Don’t Worry, Be Happy

By the end of today (January 4 2019) I will have spent an amazing 24,000 days on this planet. That’s getting on for 66 years, if you need a more easily digestible number. Apart from the first thousand days or so (which were a blur of nappies, boobs/bottles and mushy shit dressed up as some sort of introduction to “solid” food), I’ve looked forward to and embraced each day as it unfolded.

The next 5,000 days encompassed a childhood that saw me get a new Dad, briefly meet a sister who left far too soon, gain an education and completely misunderstand puberty. Whoever invented puberty obviously hates the human race.

Fortunately, I’m still in one piece. No major limbs or organs missing. No unwanted holes in my body. The cells that make up my human form have successfully regenerated millions of times and my blood flows through my heart at a resting rate around 50 thumps per minute. All in all, I’m in a great place. If you pushed me I would admit that I could be a bit better off financially, but then, even Bill Gates would probably like a bit more dosh to splash around.

My current estimate is that I’m almost two thirds of the way through my life – based upon how I’m feeling today. So, maybe it’s time to take stock and assess what the past has taught me and what the future holds (apart from the mushy food and nappies) as I launch myself towards Day 24,001 and beyond.

Lesson 1: I have learned the importance of being open, honest, constant and consistent. I appreciate these qualities in others and aspire every day to improve these qualities in myself.

Lesson 2: I eat lots of green leafy vegetables, red fruits, nuts and fibre. For the first 23,000 days of my life I neglected to focus sufficiently on the health of my gut and suffered the consequences. The last 1,000 days have been nothing short of transformative. No more hay fever means Spring is fun again! Better eyesight (one eye is now 20/20 again) means that I now save 50% on my annual contact lens bills! Remember, you’re not a kid any longer and your body is less forgiving as it gets older. Sugar is poison; diabetes kills.

Lesson 3: I emigrated to Australia in 1990 and left behind my parents, my brother and a whole host of beautiful extended family and friends. It taught me the true value of these people and how important it is to spend as much time as possible with the people I love. I visit the UK at least once a year to keep those relationships alive.

Lesson 4: My kids have, on more than one occasion, described me as a workaholic. My Dad taught me a strong work ethic while my kids taught me balance. Retiring at 59 was a small gesture, but consigning my day job to history improved my life immeasurably. Don’t ever be afraid of retirement, it will give you the best days of your life.

Lesson 5: I’m very lucky, I love all forms of exercise – always have. I wear a smart watch and exercise at least 5 days a week. Once you stop moving, you rust up and start dying. I was still playing competitive indoor soccer in my late 50’s (against men less than half my age) – and winning trophies!! Find a way to include regular exercise in your life. It’s never too late – I coach retirees in strength training and badminton through an amazing worldwide organisation called the University of the Third Age.

Lesson 6: I’ve probably had less than 100 really bad days in my life (and only one of those had anything to do with work). That means I’ve been happy for over 99% of my days. I don’t worry about what I can’t control and I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t take myself too seriously. Some days I’m a mess, just like the rest of you. Don’t worry, be happy.

Lesson 7: I dumped my ego on my 40th birthday. It was totally empowering. I accept that someone out there is better than me. I accept that someone out there doesn’t like what I’m wearing or saying or doing. I am no better than the person standing next to me on the tram and they are no better than me. We are just different. Don’t judge others – you don’t know their story.

Lesson 8: I spend as much time as possible with babies and little people. Before I grew up and became aware, I too was a baby. I was pure. I was unknowing. I lived in the moment – ALL OF THE TIME. When I spend time with little people I forget the big bad bits of the world around me and embrace the simplicity and serenity of joy and wonder. If you have the wherewithal, I implore you to have children. If your children have the wherewithal, implore them to have children. Being a grandparent is the most rewarding role you will ever have.

Lesson 9: I wake up every day looking forward to the adventure we call life on earth. I have lived through some very dark times, don’t get me wrong, but dwelling on them has never helped me or my loved ones. My Mum’s lifelong battle with paranoid schizophrenia and depression made for some days very dark, but they were far worse for her than they were for us – her family.

