Schedule and Events
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Want to invite a speaker on testing to your local user group - and get some help with providing travel expenses? There's a program for that. What to run a peer workshop but need help with expenses? There's a program for that too.
Maybe you'd just like to ask AST to provide some promotional support and reimburse the cost of drinks and appetizers? You guessed it. AST can do that too.
The program is effective for 2012, but you can apply right now if you have something in mind.
Merry Christmas, everybody -- let's make it a great year.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Yes, they did graciously offer to let me renew, but, truth be told, I just don't have a lot of energy for the program, and it looks like ASQ has brought up a new batch of folks who are rarin' to go. I'm happy for them.
By now you probably know how this goes; Paul Borawski, the Executive Director of ASQ, makes a blog post, we offer our commentary, and then Paul uses that for input into future work. This month the overall subject was three-fold -- World Quality Month, "Forty Under 40", and ASQ's newest membership benefit.
I'll start with the dessert first - ASQ's new membership benefit is, Ironically enough, the ability to give away a six-month membership to a colleague who is thinking about membership but hasn't taken the plunge.
So let me say, I think membership in professional associations is a good thing. I also put my money where my mouth is.
I am a regular, dues-paying member of yes, the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the American Society for Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and the Association for Software Testing (AST), where I sit on the board of directors. I am also an expired member of the Agile Alliance. Don't get me wrong - the AA is great, but three at a time is plenty for me, and when I decided to join ASJA, with it's $160/year price tag, I decided to drop something else.
I pay those memberships out-of-pocket, and have for years; I just renewed my ASQ membership. If you'd like to see if ASQ is right for you, drop me an email -- I have a membership to give away! (If you do join, please, please, find a local chapter and some software or industry-appropriate people to hang out with. It might make a huge difference in the quality of your experience; it certainly did for me.)
So there's the dessert.
The Rest of the Stuff
World Quality Month is moving from October to November, in order to comply with World Quality Day, which is in November.
I had no idea those were even things, or, if they are things, who gets to decide them. I actually suspect that it's kind of like "Love Day" on the Simpsons; invented and moved around by the inventors.
In that, I am less than excited.
I do tend to agree with Mr. Borawski that getting more people talking about quality more publicly is probably a good thing -- I just keep getting this nagging feeling, at the back of my neck, that ideas have consequences. When we try to compress some very complex subjects into a single word "quality" - we tend to miss things. And those things can come back later to bite us. (Within the quality movement, we have some people who think quality is fitness for use; others might say it is conformance to process. Still others might say quality is value to some person. That's kind of a big deal.)
Finally, ASQ has created the "Forty Under Forty" project, which seems to me to be next year's batch of "Influential Voices" for ASQ.
I could be critical of the idea, but instead, allow me to tell you what I like about it: The project shows that ASQ is serious about seeking out new and divergent opinions within it's membership, and giving those members a platform to talk about quality, in some depth, with some nuance, for an extended period of time.
It turns out that, in my own way, I've been making a similar request for more divergent discussion throughout this year of being an influential voice.
And it's happening.
I was pleased to participate in the 2010-2011 program. Now it's time for a new batch.
This is going to be fun.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
2) The October of Software Test & Quality Assurance Magazine is out. The issue is a reflection on the Theme of "How To Reduce the Cost of Software Testing", and, yes, the folks at STP asked me to serve as guest editor. Check it out.
... and more!
Only the best folks, and it's free.
Like I said, check it out.
Current openings are full-time/salaried, but that may change.
You'd have to move, but relocation expenses may be negotiable.
You'd need to have no legal restrictions from working in the United States.
The office environment is open plan. The people are smart and nice -- these are people I actually want to work with, plus all the tools and techniques you would expect at a high-end agile shop big enough to have career options, not so big that it's silly. (Yes I said agile, mostly to compress into a sentence a half-dozen conflicted ideas. I will say this company is actually doing it, not doing some weird bizarro compromise.)
This year, the developers are offered the chance to attend SCNA; the testers had the option to go to CAST.
My words, of course, are my own, as is my reputation, which I stake that it's a good environment and a real opportunity.
Interested? Drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Was Nicolas Carr Right? Reconsidering the idea that "IT Doesn't Matter"
What's the deal, Amazon? - Where Matt takes a tough, hard look at his Amazon EC2 (Electric Compute Cloud) monthly bill
Another Look at IT Staffing, Part I - Why companies don't "just" staff with full-time employees all the time
Another Look at IT Staffing, Part II - Introducing IS Lite, one of the Momma theories that started all this outsourcing and offshoring mania
Another Look at IT Staffing, Part III - IT support in a Gen-Y world, one where instead of supporting a list of devices, the CEO can walk in with an iPad and say "Make it Work."
