Friday, March 18, 2016

Come See TESTHEAD Speak at STP-CON 2016 in Millbrae, California

It's just a few weeks away. Software Test Professionals is bringing its conference to my home town. Well, it's bringing it to the town just south of my home town, but that's close enough. If you will be attending STP-CON 2016 at the Westin in Millbrae, CAlifornia, and you are looking for a couple of sessions to attend, there's lots of choices, pretty much all of them great. However, if you are still undecided, I'd like to make a couple of recommendations... specifically, come to my sessions ;).

First of all, I will be giving a half day workshop/tutorial based around "Teaching New Software Testers". I'm sure some of you looked at that title and said "ah well, I'm not a new software tester, so that's not relevant to me." However, this workshop is not geared towards new testers, it's actually geared towards those who will mentor new software testers. My guess is that's a significantly larger audience. The workshop is built around the materials that were prepared with several contributors, along with myself, for the SummerQAmp program.

We put together six modules (What is the Scientific Method?, What is Testing?, What is Context?, What is Bias? What is the SDLC/STLC?, What is Bug Reporting? How Does the Web Work?). These modules have been field tested, we've received a good deal of feedback, and some cool experiments have grown out of the work with these modules and test mentors who have used them to train new testers, some with zero experience in testing whatsoever. This session will be light on talk, and will focus much more on exercises and action. In short, each participant will get a chance to mentor and be mentored. Each participant will get the stack of materials that made up the SummerQAmp materials (developed with the help of the Association For Software Testing and creative commons licensed). In short, if you want to possibly pick up some new approaches to talking about testing with new testers, this may be up your alley. Come join us April 4, 2016, 9:00a.m. - 12:00p.m. in the Poplar Room.

My second talk (this is just a talk, so less of a time commitment) covers The Intersection of Accessibility and Inclusive Design. Wait, what?!

Accessibility focuses on designing products that allow those who otherwise could not use them to gain access to information and services. It makes this possible through assistive technology (screen readers, close captioning, voice dictation, joystick controllers, etc.). This is important work, but I want to also emphasize there's a lot we can do to make software applications even more usable by as many people as possible. This is the core idea behind Inclusive Design. We will give examples of both accessibility, and show apps that have taken advantage of, whether by design or by happy accident, principles to make software that is usable by the most people possible. Come join us April 6, 2016, from 2:30p.m. - 3:30p.m. in the Hickory/Hawthorn room.

Just a couple weeks to go. Can't wait to see you all in my neck of the woods!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Introducing... The Testing Show!!!

For the past few months, along with a bit of back and forth, negotiations, discussions, conversation, and a few trial runs, I am back in the podcasting saddle once again!

Qualitest Group has agreed to do a run of podcasts with Matt Heusser, Justin Rohrman and me as regualr attendees, along with Brian Van Stone from Qualitest and a revolving cast of what we hope will be many people in the software testing world to interact with us and talk testing topics, news of the day, and have a slight propensity for silliness at times.

We have posted the first three episodes at "The Testing Show" page. The first three episodes cover "Skill on the Test Team", "Testing as a Trusted Advisor" and "Testing When You Don't Have Enough Testers". We have a couple more episodes that will be posted within the next week, and then we aim to keep up to date with a new post every two weeks.

So what do we want you all to do? Well, we want you to listen. We want you to comment. We want you to suggest topics for us to talk about. Most of all, if you like what you hear, we want to have you share it with others. The more people listen, like, and respond to the podcast, the more likely that Qualitest will book us to do more shows in the future. We should also mention that while Qualitest is sponsoring the show, The Testing Show is not being used to market Qualitest, at least not directly. Of course they want to encourage people to consider them, but Qualitest does not tell us what to say or tell us what topics we cover. We do that ourselves.

Anyway, it's been a long time. Come join us, and if you genuinely enjoy what you hear, considering getting in on the action with us. We are always interested in topics and guest speakers, so if you want to participate, let us know :)!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Aedificamus: Book Review: The Negative Calorie Diet

All right, I confess. The title lured me in. With parts incredulity and general curiosity, I decided I had to see what this was all about. Was it just some slick marketing, or if there was something of substance to this claim?

