Monday, January 22, 2018

The Code Newbie Challenge for 2018 #CNC2018: BLOG MORE: Introduction

Hello to new readers that are coming across this blog for the first time. To those who have read these pages for a while now, this should not surprise any of you at all ;).

I've decided to take on the Code Newbie Challenge for 2018. There are four "tracks" that you can choose. They are:

Start Coding
Code More
Blog More
Get a Job

I have chosen the "Blog More" challenge for a specific reason. Much of the time on this blog I have talked about testing and peripheral topics from a layman's point of view. I've strived to "speak dude" as often as possible, and to that end, I've kept coding specific stuff to a minimum. that sounds like a simple answer, doesn't it? Well, let's get real here. There's a darker secret. Part of the reason why I don't post code frequently is that I harbor a fear that people will look at my code and think it's simplistic, stupid or just plain lame. To tell the truth, that may happen. Maybe it won't. Regardless, I've always been a little leery of posting code samples beyond language tutorials because I've just been concerned about getting it picked apart.

That's the overwhelming reason why I chose this challenge. I can't get better if I don't actually put something out there, right? I can talk a mean game about what I know about things like automation and web development, but does it really matter if my actual code is lacking? More to the point, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to actually talk about code, show examples, explain it from my perspective and let people who do know about code comment on it?

Sure, it might bruise my fragile ego but isn't that the whole point? How do I expect to learn or actually demonstrate I know anything if I'm not willing to show what I actually know and take the chance that someone might be willing to tell me a better way to do it? On top of that, there may be lots of things I may be doing that are actually interesting and may be helpful to others. Finally, if I can explain what I'm doing in a blog post or several, I can explain it to anyone and draw on it when I write code in the future.

Let's get this party started. Each assignment as part of this challenge will be posted here. This is my own preamble to get the ball rolling. Look for the tags CNC2018 and CodeNewbieChallenge to see posts specifically targeted for this challenge.

Exercise Zero: The Pre Mission

Read 3 tech blog posts you wish you wrote. Jot down why you like them and what you'd change.

Find examples of good tech writing to see what you'd like to incorporate into your own posts, and what you might want to avoid. 

You'll refer back to these later in your challenge.

There are three styles that were described for this challenge. First is the "Tutorial", which actually walks through how to do something. Second is the "Explainer", which take a concept and breaks it down. Third is the "Project" which describes how to do something and gives actual examples that you can follow along and build yourself. The pre-challenge is to pick three examples, (one from each category) that I wish I had written, describe what I like about it, and what I would like to see to improve the piece.

Tutorial: "Protractor for Beginners, Part 1" by Hannah Pretswell

Why a tutorial on Protractor? Because it's what we are exploring as a replacement for our current automation framework. Nothing like a pressing business need to get your mind racing and your thoughts flowing. Hey, you know it will come in handy very soon, right? For starters, let me comment on something I really appreciate. Hannah said she struggled with getting the pieces to work together. Hearing that up front helps me in two ways. First, it lets me know that the tasks ahead may be challenging. Second, she also lets me know that she's done her best to document those frustrations and help let me know that I likely will succeed if I'm patient and follow her advice. Too often, I've gon through tutorials that expect a user to jump in and get moving with little concern over the sticking points. Gladly, that's not the case here.

Another positive is the fact that there are a fair number of repetitive steps. It's tempting to spell them all out, but by doing so, it makes updating a tutorial daunting and thus something the writer would likely not do. Instead, she points to a few additional tutorials already written that explain the process of setting up your environment and making sure everything is working correctly before getting started. Additionally, the resources listed point to the protractor GitHub page. This is a good practice because it lets the user get started with the most recent advice from the maintainer of the framework so that if the instructions change, the writer of the tutorial doesn't have to be the one to change the details on her site as well.

