Category Archives: Story telling

Find The Monster In The Room

One evening in the winter I was having a dinner. People enjoyed their meal and there was a lot of talk.

The mood
was good.

Then the youngest child shrieked of panic. All talk stopped.

The first steps would be like: go to the bedroom and put on the light.

Everyone at the dinner table looked at the kid a few meters away. The kid was in the same room.

The mother said that the kid had seen something. She went to the little child and tried to talk about it. This was difficult, because the kid knew only a few words.

The mother looked in the direction of the fearful eyes and saw nothing strange.

Back at the dinner table she told a story about curtains with triangles which looked like eyes to another little kid.

The second shriek was handled in the same way. The mother went to comfort the child. While looking for the source of fear.

The 3rd time an adult was with the frightened child within a second. The person lowered the head to the same height of the kid and looked carefully.

A machine showed some scrolling text. It was like the pupil of an eye looking for …

One of my kids asked: “Can I draw out the power cord?”
My answer was: “Yes.”
This was immediately followed by a familiar sound.
The display went blank.

Earlier that evening there was a power outage. The machine was switched on and had no current time. So it politely asked to set the proper time and scared a little child.

Some readers might remark, that this blog is about IT and  testing.
My answer is: “Yes”.

My New Year’s resolution is to Find The Monster In The Room.

Now I gave it a name.

House Rules For Rules

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

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

There is no rule for the type of wrench.

Proof in the pudding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking at TestBash NL 2017

The bus was about to leave Utrecht. But TestBash was in Utrecht. I politely asked the bus driver about my bus stop again.

He put the blame on the broken system in his bus.
Seen that. Done that.
I had a workshop to prepare, mate.

Just a few things

A few weeks earlier.
With a rapid approaching workshop I tried to get a good picture of the room. Okay.

10 people would attend my workshop. I expected more. After digesting my disappointment I looked at the bright side: I could handle them.

Then slowly stress was getting me. On my shopping list for my workshop were a beamer and a screen. Huib mailed back: there is a screen. You do not need a projector.

So I repeated my request. The reply was to attach my laptop to the screen. I was puzzled. It took some time to realize it was a flatscreen.

As a speaker I was allowed to participate in a workshop. I selected Gitte’s in the afternoon.

Then I got curious: was there a way to get more information about the morning workshops including my own one? I clicked.

My workshop was sold out. Wow. Excuse me. Just had another look. My workshop was sold out. I freaked out.

Almost ready

Back to the workshop day.

After the scenic tour with the bus I involuntarily extended it. Using a public traffic app I located the street after some backtracking.

A short walk later I saw a place. Wrong place. The venue should be, where the foreigner with the small backpack was heading to.

He was out of sight. So …. I had passed a church. You’re kidding. Outside was a banner with a 7. The venue had a 7 in the name and it was situated at no 7. I entered the building and saw Rosie. Bingo.

I got my ninja sticker and was ready to prepare my workshop. Huib provided the paper, markers and stickies. And up we went.

He entered a lovely room. Ideal for a workshop: tables and chairs. Just, what I had in my mind.
“You have another room.”, Huib remarked.
Other pleasant thoughts about the room were immediately muted.

I ended in a small room with one big table. A door with a glass plate on top of it. Good enough for an agile tester.

There was a facility manager, which was quite convenient. “We’ve got HDMI.”, she proudly announced.

I showed her the side of my laptop. “I need VGA.” And off she went. Returning with some fancy connector.

Sound was also difficult. The line from the connector was too short. A box was brought up.

“Do you need something?”, the lady informed.
“I would like to have some coffee.”

I prefer to have my laptop in front of me, so I moved my laptop and the screen. After some shuffling I had my preferred position for my laptop on the big table.

Then this table became my next point of concern. 10 people would attend my workshop and I had only place for 9.

Big sigh followed by moving back all stuff in the old position.

“Do you need something?”, the lady informed.
“I would like to have some coffee.”

Already some attendees were present for half an hour. I apologised and continued with my preparation.

I got a glass of coffee from a member of my audience. Cheers mate.

At the end I connected the laptop to the screen and saw a black screen.

It was time to start the workshop after sending a HELP request to facility management.

Work hard shop

The atmosphere was a bit spoiled by moving all that stuff. I had partial fix by connecting my smartphone to the box. Hopefully the music had a calming effect on the audience.

