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!


  1. Hi Simon,

    you may want to try out bringing the concepts together behind the books. How do the books cluster by topic? Can you see any holes in your learning? I used a similar approach to personal development of the testers in my group two years back. I did a write-up of it on my blog. You may find this approach useful for books as well.


  2. Hi Markus,

    Yes maps for personal development are useful!

    I first used maps for personal development in the 90's - I did it instinctively, and it was from those sessions that my personal development coach remarked on the emergent and divergent nature of my learning - and those monikers stick with me today.

    Looking for holes in the map can be useful - just as any type of reflection is - and these types of maps (or framed activities) facilitate that.


  3. Hi Simon,

    This is awesome. Thanks for the mention also.

    One thing that intrigues me is how and why I choose to "select" a book to read. Is this something you're looking in to also?

    I'm trying to figure out why people choose to read a book - a suggestion, a good feeling, a series/thread/topic/theme, intriguing front cover or any other number of reasons?

    I like your different separators that give you interesting clarity on the uses of the books.

    Great post and I'm loving that mind map.