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….

Not so much a TESTHuddle, More a Test Cuddle

(Inspired by Technology, delivered by Humans)

Last week I attended EuroSTAR 2015 in Maastricht, Netherlands. During the conference I presented a short SoapBox session, entitled “Not so much a TESTHuddle, More a Test Cuddle”. The context for the title comes from the EuroSTAR community initiative – the TESTHuddle. The concept of the TESTHuddle is an initiative whereby software testers can come together in a metaphorical huddle and share personal experiences. This post is my perspective on how that huddle has spurred me into action.

As a little bit of background, I recently won a competition to be the EuroSTAR 2015 TESTHuddle Community Reporter. Fundamentally, this meant that I was invited to EuroSTAR 2015 to publish five Blog posts over the three days of the conference. Additionally I have published a Preview/Taster post and I’m currently drafting a Post-Conference “Wrap Up”. This article is NOT an “official” EuroSTAR 2015 post, but is a reflection of my personal thoughts and feelings.

Several of the conference Keynotes focused their presentations on the near future (nominally 2030) and how technology is going to influence and shape it. They then presented their views on how software testers need to position themselves in order to meet the various technology (AND associated human) challenges over the intervening period. My 10-minute SoapBox session focused on one of these challenges – that of the importance of a strong and united software testing community.

I used the opportunity to tell three stories – one happy and two sad. Two of these stories were very personal, while the third described a scenario that has been playing out (predominantly through social media) but spilled over into the EuroSTAR Conference during an ISO 29119 standards information Track session. I will provide a short summary of each of my stories and then present my hopes and dreams of how a committed and united software testing community can make a difference.

The Happy Story: About 15 months ago I used my Blog to support a crowd-funding initiative to raise money to get a software tester from New Zealand, Kim Engel, to Let’s Test Oz. We had about four weeks to raise the money as the conference was taking place some 6 weeks later in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. Kim had been having a tough year and was struggling with cashflow issues. To cut a longish story short, we raised the NZ$5,000 required in just over a week and as a result I wrote a second Blog post entitled How a Test Community became a Family. My Blog post lauded the (predominantly) CDT community for their humanity and support and how I was enormously proud to be (somewhat peripherally) part of that community. This was my first truly personal experience where something I believed in came to fruition via the power of social media.

Sad Story No. 1: Just over 2 years ago (or maybe it was 3 – time flies!) I was invited to speak at an ANZTB Conference in Canberra, Australia. I spoke (coincidently) about the increasing influence of social media on the software testing community and how I was experimenting with Twitter and analysing the changing role of LinkedIn on our careers.

During my talk I provided anecdotes to show how many of us are having fun with our Twitter handles and I suggested that a member of the audience (who was, and still is, following me on Twitter) should change his handle to something a little less conservative. I actually suggested a handle that was a little bit saucy. Most of the audience (including my “subject”) laughed at my suggestion and so I moved on, sharing a few more anecdotes and leaving the stage happy with the outcome.

Unfortunately, less than 24 hours later, I received an email (but no phone call) from the Program Chair of the conference saying that I had overstepped the mark with my Twitter handle suggestion.He said that he (and various other faceless ANZTB luminaries) had no choice but to ban me from speaking at all future ANZTB events (including a proposed talk I had already prepared for the following week in my home town of Melbourne).

As far as I am aware, I am still persona non grata with the entire ANZTB administration (like I care, if that is how they treat their members!). Anyway, my response to this was to write several Blog posts describing what was (IMHO) a very petty decision. Interestingly, these Blogs are still the most popular Blogs I have written, with the first of them receiving almost 1,000 hits within the first 24 hours of being posted!!

Sad Story No. 2: A few years ago the ISO 29119 standards began to emerge for comment. These standards (and many of those associated with them) have over the intervening period been the subject of an inordinate amount of ridicule and abuse. My personal views on these standards are irrelevant in respect of this post, but for the record, I have quite a few issues with the standards and believe that they are currently in need of improvement. However, this isn’t surprising as an endeavour of this sort is incredibly complex and fraught with significant challenges. Incidentally, some detractors believe this complexity is a good enough reason to not develop such standards.