So, what would I have done differently? Truthfully, not much. I think it's a solid opener and it goes through the specifics as the first part of a tutorial should. I suppose I would have liked to have seen some example output of the code as displayed and some output of tests as well. For me, with a variety of tutorials, I think this is a good step so as to show what you could expect. I understand why many people don't in that OS changes and formatting details could put images like that out of date quickly, and it does add overhead to downloading what would in many cases be pictures to demonstrate the output. Still, on the whole, this is a really solid example.

Explainer: Test Driven Development in BASH by Torstein Krause Johansen

This is presented as a talk, but in many ways, that's a great way to explain a concept in a few words, with the impetus on the reader to go and learn more if they are so inclined. Specifically, I like the curt and focused content, the way the information is presented and the walkthrough of the ideas with examples. Each slide builds on the previous one and lets you see why the topic makes sense and the reasoning behind Torstein's approach. I was also excited to learn about shunit2 and I must say I'm more than a little curious at this point.

So what would I do differently? Again this is a set of slides from a talk, and at first glance, I'm guessing the HTML code was put there for a reason, but if the point was to demonstrate bash syntax and how it interacts with a testing framework, the HTML was distracting and made the underlying code hard to read. Again, I may be missing a key context here as to why that was presented that way (perhaps to prevent copying and pasting willy-nilly) but if that were the concern, I could see saving screenshots of the code itself and displaying pictures (great to prevent copy and paste but admittedly a nightmare to update and keep current).

Project: 10 Angular and TypeScript Projects to Take You From Zero to Hero by Dan Wahlin

This interested me seeing as I will be doing work with Protractor and Jasime as a testing framework for Angular apps. To that end, it helps to have something to look at, play with and practice on and these ten projects will allow me to do that. I like that the projects start simple and get progressively more difficult as they go. Each project is laid out with sample images of what you will build with links to each of the projects so that the project page is independent of each of the individual listed projects. The projects are lust listed with a title, a basic description, level of difficulty, a link to the files and some pictures of what the project will look like when completed.

On the whole, this is a nice layout and method. It leaves it up to the individual reader to decide where to expend their energy and each project simply links to the necessary packages to get them done. Were I to do it myself, I would probably split each project out to its own page and try to give some instructions about what to do with each. Having said that, the economy of having ten projects to choose from without a lot of navigation and page dancing is a good tradeoff.

There's the start. The assignments proper start on January 22, which is the same day this post goes live. Feel free to follow along and, as I tackle each assignment, your feedback and commentary is appreciated :).

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's That Time Again: The #StateofTesting Survey 2018

As in previous years, I have decided to take part in "The State of Testing" Survey and I encourage anyone else who is actively involved in testing endeavors to do the same. Note: I did not say "testers" need to take it, though that's likely who it's directed to. As I have become more involved in software delivery as a process, software testing is a key part of what I do, but it's not the only thing I do.

As I see it, software testing is transitioning. There will certainly be areas where dedicated testing as a role, a responsibility, and a job title will remain for quite some time to come. However, I also see that testing as a dedicated discipline in many organizations, if not disappearing, is definitely getting to be hazier. In previous decades, I might have been worried about that and truth be told, I was. Today, I take heart in the fact that there is much we all can do to be successful and do meaningful work. as I often remind myself, my mentor Ken Pier was fond of saying "there is always work moving from theory to practice".

The following I am borrowing directly from the Practitest QA Intelligence Blog, so I am presenting it in its entirety below (Thanks, Joel and Lalit :) ):

What is the State of Testing?

The State of Testing™ seeks to identify the existing characteristics, practices, and challenges facing the testing community in hopes to shed light and provoke a fruitful discussion towards improvement.
The final report is translated into several languages and shared globally, further expanding the reach and impact this report has on all of us in the QA world.
This is the 5th year that the QA Intelligence Blog is running this survey in collaboration with TeaTime with Testers, and with your help,  it can be bigger and more comprehensive than in previous years.
Each year the amount of participants has increased, and the final reports become even more valuable as a culminated reflection of testing trends, challenges, and characteristics.
So there you have it, another chance to take part in the State of Testing Survey is upon us. Are you interested in playing along? If so, click below and let's get to it :).


