Archive for the ‘experiments’ Category

Yes, You Have Something to Share

In 2013, I was just beginning to assimilate the lessons – the failures and the successes – from the challenges of my 1st four years building a test team from 1 (me) to 5 and being in a manager role while providing testing services across multiple projects.  A friend who’d just returned from a developer conference in San Francisco said, “You should speak at a conference.”  The end result of his encouragement was my 1st professional conference presentation in 2014 in New York City at CAST.

I already had the benefit of practice in speaking to small groups for 5 minutes via  Toastmasters (highly recommended to reduce jitters), but a pitch and preparation for a conference talk was new to me. Here is a recap of how I prepared for my 30-minute track session.

Hurdle 1: Decide on what to share and make the pitch(es).

Hurdle 2:  Follow the Boy Scout motto; Be Prepared. 

  • 4 months out – Drafted outline and main points, started practicing.
    • SpeakEasy did not exist at that time, but you DO have this option to pair with a volunteer mentor to get coaching for help with a proposal and presentation.  I hired a trusted coach who had already helped me find my voice.  We met initially over Skype to nail down my main points and several times later for me to practice and get feedback to refine my presentation as the big day got closer.
  • 1 month out – Got graphics help from my design friend, Chris.
    • He made elegant slides to fit the tone of the few selected words I had on each slide. This allowed me to focus on honing delivery, being able to speak comfortably within the time constraints.
  • 2 weeks out: Videoed at home rehearsal. Practice run for family.
  • 1 week out:  Presented to about 15 friends at work at lunchtime over pizza.
  • Day before:  Prepare the introduction
    • Met for 10 minutes with my track session facilitator, Pari. She asked me some questions to get to know me a little better so that her introduction was warm and personal and not simply a recitation of my presenter bio and talk summary, which most attendees had likely already read.



  • Night before: Made an unsuccessful attempt to go to bed early, but managed to get a few hours of half-decent rest.
  • Moments before:  Breathed deeply to keep cool.
    • Played music for myself (to relax) and to spark casual conversation with attendees.   [Listen to  this one-woman orchestra. Enjoy Zoe Keating’s, The Optimist.]

Result Set

I finished within suggested time limit and based on the 15 minutes of engaging voluntary group discussion at the end of my talk, I think I did alright. I knew I had achieved my goal of reaching at least one person when a participant shyly slid me a sweet handwritten note – 2 sentences – and thanked me afterwards. Wow!  How’s that for confirmation?


  • CAST Live  – daily broadcast each evening following the close of the conference:

  • Coming soon – My session was not recorded, so I will make my own recording and publish on Vimeo.

Additional resources I used:


Mitch’s Testing Kata

Thanks to Mitch Ferrer, Application Architect with AppRiver, LLC, for hosting the Gulf Coast Software Testing June Meetup and to our friends at the Gulf Coast Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for providing meeting space for 10 Test Enthusiasts.

Why kata?  -for the sake of practice and growth.  Test drive a language, test drive a solution, test different approaches, practice patterns and techniques, change habits, and accelerate learning by pairing, develop skills and mastery.  Mitch opened with a brief slide deck that gave us a background on katas as applied to software.  He reviewed their benefits and lead us through the kata posted in this discussion thread as a demonstration of how arbitrary, seemingly obtuse, requirements are often driven by real world needs.  We then launched into brainstorming user stories and user-acceptance criteria on a whiteboard.

After we were satisfied that we had a good start exploring user stories and acceptance criteria,  Mitch walked us through two solutions, a math solution and pure string manipulation solution.  This dichotomy showed the math solution to be ultra efficient but not easy to understand vs. a pure string manipulation solution (Typescript with Jasmine) which was more lines of code but readable and easy to follow.  The key to this kata were tests designed based on desired behaviors using triangulation – sample inputs and outputs – to allow for vetting business rules and to allow for adding new use cases, which surfaced as we discussed a variety of acceptance criteria.

With Mitch putting each solution through the tests (swapping out implementations) and modifying some bits of code, we saw firsthand how test first development (consuming tests first) ensures ease of use and awareness of how changes will affect customers.  We saw how test first development makes requirements provable and implementations easy to re-factor, and ultimately, how tests facilitate teams tackling business problems.

This kata was a fine example to illustrate the beauty of test first development.  Thank you, Mitch, for sharing your time, expertise and love for the craft of software development and testing!


Nine-Dot Puzzle, Bewilderment, & the Art of Possibility

I closed my CAST track session with this puzzle:  Connect all 9 dots with four straight lines without taking the pen from paper.



The frames our minds create, define – and confine – what we perceive to be possible…Everybody hears: ‘Connect all 9 dots with four straight lines without taking the pen from paper, within the square formed by the outer dots.  And within that framework there is no solution. If, however we amend the original set of instructions by adding phrase, ‘Feel free to use the whole sheet of paper,’ it is likely that a new possibility would suddenly appear to you.  I might see the space outside the dots was crying out, ‘Hey bring some lines out here!’ – from Art Of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life.

