Saturday, August 15, 2020

Raising the Shire

This is the final part of this story.
The First Part -
Hobbit Software Testing- is here.
The Second Part -
The Shadow of the Past- is here.
The Third Part -
The Uruk-Hai - is here.
The Fourth Part -
At Bree -is here.
The Fifth Part -
The Road to Rivendell - is here. 
The Sixth Part -
At the Council of Elrond, Pt 1 - is here.
The Seventh Part -
The Fellowship is Formed - is here.
The Eighth Part,-
Many Plans Made - is here.
The Ninth Part -
Journey to the Shire -is here .
This saga continues below.

 At the Golden Perch

The next morning, Elanor told the others she intended to stay another night as she expected the conversation and explanations to go most of the day. Besides, the Golden Perch still had the best beer in all the Eastfarthing. All of them agreed to this excellent idea as it was clear they would talk through the day and well into the night about what they had learned and discovered.

They had a good solid breakfast with eggs and potatoes and rashers of bacon and fresh made brown bread slathered in butter. They washed everything down with large mugs of piping hot tea and felt like they were really home in the Shire.

Then other people began arriving. They sat down near the Travellers, but not too near. The innkeeper arranged a large board covered with paper and writing implements for Elanor and the Travellers to use. When the room was full and every seat taken, people still came in.

The Travellers all looked at each other, a little intimidated. There were more people gathered in this room to talk with them and hear their experiences than they had ever seen before. Amy and Bell looked at each other drinking another mug of tea. Esmerelda nodded and smiled and looked at Elanor and said “Is it time to start this? Do you want to go first or one of us?”

Elanor looked a little uncomfortable. “I’d better start. I think I know what I want to say. Can each of you be ready to jump in?” 

Amy looked at her and laughed. “Of course we’ll jump in. Bell might trip and fall in, but we’ll jump in!” All four laughed. Amy never told jokes. This was unusual for her but set the tone for all of them.

Elanor stood and looked at the room full of people. She took another mouthful of tea and began speaking.

“You might remember a few months ago the four of us were looking for information and ideas around making and testing software. We’ve journeyed long and far and have some ideas now we think might help us. I think they might help us all.

“We started looking for this because we were frustrated. We tried to do things the way we were told to do them. We listened to the experts and the consultants who came in to show us and our managers what we were supposed to do to make good software and do good testing. 

“We followed ‘the rules’ we were told to follow. There were still problems in production. Customers kept coming back reporting things not working right. When we went back to the experts to ask what we had done wrong, we were told we must have misunderstood something. Except we had the same understanding that the developers and designers did. Did all of us misunderstand the same things? 

“We asked what we could do differently and we were told things like ‘work smarter, not harder’ which did not answer any of our questions or help with the problems we were finding. Our managers all said things like ‘There’s your answer! Work smarter!’ 

“Except none of them ever could say HOW to work smarter!” 

Elanor was now warming up. Indeed. She had gotten “hot” as her father Sam would say. She began pacing, and walking around the room. She looked at each person in the room as she spoke and drew each into her story.

“The four of us do not work together. We don’t work for the same companies. We are friends whose parents were friends and we like each other and each other’s company. We began talking. Each of the companies we worked for, each of us got the same answers. All of us were having the same basic problems. 

“Our management all said the same things, except they could not really help us. They could not offer suggestions or solutions. They all went back to the ‘experts’ they brought in to make things better. 

“They were all different experts! They said different things and used different methodologies and approaches! They all said the others would not work!

She paused and looked around the room. She realized she was shouting. Still, she had everyone’s rapt attention. Looks of recognition were spreading around the room. This sounded familiar to every person gathered there.” 

“We began talking with others in software. Some of you here, were some of the folk we spoke with. Some said something like ‘Well, the experts told us we needed to try harder and make sure we did not misunderstand anything. They also said we must have misunderstood something because there were bugs in production.’” 

She stopped as she saw nods around the room. Then she smiled. She knew she was on to something.