Monday, January 8, 2018

Geek Crush: Star Trek Continues

One of my goals for 2018 is to write about more stuff that interests me and that helps inform what I do day to day. Yes, TESTHEAD is primarily about software testing, but often there is a lot of stimuli that feeds into how I think about testing, and a fair amount of that stimulus cannot be boiled down to "here, use this and it will help you test things better". Still, I think there's a value to it and I want to be able to talk about it in some way, so as in the past, I'm making a heading so that, if you want to play along, you can. If you don't, you can safely skip over posts that don't interest you. That new heading is "Geek Crush", and yes, it's a play on words of Charles W "Chuck" Bryant's podcast "Movie Crush", only it covers a broad range of my geeky interests, many of which help directly or indirectly in my worldview and filter into how I think about testing.

My first entry into this comes courtesy of SacAnime, an event I attended this past weekend with my daughters in Sacramento, CA, USA. We've been going thee past few years and this year I specifically went because I was excited to learn that the primary cast of RWBY was going to be there and I wanted to meet them (a future post will most definitely feature me talking about my RWBY addiction, but not today ;) ). During this event, I learned that there was going to be a special screening hosted by Vic Mignogna of "Star Trek Continues". I went to the screening and left a huge fan and with a great desire to see a lot more.

Disclaimer: Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film series intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.

First off, let's talk about what 'Star Trek Continues" is. For those who were fans of the original Star Trek Series with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, James Doohan, etc., you know that the original mission was five years to seek out new life in distant star systems and "to boldly go where no man has gone before". Well, the original series was canceled after three years, meaning that mission was never finished, at least not on film. When the movies started up in the late 70s, we picked up with them ten years later and "got the band together again", so to speak, with a lot of stuff happening in between. What happened during the last part of the five-year mission? What causes Captain Kirk to want to take a desk job? Why did Spock return to Vulcan and what led up to that decision? Vic decided that these were questions he wanted to see made into episodes, and thus "Star Trek Continues" does exactly that. It is a web series filmed in the tones, the style, the outfits and the literal zeitgeist of "Star Trek: The Original Series" with Vic Mignogna stepping into the uniform and mannerisms of James Tiberius Kirk. He's joined by Todd Haberkorn as Spock, Grant Imahara as Sulu and Chris Doohan (James Doohan's son) as Scotty.

First off, I have to say that Vic has pulled off something amazing. You literally feel like you are watching the original show, as far as the sets, the sound effects, the clothing and the mannerisms of the various characters are concerned. Vic explained that they went to great lengths to be able to do this because they knew that anything out of place would pull the audience out of the experience. Granted, Vic is not William Shatner and Todd is not Leonard Nimoy, so there are certainly visible differences. They also bring themselves into the roles, too; they are not slavishly recreating Kirk, Spock, or any of the other characters. Still, the feeling of the episodes, the tropes used, the acting style, the lighting, and makeup, all of it makes you feel as though you are watching the original series, down to the music and practical special effects.

I started watching Star Trek sometime in the mid-70s when it was being syndicated as after-school television. I did not have the experience of watching it when it was first on television but I well remember the feeling of wonder and excitement the original series provided to me during my elementary school days. Star Trek Continues brings back those feelings. I'm reminded of Gene Roddenberry's vision. Knowing how obsessive Vic is with his love of the original Star Trek, I am so excited that he made this and I am excited to see the rest of the series. If you are one who enjoyed the original Star Trek and had hoped that one day you might see more of it, here is your chance.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Testing Show: CodeNewbie With Saron Yitbarek, Part 1

Happy New Year everyone!

I'd like to present the newly retooled The Testing Show. New theme music (courtesy of my band Ensign Red) and what I hope will be a new streamlined format for the show. I've learned a thing or two about doing audio the past few years and I'm hoping to see us transition a little bit to a broader storytelling approach along with the regular interviews that we do.

To that end, that special guest I was talking about a few weeks back is Saron Yitbarek, the mastermind behind the CodeNewbie website, podcast, Twitter chats and recently the producer of the BaseCS podcast as well as running the Codeland development conference.

