Sunday, December 10, 2017

Why Testing Is Like Writing: It Takes Years Of Practice

 “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of job: It’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” —Neil Gaiman

I had a recent thought that writing is very much like testing. You have to learn it much like you learn most languages, developing a vocabulary, working on the pronunciations, and then figuring how to make a proper sentence.

That's all a lot harder than most people realize. We grow up in systems of learning that expose us to writing and language every day. We are inundated by the daily routine of learning language from the moment we learn how to speak.

Most testers I've known didn't start with Exploratory Testing. They started with test cases, probably dealing with regression, writing out hundreds of them, running through an application which they previously had no prior knowledge.

The description above includes myself. I didn't start off doing ad hoc anything. People wanted me to prove that what I was doing was valuable and the only way they knew how to do that was to have me write test cases and execute them in a system of record, creating metrics, and explaining why I chose to test certain things. It was the only way I knew how too, because I was learning from others.

After a time, I started to develop a sense of risk. A reflex, mostly in my gut, along with knowledge about the application, and the skill of the developers, that let me know where I should test more and what kinds of things I should be testing.

My first couple of years as a tester, I learned by rote. I learned a system of how to do things based on what others had done before me in the same position. I learned what people in that company wanted from me and others in my position.

By the end of year two, I started reading about testing. My first book was almost like getting my first reading primer in school. It was the equivalent of moving past tracing letters to constructing whole sentences and paragraphs, and having an opinion about what you should and can do as a tester.

I started to go to conferences after that. One of my first conferences actually had nothing to do with testing but instead it was around HTML5. People were surprised a tester wanted to go and people at the conference were surprised a tester was getting involved in a mostly developer driven conference.

I bought more books, started learning languages like C, C++, and SQL. I pushed boundaries on what I could as a tester, and what people thought I could do as a tester. I kept working and learning.

It seems to mirror the process of learning how to write; at least to me it does. You read more complex things. You experiment with your writing. You read different styles of writing, and different stories, from different context. You begin to learn about other places and other points of view. Those all become fuel for writing, much like learning code, or new techniques, or new tools can open similar doors allowing you to approach testing with new eyes and new abilities.

Once you've reached five years or so, being paid for your work, in either writing or testing, you start to feel like a professional. You've had experiences. You've learned from other people. You seek out new mentors and new experiences to keep learning and growing.

Travel becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. You find that leaving what you knew previously allows you to gain perspective and start fresh. You get to know people you've admired for their work from afar. Meet people who's blogs and books you've read and realize they are reading or following your work as well.

Granted, the story isn't the same for everyone. I've met some folks that are happy writing test cases and performing the work necessary to do the job they have been given. That's OK too. Maybe testing, like writing, is a stepping stone to something else. Maybe it's a placeholder for whatever they are meant to do later. There is space for all of those things in a lot of professions where there are people being paid for their work, but they might not consider it a career or want to chase after an expert level or be a recognized professional.

Bad writing happens. Bad testing happens too. No body is perfect. The cool thing about seeing so called 'bad' versions of anything is that they are great examples of what not to do, or what to avoid, if you can. Even professionals make mistakes.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dear Tester: Github Is Your Friend

 "It's never too late 

- in fiction or in life - 

to revise"

 - Nancy Thayer

Personal confession time. I have no idea why it's taken me so long to realize that I too could be a regular github user. For years, I've used it on projects, learned the basic commands for the command line so I could switch repos quickly, whether it was for automation projects or software development, I used github with little thought about how I could use it myself.

Somehow, one comment from one of the developers I'm currently working with, on a project I've been pairing regularly with developers, my mental context about github shifted. He asked about my github and if I had anything there. I responded, no, I used it for practice. I didn't really keep anything there.

I realized, much to my utter horror, that I could have been keeping all of my little coding projects and all of my code notes in one spot. Things that I've come up with and used for automation, small scripts I've written to help collect data out of a database, all lost to time.

