Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes or Testing Lessons from a Three Year Old

While recently in Seattle (spot the CAST reference!) my lady-wife and I had a little time for sight-seeing and visiting and what not.  A friend of the daughter and her husband live in the area with their two children, aged 9 months and 3 years.  So, on touching base to say "hello" we get invited over for an evening - and jump at the chance. 

We brought over a pecan pie fresh from a Cajun place down at Pioneer Sqaure, downtown (amazing food by the way - and the pie was straight from the oven) and a couple of bottles of wine and age appropriate presents for the two children.  While visiting with the daughter's friend and playing with the kids (waiting for her husband to come home) I found myself engaged in an informative mentoring session with the 3 year old - Aidan. 

Brilliant kid.  You can tell his parents are terribly bright and spend a ton of time with him.  

Now, most people with children, or have ever had dealings with children, will know that there is a key word in every 2 and 3 year old's vocabulary:  "Why?"

Well, not Aidan.  He looked right at us and asked "What happens?"  Well, sometimes he said "What happened?" but he did so in the right context. 

For example, a ballon popped "What happened?"  "Well, I think it bumped against a stick or a pricker in the grass and that popped the balloon."  (We were playing in the yard with a balloon.)  "What happens?"  "Well, sometimes if a balloon touches something sharp that can pop the balloon."  "Oh."

So then it was time for him to play with his hard-hat and be a builder.  "Can you build me a big building?"  "Yup." (he leaves then comes back)  "Is it done?"  "Yup"  "Great.  Can you build me a barn now?"  (he goes away and comes back.)  "Is it done?" "Yup."  "Great! Can you get some hay and straw and get a cow and a horse and some chickens for the barn?"  "What happens?"  "Well, then the animals can live in the nice bard you built."  "Oh.  What happens?"

About that time, Dad got home and Aidan went to go play with HIM until dinner was ready. 

The rest of the evening and on the drive back to the hotel, that stuck with me.  Not "Why" but the next best question a tester can ask:  "What happens?"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

CAST 2011 Emerging Topics and Wrap Up of Thoughts

I started out looking at my previous several posts and realized how many times in each of them I used the work "amazing."  I promise I will do my best to not let my still spinning head succumb to such a word in this post.  The thing is, I find it really hard to NOT use that word when I've been inundated with intellectually stimulating ideas. 

Emerging Topics

After opening up to opportunity for anyone attending CAST to submit an idea to speak on, we then allowed anyone who was interested to comment, rank or otherwise ask questions around the proposals.  Matt Heusser and I reviewed these comments, rankings, questions (and their answers) to pull together a program from the ideas submitted.  Many of the proposals were from people who had not spoken at a conference before.  Personally, I found that exciting.  Why?

We were opening up venues for people to speak to one of the more challenging conference audiences I have ever encountered.  People who think, and who may not agree with some of your points, are not only encouraged to speak up and ask questions (or challenge the speakers) but are expected to do so. 

When Ben Yaroch let us know that there was a strong likelihood that we'd be able to stream the ET sessions live, that got me even more excited (yeah, right, as if I could get more excited.)  Adam the Volunteer (I never did get his last name) was a big help getting things going Monday afternoon.  That left me free to make sure the presenters were ready and we had their slide decks (presuming they had some) available.  Thanks Adam!  I do appreciate it. 

When Monday rolled around and we kicked off right after lunch, then the fun began.  The ensuing afternoon was much what I expected - a variety of speakers on a broad range of topics, all packed into 15 minute slots with 5 minutes saved for questions.  Some of the speakers were a little un-polished.  We did not care - It was the crisp thoughts they had (not crisp Powerpoint skills) we were interested in. 

Personally, I liked how many speakers used no slide decks at all, instead they focused on the flip chart in the room, using markers to interact with the people in the room.  Coolness - no Death by Powerpoint here!  :)

What was the best?  Hoo boy.  How do I choose? 