I joke during the intro in this show that I feel like a bit of a fanboy here, but seriously, I have wanted to interview Saron for a long time. I was a little nervous asking if she'd be on our show with her level of visibility, so I was overjoyed when she said "yes" and even more so at the natural conversation that we had. She's not just a great interviewee, she's an excellent interviewer as well, so there was a really fun give and take on this show. To that end, I likewise decided that my traditional heavy grammatical editing style wasn't suited for this conversation. Some of the audio may sound a little less slick by TESTHEAD standards, but I feel it adds to the immediacy and excitement of the conversation. I'm not kidding when I say I was a bit giddy at a few spots in this episode.

All right, fanboy gushing aside, this episode covers what I think is interesting ground. Saron is perhaps one of the few guests who has never identified as a software tester, but she totally gets testing. What's more, she totally gets the frustration of getting up the courage to commit to learning how to write code (and yes, it takes courage to do it). It takes courage to be continuously frustrated. She also shares a lot of her ups and downs and frustrations that she has had during her own journey, and how she uses that as fuel to help support others on their coding journeys.

We recorded for almost two hours, and it has been a struggle to decide what to keep the focus on for these interviews. I'm hoping I've captured the best of the conversation, but I'll leave that to you all to decide.

If you enjoy listening to The Testing Show, I'd like to ask you a favor. Please go to Apple Podcasts and give us a rating. If you feel we deserve five stars, please give it to us :). If you feel we deserve less, that's fine too, but please leave a review and tell us why you feel that way. Give us a review as to why you think we deserve five stars while you are at it :). We aim to make The Testing Show the best podcast we can and if you have thoughts about how we can make it better, as the producer, I'm definitely interested.

The Testing Show: CodeNewbie With Saron Yitbarek, Part 1: The Testing shows talks about the process of learning how to code, so we talk with Saron Yitbarek about where and how to start. Tune in to learn more!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Where Does that Highway Go To?

It's that time again, the end of another year. With it a chance to reflect on some of what I've learned, where I've been, what I could do better and what I hope to do going forward.

This year has been a good one for the Testing Show podcast. In the software testing world, outside of the work I do each day, I would say that this has been my most consistent endeavor. I've been pleased with the episodes we have done this year and I am excited about more episodes that will branch away from the typical topics that we normally cover and aim to strike out into other areas that are important to software testing but may not be solely focused on the testing aspects alone. Also, as it will go live in the middle of this week, I can say there will be one noticeable change. New theme music will be part of the 2018 series of shows.

In my workaday world, I had an odd situation that required an adjustment and a change in work habits for me. I started the year with just a handful of people coming to our office to work each day and quickly that changed into my being the only person coming into the office most days. I felt a bit like the lone lighthouse keeper much of the time, though of course, the team communicated regularly through digital means. This year, as I was the one person coming into the office, our parent company decided it didn't make much sense to pay for a large office space that only one person was using. The office was closed and I was transitioned to being a 100% remote worker. This is a first for me. I've had the option to work from home much of my career, but it was a couple of days a week. I've never worked in an arrangement where I was 100% at home, all the time. That's been my reality since October of this year. I'm adjusting, but I do have to say it still feels a bit strange.

On the family front, my son moved away from home to embrace his dream of being part of the music industry in Los Angeles. I'm proud of him for chasing after his dream, but part of me is way too familiar with the entertainment industry and its many promises made but so few kept. He sends me texts that remind me of myself at his age when I was sure I was going to conquer the world. I have to fight the desire to tell him I know that tone so well, but in truth, I don't know his reality. I remember mine. Therefore, I do my best to hold my tongue and just let him tell me what he is doing and keep the peanut gallery comments to a minimum. It's hard, to say the least. On the bright side, he's more interested in the production and marketing end of entertainment, not being the actual performer, so he has better odds than I had ;).

