How’s your signal to noise ratio going?

It’s not only engineers that need to deal with S/N (Signal to Noise Ratio). 

Test Managers have to deal with lots of noise, in managing projects, dealing with stakeholders, identifying potential future risk, maintaining test environments, hiring testers, and meetings,meetings & meetings. Traditionally that’s what the morethantoast.org role has involved. We deal with the noise, so testers can get on with doing their job – testing.

But is this really what is required? The reporting, the stats, the work allocation, the test strategy work and did I mention the meetings? It’s all STUFF. There’s always STUFF to do as a test manager. If we don’t have STUFF to do, we go out and look for STUFF. We roll our eyes at all the STUFF we have to do, but secretly we like it. It makes us feel important and keeps us busy.

Recently, I did a peer review with my team. I asked them to anonymously review my work. One question I asked them was “what I should start doing more of?”.

The resounding signal was loud and clear.  They wanted me to increase the amount of coaching and training within the nirvanaspa.co.uk team.

So I stopped doing STUFF. I dropped meetings that were optional, I’ve distributed recruitment and I worry less about planning for ‘the future’.

Instead I test and I encourage other testers to pair with me as I test, or to invite me over to test with them.

That way I’m sharing my knowledge and expertise.

It’s been hard to let go the high level STUFF but in some ways, these management type activities can be performed by most managers. Very few people can train and coach testers.

How’s your S/N ratio going?

Hi, my name is Done and I’m conflicted

If there is ever one word that highlights the difference between a tester and a developer’s mindset it has to be the word done.

Developers¹ tend think of http://haatuf.net/levitra-delivered-overnight done as a form of sign off. A story is done when the code is complete. For many developers, it’s when the code is complete, tested and deployed. Done is a sign of completion, of moving onto something else.

Testers² look at Done as the beginning of a quest, an exploration. Done is to be prodded, probed, explored and dissected. Under what conditions can ‘done’ fail? What data tests the limits of Done? How about if two Done’s are put together, how will they behave?

With these two different mindsets it’s no surprise that at times there is conflict and disagreement.

Most testers (most people for that matter) shy away from conflict in order to maintain team harmony. Instead, they try to gain agreement upfront on Done. The goal is clarity and scope definition. Make done clear upfront (before coding begins) and it lessens the http://ati.md/cheap-fast-levitra conflict later.

In many companies, conflict is seen as a ‘bad thing’. Being in conflict suggests that you’re not a team player. But conflict is a not always bad. According to the 5 dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni conflict is healthy indicator of trust and www.hexicamaerials.com ought to be encouraged.

And testers must not forget that our primary role in a team is to raise uncertainty about Done. This has to come ahead of wanting to be everyone’s friend and being accepted. The reality is, if we are doing our job we will be testing the limits of preconceptions of Done.

Because as appealing as it is to think of Done in terms of black and white, zero and one, the reality is a lot different. Done is subtle and muted with hidden dimensions and unknown crevices. Exploring and shining a light³ on these dark corners generates new information. That information helps mould and brand levitra develop our understanding of Done. The more we test, the better this becomes. Whether this new information turns out to be accepted or rejected is to some extent irrelevant, both contribute to fleshing out our understanding.

So sure, have your discussions on ‘Done’ before code is written, but let’s realise that it’s only the beginning not something final written in concrete. Allow testing and testers to expands that understanding.

In fact, I would go as far to say that true harmony is having a mutual goal of building our understanding of what Done means. Who knows? Maybe through that mutual goal can real trust and respect be built within a team.

¹ ² generalisations

³ kudos James Bach

“Nobody — calls me — chicken.”

One of the morals of the Back to The Future series is be able to walk away from a fight. It took three movies for Marty McFly to learn this self control.

Biff Tannen calling Marty “chicken” in 1955.

One thing that the scriptwriters failed to predict was the birth of speaking your mind in 140 characters, aka Twitter.  If they had, it would be easy to see how Marty might have been pulled in to a twitter diatribe and feel unable to resist  responding.

Screenshot 2014-10-14 07.47.54

 

It’s easy to engage on Twitter. It’s fun and easy to throw out ideas, thoughts and its mildly useful for debate. My personal experience though is that its much harder to disengage. I  feel compelled to reply to a challenge. It’s as if each tweet directed at me is a personal call to respond (sometimes it is). As much as I want to ignore and avoid, I find myself compelled to return and <sigh> to respond. My reasoning mind tells me, desist, desist, but my ego overrides this. I must have the it's cool final word!

There comes a point in any twitter engagement when you realise the conversation is little about debate and more about chest beating. When I’ve come to this realisation, I’ve lost the battle. I’m no longer in control regardless of having the last word or not. There’s little dignity in wining such a battle.

We need to learn the art of disengagement, the ability to walk away without feeling somehow less of a person. It’s important to engage, but its also important to be able to disengage.

