Saturday, May 1, 2010

Good Morning, Tester-Land!

My name is Pete Walen - Welcome to my blog!

I do software testing for my profession. I am not a "world famous testing guru." I'm just a working stiff who is a practitioner and student of software testing.

I am also a drummer. I've been learning, playing, performing and teaching drumming for far longer than I've had anything to do with software.

I started drumming when I was in elementary school. I learned the same basics that most beginners learn. Like many school-trained drummers in the US, I played with the elementary/middle school band program, I also struggled with solos - playing them for judges and the like. I played in high school band programs - concert and marching band. Somehow my parents always were able to find me a teacher for private lessons so I could improve beyond what the school did.

I migrated to drum & bugle corps in high school. And youth symphony. And collegiate music programs led me to other ideas and approaches and techniques. I played in pick-up groups playing blues and jazz and rock and.. who knows what all. I spent a semester studying in Ireland where I learned yet another form of percussion - the Irish bodhran.

Something happened along the way. When I was in college, I was asked if I would consider teaching privately. That seemed perfectly normal at the time and I could use the extra cash. What student couldn't?

What was different for me was that one of my teachers had the wisdom to know that there could be many paths to achieve the same goal. If I was not understanding something, he very patiently went through the topic from scratch - explaining it in a totally different way, following a different path. When I began teaching drumming, I remembered that lesson and applied it with my own students.

After college, shortly after I started my first "real" computer job (programming COBOL for IBM mainframes) I discovered bag pipe bands. I was too old to play in drum and bugle corps. While teaching beginners was rewarding to some extent, with pipe bands I could still drum! It was also something else to learn and master. I joined the local band and have been involved in some form of drumming with pipe bands since the early 1980's.

These many years of drumming have led me to find rhythms in interesting and unusual places. In the more "usual" places, I hear rhythms not everyone else hears. When I'm playing music, I oftentimes bring those rhythms out in my drumming.

What are rhythms? They are patterns - ideas and concepts that can be found in the expression of music. Like any form of pattern, they can be found in other places as well. Typing on a keyboard gives a specific rhythm that can be identified. Seams in the pavement while driving to work gives an audible rhythm that sometimes mixes with the windshield wipers.

I used to see patterns in code when I was writing software applications (lo, those many years ago) and now I see patterns in applications when testing. There are rhythms in the way each person works. They can be unique unto themselves or they can be shared and common rhythms across teams or groups. Muggles refer to this as "group dynamics." They really are a rhythm (don't tell the muggles.)

My intent, therefore, is to use this space to talk about testing and other topics related to software, and the patterns and rhythms I see and hear and participate in around me.

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