On the physical front this year, as I tested out a variety of fitness approaches, trying to maintain a target weight and chasing metrics to define quantitatively how physically fit I was, I came to some stark conclusions. Numbers are artificial, they can be gamed, they can be detrimental to long-term success, and most importantly, it's entirely possible to "be fit" and feel completely miserable. That was a conclusion I reached this summer. Yes, I was 194 pounds, but I was also anemic and unable to donate blood, I felt tired much of the time, I got sick more frequently. I allowed myself to put a buffer between that lower point and I voluntarily gained back 20 pounds. Since around November, I have hovered between 215 and 225 pounds. It doesn't sound as dramatic, but it sure feels a lot better. In 2018, my goal is to focus more on body composition and worry a lot less about my actual weight.

Some longer-term initiatives I had to decide that I didn't have the energy or ability to do as often. Weekend Testing Americas is still a thing, but I found myself repeating where I'd been before and decided it was better to step away for a bit. I haven't shut it down, but I determined I needed to let some new blood take a shot or let it lay dormant for a bit. I'm feeling like I have some fresher ideas now, so do not be surprised if you see more Weekend Testing Americas sessions in the new year.

On the speaking front, I have kept my pledge to focus on Accessibility and Inclusive Design as my topics of choice, and those will also carry over into the new year as well. As I get older and I discover that my resiliency and "springiness" isn't what it used to be, many Accessibility and Inclusive Design aspects that were at one-time talking points have become "living points" for me. As such, the lack of sites that follow guidelines and the limited testing being done to help sights be more inclusive matters more to me now than ever. Additionally, I've decided that I want to do some more writing on the topic in 2018, with concrete and specific actions people can take.

As my company is making moves to modernize many of their testing frameworks, I'm taking advantage of the changing landscape to try to learn more about setting up a new framework from the ground up. At the moment, I'm championing an approach that uses Angular, Protractor, and Jasmine over our older successful but decidedly proprietary setup. Our testing team has decided to try a number of experiments and see where they lead us, rather than going all in on a particular strategy. To that end, I aim to learn a bunch of things with this approach and I also aim to talk about it as much as I can. This blog has been lean on my "learning in public" experiments as of late. It's time I got back to that.

My thanks to everyone who has worked with me, interacted with me, been part of The Testing Show podcast as a regular contributor and as a guest, shared a meal with me at a conference, come out to hear me speak, participate in a Weekend Testing session, shown support to the Bay Area Software Testers meetup, and otherwise given me a place to bounce ideas, think things through, and be a shoulder to cry on or to just hear me out when I feel like I'm talking crazy. Regardless if you have done that just a little bit or a whole lot, I thank you all.

Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy and sane 2018. I look forward to talking with you all in the new year and beyond. Also, thank you, Talking Heads, for the song "Once In A Lifetime" as it has provided me so many clever titles for my year-end posts these past seven years (well, I think they are clever; your mileage may vary ;) ).

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Testing Show: Hiring and Getting Hired

It's been a big year for The Testing Show and this is the last episode of the year that is 2017. We were happy to have Gwen Dobson join Jessica Ingrassellino, Matt Heusser and me to talk about the changes that have taken place in the testing market over the past few years.

We riffed on a number of topics including the laws that prohibit asking about salary histories, having that discussion about money and making the best case for your worth, marketing your skill set and leveraging the variety of platforms at our disposal to help sell ourselves and our personal brands.

It's been a great deal of fun to produce and participate in this podcast and I'm looking forward to the new topics and guests we will have in 2018. I am actively working on a two-parter for January with a special guest that you are just going to have to wait and see/hear who it is, but I can say I've wanted to interview this person for a long time and I'm excited about presenting these episodes, along with some other changes for the show in 2018.

With that, please jump in and have a listen to
The Testing Show: Episode 50: Hiring and Getting Hired:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Good Ideas are Spawned From Bad Or Failed Ideas

My elder daughter and I have been working on a number of small projects together over the past few months and every once in awhile, I will get a comment from her where she says "wow, how did you know what to do in that situation? We hadn't faced it before, and you quickly figured out a way to deal with it. How is it so easy for you? Why can't I do that?"