My CAST session was inspired by various forms of bewilderment I met in testing, akin to experiences I worked through during 3 days in silence with paints, paintbrushes, and paper through a Process Arts workshop.  The painting weekend was an incredible experience for me.   Art, after all, is about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, flight paths to the eternal.  

Now 15 years into my testing career, I see inter-disciplinary studies across all fields. In my mind, testing is not far from what I loved about studying and working in environmental science, which was whole-systems thinking and the growth of  ideas like those in Natural Capitalism.  Testing insights are everywhere waiting to be discovered…through studies and applications of sciences, personal study, play, and the practice of art.

P.S. We can still go beyond the above illustrated solution.  Check out how on Seth Godin’s post on Appropriate Cheating in the nine-dot problem.



Personal Blindspots

Weird…when you get close to something that BIG you can’t see anything at all.

-Toad the Wet Sprocket, Butterflies (Fear, 1991)

 The subject of blind spots keeps begging for my attention lately. This is when something hits me that I did not see coming or I run into something that shocks or surprises me.  Maybe this is an interaction where I feel dangerously blindsided, caught off-guard and unprepared.  Maybe this is some counter-productive behavioral pattern I did not notice as being not-so-great for me or our team.  Maybe this is a gap in my test approach. – a gap obvious to others, but not to me.  Maybe this is a more subtle metaphorical dripping faucet in the back of my mind, something I am slow to acknowledge and investigate.  My conscious quest for personal and testing blind spots started in 2010 when I attended Michael Bolton’s On Noticing presentation at my 1st CAST.

Because we are collaborating, problem solving and building great things, I think the nature of a career in software development and testing offers great opportunities for discovering blind spots  and learning from them IF we are open to having them pointed out to us through feedback or coaching or if we make time for retrospection and have them revealed to us through self-inquiry and observation.  It is important to make time to reflect on our work daily.  To jumpstart my renewed effort to do this, today I revisited these blog posts.

I will share several blind spot examples as part of my story in my CAST 2014 track session, Beyond Bewilderment, which is about finding personal success in testing.  Once I return from NYC, my after work time no longer dedicated to track session preparation, I plan to focus my professional development in the area of learning scripting.  This will probably lead to a post of the subject of technical blind spots through katas, paired testing and development. More later.

GCST “Lean Pie” at O’Zones Pizza Pub

I want to help connect people to learn from one another to advance the craft of software testing within our area.  Getting the fledgling Gulf Coast Software Testing Meetup (GCST) group going is a fun way to explore this territory.  We had our 1st Lean Coffee style GCST meetup at O’Zones last week where I facilitated a modified version of the 1-hour Lean Coffee format, the mechanics of which roughly followed this template.  After introductions, each person wrote up to 3 cards (topics), explained our subjects, cast our votes with 3 dots, racked and stacked cards, and kicked off time-boxed conversations beginning with topics with the most votes.

Eight of us gathered to ask questions, share info, insights, and experiences.  I enjoyed seeing friendly new faces and everyone seemed to have great time.  What I like about this meeting framework is the breadth of topics, how each topic could stand alone as fodder for an evening’s knowledge share.  I also appreciate how everyone has an opportunity to speak, so you get a hint of everyone’s personality and you learn a little about their interests even if you do not elaborate on their topic during the meeting.

The topics:

6 dots:  JavaScript testing in Jasmine? Appropriate for all JS Apps?

3 dots:

  • Mobile development frameworks in use at your company
  • Levels of testing and where to concentrate effort – UI, end-to-end, data
  • UI design strategies in general

2 dots:

  • Testing Kata
  • Selenium
  • Define “Done” in the context of software development

No votes:

Our meetup went an hour and a half, which was just the right amount of time considering that we ordered and enjoyed food and drinks as soon as we had all arrived.  As we packed our to-go boxes we talked about tentative plans for upcoming meet ups.  Some of the ideas shared included a local version of our own “Test Bash” and 20 minute show-and-tells.  I think the collective will come up with a great plan, so let’s have our March meetup be a planning session for the next 6 months.  To our friends across the bay in Mobile, AL, several of us, myself included, would be up for meeting in your area.

Parting thoughts:

  • Next time, I will promote the meetup through like-minded channels, such as IT Gulf Coast and Innovation Coast.
  • Thanks Chris, for reminding me to start the timer (twice!).:)
  • Our group could use a snazzy logo, which better represents us… something other than the stock image I selected.  Although, I love bats, those swarming creatures look a bit ominous.
  • The thumbs (up, neutral, down = keep going, I don’t care, let’s leave this topic) element used at each topic time limit was interesting here in that there was some reticence about when to use up or down.  We joked aloud that maybe the thumbs-down was kind of harsh. I wondered if it was our polite Southern cultures, which lead to this sentiment, or if I did not do a good job of explaining the thumbs.   I will get more feedback from my Dev friends who attended.
  • Thanks to my social friends at the Association for Software Testing, who organized the 1st Lean Coffee I ever attended.  That early morning session at the funky cool coffee shop in Madison, Wisconsin, was energizing and showed me the possibility of trying it out on my own.