Lesson 10: I am the best version of me that I can be. Don’t be who/what someone else wants you to be. Be authentic. If you can’t love yourself how do you expect others to love you?

Authors Note: This Blog Post is the first in a departure from my previous focus – software testing. I hope you find it interesting and maybe even useful. Please feel free to leave your comments and/or thoughts.

Dateline: Melbourne, Friday January 4 2019

Advertisements

My #DeleteFacebook Story

I have been following the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica saga since it broke just over a week ago and my initial feelings were lack of surprise and “oh, here we go again”. But something felt different about this latest exposé, so I decided to delve deeper to see how much Facebook have captured (or at least what they tell me they have captured – how will I ever verify whether they have sent me everything?). This is my story, what I found out and what I’m going to do next….

I requested a copy of my data from Facebook on March 24. It was an easy process once I discovered that I could only do this via the FB website (at the bottom of the General Account Settings page) but NOT via the FB App on my iPad. My data arrived within the hour – all 673 files of it. I then performed an initial browse of the files to see what was there. Initially it looked to be exactly what I expected – loads of photos, a myriad of comments regarding other folks FB posts etc. etc. Nothing surprising. Then I started to delve deeper……

The really interesting stuff (in my case) comes in the last few files, so if I had not spent time during the initial analysis making sure I scanned EVERY SINGLE FILE, I wouldn’t have uncovered the juicy stuff!! So, what is the juicy stuff? The majority of the files contain photos in my case as this is typically what I post. The next major category of posts fall into the “commenting on others” posts. This is open to all comers as far as I am concerned so I spent only a short amount of time on this. However, as I mention towards the end of this piece, the photo data does uncover a few nasty surprises 😦

The first file that really grabs my attention is file no. 551 (of 673). This contains my main FB profile data. This reveals my (FB allocated) email address – something I’ve never used, won’t ever use but could be a direct access point for spam and malware for those who do. Next up on my Profile Page is the date I first joined FB (2006) followed by my primary email address, the city where I currently live and my FULL date of birth. Within my account settings I restrict the access of these fields to “Me Only”, yet they are readily available here, unencrypted and completely free for anyone to read. What upsets me the most though is the information regarding my family. There is a list of ALL my family members who are (or have been) on FB. The list also specifies their exact relationship to me. Again this is not information that I have sanctioned for sharing, yet here it is in an unencrypted file. My reaction to this is that I must tell all my family of this breach so that they are also aware. The other disappointing breach on my profile is the disclosure of all the “interests” that I have tagged over the years, the majority of which I don’t remember but would be very useful in understanding my lifestyle, my ethics, my politics, my specific interests and pastimes. Wonderful information for anyone wanting to target me.

The second file I zero in on is no. 666 of 673, it provides a complete list of all my family and friends on FB (past and present) plus the date that they joined. Why FB would keep the joining date (of my family and friends) within MY data is baffling. The underlying file structure within FB would already have the joining dates for each person and the only reason that I can see for also storing them within my data is to make it easier for someone data mining relationships between the various FB users. As part of this file there is a breakdown as follows: current friends, my friend requests still outstanding, friend requests to me that I rejected (all, in my case, because I didn’t know them), friends that I have removed (in my case I regularly clean up all my social media contacts). This final category is the most concerning for me because it includes people who have passed away and therefore it could be very upsetting to the families of those affected if this information were misused.

This is not, unfortunately, the worst breach regarding my family and friends data. File 672 (the penultimate file) provides the worst breach with respect to my story. File 672 includes details of family and friends who are NOT on Facebook. Mysteriously, it also contains details of people I have never heard of!! This is really baffling. I am going to go into this breach more forensically and provide some examples.

1) All (231) of the people listed have their mobile (cell) phone number provided. Some have multiple numbers provided.

