Friday, 27 February 2009

Easy Makes It Hard

Last week I started a discussion on the STC about whether it "was too easy to find bugs ?" ( prompted by reading the HWTSAM book )

At the same time Ben Simo ( aka Quality Frog ) has started a new blog Is There A Problem Here? with problems in the wild and I've been on a roll this week and already submitted two

So maybe that answers my first question - it is too easy to find bugs - and this led to me trying to connect up other discussions that have been happening this week

Again on the STC site, Anna Baik started a discussion about Would you recognise your job description in a careers advice guide? and how it was made to sound boring and dull. I found an article to add to it that basically said the only qualification a tester needed was a pulse...

On StickyMinds Fiona Charles had an article "Not Wanted on the Voyage" about the negative perceptions about testers and testing.

Now I'll try and put it all together...

Developers produce poor quality code
This makes it easy to find bugs - anyone can click around and find something wrong
This can give managers the perception that testing is easy
Testing is seen as something anyone can do and as a stepping stone to other careers, the job is made to seem boring and doesn't attract high quality candidates
The people that end up doing the testing don't really have a clue about how to do the job but are able to find bugs so it seems they are doing something
But they fail to find all the bugs - or the crucial ones
The customers find them
Managers think testing is a waste of time and money
Return to the start and do not collect £200 for passing Go

Thursday, 26 February 2009

5 Questions For Bj Rollison

Butch and Sundance, Fred and Ginger, Laurel and Hardy - having asked Alan Page my questions I had to ask his sidekick William 'Bj' Rollison them as well. He took time out from a boring meeting to do so.

Bj Rollison has many names ( apart from 'Bj' ) - IM Testy and TestingMentor and is also one of the authors of How We Test Software At Microsoft

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I started blogging in order to promote different perspectives of testing, expose aspects of Microsoft’s strategic vision of testing in the future, and to help people realize the testing is much more than simply sitting in front of a computer and questioning the software.

The blog is reasonable successful. Each post gets anywhere between 1000 to 2500 hits, and the feedback is mostly positive.

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

It’s a lot of work! Also, controversial posts tend to get more hits and feedback as compared to more technical “best practice” type posts. That being said, the controversial posts are a drain, and take a lot of effort because people who disagree with those posts tend to wander from the actual context of the discussion or introduce tangential topics.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

On my blog I only track unique visitors

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

Yes…but, I haven’t written it yet :)

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

If you don’t maintain it on a regular basis you start losing readership. Also responding to each comment is important. Don’t jump to conclusions when reading comments; before blasting someone for an out-of-context comment, twisting the argument, or otherwise going off on a tangent you should ask for clarification in a non-confrontational way. (In other words, don’t follow my example.)
Finally, if you really want an open forum that people feel free to express their opinions and provide feedback allow people to post anonymously and don’t censor the feedback. (Unless a post includes gross profanity I wouldn’t delete it. I might remove offending words or phrases, but if someone wants to make personal attacks, or express irrational thoughts…who am I to cover up, hide, or censor them. Let the other readers see them for who they are.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

5 Questions For Alan Page

Alan Page is the next supplier of answers to my 5 Questions.

Not content with writing his notes and rants blog he's also found the time to be one of the authors of How We Test Software at Microsoft and start a blog that goes along with the book.

He didn't really have the time to answer the questions as he was about to head off on vacation but thought he owed me because I was such a keen reader of the book

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

My very first blog post was titled “I’m not a blogger” . I was working on the Windows CE team and wanted a way to share some of my presentations and tools with our customers and get feeback. This worked for a while, and after building up a bit of a pace, I remember struggling a bit with blogging when I moved to the Engineering Excellence team at Microsoft. Eventually, I began to enjoy it …but I still don’t really know why I do it :}

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

I’ve learned that it’s hard to blog consistently. I used to go a month or two sometimes between posts, but I’ve finally worked up to where I can post 2-3 times (or more) a week consistently.

