Category: Feedback

London Tester Gathering Workshops 2015: “Fast Feedback Loops & Fun with Ruby”

My workshop at the London Tester Gathering Workshops 2015 is announced now! They’re offering an early bird rate until the 18th February, by the way. Find the abstract on the conference page or just read ahead. 🙂

Fast Feedback Loops & Fun with Ruby

Ruby is “a Programmer’s best friend”. Let’s use Ruby to get feedback including getting feedback automatically when working on projects. Whether it’s about transforming source code into test results (a.k.a. running automated tests) or generating image files from raw data, Ruby can be used to automate these tasks. Furthermore, it can also be used to automate actually running these tasks, e.g. upon saving a file to disk. Does that sound like a good idea? This session is for you.

I regularly bump into tasks that are…

  1. tedious, if done manually
  2. not done often enough, unless automated
  3. still not done often enough, unless running them is automated, too.

In the workshop we’ll combine some Ruby tools to remedy this situation. In particular the workshop will cover:

  1. Writing a simple Ruby program that does something useful, e.g. turn a markdown file into HTML
  2. Wrapping that in a Rake task
  3. Automate running the task

Knowing how to do this is useful, not only for projects using Ruby as their primary language, but can be handy in all projects.

What is expected:

  • Some Ruby knowledge; you don’t have to be an expert or anything like that.
  • A notebook (or tablet) with an internet connection & Ruby installed.
    Cool if you’re using RVM, rbenv, chruby or similar
  • Mac OS X, BSD; Linux & friends are fine, Windows may be a bit problematic.


London Tester Gathering Workshops 2015: Early News

There’s news about the London Tester Gathering Workshops 2015: I’ll offer one of the workshops!

I’m sure we’ll have a couple of exiting days talking about software testing. And not only talking but also some hands-on stuff using Ruby for fun and (fast) feedback.

Before I publish more information about my workshop, I’d like it to…

look right

Stay tuned!

Testing And The Two Values of Software

The Two Values of Software

Sure enough: If your team’s software fails to provide value now (or in the near future), something’s gone badly wrong. You don’t like your software project to end up similar to this, right?

Smoking Remainders
Smoking remainders of a ‘Biikebrennen’ — don’t let your project end like this.

As Alistair Cockburn explained in “Agile Software Development” software development can be seen as a game played in rounds — and most teams prefer to stay in the game for many rounds.

To me it’s interesting (and a bit worrying) that most of the testing techniques and approaches are focussed on whether the current version of our software…

  1. is in fact the right software and
  2. if it works correctly.

In other words, testing focusses on validation and verification, it concentrates on a relatively short period of time: the next release.

Now, Uncle Bob Martin presented the idea of the primary and secondary value of software in episode 9 (‘The Single Responsibility Principle’) of his CleanCoders video series. He presents the secondary value first (which most people believe to be more important): ‘The secondary value of software is its behavior.’ He also explains the primary, more important value as: ‘The ability of software to tolerate and facilitate such ongoing change is the primary value of software. The primary value of software is that it’s soft.’

In Alistair Cockburn’s description the order is reversed (see Agile Software Development, 2nd edition p. 37 ff), but in my opinion the order isn’t always that important: I am worried that testing doesn’t consider one of the two values of software.

To my experience, essentially all projects focus on current or near-future behaviour of software, but rarely actively work to keep the software ready to deal with future requirements. I understand that YAGNI (You ain’t gonna need it) may play a role here. But mind you: YAGNI mostly applies to actually implemented features that are not needed. It may also be valid in order to prevent going overboard with too much abstraction and flexibility. In the end, you always need to find a balance between following and ignoring the SOLID principles (a good part of the Clean Coders videos covers this in detail).

Concerning the 1st value of software (according to Uncle Bob Martin), I’m convinced that testing needs to answer questions like this:

  • Is “the ability of software to tolerate and facilitate such ongoing change” a job purely for programmers?
  • Can software testers contribute to the primary value? Should they?
    • If yes, is this part of the job or should we keep out of this business?
    • How can we as testers contribute?
  • Can other disciplines help?