2) 15 of these people are completely unknown to me

3) The majority of the people on the list are NOT on Facebook – to the best of my knowledge

4) The list (of 231 people) does not correspond to my current mobile (cell) phone contacts list and (as I have previously stated) I have NEVER provided permission for FB to access my personal contacts list anyway

5) Two of the people on the list have never even used the Internet – one of them is deceased and the other is over 80 years old and wouldn’t know a computer from commuter!!

6) At least 10% of those I do know (on the list) I have never had in any of my contacts files and until I received this data (from FB) didn’t know their contact details

If this data that I have received is a true reflection of my utilisation of Facebook then how come I don’t recognise some of these people? How trustworthy is any of the data? It leaves me thinking that FB have NOT provided me with everything they have from the time I joined. What is even worse is that this could be a system failure/oversight, meaning that they think they have the right data, but they don’t!! There is a big difference between knowingly providing false evidence and unknowingly providing false evidence.

Before I conclude this first part of my story I want to just briefly touch on a few other rather worrying aspects of the data captured. While I expected my uploaded photos to be stored I didn’t expect the meta data relating to them to be captured. For example, they have captured the exact longitude and latitude coordinates for many of my photos (to 14 decimal points). They have stored the IP address from where the photos were uploaded. They have stored the equipment used to take the photos. What reason could they possibly have for capturing this information? I won’t ever look it up on FB and I’m sure none of my family and friends are interested. This is an obvious data grab for future sales/marketing opportunities for FB.

So, what am I going to do next? Firstly, I am NOT going to leave Facebook, at least not in the short term. This is mainly due to my wanting to finish this analysis and I can only do this by staying on FB.

Here are my next steps…

1) Write to FB and ask them why they have captured information (that I believe has been captured against my express wishes). My contacts data being accessed will be my first question

2) Write to FB and ask them who they have shared my data with (and why) since I joined in 2006

3) Write to FB and ask them NOT to share ANY of my data with ANYONE NOT specified within my FB Privacy settings

4) Continue to request files from FB on a monthly basis, so that I can monitor the data they are storing. I am going to compare successive data files and identify changes and report any strange/unexpected activity via this Blog and other social media forums

I use FB for one reason only, it is the most appropriate software for staying in touch with my family and friends. It doesn’t mean it’s the best software for staying in touch with my family and friends but it is the most effective from a reach perspective and at this moment in time that is a major factor in my decision to stay.

I have read widely over the past week and listened to many better qualified folks that I with respect to personal and technical risk. I am hoping that my story will help others with less time on there hands (and maybe less inclination) to make their own judgement with respect to using Facebook. I have also analysed my risk with respect to Google and have closed my Google account and deleted my GMail account – as of yesterday. Google’s invasiveness is a whole other level of risk that I am not prepared to endure. There are many excellent accounts of this risk already out there – I have provided references to these via Twitter and Facebook, so you can make your own judgements there too.

In closing, I would like to offer any support I can to help my family and friends make their own decisions (and perform their own analysis if they are interested) in order that we can all come to the best decisions regarding our use of social media.

Stay safe, stay vigilant.

Dateline: Melbourne, Friday March 30 2018

We Need a Model Office Jim, Didn’t You Know That

It’s been a while since I put together a new conference talk, so I thought I’d share “We Need a Model Office Jim, Didn’t You Know That?”. I presented this a couple of weeks ago at the LAST (Lean Agile Systems Thinking) Conference in Melbourne. The content is focused on how to design and build a Model Office.

Model Office (PDF)

Any comments or questions please feel free….

Software Testing Conferences: The Why

A couple of days ago I was having a discussion with @nzben and @maaretp on Twitter regarding whether speakers should be paid (as a minimum expenses) to speak at Software Testing Conferences. During that discussion @nzben asked me how much I had (personally) spent on speaking and attending conferences during my (25) years in software testing. I thought about this for a while and came up with a figure in excess of $250k. Before you all get your calculators out, I used a very simple formula – I budget for 10 days of formal learning each year and on average over the years I’ve earned $1,000 per day (as a freelance testing consultant). When you work freelance you only get paid for your days in the office. Now I didn’t quite make 10 days every year (mainly due to heavy workloads and holidays) and I didn’t always pay large amounts to attend conferences or training events but you can see that the financial investment was significant by most people’s standards. If I had my time over I would have spent more, but that’s another story.

