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 testingReflections.com – 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 testingReflections.com 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!

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