptance criteria for this functionality. I picked the first criterion.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
In the knowledge management system I went to the test department and clicked to the application section. Then I looked for the test case.
Yes, I like to modify my input on the fly. In this case a data file would save me hours of testing.
I could not locate the file.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
I went to the PO or Product Owner. He also started looking:
“Maybe I sent you the file.”

Zoom out. Zoom in.
I went back to my desk. In the mail program I could not find the right file. Then I remembered that this functionality had been covered in one ticket. I found a zip file. This contained other zip files.

Another zoom in. I unpacked a zip file. And repeated this for another contained zip file. I found the data file and expected results.

Zoom out. Zoom in.
I went to the PO to tell him the good news.

Before I went home, I zoomed in in the knowledge management system. I uploaded the found files. The names explained the contents of the files. The next day I would take time to tidy things up.

Zoom out: out of office.

Rat’s Head, Ox’s Neck

Waiting.

I grabbed my notebook with the sketchnotes for my workshop at TestBash Netherlands. In my head I went through all possible visual solutions for a test exercise. I drew the most simple one. At that moment I had no more details to fill in. I almost came to a stop. A workshop in distress?

Centuries ago Musashi Miyamoto had an advice for warriors:
Rat’s Head, Ox’s Neck.
If you are too preoccupied with details, then work on the big picture. If you are too preoccupied with the big picture, then work on the details.

So I switched to my mind maps with the global structure for each hour of the workshop. I moved branches around and clarified thoughts for myself. Another brake was about to stop my flow of thoughts. I could lose valuable information, if I deleted too many branches.

Digital mind maps are easy to save. So I copied the mind maps on my smartphone and set the previous versions on a safe place. What had been bugging my mind? Time to delete some stuff.

One exercise felt out of place in the Second Hour Mind Map. I moved the whole branch to the mind map of the first hour. The number of exercises per hour was almost equal. I love balance.

Then I noticed the theme of the first hour: time out. Wait a minute. That was not a time out exercise. I visualised the exercise: this was about states. I moved the whole branch back. I prefer theme over balance.

The fun with markers is that I can number the branches. So I changed their order a few times. In the meantime no slides were adjusted or removed. I was editing my workshop on a high level at high speed. Look mum. Without presentation program.

In between I switched to the mind map Extra stuff. After opening I hoped to find some Fieldstones I could use in my workshop. But I was disappointed: it was a list of workshop materials I had to take with me.

That was not in the name, so the file was renamed by me. This was an advice from a Cleancode session at my office. And I could add extra stuff like a whiteboard. Sorry, I mean equipment.

Apologies now. I love the smell of smiles in the morning.

Time to switch between the Hour Mind Maps. I did some dry runs in my head. Then I was not ready, because in another mind map I had still some funny pictures to include in the slides.

Luckily I had grouped them around a subtheme. Some pictures I really wanted to use. I reopened the Hour Mind Maps and added branches with funny pictures. There were stories or Fieldstones attached to them.

Another dance of branches in the Hour Mind Maps started. This was creativity at work. Feel the Flow Luke.

I also found my Story Fieldstones Mind Map at last. Some I placed in the Hour Mind Maps. Others went to my sideboard. I also had some floating Fieldstones which I could use at any moment in my workshop.

I heard my name mentioned in the hallway. My wait was over. Within 1 hour I had reshaped my workshop. The next time I could work on my slides again.

I had seriously enjoyed myself. :)

Thanks for reading.
Yours Mindfully.

Test Creativity, Inc.

Using the book ‘Creativity Inc.’ as a basis for this blog post, I made a mistake. I tried to craft a compelling story, how creativity could be used in every phase of software testing. But the post became a struggle for me. Then I realised that the book was not about creativity or management. It was about leadership. Let me write about it.

Learn, Struggle, and Tell

During one of my workshops about mind mapping I talked with a colleague, who was specialised in project support. She told me, that she already had been taught mind mapping during her master class. She was quite proud about the nice mind map as a deliverable of one master class group project. She described the beautiful details, but I sensed some reluctance to use mind maps for her daily work.

One of my kids had to give a talk. In the US it is called Show and Tell. An object is shown to the class and the pupil tells about it. The teacher of my kid would give a penalty, if no mind map could be shown.

Where’s the fun?

Flow and Tell

What I like about mind maps, is that they are playful in use. I can get in a flow, during which I can add and modify information in a continuous way. I can focus and defocus. With a single delete action I can remove a complete subtree of information.

A mind map makes a TODO list more interactive than a standard checklist. I can make sub tasks and move them around. It shows me, which things need my immediate attention.

This is useful fun for me.