I’ve also learned to avoid flippant remarks. Earlier in my blogging I would occasionally post random comments (usually negative) not expecting anyone to ever read them. Eventually, as I got more readers I found out that people would go back and read my old posts (and often have a few words for me). I certainly don’t mind being controversial these days, but I make sure I back up any bold statements.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

I have an adcenter script on my site, but I hardly ever look at it (just a sec..)

OK – oh look – I have more visitors on days when I post a blog entry…and nothing interesting in the searches that found me.

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

I like The Test Test

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Stay within a genre (i.e. don’t try to blog about everything), and make sure something you do – either your job or your hobbies) relate to the topic. The only way I’m able to blog even as often as twice a week is that I am constantly surrounded by blog fodder. When I go to write a post, I mostly just write about whatever I’m thinking about, and that makes the process a lot easier. I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me to check out their “new blog”. Then they post once, again a month later, then nothing. If you’re going to do it, you really need to have a plan and motivation to go for it.

It’s also good to have a few posts completed and not posted. I try to always have a few at least started so if I’m really slammed with work I can just pull one up, make a few edits (if necessary) and post it.

Monday, 23 February 2009

My First Test Is Still A Valid Test

Evil Tester recently had an interesting blog post - Do you still remember your first ‘real’ test - the first time you could remember purposefully thinking like a tester with regards to software and actively hunting out a bug.

I thought about it and although I had found a lot of bugs when I was a programmer ( I had the tester DNA but didn't know it ), it was only after I'd been asked to help with the testing and QA effort and bought myself a couple of testing books that I started to realise what testing really was and that all I'd been doing until then was bashing the keyboard

One of the books was "How to Break Software: A Practical Guide to Testing " by James Whittaker which made me realise some of my cunning tricks to find bugs had proper names like Boundary Value Analysis
I was soon putting some of the ideas in these books into practice - easy to get rspect and credibility from the programmers when you can break their app in 15 seconds when challenged to see if you could break the program in 10 minutes

Evil Tester also suggested in his blog that
"Our attitudes to testing. Our approaches to testing. Our beliefs about testing - all these things change over time."

I've learned an awful lot since I first read those books

The troubling thought though is that these early techniques are still valid and I can still easily break an app in 15 seconds using those same simple tests

I then finally finished my copy of "How We Test Software at Microsoft" which ends with a look at the future and how quality could be driven upstream so that testers are no longer finding 100's of defects and are spending their time finding the really challenging ones
( for more on this see the discussion started here on the Software Testing Club.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

5 Questions For Catherine Powell

Catherine Powell is the author of the Abakas blog and one of that rare breed of people who seems to love Mondays
Her blog is regularly updated and full of tales and insights from the testing trenches

Definitely one of the more prolific bloggers out there - 242 posts last year, 80 in 2007 and 32 already this year ( and you get quality and not just quantity )

As for the name, Abakas ?
" Abakas is something from one of those miles-long UNIX dictionaries. I liked it because the name and the logo design evoke an abacus without being too literal. I like to harken back to things - like an abacus - that can take many forms and be effective in each of them "

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I think the tipping point was that I didn't hear a lot of voices who were talking about the same things I was facing day in and day out - really in-the-trenches, small company, small team testing of enterprise or large products. There are a lot of very good testing blogs out there, but many of the ones I was aware of are from a trainer/guru perspective, or by people who were interested in the tools side of testing. I wanted to talk about the daily ins and outs of working in test: the neat tricks; the incremental, achievable changes; and the mistakes large and small.
I wanted to write for me.

2. What have you learned from doing your blog?

I've learned that there are a lot of very smart very helpful testers out there - and I've gotten a lot of encouragement from many more people than I ever thought would read it. I've also learned that it makes my day when someone talks back, either through a comment or privately.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

I did set up a Google Analytics account and Feedburner when I first set the blog up, but I don't log into it much. Looking at the keywords, it's mostly people searching for things that make sense. My two favorites, though, are:"put it in reverse – part iii" and "define: pain-driven"
I really feel for the guy who got there with the second phrase.

