Sunday, 21 December 2008

A Look Back

That time of year when you look back ( and forward )

Highlights of 2008 for me

Got Married

Daughter graduates from uni and gets herself a cool job

Found out I had a hidden talent at doing presentations - done several at my company's monthly meetings which have been very well received

Became a moderator of the Software Testing Club which has now grown to over 2000 members. Got used to deleting posts every day asking for ISTQB sample papers

Been accepted as a delegate to Software Craftsmanship 2009

Met Gojko Azdic after a talk at SkillsMatter, looking forward to reading his new book on Agile Acceptance Testing

Started an OU course on Management which has started to open my eyes on what management is about

Jerry Weinberg wrote a new book on testing

Added far too many blogs to my blog reader

Printed out far too many pages to read

Bookmarked too many sites for me to never refer to again

Started using Twitter and found like many others that it can be useful

Started blogging again - thanks to everyone who reads it, has linked to it and left comments

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Consultant Tip #1

If you are going to come down with a severe dose of Man Flu then make sure you start it just as the holiday season begins so that you dont lose any client fees and dont fire any snotgun shells over any stakeholders

Friday, 19 December 2008

Bigger Toolbox ? Or ?

Almost the last of my posts inspired by the SIGIST conference last week

During Bj Rollisons talk on "How We Test At Microsoft" he showed one slide that listed the tools they used

  • Code Analysis

  • Dynamic Analysis

  • Coverage

  • Monitoring Tools

  • Simulation

  • Fault Injection

  • Harnesses and frameworks

  • Project Management

  • Bug Management

  • Reporting Systems

  • Perf/Stress tools

  • Source Control

  • Data generators

  • Productivity tools

  • Add-ons and enhancements

  • Visual Studio Team System

  • Many, many more

All very impressive exept for a little naggy feeling that maybe it was sign that something wasn't quite right with the way we build software in that we need more and more tools

An opinion echoed in a blog by a programmer struggling with productivity
For his "one page" web application he needed

  • ASP.NET 2.0 framework classes


  • ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit (Tab and Hover controls)

  • .NET 3.5 Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) framework classes

  • Visual Studio 2008 IDE

  • C#

  • JavaScript

  • VBScript

  • CSS

  • HTML

  • XML

  • MDbg CLR Managed Debugger (mdbg) Sample application and API framework

  • .NET 2.0 Winforms framework classes

  • Microsoft Agent SDK (API framework)

  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Web Connection Active X component

  • Google Earth application

  • Google Earth Airlines ActiveX web plug-in for Google Earth with JavaScript API

  • Prototype.js open source AJAX framework

  • IronPython 2.0B2 and Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) with IronRuby support

  • IronPythonTextbox – open source IronPython rich client text box and interpreter

  • Edit Area – open source JavaScript source code editor with syntax highlighting

  • Color List Box – open source WinForms modified List Control

  • Joshua – open source interactive JavaScript HTML console window

  • RealWorldGrid – open source ASP.NET modified GridView control

Thats an awful lot of technology to learn and master

( and install ! )

and test...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Stuck In The Debt Trap

During one of the workshop sessions at last weeks SIGIST, one of the delegates told the story about how testing was not happening as there was never a working test environment.
There wasn't a test environment as the DBA's were never free to set things up as they were too busy firefighting the problems being found in the live system.
And of course there were problems in the live system because insufficient testing was being done because of the lack of a test environment

Lots of vigorous nodding of heads from other delegates there ( including mine )

Sadly though, the delegate wouldn't have gone away with any answers - she would have learned how MS recruits its testers, how exploratory testing is over-rated, what things to consider when deciding what level to write her test cases to and how it was impossible to not visualise a pink elephant when told not to

She did stress how everyone was postitive where she worked, there was no developer/tester clash - which maybe was one clue to the problems. No-one wanted to be seen as negative and pointing out the problems that one day the technical debt should be paid off ( or at least pay off more than the interest payments ) - and unlike the auto makers and banks, there wont be the possibility of a government bailout

post your suggestions for breaking this cycle - and I'll see if the good members of the Software Testing Club have any ideas

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

SIGIST December 9

Haven't been to a SIGIST conference for a while so it was good to be there for the December one.

