November 22, 2016 in Uncategorised
Like everyone else who went by train around Stockholm that day, my trip home was delayed. That did not matter too much however, because I was exhausted and took the opportunity to sleep through a couple of movies. EuroStar 2016 offered a full schedule and close to all of my expectations came true. It also offered a lot of people talking about introversion and extroversion, and as a person leaning more to the introvert side my powers were drained after 2.5 days of listening, taking in new impressions and spinning new ideas in my head which was constantly refilled with more inspiration over these days. On tuesday afternoon you could already see what came to be an informal theme throughout the conference, how the testing role will evolve in a more agile world. Will we become coaches? Will we lean more towards analysis? It was very nice to hear that none, not even the speakers who came from the programmer path, thought that the days of testers where at roads end, and that is always nice to hear.
The keynotes really measured up to my expectations. I was anticipating high quality speeches and I got it. My personal favourite was Liz Keogh who was easy to listen to, as well as funny and highly knowledgeable. Ben Simo was also a great speaker, and his adventures in testing healthcare.gov was very interesting to listen to.
All in all I must say that the programme was very interesting and the speakers kept a very high standard, and I guess that the selection process was very hard. As one whose submission did not get selected, I can only say that hearing all the great great speakers only inspired me to write better abstracts and try again next year.
The social part was a great deal too. Maybe more so this year than the other years I have attended since I was to keep social media and the Test Huddle forum updated on what was going on at the conference as one of the community reporters. It was a little sad that all the social events were fully booked since I had really wanted to attend the test lab party. Maybe it would be good if places were kept for the volunteers and reporters, especially since they are supposed to show the conference experience, and get selected quite late. That said I had a great time meeting both old and new friends. I spent less time solving puzzles in the test lab than I usually do. Instead I took advantage of the comfy sofas in the lab, or the bean bag chairs in the huddle and just talked to people. The comfortable seats in these areas really opened up for some relaxation when your head was spinning with new ideas and impressions. The opening between huddle and test lab was a great addition since it connected the two areas more instead of the former separation.
All in all I have to say that this year’s EuroStar was a very good experience, and I hope that I will be back next year in Copenhagen. Hope you will too.
October 19, 2016 in EuroSTAR Conferences
Magnus will be the Forum Reporter at EuoSTAR 2016. Expect to find him on the Huddle forums everyday of the Conference where we will be featuring live updates, pics from the Conference and more. Here he offers what he is looking forward to at EuroSTAR 2016.
I was very happy to learn that I got chosen to be one of the community reporter for EuroStar 2016. It’s always been an interesting thought to share my experience of an event such as this. You will be able to follow my conference experience in the form of forum post on the Test huddle.
So who am I? My name is Magnus, and this will be my third EuroStar. I have worked close to nine years in testing and I have no intention to switching career. As I work mainly as a solo tester, the different conferences and meetups I attend is a great source of inspiration and possibilities to learn new things.
My biggest take away from the former conferences have been the great collection of experiences that comes from several days of deep diving into something together with a lot of other people. You all talk about the same thing, but from several different angles and experiences. The inspiration that results in is great. I am also looking forward to meeting all the great people that I have met the other years I have attended. During the years I have made some great friends, and every time I attend I seem to meet at least one or two new people that I can consider new friends.
I am also a big fan of the test lab, and it is a big chance that you will find me there between sessions, or sometimes even during sessions. It’s great fun to try out the puzzles and talk to the people that hangs out there and, of course, the lab crew.
For this years programme I have two things that I look very much forward to. First is the keynotes. This year has a very interesting collection of keynotes. Don’t get me wrong, the keynotes are usually very good. But this year seems to be something extra. Second is the panel about diversity on the last day of the conference. As to my knowledge there has not been many panels if any on former conferences so just the fact that there is a panel seems pretty cool, and I hope that a panel will become a recurring event if this one is successful. When it comes to the subject of diversity in testing, that will be the subject discussed by the panel, I really hope that it results in good and constructive discussions, and most of all I’m curious.