4. Do you have a favorite post that you have written ?

The Selenium posts are by far the most popular, but definitely not my favorite. I wrote those mostly to give back to the many many other manuals, blogs, mailing lists, etc. that I relied on to get it working. I figured I'd try to save others some leg work!
I don't personally have a single favorite, but I do find the ones that I return to are the ones that speak to making each action and each day just a little better than the one before.

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Read first, then write, and always set your entries to post at least an hour in the future so you have time to change or undo it.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

5 Questions For Antony Marcano

Antony Marcano took the time to answer my questions - which was a real honour as his testingReflections website was one of the first testing sites I came across and the blogs posted on there have been a great influence on my development as a tester

His answers show not only his own personal development over the years but also show something of the history of testingReflections, an insight that I'm sure a lot of readers will be interested in.

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I started blogging when I set up – circa 2004. My main motivation was to have somewhere to capture my thoughts and information about things in a place I could access from anywhere. I also thought that if some of the information or ideas I had were useful to me then maybe others might also find them useful. Once I started blogging I realised that writing notes and thoughts – knowing that others would read it – made me think more deeply about the subject. It gave me several insights that I think I’d never have arrived at otherwise.

(I asked Antony a supplemental question )
Did you have a blog before TR and how did you get the idea to set up TR ?

I started for 3 reasons:
1. I wanted a place to blog and
2. I wanted an RSS aggregator online that I could access from anywhere…
3. I also wanted to encourage other people to blog so I made it freely available for others to use.

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

I've learned so much by blogging… anything I’ve blogged about I’ve thought about so much more deeply during the process of writing a blog-post than I would were I to have simply thought about it in private. I’ve also learned how to take criticism and how not to react emotionally when flamed.

I’ve also learned that, for some reason, people value what I have to say. I didn’t really start writing the blog (or testingReflections) for that reason but it has done my career the world of good. I’d not be where I am now if it weren’t for blogging and the testingReflections community.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

I track visitors but can’t think of any especially unusual searches.

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

I have several favourite posts. Most of them are more recent ones. This is simply because I’ve improved as a writer thanks to the practice that comes from writing around 200 blog-posts… and because I’ve grown as a person.

Some of the most noteworthy posts are:

The Telephone Game -referenced in Gojko Adzic’s book “Bridging the Communications Gap”

The blog post that inspired my Lesson’s Learned in Close Quarters Combat column article -
(Read about the Lesson’s Learned article here : )

GameState == SystemState - I like this one because it was something going around in my mind so I wrote about it… and a week later an opportunity arose to put it into practice… and I was right!! It made a big difference.

Writing Expected Exceptions a different way - - I like because it was a minor tweak to a specific unit test practice that made a big difference for the people I worked with… it’s also nice to have respected developers pick up on the idea and run with it

Most people think of me as a tester… some only know me as a developer… I think of myself as a Software Professional – a generalising specialist with diverse skills. Because what I was known for was testing, not programming, it’s nice when I flex my programming muscles even in a small way and get recognition for it…

I’ve been sharing more of my programming thoughts on my blog too… like my first foray into Perl which resulted in Test::More::Behaviours on Cpan and this one on Literate Programming , and more controversially in this one on Udi Dahan’s twist on Hungarian notation for interface names. This sticks in my mind because I wrote the code straight into the blog-post (no compilation or testing) and a colleague took the code as inspiration – the outcome of a spike if you will - and implemented it in their office the next day (test-driven of course). The result was almost identical. It’s also interesting to me because I had some, erm, passionate remarks made to me about that last one… but I’m not afraid of a little controversy…

Speaking of controversy… Probably the one post that had the greatest impact that I’m aware of is:
Is there such a thing as a bug (including it’s broken formatting – I probably ought to fix that ;-)
When I first wrote that about 4 years ago I was very nervous because so much of testing lore was wrapped in the concept of bugs… it was practically a testers’ reason for being… I was flamed – big time! I half expected it but didn’t expect the community to get so, erm, passionate about it. There were people who really seemed to hate me (based on the tone of their e-mails).