I’ve come up with some heuristics to help me battle the McFly syndrome.

Yes, And Heuristic
I got this from Lynne Cazeallys book Create Change. Instead of think ‘yes but’, think ‘Yes and..’. .it goes some way to appearing collaborative, perhaps reducing the antagonism in the twitter conversation.

How about this? Heuristic
Another Lynne Cazeally suggestion. It uses a lot of characters but you can apply the sentiment to help sound more congenial.

Rule of Three Heuristic
Sometimes, attempting to understand other reasons why someone might write something helps you to walk away. Taken from Jerry Weinberg’s rule of three.

Out to Lunch Heuristic
I’ve seen people use this occasionally where they excuse the challenge to go out and walk the dog, feed the kids etc. I haven’t tried it myself but its a method of walking away with some grace. Even better if the reason is valid.

Blank Wall
Simply don’t respond. Oh to have the will power to apply this, especially in the heat of battle!

Blocking Heuristic.
A crude yet highly effective way of not knowing is someone is responding to you or not. You are now blissfully unaware. The downside is that you will never hear anything that this person has to say. You may consider this a good thing.

Turn off Twitter 
The ultimate solution and cunhanfeminista.org.br something a few people have resorted to. Not only does twitter seem to bring out the worst in people it’s incredibly time consuming. Ask yourself do you really need it?

What tactics do you use to help you disengage from a twitter war?

Take the ‘Crappy Work’ Litmus Test

We’ve placed a ban on crappy work within my test team. From now on, we declare that the testing team will refuse to do crappy work.

The challenge is in knowing how your doing good work or crappy work?  This is why I’ve created this simple 5 minute ‘Crappy Work’™ ² test to help any tester to figure out if you’re doing crappy work or not. ¹

1) Do I fully understand what I’ve been asked to do?

2) Why am I doing this task?

3) Who will benefit, and I have spoken to them ?

4) Am I doing this task simply because its part of the process?

5) If I think it’s crappy work, how can I make it valuable?

I’m sure there are plenty more ‘crappy work’  questions that would be useful to add, but my 5 minutes is up.

Why not share your ‘crappy work’ litmus tests? 

¹ Maverick Tester takes no responsibility if you take this quiz and continue to do crappy work

² It’s a 5 minute quiz because it took me 5 minutes to think it up. It’s trademarked so I can sell you a certificate in passing the ‘Crappy Work’ test, thereby making a whole lot of money out of it.

How will Continuous Delivery affect network traffic?

I was recently in New York and had a chance to walk along the http://stpatricksdayparade.org/generic-viagra-without-prescription High Line. The High Line is a disused overhead train line converted into a walkway and park. It’s a really lovely walk.

High Line by David Berkowitz

High Line by David Berkowitz

I was interested to learn that the train line had been built in the 1930’s but had become disused by 1980’s. It’s main purpose had been to transport meat and produce to manhattan from the upper west side. With the advent of trucks the train line fell into disuse. It was about to be torn down when a small group of inspired locals advocated it be turned into a park. The movement grew and now the disused train line is a lovely walk and respite from the busy traffic.

I think it’s interesting that the train line fell into disuse in the first place. Why were so many companies eager to drop the train line in place of trucks? My guess is they wanted the ability to freight cargo when they wanted. Rather then delivering in one bulk they delivered smaller amounts more frequently. That way they could become more responsive to their customers needs.

That’s what we’re aiming to do with continuous delivery. We want to   be able to deliver in a faster way, to be more responsive to our customers needs.

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World Class Traffic Jam by bk

I wonder if our existing network will be able to handle it though? Look at the traffic jam that is NYC and it makes me wonder that with the ability over faster and www.stantonmarris.com more frequent delivery comes the cost of greater traffic on our networks. Remember, if it was just your company wanting to deliver, of course there’s sufficient bandwidth, but when everyone has the same idea will our current network be able to handle it? I  guess only time will tell!

 

My Testing Manifesto 2014

It’s my first day in permanent employment for, oh, about 20 years. I feel a little giddy, like someone’s first day of school – nervous but excited.

Unlike my first day of school, I have some clear goals and ideas I want to implement. I thought I might outline them here to help remind me of what I want to achieve and also to see how different it turns out.

Testing Philosophies

Testing is an skilled activity(not a phase) that all, to some degree can acquire.
Testers need autonomy to make decisions, to develop and perform excellent testing.
Quality is something we all care about, though it means different things to different people.
Every test has a cost (design, building, maintaining, reporting)

Goals for Testing

To develop a company wide reputation for excellent testing
To develop a test team that is able to handle testing problems with courage, skill and humility.
To coach and help develop the skill of testing with whoever may need it
To identify where testing is occurring and help augment that
To develop and the grow the test team in size, skill and expertise.
To engage with and we use it support the testing community

Personal Goals

To acquire knowledge in testing within a continuous deployment, delivery environment
To learn more about functional programming
To be able to identify how to repair code
To work with integrity and within the bounds of what I consider ethical

Dropping the Ball

Does the thought of ‘dropping the ball’ fill you with dread ?  Perhaps you feel you will let people down, or more importantly yourself?