Rocco DiSpirito is a celebrity chef, and has appeared in a number of media outlets over the past decade plus. I have heard him on Kara Rota's "Clever Cookstr" podcast. It was the most recent episode, in fact that covered "The Negative Calorie Diet" that finally made me say "all right, I'm curious, what is the premise and what is on offer with this?" (I'm reviewing the Kindle version of this book, just in case anyone is curious).

First things first, what in the world is a "negative calorie diet"? That doesn't make any sense on the surface, and in truth, there really isn't a truly "negative" food, is there? What is DiSpirito driving at here? Turns out that what he is really emphasizing is eating whole, unprocessed foods that, when taken in and metabolized, the net effect is that your body, on balance, works harder to digest them than the nutrient content provides. DiSpirito identifies three aspects to foods that make them "negative calorie foods".

Whole foods rather than processed foods

The idea here is that whole, unprocessed or very lightly processed foods contain more fiber and denser nutrient profiles as compared to processed foods. The density of the nutrient profile, as well as the inclusion of cellulose, bran, germ and other components of a whole food diet means your body has to work harder to process and break down the food consumed than the total calories that food provides. This sounds a little far fetched, but I've actually seen this in action, especially when I buy bulk vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. There's a lot of volume to make two hundred calories of these vegetables, with fiber and water making up a large percentage.

The Fat Burn Factor

Here the idea follows the thought that certain foods provide a low level "work load" in your body, and by the virtue of that consistent work load, it is priming the body for fat burning. DiSpirito points out that certain foods like cruciferous vegetables and protein have a "thermic effect", in that your body works harder to break down these foods, and in the process, requires more fuel to do its work. Granted, the workload is not on the same scale as, say, a strenuous weightlifting session or high intensity training activities, but it's not insignificant, either. By leveraging this thermic property of certain foods, the net result can be more calories burned than consumed.

The Fullness Factor

Skeptic hat firmly on, here's where I think a large part of this "diet" really comes into play. By focusing on whole, unprocessed foods, we are taking them in in their least broken down state. Whole oranges are going to take up more room in our stomach than orange juice. Fiber and water take up space. Proteins and fats have the ability to let our brain know that we have some dense stuff to work through. In short, we get full on items that take up space, rather than consuming small, concentrated convenience foods that may taste good, but are largely concentrated, small volume items that pack in a lot of calories but offer little in the way of satiation. In certain circumstances, that's fine. When I go on a backpack trip, I personally love having calorically dense foods in very small and light containers. Less to carry and more fuel for the pound, but that's not what I do, or should do, every day. In most cases, allowing myself to be filled by whole foods, chased with water in most cases, I should find myself in situations where I am not hungry, I am full and satisfied with my meals, and ultimately, my body is burning more energy working through the food I am eating than I am actually consuming.

"The Negative Calorie Diet" is split into three sections.

Part One talks about the Negative Calorie Diet concepts, and describes the philosophy behind the diet (much of which is explained in the three points above) and highlighting foods that help reach the goals DiSpirito sets out. It then goes into a thirty day "course" the reader can choose to take to get results from the diet as described. The first ten days are described as a "cleanse". Skeptic hat back on; I tend to think of the notion of "detox" to be food quackery, but as it is termed here, it's really more an adjustment of the food items consumed, and for the first ten days, it leverages eating via smoothies, soups and salads. In other words, we are aiming to up the intake of a lot of food items we may not already be consuming. In that light, I'm OK with the process. The next twenty days goes into preparing three meals and one snack each day, with the goal of not worrying about portion or calorie count. It may sound like DiSpirito is saying you an eat as much as you want of these foods, and in a way, that's true, but really, what's going on is that you will likely find yourself full before the size of the caloric payload will be of much concern. This section also provides shopping lists for the items recommended for each of the days in question, as well as links to the recipes in the book for each meal.

