Upcoming Software Testing Courses

I’m heading to CAST 2012 this year (July 16th – 18th) and so I’ll be in the San Jose/ San Francisco area if anyone is looking for an impromptu workshop on Exploratory Testing or Coaching Software Testers around that time.

I’ll also be near Albuquerque for PSL in August this year (August 24th -August 31st), so if anyone is interested in workshops in those general locales contact me on annemarie@mavericktester.com or Skype me at charretts

 

Training Testers

I’m having a complete blast at the moment adding the finishing touches to my upcoming workshops in Dublin,Belfast and London.

The Dublin and Belfast Exploratory Workshops sold out in a couple of days but there are still some seats on the coaching testers workshop in London. This is shaping up to be a great workshop – its jam packed with exercises and I’m very excited to be able to share with other testers the approaches that James Bach & I have honed over the past years.

Then its off to the inaugural Lets Test Conference in Stockholm where I’ll be giving a talk on coaching testers.

The Lets-Test conference is shaping up to be a huge event and personally I’m thrilled to be making part of history by speaking there.

Hope to catch up with you at one of these events!

How to write about software testing

Based on the number of requests I’ve had to write articles recently, there seems to be a big demand for testers who can write  well about software testing.  I’ve been asked by a few different companies to write articles on their behalf. Sometimes I’ve been asked to write posts for someones’s blog. I’ve only done that once with Quck Testing Tips which was a lot of fun. But generally, I find it hard enough to be inspired on my blog, let alone writing for some-one elses!

I thought putting down what helps me, might help a few testers out there. Writing well is a great skill for a tester to have. Think of all those persuasive bug reports you will be able to write.  Its also a great way to consolidate and  refine your thinking. (A great read on this topic is chapter is Maria Hammeren’s chapter entitled “writing as a method of reflection”  in the book Dialogue Skill and Tacit Knowledge.)

1) Write from the heart.

Personally, I’m only motivated to write when I have something I feel passionate about. Thats a good thing because you can create a bond with the audience. But it can be unhelpful too if other people are relying on you to write something.

Perhaps passionate is the wrong word, but  writing posts that resonate with you reach out in some way to your audience. Perhaps its the choice of words you use, I’m not sure, but your readers will pick up on your sincerity.

2) Be yourself

That is, don’t try and be the expert unless you have personal knowledge about what you are writing. In practical terms, avoid trying to sound more experienced than you are. Be honest about your experiences.If you do write on a topic (say automation) in a authorititive manner, you had better be able to back it up with fact and substance.

An excellent example of someone who does this  well is Michael Bolton. I believe in what he writes because he cites references and backs up his statement with examples and facts.

Nuff said.

3) Give yourself Permission

I have James Bach to thank for pointing this one out in a tweet*. Its so true.
Give yourself permission to write your thoughts. They do count and they are of value. Trust me on this one. A great example of some-one who does this is Lanette Creamer. I admire they way she is so forthright with her ideas.

*tweet info with nod to Michael Bolton for supplying it

[quote style=”boxed”]As a teacher this is key: Permission givers http://bit.ly/9qnyOt (thanks @jerryweinberg, for the link, and the permission)[/quote]

4) Proof Read

I tend to write posts 2 or 3 times before I let them loose on the world. Seriously. This is how I work.

a) Write down sentiment anyhow, anyway. Don’t worry about what it looks like
b) At this point I  feel free to explore, sometimes I stray from my originally intended topic to the point where I have a compeltely new article.
c) Read the post (try reading it aloud), and rewrite it, move paragraphs around to get a better flow. Cut out paragraphs that prevent a nice flow through the post
d) Take a break, do something different
e) Come back re-read the post, edit it. check for spelling then send it

A trap you can fall into though is over proofing. If you feel really strongly about something, and you leave it to the next day, you may chicken out and decide not the send it. Sometimes posting in the heat of the moment is a good idea. (Hey I never said writing was clear cut!)

5) Give credit

If you get an idea based on a book you read, share that. If something inspires you, share the link.

6) Be Original

No-one wants to hear trite stuff that parrotts what others say. Believe me. Make your content your own. If you are talking about a hot topic, try and put your own personal spin on it. What are your thoughts on it? Don’t parrott a thought leader, their stuff is far better than yours anyhow.

