Category Archives: Quality and Testing

Ideas about software quality and software testing, hints and tips, conference reports, inspirations and sources of information

And then a harder challenge…

Seth’s course continues with him speaking, giving examples, explaining concepts and exhorting… I am not going to go through everything he suggested (do the course! I urge you… do the course! Seth Godin’s Freelancer course) but I will give some ideas of the challenges in the exercises, what they made me think about, and some of my answers.

The next questions Seth posed (as exercises 2 and 3) are really thought provoking:

  • What do people buy when they buy something from you?
  • Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic stuff… what are you doing that’s difficult?

This really got me thinking, because, the easy answer is “consultancy and training,” but… what do I mean by that? What exactly do people want to buy from me? My engagements with customers don’t necessarily offer concrete deliverables – although they can do. I’m not providing wedding catering, or photography,  where people can see something they have bought. What I offer could seem quite nebulous. The type of feedback I have had from satisfied customers (especially senior people like CEOs) are words like “happier because you are here,” “calmer days,” “more confidence”.  This requires some thinking – what are people buying, really, when they buy from me? This is not about what I think I am selling, but about what other people think they are buying.

What do people buy when they buy something from me?

I provide consultancy, training, coaching, mentoring in my specialist areas within IT. That is software quality management, software testing and user experience testing.

Therefore people buy my expertise and knowledge.

More specifically, if YOU buy from ME: you buy my confidence, energy and enthusiasm, my ability to enthuse others. You buy my diligence, my competence, my ability to find out or synthesise new things from a set of information / data and therefore suggest a (new to you) solution to a problem that you have.

You buy the knowledge that you can trust me, because I am a professional.

Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic stuff… what am I doing that’s difficult?

The difficult parts of my role, the reason I succeed, is because of two contrasting areas: People and Data.

Most of the problems I encounter in organisations, and help to solve, arise from gaps in people’s communication, understanding and skills. I’m an enabler and teacher. I enable others to become more confident and to learn new skills, both technical and interpersonal. After time with me, you’ll have bought the ability to close those communication gaps.

Data arrives on organisation’s laps in vast and unmanageable clumps. I have the ability, the patience and a certain enjoyment in unravelling data, analysing it, researching, thinking, synthesising, making data into information. Ideas arising from this work are often hard to explain and convey, but I have a skill in transferring and clarifying concepts via story-telling and metaphor. After time with me, you’ll have bought knowledge you’ve gained from those stories.

Here are ten things you’ll get from me, if you are my client:

  1. Trustworthiness – if I say I’ll do it, then I’ll do it.
  2. Kindness and respect – I’ll treat people as people.
  3. Diligence and hard work – you won’t wonder whether I could have done more.
  4. Honesty in feedback – I won’t flatter, I will critique, and I’ll praise
  5. Enthusiasm and positive attitude – I will look for ways to make things work.
  6. Stories and metaphors – I’ll seek many ways to explain and transfer ideas.
  7. Listening and understanding – I will take time to make communication two-way.
  8. Timeliness and scheduling – I will work to get things done ahead of date.
  9. Confidence and worth – I want to leave you feeling more capable than I found you.
  10. Sharing and giving – I want to transfer to you the knowledge I have.

Rank yourself…

Then came a really hard question, but one that I found important to reflect on really carefully. How do I rank, against others, against myself as I used to be, and against what I could be in the future? Seth asked: “Compared to others who do what you do, rank yourself on reputation, knowledge, expertise, tools, handiness”

So, how do I compare? And, who do I compare myself to?

I took a long hard look at my skills and expertise. There are some areas where I have specialised, practised, and continue to grow. There are other areas which are no longer my specialism. It’s like spring cleaning a cupboard – what do I want to keep? what do I want to mend? and what do I throw away? As I continue to specialise, it is clearly impossible to know everything.

Then, I reflected again on all the earlier exercises.

  • What are people buying from me? Have I the expertise and skills to offer those things? Yes, I do.
  • My most important skills and knowledge – am I nurturing those well enough? Probably, but still, I made a plan for professional development, focusing on the things that are important
  • Where I have neglected a skill and got rusty, are those skills still relevant? Probably not, so I need to decide whether I revisit them or not.

