Category Archives: Story telling

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.

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.

Can you picture that?

Recurring situation in my family.
“Where is dad?”
“He is taking a picture.”
Moments later:
“What did you see?”
“I saw something funny.”

In my previous blog post I wrote about Fieldstones. Jerry Weinberg used the metaphor of building a wall using Fieldstones to describe the writing of a story. I have to be mindful about my environment and then … I notice something. That can be told as a single story or part of a story. I just wonder and make a note.

At the moment I am trying to find the right pictures for my workshop at TestBash Netherlands. My basic idea was to use sketchnotes as Fieldstones. But the pictures in my notes had to be visualised.
O yeah, I’ve got a camera in my smartphone.

I thought about a Dutch windmill, so I had to cycle through the polder to make a nice picture. It required some timing from my side: with a full workweek and less sun every day I had to do it in the weekend.

All the elements of a typical Dutch landscape were present:
a windmill, a polder, and a nice greeny dike
photographed by a Chinese on a bike.

What makes a good conversation starter? In my case it is a good story about visuals. It can be the awkward use of words. I can tell for minutes, but making a picture stops or slows down my flow. It gives my listener a moment of rest to reflect on my message.

A picture can also give another view on a situation. As a tester I make models of programs, so I can perform better tests. There are words to describe them: test techniques and heuristics.

Which ones do I use? Most of the time it boils down to a small set. Once in a while the same tools are used too often. A simple statement of the end user can make me aware of what I am missing. Then I have to adopt: choose another way of testing or extend my test technique or heuristic. That is the most important part of my workshop.

Is there a way to determine, whether I use the right way of modelling? Maybe if I find bugs. Or when a content customer calls.

Until I will stop with testing, I have to observe and ponder upon my way of testing. This requires Continuous thinking about what can be improved in this context.

 

I think: “I just wrote another Fieldstone.”

Blimey, I intended to write about using funny pictures in my slides, but this Fieldstone was shaped in another way.

Can you picture that?

Free Gift as a Service

A few months ago Jokin Aspaziu gave a gift to the Test Community. He added Spanish subtitles to an online video. Testinsane.com is doing the same with a big set of mind maps. On a Saturday someone placed a question on a forum about a checklist for testing. I just referred to this big set of mind maps.

So here is my gift, which costed me more than 100 hours of work in my free time (and another 4 hours for blogging this). I am sharing this for free by giving multiple views on a software test exercise. After all it is my way to put my thoughts on the web.

The exercise
[Preparation teacher:
Explore the program extensively yourself before using the exercise.
Be sure, that there are enough smartphones (iPhones are not supported :( ) and laptops plus wifi for the exercise.]

“You have to test a multiplication. You have 5 minutes to prepare. I am the PO or Product Owner. You can ask me any question.”

[My observations for this and similar exercises:
Two things can happen:

  1. Attendees are writing a lot of test cases.
  2. Attendees ask a lot of questions.

FAQ teacher
Q: why do we need to test a multiplication?
A: this is written in a new programming language.

Q: what can be multiplied?
A: all kind of numbers.

Q: are real numbers supported?
A: yes.

Some advices:

  • Give only information, when asked.
  • Act, if you know everything.
  • Tell a consistent story.]

[After the five minutes]
“What are you going to do?”
Or “What did you find out?”

[In case of silence or answers about test cases you can ask the attendees:

  • What is your mission?
  • What are you going to test?
  • What are the priorities in testing?
  • Etc.]

“You have 10 minutes to test the application. Here is the link to the application: 2015.mindfultester.com/test_this.html”

[Additional information:
Give only information when asked.

Depending on the purpose of the context of the exercise you can encourage people to make notes.

In the past there were several reasons why I had to part from my smartphone:

  • It does not operate on an iPhone.
  • The battery of an attendee’s phone is low.]

[After 10 minutes of testing]
“Time is over. I want you to form pairs and debrief each other.”

[In case of uneven number of attendees let one attendee debrief to you.]

After the debriefing
“What were your experiences?”

[If people continue to talk about bugs, you can ask about exploring or notes. Did you accomplish your mission?

Other question:
“I was the PO. Why did you not ask me about [program]?”]

A workshop
The reader is of course advised to embed the exercise in a workshop. A good example is note taking during testing as subject. What must be noted during testing?

The first part could be focused on personal experiences and information from bug registration tools. An overhead projector can be used to show some notes as used in practice.
Let people voice their opinions and let them discuss the options.