So I started my workshop to talk about visual testing. Why I thought, it could use some attention from testers.

The facility manager came back. And solved the problem with plugging an USB connector.

I should have noted that connection. A photo was faster. Exploratory workshop preparation anyone?

Anyways my presentation was shown on screen.
Now I really could start.

Draw it again Sam

I used some tricks to get interaction with the attendees. Within 10 minutes I got verbal feedback on several questions.

Then it was time for the time out exercise. It was a tough one to do. Paper and stickies were scribbled upon with markers.

I saw people stopping and staring. I showed the next slide and explained the next step.

The advantage and disadvantage of a visual testing is, that I can notice progress in a few seconds.

“Take a new piece of paper and start again.”, I encouraged the attendees. People stretched their arms for the paper.

Some attendees started to scribble on the stickies. “Just take this post it as a starting point.”

After a few minutes the cycle of explaining and exploring restarted. Slowly the result ended in a state transistion diagram.

After showing the diagram I rattled off all missing elements in the model. Then I justified my choices.

On the flip chart I wrote YAGNI, You Ain’t Gonna Need It. This principle of XP, Extreme Programming, could also be used in testing. Why should I describe all details in my model, when it does not really add value?

Looking back I should have switched the time out exercises. Real life examples are pretty nasty.

There was a break after 1 and 1/2 hour and I just had finished the first hour presentation. 2 hours to squeeze.
I just entered the second hour presentation. I already skipped 2 exercises. This was going to be tight.

On the other hand Huib granted me extra time, because the lunch would take place in another workshop room.

After the break I started with another exercise. People used state transition diagrams and process diagrams. I was really happy, that they made a visual model.

During the last part of the workshop I focused on the most important parts of a new visual model. And I succeeded.

In the weeks before the workshop I memorised the mind maps of the hour presentation. I had looked to supporting stories and slides twice a day. It benefited me greatly.

San Francisco Depot or SFDIPOT

During my workshop I remembered, that test ideas could be found using SFDIPOT. This powerful heuristic almost cost me a quarter of an hour.
I just skipped the explanation: I wrote it on the flip chart – “Just search on SFDIPOT.” – and moved on.

That evening I had a talk and a few beers with Klaas. He also used it frequently in combination with FEW HICCUPPS.

FEW HICCUPPS is another heuristic.
Uhuh.
Should I use his advice?
Umm.
Does it count, that he is a world champion in testing?
Yeah… Probably.
Great, extra homework for me.

The next day I remembered that I had blogged about SFDIPOT. So I tweeted this to my followers:
mindfultester.com/a-test-fuga-on-2-a-flat-screens.

About connections

For one exercise I needed the Wifi. Every attendee needed only 20 kb. It was too much.

Huib had already mailed me several warnings: the wireless network was not fit for workshops.

Ofcourse I had taken measures: I made my smartphone a Wifi hotspot. Within minutes every attendee was on the web.

Later in my workshop the screen went black. One of the attendees pointed at the loose adaptor. By all the moves of my laptop I forgot something to connect. Oops.

I plugged my laptop to the electricity net. It was time for a Fieldstone. I had a small role playing game or RPG.
“If you are familiar with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, he looked like Mewt Scamander.” And I let the game begin..

After the RPG I saw the login screen. I switched back to presentation mode.

Gravity in action

The workshop had to be finished in an appropriate way. I still had so much tell. I picked the Fieldstone with the Pendulum.

A few weeks before the workshop Katrina had written about a pendulum. She used it to illustrate to find the optimal way of testing.

I could not find my props, so I used the mouse. On the flip chart I wrote too deep and too shallow.

With my left hand I held the tail of the mouse. The right one grabbed the mouse and rekeased it at “too deep”. The mouse moved in arc until it lost all its speed. This was the optimum for testing.

In testing a lot of words are used. The trick with visual testing is to find the right balance between no pictures and too many pictures.

During my preparation I remembered Nassim Taleb telling the essence of Antifragile standing on one leg. I had the feeling, that I had done the same.

Relax man

In my mind I was still fretting about the fact, that I had to skip exercises and stories.  When I met Jean-Paul, I told him:
“I have so much material.”