I could have sanitized bits to remove context. I could have been building my own stash of awesome frameworks and testing bits to reuse. The idea of reuse is where I kick myself for not thinking of this sooner. It's a number one rule of code, any code, is making it reusable. That doesn't mean only reusable in the context of what you are writing that code in, but it could mean, can mean, reusable in the context of being portable too.

I imagine that some folks have figure this out already. I probably know a lot of people who have great github accounts. Danny Dainton comes to mind as I was recently using his Postman repo.

The other great thing to use github for is Gists. It's like notepad, but better because you can keep collections of Gists for use, and it's all accessible from the internet.

Additionally, it lets me keep track of repos that I'm interested in and users that write some cool things. 

So, dear tester, get out there and make your own github account if you haven't already. I don't have a lot in mine right now, but I plan on changing that over the next year or so. It's never too late to git started.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hopes, Dreams, Goals: Thoughts About & From TestBash USA

"Motivation clears the head 
faster than a nasal spray" 
- William Zinsser

Sometime back I took a motivational course offered by a lady in Austin. It wasn't a big eye opener, but it did leave me with this interesting little notebook with motivational quotes. I like the quotes because they remind me that if I didn't get much out of the day, other than being with a lovely group of ladies discussing topics, I did get an experience I do remember to some extent with people I liked. 

TestBash is way more than that. 

With what originally started as a writing experiment has slowly, over the last few years, turned into a sincere community for me. The community itself cultivates a diverse group of people, from all over the world, and tries really hard to be a supportive voice for those that are not often supported in the industry. Oh, and it happens to be about testing, testers, and software development. 

If anyone is looking to start any kind of group about a topic of interest, I would point Ministry of Testing out to anyone as a model of inclusion and resource offerings as a good framework to follow. 

I mentioned to a co-worker last night that the next TestBash USA will be in San Francisco. I also mentioned to him that two wonderful women in the tech community, Ash Coleman and Angie Jones, would be the mistresses of ceremony, and they are both African American. The honest look of surprise on his face was wonderful. He's also African American and told me a moment later that he had automatically assumed they were White (Caucasian - which ever term you like to use).

This changed his impression of Ministry of Testing almost immediately in regards to the conference space and the organization Rosie Sherry has built. 

Ministry of Testing is making space, and making a place for anyone, and everyone. They are transcending borders, race, orientation, organizational lines, along with being inspiring, heartfelt, and sincere about their mission to help the testing community achieve goals; whether those goals are learning more testing techniques or raising funds to support a member in community. 

With all this in mind, I want to make a list of things I'd like to accomplish in the years to come. Mostly to set goals for myself and have people remind me about those goals, and remind others that goals are achievable in this community; you only have to ask and be willing to do the work.

Melissa's Goals:

  • Publish twelve of my own articles in 2018.  
    • Make 3 or more of those articles technical topics.
  • Publish twelve blog posts about anything per year (I have three blogs at this point, they should be more active)
  • Continue working as an editor for Ministry of Testing
This might be a given. The future is never a sure thing. I want to make sure I continue working to help new voices find their voice in print as well as encouraging them to speak at conferences. Many of the folks I've worked with over the past year have become speakers as well. I would love to see that trend continue. I'm proud of the work I've done with Ministry of Testing, and I'm very happy to continue being an editor and contributor to publishing efforts.

  • MC a TestBash
 After watching Mark Tomlinson MC four different TestBash'es, and then watch others in the community step up to the job, I have to say, it's become a kind of goal to see if I could manage being an MC or a co-MC of a TestBash event. This might be a few years off or sooner than I think. I'm watching folks who are MC's now. I'm learning. 

