Software Intelligence

In preparation for my Eurostar Conference talk, I’ve been researching quite a bit into learning behaviour, experiential learning and social behaviour. More CGJungspecifically, the ideas of: Jung, Piaget, Dewey, Lewin & Kolb.

Each on their own they already offer a wealth of knowledge. Combined… well, it’s been an interesting year so far. So much information, so much to process.


This post is not about what I’ve learned, it’s about what is currently going through my head and what I need to put to pen.

Reflection

Triggered by all that research, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately. Who I am, what I want to achieve, how I fit in the project puzzle and what I find important in my working environment.

Some examples of recent milestones that pushed me to my current mind-set:

  • My fellow tester and me have both done an MBTI test and discussed the pains and gains of our professional relationship based on the results.
  • During retrospectives we’ve been asking directly for feedback of how the team might benefit more from our efforts.
  • A team member called me ‘just a tester’ and I had to tackle that. Even though it was said ‘in good fun’ you can’t accept such remarks lest they become reality.
  • I’ve made a list of all the activities I do, how important I think they are, how important I think they are for the team and how much time I spend on them.

The result of that list is that I spend 1/3rd of my time on actual testing. Another third is spent supporting the team in various ways: Communicating, coordinating, prioritizing, delegating, increasing involvement for team members,…
The last third is reserved for change management, monitoring, communicating with business and more activities that are more business and project management facing.

Am I a software tester? Absolutely.
Am I an important point of contact for business? Yes!
Am I a team psychologist? At times.
Am I a coach, quality advocate, release manager, gatekeeper,… ? Yes, whenever the project needs me to be one.

What do you call all this?

This way of thinking leads me to believe that Software Testing is not the best way to describe our efforts. At least, for my current context it isn’t.
Every day I ask myself: “what can I do today, that brings the most value to the team I can possibly achieve?”. The answer to that question is only 33% of the time: Software Testing.

Personally, I think my role would better be described as Software Intelligence.
A person or team with a wide range of skills that changes and adapts to achieve its core mission: “finding important information quickly”.

This draws a parallel with Military Intelligence. An organisation that uses absolutely any means necessary to get the information they need in order to report to decision makers.
They have people in the field, machines that are monitoring, recruits from outside groups that help them and work closely together with other military defence organisations…

Similarities

Software Intelligence is a group of activities that encompasses Testing, Checking and any other tasks that fall on you in your current context.

For example, I have scheduled contact with a person from business who plays a big role in how our product is perceived. During those meetings, I’m mindful of the information I give him, as too much might influence his perception of our work and I try to gather as much information from him by (hopefully) asking the right questions.
I’m the spy who contacts the informant.

Another one. Through the network of users who favour me, I’ve come to know about a big and mysterious problem in production. A quick fix was rolled out, but we have no idea what caused the issue in the first place. For the time being we installed a lightweight but reliable monitoring tool that alarms us when action is required.
I’m the creator of a monitoring satellite.

There’s plenty of other parallels and probably some differences too.
However, Software Intelligence makes a lot more sense to me.

I’m not advocating for a large scale shift of job titles, we don’t need that. I only feel that Testing as an activity is a big part of my job, but that Tester doesn’t correctly describe my role in the team.

When I listen to and read many stories of other testers, I’m inclined to believe many are in the same situation.

homer-intelligence

Are Test Cases Dead (…yet)?

It’s been a while ago since Rosie asked us this question. (http://www.ministryoftesting.com/2016/04/test-cases-dead-yet/)

You can find multiple answers there from testers around the world and the sheer number and diversity of answers continues to baffle me.
Ask any tester for a definition or an explanation of what she does and you’ll get a different answer.

The same is true for designers, developers, analysts and probably any job that requires intellectual and creative thinking.
But why are we different? I don’t see any people in other roles questioning the definition of their craft, or pondering how they should explain themselves to others.
Yet we do so on a weekly basis.
Every week there’s a new blog post, Tweet, Slack discussion or Forum thread about who we are, what we stand for or should stand for and how we can explain or do things differently.