In the second part theory could be presented like ET templates. ET is short for Exploratory Testing and not for a cute little stranded traveller looking for a roof and candy.

The last part is the exercise. As described above.

Tooling
I was looking for a way to engage all attendees at the same time. It would be great, if they could do the exercise at their own pace. Not everyone has a laptop, but smartphones are quite common these days.

So I wanted to have a tool to make an app for mobile phones. The development environment and deployment of the application for workshop should be free and it should be able to support more than 20 attendees at the same time. Hum, these sentences sound like requirements.

I looked to different tools. There were a lot of cloud based tools, but they had restrictions on users or mobile platforms. Also had time consuming pitfalls like learning to code. I try to avoid proprietary code.

Then I noticed Twine. This tool had a similar interface of a CMS or Content Management System for web sites. It was free and simple to use. Twine is used to tell a story with branches. So I could add several happy endings. Or in the case of a bug a bad ending.
It can even be used for a RPG or Role Playing Game: please enter the room. Hit the baddies and take the loot. Cheers. Have another healing potion. Rinse & repeat.

Then the painful embedding of Twine html in my web site started. It looked bad. Some forums did not have proper information, so I had to place it outside this blog space.

But I had still more than enough Mb left over in my hosting space. So I cruised through my personal Command and Control Centre of my hosting provider and discovered that I could use subdomains. That sounded pretty cool. 2015.mindfultester.com was born.

The next step was to move the file to the internet. I used ftp. Very primitive, but good enough.

Another speed limit was imposed by the awkward URL. That is a lot of typing. On Twitter I discovered, that bit.ly is used frequently. It reduced the number of characters to be entered after the slash to a reasonable digit. I looked on the web site. It was free. What was the business model? Marketing could use the information of the click behaviour. Rather useful for keeping tracks of campaigns. Only this information would cost money.

A similar tool is the QR code. The user needs a QR reader or a photo to URL converter on his smartphone. On the Internet I found several QR code generators for free use.

Programming
The difficulty with bugs is, that they are small and sometimes hard to detect. With a high reproducibility bug reports I had to investigate a lot. The consequence was that programmers got a reproduction path with more than 10 steps. From me.

My basic idea was to make a calculator with buttons for digits and a lot more. I first tried a rough version to explore the possibilities; it worked and I was happy for a short time. A calculator lookalike would cost me lots of work, so I skipped it. So the prototype slowly evolved in the program of the featured exercise.

How would I be able to keep track of the right state of the program? A state transition diagram offered a simple way to design it. Then a new proof of concept or PoC was needed to verify, whether I could program it. Then I PoCed again and again.

My auto generated html file looked good on a desktop. There were some drawbacks on a mobile phone: small characters and difficult to manoeuvre. So I added some space to handle big finger tips.

History
In 2014 I was invited to give a 2 hour workshop for the Let’s Test conference. In the last years I had developed a strong preference for a work and learn experience. So I wanted to have some exercises, which could be done by the participants. The featured exercise is one of the three.

When I read the blog posts of previous conferences, I noticed a pattern. Surprisingly not every tester at this context driven test conference was extrovert. So the exercises should be done by introvert testers. At their own pace in their own Circle of Comfort.
Then I used all my humour to convince them to come to my workshop.

On the first day of the test conference I met a shy tester. She was looking for an interesting talk or workshop. I suppressed the urge to mention my workshop. This would not be consistent with my blog post and invitation for introvert testers.

In hindsight the exercise was out of place. With all the hours spent I did not consider to drop it. What were the bad signs?

  • I flipped through the slides, until I discovered that I had to do two exercises in succession. So there was no good mental hook for this exercise.
  • The exercise was linked to the message: little tricks lead to nice combinations. Were the actions of the attendees really tricks? On a high level of abstraction maybe.
  • I ran over my 45 minutes limit with 100 %. The exercise was one of the causes of this time expenditure.

Another observation was, that the QR code and bit.ly did not accelerate the start of the actual testing.

Related posts
For the testing of this exercise I used different people.

My last upload before my workshop was for me another exercise in exploration. The actual exercise was not completely smooth.

Just for fun
Why is it not possible to explore outside the domain of software testing and make decent notes?
And make a smile on the face of the reader?
Just by breaking a bike lock.

Special mentions
The one, who inspired to write this blog post, is Matthew Middleton. He asked a puzzle for testing on a forum.

In order to get so many views on the exercise I used a variation of the Rule of Three. This rule basically states, that there are at least three questions to be asked. Why not views?

Have another one. Take a health potion mind map.

