Category Archives: Mind mapping

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.