I’m no exception to this. I’m searching for my own answers, trying out different things and experimenting with what I can find or come up with myself.

Are we so misunderstood and mistreated that we have to devise new ways and machinations to seem valuable and become respected? Some of the practices we still cling on to have mutated over the years and have become fetishes.

I have come to believe that Test Cases are such tricks.
To me, Test Cases are a step by step description of a scenario, and in the end an expected result.
Someone, somewhere, needed a way to present the work of his or her testers in easy-to-swallow, countable pieces. That’s nothing preposterous. If you boil it down enough, (and forget all the interesting stuff) testing becomes an overload of information in this scheme:

“If someone does X, Z happens.”

Which is the lowest level possible of an requirement, user story, expectation, or whatever you wish to call it.
Essentially, you get a huge list of check results, but with the actual outcome, instead of an expected.

If you look at testing this way, Test Cases make perfect sense.
Additionally, over the years Test Cases have gotten many different reasons to justify working with them.

  • Newby testers can execute them and learn from them.
  • They can be used to document the product.
  • They can be used to manage the state of the product.

I, however, think they’re a special kind of torture. If ever I get sent below to do the devil’s bidding, it won’t be an apple just out of reach that torments me. No, it’ll be a Test Case management tool that never gets filled.

Over the past projects I’ve participated in I’ve frequently been asked to do Test Cases. Here’s a couple of experiences:

Project 1
Problem:
Testing of a Healthcare device that freezes mid visit. They asked me to analyze the documentation, create test cases and then test to reproduce the error.

I ignored these instructions, simulated a visit on the device and found the error 5 minutes after getting my hands on the tablet. Test Cases were filed afterwards and never read.

Solution:
The combined testing effort for this project was 0,5 day. The only thing I contributed was providing information on where a most critical bug that was threatening the project could be found. Nothing more, but I did it in a couple of minutes.

Project 2
Problem:
Project was failing, product was riddled with bugs. They asked me to analyze the documentation, create test cases and then test to find as many bugs as possible.

I ignored the instructions, started exploring, learning, modeling and logging all the bugs I encountered. When I thought it was needed, I documented some behavior in Test Case format. The Project Manager was happy, but that’s about all I have to show for the effort of writing those scenario’s.

Solution:
We found all kinds of bugs fast and were able to rapidly learn what was important to the client.

Project 3
Problem:
Project was failing. There was a severe disconnect between Users and Development team. No testing was done and when the client saw the product for the first time, it was a fiasco.

I was asked to read documentation, write Test Cases, test and log bugs.
However, in this case, the firm I was working at would get ‘points’ for doing any of the following per module: Write Test Cases, Execute Test Cases and Provide a Test Report. The more points we got, the more we could bill.
We put in an immense amount of time to create the scripts and making them executable. Afterwards, we’d pass/fail them in such a way that it’d be enough to get the “done” state and get the points.
In hindsight, we put in a lot of effort to adhere to rules that brought us no extra value except for the analysis work we did.
We could’ve worked faster and better if we hadn’t had to invest time and energy in a task that brought us nothing.
Oh, and yes, we’ve had newby testers and users execute the scripts. The format taught them nothing except to follow a script. They did not know WHY they were doing them.
The things used to manage the state of the project, were the important bugs.

Solution:
What eventually brought success to the project, was a close understanding and coalition between business and testers.

My Conclusions.

I have yet to come across a context where Test Cases are the single best solution to a problem. In my experience, they divert from the essential tasks.
Rapid information gathering, learning and reporting combined with good working relations with your stakeholders trump just about anything else.

When writing scripts I feel brain-dead, a monkey doing monkey’s work. It feels like I’m wasting my time. I know nobody is interested in the scripts themselves. They might feel more assured if there are several Test Cases, but that’s a false sense of security.
And I haven’t even started executing them. Imagine having to do half a day’s work by a step by step instructional script. Again and again. Day after day.