Use and Tell

Years ago I used to work for a consultancy firm. This company had a special program for consultants between projects. One of the workshops was Introduction Mind Mapping, which appealed to me as a knowledge worker. The reasons to attend my workshop were different:

  • “I am curious, what mind mapping is.”
  • “I heard good stories about this workshop.”
  • “It might be useful for my work.”

During the years it became a feel good workshop. I found the right mix between practice and entertaining stories.

In order to maintain the quality of the workshops I was requested to collect filled in evaluation forms. Once I even scored a 10 for the whole workshop on scale from 1 to 10. You guessed right: 10 is perfect. For Dutch people this is quite exceptional. Most of the time I scored 8 or 9, which is good.

The feedback about the use of mind maps after the workshop was quite limited. One consultant used a mind map in a presentation, which I attended.

Another consultant had a long call with me to look at the use of mind maps as a vehicle for knowledge management. And there were a few more.

Show and Provide

There was not enough time to make a test plan. My project manager was quite strict: you have to do your job with the available resources. So I asked my project lead to use a mind map. The reaction was like “Sure, why not?”
I confirmed my request:
“You won’t get [word processor] doc, but a mind map.”
“That’s no problem.” she answered with a smile.

I went back to my computer and made one of the most compact test plans ever. I mailed the plan to her and started playing the theme of Mission Impossible in my head. I succeeded.

Later I heard that the plan was converted to a document. This was not entirely my intention.

Show them & They Tell me

Another time another mind map. This time I presented the test plan mind map to the stakeholders. It was scrutinised and becoming better after each feedback. Weeks later I requested information from a colleague, she answered with:
“I looked to your mind map and […]”.
Just imagine that smile on my face.

A few weeks later I got questions from another colleague. I opened my mind map and talked about the options. It was highly constructive. Test ideas were reframed with new facts and questions. The focus was on the content and not on the form.

There’s No Business like Show Business

There are many people, who already use mind maps like me. So my creativity is not that high. The use of test plans for management is standard in many companies. But the constructive discussion about the tests to be executed was quite unique for me. My test plan mind map was discussed, adjusted, and used to give a direction.

Am I a leader, because people follow me? Maybe they are chatting and not paying real attention. Maybe I am a leader when I tell the right direction in the back of the group. But they might follow another group or be led by some else in the group.

Real leadership is granted and not imposed.

How to Speed Up Mind Mapping

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

Mind Mapping For Colour Blind People or Another Way To Mind Map Fast

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

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

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

Patterns for branches

Here are other patterns and a way to grow branches:

Other patterns for branches

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

Coloured branches

For a colour blind person this looks like this:

Black and grey version of branches

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

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

Things to explore

What I like about mind map programs:

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

Did you notice that?

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

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

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.

 

a Test Fuga On 2 A Flat Screens – Part 2

A single note might be forgotten; a melody might be engraved in one’s memory.

Words can be compared with music notes. In most cases a single word does not make much sense for a tester. Performance is too vague, good too ambiguous, funny too personal. In my previous blog post I described, how I had gathered useful information and created test ideas using mind maps. Now I had some groups of words, pieces of a melody. Time for music!

Let’s have a look

Now I had a lot of test ideas. The best way to combine them is to use a test charter. The first test charters were not exciting like “Explore the interface by finding the right buttons for the functions”. This sounds silly, but I could not explore, what I could not find.

So what about the two screens as mentioned in the title? During my test I had two computer screens in front of me. On one screen the Application Under Test was shown, on the other screen my Word Processor. With a turn of my head I could switch between the application and my notes.

Let’s make notes
At the start of my test session I noted relevant information like day, time, version, and test database in my document. Sometimes I described actions I had performed. I did not write all my actions, which would slow down the tests or my flow of thoughts. In case of possible bugs I would go back and describe other relevant steps for a proper repro path or reproduction path of the bug. Print screens were also useful to accelerate the note taking.

The programmer had warned me, that it was not possible to schedule the data exchange. So I only tried to look at the buttons. I found a button and clicked on it by accident. (A typical case of an automatic target seeking index finger.) This was a waste of time. But the application was still stable, so I assessed the situation. I had started the ad hoc operation.

I switched to the Windows Explorer. Maybe some traces of my action were still visible. In a subdirectory for temporary files I found interface files, which had been created shortly before. This was a bug: temporary files must be deleted after use. And a great opportunity to dissect the files.

Let’s cover

The structure of the interface files was relatively simple. So I chose a mind map to record the coverage. For every file a branch was added. For every type of record a sub branch was added to the branch of the file. If the record had passed the tests, I placed an OK icon on the branch. Otherwise a NOK icon was placed.

In case of files with many combinations I once used a spreadsheet to describe the coverage.

Let’s debrief

After the first test charter I noticed, that I spent more than the planned 1 hour. On the other hand I had started testing the most important part of the interface, the files. The one hour limit was too short for a good test session, so I extended it to two hours in later test sessions.