What do you think? Is this topic important for testing? Should we treat it in the way Michael Bolton advises testers with respect to “Quality Assurance Business” (spoiler alert/hint: He advises us to stay out of it)?

I personally think testers should get involved: A tester is somebody who knows that things can be different, as Jerry Weinberg says.

Also, I definitely want my clients, as well as their clients, to be happy with the software I help to develop, not only today, but also in the future, even when most original developers of a software system have left the team or company.

When your project (or product life cycle) comes to an end it should stay in your memory not like the smoking remainders of a fire, but with the bright colours of a great sunset.

Bright Sunset
Bright Sunset

Word of The Year 2013

The general idea of the “word of the year” isn’t particularly new: It seems to be popular in many languages and countries, according to the English Wikipedia, the German Wikipedia entry (other languages at the time of this writing are: Česky, Dansk, Esperanto, Français and Nederlands).

However, I got the idea to pick a personal word of the year from my wife. This idea goes at least back to a blog post by Ali Edwards. The notion (as I understand it) is to pick one word to guide you thought that year. To me this is an interesting change to the more traditional new years resolutions, since it conveys the idea of having a guidance, or vision rather than setting (usually) unreachable high aims.

It seems to me that a personal word of the year helps to move into a chosen direction. In a way it’s very much like a good vision for Scrum (and other!) software development teams — vision condensed into a single word. For all your small and bigger assignments you can quickly check, if what you’re attempting matches the idea of your chosen word, and then consciously decide if or how to proceed.

My word of the year 2013 is:

My word of the year 2013: Explore

Do you pick a word of the year for 2013? Which one?

Agile Testing Days 2012 — YAS (Yet Another Summary)

Just like the years before I enjoyed the Agile Testing Days a lot. A fun theme throughout many of the talks were… unicorns and I think Gojko Adzic started it. This affected my brain so much, I said ‘Look, a unicorn!’ to my dog, when I took him for a walk for the first time after I came back from the conference. Actually, the animal crossing our path was a squirrel.

Here’s a short summary of my favourite parts. In order to stay in sync. with the printed & online conference program I’ll start counting the conference days at 0.

Day 0 – Tutorial “Software Testing Reloaded” with Matt Heusser & Pete Walen

Just as the full title “Software Testing Reloaded – So you wanna actually DO something? We’ve got just the workshop for you. Now with even less PowerPoint!” promised, there was only very little PowerPoint and a whole lot of testing & questioning.

I especially liked the way Pete & Matt presented the examples & exercises as well as the reasoning behind them.

Electronic Dice
Electronic Dice

There were a lot of games and actual testing. All was very hands on, well explained and debriefed at the end. To give just one example: We tested electronic dice, in order to give an estimation about how long testing would take and to come up with a recommendation whether these dice were ready to be used.

Questions like “Can we ship it now?”, “Is there a pattern/problem there?” and “What actually are the requirements?” were covered.

I also won a price, so my point of view might be biased. 😉

How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing

Day 1

  • Get them in(volved) by Arie van Bennekum
    I found it super interesting to listen to one of the creators of the Agile Manifesto, especially since he pointed out that many of the principles and values have been around before the manifesto was written.
  • Myths About Agile Testing, De-Bunked by Janet Gregory & Lisa Crispin
    Lisa & Janet debunked myths as ‘Testing is dead’, ‘Testers must be able to code’ and ‘Agile = Faster’. Excellent story and fun presentation.
  • Consensus Talks – 7 10-minute-talks (including mine)
    The format of 10-minute talks, all back-to-back and no break included was the one I missed in the previous Agile Testing Days. This way a whole lot of ground is covered in a short time and it’s a great opportunity to explore new techniques in presenting without doing too much harm and/or presenting on conferences for the first time.
  • Self Coaching by Lasse Koskela
    Lasse explained how to coach yourself. After explaining how the human brain works he talked about how to step ‘out of the box’ (your personal point of view) in order to better understand what others actually say and to stay honest to yourself at the same time. Deep knowledge, very well explained indeed.
  • The MIATPP Award Night 2012
    Lisa Crispin won the MIATPP Award. Congratulations!