Part Two covers the Negative Diet Recipes. For many, this may be all you are really interested in. To that end, there are indeed a lot of options.

Chapter 6 is all about Smoothies, fifteen to be specific, with tastes ranging everywhere from fruits to vegetables to a Virgin Mary smoothie for good measure (memories of "Tuna Shake, Baby!" are going through my head right now from years on the newsgroup in the 1990s, but this is a little different ;) ).

Chapter 7 focuses on Breakfasts, providing nine recipes ranging from a breakfast "risotto" to Mexican cauliflower chili and spinach and mushroom omelets.

Chapter 8 covers Soups and Salads. Fifteen options are available here, and an emphasis is placed on variety, fresh ingredients, and a judicious use of spices. There are options for omnivores as well as vegetarians and vegans.

Chapter 9 goes into Mains, and provides seventeen entrees that, again, cover a broad variety of cuisine styles, ingredients, and dietary goals. Various cuts of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits and spices make their way into these recipes, and again, there's sure to be something to please just about everyone.

Chapter 10 brings us to the topic of Snacks. Yes, snacks are encouraged, as long as you are the one making them and they use the foods recommended to reach the negative calorie goals. Eight unique ideas ranging from homemade cucumber and almond sushi, red ants on a log (which is really celery stalks, peanut butter and cranberries, which frankly works fine for me :) ),  to making your own granola bars.

Chapter 11 is Desserts. Yep, desserts. We all crave sweets, so rather than deny us the pleasure, DiSpirito has developed options that let us enjoy them, albeit with some modifications. Almond cake, crepes suzette, citrus and berry bowls with whipped topping, no need to deny your sweet toth while pursuing this course.

Part Three focuses on The Negative Calorie Lifestyle. DiSpirito's aim is to encourage healthy eating for the long haul, and to that end, he makes a number of suggestions. Go meatless, or barring that, use meat sparingly and up your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Encourage your family to participate in this approach with you. To this end I am painfully aware that it is much harder to eat when you are preparing your food separate from the rest of the family. Getting everyone on board makes for a big boost in the likelihood the habits you develop will stick. Eating Out and On the Go need not be a black hole of unhealthy food or limited options, but it helps to be forewarned and forearmed, and DiSpirito devotes a chapter to suggested approaches for a variety of restaurants and cuisine styles. The last chapter focuses on Maintenance, and helping you keep to the habits while losing weight, and in that approach, keeping the weight off.

Bottom Line:

The title is a bit gimmicky, but the concept DiSpirito is describing does make sense, and I've used variations of it myself over the past seven months as I have lost close to 70 pounds. It is entirely possible to expend more energy than we consume, and that ultimately helps us develop a deficit so that we lose weight. The ideas in "the Negative Calorie Diet" do indeed meet that goal, both through nutrient quality and variety, as well as nutrient density, including insoluble fiber and water. If I have to offer a criticism, it's that there are a lot of terms and studies thrown around in the sections setting up the first part of the book, but no references to those studies. Granted, this is a cookbook, so that may be overkill, but I would think that, at least, a list of studies as an Appendix would be a huge plus. Yes, we live in the era of Google and the ability to search, but some more clarity on where these terms came from and the basis for making the claims would have been nice.

Even if you are not interested in going all out and living a "Negative calorie lifestyle" but want to see how to create some interesting whole food options, and perhaps try some things you've never had before that would taste great and also be overall healthy, there is much to like here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Happy 6th Birthday, TESTHEAD

Time flies.

Six years ago today, I initiated an opening salvo that I had hoped would help me develop some more interest in my chosen career. It was a way to get me out of a rut, to make me re-examine my thinking, and to engage with the community.

Well, that's what I'd like to believe was why I started it, but truth be told, what I just said is the result of what happened because I started it. The original entry actually looks a lot like this (OK, it looks exactly like this):

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Welcome to TESTHEAD

OK, why the need for a blog like this? Well, truth be told, I don’t know that there really is a “need” for this blog, but I’m doing this as a challenge to myself. I consider this an opportunity to “give back” to a community that has helped me over the course of many years, as I have been the beneficiary of many great insights and learned a lot from a number of people and sources over nearly two decades.