The reason I am writing about this today is that we (in Australia) have long been poor cousins to the rest of the world with respect to local access to thought leaders in our field and therefore I needed to travel to Europe and the USA for the majority of my (career development) needs. This has been slowly changing over the past few years with the likes of Michael Bolton and a few others visiting several times. This year we are very fortunate to have TWO major international conferences within the next few months in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. From my perspective anyone who is serious about software testing should attend at least one of these events and, if possible, both. I will definitely be attending the Melbourne event (http://www.qualitysoftware.com.au) on May 10-12 and I’m currently deciding on the Sydney event (https://www.associationforsoftwaretesting.org/conference/castx17/) that occurs February 20-21.

If you can’t steal your self away for either of these excellent events we are beginning to get traction on Software Testing Meetups around the country and as far as I am aware these are all FREE. I belong to several Meetup groups in Melbourne and get along whenever I can. The TEAM Meetup in Melbourne is very active; you can find them at http://www.testengineeringalliance.com. Also in Melbourne is STAG (Software Test Automation Group), Melbourne Software Testing Meetup and Agile Testers Melbourne. In Sydney the have (the aptly named) Sydney Testers who are one of the top five (by registrations) software testing Meetups in the world, so they must be doing something right. You can just download the Meetup App as an easy way to find stuff.

Long before the Meetup buzz began there were (Australia and NZ focused) ANZTB Special Interest Groups established and I’ve attended and spoken at several of these over the years. However, it’s been a couple of years since I attended one of these, as I’ve been banned by the ANZTB from speaking at their events after a rather silly infraction several years ago in Canberra. I’ve written about this previously, so I’m not going to harp on about it again. Their loss…..

So, there you have it, I urge you to take control of you career development by attending one of the previously mentioned Conferences or (failing that) a local Meetup as often as you can. We are not as fortunate as our European and American cousins who can attend a Conference almost weekly!!

My next Blog post will provide a list of all the 2017 Conferences in Australia and New Zealand that I think you may be interested in.

Dateline: Friday January 13 2017, Bagshot

The Why and The How

For me, everything begins with the Why and is followed by the How… 

Why did I (a successful software developer with over 15 years experience) become a Software Tester?

No, it wasn’t because I wrote crap software and therefore had to test the shit out of it before anyone also saw it!! It was, primarily, because I got bored coding the solutions and wanted to spend more time looking at the problems. I later discovered that it was far harder seeking out (potential) problems than writing/amending code – and this kept me interested… for 25 years (and counting).

How did I become a Software Tester?

I began by using the techniques that I learned while debugging my own code and from there expanded into Integration Testing (between discreet programs), System Testing, Integration Testing (between systems) and beyond. Context: you have to remember that there was no (accessible) internet in the mid 1980’s and therefore the only effective way to learn was (for the first 4-5 years) by trial and error, then I sought out training courses and books (thank you Dot Graham) and then I began attending the EuroSTAR conferences. I know it’s easy to say “you’re lucky, because in my day…”, but it was incredibly difficult to forge ideas and push boundaries when you didn’t even know the questions you needed to ask, let alone find the answers!!

Why am I dismayed that so many Testers want to code?

I have never understood the current trend for Software Testers to want to code. Even with my 15+ years as a developer (in fact, probably as a result of it) I never thought to go back and write code once I became a hands-on Tester. WHY? Because, I trusted the specialists to write any software I needed (to support my manual tests). I believe, the basis upon which we originally created a distinction between DEV and TEST (the activities and the roles) is even more important today than it was in the 1980’s, when I first became a Software Tester. Technology is the most complex it has ever been and therefore we need to keep a clear distinction between DEV and TEST.