I want to be a creative, intelligence worker that has my stakeholders best interest at heart. I want to protect them from unwelcome surprises and support my team to deliver true value.
I want my way of working to reflect those goals, to hone and to strengthen them.
Be it in Charters, Mind Maps or Checklists.

Test Cases are dead… to me at least.


bring-out-yer-dead

Grading Proposals: My Experience

After writing a few of my own proposals to attend conferences I was asked to participate in grading proposals for Test Bash Philadelphia.
This is my experience.


Let me start by stating the first core lesson of this exercise:

Everyone should get the chance to read through a whole batch of proposals before writing their own.

When I started out, I had no idea what a good proposal looked like.
There are limited resources available concerning this topic, and Helena’s tips are the first that come to mind.
While I have nothing much to add to her tips, I can give you an insight in how I tackled the grading process, how I believe others do this and what made me decide in colouring things red and not green.

How I set to work

My goal is to provide relevant information to the people who make the decisions. Sounds like testing, right? Right!
What’s relevant information? My feelings, my thoughts and my judgment.

I should always keep in mind that little biases of are steering me, influencing me towards outcomes that might be slightly different from what I intend.

I try to ward myself from these influencing factors as best as possible.
It should be completely anonymous. As an objective grader, I shouldn’t be bothered with the name of the person, the gender, the ethnicity or anything else. The only thing that is important are the description of the talk, the takeaways for the public and the format.

Graders are not organizers. They shouldn’t take into account who you are, only your description counts and what you might bring to the conference.

I’m fully aware that there is A LOT more to organizing a conference than just filtering information. That’s Rosie and Richard’s jobs. With their combined experience, integrity and skill I have every confidence they’ll carry this conference to great heights.
I hope I have served them well.

It has to be stellar.

While I usually forgive a few spelling errors, typo’s, formatting errors,… (as I’m definitely not perfect myself) I do think that when you submit an official proposal to a conference, you want to radiate an aura of quality and reliability.
If the people deciding whether you go up on stage or not (which was not my role) can’t depend on you to be excellent in your proposal, how can they be confident in your ability to give a quality talk?

Additionally, every spelling error, formatting mistake and sentence that breaks off too early risks me believing your work is of lesser quality than it actually is.

It has to be real.

I don’t like sales talks. I don’t like one-size-fits all and I don’t like people telling me how I should do what I do.
Please, tell me about the troubles you faced and what made you investigate your new and bright idea. Give me a story of how you developed a solution and how you implemented it. Don’t shy away from your hardships, troubles and possible failures. It’s those that learn us the most. They make for a compelling story.

I want you to be real and I want your story to be real.
When I’m reading a submission and feel that it serves more to expose you than bring value to the attendees, that’s a red flag for me.

It has to be thorough.

People who investigate their own ideas, have them reviewed, read books about them and do their field work will have their chances boosted, as far as I’m concerned.
I believe that anyone can come up with a variation on a beaten-path topic and get away with it.
Don’t take the easy road. The experience you gain is unique, take it by the horns and refine it. Learn from it and make it teachable.

Invest in your ideas. Gather more information, discuss them, read books and dig deeper.

The final verdict

For each proposal, I supplied positive and negative points and eventually a colour:
Red, Orange or Green.

I must say that I’ve often struggled to decide and rechecked everything before finally judging.
This is not an easy task, but you learn a lot from it. Trust me.

In the end, I’ve selected (for myself) a good lucking bunch of proposals that I would love to attend myself. I envy the people that will be there.

testbashphilly


These are the three big pillars I based my grading experience on. Next time, I’ll try to look broader than just my thoughts and feelings but try to empathize with what others might find interesting.
That’s bound to be a much harder experience.