7) Be Precise

Often its a struggle to come up with a precise word that reflects exactly what you want to say. But please, don’t be lazy about it. The english language is diverse and there’s bound to be a word that aptly describes what you want. Use a thesaurus if you have to, or do what I do and wait until the right word comes to you. Your readers will appreciate it.

8 ) Why do you write?

Here is Bernard-Henry Levy on his view on writing. Great stuff. In particular what drives him to write is interesting:

[quote style=”boxed”]I am not writing to be loved. There is as much pleasure to being hated as being loved. I write in order to convince. In order to win. In order to change, even just a little, the world. I recently launched an appeal on Twitter supporting those attacking the official websites of the Tunisian regime. An intellectual calling for hacking doesn’t happen very frequently, and there is a stir. I am happy that it succeeded. I care about being heard.[/quote]

Whats your driver? Is it your ego, is it SEO ratings or is it something else? I started writing to get ratings for my website, but now I write for the pure joy of writing, because I get a kick out of crafting a beautiful piece of work.

9) Practise

The only way you are going to get any good at writing is by practicing.  How are you going to practice, well thats up to you, but writing a blog is a good start. Don’t aim for perfection, just get out there and write something. I will never forget my first blog post. It was the equivalent of hello world! (I wish I still had it, I would link it here)

Well, thats it. Nearly

There is one more thing.

If you are serious about writing skype me on charretts. I offer free coaching and I’m willing to include writing in that scope, as long as its to do with testing.

[By the way, when I’m talking about writing, its mostly in the context  of articles, blogs etc.]


 

Put your lips together and blow

When I first heard about Tacit Knowledge, I had a vague idea what it was. The word “tacit” sounded a bit like “tactile” so I guessed it was knowledge that you could touch.

I was a bit off the mark.

Normally, I try to avoid starting my posts with definitions, it reminds me of those dreary debates we had at school where everyone started their discourse by using the dictionary definition.

I’m making an exception in this case as I think its important that we all understand what tacit knowledge is, so here is the wikipedia definition (Don’t be lazy, click on it)

This morning my son had a bit of a crisis going to school. As some of you know, we’ve moved country and continent. For my kids, this means new school, new friends, new environment. It can be a tough challenge for an eight year old.

Suffice to say, he needed a bit of cheering up, so I suggested he look on the bright side of life. Cue Monty Python Bright Side of Life

Well, it sort of worked especially when I tried to teach him how to whistle.

Have you ever tried to teach someone to whistle?

Lauren Bacall had a go, in the movie “To have and to have not”

But you know what? As Alex found out, if you do put your lips together and blow it doesn’t mean you can whistle!

Actually being able to whistle is pretty hard.(I’m sure many of you have memories of trying to whistle in vain!)

But why is it so hard? The basic facts were explained and it seems quite simple. What vital peice of information is missing from Becall’s instruction?

That my friend is tacit knowledge. Simply put, its the knowledge you can only learn by doing.

And so to software testing.

The reason why software testing is so hard to teach is because it requires the student to learn by doing.

To learn software testing you must….software test!

Yes, you can read and learn the peripheral stuff around testing. For example you can learn what a IEEE829 test process is. You can learn how to write a test plan, how to create a test script, but that is not testing.

Testing is the doing bit. The bit where you have to think, judge and act on a testing dilemma. Thats why some companies when interviewing for testers will ask you to test something. They know, intuitively, that testing is about doing, not writing.

My Skype coaching sessions on software testing are based around this principle. You won’t find me “sharing my experience” in the sessions because that’s not how you learn about testing. Instead, you get a challenge, puzzle or dilemma that I work through with you.

To really understand testing, you must do testing but also you must be aware of what you are doing while testing. Why? Because awareness brings about discovery. You discover assumptions you make in testing. You discover conflicting ideas and you discover your bias in testing. From that awareness comes learning and improvement.

I think thats pretty damn cool.