I am really looking forward to a fully packed conference with lots of interesting talks and new people to meet. Feel free to look me up. I’m more than happy to talk about most areas in testing. See you at EuroStar 2016.
About The Author
Magnus has been working in testing for almost 9 years, and this is his third EuroStar. Working mostly as a solo tester he has developed the testing processes for the two companies he has been testing for. Magnus has several interests where games and martial arts take the most time.
May 2, 2016 in People/Skills
You might not think it but Role Play games can contribute a lot to teach you how to improve testing skills.
I first started playing roleplaying games when I was about 8 years old. As a young boy it was amazing to be able to take part in the stories that otherwise only played out on the pages of books, or in movies, without me being able to influence or affect the story or the main character’s actions. In the roleplaying games, I was one of the main characters, I was part of the story. One of the games I have spent the most time with, is the ever so famous Dungeons and Dragons. and it’s been with me in different versions to this day. Even though I rarely get to play anymore, I still consider myself a roleplayer.
Order in the universe
For those not familiar with roleplaying games, it’s basically a bunch of people sitting around and telling a story together. The players take the roles of the story’s main characters. The world, and all other people in it is controlled by a gamemaster or dungeonmaster. The gamemaster is sort of the engine of the story and for help, he or she can rely on rules systems (like Dungeons & Dragons), which provides rules for character creations, different kinds of actions and a world setting. To resolve different situations they commonly roll oddly shaped dice.
To go where no one…
Totally different from my entering into the roleplaying hobby was my entering into my testing career. Like so many others I just sort of ended up in testing by a fluke. Having no idea of what testing actually meant, and an employer who had no real interest in testing, I had to rely on what I already knew. This became especially clear to me when it turned out that my employer wanted quite advanced manual testing, done fast. To handle the situation I relaxed and went with the flow. I solved each problem and adapted to each situation as they came up. My preferred way of solving them, were to look at what I already knew. I found some useable skills in my background as an IT technician and teacher. However, the skills that helped me the most, I found in my background in roleplaying. As some of you might have figured out, roleplaying tends to form a curious mindset and really sharpens the ability to look at things from different angles. These skills became handy for me as I grew into my testing role. The curiosity and ability to learn fast, also became very handy during an internship where I had to learn a quite complicated software quickly to become a productive member of the test team.
The more comfortable I got in my new career as a tester, the more skills I broke out from my roleplayers toolkit and, in some cases, adapted slightly for my testing toolkit. The ability to learn things fast, organize and process large amounts of text came to good use in testing, and if any of you are familiar with the amount of rules to learn, and books to read in roleplaying systems in general, and Dungeons and Dragons in particular, you know that there can be a lot to read, process and learn, so this was a great training ground. Also, the roleplaying hobby has fostered many capable project managers and the training ground for organizing and planning skills are plentiful in the hobby. I also got to use my communications and writing skills. Even if the writing skills often associated with roleplaying is more on the fictional side, you still learn to write well, and most importantly, to communicate through writing. The rest is just a question of adapting. When it comes to communication, you get that for free since the roleplaying hobby is all about communicating. The game is played by sitting around a table, speaking, or maybe more correctly, telling a story together. All this, I’ve found useful in testing. After a while I also found good use for the fictional part of roleplaying. I discovered personas and scenario testing. These tools seemed more or less custom made for roleplayers since a scenario test can be more or less like a miniature roleplaying session, and as for personas, if you have spent the better part of your life making up characters, writing their background stories and coming up with their different traits and quirks, writing a persona, or even a micro persona is not all that different.
Roleplaying is full of game mechanics and rules. There is almost an endless amount of lists, charts and various methods of getting a result from these lists or charts. Spending hours and hours reading and learning these rules and studying these lists and charts often proves to be time well spent. In my current job I often have to sift through quite large amounts of data, and it’s not uncommon that the testing demands that I look at data from several sources. To have had the opportunity to train this data processing, has proven to be an invaluable experience.
