Sunday, 16 January 2011

Framing, Threads and Books

" #softwaretesting #testing #learning "

Inspired by various blogs reflecting on the past year and especially one from Rob Lambert mapping his reading and Geir Gulbrandsen comtemplating his upcoming reading I started thinking about some of the influences on my reading choices.

I then realised that there is a connection between my various reading choices, some of the ongoing study or work areas I'm involved with and discussions in the software testing community. So I started thinking of a picture of my reading as a framing exercise - to help elicit the thinking and reasoning behind my choices. This became an interesting mapping exercise - quite suited for a mind map.

The exercise would also help show up holes in my linkage (maybe I had several alternative sources and picked one - it would be interesting to show this - I haven't done that yet!) and also areas that I'd specifically excluded (this could be in the form of annotations or comments about progressing or not along a particular path - this isn't included in my current map.)

I split the groupings into books "read once" (meaning read at least once), "ongoing" and the "antilibrary" (from Taleb's The Black Swan - an unread source that demonstrates what you don't know - or in this case a subset of that.) As a first step the main sources were added as labels (whether via own research or via community recommendation or discussion - blogs, articles, test forums and twitter) as well as a linkage between books - which was read due to another book (either it was referenced or some research from that book pointed to another).

I'm going to leave my thoughts about the individual books to another time & place, as well as some coding (perhaps colour) about which ones are more frequently used and also some timescale (purely for my own benefit to help put the reasoning into context).

Other useful additions that may be made would be of magazine articles, e-books and other online literature (Rob Lambert's idea!) - as well as the aforementioned information about what was excluded and why.

The interesting aspect of this exercise was that I can see the framing behind parts of my learning journey but also that the map is a set of threads. Some of them are ongoing, some will be re-visited and no doubt extended and some will be closed down. Plus there's always room for new threads.

The way that I read books I do it in a very "thread-like" way - I have many "ongoing" at any one time and I revisit read ones. That's ok for me and charting them like this helps to record my (where I have and haven't visited).

Just like testing!

Update: I've also intentionally left out what I've learnt from each of these threads - that's a whole series of posts!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Carnival of Testers #17

" #softwaretesting #testing "

December. A flood of posts - usually lots of reflections and year-end summaries, but also lots of variety and range of topics.

There were some great reports, write-ups and postings concerning the EuroStar2010 conference.
  • Nathalie de Vries made a comprehensive round-up of the tutorial and conference days, here, here, here and here.
  • Nathalie also gave some tips for people considering sending in a proposal for the next conference.
  • A taster of the Danish Alliance was given by Zeger Van Hese, here.
  • Another comprehensive round-up of EuroStar conference was made by Michael Bolton, here, here and here.
All good testers question what they're doing, observing or being presented with.
Inspiration and resources
Sources of ideas, tools and techniques in use by testers everyday...
  • Do you ever test to music? Some interesting insights in Christin Wiedeman's use of music in her testing, here.
  • If you haven't seen or tried corkboardme then take a look at Tim Coulter's introduction.
  • Transpection. Stephen Hill made a good write-up of his experience with it, even including the transcript of the session, which is worth a read.
And finally...
  • Be careful what you measure, and why, was wrapped up into Jerry Weinberg's parable of the ones.
  • Markus Gärtner announced a repository for testing challenges, here.

Update: 2 Jan 2011: I meant to add this, but it slipped through the gaps... 

Until the next time...

Language can be confusing

" #softwaretesting #testing "

I was reminded recently of the confusion that is wrought by both written and spoken language.

I read Michael Larsen's account of a weekend testing session, here. Whenever I see or hear about this type of potential for confusion I usually think of what Tor Norretranders says in The User Illusion, that communication is a process - there needs to be a synchronisation between sender and receiver for it to happen effectively.

How to combat?
This synchronisation or handshaking is a form of check with the other person, "Did you understand? Ok, repeat back what you think I just said in your own words".

Other ways to help elicit true intentions or meanings might be to use something along the lines of context-free questioning from Exploring Requirements (Gause, Weinberg). If you don't have access to the book you can read Michael Bolton's post.

Another Gause & Weinberg book, Are Your Lights On, gives another exercise - the "Mary had a little lamb" example. Here the emphasis is changed on each word as well as changing the words themselves (via dictionary or thesaurus) to get at the real or important meaning of the sentence.

As a tester the room for confusion and mis-communication is vast - whether this is restricted to a customer requirement, a stakeholder's view of an activity, result or interpretation or writing a fault/bug report in a useful way (to your team, stakeholder and developer).

Being aware of the potential for traps in mis-communication is valuable!

For anyone thinking that spoken communication is much simpler than written you might want to take a look here. Enjoy!

I haven't even mentioned confusion in translation - I'm reminded of a presentation in Swedish where the emphasis on words was misplaced so that "the following six pictures" became "the following sex pictures" - and immediately caught the attention of the audience!