Tag Archives: people

Quilt: a journey through Europe by train

In autumn 2016, I travelled by train from Budapest to Stockholm, via Hamburg and the ferry. This is an exciting journey, passing through so many places of historical interest, and such varied landscape. But, it is also exciting because the train from Hamburg to Copenhagen goes on the ferry – they drive the train onto the ferry, with you on board, and then off the ferry on the other side of the water. I love long train journeys. I love to go from one end of the line to another.

This quilt celebrates that journey: the colours of birch woods and autumn leaves, dense woodland, rocks, cities and water streaking past the windows of the train.

The first part of the route is a train from Budapest to Hamburg.  This train was a delight. Old fashioned compartments and a dining car. I had the company of a group of Hungarian lads on their way to Prague for the weekend. They leapt on the train at the last minute before it left Budapest, opened up their packed food and ate continuously all the way to Prague. They did not stop eating! The capacity of youth for food!

At Hamburg, I left the train and met my brother who joined me for the second part of the journey – especially to experience the train on the ferry between Puttgarten & Rødby.  He is keen on trains so had a great time photographing all the different trains, on all the platforms, on all the stations…  and we talked, and talked, and talked… The capacity of middle-age for conversation!

We spent the night in a hotel, and got the train to Copenhagen next morning.  Through countryside, and then we drew into the station Puttgarden to await the ferry to Rødby. My brother took photos of the train, the train driver, the view through the train driver’s window, us on the platform, on the train, by the train, of the ferry as it came in…  The excitement of being on a train pulling onto the lorry deck of a ferry cannot be overestimated – it was brilliant! Once the train was parked in the lorry deck of the ferry – on its own rails – everyone got off the train and onto the deck to enjoy the sea crossing.

It was a beautiful day, the sun sparkling on the water and the gulls wheeling above. The colours of the world had changed from orange, russet and gold to blue, silver and grey. As the ferry drew into dock, all the train passengers had to rush down to the lorry deck and get back on the train before docking, as it sets off as soon as the front of the ferry opens.

In Copenhagen we changed trains, and again crossed water, this time via the ØRESUND BRIDGE and then north through gathering darkness to Stockholm.

I took numerous pictures, but the ones that most evoke the journey for me and which are the source shots for the quilt are the slightly blurred landscapes. Here are some of the inspiration pictures for the quilt.

I made a preliminary sketch based on these impressions and memories.

sketch

The key inspiration was the way that – from the point of view of the passenger – the landscape rushes past the window, becoming smaller as it moves away. The colours of autumn and water streak past horizontally, while the trees and their reflections make strong vertical lines – especially the birch trees, strong yet delicate.

I gathered fabrics in colours that matched the autumn and water, and started to play, plaiting, rouching and manipulating the fabric, experimenting, sewing and unpicking. Gathering, and gathering.

Eventually a theme started to emerge, but I was sketching with fabric – I did not know where it was going to end. The photos below show some stages I went through.

I’ve used the material itself and folds to indicate waves on the sea, and folds in the landscape – from the furrows in ploughed fields to the roll of hills and sides of mountains.

As I manipulated the fabric, the ideas for how to express the quilt’s theme changed. The essentials of horizontal lines moving to a point to give left to right movement, punctuated by the horizontals to represent birch trees remained, but the colour, texture and draping qualities of the various fabrics affected how I could use them.

Eventually I stopped pinning and tacking, and went to the sewing machine – I had to commit to this or it would never happen.

I spent a couple of days sewing with the machine, pulling the fabric around, adding details, joining fabric pieces, overlapping, pleating, rouching and running quilting stitches over the surface – pale vertical stitching to indicate trees, and blue horizontal stitches for water and wind.

And is this the finished quilt?

finished

It is as far as I can bring it at present. As ever I am dis-satisfied, but it has some aspects that I am pleased with. It does feel vertiginous, it make you feel a little dizzy to look at, so there is some sensation of speed. The folds of the cloth do indicate the folds of the landscape and waves on the sea. Probably, I would like it to be longer horizontally and smaller vertically. But there are some ideas I can reuse.

An autumn train journey across Europe from Budapest to Stockholm

via Bratislava, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Lübeck, Puttgarden, Rødby, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Linköping.

Woods and fields, trees and rocks, sea and ships, towns and cities.

Thank you to the HUSTEF, UCAAT and EuroSTAR conferences in 2016, whose choices – of date, city, and myself as one of the speakers – meant that I had to make the journey between Budapest and Stockholm, and could choose to make it by train and not plane!

When planning this trip, I consulted “The Man in Seat 61” and I recommend him if you want to plan or dream a train trip anywhere in the world!