“We’re all Hobbits here. We like knowing what things are supposed to be and how everyone will act. We like things to be predictable and comfortable. We all like the idea of a party with friends and we all like the singing of the kettle on the hearth for tea. We like the idea of seed cakes at tea and a fresh loaf of bread with mountains of butter. We like things to be predictable and easy to understand.

“Except we could not understand why these things were happening. We could not understand why the ‘experts’ all had different methodologies to problems that looked much the same to each of us. We could not understand why the ‘experts’ all told us different things.”

She stopped again. She looked at her friends, then looked around the room. Elanor walked back to her chair and said “That is where we began. Things were not right, but we did not know what and we did not know why.”

With that, she sat down. The room was silent. Even the innkeeper and the wait-staff were silently waiting for what would happen next. As unusual as it seemed, this sounded to them like the beginning of a wonderful tale. To the other software folks in the room, this sounded very familiar.

Bell stood up. She smiled at Elanor and Esmerelda, then to her sister, Amy she said “I’ll try and not trip.” As they others laughed, Bell looked around the room.

“Elanor told you why we were looking for something different. We were looking for ideas we could use that would fix, or at least help, with problems all of us were having. So, I’ll tell you about the journey we took.

“We met in Bywater and talked a few times. We decided that since the problems seemed consistent all through the Shire, we’d look for other ideas. We went to Bree, first.”

At that, there was some murmuring. Hobbits visiting Bree was becoming more common, but nothing like what was done in the time of their grandparents and before.

She then told the story of visiting Bree and not finding any answers there. She told the story of the journey to Rivendell. At that, the Hobbits all seemed shocked. To go visit Elves seemed impossible for some in the room, and too much like an “adventure” for most. Hobbits still dislike the idea of an “adventure.” 

She told them of meeting the Elves and Dwarves and Humans there, but did not speak of the Council with Elrond. She said they met Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf. She spoke of meeting famous folk their fathers knew, Gimli, Legolas and Faramir. 

Then she told a shortened version of the history Elrond gave at the Council and how the struggle against darkness and evil was not ended, even with the downfall of Sauron and Saruman. 

“These are the things Elrond told us all. These are the things most of us were aware of, perhaps a little dimly, but these sounded familiar to us. We then spoke of what needed to be done.”

She sat down. There was silence in the room. Folk looked around, but no one really stirred. No feet shuffled. No one murmured. They waited.

Amy stood. “I’m not really used to speaking in front of groups. I don’t like it much even at work. My sister, Bell, told you of the journey we took. She told you who we met and of the history of how we arrived to this point. She did not tell all of the story. I can tell a little more.

“One evening when we were speaking with Gandalf, we learned something. First, we noticed Gandalf looked older. He had aged. This might not seem like much, but going back through all the stories of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, Gandalf was always there. He always looked much the same. Sometimes he’d appear more careworn than others, but he never really changed.

“That is not the case now. Gandalf has aged. He is getting older. We talked about that a little with him.

“He told us that when the One Ring, the Master Ring of Sauron was destroyed, the other Rings lost most of their power. Much of the strength of magic was diminished. Now, the Rings that remain, the three Elven Rings, are more limited and have less power than they ever did. The strength of the wizards is also dwindling. 

“All the wizards are aging, not only Gandalf. The White Council has served its purpose. Radagast and most of the other wizards have headed to the West, to the undying lands where the Elves travel to. Indeed, Gandalf went there with Elrond once. They returned to help set the change in motion that we are here to talk about.

“Gandalf is now preparing to go West over the sea with the last of the wizards. I believe Elrond, Galadriel and all the rest of the famous Elves will travel with them this time and will not come back. 

“Their time has finally come to an end. They saw us through the struggles of the Third Age of Middle Earth and set this Fourth Age on as good a path as they could. They travelled to help us with what we went to seek.


“They helped us by giving information we needed and confirming what rumor had already reported. Now they are leaving again. They will not return.”