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
- Lack of constancy of purpose
- Emphasis on short term profits (Overreaction to short term variation is harmful to long term success. With such focus on relatively unimportant short term results focus on constancy of purpose is next to impossible.)
- Evaluation of performance, merit rating or annual review (see: Performance Without Appraisal: What to do Instead of Performance Appraisals by Peter Scholtes).
- Mobility of top management (too much turnover causes numerous problems)
- Running a company on visible figures alone (many important factors are "unknown and unknowable." This is an obvious statement that runs counter to what some incorrectly claim Deming taught - that you can only manage what you measure. Deming did not believe this and if fact saw it as a deadly disease of management)
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The issue is available now to anyone with a print subscription; the PDF will be available as a free download later in July.
It's a ground-breaking issue -- the first three articles are written by Markus Gaertner, Michael Larsen, and me, all members of the Miagi-Do School of Software Testing.
I'll be sure to post the free link here when it's up. In the mean time, if you don't subscribe, take a look at the Planet. It's a bit of a lone voice in the UK/European test community, a group that could use some support right now.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Saturday, July 02, 2011
We have plenty of proposals already, but we thought "if we gave folks another week, what are the odds that we at least one strong proposal, or feedback that improves the selection process?"
We figured the odds were greater than zero.
So we are extending the deadline to propose for the CAST 2011 Emerging Topics (and the deadline to give feedback) to July 8th, 2011.
If you'd like an invitation to the wiki, email Pete Walen or Matt Heusser with your request.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
The election will take place August 9th during the Conference for the Association for Software Testing.
Anyone who is a member one month prior to the election (and has internet) can vote.
That means that if you are not a member, and want to vote, you'll need to join AST by July 6th or so.
Membership in AST is $95 per year; I have been a member continuously since 2007 or so, and was a member of the AST_formation Yahoo Group before AST was a thing.
I'm also not good at politics; my experience with elections has not been great.
I do claim, however, to belong to the software-testing community, to make effort on behalf of the community to advance the craft, by doing it, helping others do it, writing and speaking about it. I claim to have both a vision for the future of the profession, and specific ideas that a professional association might do to move the craft forward.
I have been nominated, I am running. If elected, I will serve.
If you'd like to vote for me, you'll have to be a member of AST. If you don't want to vote for me, can I suggest that you look into AST anyway?
I suspect you'll like what you find.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Barriers to Scrum Adoption
Painless Process Improvement
Configuration Management: Does your team have enough?
Defining Configuration Management
Embedded Agile with Nancy Van Schooenderwoert: An Interview
Testing International Applications
Interview with Johanna Rothman: Part I
Interview with Johanna Rothman: Part II
Testing Cloud-Based Applications (Part I)
SoftwareTestPro.com and STQA Magazine:
How Children Learn (To Test)
Ask The Tester With James Bach
... there's a bit more, but I suspect that's enough for today, don't you think?
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I'll be writing about the cutting edge of IT applications -- Web Services, Software As a Service, Cloud Technologies, and other "hard" topics in technology ... along with the consequences and people issues of those "hard" technologies.
While I expect that many Creative Chaos readers will be interested in this, I don't know if you all will. If you want to read that blog, you can subscribe to it's RSS Feed, or pay attention to my posts on twitter -- I'll try to keep the posts here to major announcements.
Speaking of which, it's been two weeks, and I've got four posts up:
* Navigating the Waters Introduced the blog and what I'll be trying to do.
* On Cloud Adoption described the two classic attitudes toward the cloud, 'We gotta get this cloud stuffs now' and 'Forgetaboutit' and how to deal with them
* Your First Public Cloud - Part I Describes how to create an Amazon Web Services (AWS) person account - where you'll get 750 CPU hours free -- and also how to set up your first Amazon EC2 instance.
* Part II went on to describe how to connect to that instance with Remote Desktop, what you actually get on the server, and how to shut it down
Whew. And there's more ...
On Monday, Adaptu.com published my first article for them "Five Ways to Live Below Your Means", and more ...
Starting July 5th I'll be on assignment in North Central Indiana, working a full week but available for user groups and possibly writing at night.
Interesting times ... and more to come.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 06, 2011
When asked about it, Jeremy replies:
"I know. It's awesome right? It's our motto. Slushy Dogs will never get any better."The comparison to standards in testing is an exercise for the reader.
