Category Archives: Visualise It

Zoom out. Zoom in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zoom out: out of office.

Rat’s Head, Ox’s Neck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had seriously enjoyed myself. 🙂


Thanks for reading.
Yours Mindfully.

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?

Sketchnoting Fieldstones

My workshop “An Appendix to Visual Testing” had been accepted. It was time to make sketchnotes.

Patient with Proposing
This spring I created a 30 minute presentation about Visual Testing for a test conference. On Twitter I had read about last minute changes because of other obligations of the speakers. Although I had not been selected for replacement, I still carried my presentation with me on that conference. Digital files are so easy to carry around these days.

Using the Fast Fast Forward button I could show the delegates some highlights of my testing solutions. I try to avoid this style. I prefer Try and Remember.

With no conferences on my program I stocked my presentation on my hard disk. For the record, before 2016 I was not particular fortunate with this proposal at at least three other test conferences on this planet.

“Some day my conf will come.” [On the melody of “Some day my prince will come.”]

In the following months I reused the workshop idea twice for different conferences. Two polite thankful rejections followed. I still had faith in the workshop, so I pitched it again. Then I got good news: a half day tutorial at Testbash Netherlands.

Creative with Crafting
Given a half day is 4 hours when I have a presentation of a half hour then I have to fill another 3 and a half hours. Emily Bache once talked about Arrange, Act, and Assert. At last I had arranged my workshop. So I had to act in order to assert that I would have a half day tutorial.

Luckily my presentation was a dehydrated version of a workshop. With enough water I had a 3 hour workshop: 3 examples including supporting stories with in depth exercises.

One of the first things I did was buying a small notebook. You know one of those booklets with lined paper pages and no battery included. In this little book I captured my ideas visually for this workshop. I intentionally put mind mapping aside for a while. I wanted to make a visual journey for my delegates and myself.

The last years I saw sketchnotes. I had my doubts, but I started to like the doodling, the seemingly unstructured way of drawing and writing. Instead of the clockwise structure of mind maps I had more freedom to make my notes. I even could draw first and write later. That is a big + for a visual tester like me.

There were more surprises with sketchnotes than I expected: one in depth exercise started as a simple design exercise. Within a week it lead to another intriguing exercise. My homework is to describe the solution using visual stuff. There are some times some things do not feel like work.

The introduction of the workshop was another creative process in progress. By making a story board I could draft more than 10 versions and find the right start.

Just Collecting Around
During the preparation I slowly picked up mind mapping again. I used it for structure and overview. In the meantime I found other things to share. Jerry Weinberg calls them Fieldstones. I used to call them Blog Ideas.

In my quest to improve my blogging I found “Weinberg on Writing – The Fieldstone Method”. This nice book gave me some hints to gather pieces of information and group them later on. While I thought about my workshop, I made notes.

My fieldstones were sketchnotes which filled my little notebook. Things waiting to be told.