How do I remain an effective software tester if I don’t code?

I focus on what differentiates a human from a machine. I understand context and ask questions, while a machine can only follow commands. I can remember nuances regarding what was difficult to test last time I was in the vicinity of the system under test. I can explore, while a machine has a defined route. I can change priorities at a moments notice, while a machine awaits more information. I use instinct, while a machine…. I think you get my drift – I am a human using technology to assist me with my software testing goals, not a machine awaiting guidance etc.

Why do egos get in the way of outcomes?

I believe that developing software is hard enough without letting egos get in the way. There is always more than one way to achieve an outcome and generally the simplest way is best (Einstein certainly believed so). So, why do we waste countless hours, days, weeks, months (and sometimes years) debating WHY THIS WAY IS BETTER THAN THAT? The most important aspect of any product is that it meets the need of someone (not everyone) that matters* and therefore everything else comes second and therefore doesn’t matter… If we took this approach (more often) budget/schedule overruns would be far less prevalent.

How did I get rid of ego-driven actions?

About 20 years ago (in my late 30’s / early 40’s) I began to question how I did stuff and what prevented me being as successful as I expected to be. I came to the conclusion that the root cause was the impact of my ego. Since that time I have worked tirelessly to reduce the impact of (my) ego (and the ego of others) on both my professional and personal life. Don’t think this is an easy task, because it isn’t. Learning to let go and trust others isn’t easy – especially when you’re a perfectionist, as I am. However, as with all habits, focus and practice eventually lead to change and better outcomes. Being a sportsman all my life has taught me that nothing beats practice and I still practice selflessness, empathy and compassion every day.

Why do organisations look for cheap(er) software testing solutions?

I believe that generally in life we get what we pay for. And, it’s no different when it comes to testing software. If you value your organisations reputation WHY would you hand the validation and verification of software (upon which your organisation probably relies to function on a day to day basis) over to another organisation – whose reputation is almost certainly far less important than yours? In a similar vein, why would you also allow another organisation to choose how experienced (or not) the folks are who test your software?

How do I deal with the “You’re Testing is too expensive” accusation?

My first response to this accusation is always – “Expensive? Compared to what?“. As I have said before, context is (almost) everything. If you are Volkswagen and you manipulate your test results, testing can be VERY expensive!! My context has typically been in the commercial software field – banks, utilities, logistics, telecoms etc. and therefore my approach has always been to understand the underlying business risks and quality expectations in order to determine the level of rigour required for software testing. I frame my proposals along the lines of…. “If we spend this much time and money (on testing) this is the likely outcome”. This approach has (in 99% of cases) led to a successful outcomes. The other 1%? Well, there’s always one smart-arse in the room!!

Why do I still care so much (after over 40 years in IT) about the quality of software?

I believe that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing to the best of my ability. I also believe that, due to the proliferation of software in our lives today, that the quality of software will continue to grow in importance and, as a result of this, the craft of software testing needs to continue to grow as an independent and scientifically-based occupation.

How do I maintain my passion for the craft of Software Testing?

I have a passion for causes and I decided long ago that quality was something worth fighting for. I have always admired the beauty of the journey, as much as the eventual destination (sometimes the journey is far more fulfilling). As a sports lover, I have always believed that the lead up to a goal is far more interesting than the goal itself. There are a million routes to reach a destination and I’ll, more often than not, take the route that is most satisfying – sometimes this is the quickest and most efficient route, but sometimes not!! This sometimes leads to differences in philosophy and I am quite comfortable taking my passion elsewhere. How do I justify this approach? My integrity prevents me from bending too far when it comes to quality outcomes….

Dateline: Melbourne, Friday October 14 2106

You can’t Build Quality into Software BUT you can Keep Shit Out!!

For far too long now there have been a number of (marketing-driven) mantras along the lines of “building quality into software”. I even worked for a company that built a whole strategy around the concept, they called it “shift left”.