Four years on and, guess what, the idea is making into the mainstream. I’ve read and seen people talking about it as if it was just a given… as if it’s obvious… The idea has been given additional credibility in Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory’s new book “Agile Testing”. They even asked me to write an updated side-bar on the subject for the book – of course I obliged – see page 426.

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Write from the heart! Write about things you care about! Share your passion! Share your uncertainty … it shows you’re human. Recognise that your opinion is just that – your opinion, based on your experience… it doesn’t mean you’re right! In many of my posts, you’ll see phrases like “in my experience” and “in my opinion” and other indications that I recognise my own fallibility and respect that others may have a different perspective. Whenever you can, share how you learned a lesson - for others to appreciate the lesson, they need to be taken on the same (or similar) journey! Ironically, this advise is a list of dos and don’ts… but people tend to learn more from experience than from lists of dos and don’ts, even if it is someone else’s experience! So write about your experiences you might be surprised at what insights the process of doing so uncovers for yourself, let alone for anyone else.

And last, but by no means least – be yourself!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Whatever Happened To Dan ?

After finding that someone had found my blog by doing a Google Search for "software developers hate testers" I did the same search and found this forum posting from 2001 by Dan, a recent graduate with a CS degree who had found himself doing testing all the time and was hating it...

I just recently graduated, and I have my B.S in Computer Science. I love programming, so I naturally thought that software should be my career. I've got my software engineering job now, and it's not what I expected. The only thing I've done since I started is software testing. I hate testing. I find it to be extremely boring. At first, I thought it might be just because I'm new there, and they need to get me up to speed on their current projects before they let me do anything real. However, it looks like just about all the engineers are spending a majority of their time testing. So.... either they like testing, or they all hate their jobs, which brings me to the reason for this post:

If I hate testing, am I in the wrong profession? What options are out there?

I wonder what happened to Dan

Did he get to become a programmer and do no testing at all ?

Did he become test-infected, see the benefits of testing and go on to become a programmer who produced nice clean code with few errors ?

Did he realise that testing wasn't boring and went on to join the testing profession full-time ?

Or did he realise he was in the wrong profession and go on to do something completely different ?

Friday, 13 February 2009

5 Questions For James Whittaker

Another James is next up to answer my questions - James Whittaker.
Author of How to break software, How to break web software and How to break software security
( luckily more work has gone into the content of the books than their titles... )

Currently the Architect for Visual Studio Team System – Test Edition, Chair of the Quality and Testing Experts Community at Microsoft he has had a long long career in testing

His blog is never short of thought provoking posts ( especially his 'future of software testing' series ) and if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, do so

( and if you want him to answer any questions then calling him 'a big cheese of the testing world' helps )

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

Because I answer questions all the time (apparently the ruse that I am smart and have something important to say is working) and now I have a free place to point people to more information besides my books (which they have to buy).

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

That it is a great way to stir controversy and debate. I've gotten in trouble for some of my posts so I get to learn about other's sensitivities and hot buttons. I also get feedback on what topics are hot and which ones bore people to tears. Nothing like feedback whether it is good or bad.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

No, Microsoft only keeps stats on traffic, nothing specific. Apparently mine is doing pretty good and my boss seems to like that.

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

I like writing nonsense so these posts are my personal favorites: The one that readers like the best is why our software sucks but I think that's just because people like the word 'sucks.'

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Be relevant first, entertaining second. If you can do both simultaneously, you're golden.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

5 Questions For James Bach

Not only is James Bach now on Twitter but he also found time to answer my 5 Questions

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I started blogging to practice my writing and to improve my marketing.
It's definitely helped my marketing. I don't know if it's helped my writing.