Mindmap of this blog post

Hit the baddies road and take the loot exercise. Cheers.

I want to thank Michael Bolton for experiencing his calculator exercise. Thanks for Carsten Feilberg for his workshop about Exploratory Testing at Tasting Let’s Test NL. Also thanks for Elisabeth Hendrickson for writing about her experiences with ET and Jean Paul Varwijk for putting ET templates on line (arborosa.org). And finally special thanks for Ray Oei for making me rethink testing.

Afterthought
I can make a test scenario with 100 % coverage of the shown tests and only good positives. Some might call it checking.

I can make a test scenario with more variations in state transitions, which leads to some good negatives. Some might call it testing.

Some people would love to automate tests.

Story delivery

“The judge will also take delivery in consideration: the way you tell it.”
A colleague about a game.

Do you understand?
“Do you know how they work at Toyota?” I asked a manager.
After a remarkable silence he responded carefully with:
“They keep their inventory low.” Then he continued to talk about it.
I nodded. “They also use Andon.”
“Andon?”
I told him, that every employee in the company was entitled to stop the process in order to improve it. Then I spoke about the benefits.
“I feel comfortable to tell you, what I think.” I added.
“I like to hear that”, he responded.

As a tester I frequently have to tell people, that something needs to be fixed. It is hard.

Why do people fail to deliver a good story outside their own company? Specifically at test conferences.

Whom did you choose?
In this paragraph I try to answer the question:
How is a good speaker selected for a test conference?

If there are two candidates with the same experience, it might be prudent to choose the one with confidence.
He is introvert, so…
So the next time there is huge chance, that the same person is chosen. He has more experience and more confidence.

Another way to create a bias in speaker selection is to use a proposal. I agree with people, that a good summary can be a good indicator for a good talk. I also want to write, that a talk is spoken and not written.
Yes, it is OK to read this blog post.
No, it is NOK to read the slides aloud.

If there is a woman eager to speak, then another bias might pop up. Most testers are men, so…

I once did an audition for a talk using my smartphone. It was a bad idea: I constantly look at the screen like child, who awkwardly observed a mirror for the first time. If I got a little help from a professional camera team, I would increase my odds twentyfold.
(But I am Dutch, so  …)

Another coloured opinion.
He has a Chinese name, but most testers I know, are white and male. So…

I am totally aware, that this is an unbalanced view of conferences.  There are test conferences, which actively promote diversity on their web sites or have a proper woman man ratio for speakers.
Last year I, a yellow male speaker, was greeted by an African European test conference organiser.
Last year I saw a conference adjusting his acceptance process within weeks.
This year a major test conference will have two female keynote speakers after a decent increase of 2.

Things are changing.  For better. Diversity.

Did you consider this?
A week after the Dutch Student Championships I had karate fight in the dojo. My opponent was better than me. He beated me all the time. I was in the student team, he not. So the best are not always in the spotlights.

Last year I asked a good tester, whether he would go to a specific conference. He answered with: “The usual suspects.”
BTW it is not the movie and I did not have to translate this from Dutch to English.

At the beginning of this century I heard a story about a famous tester. He knew how to be accepted at major test events. But
“He is telling the same stuff over and over again.”

Let’s agree about a few facts:

  • There are females.
  • There are people, who use the systems you test.

Suppose you want to have some small talk with the end users. With men it looks simple: drink a pint of beer in a pub. With female end users?

Back to work. How do you know, when female users are not pleased with the application under test? For agile methodologies this is important. Let me substitute “agile” by “all”.
That sounds much better.

According to the independent Central Bureau for Statistics (www.cbs.nl) roughly the half of the Dutch population is female in 2015. So the chance, that the gender of a common Dutch computer program user is female, is 50%. Probably getting close to 95 % for an embroidery app. That’s my best guess.

As a Chinese I belong to a minority. Only 1 of 5 people on this very planet is Chinese. Even a small percentage of more than 1 billion people can be a nice niche market.(I also heard stories about companies having a hard time in China. Maybe I am also hampered with a confirmation bias. :(
I am Chinese, so…

In 2000 I had to switch planes in New York. At the airport the signs were written in 2 languages: English and Spanish.

Who can help me?
For a hesitant speaker it looks difficult to change this process. There are ways for reverse selection.

Conferences are trying to find new voices for their stages. On a regular basis I get kind requests to send in proposals. Sometimes they are personalised. Years ago I had submitted several proposals to conferences and they didn’t forget me. I don’t mind this.

