Category Archives: Testers conferring

Skin in the game of diversity

So I had my own piece of constructive feedback for tech conferences a few weeks ago.
Okay you may call it a rant. It was close.
Actually it was. For a good cause. Diversity.

As a blogger I could just lean back.
Now it was time for my action. Skin in the game.

Target One

This year I was on a test conference. The number of female speakers was low. Some male speakers might say:
“Let’s double the number of female speakers. Fine with us.”
“Thanks guys.”

There was one female co speaker. That makes two female co speakers.
Wait. Now let’s look at the incredible number of female keynote speakers of 0.
2 times 0 makes 0. If this would be quadrupled or octodupled, it would remain a disappointing 0.

In my experience there are more great female testers than 2 in the Netherlands. Let’s give them a place on stage. Main stage please. Thanks in advance.

In the past no correspondence was possible about the proposal selection process of this conference. Discussion takes time especially with Dutchmen. So a bit of transparency might help.

“You’ve got a question. What is your question?”
“I think that there are great stories of women out there. We don’t have the time to coach them.”
“Just go to techvoices.org
[Update: TechVoices was formerly known as Speak Easy.]
“But this is a Dutch conference.”
“Indeed. But English is no problem for the attendees.”
“There are no Dutch coaches.”
“That also worries me a lot. A testing country without Dutch speaking coaches is strange.”

My first tweet to the conference was a wish for 2018: more female speakers than in 2017. No reaction at all. That was my target practicing. Next.

The next tweet was aimed to the chairman. I remembered two announcements of keynote speakers:

  • “When I was in London for BCS, I met [white male speaker]. I was quite impressed with his talk, so [ ….]”
  • “The other keynote speaker is [white male speaker] . I met him at TestBash Netherlands. “

Now let me stress that I am impressed with the test experience and knowledge of these keynote speakers. Now imagine two female keynote speakers and my reaction would be double wow.

Ready, aim, tweet.
My friendly request to the chairman was to have a look at a list of female testers in case of keynotes.
The answer was considerate: some of the ladies had already spoken as keynote speakers, but he would try to get other ladies on stage.

My tweet had an unexpected side effect, which I had not anticipated. A case of collateral praise. One female speaker reacted with “cool and Very proud” to be on this list.

Target zero
A few weeks ago Rosie Sherry pointed to a whole discussion about #PayToSpeak. As a speaker it is the norm to pay your travelling and accommodation costs. Both Rosie and I don’t like this.

I reacted with a Balanced Conference Card.
Just answer enough questions with Yes and you have a balanced conference.

“Why was TestBash target 0?”
“It was not. TestBash is one of the conferences focused on balance.”
“Why did you call this paragraph ‘Target 0’?”
“It is an inside joke.
Programmers always count from 0.”

Anyways my blog post ended up in the newsletter of Ministry of Testing. Thanks.

A week ago there was another discussion about female speakers. I pointed to my blog post. Somehow I ended up as an ally.

Target Two Too

Next tweet target was a huge European test conference.
You know: this size fits only one in Europe.
I actually was hesitant to send a tweet, but a disappointed tweet of a famous tester about another male lineup at a conf pushed me out of my comfort zone into my action zone.

Now comes the scary part.
The program chair had no Twitter account. A few years ago this was already mentionable according to his track chair. So I picked the conf itself.

I thought it was good to praise the conference organisers for actions taken for a diverse lineup this year. The aforementioned famous tester was also pleased with the steps taken in the past. So I retweeted her reaction with the request to keep up the good work.

This left an unaddressed program committee.
I tweeted a female member of the program committee to repeat the success of diverse lineup of this year. She did not react.

The conf did. Gender bias was taken care of by making the proposals anonymous. Reads good to me.