First off, professionally, I am a Tester. It's been what I've done in one way, shape or form for most of my career. As such, I am strangely drawn to the fine art of "breaking things on purpose" and then trying to find ways to improve the process so that they do not break again.

Being a Tester requires a bit of many disciplines. Saying "I like to test things" really isn't enough. A good Tester needs to have some understanding of the Software Development Cycle. This means that, to really be good at what they do, they need to "embrace the code", and I'll be the first to say I've had my fair share of ups and downs with that. They also need to have some skills with troubleshooting systems and finding solutions to issues. They need to be able to communicate to a broad group of people as to what they are doing, and ultimately, they need to be a part of the solution to the issue whenever possible. It's in the spirit of those areas I hope to contribute something here.

Most of all, this will be a site where I share my own experiences, both good and bad, and what I've learned from them. Expect there to be talk about tools, both proprietary and open source. Expect some talk about test case design (and how I so hate to do it at times). Expect to hear me vent about some frustrations at times, because like all people, I have my share of frustrations when things don't seem to work correctly or go the way that I planned them to. Expect me to share ideas on testing that don't divulge too much of what I do at my day job... much as I find what I do interesting, chances are there's not much anyone who is not in my particular niche market (software applications for the Legal industry) will be able to use outside of that area, but if I come across a cool concept or a neat way to do something, I'll definitely put a more generic example of it here. Most of all, expect to get a real person's perspective on these things and an attempt to communicate them in plain English, whenever I possibly can.

Opportunity to “give back” to the community - I think that's true.

Drawn to the fine art of "breaking things on purpose" and then trying to find ways to improve the process so that they do not break again - I've since changed my terminology here. Testers don't really break anything unless they maliciously and intentionally try to. I really don't do that, but I do try my best to uncover and discover what is already broken.

They need to "embrace the code", and I'll be the first to say I've had my fair share of ups and downs with that - this has proven to be more true than I originally intended, and I've gotten more "code involved" these past years, but more so in my role as release manager than in my role as tester.

They need to be able to communicate to a broad group of people as to what they are doing, and ultimately, they need to be a part of the solution to the issue whenever possible - I think that is still the spirit of how I try to operate, at least much of the time.

Most of all, this will be a site where I share my own experiences, both good and bad, and what I've learned from them - this has partially proven true, but I've realized less often than I intended. I've realized that this has been a springboard for many endeavors, and I've give many of them coverage here, but if there is a desire to get back to the true intention of TESTHEAD, I'd say I have some work to do right here.

Most of all, expect to get a real person's perspective on these things and an attempt to communicate them in plain English, whenever I possibly can - Wait, how can I have two most of all's? Looks like editorial oversight was not an early strong suit (and yes, I'm well aware some might say that is still true now, thankyouverymuch). Still, this is what I've always hoped this blog would be, a tester, working as a tester, talking about testing and other topics in something resembling "dude" as much as was possible. If I am doing well here, I aim to keep doing well. If not, I aim to do better.

Ultimately, this platform has been a springboard into a reality I didn't imagine I'd be inhabiting six years ago. The world is different, and I've grown and adapted along with it. In many ways, having this blog has been a touch point for my sanity, as well as a venting place to make sure I retained that sanity. Many books have been read and reviewed. Many Weekend Testing sessions have come and gone. Many podcast episodes have been recorded and announced (and there might be some more on that front in the not too distant future ;) ). I've been able to speak in a variety of places, including three trips to Europe. I've collaborated on a book with several others. I declared a "Year of Accessibility" learning and teaching along with Albert Gareev. I served on the Board of Directors with the Association for Software Testing for four years. I've written and published scores of articles in numerous magazines and portal sites. What's more, I've met many amazing people who have greatly enriched both my career and my life, and this humble little blog started all of that. To all who have been with me thus far, thank you so much. You are why I am still doing this, and I look forward to many more posts, and many more opportunities for interaction.