X marks the spot
So where does all this lead? Should all of you start playing roleplaying games after this? I would not mind, it’s a great and very stimulating hobby. However, I don’t think that will actually happen. I do hope that you take this with you in some way. Maybe some of you take a class in improv theater, where you explore the same way of looking at things from different angles? Maybe some of you take a creative writing course to practice research, character writing and storytelling? Some of you might even start creating your own games, be it board games, card games or whatnot, to explore and/or invent new game mechanics that might prove useful in testing? Perhaps some of you will be in a position where you are hiring new testers and one of them happens to have something roleplaying related on their CV. In that case it might be interesting to start talking about that from a testing context during interviews. Of course there is no guarantee that they are, or will make excellent testers. but you might find that they, because of the roleplaying training ground, have skills that you need. Skills that might not be on any diploma.
Hopefully, all of you brings something with you after reading this.
June 1, 2015 in People/Skills
When people talk about self defence many get the vision of a person under attack who kicks to the groin and scratches the face of his or her attacker while yelling to get the attention of passers by. This is a part of self defence, but if we end up in this situation things has already gone south. The most important part of defending oneself is the rules of thumb to minimize the risk of ending up in a bad situation where you do not want to be. Everyone knows that the park is dark and scary, but still, getting home fast is quite alluring and many chose to take a shortcut through a badly lit area to get home a little faster after a night out. The rules of self defence gives you some tools to help you identify and avoid the potentially bad situation. I have found myself using these rules of thumb in testing. Translating it into my current situation and thus having a familiar set of rules to easily remember and rely on when working under pressure, and by that lowering the risk of ending up in a bad situation where the test work gets compromised, or frustration over lack of control of the situation gets the better of me.
The park is dark and scary, and you know it!
Most of us has done this at one time or the other. Taking a shortcut through a dark park after a night out. It doesn’t have to be a park. It’s really about not going where the path is badly lit and there are fewer people around that might come to aid in a bad situation. So what does this has to do with testing? Well, in my case I ask myself the question: Am I going for the dark park? It can be in a stressed situation where a potentially simple solution appears. Is it safe to go with the simple solution, or is the solution a dark park that hides something that needs to be checked out? The metaphor of the dark park is highly individual and depending on the current task. It’s not easy to tell anyone how to use this, it has to come from your own internal questions about what you are doing.
Keep an eye on your surroundings
This is an important rule in self defence. To know when to step away, to leave and when you have to stand your ground. This rule is usable in many testing situations. My primary use of this rule is to know when to stop testing a function and when to keep going. This is also a big motivation to keep training your “gut feeling” and how to use it. I’m convinced that what we usually call gut feeling is actually a skill like any other and this skill is about in seeing oracles and small tell tale signs that we normally don’t reflect over. To train your gut feeling is to train to keep an eye on your surrounding, and that might be useful when you least expect it in both testing and self defence.
Learn when it’s time to cross the street
Imagine this situation: you are on your way to the bus after a night in the pub drinking with friends. You are pleasantly drunk and singing too ra loo ra loo ra. All of a sudden you see a group of people a bit down the street. They are standing around, talking and they are quite loud and rowdy. Do you just walk by them, right through their midst? Probably not. To know when it’s time to cross the street to the other side or maybe even to take another way around a potentially rowdy situation is an important rule of thumb in self defence. In testing this can be easily translated to: “Learn when it’s time to change your testing method/approach”.