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

I've learned that a lot of people seem to read blogs.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?


4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

The posts that are my favorite seem not to be the favorites of the
readers, interestingly enough.

My favorite is my guide to investigating intermittent bugs.

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Tell vivid stories of specific experiences.

Still to come...
Catherine Powell, Antony Marcano, Corey Goldberg, Elisabeth Hendrickson, James Whittaker, Alan Page, Pradeep Soundararajan, Joe Strazzere, Joel Montvelisky

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

5 Questions For Linda Wilkinson

Linda Wilkinson was next up to answer my request.
Her blog is Practical QA

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I participated on QAForums for 7 years, was a moderator for 2 (I think) and was Really Hating it. I was spending 6 hours a day (gratis) reading and moderating stuff I didn't care about and didn't believe added anything to the field. Made a lot of friend there and still like/respect them, but I just couldn't do it any more. It was sucking me dry.

I thought a blog would give me an opportunity to present my own views, experience, and comments. I had no expectations in regards to readership; I hoped people would eventually "find" me and that I'd have some interesting, thought-provoking conversations. It's been all that and more.

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

People comment on controversial and/or humorous content.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

Nope. I didn't know if my blog would ever "take off" and I didn't want to depress myself!

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

I liked "QA Your Resume", because a lot of our consulting firms read it and we started to get better candidates!

( note - I like this post as well as I get quite a few visitors to my blog from it due to linking up to it )

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Just do it. Don't overthink/overanalyze it and don't worry about making mistakes/blunders. I consciously decided not to do any advertising (vendors or other blogs) for a year. I just wanted to write for a while and not worry about recommending/maintaining anything else. My anniversary is coming up, so I'll be adding a blog list. I haven't decided about other ads yet. My point is that you can start out small and add layers of complexity later. Just do it. Set up the basics and add your voice to the blogosphere. Don't obsess over traffic, especially at first, and just enjoy yourself!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

5 Questions For Jonathan Kohl

Next up to answer my questions is Jonathan Kohl

His blog goes back to 2003, I first came across his work when I read his article on Conventional Software Testing on a Scrum Team, his article on Post-Agilism certainly stirred up a few people and his links betwen testing and music are excellent reading.

Now to the questions - make yourself comfy as Jonathan gave some very full and interesting replies

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I started blogging in late 2003 because Brian Marick suggested I start a blog.

Back Story:
I had described my experiences pair testing with developers on a testing mailing list. Brian asked me to turn that into an article for Better Software magazine. While he was editing, all sorts of email threads sprouted up. He felt I should share those ideas publicly rather than have them trapped in email.

I thought it would be a good place to practice my technical writing. I've written things ever since I could spell, such as short stories, poetry, and papers for school and work. I enjoy writing, and I did get practice with my blog.

Now my blog a place for me to express ideas quickly, (rather than through a publisher which takes more time) or to try out new half-baked ideas publicly.

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

There's a dark side. Software development and software testing processes are very religious, in the negative sense of the word. People get extremely upset about things that the blogger might think are minor issues, so sometimes you get blindsided by someone who is upset. I've had people get very upset about all sorts of things, and some have gone as far as threatening me because I challenged an idea that they held dear. That was hard to take. Since we can communicate so quickly with blogs, sometimes people go overboard and say things in the heat of the moment without taking the consequences into account. Sometimes people forget that behind the
writing there is a human with feelings who like them, is just trying to make their way in the world, and they now has to cope with all the vitriol that was spewed at them.

However, I've learned if you are honest and sincere, and write about topics that are on your mind, people respond well. Even if it isn't popular and you face a bit of abuse at first, you get contacted by people who relate to what you wrote, say it inspired them and gave them courage in a difficult spot, and thank you. It opens opportunities, and sometimes, can actually help people.

