Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 Things that Fired Me Up in 2010

As I mentioned in another post that has become the highest read article on this site in the shortest amount of time (it went to #1 in ONE DAY, and thank you to everyone who read it and linked to it :) ), there was a lot of supporting stuff and things that helped motivate me through the year to keep me focused and develop my game. Key people, key presentations, key podcasts and key organizations helped make that happen, so as an end of the year “I’m thankful for…” post, here are some key items I found that I am thankful for helping to make 2010 beyond amazing for me.:

1. Book: Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar by James Marcus Bach

It’s cliché to say that a book is a “game changer” but this book deserves that designation, as does the #2 item in this post, because both together were the “electric spark" that provided for my “conversion” to “testing evangelism” (conversion in this sense being the scientific manner; “motivated towards action”). James gets the #1 spot because he helped me see my brain for the lazy, wayward, obstinate, uncooperative, short attention span thing that it is, and give me the tools to actually appreciate it and WORK with it and understand how to best maximize its potential. The link above is to James book, and the following link is to James' Buccaneer Scholar site, so that you can get more of that Buccaneer Scholarly goodness (or if you’re feeling particularly jaunty, you can say “more of that B.S.” and keep a straight face, because your referring to something good ;) ).

2. Book: Linchpin by Seth Godin

The factory is dead. Long live the Linchpins. If you ever wanted a kick in the butt to help encourage you to blast forward and get you fired up to make yourself into one of those people who is indispensable, then this is your book. Understanding of “the Lizard Brain” and “the Resistance” alone makes this book worthwhile, but there is so much to mine here, so many great ideas and inspiration that, yes, this deserved the moniker of “game changer” as well.

3. Podcast: Dan Carlin, Common Sense and Hardcore History

Dan Carlin is, without a shadow of a doubt, my all time favorite “new media” personality, and he is in many ways the model of what I would like my podcasts to aspire to (production values, relevance, energy, and “collectability”). Common Sense is "Politics from a Martian's slant", and Hardcore History is in-depth and dramatic discussion about History’s odd and interesting bits, and I’m not kidding when I say dramatic… Dan has been compared to “William Shatner on Crack” but many. Still, the production values of his show and the level of passion in which he approaches it ranks up there with “best inspiration” for the year.

4. Podcast: Hanselminutes

This is my favorite “technical podcast” that I’m not directly involved with (yes, TWiST is in the list, but considering how many hours a week I devote to it, how could I not list it ;)?). Hanselminutes is a well produced, quickly paced show that goes into various topics each week, most related to .NET technologies (and since my current gig is in a .NET shop, that should not be surprising) but he also varies the topics to many other technical and sometimes not so technological topics. His podcast is also one of the longest continually running ones (245 episodes and counting!).

5. Community: Twitter

OK, so this is almost a cop-out, but the way that I apply it, it has been one of my key motivators for this year. I only have one account on Twitter (@mkltesthead), and 99% of my Twitter feed is filled with Software Testers or those who are peripherally associated with Software Testing. Because of this, to quote Jon Bach, my twitter feed is effectively speaking a 24/7 Testing conference, with announcements, blog posts, presentations and discussions with the people I consider to be the most influential and most interesting in the industry (and I should note, often the two have a lot to do with each other, and often they do not). Generally speaking, I use a simple metric when it comes to a testing idea or concept. Is it discussed on Twitter? If It isn’t, chances are I can safely ignore it. If it is actively and regularly discussed on Twitter, I know that ignoring it could well be at my career’s peril :).

6. Recorded Talk: Merlin Mann and Jon Gruber: HOWTO: 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility!*

This was actually recorded in 2009, but I didn’t run across it until early 2010. For anyone who blogs, writes, or wants to make a difference with personal publishing, this talk is fantastic! I’m an unabashed fan of Merlin Mann (of and Jon Gruber (of, but this talk goes so far beyond what my expectations were, and seriously, I think I fire this up on my MP3 player about once a month to motivate me. Yes, it’s that good! In short, if you have any goal of developing a blog, a voice, of making a name for yourself with a blog, or becoming a better writer, artist, maker, fill in the blank, seriously, you really have to listen to this. Repeatedly!

* BTW, the title of the talk is a gag, which they mention in the first minute of the talk, but if you are a fan of either Merlin or Jon, you probably don't need me to tell you that ;).

7. Podcast: This Week in Software Testing

I joked with Matt that for every minute of Audio there’s about 15 minutes of scrubbing and sequencing that I do. This is probably way too O.C.D. for me, but again, my hope is that I aspire to make this podcast that I am producer of every bit as good as the #3 and #4 items on my list. I don’t know if I’ve ever quite gotten there, but that’s what I aspire to, and therefore I enjoy scouring these episodes and making them flow as well as I possibly can and doing as good an audio cleanup as humanly possible. In the process, I learn a tremendous amount each week. For every 15 – 30 minute episode the listeners hear, it s good bet I’ve spent anywhere from three to five hours with each of them and going over every single word and waveform. You learn a lot in that process, and sometimes I find myself mentioning things in meetings and people going “whoa, where did you learn that?!" and then smiling a little and saying “from TWiST!” Seriously, every episode motivates me to do better, and every episode motivates the time I spend testing, because I get so intimate with each episode, I want to see the fruits of that knowledge in my day to day testing.

8. Community: The Miagi-Do School of Software Testing

It’s named after Pat Morita's character in “The Karate Kid”. It’s so filled with references to it, and it’s so goofy on the surface, that it's impossible to be co-opted or commercialized. IT's not only non profit, it's zero profit. There's no money involved at all! With all that, you know it has to be a special place. I dug out whatever information I could about it (there ain’t much, and that’s by design), and was excited to be picked to be a part of it. So many great opportunities came my way this year because I became part of this group. Thus my goal for 2011 is to do whatever it takes to move from Student ranks to Instructor ranks (what Japanese martial arts typically refer to as moving from Kyu to Dan, or from colored belts to Black Belt). I still have a challenge to complete successfully before I can make that transition, but it is my goal to do that before the end of 2010 (and that does not give me a lot of time :) ).

9. Site/Service/Community: Association for Software Testing

What do you get for $85 a year? A lot, if you are willing to invest your time and energy. I was able to take the Black Box Software Testing Foundations class this year, and I was also able to help instruct the course three more times after that. It’s intense, focused on practical application, working with others, collaborating, understanding that the pat multiple-choice answer is not what makes you an expert, repeated and practical application of skills is, and I managed to learn something profound each and every time, including when I was instructing (especially when I was instructing). CAST 2011 is taking place in Seattle, and I have determined it to be a must attend event.

10. Site/Service/Community: Weekend Testing

So many of the testers that I have come to know, follow and respect have been participants in this program and in various chapters all over the world. It was the energy and the enthusiasm of the participants who finally convinced me along with Lynn McKee and Joe Harter to found Weekend Testing Americas. The challenge of being a virtual test manager, facilitator, moderator and instructor is a new experience, but even before that, I enjoyed participating in sessions with European and Australia/New Zealand Weekend Testers. It’s exciting to see how many people put their time and energies into WT events when they happen. While I wouldn’t say it’s the only way to gain experience and get better at testing, I’d dare say it’s a really good way, in a safe environment with people you will quickly refer to as friends.

2010 is closing down, 2011 is just around the corner. I hope to make another list like this next year, and I wonder who and what will be there then :)?
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