Keep your distance
Imagine standing at a bus stop late Saturday night. A quite inebriated person walks up to you and ask “Do you have the time, what time is it”. The person then comes closer and closer, reaching for your arm as if they want to look at your wrist watch. This is a situation that might happen, and it’s a situation where it’s important to keep and maintain your distance to the person asking for the time. To keep the distance while talking to them, saying things like sure I have the time, wait a little and I’ll check while moving to maintain a safe distance and also, to see what’s just happening behind you (keep an eye on your surrounding) to check so the person just asking for the time isn’t a person distracting you while someone comes up from behind to pick your pocket or attack you otherwise. In testing this is a straightforward thing. It’s having that deep breath when people yell at you or to relax when someone question if your testing is good enough because major bugs were just found in a way that you know they could not have been found during testing. Keeping your distance in testing is to not take things personal. It’s not as physical as the self defence version which involves observation, moving and communication while being prepared that something might happen. It is however just as important since remembering this rule might save you a lot of frustration.
Don’t be stupid
This might seem obvious but in self defence this is still important. To keep a sound head and not have that “last beer that results in one too many”, to not accept a drunken bet to jump into a bathtub full of skunks, to not tattoo the face of Justin Bieber on your butt cheeks and to not run naked into the soccer fields. Jokes aside, many a bad situation could have been avoided if the people in it were just a little bit more sober, and since you can’t speak for anyone else, it’s up to you to keep yourself clear enough to avoid the bad situations. To talk down the drunk person who wants to fight, to walk away when someone insults you. In testing this might be more of a “take care of yourself” thing. It might be tempting to do one more test case or write one more page of specification, but after a hard day even the toughest of testers feel fatigue and a tired and worn tester might slip in observation and judgement. It’s important to take care of oneself, especially during hard times of intense work and tight deadlines. Most of us can handle to burn the candle in both ends for a short period of time, but if you do it for too long it will catch up and you will pay for it, one way or another. Because of this it’s important that you take care of yourself, eat somewhat regularly, and sleep so you avoid the worst sleep deprivation. Simply put: Don’t be stupid! Take care of yourself.
June 28, 2014 in People/Skills
Sometimes we discover new things about ourselves. Maybe it’s because someone tells us, maybe we sit down and listen to our internal monologue. This is my story on how I started thinking about learning, acting and mimicking. What made me start to think about it and what I found out about my own use of these skills. I also offer my view on how to use these skills in testing in the hope that it will inspire someone.
The bag of tricks
As testers we often have use for a wide variety of skills. It is important for us to know at least something about the intended customers of the product we are currently testing. Next to our observation skills, our bag of tricks, containing our gathered experiences, learnings and references is probably our most important tool. Because it is the bag of tricks that allows us to ask relevant questions to the product we are currently testing. However, sometimes we lack the skill or knowledge that we need, and then we need to learn enough to ask the right questions to the product. Because of this we need to be familiar with the way we learn. We need to be able to twist and turn situations and organizations to get to know it just enough. Enough to be able to ask the relevant questions when testing products meant for them.
The Con man
Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr was a con man who during his career managed to masquerade as a wide variety of professions. Ferdinand managed to pull off being anything from a civil engineer to a sheriff’s deputy to a monk. As testers we can get inspiration from Ferdinand. I don’t say that we are or should be con men. But the general idea of learning and acting put together so that we manage to pretend, or “fake” another profession, that is a very useful skill. Also, for every time we manage to pull this off, the content of our bag of tricks increases with new references and experiences which we can use in the future. Also, by using our skills in learning, acting and mimicking we become better at them. And for all the people who play online multiplayer role playing games, becoming better results in a *ding* and a level up, sooner or later.
My first full time job was as an IT-technician at a high school. It was a job I knew and liked, but as with everything else, also this good thing must come to an end. The money ran out and I was laid off. Fortunately, the school needed a teacher who could teach computer classes. They asked me if I wanted to take that position. Being quite young not long out of school, with the only knowledge of teaching coming from my own time as a student, I was reluctant at first. But after some persuasion I signed on as a teacher with the school. The first month meant a lot of extra hours to learn my new trade. Going through what I had heard and seen from other teachers during my time as a technician and calling in some favours from teachers that I had helped. Slowly, I started to fit into my new role as a teacher. Of course I never learned the skills of a trained teacher as I didn’t know all the tricks of the trade. Still, I knew enough to pass myself off as a teacher, to keep the students working and to keep a strict but fair climate in my classes. Also, I knew enough about the teaching job to do some controversial things when the students started challenging me. In testing, I see this as comparable to know enough about the business intended for the product or the profession of the intended user to ask the right questions but also, to know little enough to do the weird and uncontroversial manoeuvres that are prone to show bugs in the system.