There are even special speaker slots for beginning speakers. This spring I surprised my colleagues, that I was not accepted: I was too experienced.

In April one test conference teamed up with experienced female testers to increase the influx of speakers of the same gender. Twitter showed a nice increase of proposals of the targeted speaker population.

Speak Easy is one of my favourite things. It is focused on diversity. Redirecting attention to experienced female speakers. Supporting wannabe speakers with crafting abstracts and talks. Securing speaker slots for newbie speakers. The mentors have a lot of experience, which can benefit first time speakers and conferences as well.

Where can I get practice?
Did you ever speak with friends, family members, colleagues, peers, delegates of a conference, attendees of meetups, or members of Special Interest Groups about testing? Or with total strangers? That can be scary.

There is no straight stairway to practice delivery of a story, but there are ample opportunities.

Some tips

  • My father told me, that I should learn to tell a good joke. For me it was a way to start.
  • Use a diary.
  • Talk with your spouse or friend about the funniest thing that happened today. Preferably with complete transcriptions of the dialogue complemented with the right tone and faces.
  • Write spoken language next to written language.
  • Learn to ask (obnoxious) questions.
  • More and more conferences ask for twitter handles, blog posts, and other on line pieces of evidence proving, that candidate speakers can engage people. And touch them.

Related posts
Teaching = Learning
The need for new speakers
Safety first
Do you want to talk about it?
In Case of Emergency Press 1

PS the picture at the beginning of this post is nothing special. I could make it a cliff hanger for the next blog post. That is not a good idea.

Some readers would like to prod me for the special cut technique I used to split the apple. The brand of the knife or the way I hold the fruit in my hand. The next obvious step would be to practice the cut for the next hours and then taking bets from ignorant friends.
[I already hear the sound of glasses, which are filled with cool refreshing amber coloured fruit juice.]

 

 

 

 

 

You’re still there.
Are you ready to read further?

You’re sure?

 

Okay. Here you go.

I was just lucky to slice the apple in this way and mindful enough to take a picture.

I wrote you: it was not special.

Story delivery is not about the package. It is all about the content and the story teller’s view.

 

A stoic view on the Circle of Influence

This is a story, which matured over the years. Lingering in my thoughts waiting to be told.
So behold.
(Yes, it is time for a rhyme.)

Circle of Concern
At the end of the workshop Introduction Mind Mapping I told, that I was working on a workshop about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Two young colleagues reacted immediately. All smiles and eagerness.
“I want to come. Where is it?”
This announcement was a typical case of skin in the game. I could not stop now.

I kindly informed the programme committee about my intentions. Also now I had strong reactions: offices were fighting for my workshop. I picked the first office, which had reacted. After the announcement other consult giving colleagues on projects reacted with:
“Are you willing to give the workshop in the evening?”

During my time as a consultant I visited the office regularly between projects. People had finally time to wind down after a busy period. There was also time to study books. The book of Covey was an intriguing one. It was hard to grasp and it was a must read. This was a real dilemma.

The first time I told about my plans. A friend reacted with:
“You are all smiling.”

During the first day of the workshop I introduced the Circle of Concern.
“The Circle of Concern contains things you bother about.”
A compelling example was easily chosen: that very evening a manager might call team members, that they were fired.

Circle of Influence
I also pointed out, that not everyone or everything in the Circle of Concern could be influenced. So I signed a Circle of Influence inside the Circle of Concern.
“Can you call some persons you cannot influence?”
After a suggestion I placed a dot with Manager inside the Circle of Concern, but outside the Circle of Influence. More options were discussed and more dots placed.
Particularly in the Circle of Influence.

On my way home I received a call from my emotional manager:
“I have to call you, because you are fired.”
I protested formally and the call ended.

That very evening I  concerned people by phoning them, that I was fired. Looking back at this period my wife said:
“You were really confident to get a new job.”
Due to the exercise I knew exactly what to do. There was no grief, only determination.

Interlude
In the days after the dreadful call I was kindly requested to stop all my activities including the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Attendees protested to no avail. What I had planned as a viral workshop, was put on hold.

Looking back to this course of circumstances I might challenge the reader to point out a Circle of Concern and a Circle of Influence. There are multiple. What I want to write, is to give a philosophical view of the story.

Stoicism as a Service
I still remember the discussed options in my Circle of Influence. They gave me a direction to move. There were no emotions at that moment.

While writing this article I somehow became emotional. I tried to trace it back to its roots: I was reflecting the emotions of my manager and my co-workers.