She paused a moment and saw how every eye in the room was watching her. She looked at Elanor, who stood and began drawing on the paper behind her. One large circle in the center. Then off to one side, nine interlocked circles. Above the large circle, she drew three interlocked circles. Then she drew seven more circles, also interlocked. 

Amy went on. “By now you have all heard the rhyme about the Rings, yes?

Three Rings for the Elven Kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-Lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,

One ring for the Dark Lord on his dark throne,

In the Land of Mordor, where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule the all, One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them,

In the Land of Mordor, where the Shadows lie.*

There are two things important about that. The first, is the One Ring had dominion over all the others. When that was destroyed, everything made, built or controlled by the others began their decay and decline. The Nazgul, the Ringwraiths who once were Human Men-kings and lords, were alive only through the power of the One. When that was destroyed, their Rings died and them with them. The Dwarven Rings were already destroyed or held by Sauron. Those were also destroyed then. The Elven Rings remain, but with only a shadow of their powers.

“The elven Rings were not made by Sauron or ever touched by him. With his destruction, they also began to decline. But the strength in them was preserved somewhat by the powers of the Elven smiths who made them. We might call them “magic” except they would not describe it so.

“There is another thing which is important. Vitally important to those of us who make or test software.”

Amy looked at Elanor, smiled and sat down. 

Elanor pointed at what she had drawn. In a clear, ringing voice, she said “These are all the ‘Rings of Power’ which were ever made. These are what we would call ‘Magic Rings.’ There are no other true, real, Rings of Power. None.

“Those who claim to be the sole, final authority on software and testing, are not. They are either deceived into believing themselves, or they are themselves deceivers. 

“There are NO TESTING RINGS. There is no magical power that grants all knowledge. There is no source that gives all knowledge of all possibilities. There is no source that tells us everything there is to know about software and testing it. 

“Not even experience combined with study and scholarship can give any person such knowledge and ultimate mastery. Those who tell you there is? Or they know this is always true and that is not? Those who claim that authority? They are nothing more than Saruman was at the end! They talk smooth as silk and sweet as honey and draw you in by fair words until you are trapped. 

“There is no person who knows what is right and perfect for all teams, projects and organizations! There are none who have that power. Those who claim to know what is best are trying to sell you something. That is why no two of them agree!”

Elanor was nearly glowing red. She looked around the room full of shocked and amazed Hobbits. She looked at her companions, all of whom were smiling at her and nodding. Then she sat down.

At that, every person in the room began speaking at once. In the pandemonium of the moment there was shouting and gesturing and much waving.

Esmerelda stood and walked to the center of the room. She was tall for a Hobbit. She looked around the room slowly. Silence seemed to radiate from her and all the voices dropped away.

She spoke quietly, forcing all to listen. “All of you recognize the truth in these words. All of you recognize a few simple facts. The ‘experts’ keep coming back and charging your companies more and more for ‘training’ in the ‘correct way’ to do things. And still, nothing really changes. The ‘experts’ tell us to use their terms because the others are confusing and misleading. No two sets of ‘experts’ agree with what terms are not confusing. 

“The next question is, what can we do about it? I think it is simple. If all that has been said makes sense and rings of truth to your ears, then believe it. We don’t need to change all of our terms to suit some outsider’s definition of what words mean. 

“If your company has a set of terms which everyone understands and agrees on, fine! Use them! If the practices which are being mandated work and no significant problems are found in production and customers do not complain, then GOOD! 

“If the practices being mandated result in problems being found and customers complaining, how long will you wait before saying “This doesn’t work!”

“The EXPERTS don’t have the rings to give them authority. There aren’t any. If they have one, they made it themselves - and their practices are as flawed as their ring-making! Turn them out! Send them packing as Saruman and his ruffians were sent packing! 

“We’re Hobbits! We don’t like change! We like being forced to do things that don’t help others even more! SO CHANGE!

“Our fathers returned from their journey with Frodo Baggins and turned out the ruffians then. We can do the same now! As before, we have been so comfortable, so not willing to change because it might upset things that we have failed to see that things are being upset a little at a time all around us. 