What I am most dismayed about though is the constant vitriolic abuse that has been levelled at the authors and various other people who have been involved in / associated with the preparation of these standards. I believe that this behaviour reflects very poorly on the software testing community as a whole and on some individuals/groups more specifically. I’m also stunned that intelligent people (some of whom I personally admired prior to this scenario playing out) should castigate and vilify fellow professionals, just because they have a different belief system. If we were professional sportsmen and women I’d level an accusation of bringing our sport into disrepute towards those responsible!! Anyway, my point here is that this situation is reflecting very poorly on all of us right now and I personally find this state of affairs very sad.

So, there you have it, three examples of how our software testing community is currently functioning (and dis-functioning). Now, to the crux of my message and the dream I have for the future of our community.

Technology is increasingly ingratiating itself into the lives of all humankind. The rate at which this is happening is almost frightening, even for someone like myself who has been writing and testing code since the early 1970’s. The challenges associated with the ever increasing speed of technological change (as described by some of the EuroSTAR Keynotes) requires a concerted focus from all of us within the software testing community. If we are fragmented and isolationist, in our approach going forward, we will fail to meet the challenges we are destined to tackle.

With this in mind, I have setup a new Twitter account (@ThefutureofTest) as a vehicle from which to promote my ideas and beliefs. I will also be launching a new website and considering a crowd-founding campaign in order that I may be more effective in my pursuit of my goals.

I am not overawed by this challenge, nor am I so idealistic as to expect this to be an easy task. I believe in the power of diversity and community and because of this, I intend to channel as much of my time and energy as possible into this endeavour over the coming months and years. As a completely independent software testing professional I have no employer to ask permission to do this. Nor do I have a close and binding affiliation to any single group or sub-culture within the current global software testing community (that will unduly influence my actions).

I expect to receive plenty of flack for taking this stand but, despite this, I am prepared to risk my professional reputation and standing. The worst case scenario is that I will fail in my quest and slink away into retirement. On the up side, if I am successful, the software testing community will grow in stature and we will be in a far better position to tackle the technological (and therefore human) challenges of the future.

If you are interested in joining me or want to know more please feel free to contact me via my (newly minted) Twitter account – @ThefutureofTest. If you’re not on Twitter, you can contact me at colinjcherry@gmail.com. I believe

Dateline: Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, Tuesday November 10, 2015

The Tester Certification Debate Just Got VERY Personal

I got an interesting EMAIL, the other day, from the current Chairman of the ANZTB (the local ISTQB Testing Board). He wanted to inform me that a recent request of me to fill in for a (now unavailable) speaker, at their upcoming Melbourne SIG, was being withdrawn. He was very specific in his reasons for doing so. He felt that “somewhat negative” feedback from my recent “Lightning Talk” at the ANZTB Annual Conference in Canberra was grounds enough to rescind the offer and overrule the local Chairperson (who asked me the favour in the first place).

Evidently, this (negative) feedback was in relation to “sexism and ageism in some of your remarks”. There was also something about “several people taking offence to ‘the big kiwi twat’ comment” – a suggestion I made regarding a creative Twitter “handles”. Edwin Dando (@EdwinDando) is the “big Kiwi” and he has confirmed (via Twitter) that he took no offence whatsoever at my comments – in fact, Edwin invited me to “link up with him” on both Twitter and LinkedIn within hours of my talk in Canberra.

Now, I’m not one to over-analyse or lose sleep over constructive or warranted feedback, but when it comes in the form of an attack on my values, beliefs and ethics I want to know what’s behind it. I recorded my talk (excellent foresight, as it turns out) and have since replayed it several times to try and understand what all the fuss is about.

Unlike, a court of law, I can declare that this is not my first offence. I have been reprimanded by the same Chairman previously for “crimes against the ANZTB“. Interestingly enough, none of these previous incidents were severe enough to prevent them asking me to present my “Lightning Talk” in Canberra.

If I cared about his feedback, I may have reported these goings on something like this….

“We’d like a short piece (of your choice) in line with the Conference theme”. I give them four options. They choose “10 Minutes that will Change your Testing Career FOREVER”. Gotta think big and bold with these “Lightning Talks”. Make an impact. Leave them wanting more.

And then, two weeks before the Conference, another EMAIL arrives…. “The Committee thinks your Social Media piece may be more topical”. “Sure”‘ I say, “Anything to help”. So I go with the flow and begin researching the impact of Social Media on the world of Software Testing. It’s a personal journey sprinkled with evidence of the impact social media is having on our lives today. And then the day arrives.