In the fall of 2012 I became a student again after working nearly 5 years as a tester. My job had made me tired. Hungry for new inspiration I set out to see if testing was more than what I saw at the company where I worked. My studies contained 13 weeks of internship which I did at a quite big company. During my first day there we got a bunch of routine administration done, and they gave me several training videos for their software. Learning by example works very well for me, it’s my preferred way of learning new skills. Basically I ploughed through the training videos during the first week and did some reading on the business they were in. But maybe most important of all, I listened to my colleagues during breaks. That way I got a feeling of what was happening and how the software was used. After that first week I knew enough to start working on “live” tests in their current project. I didn’t give it much thought until about two weeks later when one of the project managers came into the lunch room and asked “Are you Magnus”? I answered yes, and then he went on introducing himself and telling me how impressed he was with how fast I learned the products. That experience laid the first brick to the foundation of this talk. I started thinking about my own learning and what conditions that work for me.
My date with my own learning, acting and mimicking
After my internship as a tester I sat down and started doing inventory of my own learning. I found that none of the classic learning styles (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) applied entirely to me. I needed a mixture of the right parts from all three. What worked out best was learning by some kinds of examples. If I can combine a written “how to”, with trial and error or if I can follow a lecture by looking at written examples or notes at the same time, then my learning work at its best. I also found that I subconsciously did acting and mimicking when working and learning. A lot of that comes from several years of role playing and similar hobbies where I’ve learned to create personas and act them out as well as viewing situations and conditions from different angles. I also think that my background in martial arts has contributed in way of mental training and focus exercises, but not as much as my gaming background. Looking back, I can also say that I learned programming by example. When I took my first programming class I managed to miss the first couple of lessons due to illness. When I got back to class I was given a quick explanation and a bunch of thick compendiums to study, then the teacher had to rush of and help other students. I started reading the compendiums and soon found out that I learned more by looking at the solutions for the provided exercises and copying them into the editor, while I was reading. Today I still look at examples of code when I need to learn a new programming language or have the need to do something I have not done before in a language that I know.
What should you do
So by now, hopefully you have started thinking a little about your own learning and maybe started to ask yourself what I mean with acting and mimicking.
By acting I mean just that. We use acting when we do scenario testing although we rarely have a stage and most of the actual acting is thoughts in our heads. However I claim that this skill should be used when doing other kinds of testing too, and not limited to scenario testing. With some training it gets quite easy to create simple personas that you take the role of through a test session. If you are a group of testers you can write simple personas and exchange them before the test session, as a fun exercise.
With mimicking I mean a lighter form of acting and learning. It’s when a system is so complex, or bound by rules and regulations that we need to have repeatable tasks that we test because we can’t possibly learn enough of the regulations to be able to test. You could basically say that mimicking is building test cases while sitting next to someone who knows the work and walks you through the process of executing different tasks or scenarios. You will end up with some step by steps that allows you to repeat, or mimic the job enough for testing to see if the system follows the required rules or before you start testing with the help of actual users.
I can highly recommend to do a little introspective on your own learning. What is the best way for you to learn? What conditions work for you? Are you a 100% visual learner, auditory learner or maybe you are a kinaesthetic learner? Me? As I said, I need a mixture. A variety. There are parts from each category that works fine for me one by one, but even better if they are combined. And in the same way, some things from all three categories does not work at all.
I hope that you have found this inspiring. Hopefully it gets you thinking and maybe even using the arts of learning, acting and mimicking. Hopefully some of you walk out of here ready to fake it and make it to produce true and authentic test results and test reports.