Day 2

  • Test Lab by James Lyndsay & Bart Knaack
    This year I went to the “Test Lab” and tested a small LEGO Mindstorm robot, that could move around on a coloured sheet of paper and react, depending which colour its camera would detect. The task: Find out what the specification of the robot is and find defects in its implementation.
    Very interesting: We had to come up with a hypothesis of how the robot was supposed to work as well as finding defects. I really enjoyed the way Bart & James gave feedback and asked the right questions.
  • “Reinventing software quality” – Gojko Adzic
    Breaking News: Unicorns Exist

    Gojko made the point that in agile testing we might (still) not focus on the right thing: To build the right software. Instead we concentrate on finding bugs and building the software in the right way. He illustrated this with one of his books:  He found a defect and then spent a while searching & listing more problems and ended up with a good number of them, definitely enough to make you worry about the quality of the book. However, the publisher explained that essentially all reviews were very positive! So: When people keep paying for your product or service, worrying about defects may not be that important.

Day 3

  • “Fast Feedback Teams” – Ola Ellnestam
    explained the importance and value of fast feedback. And he’s right: In many projects feedback could be gathered a lot earlier and be used to improve what features are built (as well as how they’re built). Other talks at least touched this topic as well. And while I wholeheartedly agree about this, I’m also a bit worried that we (as software creators) might forget about (or even ignore) slow changing aspects (for more about this see my previous post ‘Slow Feedback Cycles‘).
  • “Exceptions, Assumptions and Ambiguity: Finding the truth behind the Story” by David Evans
    UK Explained

    David explained how natural language is ambiguous, unclear and sometimes hard to understand. His examples included part of Jabberwocky (in several natural languages), music lyrics and last but not least programming. Also, I like his short introduction of the Cotswolds.

  • “It’s the Economy, Stupid! Learn the fundamentals about the one and only argument which will drag your management into agile practices” by Lucius Bobikiewicz
    Lucius talked about economic reasons of letting teams focus on 1 (one!) project/product, as opposed to working on multiple projects/products at the same time. It didn’t surprise me much, that letting teams finish one thing and then progress with the next is economically favourable. But  I was very surprised how much of a difference it made in the example he presented. These are the main advantages of the 1-project-only team Lucius presented:

    1. The time between the 1st project start and the first paid project (usually at the end of the project) is much smaller, meaning that significantly less money is needed to fund the upfront costs.
    2. Given the limited period of time in which a software can be sold, the product can likely be launched at the optimal time, whereas multi-product-teams may enter the market later and therefore always lag in selling.
    3. Since the overhead of context switching is minimised, the team can work on more projects/products per time unit. This advantage depends on the amount of time needed per context switch and the time the projects take .

    The economic point of view Lucius presented was a surprising and welcome detour form the other sessions which were much more focused about technology and/or ‘doing the right thing and doing it right’.

Every morning of the conference days 1-3 Lisa Crispin organised a Lean Coffee in one of the hotel bars. In small groups we discussed topics people were interested in. In order to cover some topics we limited the time for each topic to an initial 8 minutes and then added another 4 minutes depending on a quick vote. I find this is a very fun way to find and discuss topics. Thank you Lisa for organising them!

As a leaving thought: The chair persons were given (foldable) chairs as a present — ‘chairs for the chairs’. Super funny, if a tad bit unpractical to get home via train or airplane.

A big “Thank you!” to José, Uwe and Madelaine as well as the other organisers that made the Agile Testing Days such a great and enjoyable conference.


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