“Next, we have the Editor of OZTester Magazine, from Melbourne, Colin Cherry….” I rise from my chair slowly and deliberately. No need to rush, gotta get the breathing right. Gotta be relaxed when I turn to face the audience. Remember to smile. Remember to turn on the timer – I only have 10 minutes. Still no need to rush – timing is everything. Remember to find someone to focus on – someone you know – a friendly face. Breathe….

And then it’s over, the adrenaline is still pumping. I leave the stage and look for reassurance. A friendly smile. A knowing nod. A thumb to the sky. Later, over drinks, people come up and say how much they enjoyed my talk. They politely ask questions and want to know if there are any notes or slides I can make available. Time passes and the adrenaline subsides and I go back to my room. To the solace. It’s a massive effort to share my thoughts publicly, on a stage, with a bunch of strangers. It does get easier over time. It even becomes fun. But there’s always that nagging doubt, the self talk. “Did everyone really enjoy that?”. “Did I stuff up?”. “Will anyone remember ANY of it?”. My mind bounces around like a football. Time to call home. Time to listen to someone I love and trust. Time to find out what happened in the real world during my day in the Conference cocoon.

Time passes. I’m back home. And then it starts.

I remember that they cut me, with small nicks at first. Then, they cut me deeper and the wound has trouble healing. And the wound leaves a scar and the scar reminds me. And the reminders haunt me and become harder to ignore. But eventually, more time passes and I begin to forget. I forget the pain. I forget the betrayal. I forget that there are people out there with the ability to hurt me. And I’m going about my daily routine and I get another EMAIL. They need my help again, this time in Melbourne. So I reach out. I reach out because the greater good takes precedence over my personal beliefs and needs. And then they cut me again…..

But I really don’t care about his feedback, so I dangle the EMAIL over the Trash icon, let it fall like a stone and go and get changed for a game of tennis.

As Ed Sheeran wrote so eloquently – “You need me, I don’t need you”.

Dateline: Melbourne, Monday June 17 2013

Software Testing & Social Media

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a short (“Lightning Talk”) presentation at an upcoming (Thursday June 6) Software Testing Conference in Canberra – ANZTB Test 2013. I was told that I could pick any topic. “How to play a killer drop shot on the tennis court” initially came to mind, but I resisted the temptation and settled for “My 9 Month Social Media Test in 10 Minutes”. Not as catchy as I’d like, but it does encapsulate how long the test has lasted, what I’m talking about and how long I’m talking; as someone very close to my heart would say “it ticks all the boxes”.

In preparing for my short talk I came to realise that I have learnt more about software testing (via social media) in the past nine months that I had in the previous ten years. A true light bulb moment! It also reminded me that I had been telling my workmates for some time that I wasn’t seeing enough innovation in software testing and I was becoming disillusioned because of this. What I now realise is that I was just looking in the wrong places. Software Testing innovation is alive and well and living in cyberspace….

The Conference theme is “Advancing Testing Expertise” and it has suddenly dawned on me that (purely by accident) I have put together a short talk highlighting my own advance in testing expertise over the past nine months. What is really exciting about this is that I’ve only found the tip of the iceberg, as I uncover new sources of enlightenment every day.

When I entered the world of IT over 30 years ago I knew I was entering a special space that would engage me for as long as I felt the need. I still feel the need and have now found a new medium within which to enjoy my time exploring. To paraphrase a famous explorer – “I’m just going outside and I may be gone for some time”…..

How I Became a Samurai Test Manager

During late 2000, I began taking an interest in the Samurai way of life, reading various books and making a short trip to Japan. This interest culminated in me presenting a paper at EuroSTAR 2002 in Edinburgh, Scotland entitled “Testing 2 Die 4”. Since then I’ve employed these learnings to great effect in my role as a Test Manager and Change Consultant. Here is a précis of my journey….

To start with the basics – the word Samurai means “to serve (with pride and passion)”. It is a common misconception that Samurai were warriors and/or fighting machines. The truth is that they were loyal servants of their lords and masters who only resorted to violent confrontation if all else failed. Among their beliefs was that you do what is appropriate, maintain perspective and focus on ideas (not opinions). For me, this translates into today’s context-driven testing techniques and holistic management styles.