He looked at my backpack and a cilindrical case on my back:
“You always have.”
Or was he really thinking about information, that could be shared?
I don’t know.

Our conversation continued about the small things which improved the life as a speaker like an available presenter. A click on a button of this laser device shows the next slide.
Use the force. Push.

That thing about courage

In the workshop about courage Gitte gave me homework. “Write on a paper the first step of something you are going to do next week.” It was about something that would require courage.

I wrote on my paper: “Short”. I wanted to write a short blog in a few days. Normally it takes me weeks from Fieldstone to blog post. I could reduce that, but how …

The week after TestBash I wanted to write about meeting people. Was there a way to change my way of blogging?
I focused on what I wanted to share. It was basically the feelings and thoughts I had. There was no test knowledge I would share.

Was there a message I could share?
Yes. Meeting peers is great. Surprises are great. The test community is .. you got the message.

I started with a mind map. Then I added notes. I made a funny picture. I gained more and more speed.
The result was the previous blog post BTW.

Soon afterwards I started this blog post. All kinds of memories about my speaking experience at TestBash I put here. Piece by piece. Day by day.

Look who’s speaking

The conference day started a bit unusual for me.
“Welcome mister speaker”, Huib said, followed by a bow.
I tried to find a funny answer. That was difficult without coffee:
“Hello mister organiser”

The day before the conference day I was asked twice:
“Will you speak tomorrow?”
How did they recognise me?

So on the conf day I asked, whether the colour of my ninja badge had an extra meaning. E.g. Talk in black. Workshop in green. Silver for free beers. Etc. Actually there was no silver. Mind you.

There was no connection between colour and role however. Maybe a Chinese with a Dutch accent is associated with a speaker. Or people actually recognised me from the program. Or I was carrying simply too much stuff in a backpack and case on my back.

In a room filled with goodies I got my badge of honour, a T shirt with a golden Ninja.
“Now you are one of the Golden Guys.”
I hereby can confirm there is a connection between the golden ninja and the ministry of testing.

In the morning I remembered, that two attendees had asked me a strange questoon. So I twittered:
Attendee: “Do you give workshops for a living?”
Me:”No, I am a tester.”
#testbash
https://mobile.twitter.com/huibschoots/status/824536807442436096

In the afternoon other people started to like this tweet. Some of my testing muses did. For a short period I was energised and then drained afterwards.

Zone of what?

During one of the breaks on the conference day I had a talk with Marcel, who wore a sweater with the intimidating text:
“You cannot scare me. My wife has a PhD.”

I told him, that I was surprised about the progress during the exercises. I could solve exercises from my workshop within minutes.   He remarked, that it was all about the zone of proximity.

It is easier for me to transfer knowledge to someone, who has the same experience or only a few years experience less or more. She or he is in my zone of proximity.

This meant, that it would take me more time and effort to teach people, who have significant less experience in testing.

Within an hour I had a new follower on Twitter: a German guy, who had written a respectful blog post about the test pyramid. He looked somewhat familiar. And I had talked to him.

Look who’s speaking

A week after the announcement on the web I met Huib Schoots, the program chair. He asked:
“Did you see the program?”
“Yes, you were not on the list.”, I replied.

“I noticed, that Manon is on the list.”
“I encouraged her to submit.”, Huib admitted.

During the last break on the conference day I saw Manon sitting in the last row. So I informed about her workshop. We talked about tables and Wifi. Pieter and she had set up their own network. Another way to address a workshop risk. Jack in the box. Check.

After the break the audience was asked whether they had switched places. This conference was a way to meet other testers. I had moved from the front row to the back row.
Guilty as charged, Your Honour.

Thanks for the invitation Huib and Rosie.
And it all started here.

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.

[Update author: my opinion is not the same as the author of the referred characters, but I believe in the goodness of the good characters.]

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.

Adding humour

Expect the unexpected

In a white room I was asking questions. After each answer I posed a new question. Then I asked something and the whole joke collapsed. Nobody noticed, but I had taken a wrong turn. I felt bad.

The white walls vanished. I realised that I was having lunch at the kitchen table. One of my kids looked curiously at me. My wife had a concerned look: “Is everything Okay? You were shaking your head.”
“I was just thinking.”

A century earlier I was making a presentation. One of the must do’s of a graduation is a talk. And I really disliked the formal nature of the talk. Why could I not add some jokes?

