Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Reducing the Cost of Testing - Interview with Matthew Heusser

Next up in my series of interviews with authors of Reducing the Cost of Software Testing is Matthew Heusser

From a Linked In discussion to a book - quite a jump. What triggered the idea that the discussion could be made into a book ?

I have no idea. It was all Govind.

That’s a sort of secret in our industry: You can get shockingly far not inventing stuff, but by listening, paying attention, connecting the dots, and taking action early. Govind came to me with the book idea; all I did was take him seriously and then help him execute.

The book is about Reducing the Cost of Testing - this implies there is a a lot of waste that could be cut ? If so, why is this, why is there so much waste ?

There is waste all over the place in the corporate world. It is ridiculous.

Consider, for example, the telephone game we all played in grammar school. First one person says a sentence to the person next to him, and around the circle we go. By the end, the message is nothing like what it started out as. In many companies, that is the software development process - with a translation process from a human to a spec, and another from spec to design, design to code, code to test, and so on. I just don’t have a better term than ridiculous.

Now take a walk around a modern corporation with a clip-board. For everyone you see doing something that really looks like work, make a check-mark. For the ones that don’t, make a check-mark in a different column. Do it every fifteen minutes for a few hours, and you’ll find more waste than you might expect. Now am I saying that people don’t need breaks now and again? Certainly not. But a lot of people are just plain not working very hard. Often, no one is working very hard -- and that is due to systematic issues that management can do something about.

Chapters from different testers in different parts of the world - how was organising this ? was it like herding cats ?

Oh it was tough. You have to realize that most of the contributors are not professional writers, and that it is incredibly easy to create a fifty-word outline, but, for a non-writer, creating five thousand solid words is, well, hard. When we had to track down the contributors and ask them “when are you going to be done?” or, worse, tell a few we had quality concerns ... wow. That was no fun.

There’s an old saw that, as a publisher, you can have friends, they just won’t be anyone you work with professionally. It’s a joke, but I certainly understand where it came from.

Do you have a favourite chapter ?

Being both immersed in the problem and arguably doing the most research, and more than a little bit human and selfish, I’m a little partial to my own chapter. Michael Larsen’s , Michael Kelly’s and Scott Barber's chapters, along with Catherine Powell’s appendix, also provide some of the most direct/concrete advice in the book.

What was the hardest part of putting the book together ?

Oh wow. Everything. Offhand: Dealing with authors who didn’t deliver, or delivered substandard work. Dealing with the authors who stepped in at the last minute, who wrote a chapter in a weekend -- you have to admire that, but gosh did we have some polishing to do.

Probably the most painful for me personally was the communications problems that came from people genuinely mis-understanding, often because I had failed to make things clear in the first place. Knowing that more than a bit of it was my fault makes it hurt more.

You also did the foreword for "Clean Coder" by Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin and you've had a chapter in "Beautiful Testing" Are books and writing important to you ?

For me, writing is a creative outlet that is just enough like testing to sharpen my mind, and just different enough to be a distraction. That I can do it anywhere on my own schedule, without travel, certainly helps.

When someone tells me that they took one of my ideas and applied them to success, that makes my day. When they are more critical, it makes me think and improve. Either way, I win.

You did this book, had a day job, family, blog and got other articles published - do you only sleep 2 hours a night ?

The rumor seems to be that I have super-powers, but the truth is simply that I have made a conscious choice to make software testing an important part of my life. I also have a wonderful life-partner in my wife, who does many things that allow me to sneak in a few more hours for testing here or there.

It’s not two hours, but yes, you’re right, I do not sleep enough, and that’s a problem.

What's next in the pipeline for you - another book ?

How did you guess? (Laughs) I am currently gathering resources for a book on classic essays in software testing. I am open to recommendations ...

Thanks for the replies Matt - and to show how busy he is, take a look at his profile

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