Samurai focused more on “being” than doing. Being “in the moment” is far more efficient than looking to the past or future. Making a decision based upon feel/instinct (of the current situation) is far more effective than pouring over history or defining numerous (possible) outcomes. Feel is usually the result of countless hours of practice and preparation, so that when the time comes to act you act swiftly with precision and certainty.

Timing is of the essence (when it comes to action) and therefore knowing when to act and when to wait is paramount. When to apply pressure and when to back off also falls into this category. General Patton once said “A good idea executed today is worth a dozen perfect ideas executed next week”. In many of our Testing scenarios we wait for optimum circumstances, yet we can achieve our goals far more effectively and efficiently if we are prepared to compromise on some of our expectations. Perfection takes too long, we cannot control all of the variables.

Paying great attention to detail is another primary skill. Effective Test Management requires the ability to see the big picture, but also get down into minute detail; often needing to move between these states almost instantaneously. Defect Triage is a good example of where this becomes very useful as we may be discussing the precise activity of a piece of code while relating this to an overarching organisational function or process.

The study of other professions and practices is also key. I have consciously moved between as many industry and government sectors as possible in order to provide the most flexible and rounded perspective for my clients and customers. Moving from a Test Management role with a Tier 1 bank to an Organisational Change job with a small Transport business and then onto running a major Test Practice gave me plenty of opportunity to study the different types of people and practices found in these businesses.

Staying current with new techniques (and technologies) is also essential. Being able to discern fads from future staples is very key here. If you jump too early (with a new technique) you may end up down a blind alley and if you jump too late, an opportunity has been missed.

You must invest in your team as well as yourself in order to ensure that staleness does not set in. Ordered flexibility is a concept based upon the various states of water. If we are too rigid in our thinking, stubborn and closed to new ideas we will perish. Water adapts by freezing or steaming, returning to a fluid state when the circumstances permit. Water moves around an object, rarely through it; thereby, wasting no time on unnecessary actions. Water evaporates and takes the higher ground in order to return as rain and therefore sustain a larger terrain. We must learn to be flexible in our approach and skilful in our execution. We must know when to re-group and find another path to a better outcome.

Fear of failure is another area of focus. We must visualise success and the steps to get there. There is no advantage to an outcome if you dwell on (possible) failure. Acting in fear just constrains your actions and reduces your chances of success. A Tiger is always a Tiger, no more, no less. You stand a far better chance with your eyes wide open and your spirit calm. However, this must not be construed as an attitude of “certainty” (in an outcome), as this will also undo you and lead you to overlook minor details and almost certainly lead to the failure you were fearing.

Finally, in our brief introduction to Samurai Test Management, we must consider focus. Focus is essential if all the other elements are to be effective. Our focus should always be on weaknesses and where we find the most weakness we must attack with the most ferocity. If I am interviewing someone and I feel the potential team mate has a weakness (and we all do) I take several routes around the weakness and decide whether or not to disclose it. I need to know far more about the weaknesses of potential team members than their strengths as it is their weakness that will undermine our success, while their strengths are usually a bonus. I recruit based upon attitude (fundamentally pride and passion) and flexibility. A passionate committed Tester who is flexible is worth ten technically-sound but inflexible/opinionated practitioners.

As I said at the beginning, I read extensively and studied hard to understand and apply these techniques to our profession and two of the books I still have in my Test Managers Toolkit are “The Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi and the “Book of Five Rings for Executives” by Donald G Klaus. I recommend them both unreservedly.

If you want to see my original (Testing 2 Die 4) presentation from EuroSTAR 2002, you can retrieve it from the EuroSTAR archive, along with the other presentations I’ve given at that Conference. It’s only a black and white PDF, so if you would like a copy of the original in full blown technicolor with Samurai background graphics, just reply to this blog post for a copy.

As a final offering, I wrote several Haiku (traditional Japanese verse) when I originally presented this paper and here is one of them – remember this was written over 10 years ago and the technology has (thankfully) moved on.

Windows NT crashes
I see the Blue Screen of death
No one hears my screams

Dateline: Bagshot, Surrey; Friday February 1

What Have The Developers Ever Done For Us?