Here’s a thought experiment: What if you actually let the ball drop? Do you know what might happen?  Will the sky fall?  Are people let down?

If so, is that so bad? We all fail at some point in time in our lives. We don’t expect perfection from others, but for some reason expect it from ourselves. But that’s not physically possible is it?  Expecting perfection in this way is about as practical as promising perfect software right?

So next time your spreading raspberry jam too thinly consider giving yourself permission to drop the ball. After all as a tester you owe it to yourself to try, don’t you?

 Apologies for mixed metaphors :)

The fine art of being precise

Jon Bach this morning wrote a post about how we need to be precise in our thinking. Thank you Jon, its a lovely honest piece with lots of wisdom.  But it got me thinking how sometimes precision can let us down too.

For instance, we can get fooled into thinking that being precise always matters. There are many situations where vagary(what a wonderful word!) is incredibly useful.

When my husbands asks me how my day was, I don’t reply with “What do you mean by day?”, instead I typically respond with ‘fine’ or something equally inane.  What’s important here is not the precision of the question or even the precision of the answer. My husband’s not that interested in my day at all but it’s his way of asking “are you ok?”.  My answer though perhaps a little short, is important too, though it’s not really the answer that matters, its the enter site tone of my answer that he’s listening out for.

You see this vagary in software teams that work closely together.  Over time, these teams have developed their own language and don’t feel the need to question every definition. Team members pick up cues from body language and follow unwritten rules without much thought. I see this ability to follow such rules without question as a way of building trust. Often teams that work together for a while just ‘know’. They’ve built up a certain amount of tacit knowledge which doesn’t need to be openly discussed.

Unfortunately many of us have, at one point in time, worked in situations where this culture (for want of a better word) is not so healthy. I worked in one such company where open questioning was implicitly discouraged to the point where a developer worked on the wrong story for a whole iteration. I’ve seen many a tester battered and torn from attempting to pull down those unwritten walls of silence and ambiguity.

But what’s  important here is we recognise that in certain situations its appropriate for us to be loose in our language. In fact, I often hold off from being precise especially if I’m new to a team or client. Instead, I sit and listen, waiting for ambiguity to bubble up and emerge. This intentioned act of silence allows me to witness rather than be told where implicit assumptions may fester.

So while being able to be precise  is an important testing skill, another important one is the ability to identify when and where precision is most required, and when and discount levitra online where we can allow ourselves to be a little more accommodating.

 

 

Hanging up my boots

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photo by shankar.s

My family and I  arrived in Dublin on a cold dark wintry November night in 2008. At least metaphorically speaking it was. It was right after the GFC and we watched a country and economy wrestle with the prospect of becoming bankrupt. Regardless, Dublin’s IT and entrepreneurial spirit flourished. People who were made redundant invested their expertise into new ventures. There was a sense of familiarity in being in a recession (The common term for the GFC was recession 2.0) but also that the future was very much up to themselves.

I decided to start an Irish testers meetup, an opportunity for testers to share their expertise and learn from each other. Our first meetup had 4 testers. It never grew beyond that. I discovered that there was more to running a meetup than post on a blog. I learned that testers cannot thrive on testing alone, and that having a nibble or two and a drink goes a long way to attracting turn out. Having noteworthy speakers also helps.

So when I returned to Australia in 2010, and heard of a Sydney Testers Meetup I was keen to join. I discovered a hardy band of testers. Amongst them were Trish Khoo, Marlena Compton and Bruce McLeod. But they had similar problem as I had in Dublin. It was hard to get the word out and attendance was poor.

Sponsorship by Softed and getting some few heavy hitting speakers quickly changed that. We had James Bach, Elizabeth Henrickson, Scott Barber come along and viagra pill speak. Trish has fantastic ideas about different types of activities. We had games nights and book nights. Julietta Jung came along and brought along enthusiasm and excellent pizza ordering skills.

The Sydney Testers Meetup rapidly grew but not without its ups and downs. We’ve lost sponsorship, turned down sponsorship and for a while lived without any sponsorship. We had have committee members move to far away lands. But throughout it all we managed to maintain the rostermccabe.com spirit of the Sydney Testers Meetup. Today Attribute Testing sponsor the meetup that has a 600 strong membership.

It’s time now for me to hang up my boots as organiser of the meetup. It’s been a blast and I’ve loved seeing people become infected by testing. I’m leaving the STM in safe hands. Richard Robinson and Devesh Maheshwari will be taking over as organisers. I wish them the best and only here look forward to seeing the STM do great things.