Sunday, August 11, 2013

Discover as Much as You Can Outside of Testing: 99 Ways Workshop #48

The Software Testing Club recently put out an eBook called "99 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Tester". Some of them are really general and vague. Some of them are remarkably specific.

My goal for the next few weeks is to take the "99 Things" book and see if I can put my own personal spin on each of them, and make a personal workshop out of each of the suggestions.

Suggestion #48: Read as much as you can about testing. Then read as much as you can about things outside of testing; product design, software development, psychology, anthropology etc - Amy Phillips

While there is a lot of information we can learn about specific testing techniques, much of what informs us about our world and the way that we see it happens outside of the testing specific disciplines that we learn. For many of us, these may be foreign topics, or areas we have not spent much time pursuing. The great news is, in this modern, interconnected world, there's no reason to not find out about or study up on any number of disciplines you may have miss from your time in school.

Workshop #48: Choose a variety of books, online courses, or podcasts to specifically learn about additional aspects of the world, and then turn it around and apply it to your work as a tester.

There are so many different aspects to education and learning, many of which would be difficult to put in one place. Fortunately, with a little bit of time, patience and a YouTube or Khan Academy search, we can find lots of interesting talks, screencasts, lectures and podcasts about a variety of topics.

This is not an exhaustive list, but off the top of my head, these are a few "podcasts" and presentations of subjects that I have found interesting, worth spending some time with, and genuinely helpful to my testing efforts:

Philosophy: "Philosophize This" Podcast. This is a relatively new podcast produced by Stephen West. It has done a good job of summarizing Western philosophy from pre-Socratic times through Aristotle, and has started discussing Eastern Philosophy recently with its most recent podcast focused on Daoism).

History: Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History". These shows are deeply researched and many of the episodes are long, as in three to four hours long, but they do not feel like it as you listen to them. Many of them feel like you are listening to audio books, and Dan's podcasts absolutely have the quality of some of the best audio books. Well worth the time.

Economics: "Planet Money" and "Freakonomics". Both come from NPR, and both deal with interesting aspects of economics and monetary issue. From a testers perspective, I would lean more towards Freakonomics if you felt you had to choose just once, if for not other reason than I think the focus on being "the hidden side of everything" tends to be a good avenue to explore from a tester's perspective.

Programming: Ruby Rogues. OK, granted, if you do not program in Ruby this may be less interesting, but I find it to be a well done podcast on a variety of topics and I like the round table of guests that frequently pop in and out.

Productivity: Back 2 Work (with Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann). I have to say up front, this is a bit of an acquired taste, and if you are not familiar with the banter between Merlin and Dan, this may seem extremely random, and hard to listen to. I say, hang out for a few minutes and your patience will be rewarded, because if you genuinely want to think about some things that will help make you more focused and perhaps a bit more aware of what people really think of their computers, their mobile devices and the purposes of using them, this is a gem.

Beyond this short list, I recommend just going in and searching for stuff that interests you, but again, try to see how you can tie it into your testing wherever possible. 

Bottom Line:

The reason that it helps to look outside of software testing for learning and inspiration is that it helps us all develop a solid, inductive pool of knowledge that we can draw from at various times. It will likely not cover all the bases, but I'll dare say that spending a little time in unfamiliar territory will be rewarding. It may give you some interesting ideas that you may not have considered, but also, I think it just plain feels good to learn from a variety of disciplines, many of which I know a little bit about, but would likes to learn more. See how spending time in these disciplines helps give you some additional perspectives.
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