TestBash Brighton 2016: Homecoming

TestBash is the Mecca for testers around the world.
I have been wanting to go for a long, long time. It’s got a ton of interesting, great people who are, on top of that, highly experienced and motivated testers!
Alas, this year, I wasn’t going to make it. Weeping, I looked forward to the twitterstorm that would leave me somewhat involved and envious of the people who were able to attend.

Wednesday

Then, Steve happened.

Completely by surprise, the news of me being able to go to TestBash2016 swept me off my feet: unprepared and unplanned a spot just opened up for me.
I have Steve Green from TestPartners (London) to thank. A colleague of his wasn’t able to make it and Steve decided to bestow the ticket to a tester he deemed worthy.
I got lucky, as I was apparently the only tester available who could clear his schedule.
A free test bash ticket and a hotel to spend the night were mine to enjoy.

Thursday

By the time I drove to Brighton, I knew more about Test Bash than I needed but much, much less than I wanted to.
That evening, I wandered the streets of Brighton in search of testers who I’d recognize from Twitter and/or Slack profile pictures or tried to pick up flashes of test-speak.
Needless to say, that tactic wasn’t too successful.

After some frantic twittering and emailing, I finally got the coordinates to some covert, next-to-the-beach pub that had an open bar, about 200 testers and plenty of discussions ranging from forehead-tattoos and the most funny bug people had uncovered.
I got drawn right in. It felt like homecoming. Everywhere I looked I saw faces of people whom I’d chatted with, read blogposts from, had reached out to and had shared ideas with.
It was like seeing your family again, after being abroad for way too long.

I was there for about two beers time and met so many people I wanted to compliment and thank for the impact they’ve had on me as a tester.
Rosie, Richard, Vernon and Huib were the first to greet me. They introduced me to several other new people I had already met, but hadn’t recognized.

Anna Baik, I wanted to thank for her involvement on the Tester Slack group and her guarding of the integrity of the community on that channel, even if it’s easier to disregard people who ask the wrong questions. So I did. And I hope it sounded much more earnest in person than it would do over twitter or chat.

Helena Jeret-mäe, I thanked for helping me with creating a proposal for Let’s Test. Even though I didn’t make the cut that time, she told me what she appreciated about my effort, what could be better and on top of things, she gave me two more challenges. The first, I completed a day later: “Participate in the 99-second talks”.
Furthermore, she told me of her experiences and why she does what she does, further motivating me to make my own kind of music.

Friday

Eight hours later, I woke up to the sound of seagulls. Brighton! Right! pre-TestBash run, Let’s go!
Seven other crazy runners and me jogged along the Brighton coastline for a few miles and talked about each other’s Test work and sporting goals.

CdQAew1UYAE_QByIt’s a fun tradition that cleared my head and sharpened my mind for the whirlwind of a day to come.
Full English Breakfast, with capital letters, was enriched by getting to know my benefactor, Steve Green and his colleagues. If I ever consider working in London, his shop would be my place to go. During the course of a breakfast it became clear our ideas about testing are very aligned.
If you’re looking for a test gig in London and are tired of mindless testing and rigid processes, contact Steve. Really.

The conference had yet to start but my expectations were already met. I had met great people. Steve and all the people from the day before would have left me satisfied for a long time.
It had only been the beginning…

I made it a point to not linger too long with the same person, so as to not miss to many others. I was there to connect, thank, appreciate and get to know other testers  and set a foundation for later interactions.
I met a huge number of people whom I’m looking forward to get to know better. Time did not permit more than that.

Apart from the great interactions with incredible people there were of course, the conference talks.
Two of these really stood out for me. Katrina Clokie’s experience report of organizing pairwork in her company struck a chord with me. Not because she told us the advantages pairing bring, but because of her methodical way of organizing, iterating and improving upon it. Katrina is a big personality through her modesty and a huge asset to the testing community.

