Schedule and Events

March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
July, 14-15, 2012 - Test Coach Camp, San Jose, California
July, 16-18, 2012 - Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2012), San Jose, California
August 2012+ - At Liberty; available. Contact me by email:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where in the world is Matthew Robert Heusser

For those who don't know, the engineering team at Socialtext has been very busy putting the finishing touches on our next-generation product.

And there's video.

You can sign up for a free 14-day trial account on our website here:

If you know exactly ever tiny bit about you 2nd Counsin Joe's trip to disneyland thanks to Facebook or Myspace - but can't get critical information about how things are done by the guy two cubicles over - maybe you should bring those benefits to your business with Socialtext.

More posts to come, but, seriously, I've got a product to get out the door.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This isn't the agile you're looking for - Part II

Unfortunately the industry has latched on to the word "Agile" and has begun to use it as a prefix that means "good". This is very unfortunate, and discerning software professionals should be very wary of any new concept that bears the "agile" prefix. The concept has been taken meta, but there is no experimental evidence that demonstrates that "agile", by itself, is good.

The danger is clear. The word "agile" will become meaningless. It will be hijacked by loads of marketers and consultants to mean whatever they want it to mean. It will be used in company names, and product names, and project names, and any other name in order to lend credibility to that name. In the end it will mean as much as Structured, Modular, or Object.

The Agile Alliance worked very hard to create a manifesto that would have meaning. If you want to know their definition of the word "agile" then read the manifesto at Read about the Agile Alliance at And use a very skeptical eye when you see the word "agile" used.

- Bob Martin, circa 2003

Bob Martin's advice from 2003 seems just as applicable today. Which, perhaps, explains my reluctance and concern about companies "going agile", "doing agile", "adopting agile", and so on.

As I re-read the Agile Manifesto, it seems to me that it's largely about what attitudes are more effective in developing software. Not process - attitude.

So let's play a game and go back in time, close to a decade ago. I'm sitting in a meeting, hearing about how are going to develop the last great, grandiose, development framework that will be extensible, then after completing the framework, developing the code will be easy. And I'm not buying it.

"Have you guys ever noticed that every time we do this, our crystal ball is wrong? We have unlimited extensibility left and right but the customer always - always - wants us to extend up and down. Let's work on malleable software, software we can change if the requirements do - and deliver something right now. This week. This month. Then, if we get asked for something similar a second time - then and only then - do we generalize."

Of course, I "didn't get it", had more to learn, let's pat Matt on the head and move on. (Don't worry. It turned out ok in the end. Really.)

That's agile. I don't think you "do" that. I believe it's something you are.

So the heart of changing to agile is not process (yes, breaking functional teams into project teams can be hard, that's a sidebar) - but a change in understanding.

It's not as easy as hiring a scrum master - because the idea of hiring a guru who will tell us all how to do it is still command and control.

Still more to come.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tester Education - II

The basic idea behind my tester education post was very simple - I would love to publish a book, and the time for it may be coming soon. At the same time, I've got a full-time day job working for a silicon-valley company in the middle of a product push, I teach computer science and information systems at Calvin College Part-Time, I have a monthly collumn in Software Test and Performance Magazine ... and a family and real responsibilities in my community.

Oh, and I just agreed to do the Voices That Matter Conference in San Francisco, California in December. The book may still be a ways off. We'll see.

In the mean time, please check out the Voices that Matter Conference and tell your friends and neighbors. It's going to be a blast ...

Friday, September 19, 2008

This isn't the agile you're looking for - Part I

In the land of software development, Steve McConnell is arguably a giant among men. Seriously - this is the guy who was a developer-contractor-project-manager at Microsoft back when they were good, who took the practices they had evolved and wrote them down, publishing code complete and rapid development. After Microsoft, he founded , a Construx, software-method training consultancy that also does a little do-ing, and has done well.

I am happy for him.

Steve's books pre-date the concept of "agile", but they deal with things like uncertainly and scope in way that was very rare for the early 1990's. Compared with other approaches, Steve's ideas are well-thought, well-considered, sane, and have a chance to actually work.

And, about about two years ago, he started to respond to agile. First, it was with speeches about how agile methods could fail - then it was how his company could help.

Then, yesterday, I got a piece of print advertising (yes, they still make it) from Construx. Construx was going to teach me how to be agile.

I had hoped Construx was secure in itself enough that it didn't have to add "And Agile!" to it's seminars in order to attract training dollars. (Over the past three years, I've seen a number of old-school consultants teach 'agile' seminars. Construx probably held out the longest.) I know some of these folks; they are generally full-time trainers who don't find any time to actually do contracting. How they went from traditional development techniques to teaching agile without actually doing it, I'll never know.

Or ... Maybe I do. I may not have a business degree and I'm certainly not a marketer - but I do know that Agile has become a marketing slogan. Maybe it always has been. Still, in 2002, when the people pushing agile were Ron Jeffries, Kent Beck, Elizabeth Hendrickson, Ward Cunningham, and Martin Fowler - these were people who first walked the walk and developed a pile of projects using the techniques - then taught the seminars.

Recently, I've had increasingly distaste for the terms 'going agile', 'doing agile', and 'agile or not.' I think I am beginning to understand why.

More to come.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I am card-carrying member of the Association for Software Testing (AST). AST memberships cost $50 USD per year, and are about to go up to $85.

I also pay ~ $100 a year for my membership in the American Society for Quality (ASQ), which traditionally I have found a sponsor or employer to fund, but you never can tell what next year will bring.

Meanwhile, the Agile Alliance has lately sponsored several events I am involved in (the tech debt workshop and the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference) and I am considering join them, at $100 a year, as a matter of principle and good faith. They also have programs that might align well with my interests.

That would be $285 per year in memberships. That's a lot more than my family pays for the zoo and the nature center.

What associations do you belong to? (ACM, IEEE?) And how do you make the return-on-investment vs. good citizenship decision?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tech Debt from the IntarWebs

Once again, IT people thinking we're all unique and special flowers.

Call center rearranges the cubes to fit eight more people in. They don't have power or LAN drops where they need them. They can rip out the drop-cieling and start over, or they can splice like mad and have them in by Monday. But when you want *another* eight drops, you're screwed because you'd be overloading a circuit. That's technical debt.

There's a pothole on the bridge. You know that patching it means it will leak water into the superstructure, causing rust and premature failure. But patching it takes two hours, resurfacing the bridge takes two months. That's technical debt.

The fryolator has a busted alarm. Fixing it could cost a few hundred dollars. Or you can tell the fry guy to keep an eye on it and try not to burn too many fries. That's technical debt.

I'm not agreeing with the OP that technical debt doesn't exist. Just saying there's nothing at all unique about it. Choosing to let it build up doesn't make your boss an idiot.

-- Some guy on the JoelOnSoftware Forum

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Research Project on Tester Education

I've got my owner personal ideas of what the pain points are in software testing, and my own personal recommendations - and I talk to a lot of people. Still, I'd like to vett those ideas before I put them forward to a larger audience.

So, I am conducting an informal research project on test education.

If you have 15 minutes to give to help me figure out if my ideas are relevant - and how to make them more relevant - please drop me an email -

I'd love to hear your thoughts and concerns, and I will also have a few follow-up questions. Based on those, we may have more to discuss; the whole chain could be six to eight emails.

Of course, you can always leave comments in my comments section for the world to see.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Newest issue of Software Test&Performance Magazine

The September issue of ST&P is out. It's on testing software developed on the Microsoft Stack; our monthly collumn is an introduction to Microsoft's Development and Test tool terminology. As always, you can download the issue for free or get a print subscription.

What do you think?