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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.

The pre-history of the quilt

Over the years I have travelled to many places for work and for pleasure. I started to buy fabric and patchwork squares in different places, and to make small patchwork projects.

The first project was done with my friend Susan, when I visited her in California. She is very good at patchwork and quilting so it was natural for her to take me to her local fabric shop, where I was overwhelmed with the deliciousness of the fabrics on offer – the colours, the designs, the possibilities…. we got fabrics with patterns of things like chillies, sweetcorn, wine, cartoons, woodwork tools… and Susan helped me make a patchwork curtain for my artist husband’s studio door.

On a technical note,  using a small number of very big fabric squares to make the curtains made learning easier. Susan encouraged me to concentrate on a small number of new skills, for example using an overlocker machine (serger) for the first time, and to keep the project simple.

back home, the next project was to make some more curtains in patchwork, this time for the Kitchen cupboard instead of having doors.  I got myself an overlocker machine for making patchwork, to use alongside the sewing machine. They are both good little machines, but I get myself in a tangle when using them; slow and steady work is best or I end up in a flurry of broken threads and confusion. The interlocker is particularly difficult to rethread and some sessions with it I seemed to spend more time puzzling over how to set it up than actually using it.

For the kitchen curtains, I decided to make the pattern more complex, still square pieces but smaller, using symmetry to build the patterns in the piece placement. Also it seemed important to make the symmetry imperfect so that the curtains were similar but not identical. I needed 3 curtains.

The method is to decide on the placement of the materials, looking at colour and pattern, then cut the squares all to the same size using a straight edge, set square and cutter blade. Then place the materials again to recheck the pattern. Press the pieces and sew into strips, then press again. The strips are joined together, press again. And voila! Curtains.

If only it was that easy in reality… Well, it is easy, I just made it difficult for myself. I made several mistakes such as sewing the piece in the wrong order, putting the pieces together and realising I had seams showing on both sides, not managing to do a straight line on the sewing machine and interlocker… These mistakes were caused by a mix of absent minded carelessness, not rechecking at every stage, inexperience, gung-ho overconfidence and misunderstanding instructions / guidance gleaned from the internet and books. All the mistakes required me to unpick the seams and start again. Each time the lessons were the same: slow down, check every step, don’t try and skip things. Eventually I got the curtains made and hung. They have lasted well and survived the washing machine too.

Those early projects gave me confidence to start on the big quilt.

0003

Simple “four pieces a side” patchwork cushion cover

 

 

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.

 

Conferences 2016…

I’m lucky enough to be presenting at several conferences this year… Here is a quick list of what I am presenting, where and when. My themes for this year are:

  • teamwork and people;
  • test design;
  • story telling;
  • user experience and quality in use;
  • influence diagrams;
  • which are all contributors to the workbox we each carry with us to perform our roles.

January 2016 ExpoQA Test Academy Barcelona

  • Workshop: “Using Influence Diagrams to Understand testing.”

26th April TMS London

  • Workshop/discussion: “Learning to tell our testing stories.”

2nd to 6th May STAREast Orlando

  • Tutorial: “Your testing workbox.”
  • Tutorial: “Using influence diagrams to understand testing.”
  • Lightning keynote…
  • Keynote: “Telling our testing stories.”

9th June BCS SIGiST London

  • Presentation “Quality in use: the beating heart of the user experience.”

13th to 17th June BTD2016 Brussels

  • Keynote: “Telling our testing stories”
  • Workshop: “Build an influence diagram – practical” (with Stuart Reid).
  • Workshop: “Leave me alone: Hey I’m hiding from my team” (with Nadine Raes)
  • Lightning key “I was so much older then…(Rebooting to 25 and re-imagining my career”)

Webinar on 21st July “Stories: realising their potential and power in projects”

15th to 16th September: SEETEST Bucharest

  • Tutorial: “Quality in use: the beating heart of the user experience.”

3rd to 7th October: STARWest Anaheim

  • Tutorial: “Your testing workbox.”
  • Tutorial: “Using influence diagrams to understand testing.”

24th – 25th October HUSTEF Budapest

  • Tutorial: Leading, following or managing?  Efficient and effective ways to help your group thrive
  • Keynote: My Failures in Software Testing

26th – 28th October UCAAT Budapest

  • Tutorial: Human factors for test automation
  • Keynote: TX – the UX for test automation

31st October to 4th November: EuroSTAR Stockholm

  • Webinar on 21st July “Stories: realising their potential and power in projects”
  • Workshop: “Learning to tell our testing stories.”

So the passport will see some action this year!