Bill Matthews’ talk had me shivering in my seat. He started with a fun, entertaining demo of not-so-smart, smart algorithms. Do you know the “Calculate my age from my picture” or “which dog is on this picture” algorithm? Played around with it?
Funny, right?
Well, imagine algorithms like that controlling your car or calculating what the maximum price you’re willing to pay for your train ticket fares would be. Imagine them influencing the way you think, buy, make decisions,… the way that marketing does.
Scary, huhn?
How would you test these algorithms and the effects the have?
It gave me the willies , I tell you.

Between talks I met another tester, who’s hometown I share. It was his first Testing Conference and it was clear that a whole world was opening up to him. I’ll be seeing more of him, I’m sure.

I could write many, many more stories about these very limited hours and I could elaborate on the ones here a whole deal more.
If you have read this far, you probably already got the message:

Attend
TestBash

Really.

Capture

DEWT, where’s the bar?

For those not in the know, DEWT (pronounced similar to “dude”) is the Dutch Exploratory Workshop on Testing. It’s a peer conference and “boy, a hell of a lot of fun!”.

Feelings beforehand

As a person, I was incredibly nervous driving towards the conference. I knew no one. The next 48 hours would be spent with 25 total strangers.
On top of that, there was a chance I’d had to present my experience report. Everyone had to prepare an experience report in advance, with the possibility of presenting it. After these presentations, rigorous and in-depth discussion would ensue.
In my mind’s eye, I saw my ideas torn to pieces by highly critical, well versed testers.

As a tester, I felt curious. I had heard and read a lot of good things about peer conferences. Yet, many stories tell of ‘peer-conferences-gone-bad” as well. (I learned a few extra during DEWT as well.) I wanted to know what takes place, how it’s organized and how the atmosphere felt. It turned out to be incredible experience that was surprisingly embracing.

I’m caught. I feel energized, backed up, and dizzy from all the ideas going around in my head and butterflies in my belly. I got to know so many interesting and lovable people. Each one of them brought something different to the conference and everyone’s perspective was heard, nay, absorbed.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t put 25 people of any other same profession together and experience a likewise challenging, passionate, engaging, yet open and friendly surge of energy as I did this weekend.

The Bar

I was terribly late. Traffic, you see. But I was lucky the organizers saved me a plateful of food.
A few minutes later, I was talking with three other testers on our way to the bar. They were telling me all about their current project, how they became a team and how they are still improving.

I listened and asked questions. I felt right in.

At the bar, beers were provided and games were conjured. The hotel provided everything we could possibly need. Snacks were brought before you knew you could do with some food and whatever drink you liked suddenly appeared in your hand a few moments later.

Before long, we grew closer together, in a safe environment filled with laughter and like-minded people. Not a worry around us.

I fell asleep just before my head hit the pillow.

Day one

What followed, was a full day of presentations and discussions. Everyone pitched in and offered help, a unique viewpoint, books, podcasts, articles and plenty of other triggers.

Most of what was discussed that day will seep into my every day test work over time, I’m sure.
Even today it dawned on me, that where I am working, even right down to the team I am working with, is suffering from a syndrome Ard Kramer laid bare that day. Ard’s presentation was about communicating risk, but what struck me today was a particular slide handling “meaning vs. systems”.
I’ve only been a month at my current project, but have had weekly “process improvement meetings”. Yet, no “value” or “meaning” or “purpose” meeting was had ever.

I had never looked at it that way. Ard showed me and he gave me a tool to communicate it.

The presentations where varied and each gave a different dynamic to the group discussions. I remember Susan’s presentation fondly about a shared responsibility problem and the coaching, understanding and kind words that followed. Or Joep’s presentation that talked of a success-story of some sorts but had a few people’s emotions (my own included) flare up for various reasons. Another presentation by Thomas had us all awestruck by it’s compelling and comprehensive mindmap, listing all the different dimensions of communication.

Day one was long and full of learning. It ended with Michael Bolton visiting on the way through, him playing his mandolin and a group performance of “500 miles”.
Whiskey tasting, party snacks, good beer, good talks, great music and perfect company.