Lots to do, lots to learn. Even if I was completely satisfied with myself, the world around me changes and I need to keep up to date.

Next: Fear, selling and tiptoeing through the marketplace….

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2017 – a new year, and the start of something good

I’ve started 2017 by working on Seth Godin’s Freelancer course.  Of, course, I have worked for myself for a long time, on and off, but this time, I really want to work in a way that maximises the good effect I know I can have, if I put my mind to it. Following on from GTAC and other experiences last year, I want to find myself and flourish this year – in my work and in my personal life.

I like Seth’s blog, so, let’s see what he can say that helps.

The course starts with a series of quick lectures to camera from Seth with some immediate ideas about WHY one might wish to freelance, and some characteristics: “A freelancer is a warrior without a king”. I listen, watch and take notes.

And then, the first exercise. Seth challenges the student to think about 6 questions about their desired freelance career, and answer these (reasonably) publicly – blog or facebook. So – here goes!

The six questions are:

  • What do I want to do?
  • Who do I want to change and how?
  • How much risk will I take?
  • How much work will I do?
  • Does the work matter?
  • Is it possible?

The first challenge from Seth…

What do I want to do?

My work, my purpose, is to enable individuals, teams and organisations provide software products and services that truly delight and enhance the world.

I want to build and use my talents and skills as a teacher, story teller, mentor and coach, to enable others to provide those beautiful software experiences.

Enhancing and using my talents and skills as a quality management, testing and user experience (UX) practitioner, will allow me to enable others to provide those beautiful software experiences.

Analytical, cognitive and emotional skills that I have, need to be maintained, enhanced and nurtured, so that in research I can find and share evidence of what is required to provide those beautiful software experiences to people within software teams, in order that they might share them in their own work.

In order to do this I want to cover some specific work, not being done elsewhere (as far as I know)

  • Carry out research on the UX of testing tools and provide evidence and guidelines of what is required to improve them, leading to an improved tool set for testers
  • Speak, write, teach, mentor, coach and advise people in software teams about quality, UX and testing
  • Take part in projects, demonstrating by my own practise the ideas I am advocating.

Who do I want to change and how?

Organisations, teams and individuals who are designing, building, testing and delivering software products and services.

How do I want to change them? By changing their attitudes to UX, making it an essential rather than optional part of their delivery. By enabling them to provide a beautiful UX, and giving them permission to use the methods and techniques they need. By broadening the industry’s understanding of quality.

How will I do that? By providing coaching, teaching, support, and guidance. By example in my own work. By providing evidence of the current status of UX and what is required. By story-telling, performing, writing, and teaching.

How much risk will I take?

I have already stepped off the cliff, and I am gliding. I have already taken risks: personal, financial. This is it, this is the thing I want to do.

I need to make sure I have a home, food and other essentials. But I need to fly.

Risk: a 6 to 8, out of 10 is what I am prepared for and am taking.

How much work will I do?

My world needs to be balanced, rounded. It needs to contain things other than work. So, this will take diligence, enthusiasm, dedication. It will be hard work, especially to learn new things. I can see myself spending 50-60 hours a week on this.

I need to allow time for all the balance of yoga, meditation, sewing, walking, reading, gardens, and the other things that recreate myself. I need to allow time for friends and family.

Does the work matter?

Yes. Although I did not get funding from the WII application that I did last year, the feedback said the idea of investigating UX for test tools was potentially a game changer, and ground breaking. The feedback also said this is at a research stage. So, the research project is vital as a next step. I need to find a place/way to base the research so it is well founded and leads to useful results.

Is it possible?

Yes.

  • There are others successfully offering consultancy in quality, testing and UX (but as separate subjects)
  • There are others researching into the UX of other tools used in software development and support – test tools is in a gap between research

This is not outlandish, but it is new.

 

Coming soon: what Seth challenged me to do next… and whether I succeeded…

Rebooting my life: the effect of attending GTAC2016

I’ve rebooted. I’m renewing myself; my self is new. I’m starting again. At 61, it’s time to embrace my next 50 years of productive, happy, useful and fulfilling life. Everything is up for grabs, anything is possible: work and play, friends and family, where I live, what I do, how I see myself and how others see me. Attending the GTAC conference in November 2016 has been a major part of that reboot.