Once I heard a family member quoting, that being fired is one of the most emotional things that can happen to people. The actual message of the firing did not influence my emotions. I somehow reflected the negative wave.

Until a week ago I did not give much thought about it. A common thought would be:
“I take this as a grown up. I won’t budge. No cry.”
But then I had no superman feelings at all.

Some people might say that I was past the denial phase. Or was it “Walk your talk”?

I was rational at that moment. Bad thoughts were not bugging me. I had a stoic attitude during those days. I viewed the loss of a job as a broken shoestring. I just needed a new 1.

Is a stoic approach not a bad way of living? A denial of emotions and focusing on the current steps. I once read a book about stoicism and one of the lessons was to shield myself against negative thoughts and let the positive feelings in.

I still remember that great feeling, when my young co-workers were excited about announcement of the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Or feel the excitement of my colleagues on projects. Or that warm smile of me, when I heard “You are all smiling.”, when I told my plan to a friend.

Does this Circle of Influence make me bullet proof against bad feelings? No.
During the writing of this blog post I felt the loss of my former manager and the disappointment of my colleagues. As a tester I am still busy to keep my emotions under control. And I think, that it can be useful to show, that I am not pleased with a particular situation.

I am a testing human being, not a testing robot.

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 look behind the scenes – In Runö

When I mentioned at Let’s Test Conference in  2015, that I came from the Netherlands, the following question was likely to be asked:
“Do you know Huib Schoots?”
My standard answer was:
“Yes. And he knows me.”

At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam I was waiting to check in my suitcase. Behind my back I heard: “Hey ugly man” I turned around. Ready to confront this man. Huib was looking at me with his characteristic wide grin.

When I arrived at the belt to pick up my suitcase at Arlanda Airport, Huib was talking with Bill Matthews:
“Do you know him?”
“The juggler.”
Huub confirmed that with an
“A huh”.

Shifting gears
On Sunday May 24 I arrived for the Let’s Test conference in Runö. In the conference centre one of the first testers I talked to, was Henrik Andersson.
“You asked me to do an extra juggling workshop. When would you like me to give this workshop?”
“This evening would be great.”
I agreed. On Twitter I had already seen a suitcase of Paul Holland packed with games.

That evening I packed 6 devilsticks with 12 hand sticks. When I arrived at the hall, Henrik saw me. He smiled and gave a thumbs up. I chose the bar room, because there was a lot of traffic. The chance, that people would join me juggling, was great. Henrik joined in. Even a man with a ponytail started juggling. The following moment I noticed, that Michael Bolton was juggling with one of my devilsticks. I did not believe my eyes. I thought about one of my advices in my conference workshop:
Don’t fear your peer.

I was so focused on my workshop, that I forgot to exercise answering the standard questions like

  • What is the name of your company?
  • What kind of products or services does your firm offer?

I was completely in the presentation mode: I had not practiced my small talk English. The proper translation of the Dutch word patiënt is patient?!

Flirting with disaster
On Monday morning I could not sleep any more. It was the early sun rise. So I opened my laptop to add another bug for my exercise. For some reason testers like to find bugs. The modification went well. Within 30 minutes I had finished it and tested the program. The last thing, that I had to do, was uploading the file to a server. I opened a connection. I got confirmation, that the upload was successful followed by a cryptic message about a data connection. I looked on the server: the old file was removed and it was not replaced by the new one.

At that very moment I realised, that I had made a major error. I assumed, that the connection was safe. So I did not take any precautionary measures like renaming the file, which had to be removed. So I gave it another few tries to no avail. In plain English I had just ruined an exercise.

Then I looked on the internet. The plausible cause was the firewall of the hotel computer network, which did not support uploading files. So I used my smartphone (with a mobile provider) instead to upload the file and everything was all right at the end.

Speaker‘s Corner
After the Monday morning sessions I was tired. So I went to my hotel room and had a long nap. Then I returned to the main building. I saw Ruud Cox, who was listening to Huib Schoots. The latter was talking about the building blocks of his workshop the next day and the time estimates of these blocks.

During his workshop on Tuesday Huib said:
“I always ask feedback.” And
“Tell every day to a colleague, what you have done that day. ”
“If you cannot find someone, place a rubber duck on your desk and start talking.” 

So I went to an empty table. Then I noticed, that more speakers were gathered in the same room: Jean-Paul Varwijk, Joep Schuurkens, Michael Bolton, Laurent Bossavit (?). Probably improving their talks. I went through my slides of “What I learned from juggling as a tester” on my smart phone and juggled a little bit.

