Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Missed Opportunities And Public Goalkeeping

As I approach the end of the year that is/was 2010, I've had a chance to reflect on what I've done this year. The simple fact is that I've done a lot of things, way more than what I actually thought I could. At the same time, I've also gone back and looked at the blog posts that I have written, and I've also seen another pattern.

Over the course of the year, most of the things I set out to do/complete/accomplish I have done, and have actively enjoyed the journey. There is, however, one thing I said a few times that I wanted to do, but didn't really accomplish, at least not to the level that I wanted to, and that was to become more deeply technical in my understanding of writing code.

This has been a frustration of mine for quite some time, and I would like to say that I know why this has been an elusive goal. It is an elusive goal because, compared to all of the other aspects of software testing, it is the aspect I personally enjoy the least. Many times I've written that I wanted to do something about it, yet I never held myself accountable for it. It just managed to drift away into the background, and I didn't revisit it again.

Another tester and I discussed the idea of Public Goalkeeping, or making promises in a public forum as a way to shame ourselves into accomplishing something. We both agreed that it had a benefit, and worked in many cases, but oftentimes just the act of stating a goal in a stream of other conversations (via Twitter, Facebook or even my blog) leaves little in the way of follow-up unless we specifically set a way to follow up. What's worse, the act of stating the goal alone acted as a sort of "candy" for the brain, and the same rush was experienced, without all that pesky hard work. In short, not a long term recipe for success all by itself.

In 2007, I made a goal to lose 52 pounds in 6 months. I did it very publicly, and specifically, I used myspace as my platform to do it. I was successful in my goal primarily because I placed a solid constraint on myself; I committed to making a post every single Monday, telling where I was, how much I lost, or didn't, putting into perspective from my starting point and end goal, and a paragraph about the ups or downs of that week (exercise, diet, stress, etc.). I wasn't a fan of the process. It wasn't fun, it wasn't really all that enjoyable (getting to the weight I targeted was nice, but I'll admit I've back-slid considerably since then). The key to reaching the goal was that I openly, frequently, and regularly made sure I made those posts, good news or no, and thus, each week I had simple micro goals to help me stay focused on the macro goal, making weight for the week, which itself was a micro goal towards the macro-goal of "make the ultimate goal weight".

Thus, with this desire/goal/action plan, I've decided on two initiatives. The first one is a personal one, and it has to do with getting back to "fighting weight" again, which with me being 6'2" is 200 pounds. That means I have 45 pounds to lose to make that goal. I know what works, and I know that the regular reporting to those I have delegated as my accountability partners is how I do that. Don't worry, those who read TESTHEAD will not be my accountability partners for that particular goal... but you will for my other initiative :).

Earlier today I mentioned setting up a different kind of a book review I called the TESTHEAD PRACTICUM. This serves two purposes. The first is that it gives me a way to review books in a "practical" setting, where I can delve deeply into the technical aspects in ways that the other reviews don't really allow me to (the TESTHEAD BOOK CLUB reviews are meant more for a deep dive into concepts and seeing if I understand them and can explain them to others). The PRACTICUM will let me focus on issues specific to implementation, to hooking things up, to my elations and frustrations when I get it and when I don't, and by their very design, since they are regular and, most important, recorded, TESTHEAD itself, and by extension all who read it, are my accountability partners. In short, my last excuse why I have not been able to make progress on an initiative I claim to be important, yet still my least favorite aspect of testing, I now have an avenue to make it more focused and, yes, more palatable. I'm actually going to do something I like to do (write about the process and the journey) as opposed to just slugging away at it "just because it's something I should be doing".

Again, I really appreciate everyone who reads this blog, leaves me comments, and encourages me on. You are helping to hone my skills as a writer and as a teacher. Now I ask your indulgence and encouragement once more (and hey, I can take some razzing, too if its warranted) as I look to expand that notion to the world of becoming proficient at programming. We're starting with Selenium; we'll take it from there :).


Philk said...

Cant help you with the weight loss but as an ex-dev who's getting back into writing code I'd be happy to try and help you out if you need it. Roll on 2011 for a techy TESTHEAD

Carl said...

With respect to writing code, I believe it boils down to the language of choice. Do you know what language you plan to learn and use? I recommend Ruby. Over the past five years I was able to learn enough Ruby to write automation in WATIR and Selenium. A good place to start would be Brian Marick's book, Everyday Scripting in Ruby. Best wishes for 2011!


Michael Larsen said...

Hey Carl. Yep, Ruby it is. Of course, my new job has kinda' made that decision a little easier in that they and their service is RoR. WatiR, Selenium, Cucumber, etc are going to be close friends of mine, so that's the stack I'm focusing on. Marick's book is actually one of the titles I plan to include in my PRACTICUM review series, after I finish up David Burns Selenium book (which i just received today :) ).