Opening keynote was from Bj Rollings on Exploratory Testing Exposed where he tried to counter some of the claims of ET experts about it's effectiveness. He produced some figures from 7 years of study ( I'd like to see more details abpout this ) that showed there was no real evidence to prove the case and that ET was more likely to find behavioral issues and scripted tests more likely to find technical defects though this seemed to be based on an assumption that ET was almost always done through the UI.
The summary ?
"The overall effectiveness of both exploratory testing and designing effective scripted tests depends heavily on the individual tester's professional knowledge of the system and testing!" - in other words a great tester can write great test scripts and do great exploratory testing, a poor tester will be bad at both ?

Sadly I had to miss the Testoff being held by Stewart Noakes and his PEST team - saw Stewart afterwards and he said he'd had a good chat with Bj....

Instead I had a talk about context driven test documentation which gave some ideas on what level to write your test scripts to. The answer is ( of course ) that 'it depends' but the talk gave some useful ideas on what factors to take into account when working out what it depends on

Dot Graham then gave a talk on the Three C's that a tester needs - Criticism, Communication and Confidence. Nothing really new in it for me ( the Satir model was touched upon but after reading Mr Weinberg I know all about that ) but I suppose the fact that it was nothing new showed how much I've learnt over the last couple of years

The afternoon workshop was about Soft Skills for Testers but it didnt get off to the best start when the presenter asked us NOT to think about a pink elephant on the ceiling as an example of how it was impossible to not process a negative.

Followed by a story about a dog on a porch whining because he was on a nail that wasnt so painful he felt the need to move and I was beginning to feel the need to move. But I learnt about time management ( make a priority list and act on the top priority ones first ) and how to handle email overload ( delete the unimportant ones ).
( whoops, dont think I listened closely enough to Dot where being sarcastic is one way NOT to give criticism )

The session did get interesting as it turned into a discussion about whether learning to act and using techniques to get your way was ethical
Would be interesting if a program manager and a test manager went to the same session and then tried the techniques on each other to either ship or delay a release...

A quick presentation on DbFit made it look like it was something to investigate sometime

Final keynote was Bj Rollison again with How We Test at Microsoft ( he and James Whittaker really seem to be out and about at the moment ( James is presenting at the next SIGIST in March ) and there is the MS Testing Book out ( still waiting for Amazon to ship my copy ) )
An interesting talk that might provide some future blog material

Met some faces from the Software Testing Club and also some new people - the networking aspect is a great reason to go to the event

Some interesting ideas to think about - watch this space !

Friday, 5 December 2008

Dear Santa - Books and Time to read them please

Read the latest blog post from Randy Rice this morning about leadership by the book.
Struck a huge resounding chord with me as I am such a big reader. His blog also linked to an article which suggested holding book reviews where people at a company would get together to read a book and work out how the ideas and principles could be applied to their organisation. Seems a great idea and one I am going to try and get up and running
( if I have time from helping out with the Software Testing Club book )

Then read the latest Rands in Repose blog which was also about books and his belief that there can never be enough books - and I really liked the end of his post where he is putting the proceeds from any T-shirt sales to a nonprofit organization that helps give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.

That doesn't seem to be my problem ( not enough books ), the problem I have is never enough time to read them all
Currently on pre-order I have
How We Test Software at Microsoft (PRO-best Practices)
and Lisa Crispin's new book
Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams

My Amazon wish list is now at 5 pages and has books ranging from Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines ( supposed to be a great book on Agile Development ) to Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior ( I've definitely worked with both types ) and Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst has to be a useful book.

I still like to keep my programming skills going so have my eyes on Scripted GUI Testing with Ruby
One book I read a while ago and really liked was The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement which introduced me to the Theory of Constraints so a book about Thinking for a Change: Putting the TOC Thinking Processes to Use sounds a good read

I really need the Xmas holidays to be a month long...

What's on your Xmas reading and wish list ?

Monday, 1 December 2008

Skillful Crafty Conferences

Sent in an application for a place at the Software Craftsmanship 2009 Conference in February. Should be interesting, I've been following Jason Gorman's writings via TestingReflections for a long time now so I'm not expecting this conference to disappoint.
Hopefully I'll get to attend, if not I'm sure there'll be a lot of good material coming out of it

Next week I'm off to the BCS SIGIST conference - 'The Multi-Skilled Tester'.
Bj Rollison ( aka I. M. Testy aka Testing Mentor ) is giving the opening and closing keynotes, I'm booked on a workshop on Soft Skills for Testers and I'm hoping to meet up with people from the Software Testing Club and SQAForums

Full report once I've been