Now all together…

“Always look on the bright side of life…”

(my skype coaching sessions are free, contact me on skype id charretts with the word coaching in the request)

Rapids Software Testing

As some of you know, I’m in the process of creating an Exploratory Testing workshop. It’s been a bit of a wild adventure, but hey, I’m clinging tightly to my oars as I hurtle down the rapids of ET adventure.

Have you ever been white water rafting? I have, and here’s a tip, don’t bother going if there is a drought.

Trust me, I learned the hard way on the Tully River in North Queensland. Tully is one of the wettest populated towns in Australia with an average annual rainfall exceeding 4000 mm (13.1 ft).

But not the year I went. I went when there was a drought and the water levels on the river had dropped.While the day’s outing was great fun, it never reached the hair raising exhilaration that I had anticipated.

It can be a bit like that in testing I guess.  If you want to have fun and be challenged, it helps to go where the water is deep.

Well I’m in deep testing water and I’m loving it! A day doesn’t go past where I’m not motivated to learn more and to challenge myself. To hell with the life jackets, watch me go!

Why? Because I’m learning something that is fundamental to any tester.

I’m learning how to teach  testing.

Precisely, I’m learning how to teach testing through Socratic Examination. This means, that I’m learning to ask the questions, pose puzzles and push students to struggle through testing principles so they come to a better understanding.

If this style sounds familiar, its because James Bach is teaching me this stuff. Its all part of this new coaching program which I’m aligning myself with. I will also be collaborating with him on a book he’s writing on the topic.

My experience on learning to teach suggests to me that this book is much needed. Practice is key to being a good teacher, but having a few strategies and heuristics to guide you along the way is essential too. This book will go some way to demonstrate that.

So what have I learned so far?

Lesson 1: A Mental Model

When working with a testing exercise you need a mental model of what you are aiming to teach.

Its not an easy task. There is no one strategy or model that fits all students. All students differ in their learning needs and in temperament. what works for one person, may not be suitable for the next, yet your mental model needs to cater for each individual.

You need to know your outcome, and where you are taking the exercise and still allow the student capacity to explore and come to some learning outcome.

I’ve noticed that James starts his coaching sessions with a mental test. He uses that to observe a tester’s thinking. He then frames his coaching session around a key thought or lesson, allowing  the tester to explore, yet always bringing them back to the intended final outcome.

All without one powerpoint slide.

I’m learning how to do  that too.

Lesson 2: Observation.

The coaching sessions may seem unstructured and ‘ad-hoc’, but as I mentioned there is always an underlying model or framework in use.  I’ve been observing some of these coaching sessions, and I’m starting to see patterns of behavior. I asked James about this and his comment was this:

Anne-Marie Charrett: When you are having these conversations do you consciously have an idea of the types of patterns you are going to use?

James Bach: Yes

James Bach: I’m trying to become more conscious of them and to make them easier to teach

James Bach: that’s what I’m using you for.

James Bach: we’ll learn them together

Observing patterns is essential to honing your teaching skills. Only through observation can you identify how you teach, what your natural strengths are or where you are biased. But also identifying patterns, helps you know what pattern (or heuristic) to use next.

Naturally, being taught directly by James Bach is helping a lot too. I think confidence in yourself is critical, both as a tester and a trainer. After all, how can you confidently explain your testing story if you have little confidence in yourself or what think you believe?

So that comes to lesson 3:

Lesson 3: A Testing Story

Teaching testing gives you confidence in your testing story. Yes, I read and study Exploratory Testing, I use Exploratory Testing. But standing up and talking about Exploratory Testing to me is the ultimate test in what you believe. If you can stand up and talk about testing, its a great boost to your testing story. Well , it is for me anyhow.

This confidence comes by first willing to put yourself in a vulnerable position, where you are willing to learn. It was only when I blogged about my difficulties about creating an ET workshop did help arrive.

It also comes through practice. I’m doing that too now, by blogging and testing out by challenges on fellow testers. I’ve already asked a few of you to testing challenges on skype or IM. I need to practise my exercises and puzzles against a variety of people.

If you want to be part of the fun, skype or IM me. I’m happy for anybody to take up my challenges. I need practice to improve my skills.

There’s lots more I’m learning, most of which my mind has yet to digest and formulate into identifiable ideas. But are you starting to see something here?