I chuckled a little and then I've told her a maxim that I've used a bunch (and I'm sure I've said it here at some point, too)... "Good ideas/solutions come from good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad ideas/solutions/judgment." In short, she sees that I can come in and consider an idea and implement it (in some things, I do have my limits, and they are legion). What she doesn't hasn't seen is the countless times I've tried similar things, failed at them, regrouped, reconsidered, remeasured, tried again, and repeated this process until I happened upon something that worked.

As a Scout leader, I've had the benefit of decades of teaching a few generations of kids how to do some basic stuff (note, I said basic, not easy or simple). We teach how to tie a handful of knots. We teach some basic cooking techniques. We teach how to handle items like an ax, a knife, and a saw. We teach how to safely use fire. We teach some basic wilderness survival tips. Each time through this process there is always a similar "wave" that I witness. At first, there's an excitement level, but that quickly gives way to a mild boredom. Seriously? This is such a big deal? Snooze! Still, I push on and demonstrate what I can and encourage them to practice what I am showing them. A hallmark of our Scouting year typically takes place three months in for a typical scout. That's the "silent campout". Not silent in the sense that there's no talking or interaction, but silent in that the leaders (i.e. me and the other adults) make it a point to not discuss any of the campout particulars with the troop. They have their campsite, we have ours. they are within eyesight of each other, and we reserve the right/authority to intervene if a situation is deemed unsafe. Outside of that, we let them pick the camp area, bring in all needed items, and then we leave them to it. They construct the camp, they cook their meals, they clean, they tend fires, and do all of the other things that we have taught them over a few months.

Each time, the outcome has been similar. The bored expressions often give way to genuine concern or in some cases panic. Wait, what was I supposed to do at this point? Did I pack what we needed? Did I cook that long enough? Am I going to be able to properly contain the fire? You get the idea. They make mistakes, they get frustrated, and then they approach the problem(s) from different angles. They confer. They discuss options. They experiment. Some of those experiments fail, but some succeed. They note the ones that were successful. The next morning, fewer mistakes, less frustration, and almost no panic. The process, while ragged, gets smoother and more refined. Almost to a person, this experience makes for a change of attitude, and then when we talk about "the basics", they are not so jaded and bored. they realize that basic stuff often is harder to physically do in a regular and smooth manner. Like everything, it takes actual practice and it takes some working through frustration. Do it enough, and you start to actually get good at those basics and then you forget that there was a learning curve at all.

My point with this today is that, too often, I think we approach aspects of what we do (testing, coding, administration, learning new stuff, getting out of our comfort zone) with the same mindset. We start out enthusiastic, we get bored and jaded and then we panic when what was supposed to be so simple doesn't work out to be. It's OK to feel these things. In fact, it's necessary. Over time, as we stumble, learn, practice and perfect, we too might forget exactly what it takes to do basic things and make them look easy. May I encourage you not to? You never know who may be watching and feeling discouraged because they can't seem to "get it". We've been there, we know how that feels. Let's make sure we remind others that basic doesn't necessarily mean easy, and that good ideas/solutions often come from bad ideas/attempts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Frustration of "Too Much Choice"

Hello, Internet world. My name is Michael. I'm a serial collector of informational tidbits.

"Hi, Michael!"

Seriously, I recently went through and realized something both frustrating and enlightening. I am a huge fan of Bookmarking and Favoriting (Liking on Twitter now, but I still think of it as Favoriting). In my world, "Favoriting" serves a specific purpose. It's not so much to say "hey, I want to show you I like what you've posted" (though I do that from time to time) but to say "this is something I don't have the time to look at right now, but I really want to look at it later". I subscribe to lots of services that send me emails with cool tips and tricks to test, code, and administer stuff. I have a digital library that has hundreds of titles on all sorts of topics. I have categorized listings of websites, forums and other services that are there to help me learn and do things better and easier.