But hey, if you want to see the quote in context, check it out below, at about one minute in:
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
I took a fair bit of issue with the article, and called him on it. I must say, I was impressed with Alex's response.
First, he followed up his summary post with an interview with a little more depth. Second, the guy called me to dialogue, in a friendly way.
I'm still not impressed with the original piece, and have issues with the interview. What impressed me was the follow-up, the genuine interest to figure out the truth, the willingness to consider both sides of the discussion. As a general-interest "tech" blogger, Mr. Knapp didn't have a deep understanding of testing when he began the process ... but I have the impression he might when he finishes.
Anyway, after posting the interview, he asked me for my feedback, and I gave it over email. Afterwords, we kept talking, and thought it might be worth sharing with, well, everybody else. So here goes ... my reply to the latest interview:
As a tester, I run into this idea all the time -- that we can automate away testing. It seems like every year, a new crop of students graduats from CMU, Berkely, and MIT with CS degrees. (Only thing is: They haven't studied testing.)
What computer scientists do, of course, is write programs to automate business processes. So it makes sense that someone with a CS degree would say "hey, testing, there's a straightforward business process -- we should automate it!"
I do want to give Mr. Bijl's some credit for this strategy -- model-based testing is a more complete, more cost-effective way to test applications than traditional, "linear" test automation.
It's also not new -- Harry Robinson has been championing the idea for going on a decade. You might even check out his website -- Harry has worked at Google, Microsoft, AT&T. He is currently BACK at microsoft on the bing team. Really good guy.
What impresses me about Harry is that he is realistic in what model-driven testing can do.
For example, let's look at Mr. Bijl's rhetoric one more time:
"It enables to automate all phases of software testing: test creation, test execution, and validation of test outcome."
If that were true, then he would basically develop a BUTTON, right? You'd type in a URL and click "test it" and then get test results.
Of course, this can't possibly work. Sure, you could write software to go the URL, look for input fields, type in random inputs and click random buttons. You could get back 404 errors from broken links and such, but, most importantly, the tester software wouldn't know what the tested software should do, so it would have no way to evaluate correctness. Whether it's a simple Fahrenheit-to-Celsius converter or Amazon.com, either way, you need to embed business rules into the test program to predict what the right answer is, and to compare the given answer to "correct."
In software testing, we call this the "Oracle" problem.
That "oracle" is the "model" in model-based testing. Someone still has to program it.
Once you "just" program the model, then you can set your application free on the website, to bounce around amazon.com, sending valid input and looking for errors.
The problem is that little term "just." It turns out that, in most cases, programming a model is exceedingly complex. (Google "The unbearable lightness of model based testing".) Oh, I've done a fair bit of it -- for example, if you have some complex business rules in a database, and need to predict an "answer" to a question for a given userID, you might have two programmers code the application, then compare results with a FOR loop. I have done this.
For more complex applications, especially ones with a GUI, the number of states to transition begins to grow exponentially. Most people applying MBT generally "give up" and use it find errors, because errors codes are easy to predict. The problem being, this doesn't tell you on cases where no error is generated but the business logic is incorrect.
I don't mean to be too critical of MBT -- it's a good tool for your toolbox. Presenting it as the solution to all testing woes, well, yes, I take issue with that. If you'd like to do an interview with Forbes, or moderate a point-counterpoint or such, I'd be interested in it. (I know you are a generalist, maybe Forbes could use a test/dev specialist blogger?)
I'll be at the Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2011) in August in Seattle, and the Software Test Professionals Conference (STPCon 2011) in October in Dallas. I'm happy to talk more about this.
Here we have an interesting topic, a receptive audience, and the capability to cause a little bit of change. I don't know about you, but I a more than a little tired to the every-batch-of-CS-grads-sees-testing-as-something-to-code-up mentality.
I took a shot. The audience seems receptive; I even proposed a point-counterpoint interview as a next step. Does anyone else have an idea on how to keep the ball rolling?
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
One of the things I hear often is that the schools concept is divisive. My typical response is that those divisions already exist; the schools concept just abstracts those differences down to labels. Now labels can be helpful or insulting; it's all in how you handle it.
Consider, for example, the austrian school of economics vs. the Keynesian Schools. Oh, I'm not going to bore you or put you to sleep, I promise. To try to summarize: The Keynesians see the economy as the result of a series of dials. By controlling interest rates, creating stimulus, government spending, and so on, the Keynesians believe they can manipulate the markets. Keynesians tend to have formulas, equations, and metrics, just like physics, to make arguments and draw conclusions about economics.