I also probably learned how to be a better writer, due to the practice, and the constructive criticism I get from my friends. I've learned what constructive criticism looks like, and that I can't please everybody, so I better be happy with what I wrote. If I try to please everyone, I become a slave, to hack an old proverb.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

Only from a high level. I look at trends, which interestingly increase over time. I've also found that I get the most traffic on Tuesdays. Who knows why that is.

Unusual searches: I get some hits from people searching for musicians I mentioned in my unfinished "Software Development Process Fusion Series" , and I get a lot from the imperial to metric mnemonic I mentioned in one blog post:
"king henry danced merrily down central main."

Here are some that are recorded for February:
- agile marketing hype
- music metaphors
- why is software testing interesting
- case studies showing failure of software due to lack of software testing
- flat organizations and employee empowerment
- developer hip-hop test software
- soak a toe (must be from another mnemonic I mentioned from Math: sohcahtoa)
- unintended discoveries

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

I'm not sure. My most popular post is the "knee testing" post, written after Brian Marick bugged me about recording it after hearing the story:

Some of the pieces that at the time I thought were my best writing were not popular, and things I didn't think were well written have been popular, so I suppose another thing I've learned with my blog is that I can't predict what is going to work or not. Popular may not translate into "enjoyed" so I really love the feedback I get when someone says they liked the post.

I suppose I am also happy with my post-Agilism and process fusion blog posts. Not because they are well-written (they aren't) but because I felt strongly about them, and it took a lot of courage for me to talk about something that was bothering me. Back when I started talking critically of things that were bothering me in the Agile movement, there was a lot of hype, snake oil salesman advertising, and unbridled enthusiasm, without something to check that and pull it into balance. Publicly, all we seemed to hear were wild success stories, but my experience and the experience of
others I trusted was mixed. Some years I was on or observing 6 different Scrum or XP teams, and maybe 2 of those were deemed a success. I was pressured not to talk about the failures and challenges, and I kept quiet for over a year.

Now, the Agile community are starting to talk about challenges, and context, and where some practices might not work so well, and areas where some practices work better. There is even more widespread admission that Agile practices may not work for your team - in spite of what the salesman says.
We are starting to get more balance, which is a good thing. If I helped contribute to that in some small way, that would make me happy. If you think that talking about failures doesn't help, just look at the airline industry. They depend on that feedback to improve and we are all grateful for that.

It's interesting, when I talked about Agilism back in the early days (XP in '00 and Scrum in '01) I used to get bashed by people who were against it. I actually got a flame email from someone who hated my pair testing article from January 2004 because it was "Agile". Now that Agilism is the new "good thing" in the industry, the tide has turned, and it's like speaking out against world peace, ending hunger, or climate change. If you point out an inconsistency or problem regarding something Agile, you are often labeled as "one of those wrong kind of people who don't get it" even if you agree with the principle of the idea or movement. :-)

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

Be real, be yourself, be honest and blog about what's on your heart. It takes courage, but it's worth it. People notice sincerity and authenticity and it resonates with them. Don't over think it, and if you feel fearful or nervous about blogging something, that probably means that you definitely should write about it. We need more courage and more leadership in our industry, which translates into unique ideas, not the same old same old being rehashed by everyone because it's safe, or sucks up to some movement or someone famous. Most of your potential readers will see through that and move on.

If you do make a mistake, own up to it and apologize if need be. People will respect that. "Hey, they are human just like me!" A couple of years ago, another blogger said some fairly nasty things about me because they didn't like a blog post I wrote. It was hard to read, and I felt personally attacked, so I couldn't take any of their criticism seriously. However, they apologized, we ended up meeting face-to-face, I got their perspective and learned something important. We have since developed a nice relationship out of all of it. No harm, no foul.

Try to write well, if you enjoy writing, because it may lead to other opportunities for you as a writer. When I was a technical editor with Better Software, I used to watch blogs for good writing and good ideas, and ask bloggers who were unknown authors to contribute something to the magazine. It can open doors.

