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

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

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