Then I updated my mind maps. I used a partial filled circle icon to indicate, how much I had completed the test charter. Furthermore I used similar icons to mark the progression of my test ideas. So one screen contained my mind map and the other screen my document with my notes.

Let’s ask

Whenever I had any questions, I added those to the mind maps. I marked the branches with question mark icons. A question could be like “How many attempts are made to transfer the files?” After I got the answer, I would put it in the mind map, removed the question mark icon, and updated the test charter mind map, if necessary.

During the test I asked the programmer, whether I had to test both the ad hoc service and the scheduled service in depth. He assured me, that the same code was used for both services. This saved me a lot of time. The heuristic Avoid duplication of code had been used.

Let’s update
Every day I would look to the test ideas to be tested. Then I looked to my test charters. I focused on the test charters with the highest product risks. On a daily basis the mind maps were updated with every piece of information and progression was tracked.

In the meantime the option to schedule services for the interface was gradually implemented. I started to add branches in the information mind map to describe the proper steps to start up the services. Because this process changed regularly, I modified my mind map accordingly. I noticed that my fellow testers also were struggling with services. So I put this information next to the mind maps in the knowledge management system.

Let’s use markers

During the tests I used the two markers TODO and BUG in my notes. After BUG a short description of the unwanted situation was given most of the times accompanied by a print screen. TODO was used to mark down situations, which needed further investigation. If I ran out of ideas during a test session, then I searched for TODO. At the end of the session I would file bug reports for situations marked with BUG. Afterwards BUG was replaced by the defect number and short description.

Over time my use of keywords changed. My notes were a chronological list of actions and print screens. New notes were added at the end of the document. Sometimes it was hard to reproduce bugs. So I used hash tags like in Twitter like #DoubleTime. I replaced the marker BUG with my own test tag. At the end of the document I placed #DoubleTime. Then I started to make notes to reproduce the bug. Of course not all strange situations were reproducible. I noted that and marked it with #Remarkable. In the future strange situations could be found by looking for #Remarkable in the content of the files using Windows Explorer.

This system was still awkward. Now I had two places in the file referring to the same strange situation. Then I started to use indent like this:
01-okt   Invalid value shown on screen

15-okt    used 2, 3, and 5. Not reproducible

Let’s look forward

At the end I stored the latest versions of my mind maps in the knowledge management system of my company. Because the files had been created by a non-standard program, I added images of the mind maps as well. This saved some mouse clicks for the interested reader. I also updated the steps to install the services in a proper way.

It was a nice job. I had experienced exploratory testing and learned a lot. Now it is time for me to move on.

a Test Fuga On 2 A Flat Screens

One of the most complex music pieces is a fuga. Just imagine several instances of the same melody at different progression points, which can be heard at the same moment. And together still sounding well. Don’t try this at a meeting. It is like 3 people talking at the same time and it still makes sense.

I am aware, that fugas are not everyone’s favourite music. Some readers prefer music from TV channels with names containing a minimum of Capitals. Other readers can remember the theme of their favourite movies. Coming soon in a theatre in their neighbourhood.  A theme or melody is a recurring reminder, that one listens to or watch a certain story.

A theme in software testing is that I constantly am aware, why I am testing a certain object. I have to be conscious, that I need to focus on the right things. And that is hard. Especially with bugs popping up and undocumented features being uncovered.

WYSIWYE: What You See Is What You Explore

First question I always ask is: what is the purpose of the new or changed functionality? Followed by a lot of other questions. In order to structure the obtained information I use a mind map program. The mind map contains gathered information and references to relevant files. Good news: some digital mind maps allow links to other digital files. Just click once to look at the relevant information.

In a world with an increasing number of interconnecting systems or things a test for an interface was not a surprise for me. I got specs and a minimal description of the interface. Files had to be exchanged. So I started digging:

  • What is the purpose of the interface?
  • What kind of data is contained in the files?
  • Is there a way to intercept the files?
  • What kind of program do I need to dissect the files?
  • How do I get the right data in the files?
  • What are my requirements for my test environment?
  • Etcetera.

I & SFDIPOT

There are several ways to determine, which areas must be tested. A heuristic or a fast and constructive way to determine, what can be tested, is SFDIPOT. A simple way to remember this is San Francisco DEPOT. For my fellow Dutch testers SOFT DIP, which is approved by one of the founders. Not me.

Some readers might suspect that “I” in the title of the paragraph is a reference to the author of this blog post. Other readers familiar with  SFDIPOT think, that “I” stands for Interface. It was strange to use this heuristic for the test of an interface, but it worked for me.