Target Two Too

By now you know the drill:

  • Pick a tech conf.
  • Make a compliment and/or request.
  • If you need a link or blog post
    https://mindfultester.com/a-balanced-conference-card/
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/need-new-speakers-han-toan-lim
    https://agiletestingdays.com/blog/125-awesome-testers-you-should-keep-your-eye-on-always
    https://abstracta.us/blog/software-testing/influential-latin-american-women-testing-need-know
    speaking-easy.com

    [added later, see reason below ]

So if you want to have more diversity, you have my permission to use these actions.
Excuse me for scaring you.

Some tech confs have questions about diversity.  I respect their point of view. I heard really good stories about first time speakers supported by Speak easy
Oops let me add this to the list above.[v]

Conferences want praise from their attendees. So give New Voices a stage like Agile Testing Days. You know what: those first time speakers have a lot of keynote potential in themselves.

Little thought experiment

Bio 1: I am a white male speaker. My dad sent me to the best schools and universities, because he could afford it. I now work at a Fortune 500 company.

Bio 2: I am an African American woman. I grew up in the Bronx. We were really poor. The only times we saw a computer it was on the television.

One day I was invited by Per Scholas. They thought I was bright. I laughed. They suggested something with computers. Me and computers, I could not stop laughing for 1 minute.

Anyway I got some really good teachers. And I could touch a computer without some comment like:
“Hey, what you’re doing?”
It was not that difficult to pick up things. It was logical.

For me the time with Per Scholas was like a Christmas story. After school it would be back in the shop selling veggies. You know what. I got a good job offer. Ain’t that great?

“Wait you are writing everything down.”
“Sure.”
“But that is not a good bio.”
“I assure it adds so much flavour.”

Of course I am biased, if I see those bios.

  • A very influential tester once told me, he would like to follow the Per Scholas course. And he is already good.
  • These days I have to learn a lot just to keep up. What could this woman teach me about struggling and keeping faith?
  • I want to see the underdog.

Okay recruiters, don’t send me mails now.
I have a disappointing message for you. Both bios are fake.
Because this is a thought experience: you know like imaginary or hypothetical or dreamed up.

Target Me

Now what is all that stuff about skin in the game?
Good question. Which needs a good answer.

If I get accepted by a tech conf and there is big unbalance, then I will bail out.
I won’t speak.
This talk will be dearly missed on my CV and my Conference Speaker Bingo Card,  but that is my skin in the game.

Side notes

  • I am going to submit to 2 #PayToSpeak confs in the next few weeks. Although I don’t like this.
  • One conference is part of yearly package deal membership under 100 Euro. This club offers a lot to the testing community. So I give something back.
  • One conference is so nearby I lose a small amount of money for travelling. I can sleep at home.
  • And I want break my streak of speaking every other year. In the meantime I have this, a blog to practice my speaking skills.

That Feeling a Lone

After my talk about a performance test I spotted two other speakers. I just joined their conversation: “How did your talks go?” A moment later I heard Rik Marselis asking behind me: “Han Toan, how did your talk go?”

The other speakers turned their attention to me and I talked about testing. Then I remembered Rik. I turned my head, but he was gone. That evening I did not spot him anymore.

Later that week I mailed him a 20 line mail about my talk.
Did I do this, because he is a known tester in the Netherlands?
No.
Did I do this, because he was the president of TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing?
No.
I wrote him, because he was really interested in my experiences. I just sent him a Reverse Polished Notice.

@ Conf Alone

A few weekends ago a speaker reflected on a test conference. It was good, but it was difficult to make real contact. There were only 2 tweets which lead to a massive discussion. The second tweet touched the members of the test community. People were suggesting solutions and sent words of support. In turn this lead to strange reactions like “It was a great conf and I felt inclusive.”

It all boiled down to the question: what would happen, if I join a conversation? To be more precisely, if I join a conversation midstream.

Suppose you are the chairman of a meeting. All participants are people you can talk with freely. At one moment two people want to say something. You pick Cecilia and John has to wait. After Cecilia had her say, what would you do?