After my graduation talk a female student said with a smile: “This was not what I had expected.”

Years later during a company meeting I showed the last slide with Edutainment in the footnote. It contained the name of a founder of the company. A saleswoman started to laugh out loud.

After the lecture the smiling Practice Lead gave me a high five. Somehow I had the right mix of statistics, testing, and jokes.

On the European Juggling Convention in Rotterdam I met a street artist. He was a small ugly man and had the look of Catweazle. It was hard for him to earn his money.

When he did not have enough money, he told, that he would stay in their village. And marry one of their daughters. “Then they would give me enough money for the bus.”

Practice makes people smile

My standard procedure for adding jokes is to do this in the last weeks before the presentation. This time I started months in advance.

For my slides I needed pictures. After taking the picture I asked one of my kids to have a look at my workshop slides. “This is the place where I will put the picture.” Then I took the time to explain the English joke in Dutch. I saw a big smile.

Weeks earlier I showed my slides of my workshop at TestBash Netherlands to a friend with no IT background. He smiled faintly.

IoJ internet of Jokes

This Fieldstone is not particularly focused on making jokes for my own presentation. It is only about the process of joking.

March this year on my way home I saw a tweet of Bart Knaack: “Test”. Some other testers reacted and he replied that he was using IFTTT. ‘If This Then That’ can be used to automate steps.

Wait a minute. He was preparing for a presentation of a test conference I would attend. It was about IoT or Internet of Things.

In my mind I visualised his presentation platform. So the tweets to him would be processed by IFTTT. This on line service would trigger an IoT device which in turn would perform a useful action for Bart.

If I tweeted him during his preparation, then I surely would draw his attention. I would tweet an explanation for IoT. I thought about the Rule of Three. Make that three explanations.

In the train I noted them in a mind map program. Why not three tweets? I continued to combine the strangest English words I read or heard while using different interpretations of I and o.

After crafting 3 tweets I just went on. This was fun. Then it was time for a tweet storm.

“IoT
Internet of Thieves?
Ignore other Things?
Imagination or Truth?
: ) “

“IoT
Insalata on Top?
Interesting or Threatening?
One Zero Two?
: )“

“IoT
I offer Tests?
Intelligent office Trolls?
Instant overall Talk?
: )“

“IoT
Immense ogre Tokens?
Increase ostrich Traffic?
Imploding oblivious Tension?
: )“

“IoT
Incoming orange Truckers?
Instill or Tranquilize?
Integrate old Thoughts?
: )“

A short explaining answer of Bart followed: “Internet of Things”.

I was in turbo joking mode and tweeted back:
“In other Thoughts
– One option Though –

Internet of Things

Ten Thanks“

Fun achieved.

It’s a Kinda Magic

During the stand up my boss had some doubts about my actions.
“I dropped it hard.” I stressed it.
“Hopefully it was not broken.” My scrum master remarked.
“If it is broken, then I just need some glue to fix it.” I replied.

During my testing career I had noticed that programmers had their own kind of humour. It is a wonderful way to make contact.

Let me sketch the context of another situation. In one book a favourite main character had to board a train on Platform 9 3/4. He had some difficulties to find it. This is completely understandable for muggles and No-Majs.

One morning I showed my smartphone to a dev:
“This picture I took at Utrecht Central Station”: Platform 9 3/4. He started to smile.

How about this?

At a Spring Event of TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing, I had one of the last talks of the day.

I advised them to put you at the end of the schedule, because “Han Toan can tell in an engaging way.”

I had just started my talk about a performance test.
“This year they finished the renovation of Rotterdam Central Station. In the hall you can see this light.” A picture of the light with lots of bulbs and poles was shown on slide 6.

“My wife really liked this light. I did not consider to give it to her on Mother’s Day.” [a few days earlier]
“The lights are blinking.” while opening and closing my hands continuously at shoulder level.

“If I would place this light in my house, I could not walk straight up in my living room and my kitchen.” I lowered my head in an uncomfortable position. Smiles appeared.

“This light is to indicate the meeting point.”
“Ze noemen de lamp De Wolk. In het Engels The Cloud.”
[They call the light The Cloud. In English The Cloud.]
“For the performance test we used the cloud.”
Now I had the full attention of the audience.