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 use.perl.org, 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:

http://xndev.blogspot.com/2006/12/against-systems.html
and
http://www.infoq.com/news/2006/12/trouble-with-systems

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 ( http://mthollywood.blogspot.com/ ) 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 )

1 comment:

Debasis - The Bug Hunter! said...

@ Philk,

Interesting interview. Good to see you starting such a series. In fact, I have started a similar series in last Dec 2008 with an interview with Alan Page. Thanks for reminding me to continue my own series. :)