The thing is, when I get up in the morning and I scan my Inbox, most of the time I just delete the notifications, unless there's something that really piques my interest.

Those links? Rarely visited.
That list of Favorites (Likes) on Twitter? Rarely reviewed.
That massive list of books? It's so big that most titles hide in plain sight.

I remember Cem Kaner saying at one point that having the information doesn't necessarily mean that it will be useful to you at that moment, but being able to reference it and know about it or where to find it is of value. Thus, for many of us, resources are just that, they are raw lumps that are there when and if we need them, but we have to understand what we have access to and when that access is relevant.

For me, I struggle with too much choice. If there are too many options, I simply get overwhelmed and never make a decision. It's all clutter. It's a challenge to organize it. I have a couple hundred CDs and whenever I go on a road trip, I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to pick something to listen to. Often, I give up and listen to the podcast I downloaded on my phone. Oh, that's another thing, which podcast to listen to and when? So many choices, so many options, but do I really have time for a deep dive? Have I truly let that one podcast build up to ten unlistened episodes? Yikes! When am I going to find the time to listen to that? Since my phone has a limited amount of storage, I tend to be a little more deliberate with what goes on it and I cycle what I download, so I have fewer choices. The net result is that I actually listen to what I put on the phone.

As I've stated in this blog before, I don't write about these things because I'm particularly good at them. I write about them because I'm particularly terrible at many things but want to do better. Thus, I'm trying my best to constrain those things that overwhelm me. Yes, I belong to a service that lets me download a free ebook every day. Many (perhaps most) of those books are "someday maybe" propositions that tend to crowd out the books that are actually immediately relevant. Therefore, I'm trying something different. Each week, I'm going through a particular category of expertise and/or criteria I need to understand or become more proficient with. I'm looking at this from a Marie Kondo approach. I'm looking at the resources I've collected, taking some time to categorize them into "immediately relevant", "relevant later", and "someday maybe". My goal is to locate the items that are immediately relevant and then focus on those for a short period of time.

In other words, I'm putting a physical constraint on the information I have an use, not to block out all of the resources I have, but to meaningfully work on the ones that can be most effective here and now. It's great that I have books that will help me master a particular technology, but if I'm just learning about it or trying to get beyond the Advanced Beginner stage, do I really need to deal with topics that relate to mastery at this stage? No. Yet just by their being there in my line of sight, I lose focus and my attention wanders. I also do something similar regarding other endeavors in my office. I have a lot of interests and it's tempting to have a variety of things out and ready to use. The net result, though, is that I dabble in lots of things and don't put any appreciable time into the areas that are most important. Frequently I end up dealing with what's urgent or pressing, and that's great for the moment, but it can leave me lacking in areas that are indeed important but aren't urgent.

I'm not sure if this is going to be helpful to anyone else, but it's currently helping me. Take some time to block out items you want to work on, that you need to work on and then think of the things that will directly help you meet those goals in the very near-term future. If they don't, don't delete them but perhaps put them in a place where you know they will come in handy later, and try to set a hard time for when "later" might be. If you can't do that, put them in the "someday maybe" container. The ability to pick and choose is wonderful, but sometimes, it helps a lot to limit what can be picked so that you actually make a choice and move forward with it :).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Machine Learning Part 2 With Peter Varhol: The Testing Show

As has become abundantly clear to me over the last several weeks, I could be a lot more prolific with my blog posts if I were just a little bit better and more consistent with self-promotion. Truth be told, a lot of time goes into editing The Testing Show. I volunteered a long time ago to do the heavy lifting for the show editing because of my background in audio editing and audio production from a couple decades back. Hey, why let those chops go to waste ;)? Well, it means I don’t publish as often since, by the time I’ve finished editing a podcast, I have precious little time or energy to blog. That is unless I blog about the podcast itself… hey, why not?