Next stop was to make a new mind map with the following branches using SFDIPOT:

  • Structure
    What is the interface? The interface was a set of files, which were exchanged. I had to test the system, which made the files, and test the created files. The receiving system was out of scope.
  • Function
    Does the system make the right files? I used some specifications to understand, what was contained in the files. On my PC the right tool was installed to read the records in the files.
  • Data
    What kind of information was stored in the files? Browsing through the specs I got some ideas about the content. The big question was how to cover the possible values. Which steps should I take to set the right values in the records of the files? Some record fields were fixed; others had a limited set of values. Of course there were record fields, which could contain text. Diacritic characters should be tested.
  • Interface
    How are the systems connected? I asked a programmer, whether I should test a network failure. His answer was: “Yes. Of course.” I made a note or branch in the mind map, that I should pull the network cable out of my PC during one interface test.
  • Platform
    Which operating system is used by the system, which makes the files? So my PC had Windows 7. Windows 8 and Windows 10 should also be tested.
  • Operations
    How will the interface being used? In order to support the file exchange some custom made services had to be installed. A restart of the PC could occur. This might impact the availability of the services. So a restart was planned for testing.
  • Time
    When will the interface be used? I noticed, that there were two options: ad hoc and scheduled. I asked myself, what would happen, when an ad hoc service and a scheduled service are being executed at the same time.

Whenever I ran out of ideas, then I switched back to the first mind map with the gathered information:

  • Did I use all relevant information for my test ideas?
  • There should be test ideas for time. Let me have another look.

A disclaimer: the complete set of test ideas is not described. This blog post is my experience report, how I handled the interface test.

Now I had some test ideas to turn into a theme for my Test Fuga. It was to time to structure the tests. My next blog post will cover the following steps and the Two A Flat screens.

The Taking of Spreadsheet 123

Mind maps are great, spreadsheets too. During testing my choice for tools is context driven.

Did you notice the dates, my dear Spreadsheet?

During testing I noticed some strange dates in a table. It was “01-01-0001”. That is more than two millennia ago. (One of the most influential men had his first birthday party on that particular date.)
I thought again:
“How would I mark an item with no end date?
01-01-0001.
But why are there more than 2 items with the same name and no end date?”
I found a bug. Next I scrolled through the table and found other pairs. This process should be automated.

  1. Export the table with the header in the database to a csv file.
  2. Import the file into a spreadsheet program.

If all data is still shown in one column, then

  1. Select the column.
  2. Use the spreadsheet function Convert text to columns.
  3. Select Separated.
  4. Choose the delimiting character ; (semi colon)
  5. Click Finish.

Now it is time to sift the information:

  1. Select all the columns of the table.
  2. Order the table on the item name and then on the end date.
    Column A is item name and column C is end date.
  3. Select the cell right to the heading  in the first row.
    Column G is the first empty column.
  4. Add an extra attribute to the heading e.g. “Same” (in cell G1).
  5. Select the cell under the attribute Same. (G2)
  6. Go to the formula editor and make the following formula:=IF(AND(A2=A3; C2=C3);”yes”;”no”)
    This means, when the item names of row 1 and 2 are the same and the end dates of row 1 and 2 the same, show the text “yes”;
    if this is not the case, show the text “no”.
  7. Copy the formula by selecting the cell with the formula (G2), placing the mouse on the right lower corner of the cell with the formula, press the left mouse button, move the mouse downwards until the lowest row of the table and release the left mouse button.
    The formula has been copied to all relevant cells in the column Same.
  8. Set a filter in the header of the table.
  9. Set the filter of the column Same to “yes”.
  10. Set the filter of the C column or End date to “01-01-0001”
    All rows with items with the  same name and no end date are shown.

Can you handle Big Data, Mister Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet program is great to analyse csv files. But my first analysis of more than 70,000 lines of data was not so great: it took some time to load and convert the data in the spreadsheet program and it was not possible to load all data at once. There was a chance, that I might miss something. And I did not want to miss a bug.

Some people abhor the use of command lines. And if I mention UNIX some people think: “Run for the hills”. However there are some powerful commands, which make the life of a tester easier. grep is a Unix command, which can be used to filter information from ASCII files using pattern recognition like item id. So I searched for “Windows grep” on the Web and found an interesting open source tool.

I started with a csv file of table with no header. The table description was in a pdf file. I only had to examine all records with specified item id.

  1. Use a windows grep program to extract all lines containing the string with item id.
  2. Export the output to a csv file.
  3. Import the csv file in a spreadsheet program as described in the previous paragraph.
  4. Copy the column with the attribute names from the table description in the pdf file.
  5. Paste these cells in another worksheet of the spreadsheet.
  6. Transpose these cells into a decent heading.
    (Change a vertical row cells to a horizontal row cells using a standard spreadsheet function.)
  7. Copy and insert the heading above the table.
  8. Set a filter on the heading.
  9. Set the filter of item id in the heading to the item id to be analysed.
    All records containing the item id are shown.