This is part of my story. If I can get to GTAC and reboot, you can too. Application, Acceptance, Conference, Project.

Summary Haiku

Watch my feet dance now
In my new red pixie boots
Rocking a new tune.

         New found freedom scares
         And exhilarates me. I
         Reach out and kiss life.

                   Old white woman fears.
                   But she was wrong two ways: Young, 
                   not old. Not fearful.

                              GTAC wakes me up.
                              I hold my head up, standing
                              proud. I am ready, able.

                                        I hold my hand out.
                                        You take it willingly. Love
                                        and friendship always.

Application

  • A formal request to be considered for a position
  • Sustained effort
  • A program or piece of software

I subscribed to the Google Testing blog, and got an email which said that there would be a conference about test automation (GTAC 2016), and how to apply to go. I thought: that doesn’t mean me but I was waking up in my life, and wanted more than I was experiencing. Could I do this? Was I even allowed?

What’s the worst that could happen, when an old white woman applies for a diversity scholarship place at Google’s GTAC conference? That she gets laughed at? Go for it! Being an older woman in tech is not that unusual, but it does feel like being in a minority… And 61 is not old, it is the accumulation of decades in the industry, rich experience, and the knowledge there is more to learn.

So I applied, with the encouragement of friends. I was starting to think about the user experience and usability of testing tools, and how that needed to be addressed. I realised I had a story to tell, about myself, and about the user experience of tools. It took application, but I applied. The act of applying made me look at myself and my life. It made me think more clearly about the UX for test tools. I’d been thinking Someone needs to do something about this. Maybe that was – me.

After applying, I had to “forget” GTAC for a while. But I kept working at ideas around the user experience of test tools, attending the CREST workshop, following up on-line with research, writing a paper for UCAAT 2016. I discussed the ideas with other people, friends in the industry. I made an application to the Women in Innovation funding, for money to carry out a project during 2017 to research UX of test tools and develop UX guidelines for tools builders. The application was not successful, but the act of applying made me clarify my ideas some more, and the conversations with colleagues in the industry built my confidence. Something was beginning to happen… and it started with applying to GTAC2016.

Acceptance

  • The process or fact of being received as adequate, valid or suitable
  • The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered
  • Willingness to tolerate a difficult situation

The day dawned that successful applicants for scholarships would be announced. I had told myself repeatedly not to expect success, so I was disappointed but not distraught when by close of business UK time I had not heard anything. But later that night I could not sleep and was on my laptop, working, surfing, thinking, worrying, self-criticising, when at 4am UK time an email arrived. I had been accepted. I leapt up, amazed, delighted, elated. I was accepted, validated. I accepted the place.

Between acceptance and the conference, in that space of time, my confidence start to grow and yet falter. Could I do this? Was I capable? Would I fit in? All the excitement and frisson of encountering the new was upon me. That delicious yet terrifying mix of anticipations, that urge caution and its opposite, that cause the heart to pound, and the adrenaline to surge.

And yet, amongst the congratulations and the excitement for me, there were those who were dismissive, who said that achieving the place and the scholarship was nothing, and that I would not succeed when I got to the conference. The naysayers and the draggers-down, with their grey and dreary negativity, trying to close around me. I learnt something about the people around me because of applying to and getting a scholarship for GTAC. I learnt who are my friends, who loves me for myself. And so it was that, shortly before GTAC, I walked away from my home and into the light of new possibilities. I started to meet new people, make new friends, present at new conferences.

Conference

  • A formal meeting of people with a shared interest

I’ve attended and spoken at several conferences this year: story-telling, user experience of test tools and quality in use. Some of these have gone very well, some less so, but each one provides me with lessons, about myself, how people perceive me, what I am capable of, what else I want to do and learn. I’ve learnt from others as well as teaching. At UCAAT in Budapest, I spoke about the user experience of test tools, and about human factors in test automation.