  •  Give more talks and workshops
I have a bunch of ideas, one of which a bunch of us came up with at a post TestBash Philly cheese steak meetup (Great story - suddenly wish I had pictures... ). I want to learn about better delivery and approaches to speaking. I want to teach people what I know. I want to share what I've learned. I'll probably have this drive until I leave this planet. Hopefully I'll be able to continue doing presenting regardless of what the future brings.
  • Advocate for mental health awareness
I'm already doing some of this, but I want it to be all encompassing of what I do with other activities. I think it's absolutely important to talk about mental health as much as any other topic which has contention in society. TestBash Philly 99 second talks were raw and open. People spoke from their hearts and minds. It mirrored several other talks from folks that wanted to represent their genuine selves and let people know that they have struggles outside of the community. The community let those speakers know that we are here to support them. I want to be a part of that continuing in our community.
 There might be more later that I think of to add to this list. I might post those in the comments or add it as an addendum. We'll see. 

Dear community - if you see me, and you haven't seen something from me in a while, give me a gentle reminder. Sometimes we all need a nudge to keep going and do something brilliant.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dear Writer: How To Find A Topic To Write

"The most difficult and complicated part of the writing process is the beginning."
 - A. B. Yehoshua

A lot of people want to write, but often have a problem getting started with an idea. Coming up with an idea is fairly easy, but figuring out if that idea is worth something to someone else is the hard part, because most people, including myself, stop themselves before they even write a word and discard an idea or a topic thinking it’s worthless.

Dear writer, don’t worry about the worth of the topic. Get past the idea that it might be worthless and write about it anyway. This will give you a few things to think about:

  1. You gain more experience every time you write something, no matter how relevant or silly it might seem to you at the time.
  2. You could gain insight on how to approach another topic that does have more value, or more details, simply because you’ve written the “fluff” out of your system.
  3. You can always come back to the idea and make it better, expand on it, and grow it into something that has more value than it previously did.

Here are a few ideas on how to come up with topics:

  1. Keep a notebook. When you think of something, write the idea or title for the idea in the notebook. At the end of the day, transfer them to an electronic “notebook” so that you can access them whenever.
  2. Use mind maps to list out ideas around a main umbrella topic like “pies,” or “testing,” or “carrots.” You’ll be surprised how fast you can come up with different ways to approach a broad subject once you get started.
  3. Venn diagrams are pretty useful as well. Play with ideas to see where the intersections are and figure out what topics might be of interest.
  4. With topic in mind, open a blank doc and start writing. Stop writing when the words stop coming to mind. Save the docs somewhere you can get back to them easily.

Use any method to get started. Keep going. I have ideas all over the place. I don’t want to slow down to write something in some moments, but I don’t want an idea that could turn into something great to escape into nothingness. Ideas, even wacky ones, are important. Find your combination of how you generate ideas and run with it.

An Experience Report: TestSphere

“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!”- Benjamin Franklin

GeekNight, hosted by ThoughtWorks- Dallas, is pretty popular, and I jumped at the chance to host one as well as give the evening presentation on TestSphere, the testing game!

If you don't know anything about TestSphere, go check this out!

The short explanation is that it's a card game designed to get folks talking about testing topics. 

I started the session off explaining the different colors and basically what topics they were divided up into.

Lean TestSphere

For the main part of the evening, I had everyone divide into groups of three and four. I explained how we were going to do a modified Lean Coffee style to pick topics and discuss the cards everyone pulled. 

Each person pulled a card from the deck and took it back to their group. Each card was given eight minutes of discussion time with the option to continue talking about the topic for a few more minutes before moving onto the next card.

The discussion was lively and interesting. I was asked mostly about the "feelings" cards and what they meant. I explained them as best I could from a tester's perspective. 
Groups playing with TestSphere

I should mention here that pretty much everyone in attendance was more developer than tester. I think there were two other people besides myself that had been involved with testing in some way. 


After we wrapped up the discussions about the cards we went into a short retrospective about what happened with the topics and what people thought about the cards. 

People reported that they enjoyed the discussions a lot. One group thought the topic of Security wasn't important really, until someone started thinking about it from a tester's perspective and then the conversation really opened up. 