Last week I provided a Rant Warning at the beginning of my Blog, this week it’s a different type of warning…

As I have said on previous occasions, I am a child of 60’s England and therefore I grew up influenced by the pop/rock and comedy revolutions of that time. One of the enduring influences from our generation was that of the “Python” phenomena. Monty Python’s Flying Circus embodied everything we stood for and when the gang spread their wings into film we loved them even more. So, if you are not a Python fan or have never soaked up the Life of Brian you will get very little from this weeks’ Blog.

The scene is of a small group gathered around in a huddle. There are three or four Test Managers and a band of 15 or 20 Test Leads and Testers. They are on the point of anarchy as we join them….

Bazman: (pointing at a scrap of paper) We’re getting’ in through the hand manipulation modulation feature here, up through the main input module here, and the Developers code is here. Having grabbed his code, we inform the Developer that the code is in our custody and forthwith, issue our demands. Any questions?

Tester Xerxes: What exactly are the demands?

Reg: We’re giving the Developer two days to fix all the bugs and if he doesn’t we’re going to publish them on our Blog, one by one.

Matthias: Cut his head off?

Bazman: Cut all his bits off. Send ’em somethin’ every hour. Show them we’re not to be trifled with.

Reg: Also, we’re demanding a 10 foot mahogany statue of the Development Manager with his **** hangin’ out.

Maddy: They’ll never agree to that, Reg.

Reg: That’s just a bargaining counter. And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop him up, and that we shall not submit to their blackmail!!

Testers: No Blackmail!!

Reg: They’ve bled us white, the bast**ds. They’ve taken everything we had from us, from our fathers and our fathers fathers… And what have they given us in return??

Xerxes: Our jobs?

Reg: WHAT??

Xerxes: Our jobs.

Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah. they did give us them; that’s true.

Tester #3: And the Performance fix.

Xerxes: Yeah, and the Performance fix. Remember what the product was like before the Performance fix?

Reg: Yeah, alright. I’ll grant you our jobs and the Performance fix are two things the Developers have given us.

Matthias: And the Binary de-coder (smiling).

Reg: Yeah, we’ll obviously the Binary De-coder. I mean, the Binary De-coder goes without saying, don’t it. But apart from our jobs, the Performance fix and the Binary De-coder; what have the Developers …..

Tester #4: Triage Support?

Xerxes: Memory Dumps?

Testers ( as a group): Yeah, yeah, yeah!!

Tester #2: Debugging Workshops?

Testers: Ooooh

Reg: Alright, fair enough.

Tester #1: And the new Interest pre-calculator

Testers: Ooh, yes!!

Maddy: That’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Developers left.

Tester #4: Extracts of Production Data?

Xerxes: And it’s safe to use the Defragger now, Reg.

Issy: Yeh, they certainly know how to keep things under control around here Reg, let’s face it; they’re the only ones who can…

Testers: Heh, Heh, Heh (resembling a cackle of hyenas by now)

Reg: All right, all right. But apart from our jobs, the Performance fix, the Defragger, the Production Data Extractor, the Debugging Workshops, Triage Support, the Binary Decoder, Memory Dumps and the Interest pre-calculator, what have the Developers ever done for us?

Xerxes: Brought Pizza?

Reg: Oh, shut up

…. Fades to rush for the door as the Pizzas arrive

So, why did I write that spoof? To entertain myself (and hopefully a few other fellow Python fans) during a tough time in my personal life. As I wrote last week, my Dad has been very sick for some time now and a few days ago he lost his battle with heart disease – joining my Mum in his next life. My Dad was a huge Python fan and so hopefully, now that his pain has gone, he will find time to smile a little at this Blog.

We all need downtime in our jobs and Testing is just a job – it is not our lives. It may appear at times to take over our lives, but at the end of the day, we all have families and friends who come before our working lives. I have struggled with work/life balance on many occasions during my career and during those important family growing up times I was absent from far too many important activities. Fortunately, I no longer have those dilemmas, but many of you reading this will still have them. I can’t tell you what is right or wrong in these situations but I can say – “love is a very precious commodity and most of us only experience true love a few times in our lives; so if you have true loves in your life, cherish them and nurture them”.

My Dad gave me many gifts, but the most treasured one is Love.

Dateline: Bagshot, Surrey; Thursday January 24