Have integrity, stick to your ethics, and always try to cite your sources.
Plagiarism is nasty, and is devastating to the original author. There are few worse things than feeling like your ideas are being stolen. Furthermore, in my career, as well as with blogging, any time I stuck to my ethics in spite of people telling me it was a "career limiting move", it hurt in the short term, but was actually a "career-catapulting move" in the long term. People respect honesty, even if they don't like your ideas and beliefs, and that is important.

Most importantly, get your ideas out there. Also, be sure to attack ideas and not the people. The fastest way to lose credibility is to bash someone, no matter how good it might feel in the short term. Sure, there's a dark side because people can get upset and say nasty things about you, but take it in stride, and take the high road. You grow a thicker skin over time.
Some sort of reaction is often better than no reaction at all. Any reaction means you are contributing, and getting people to think, so talk about successes *and* talk about failures. We need the different perspectives and ideas out there, and a blog is a great way to start sharing yours.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Big Endians

"Which two mighty powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most obstinate war for six-and-thirty moons past.... the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; ... the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs.... Many hundred large volumes have been published upon this controversy: but the books of the Big-endians have been long forbidden..."
Gulliver's Travels

Are you Agile or agile ?
Do you do SCRUM using XP practices or not ?
Exploratory or scripted testing?
Certified or not ?

and on a larger scale, a not-that-shocking-really article says that some of Whitehall’s biggest computer projects have spiralled out of control, with total cost overruns of more than £18 billion

Thursday, 5 February 2009

5 Questions For Lisa Crispin

I've had a great response to the questions I've sent out so next up is Lisa Crispin.

Gives me a chance to plug her latest book - my copy is still sitting on the bookshelf waiting to be read but I'm pretty sure it will soon be as dog-eared as Testing Extreme Programming is.

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

I started blogging for several reasons:
1) seems to be the thing to do, everyone is doing it
2) I always have something to say ;->
3) "build my brand", hoping to promote the book and also get speaking/training gigs in interesting places

2. What have you learned from doing your blog ?

Writing about something often generates new ideas or realizations in my own head, that I can use. I've also learned different viewpoints from the comments. Of course you get that from posting on a list like agile-testing also, but I post things to the blog that I wouldn't necessarily post on agile-testing.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog ?

No, I haven't had time to figure out how to do that! I am pretty internet-impaired.

4. Do you have a favourite post that you have written ?

I re-posted something I had entered about managing technical debt in response to a posting on agile-testing, because Brian Marick complimented it! ;-> I like it when I can give real examples from my own team.

5. Any advice to new bloggers ?

It feels a lot of the time like nobody is reading what I say (and who has time? It's hard for me to keep up with other peoples' blogs). But it doesn't matter, because the act of writing and organizing my thoughts is valuable, and I can always hope that what I had to say will give other people ideas or encouragement.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

5 Questions For Matt Heusser

Not the most original idea ( thanks Jurgen ) but I've sent out 5 questions to authors of some of the popular testing blogs.

First to reply was Matthew Heusser of Creative Chaos ( and his new blog The Craft Of Software )

1. Why did you start blogging and what were you hoping to get out of it ?
( and have you got what you hoped for ? )

It took me several false starts to get to a regular blog. First, I started a web page for a class in graduate school, and I would log onto the box and edit the files with vi to create the blog entries. Next I started a blog on, but work got busy and I was more interested in testng than perl anyway. Finally I went to the Indianpolis QA conference just a couple years back - 2006 - and Mike Kelly (who would later be president of the Association for Software Testing) encouraged me to give it another try.

So that's the history - the why is just the opportunity to express myself and get feedback from the community. After awhile, I started to get a bit of a reputation bonus - people would say things like "I read your blog" - but it's not the reputation i'm after. Mostly, I'm tired of explaining my position over and over and over again -- and, sadly, being "schooled" about how it "should be done" by someone who maybe read a book or has a year of experience.