“And because we don’t like upsetting things, we have not said anything for far too long!”

Now her voice rang out. The face of everyone who heard her shone with a light they had not experienced and could not explain. 

“I say ENOUGH! We are simple folk but not stupid! We know what works and does not work! We don’t need people to profit from our struggles and problems by illusions and falsehoods. ENOUGH!”

Someone in the back of the room shouted “YES! ENOUGH! You’re right!” They began cheering. Cheering wildly. The other three Travellers stood and joined her in the middle of the room. Then everyone was standing and cheering. 

Esmerelda stood on a chair and held up her hands. The cheering and yelling died down. She said “I am Esmerelda Took, the daughter of Peregrin Took. These are Amy and Bell Brandybuck, daughters of Meriadoc Brandybuck. This is Elanor Gamgee. She is the daughter of Samwise Gamgee, companion to Frodo Baggins. She is also our leader and the one who inspires us to be better.”

The cheering and applause was thunderous, which is something for Hobbits who normally are quite restrained.

Elanor stood on a chair and held up her hands. When they were quiet, she spoke.

“All of you know the problems found. All of you can study techniques in testing and test design. We can help you with what we have learned. Our lessons might not help you in every instance. But they can help you think about things and learn from them. They can help you learn from each other. They can help all of us be better at what we do.”

With that, she got down from the chair she stood on. The people gathered all talked excitedly about the chance to learn things they could apply as needed, not as they were forced to do. They were excited to find solutions that fit their problems, not ones that solved someone’s problems 20 years ago.

They knew they could be free to find their own path forward.


Raise the Shire! Now! Wake all our People!
Shire-folk have been comfortable so long they don’t know what to do.
They just want a match, though, and they’ll go up in fire.**



* JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p. 49 


** JRR Tolkien, The Return of the King, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p 983

Journey to the Shire


This is the ninth part of the story which began here. The second is here.
The third is here. The fourth is here. The fifth is here.  The sixth is here.
The seventh is here. The eighth is here. This saga continues below.

Journey to the Shire

The Travellers awoke before dawn to find Gandalf sitting quietly by the embers of the night’s fire. He was smoking his pipe, as he had been when they went to sleep.

“Good morning!” He said. “It looks to be a beautiful day. Perfect for walking! I believe we should reach Bree today, probably in time for supper!” 

They had a light breakfast and started on the road as quickly as they could. Try as they might, they could not get Esmerelda to say anything more about what she said before going to bed. Instead, Gandalf told stories from long ago, from before he met Bilbo Baggins and the Old Took. Mostly they were about his journeys through this same area and how reaching Bree always seemed to be a treat. The Hobbits listened intently as he spoke. 

His stories were always happy and cheerful. They made the Travellers laugh. The stories shortened the road so before they knew it, Bree was close at hand.

They arrived at the Prancing Pony uneventfully, although many Breelanders started to see Gandalf, let alone four young Hobbits coming from the East. They stayed in the same rooms Frodo and his companions stayed in so many years before. Barliman Butterbur was still the same as he had been for years, only a bit older it seemed. He greeted them warmly and encouraged them to enjoy the common room, where travelers and residents of Bree mingled.

Many remembered their visit some time before, when they headed out in search of information and ideas on testing. They spoke with them on this. Elanor was polite, but evaded their questions, replying only that they had talked with many wise people and had many ideas to consider. 

She said they needed to think about and discuss how they could apply them. The others all agreed and said they needed to think carefully. They were glad they had made the journey and had learned much. Now they needed to see what would work for Hobbits in the Shire.

These answers all resulted in the Bree-folk’s heads shaking and chins wagging. “No good can come of upsetting the right, proper order of things.” A few, however, looked thoughtful.

Gandalf left the Hobbits to entertain questions. He had a mug of beer sitting in a dark-ish corner where he could see the room and listen to all the goings-on without being in their way or the center of attention. Mr Butterbur kept an eye on him, making sure he did not go without.