So this most recent episode of The Testing Show is “Machine Learning, Part 2” and features Peter Varhol. Peter has had an extensive career and has also done a prodigious amount of writing. In addition, he has a strong mathematical background which makes him an ideal person to talk about the proliferation of AI and Machine Learning. Peter has a broad and generous take on the current challenges and opportunities that both AI and Machine Learning provide. He gives an upbeat but realistic view of what the technologies can and cannot do, as well as ways in which the tester can both leverage and thrive in this environment.

Anyway, I’d love for you to listen to the show, so please either go to the Qualitest Group podcast page or subscribe via Apple Podcasts. While you’re at it, we’d love it if you could leave us a review, as reviews help bubble our group higher in the search listings and help people find the show. Regardless, I’d love to know what you think and comments via this page are also fine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Seek JOY: #PNSQC Live Blog

Wow, we're at the end of the day already? How did that happen? Part of it was the fact that I started a few conversations with people that cut into talks being delivered, but as is often the case, those discussions can take priority and can often be the most important conversations you have at a conference.

Long story short though is that we are at the closing Keynote for the main two-day conference. Rich Sheridan of Menlo Innovations believes that we can do work that we care about and that we can have joy in the work that we do and in the workplaces we actively move in. Rich shared his story of how he came up into the world of computers and computing starting in the early seventies and how the profession he loved was starting to sap the life out of him and how he was contemplating leaving the industry entirely. He was experiencing the chaos of the industry. Issues, bugs, failed projects, blown deadlines, lack of sales, and all of the fun stuff any of us who have worked in tech recognize all too well. Chaos often ends up leading to bureaucracy, where we can't get anything done to not being able to get anything started.

The fact Rich wants to impart is that Joy is what all of us hope for in most of the things that we do. We often see it as some form but it's often nebulous to us. Additionally, jobs and companies cannot guarantee our success or our happiness. We have to have an active role in it and be willing to make it happen for us as we endeavor to make it work for others.

Why joy? Joy is service to others and being able to see the reaction to that service. IT's why we do the work that we do. We want to see our work out in the world. We want to see it get a response. We want to see people react to it. and we want to have that moment that swells up inside of us and that cheers us and makes us jump for (wait for it!) joy.

It's one thing to say that you want to build a joyful career, but it requires human energy. In most of the work environments that I have enjoyed the most, the work has almost always been secondary. What made the work enjoyable? The people and the interactions with those people are what makes for memorable experiences.

One of the most important things to foster joy is the idea of trust. We have to trust one another. Trust allows us to be open and frank. We can get into hard discussions and deal with conflict in a positive manner. When we can debate issues with trust and consideration, while still being committed to trying to get our issues resolved, we can deal with the hard issue and still be positive and remain friends.

Rich describes his office as a hodgepodge of machines, but the most astounding aspect is the fact that no one has their own computer. People change pairs and move onto other machines every five days, and with those moves, people move onto other machines. That means there is no such thing as "it works on my machine" because there is no dedicated machine for anybody.

Simplicity goes a long way to helping develop joy. Complexity for its own sake sucks the life out of us, and Rich showed the way that they manage their work. It's all on paper. It's all based on the size of commitment, and it's all based on creating meaningful conversations. Pans are then put on the wall, for all to see so that it's completely transparent. Honesty matters and with transparency comes honesty. With honesty and a willingness to express it, empathy comes into play. With empathy, we can see what others see and feel what others feel. To borrow from Deming, as Rich did "All anyone wants is to be able to work with pride" With that pride comes joy.

Rich Sheridan is the author of "Joy, Inc." and it is scheduled to be released very soon. Yep, I want a copy :).

And with that, the two-day technical program for PNSQC is over. Tomorrow will be another work day for me, but I think it's safe to say that I'll be literally buzzing with the kinetic energy that these past two days have provided for me. Thank you PNSQC team for putting on a great event. Thank you, speakers, for sharing your insights and experiences. Thank you, participants, for coming out and participating, and especially, thank you to everyone who came to my talk and offered positive feedback (and constructive criticism, too). Wishing everyone to get back to their destinations safely, and if you are here for the extended workshop day, I hope you all enjoy it and get to bring back great insights to your teams.