Sharing the fun
My facilitator was Duncan Nisbet. The familiar question popped up: “How shall I introduce you?”I mentioned 3 things, which should be included. Then I referred to this blog for additional information. Then Duncan introduced me as a “good storyteller”.

I had never told him a story before. I was just sharing some on this blog. Anyways … 

Then I started with a story about a boy missing a foot and most of his fingers, who wanted to learn juggling from me.

On my ride to Runö I was sharing a cab with Bill Matthews, Chris Grant, and Dan Billing. The latter said something about the inner tester. The following morning I knew I had the perfect example for a story. Just before the keynote of Ben Simo I asked Dan permission to use this single sentence in my workshop. He agreed. On the last evening of the conference I told him, how I used it. This lead to a wonderful conversation about “needs, values and relationships”.

There’s a mismatch
On one of my sheets I am wearing a dark and a white sock. Nobody mentioned it.  Maybe you do notice now.

On the other hand two unexpected bugs surfaced during my exercise: there was a huge error in a sentence. The second one was, that my exercise was not usable on an iPhone. I forgot the portability test.

Oops sorry
During my workshop Henrik Andersson had entered the room. I was so concentrated on my presentation, that it looked to me he appeared out of nothing. I started talking about discovering a juggling trick. On the sheet the following text was shown:
“Create a framework to correct errors”.

“I did not discover this trick [helicopter], because my framework was too strict.”
Then I apologised to Henrik:
“Yesterday evening I gave a workshop. Henrik Andersson was present.
[Turning my attention to Henrik] If you cannot learn the helicopter, it is, because I gave you a too rigid framework. So I apologise for this.”

A question, which back fired
I showed a sheet with frequently asked questions about juggling to the audience. One of the questions was: “Do you juggle with fire?” I repeated this question aloud, followed by:
“This question was asked right before this workshop.”
One of the delegates got a red face and laughed hard.

Thanks for the workshop
While I waited for my cab, Kristjan Uba came personally to me to thank me for the workshop. I recognised him, because the evening before he was intensely observing Tobias Fors (?) and me solving the dice game. This was hosted by Michael Bolton. Kristjan wanted to learn the finer details of coaching this game.

Trying to look friendly I searched my memory for this man. Luckily Kristjan helped me by telling about juggling the devilstick himself. Then I noticed the ponytail. It was the juggling workshop on Sunday evening. So I juggled with 2 famous testers and a speaker.

 

Are you appreciated as a tester?

Some people might wonder at the size of the cup. My answer is, that I got it from a famous tester. Then the following list of action points is likely to be proposed:

  • Sell it on eBay.
  • Gather proof i.e. pictures.
  • Request Huib Schoots to sign a certificate of authenticity, that he gave this cup to Han Toan Lim for the most intensive and concentrated test session at ..

At that  moment I would interrupt with:
“Time Out dude. You cannot buy appreciation; you have to earn it.”

Test right there
The consultant with a strong HR background in IT looked at me.
“I see those small wheels spinning in your head. If you can read a design document, you can probably write one.”
“I already did.”, I admitted.
He continued: “Then you can describe the flow. If you can describe the flow, then you can program.”
He looked to me with the silent question:
“Why do you not move up the ladder?”

At that moment the time slowed down to a stop. Internally I sighed for 3 seconds. Then time accelerated to the normal speed. Reality snapped back and I was confused. Only a tenth of a second had passed in reality. I saw a man looking at me and waiting for an answer. Like a stubborn school boy I stated: “I just want to test.”

Talking about talking kids
During the holiday my wife talked about the show for children: “The theme is job. So a member of the animation team asked the kids about the job of their father.” I heard, that one of my kids answered with “Not a real job.”. I groaned. Another one said: “Software tester.” My wife imitated the small, hesitant voice of animator: “A software tester?!”

Then she prepared me, that something worse would come. I steeled myself. The next kid said: “Police agent.” The voice of the animator became enthusiastic: “Police agent. Did you hear that: police agent. That is great!” My wife was not pleased. Neither was I.

Yours gratefully
On my last day in the office and my last workday I noticed, that one of the functional application  managers had not dropped by to say goodbye. So I went to his desk. The talk, that followed, was about gone times, the present time and  times to come.

During the talk we had walked to the door to the corridor. It was the door to a new future for me. It was time to say goodbye. While shaking hands the functional application manager extended his left arm and patted on my shoulder. He let his smile disappear and instead he pressed his lips together to suppress his sadness. “You fare well.”
At that very moment I really felt appreciated as a tester.