I’ve never been a big fan of hyperbole, especially around the promise of software, and so when the execs are looking for a “point of difference” and some bright spark (usually from marketing) comes up with “let’s say we build quality in from Day 1” my first reaction is “HOW DO YOU DO THAT?”.

As someone who wrote software for over 20 years, I can tell you that our main focus (as Developers) was meeting deadlines and this meant keeping things simple and not getting too clever. What this translated into was stuff like this:

  • Understand the main requirements and filter out frivolous requests for features that are not necessary
  • Understand how the software is going to be used in order that misuse can be prevented via the software, rather than the user or non-human interface
  • Understand the context within which the software will be used and then ensure its security within that domain
  • Understand the user base in order that the software be tailored for user level(s) of maturity
  • Understand the voracity of the data that is to be presented and ensure that it is good enough to enter our domain (by rejecting the rest)

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of the concept of “keeping shit out”, while it was certainly not “building quality in”. We could discuss concepts like “static analysis” here and there is certainly a major advantage to taking this approach, but I still see this as a “keeping shit out” tool as opposed to a “building quality in” tool.

In my book, quality is quite esoteric, in that it is in the eye of the beholder. Whereas, most people recognise shit quite easily. Most of us know what we DON’T want, but find it much harder to define what we DO want, so it is no wonder that the marketers focus on something that is far harder to define – it helps keep them in a job!!

If you want me to develop an App for your personal banking it will definitely cost you more and take me longer than if you want an App to keep you informed about the weather or an App that finds your missing Pokemon!! However, in each case they would still be delivered to exacting standards that met user expectations. And, in each case, I would still focus on “keeping shit out” not “how can I build quality in”.

Food for thought??

Dateline: Melbourne, Thursday September 8, 2016

Employees are People Too

What is this obsession that (far too many) businesses have with pushing their employees to the point of mental and physical exhaustion?

What sort of society have we created where people are encouraged to work 18 hours straight, without a break, just so the company we work for can turn a profit?

What sort of culture promotes profit over people?

I can tell you categorically, from very personal experience, that a business that puts profits before it’s people and encourages self-sacrifice is a business that will not last very long. Creating a business that truly supports it’s people, by mandating a balanced lifestyle of work, leisure and family, is a business that will thrive and remain successful. The true value of any business is it’s people, not it’s image or product. You can have a fantastic product, but if you treat your people like cannon fodder then you will have a short-lived business.

I’ve seen far too many people reduced to shrivelling wrecks because they have been put under unnecessary levels of pressure to produce an outcome (at all costs). How does the culture within a business get to a point where “toughness” is encouraged and “sensitivity” and “humility” are frowned upon? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard and/or seen the words “sensitive” and “emotional” used as negatives when describing someone’s personality. Since when did showing empathy become a negative?

As a Business and Technology Consultant for most of my life, I’ve been inside hundreds of organisations (from mega-businesses like IBM and CapGemini to small high street shops) and I can assure you that if you mistreat your people you will struggle to maintain a viable business. A simple gesture like an arm around a shoulder is very welcome in a good business, but is seen as harassment in a poor one. A word of encouragement is seen as supportive in a good business, but unnecessary in a poor one.

We need to encourage everyone to speak up (not put up) when they need support. We need to highlight and shame those businesses that encourage ugly and demeaning behaviour. We need to ensure that empathic businesses are recognised for what they are.

Humanity is supposed to set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, I see far too little humanity and far to much animal cunning in today’s business world. I, for one, am going to start highlighting and shaming businesses that lack humanity and discourage a balanced lifestyle. I may not change the world today, but maybe I can start a movement towards true caring and understanding throughout the business world.

If you work for a company that treats you inhumanely, LEAVE. If you are subjected to unnecessary pressure, seek support and guidance, THEN LEAVE. If you are harassed or bullied, write to the CEO, THEN LEAVE. Don’t rationalise. Don’t toughen up. Don’t support their ideology. There are millions of good businesses out there, you don’t have to work for a bad one.

“You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” (Lennon).

Dateline: Melbourne, Thursday January 8, 2015