If I respond to that with "I know what I'm talking about" and start pontificating, things tend to go ... badly. But if the person has allready read my blog, they probably know that I've given the issues real thought and struggled with the issues for years, and they understand my philosophy and ideas. And the conversation just ... goes better.

Basically, I try to use my blog as a vehicle to explain my worldview, to prevent those sort of pointless arguments over what a unit test is or weather we should automate 100% of our test ideas ... whatever that means.

2. What have your learned from doing your blog?

Oh my goodness, lots of things. It's so easy to put something out like "my goal when I am testing is to break the software." Strictly speaking, that's not quite correct; the software is already broken, we find the errors and bring them to light. So when I communicate in a sloppy way on my blog, I get comments and feedback that influences my behavior. Over time, my thinking and communicating get more clear and unambiguous. It also exposes me to a variety of ideas and people I might not otherwise have met. It's a way to participate in the community.

3. Do you track your visitors - if so, any unusual searches to find your blog?

I use google analytics and technorati, and I'm surprised by the number of visitors from India, Australia, the UK, and, increasingly, the former U.S.S.R. I had one person who wanted to translate my writing into Dutch - the guy was building his reputation by translating the blogs writing of Bach, Caner, etc into Dutch. That was something of an honor.

For awhile, I tracked my visitor count, technorati rank, and so on, but I found that It made me focus on doing 'marketing' things to boost traffic, instead of focusing on making /content/ people wanted to read. So, yes, to do a better job, I abandoned the metrics.

Think about it.

4. Do you have a favorite post that you have written?

I've been struggling to express certain ideas for a number of years - they tend to come across as 'themes' in my writing. One of them is my problem with systems that dehumanize the participants. I did write an article 'against systems', that got a good bit of coverage -- including a little media coverage -- that I am particularly proud of:

It still needs work, but I think the article makes the basic points I'm trying to express, and makes them well.

5. Any advice to new bloggers?

Unless you are a 'big' company with an ad budget and full-time marketers, the best way to grow is probably organically. Try to do one post a week. Make sure you have an RSS link for people who use readers. Put your blog URL in your signature line, get involved in discussion lists, and include your sig. If you actually say something insightful, some people will follow your signature line. You can also read other's blogs for ideas and make comments. If you make a comment and include a link to your blog, the author may read your stuff, and, if it's good, post a link on his site.

I'd recommend a combination of editorials (300-600 words) and links to other's articles or commentary on other's articles. One thing to remember is that writing is a skill that takes a great deal of time to master. One way to get better at writing is to read a lot of good writing - reflectively - and experiment with different styles. I'd suggest a combination of fiction (I like Robert Heinlein) and non-fiction (Gerald M. Weinberg) and experimentation. It may take years to develop your 'voice' - John Bruce ( ) has been working on his writing for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of words. That's discipline - and it's working for him. I could point you to a number of people who have never so much as published a magazine article that think they are qualified to write a book. Let's just say, they are no John Bruce.

In fact, whatever you do about your blog, try to do it reflectively, so you notice what doesn't work and you can adapt.

Thanks Matt - hopefully you wont be #1 in a series of 1

(If you have a testing blog and want to answer these questions then let me know )

Monday, 2 February 2009

One More Task

Just over three years ago ( seems way longer ) when I was starting on my journey from developer to tester, I came across testingReflections, seemed to be a great site with useful information.

Lurked there for a while then started to leave a comment or two then started up a blog. Received a friendly welcome and good advice from people on there.

So it was really cool to get an email from Antony Marcano inviting me to become a moderator of the site because
" Asking you to consider taking some time out to be a moderator on is a symbol of my trust in you and your judgement.

I've got a lot out of the site over the years so to be able to give something back is great.

I wont be giving up moderating duties on The Software Testing Club ( which has been good moderating practice ) so plenty to keep me busy.