Day two

Nothing much seemed changed on Sunday. Never change a winning team, right?
That’s what we thought…

Until chaos unravelled. Sweet chaos.
After a talk by Femke and Philip about pair testing and how they learned to interact with each other, it was Joep’s turn again.
Apparently, he had decided he had played enough with our feelings the day before. Today, he’d f*** with our minds.
He didn’t have to try too hard either, I guess…

“A workshop”, he told us. “A workshop that will combine all the different things you learned this weekend into one big mindmap. And I’ve got just the way to do it!”

Have you ever tried to build a mind map with another person? Have you ever done it with five? Have you ever combined four five-person mindmaps together?

Well, we did. And it wasn’t pretty.
It did get us to think about how everything fitted together and how everything we touched upon was linked.
Even though it might not look like it on a wall, it did in my head.

Thank you

These past days have left me invigorated, gave rebirth to old ideas in a new light, generated new ideas, provided fond memories and newfound friends.
What else could a person want?WP_003561

The BBST Foundations course: Week 4

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The Final Week

It’s the monday of the last week of BBSt, I flunked the last assignment and that had angered me.
In fact, this released a lot of the frustrations I had towards the course in one moment.

I had a short discussion with the instructor and this cleared up a few things. I hadn’t quite understood in what way I had to explain my answer and the instructor hadn’t found what I wanted to say.

We had a long google-hangout session and cleared a lot of things out. Apparently, there were a few videos and pages I missed that were key to answering the exam successfully.

For example, there’s a list of keyword. If the question contains “List X” you give 3 examples of that list. Number 4 and number 5 will be ignored, unless they contain errors; in that case, they’ll subtract marks.
Another, If it says “Describe”, you have to paint a picture. “Describe the Weibull curve” becomes: “A fast surge in the beginning, a flattening until it reaches the peak and then a deep plummet down until its pace declines and steadily, but slowly falls down to 0.

So yes, you need to know these things to be successful in the course. No, it has nothing to do with testing, apart from the fact that “precision reading” is a core skill of a tester.

I eventually got to fill out all the exam questions and discussed several answers of the other students.
I tried to be everywhere and discuss everything worth discussing.
In the end, there was a lot less activity this week than all the others.


The Exam

The exam was a three day, closed book exam. The instructors count on your honour not  to cheat. But it’s really easy to cheat. Really, really easy…. And we’re testers.
Testers cheat.

I had everything stored locally. All my answers, all other people’s answers, all the quizzes…
My book is full of post-its with all the definitions and important information on it.

I really like cheating, I do.
Yet somehow, I was able to fight the temptation. My honour is unscathed. This is probably because I didn’t really need it. I had answered every question already before and I had done this meticulously. I was pretty confident in my answers.
Apart from that, during the exam, you experience sparks of brilliance. You think of things you weren’t able to before.

Gabi, the instructor, had told me that might happen. I didn’t believe it, but paid attention to it none-the-less. He was right.

After the Exam

Ru, another instructor, and me went over my exam questions in a Skype meeting. She had lots of feedback and gave me an appreciation for my answers.
Even-though there was a question in the pool which I had answered similarly wrong as the practice question, Ru gave me the chance to defend and change my initial answer.

The conclusion in the end was:

  • I have successfully completed the course
  • My exam met expectations
  • I was one of the most active students across many foundations courses.

Aftermath

I have already stressed how interesting the material is and how much I’ve learned from the course. It’s good. The course is by far the best testing course I’ve learned about by now.

If you’re looking to send your testers on a course, take this one.
Really.

There’s a few things I didn’t really like though, but I can see why they are the way they are and how they each have their own function.