“Mr Gandalf,” he said at one point. “Have you seen Strider, I mean, the King?” Gandalf smiled, almost laughed. “I have not seen our mutual friend in some time. He has been very busy, you know. I did see some of our other friends who knew I was coming this way. They send greetings. I also asked them to remember both of us to Aragorn when they saw him again. I think you may see some elves come through as well before too long. Elves usually prefer wine but your beer is uncommonly good. They may want that instead.”

“Funny you should mention beer, Mr Gandalf,” Butterbur replied. “It has been uncommon good for some years now. I don’t understand but I’m not one to turn a gift like that away. I’ll make sure to keep plenty of beer and ale in the cellar. Thanks for the warning.”

“Barli. You should know I’m likely not to be by again. It is time for me to head West for the last time. You’ve been a good, honest fellow and I’m glad I could see you and enjoy your inn, one more time. Better times are coming. Not just because the King is making things better. Young folk like these four are working very hard to set the world to rights and make it better than it has been for ages.”

“It has been worse than it is, by a long distance,” said Butterbur. “It has been better of late, of course. If they can make things better still, I’d be happier still.”

With that, he left to attend other customers. Gandalf finished his beer and quietly slipped out for his room. The four Travellers remained for some time. There was no rush and no need to worry. They were nearly home.

The next morning dawned bright and clear. The Travellers met Gandalf for breakfast where they talked excitedly. Butterbur had agreed to lend them ponies who would be returned after they reached their homes, in memory of the ponies he received from Meriadoc Brandybuck, by way of Tom Bombadill, long before. 

They left Bree and headed toward home. When they had gone a few miles, Gandalf said it was time for him to leave them. He wanted to see Tom Bombadill and they were close to his lands. After many words and cheerful encouragement, Gandalf left them, waving before they were out of sight.

They made good time as they rode, talking of all that had happened on this journey. Abby called it a quest. This made them laugh and make jokes that it was anything but a quest. They simply wanted to do good work and wanted to know how to be better than they were.

As they approached the Shire, Elanor said they had gone to learn about testing and how they could do the kind of testing they all knew could be done. “It is simple, you see. We have known all along what the problems are. Everyone knows, if they can admit it to themselves. Most won’t. They are afraid of what that might mean. But I think we have the answer.”

They crossed the Brandywine Bridge and passed through the Gate where they made straight for the Golden Perch in Stock. It was the nearest inn to the Brandywine as the Bridge Inn was still not yet rebuilt. They got rooms for the night and had a quiet supper of good, solid Hobbit fare.

As they sat in the common room talking amongst themselves, they realized the room was nearly full. This was no remarkable thing. Except it was mostly other folk who worked in software. They were watching the four Travellers intently. As they looked around them, the Travellers fell silent and realized nearly everyone there had been listening to their conversation. There were no secrets being told but they found it a little unsettling. 

Finally, someone said “You four came through asking about software and testing and how to do things better some time ago. Then you said you were going to Bree to see if folk there had any ideas. Can you tell us what you found out?”

There was a murmur of agreement from around the room. The Travellers looked at each other.

Then Elanor spoke. “What would you know? We have met with many people and traveled beyond Bree to learn and find answers. What would you like to hear? The adventures of the road? The people we met with? What we have learned? The telling of any of these things will take a long time and we are weary from the road.”

“We want to know everything!” they cried. “We did not want to admit it before but things don’t always make sense! We are told to test for “acceptance criteria” except those keep changing. We are told to test for the requirements being met but no one seems to agree on what that means. Our companies bring in experts who tell us everything we do is wrong, and we can’t figure out what the right way is! None of them agree and all of them say the others are wrong! Can you help us?”

Elanor looked at them all. She heard the familiar pain she had wrestled with. She smiled as she recalled some of these same people telling her to not worry about things so much. She looked at her friends. They all nodded.