Teaching testing is very similar to testing itself, maybe a bit more intense…. like ET on steroids perhaps.  I strongly urge any tester looking to improve their skills to consider this option. Even if you never end up teaching formal workshops, the insights you get about yourself, the confidence it builds in yourself and your ideas in testing will stand you in good stead.

Footnote.

I value your thoughts, in particular if you disagree, or question what I’ve said. Every discussion on this helps me refine and consolidate my understanding on the subject.

Get out your tin whistles

At last after a year of wrangling, shuffling and even some pleading Michael Bolton in association with Testing Times is coming Dublin to give his wonderful Rapid Software Testing Course.

Not that Michael needed persuading to come. He jumped at the opportunity. Mostly because he loves giving this course and helping testers well, develop sense. But I will let you into a little not so well known fact about Michael. He loves Irish Music and his a keen Mandolin player.

So we knew we were onto a winner straight away!

For those not familiar with Michael Bolton and his course.

Rapid Software Testing is “a course, a mind-set, and a skill set about how to do excellent software testing in a way that is very fast, inexpensive, credible, and accountable.” Its written by James Bach and Michael Bolton

This course is excellent, its practical and thought provoking!  I can personally say that because I’ve taken it. If you have ever asked yourself the question:

“Is there a better way to test this stuff ?”

Then I suspect this course is for you.

Some of the issues it addresses are:

  • Are you finding it difficult to assess how much time and effort you’re going to need to test effectively?
  • Are you overwhelmed by or uncertain about approaches to test planning, design and execution?
  • Are you working in an environment where some people aren’t following “the rules”?
  • Are you having trouble finding the right balance between planning, documentation, and testing?
  • Are you interested in learning skills and techniques that will help you to become a better tester?
  • Are you finding that “industry best practices” are infeasible and a poor fit for your organization?
  • Do you want to get very good at software testing?

Read more information about Michael Bolton and the course go to his website: Michael Bolton Rapid Software Testing

Even better Skillnet has agreed to partially fund the course, so you are getting this 3 day course at a knock down price of 770 euros.

If you have any money in your training budget, this course is the one to go for!

Rapid Software Testing Details

  • Date: Monday 13th to Wednesday 15th September 2010
  • Venue: Xilinx, Citywest Business Park
  • In association with Testing Times & Xilinx
  • Duration: 3 day course (9.00am to 5.30pm)
  • Cost to non-members: €1,700 per person
  • Cost to Software Skillnet Members* after Grant aid: €770 per person

*Membership to Skillnet is Free

For more details and booking go to the skillnet website:  Skillnet Rapid Software Testing

Challengers are you ready?

So far the Gladiators have stolen the show. ISTQB and the other warriors of testing certification have dominated the testing world. It’s not the only profession where this is happening. Network Engineers working now need Cisco certification in order to get jobs, regardless of their depth of knowledge. In Ireland, solicitors now don’t need a degree, but pass an exam in order to practise. It seems every where people are needing to be labelled in order to find work.

So its refreshing that a group of men and women are fighting back. The challengers are now on the stage. Are we ready to back them?

I’m talking about the Association of Software Testing (http://training.associationforsoftwaretesting.org) which is providing free online software testing training if you become a member of their organisation. Membership cost only $85 (there is a range of memberships). Try and get a ISTQB course for that price!

I’ve just completed the BBST (Black Box System Testing) Foundation Course. I would highly recommend this course to anyone, experienced or inexperienced. This course is like no other. It really challenges you to think deeply about what, why and how you test.

The course is very interactive, you need to be prepared to give an opinion and provide feedback.

What I got out of the course was that it’s given me confidence on critiquing other tester’s work. It has also challenged me to be more technical in my testing investigations. It was a great course, and though very demanding, I was sad that it came to an end.

One word of warning though, to get the most out of the course, I would give allocate plenty of time for it, preferably more than the 8 hours suggested.

One of the main reasons why I decided to take this course, was because I wanted to see if I could recommend or offer to testers I know an alternative to ISTQB. I’d also challenge any tester out there who has an opinion on Certification to take the course and then write a post about it.

Challengers are your ready?