  1. I disliked my experience of the online component.
    While I really like functioning in diverse teams, I absolutely disliked it in this format. Don’t get me wrong I really liked the people I met and got to know. Maybe someday, we’ll meet again. But generally, I felt it was a distraction. Every task is focused on the individual, with the option to give feedback on others.
    Most of this feedback is about questions. “Why did you say/do it like that?”. You ‘lose time’ explaining your words and ideas, rather than have an in depth discussion.
    Sure, this is how it works in the real world. But I get enough of that in the real world already, here I want to learn and learn in depth.
  2. I disliked the Exam format.
    To me, the exam is not a good representation of “did I make the course or not”. It serves two functions: One; it’s a learning opportunity. A way to further process what you’ve learned. Two; it’s a measure of how well you completed the course.
    I felt it focused way too much on precision reading and precision writing than on what you’ve understood from the course.
    It’s very academic. I understand why, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
    I would really like to know how many from my class got their ‘certification’. That way I could take a guess at how high I should hold it in esteem.

I have felt frustrated throughout most of the course, but I have learned a ton.

Thank you, Cem, Altom, Ru, Gabi, the other instructors and all my fellow students for your efforts and knowledge sharing. I imagine I wasn’t the easiest student, but I’m grateful for the chance of learning with you.

The BBST Foundations course: Week 3

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I have the feeling I took the week off.
Did about 15 hours of work towards the course, but there were too many other things going on, rendering the experience of the course a bit too the background.

A lot has happened though. All the assignments are completed, all quizzes are done and all deadlines passed. Next week is a straight line to the exam.

An online meeting

Last week started off with a Google hangout session where about 10 people gathered, including the instructors and Cem. It was interesting to see how this format was handled. The value from the session was that I could finally see and interact with the people apart from a forum setting. I got to know how some people talked, looked and generally carried themselves.
I found that I really benefit from having seen people in order to understand their communication better.

This was an hour to ask anything to the instructors directly.
There were less questions than I expected and the explanation to them couldn’t quite go as much in depth as one would like. It’s probably very hard to divide the time among the relevant questions and make sure the important things get covered without going too much into details.

Next up: practice exam question.

All the exam questions are there. All twenty of them have been sitting there from the beginning of the course. I’ve understood that we’ll get a subset of those for our final exam. So everything can be prepared perfectly in advance.

However, one of the final assignments is prepare a bogus exam question. This exercise is meant to practice how we should tackle the questions. It is designed to teach us how to format our answers and explain them in a clear and structured way.

I didn’t do well on this exercise. I could’ve put more structure in there, worded it more precise and more elaborate.
It’s definitely a skill I have to practice if I would pursue the other BBST certificates.

One week to go.

I’ve got more than enough time to work trough the exams. Hell, I’ve completed 3/4’s already.
I hope the other students and instructors have enough energy left to make this last week one for the ages.

The BBST Foundations course: Week 2

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A blast, a long sizzle

This week started with two days of never-ending stream of comments. I did a quick arbitrary count and think the whole class generated close to 200 messages during that time.
That’s a lot of input you can work through. ‘Can’, because you have a choice. I’ve skipped more than half of the messages and read only a few in depth.

That’s because most of the messages are the same, yet framed in a different way. They are all answers from the students to two or three exercises and can be expected to be very similar content-wise.
The exercises are challenging, interesting and make you see things somewhat different. Excellent for new testers, or testers who have been doing their job the same way for a very long time and are looking to shake things up a bit.
Yet again, the online format gives a lot of input, but brings very little extra.

The people who read last week’s blog post will have noticed that I was struggling to adjust to the format of the course. I decided to mailed two different instructors to explain my situation, what I’m thinking and how I perceive things.
When I didn’t get any reply from them (I can imagine they get a lot of these inquiries), I contacted Ru directly on the tester’s slack. (check it out if you haven’t yet!)
She gave me much needed feedback for which I’m grateful.

After the big bang of messages, everything turned suddenly very quiet for 4 days. One or two messages a day, nothing more. I’ve been solving the exercises and storing them locally, deliberately not putting them on the forum yet. Trying to not seem the try-hard I am.