So she stood and said “We are weary from the road. We want to share what we have found. Meet us here tomorrow after breakfast and we will talk then.”

The Travellers then stood and followed her to their rooms, where they fell asleep quickly and spent the night undisturbed by anyone except their own thoughts.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Good Testing When the Audience Calls for Jaja Ding Dong

 Sat down for a night a silly entertainment a little while ago. Found myself watching the movie "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of FireSaga." Yup, That is the name of the movie. OK, ignore the critics. It is silly. High-brow? This ain't it. (Will Ferrel produced and stars in it. That should tell you about the type of humor in it.) 

To Start, for Americans who have never heard of it, Eurovision is a huge, big deal. In Europe. Each year there are these amazing groups who compete for the honor of representing their country as the national representative at this massive contest. There are fantastic bands playing each year. Sometimes the "bumper" entertainers get loads of attention (Riverdance became a "thing" as a result of one of these performances.)

Like musicians everywhere, I could relate to the dilemma facing Will Ferrel's character early on, and at the end of the film. Each band has stuff they are pretty much expected to play at bars, clubs, concerts, festivals. Whatever. Then there is the stuff they really LIKE to play. The stuff that allows them to shine and show what they are capable of as musicians and as performers.

We ALL want to play the stuff that we like. We want to play the stuff that shows off our talents and leave people in awe. The only problem is, the audience wants us to play the stuff that is, well, not very good. It is not good musically or in any other way. Except, it has a beat and a simple, catchy tag line.

For the fictional band Fire Saga, that song is "Jaja Ding Dong." It is as lame as a song can be. Except it has a simple, obvious tagline that people drinking in a bar can sing along with. Sometimes that is about all you can ask for.

On Stage

I spent a lot of years playing in bands in bars and beer tents where people were there not for the amazing music we played, but to have fun. I absolutely promise that the stuff they found "fun" paid for the night. It also kept them coming back.

This allowed us to experiment and play the music we wanted to play. It allowed us to experiment and tweak it in front of humans who likely would not care. When we had their attention with what we WANTED to play, then we knew we had something that would work anywhere.

If we could not get something to "work" after several tweaks and modifications over a bunch of performances in bars and the like, then that piece was retired. We could use it somewhere, just not there. It stopped being fun for us because it became massive amounts of work. No matter how "good" it was, it wasn't good enough and likely would never be.

The goal was to get enough of what WE wanted to play to the point where audiences wanted to hear it. If you could get the 100 or so folks in a bar to listen, then get several hundred in a beer tent to listen. THEN you could get a couple thousand at a festival to listen. And when you play it at a concert venue, the response will be tumultuous. You have something they really want when not long ago they thought they wanted something very different.

Here's the trick. If you REFUSE to play the stuff they want to hear early on, you will never have the change to play the stuff you want to play. Ever. You won't book that venue again. You likely won't get booked anywhere else again because the owners and operators and reps know each other and will talk.


What does this have to do with testing software?

When you come in as the "new" person to an organization, remember that they often have their own way of doing things. Walking in and telling them they are doing everything "wrong" and you simply refuse to do it that way and you are the only one there who "knows how to test" is likely not going to get you very much.

Even if you are being brought in for some version of a "leadership" position, walking in and telling them to "change everything" is likely going to do more harm than good. Try joining them. See precisely how people are working. Work with them, side by side, as a partner.

That way, you are demonstrating you can do the "testing" that is expected. You can then try other ideas that are similar, but not exactly the same. If these ideas show an improvement in results and still meet or exceed all the control metrics in place, you might be able to tweak them a little. By small changes, you might be able to show more improvements.

In time, you can do the kind of testing you want to do and provide the value the organization needs. If you are patient you might just find yourself helping others do testing that way. That "new" way. 

Then the people demanding you do things their way, once upon a time, will want you to do it this "new" way. Except it likely won't be a new way then. It will be a better way. Then, they might just want everyone to try testing that way.

Then, when someone wants you to do testing like "Jaja Ding Dong" everyone else will laugh at them.