And so to GTAC2016. I arrive nervous, but quickly realise that all the scholarship recipients are in the same hotel and that I’m on the communal list that Joel and others have made – we are in this together! I make a post to my 5 Facebook friends about imposter syndrome, and then over lunch it turns out that the others have had the same thoughts. Am I an imposter? Do I belong? I am amazed – this group of young, vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, witty, accomplished, younger people accept me and they are also a little apprehensive! They are wiser than me in many ways, and I get good advice on networking, social media and smartphone apps…

We visit the LinkedIn offices and Olga is a great host, showing us around, sitting and chatting with us. We start to share experiences. It’s fascinating, hearing the similarities in what we experience. Also, I would like to work somewhere that has a meditation room. And we visit Stanford University. Pink fountains, wildly funny celebrations in music, dance and teddy-bear impalement of the upcoming match with Stanford’s big football rival (CalTech? I cannot remember, all other memories overshadowed by the sight of beefy football players attempting cheer-leading dances.)

In the evening, the reception at the Computing History Museum. Interesting place, but I become overcome with nerves, and my attempts at networking flounder. Thank you, Ari, for your intervention. I survived…

The conference itself, 2 days of great talks, with insights on the need for speed and value in test automation. Over and over, people talk about the need for improved usability and user experience for tools, to enable better productivity for engineers. I listen to people who have research results with evidence that points to how we can improve, to people who have solved practical problems to automate tests in diverse and challenging circumstances, who have succeeded in providing value and speed. I make notes till my hands hurt. My brain fills with ideas and sparkles.

In the evening, there is a funfair. It is worrying. People, noise, strange things to do. I do them anyway… I survive, I enjoy myself.

The highlight talk for me among so many great talks: Niranjan Tulpule gives a keynote where he talks about the democratisation of the development process. I am blown away. He is focused entirely on the need to widen the group of people who can engineers software successfully. He is talking about the drivers that made me think about the user experience of test tools. I start to think more, as he speaks. It is not just engineers who test. It is not just engineers who solve problems. The problems that need to be solved are not just engineering problems. If the tool set allows a wider range of people to engage, we are more likely to reflect the diversity of people in the world, and we’ll get software that solves people’s problems, allows them to work as they want, instead of building software that forces people to be like software.

I finish the conference elated. My brain is happily buzzing, and I want to take the next steps.

And I have learnt in these few days – you can out of your comfort zone and survive. Doing something that makes you look foolish is not as bad as doing nothing. At a conference, we have a lot in common. More than separates us across our diversity. I link to some of the others, and make Facebook friend requests – another small step into the world.

Project 

  • Enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim
  • Estimate or forecast
  • Extend outwards beyond
  • Throw or cause to move forward

So what next? Where will I project myself? How do I move forward? I have two areas of work to explore. Story telling and TX: The tester experience of tools.

Storytelling project: I applied for and have been accepted on a story telling and art workshop in Italy 2017 run by Tania Katan and Angela Ellsworth (The Topography of Memory). This is so exciting! And, succeeding getting a place at GTAC was one factor in building my courage to apply. This blog is a piece of storytelling, as are the haiku that I wrote yesterday on a plane, reflecting on GTAC2016.

TX project: I will do a project on the tester experience of test tools. I made a small survey at a conference in Lisbon last week, to try out a tools usability questionnaire that I wrote. I am going to talk to several people about how to make this project happen. Watch out world: GTAC2016 has given me confidence, motivation and the will to make this happen.

Thank you GTAC2016: organisers, speakers, other attendees, fellow diversity scholarship winners: for being you, for welcoming me, for helping me reboot. With your kindness and friendship, I felt accepted, welcomed, enabled to learn and grow.

GTAC2017, London: looking forward to seeing you all again.

Eagle or pigeon? Eagle or Chicken?

Eagles and chickens: Developing testers to their full potential

eagle-cropped

The Fool and the Eagle

A fool saw an eagle perched with the king’s falcons. “You are a strange pigeon” he said. So he cut off the eagle’s talons, and clipped down its beak. He tore off its crest, and shortened its wings and tail. “Now you are a proper pigeon,” he said. The eagle wept remembering its former glory.

Tell me my friends – Are you a fool to your eagles? Are you a weeping eagle?