The austrians think differently. They see the economy as organic -- as people doing things. They also see that bailouts reward the wrong thing and that dial-twisting distorts markets. An austrian economist my argue that those statistics don't mean anything. In other words, you can't add the money spent to dig ditches along with money spent do to things that genuinely benefit society, like farming or manufacturing, and reduce the total to one number. Likewise, that ideas like 'stimulus', printing money and spending it, have unintended consequences like inflation.
Whew. See how it's easier to label those instead of the full description?
Seriously, the way we see the world will influence the solutions we turn to. This, debate, and dialogue on how we see the world is important. It turns out the Macro-Economists are having the debate, and doing it well:
It starts a little slow, with a few in-jokes, but by two minutes in, you'll see the basic arguments of the two schools described well in a rap-video style. (No, really, it's a rap video. It can actually hold your attention, which is kind of hard for this subject.)
If you enjoy the video, you might want to check out the Reason behind the scenes interview. Notice towards 4:14 in the discussion turns to a discussion of emergent order to solve problems vs. central planning, about the use of mathematical models, trying to make the discipline more like physics, verses the idea that the mathematical models are naive and overly simplistic, that we need a more humanistic, systems-thinking approach. The author even uses terms like "scientism not science."
These folks are having the same debates as we are!
I'm not opposed to the school concept. I think it can be done in an insulting, crude way, or it can be used to advance the debate.
I'm for the latter.
I'll be at CAST 2011 August 8-10, where we have an emerging topics track, and also at STPCon in October.
The emerging topics track is not full yet, and because the theme of the conference is context-driven testing, I'm personally interested in proposals, panels, discussions, and debates on the schools concept, aspects of it, and it's impact on context-driven testing. (Did I mention I am co-organizing the track? *hint*)
Let's take this to the next level ... together.
I hope to see you in Seattle in August.
Monday, May 23, 2011
It's my first article with TechWell -- I'm not even sure if I should have a space in between or capitalize the W. The website comes from the folks at SQE and StickyMinds.com, so it has a fair bit of reputation behind it.
In this article, I focus more on the capabilities that cloud computing can bring to make testers more effective, regardless of the development strategy. There is a little bit of discussion around the risks for cloud based apps, but the "How to Test Cloud Based Applications", well, that article or short series of articles is still in the works.
More to come.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Strictly speaking, predicting the future isn't just hard -- it is impossible.
Yet predicting the future is something testers are called on to every day, with so simple a question as "will the customer be happy with this version of the product?"
For that matter, is something project managers do every time they create a product plan, something management does every time it produces an annual plan.
We could joke around all day about the impossibility of fortune-telling or the fantasyland that many project plans reside in, but the reality is that we do have to plan for tomorrow.
Likewise, I can't say for certain if you'll get up next monday and go to work; with a few thousand readers, it's likely that some will be sick or on vacation or something ... but I might be certain enough to bet on it.
I don't have a problem with this sort of analysis and educating guessing. We have to do it, and, if you do it well, over time, you can have better results than your peers.
That takes me to the annual futures study produced by the American Society for Quality.
As some of you readers know, I was invited to be a member in the ASQ "influential voices" program, which involves writing blog responses to their own monthly blog post. This month's entry is about that annual futures study.
The ideas behind the study make sense -- to observe the changing landscape of industry that impacts the quality professional, and provide you information about those changes so you can react. This year the study identified eight issues, which I will (briefly) summarize below:
1) Social Responsibility. Government and popular pressures are causing companies to take the environment, sustainability of the business, and how they treat everyone in their supply chain a lot more seriously. The ASQ analysis indicates this is not about philanthropy, but about better business and profit.
2) Consumer Awareness. This blends with #1; people are using new tools to do more research on the companies they purchase from. Get on the bus, or people will purchase around you.
3) Globalization. Not a whole lot of meat here. The study says globalization is coming (check it out; I wrote that in 2003!), which will bring new opportunities, new markets, and new potential suppliers, but also transportation and oversight challenges. They do point out that consumers (I really dislike that term) are more and more interested in locally-sourced products. That's a fancy term to say "I'd like to buy vegetables grown by a neighbor, not ones shipped from a different continent."
4) Increased pace of change. Nanotechnology, reduced product cycles, and within our grasp is the potential to solve some of these enduring problems of our age like HIV, hunger, etc. It's a truism, but I'm not sure what to do with it. In his book, The Management Myth, author Matthew Stewart points out that the management literature has been talking about these problems for at least the past thirty years, going back to "In Search of Excellence" in 1982.