Where I’m at in the course

This week I worked about 25 hours on the course, the week before will be close to 30.

Week 3 begins tomorrow and I’ve worked through the course almost completely, listened multiple times to the lectures, completed all the quizzes, created a glossary and completed all but one assignment.

What I still want to do, is make a summary of all the lessons, listing the lesson objectives it touches upon and do some sense-making of what’s behind the course. I’m pretty sure that will prove valuable.
Apart from that, I’ll focus on the 20 exam questions and figure out what the instructors want (and don’t want) to hear.

I’m trying to find just the right amount of questions to ask and assumptions to make because I’m getting quite a few mixed signals. For example:


If you were to frame the context this way, then what you’ve included in your answer would be the absolute best way to address this context.
But I also feel you would get more learning value out of the course if you would try to work with the information that is provided rather than fight it at every turn.

(These are snippets from feedback I have gotten, not the whole thing. I include this here as an example, but it’s take out of a much larger body of feedback and so, is out of context.)


I don’t know what to do with this.
It’s a context driven course. I put myself in that context and try to make that context clear(er) to me. The instructor tells me that I did good in my answer, but at the same time tells me to stick with the information provided.

In any case, even with all the ups-and-downs, I’m having a blast. Today, Cem Kaner gave feedback on some of my exam questions and I have to do my absolute best to counter-argue. That’s learning.

The BBST Foundations course: Week 1

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The Meet and Greet forum has exploded.
100+ messages talking about all sorts of topics.
It’s an information flood about metal music, cars, toy rockets, nature, the outdoors and where everyone’s based.
I can’t wait for this to overflow into an abundance of testing knowledge.

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The waiting game

And so I waited. Pressing F5 on the discussions forum to catch the occasional test-centered post that could become a testing discussion. This took a while.
4 days, I believe it took, before the first assignment was picked up in earnest.

There were a few interesting discussions, mainly on quiz questions that are designed to get you doubting, thinking, discussing and learning. Excellent!
Even Cem Kaner himself joined in.

Today, the last day of the first week, I’m feeling a bit disappointed. As a whole, I think the students have written enough to fill a small book. There’s a lot of good stuff, but also a lot of not so good stuff. There’s also input that is in complete contrast with what the course teaches (and what I as a tester believe in).

The format of a forum, limits us and the instructors to effectively enter in a discussion.
Answers are long, try to answer multiple points at a time and don’t do a good job at getting the right sentiment across (be you angry, annoyed or patient).
Because of this, I noticed a tendency to walk between the boundaries of “What the course is trying to teach you” and “how can we best pass the course” instead of doing earnest, in depth discussion.

I would love setting up a Slack for this course. A multi channel, multi person, immediate feedback, chatting tool with possibilities for one-on-one chatting, group chatting and complete class testing.

At the moment, I’m learning a lot from the course, the exercises and putting what I learn to test. The online course format, at the moment, isn’t adding much value to it though.
I’m hoping that will change.

 

The BBST Foundations Course commences

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Two months ago, I asked my employer whether I could follow the BBST Foundations course organised by Altom. My employer decided I could and gave me 5 days to work on it over the duration of the course.

Almost immediately I pre-ordered the coursebook, downloaded all the content and converted the video’s to MP3’s.
I vehemently started studying in advance and listened to the lectures during my daily commute.
Since that day, I might have been borderline obsessed with it.

So here I am, the day before the start.
There was an invitation mail in my inbox and I’ve entered the course website.

After some sense-making of the online platform, everything seems clear enough. One thing I miss is an option for one-on-one or multiple user communication channels.
There’s a few channels and they are open to everyone all the time. I understand the need for transparency, but the ability to have a dialogue or group discussion without having to refresh constantly would be nice.

The Meet-and-greet has already been filled by most instructors and some other students. They introduce themselves, what they do as a job and in their free time. Participants quickly get to know each other and the atmosphere is very jovial.

There’s a lot of potential for this course, I’m curious how it develops.