Michael Larsen gave an interesting presentation on EDGE (a cool Boy Scout acronym) and how that can be applied to testing.  Anna Royzman gave an experience report on how she got a mixed community of people to work together and apply exploratory approaches to improve UX and overall testing. Lanette Creamer gave a very very brave demonstration of testing on the fly around using tools everyone "knows" in new ways.  Neil Thompson and Felipe Knorr Kuhn both gave interesting talks (hard playing facilitator when the topics draw you in, not my most shining moment.)  Robert Berqvist gave an interesting comparison on the groove of music and the groove in testing  - yeah, drummers love that kind of stuff.  Ben Yaroch spoke to a packed room on leadership ideas drawn from the military, and how they can be applied to testing.  Finally, the most challenging presentation for the day was Geordie Keitt's presentation on "Complexity Quandary, or Why Certified Testers Continue to be in Demand."  This seemed almost tailor-made to draw on ideas in Michael Bolton's keynote, and to serve as a bridge between James Bach and Doug Hoffman's debate on the idea of Schools of testing being divisive.  We gave him a double long session (45 minutes) and the discussion went over that.  I was too busy moderating to tweet - great stuff though.

Tuesday, Eric Jacobsen kicked things off by talking about combatting Tester Fatigue (as I was still recovering from the flight and the excitement that comes from CAST, I thought it appropriate for me!)  Bill Matthews gave a good session on Myth Busting for Testers.  Frankly, I hated cutting both of them off when I did as I thought it was good stuff, and I only wish he had time for more.  Just before lunch, I gave a short version of "Messy Integration Testing" and how things that seem to be unrelated probably were not and needed to be considered in testing.  That was well received, I thought.  

After Lunch, Todd Mazierski gave a short overview of Sinatra.  This was followed by Geordie Keitt's All-Star Tester Revue (OK, I made that name up)  Geordie stood up and played guitar and sang songs around a testing theme (it helps when you write them!)  Then brought in a panel of Michael Bolton, Lanette Creamer, Dee Ann Pizzica who did some interesting improv comedy around a testing theme.  Capped off by Lanette singing a song, with Geordie backing her on guitar - and Geordie closing the session with another original composition.  What a great time.  Matt Heusser wrapped the ET track with a lesson in communicating with "Agilistas" drawn from his experience. 

We then turned the room over to Lightning talks - and I had the chance to go catch up with people. 

One of the people I kept running into during the conference was Adam Yuret.  No, not Adam the Volunteer mentioned before.  He and I have met cyberly for some time, banter on Twitter and various on-line forums.  All in all he's a good guy with ideas to consider. 

Keynotes 'N Stuff

I was looking forward to hearing Cem Kaner's keynote this year.  I missed him speaking last year as I was "otherwise engaged."  Unfortunately, he had to cancel and was not able to attend CAST, so the workshop he was scheduled to teach got shuffled, and Michael Bolton slid into the keynote spot where Cem was scheduled to speak.  Michael's keynote was astounding (avoiding the word "amazing" can ya tell?)  He covered things I have been trying to express for some time.  The minor issue encounterd, and gamely dealt with, was the projector simply did not work.  The result was Michael gave a very academic-like reading of his document which was absolutely chock-full of ideas around the history of scientific thought and how it related to testing and the idea of context driven testing. 

James Bach gave a keynote that, in my mind, was a solid argument on the benefits of avoiding processes that so many people advocate, and were challenged time and time again.  All in all, it was a call-to-arms to reject the set-piece examples and practices that are part of so many people's views of "best practices."

I was sitting with two different groups on Monday and Tuesday.  An amazing thing about CAST, so many people are welcoming and willing to engage in conversation no matter the topic or if you were a "famous" person.  Based on comments around the table, both were well received.

A couple of things stand out at this point in my rambling narration.  First, the hall was absolutely packed.  When the requisite question "How many are at CAST for the first time?" it seemed to me that half the people in the hall raised their hands.  It was an astounding sight.  The first time attendees I met all very readily engaged in the spirit of the conference and actively participated.  This bodes well for the future.

EdSIG - Education Special Interest Group

Tuesday night I participated in the discussions of the Education Special Interest Group.  Topics on the table included getting more instructors for the BBST courses up and active, the upcoming next installment in the series, Test Design, ideas around why there are so many fewer students taking Bug Advocacy than are taking Foundations, branching out (reaching out?) to people who want to help but are not certain where to go to help.  So, there are a stack of issues, including creating a "what to expect in this course" video for Foundations - hopefully so that the amount of work is not overwhelming to the student. 