The Kind Chicken and the Eagle

A chicken found an eagle’s egg, and not knowing what it was, hatched and raised he chick as her own. One day, the eagle was scratching in the farmyard with the other chickens. It looked up and saw a mighty bird soaring above it. “What is that?” it asked. “Oh, that is an eagle. They fly up high, but we stay here, in the farmyard.” “So we do,” thought the cheagle, “I’m glad I’m a free range chicken.” And it scratched the ground.

Tell me my friends – Are you that kind chicken? Or are you the eagle who thinks it is a chicken? In your role as a tester, are you fulfilling your potential? And are you enabling your team to fulfil their potentials?

For me, the lesson from this fable is not to underestimate myself, or others. We sometimes hold ourselves back, through fear, unawareness or lack of knowledge. We also sometime hold others back because of preconceptions about the roles open to people, and their capabilities.

It really is soft ware, it’s very like IT…

I built a patchwork quilt. When I look back on that 10 years of work, it has been rather like an IT project. What I have built is literally soft, and very cosy. It is soft ware. The process of making it has taken me through decisions around unclear and changing requirements, design and prototyping, and a final delivery with some compromises and some surprises.

Even though I was the customer and the maker for the quilt, I still managed to have unclear requirements. At each stage I did not know what I wanted until I saw it, my requirements and expectations have changed. In fact when I started collecting fabric, I did not know that I wanted a quilt. And, I certainly didn’t expect I would up with something so large.

It’s a software project that got out of control, but still, it delivered, and the ending is beautiful and used every day. Uncertainty was part of the story – uncertainty drove the creativity. The User eXperience (UX) for the quilt is excellent – the journey to get to that UX was at times terrifying. At each mistake and uncertainty I had to think “do I unpick or stop or do I go on?” How much more difficult UX is when you are not your own customer. Be aware that uncertainty is natural.

UX? What about TX for Test Automation?

Test automation is intended to increase speed and accuracy of information about the SUT partly by allowing engineers to improve the speed and usefulness of their communications.

The best possible interfaces and user experience for the person testing are required to support this otherwise the use of automation will decrease rather than increase velocity of projects.

If the speed and accuracy of test information provided to teams is lowered, with poor test reporting and inaccurate decision making, engineers and managers will become frustrated. It may even lead to disaster.

Good automation tools will help us make good decisions about the SUT and maximise the value of the limited time we have to deliver software products to market. Poor automation tools will delay decision making, increase the likelihood of errors of judgement, and they frustrate both engineers and managers.

Current practices (agile, build pipelines, devops) arise from a need to address delivery speed and accuracy as well as engineering quality. But automating the tests and then forcing people to spend time inaccurately and slowly interpreting the outcomes simply is not cost effective or helpful.

There are many examples of poor interfaces and tools contributing to, or even forcing, humans to make bad, even fatal decisions. Examples such as the London Ambulance Dispatch system (http://bit.ly/1tr2TJZ), and the EU Farm Payments online application system (http://bbc.in/1xEoUE3) show us that poor interfaces can be time wasting, expensive and dangerous.

This matters for test automation because, although automation tools are written and serviced by engineers, the people who use the automation can be non-technical for example user acceptance representative, product owners, business sponsors, managers or end users. Does the information they get from the automation and provide to engineers improve in speed, accuracy and usefulness as a result of the automation or not? What will maximise our ability to get the most from the test automation? What will maximise the accuracy and usefulness of the information provided to engineers, managers and others?

There is a need for TX for Test Automation: that is, the Test Experience for those people who will request, design, and review the results of the automated tests and monitoring. This requires information design and delivery (arguably the purpose of our industry).

Attention to detail “front of house” for the UX for customers and end users can be extended behind the scenes to TX for the engineers, benefiting all. TX can be improved, by consideration of the UX for the automation tool and the tests so that methods and lessons from User Experience Design (UXD) and User Experience Testing (UXT) may be applied to test automation.

We need to consider human factors (as the engineers are human too) as well as the support of improved decision making around quality, speed and accuracy of responses to issues.

My three key points?
– Test automation requires consideration of the UX for the tool and the tests;
– People who use automation might not always be technical but they are always human;
– UXD and UXT for test automation supports improved decision making and quality.