5) The Workforce of the future. Okay, I have real concerns over this one. Here's what they wrote:
The Workforce of the Future will challenge our notions of talent, work, workplace, and learning. While hard to fathom we’re being told unemployment, as we think of it, will become a thing of the past. The number of jobs will soon exceed the number of people available to fill them. Demographers predict organizations will find themselves competing for talent and that competition will move jobs around the globe. High tech companies already report this reality. This search for talent, along with technological advances will change the nature and place where work is done and organizations will grow increasingly flexible in their definitions of work engagements. Those who of retirement age will be re‐attracted to work with flexible hour arrangements and work that can be done without commuting.
I'm not sure if these authors are incompetent and full of happy-talk, or scarily competent and using very specific words for a specific reason, to convey one feeling but actually mean another.
Take for example the term "While hard to fathom we're being told unemployment, as we think of it, will become a thing of the past." On it's face, that's crazy. This is a guide written for members of an America Society with historical roots in manufacturing. They've seen their jobs systematically outsourced, offshored, and just plain eliminated for the past three decades. The trend is exactly in the opposite direction of the implications here!
Or is it? One trend I see with employment in the USA is a move away from lifetime employment with pension, toward project-at-a-time contract work. If that's the case, "unemployment" stops being a safety net for people temporarily out of work, and becomes a regular part of the freelance/contract lifestyle. If that is the case, well, I guess unemployment doesn't mean what it used to -- but that's certainly not what I got from a cursory reading of the study!
Yet the next claim is that the number of jobs will exceed the number of people. Yes, we do have an aging population (more about that below), and yes, certain high-skilled folks may be called back from retirement to keep the machine running. What I haven't seen yet are any statistics or data to back up this happy-talk.
This is a public study, done on behalf of the members of a professional society for the benefit of it's members. I originally wrote "somebody should get fired over this one." Perhaps that's a bit harsh. I understand the demographic data the team pulled to come to those conclusions ... but I wonder if the authors of the study would care to make it interesting ...
6) An Aging Population. The baby boomers are going to retire, and that will create both a crunch in the workforce (#5) and a need for elder-care services. From healthcare to in-home nursing to that cell phone with the big buttons, demand for services will increase. (One trend the study didn't note is that when these people retire, they will start to sell off their 401(K) and stocks, instead of accruing them. That will change the supply/demand ratio for the entire stock market. Now that is a trend to consider.)
7) 21st Century Quality. I read it twice. I still don't really know what this section is trying to say. My best guesses are that how people look at Quality will change, that Quality will be more important in the next century, and that global companies will increasingly need to look to quality across the entire value chain -- from raw supplier to retail sales.
8) Innovation has become a buzzword. (No, really, the study actually says that.) The basic idea here is that innovation is increasingly important to stay competitive, which, yes, reminds me of Matthew Stewart and his argument that we've had some crisis or another in business for thirty years, which sure seems to be a good way to sell books on excellence.
What do we have here?
It seems to be me that the study isn't pointing out trends as much as making predictions. Due to the nature of fortune-telling, I guess the predictions are okay ... as far as they go. I'm still not sure what to make of number seven or number eight; you can read the study yourself and perhaps chime in with your two cents.
As for me, I'm left with mixed emotions. On one hand, change is inevitable and I think it is good to think about what the future might bring. The eight bullet can be a sort of roadmap -- they can tell people what kinds of change might be helpful to think about.
Still, it would have been nice if the study had connected the dots. For example, the stock market predictions I mentioned earlier, and, in the United States, the increasingly precarious position of our Social Security Administration. This means retirement will be increasingly uncomfortable for people; they'll be retiring later and later, and, most likely, more cost-conscious than in the past. That means those products and services for that market had either better help you save money (generic drugs) or else face stiff price competition.
Another example: According to the study, innovation is important. Yet fifteen years ago, ASQ stood up and gave it's complete support to international standards on process, things like ISO 9001, and the whole idea of registrars and certifications for process compliance.
These process standards codify process into procedures. By doing this you create a defined process and defined process actively resists continuous improvement.
Thus we if we split innovation in half: Product Innovation and Process Innovation, we find a significant constituency within ASQ has been actively fighting the second, and not much discussion of the first.
I don't have any easy answer for that, but raising that issue would have been a fascinating outcome for the study.
My bottom line here: These ideas are okay. They are some food for thought; they have some potential. To see real value out of the study, though, we need to move the ideas from theory to action -- to get to practical application for the membership, or at least heated discourse.
How we get there I'm not sure. If the bloggers on this influential voices program can be part of that, well, I'd sure like to try.