When I come home, my kids really want to share some stories with me. I hear the first sentences of different stories from different kids. So I have to pick. What would I do after one story has been told?

I am not really super human. Luckily, my wife is taking care that I am taking care of …

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.

Four Meetings and uh View ‘Em All

My first blog post about TestBash NL 2017

Un

Just before the Lean Caffee I saw one of my Twitter heroes.
I stood up and shaked hands with Patrick Prill.
“Nice to meet you.”
“We already met in Runo a few years ago.”
And I could not remember it. Hmmm.

Deux

During the Lean Caffee I was tapped on my left shoulder. Curiously I turned my head to the left: nobody.
O yeah, that old joke.
I turned my head to right seeing Bart Knaack smiling. Still in for a joke.
Always nice to meet him again.

Trois

So I asked the wonan with bright pink hair: “Are you @gwendiagram?”
“Yes.”, she confirmed.
Curiously she asked: “What is your Twitter handle?”
“@MIndfulTester.”,  I answered in a neutral tone.

A big smile came up:
“You are @MIndfulTester!!”
I loved the positive energy, which I felt. But I was puzzled about the reasons.

Quatre

After the talks I told Mary Gilmartin about our talk in the pub the day before:
“I did not know you were talking.”

Somehow I was more surprised about this fact than our little chat about TDD.

Changing the Scene

Did I ever spend hours on a presentation? And my own money on traveling for this talk? On top of that vacation leave? Yes, I did.

When I talked about it with other speakers, it did not get even better: astonishment or silence.

I paid to speak.

Honour

In the second year of this century I was a volunteer at the European Juggling Convention in Rotterdam. This low budget convention needed volunteers to break even. So I paid for the convention and spent hours to help the organisation. Afterwards they paid any costs I made including the convention ticket. My badge of honour was and is the crew T shirt.

Being invited to speak at a test conference is considered an honour between testers. An invisible, but mentionable badge: I got congratulations. On a conference people shook my hand and wished me success with my talk.

There are several privileges for being a speaker. And still recognition in words may not be enough. Bills have to be paid. I was never hired, because I was a great speaker. Or an engaging blogger.

In 2015 Eindhoven University of Technology introduced the Nanny Fund to pay costs for children of employees attending conferences.

Persistence

This year I changed my lifetime goal to give a half day tutorial on a specific test conference. I am still grateful for writing all my refused proposals. I learned to make better ones, My employer will cover some conferences and trainings, but as a born Dutchman I had to look at the costs.

This bold move was possible thanks to Maaret Pyhärjärvi, who made a spreadsheet. It is an overview of costs being paid by the conferences.

The next step was to look at delegate reports. What makes this conference great? How is the atmosphere? Can I learn there something useful? Do they share the same humour?

Basically where is all the fun?

This year Eurotesting Conference will cover the travelling costs of a first time speaker to a major test conference.

Connection

During my holiday I was challenged. Just search on #30daysoftesting on Twitter.  For one task I had to find an inspiring quote. That was difficult. I could browse blogs and books from famous testers, but that would probably not lead to a unique quote.

I still had a free pdf of Derek Sivers about attracting people as a professional musician. There were advises, which could easily be adopted by testers:
“If you don’t say what you sound like, you won’t make any fans.”
“Know who you are, and have the confidence that somewhere out there, there’s a little niche of people that would like your kind of music.”

Then I used the following quote:
“Every contact with the people around your music (fans and industry) is an extension of your art.”

A month later I was writing a proposal for a workshop for TestBash Netherlands. I was questioned to describe myself. Normally I would use a lot of credentials. I remembered my Twittered quote. Now I used humour to convince the program committee.

In August I got the news, that my half day workshop was accepted for TestBash. My adjusted life goal was sooner than I thought. And a bigger challenge than I had anticipated.  Some Huib used the word awesome to describe the line up.

This year EuroTesting conference interviewed every speaker, who had sent a proposal.

A week after the announcement of TestBash 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.

The fun had started.