There is more, but much (for example Michael Bolton's workshop on test framing) is worthy of its own blog post. 

I do want to thank the folks who organized the conference - I know James and Jon Bach were up to their eyebrows - but also Doug Hoffman, Ben Yaroch, Dawn Haynes (who is an all around trooper) - all the people who made all the big ideas (live web streaming for example) move from "idea" to "its happening now."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CAST 2011, General Observations

I'm writing this the evening of Wednesday, August 10.  This is the evening after the Workshop day of CAST 2011 in Seattle.  Overall, this has been an amazing experience.  The whole experience was highly rewarding in many ways. 

James and John Bach took an unconventional approach to putting together the program.  Speakers were chosen on reputatuon, not on submission topic.  Yeah, it was different.  At the same time, I had the opportunity to work closely with Matt Heusser on putting together the Emerging Topics track.  This was a cool idea, an experiment, and overall, it came off well.

Another experiment was the live webcasting of the keynotes, the ET sessions, lightning talks and "tester interviews."  The discussions were astoinding - no experiment there - certainty was closer to it.  I personally appreciate the great conversations Neil Thompson, Bill Matthews, Fiona Charles, Paul Holland, Dawn Haynes (who is a terrific person and hard worker who does not get nearly enough credit for making things just work)

Oh - I met more people from Sweeden at a testing conference this year than I can imagine!

OK, other people I met whom I have not mentioned - yeah, there were a stack, but these stood out ... Lets see - Christin Wiedemann was in my class today, then - sitting behind me, and next to Michael Hunter was Cathy McBride.  Oh!  Another Alex Bantz was also there.

I had the pleasure of helping with the EdSIG meeting and looking for ways to get the people who were interested in helping in the SIG, and getting involved in BBST, actually involved and active,  The thing is, this is also the same central idea behind keeping any non-profit, volunteer organization - finding tasks that need to be done, matching them up with people with the skills and interest in doing them, and matching them up. 

My experience in Michael Bolton's Test Framing workshop really deserves its own post.  For now, suffice to say it was interesting.

I had intended to decompress, have a quite dinner then get some work done.  Instead, after finishing an adult beverage, as my "take out" dinner was about to come out, Selene Deliesie, Lynn McKee and Nancy Kelln walked into the restaraunt.  What could I do?  We sat down, enjoyed a meal together and had a fantastic conversation. 

Now, it is very late, I'm remarkably tired and have more thoughts running through my head from the last three days and looking forward to more general thought absorption, internalization and a little sight-seeing tomorrow before heading home.

Thank you Seattle and AST for an amazing experience. 

CAST 2011, Day 2, A Brief Summary

Again, I had intended to write this last night.  It is amazing top be how mentally and physically drained I am byt the end of each day at conferences.  So many smart people it seems impossible to keep up.

Right, so, people.  Had some really nice hallway conversations with Elana Houser, who was in the BBST Foundations course with me.  We did not always agree with each other in the course, she is, however, a very good thinker.  Lynn McKee, Nancy Kelln, Selena Delesie and had nice chats and gave great insights on discussion topics.  I also brifely met Karen Johnson - OK folks, she is smart and wise - doesn't always come in the same package. 

Amazing talk(s) with Michael Hunter - Yeah, the Braidy Tester guy.  He really is as good and inspriational as his blog posts seem.  Oh, now then, let's see, Had some Fantastic chats with Ajay.Balamurugadas. Ben Yaroch is crazy smart and a hard worker - really. Michael Larsen really DOES have as much energy as his podcasts make it seem like he does.  Let's see.  Also had some good visits with Justin Hunter, Paul Holland, Bill Matthews and Johan Jonasson - Phil McNealy is a good person to know as well. 

One of the highlights for me was seeing the Emerging Topics track come together and be a reality.  Some of the speakers had a bit of a rough go.  Many had never presented outside their own company before - WHAT a daunting task!  Yeah - Present a 20 minute idea in front of some of the best testers around.  YEAH!  Still, everyone made it through the experience, good information and ideas were shared - even if folks were a little nervous.

I had a chance to drop in the tail end of the Open Season of the BBST Experience track.  Cool Q&A session, lots of energy.  The Lightning Talks, which I dropped in on after the BBST talk ended, were interesting - ideas and "quick hits" with ideas.  Fun.

I ended up having an interesting conversation with Felipe Knorr Kuhn, Gary Masnica, Phil McNealy and Lanette Creamer.  Job Titles, Job Roles, What to Do, How things work... highly enjoyable, mentally invigorating.  This set me up for a good session in the EdSIG - Education Special Interest Group. 

Michael Larsen, me, some dozen other people talking via Skype with Rebecca Fiedler and Cem Kaner (who could not be at CAST.)  Good ideas, much meaty discussion - look for another blog post on that before too long. 

It was an amazing day. 

Oh, I did not get elected to the Board of Directors for AST.  Now, some folks tried to console me, I was unconsoleable.  Well, technically, literally, there was nothing to console me about!  I believe that each of the five candidates were eminently qualified to serve on the board and three were selected.  This is good. 

So, this morning, I find myself sitting at a table (starting this blog post actually) and Michael Hunter sat down to chat and have a little breakfast.  Griffon Jones dropped his pack and went for a little breakfast, but got tied up.  As it was, Michael and I had a great visit before we headed off to Michael Bolton's workshop on Test Framing.  That, too, is another blog post. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CAST 2011, Day 1 A Brief Summary

I had intended to write this last night.  Alas, I was far too exhausted and flopped into the hotel room with the telly and the lady-wife, and promptly fell asleep. 

So, Yesterday was an astounding day.  I met a scad of people in person I had previously only met cyberly.  That, if for no other, is an astounding reason to attend a conference. 

The Who's Who I met...  Ajay Balamurugadas - Yes, the fellow who came up with Weekend Testing, the point-man/advocate for self-education and training in India.  Lanette Creamer - Testy Redhead, bright and enmthusiastic ball of energy.  Johan Jonasson - from Sweeden, an enthusiastic and crazy smart advocate of context driven testing.  Elan Houser who I met in a BBST course - really great thinker.  Simon Schrijver - SimonSaysNoMore on Twitter - an astoundingly intelligent thinker.  Neil Thompson Anna Royzman, Todd Mazierski, Robert Berqvist, Geordie Keitt, Ben Yaroch, Felipe Knorr Kuhn all were speakers in the Emerging Topics track I was helping moderate and helped coordinate.

I had an amazing dinner with Neil Thompson, Fiona Charles, Anne-Marie Charret, my lady-wife and ... EGADS!  I've forgotten the name of the other lady/diner/participant!  I'm Sorry!  It was a fantastic conversation with little to do about testing, but EVERYTHING to do about testing. 

Michael Bolton gave a Keynote yesterday that was thought provoking and interesting in developing thought ideas.  Part of his theme was picked up in Geordie's ET session at the end of the day yesterday.  It will be revisited later today with a track session with James Bach and Doug Hoffmann discussing the idea that the Schools of Software Testing is a divisive idea, or not. 

There were other crazy smart people, HOWEVERR - I'm going to bail and write more later.  BECAUSE!  Sitting next to me right NOW is Markus Gaertner, Michael Larson, Matt Heusser and Ajay Balamurugadas and discussing the Tester Challenge they participated in last night.  An astounding display of self-evolving thought. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Cool Stuff from AST

In July I blogged about being nominated for a position on the Board of Directors for the Association for Software Testing.  You can find more on AST at the website.  Its a cool group made up of interesting people. 

So last week we got together and talked via Skype.  It was half-jokingly referred to as a "debate" but it was less debate and more people talking about what they are interested in.  (Come to think of it, there was a good deal of information shared and straight-forward answers given than in the pretend-political debates in the US the last several election cycles.)

In the course of the "ramp-up" some of us sent messages via twitter on what would be happening.  That was picked up by a couple of other folks who asked if there would be a Q&A session via twitter.  So, why not?  We ran it by some other folks and picked a day and time...

So the DAY is TODAY!  The First of August - 9:00 to 10:00 PM Eastern Time (yeah, I know, very US centric but its when those of us on twitter are available...)  If you are interested in the AST and the elections, and want to participate in the town hall meeting on twitter, just follow the hashtag #ASTElect. 

More information on the "almost debate" and the Twitter Town-Hall-Meeting will be available here