A majority of people came to the realization that testing was NOT and easy practice. The cards actually generated sympathy with non-testers about how much testers needed to keep track of and what the role really entails on a day-to-day basis.

At the end of the night, one participant was excited to share the cards with his off-shore testing team. He hoped to spark ideas and conversations with them through using TestSphere. 

Continue The Narrative

The night turned out to be a great success and I hope that I can host/present TestSphere again to another group. I think the biggest win was influencing non-testers and gaining empathy for the testers and their craft. 

Let me know your TestSphere stories in the comments! Or become part of the narrative at The Club or on the Slack channels. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Ready, Tester One? *GO!*

"I handed my passport to the immigration officer, and he looked at it and looked at me and said, "What are you?""
- Grace Hopper (60 Minutes Interview)

The Grace Hopper quote above always makes me think about my job as a tester. Companies that develop software know they need testers, but they generally have hard time figuring out what testers are and what skills they need in the role. There have many discussions about how testers can be more technical and at some point, coding comes up in the conversation. My response on twitter contained a few things on a list I have, which I created for a client, so they could have a checklist of skills. This checklist was a guideline to determine the skill level of the tester applicant. This is by no means a complete list and I would be open to additions to the list. Feel free to add those to the comments or tweet them to me.

For clarity, I took the list of skills I had and broke them into levels. I like games and I like leveling up. It seemed like an easy way to motivate myself and others to "level up" career skills. There is a mix of technical soft skills along with technical hard skills and coding skills. Items I consider marginally technical soft skills are noted with an asterisks(*). Skills that involve coding or knowing a coding language are noted with a plus symbol (+).

Level One:

  • Cross-browser knowledge
  • Multiple OS knowledge 
  • Can write effective test cases*
  • Can write or verbalize a testing approach*
  • Can use screen/video capture tools
  • Can write effective defect reports*
  • Can use test management tools (defect & test cases)
  • Can install supporting software without issues 
  • Understands Software Development Lifecycle*
  • Understands Software Development processes (Waterfall, Water-Wheel, Agile, Lean, XP)*


Level Two:

  • Can use developer tools in browsers 
    • Can read error messages from the console
      • Can diagnosis what the error means
  •  Uses command line 
  •  Uses an IDE 
  • Can use monitoring tools such as: Fiddler, Charles
  • Can run automation
    • Via IDE
    • Via command line
  • Can configure or modify an OS (Registries/Root)
  • Can run software builds
    • Via command line
    • Via build tool (ie Jenkins, Bamboo)
  •  Can analyze user stories for gaps*
    • domain knowledge*
    • integration knowledge* 
  • Can modify a mobile OS for testing purposes
  • Can use tools to check non-functional requirements


Level Three:

  •  Can remote/access application environments
    • Spin-up/Use multiple application environment setups 
  • Can run a version of the application locally
  • Can run a local database instance
  • Can run any automated checks or tests (unit, integrated, contract, functional, UI, API)
  • Can run any non-functional automation checks or tests (performance, load, security, etc)
  • Can analyze errors from automated checks/tests for any framework
  • Can use supporting development tools (examples listed, not a complete list)
    • Docker
    • Vagrant
    • Swagger
    • SQL Manager and/or Oracle Manager
    • Artifactory
    • Rancher
    • Hadoop 
  • Can understand micro-service architecture
  • Can understand network architecture 
  • Can run a SQL query


    Level Four:

    • Can write automated test scripts for different levels of the application  +
    • Can use versioning software (SVN, GIT)
      • Can make a commit using versioning software
    • Can use software package management systems (npm, yarn, homebrew)
    • Can maintain automation framework +
      • Fix test script errors
      • Fix framework issues
      • Update/Change dependent software packages
    • Can maintain mobile automation framework +
      • Fix test script errors
      • Fix framework issues
      • Update/Change dependent software packages
    • Collaborate with developers on code/application +
      • can evaluate unit tests w/ developer help
      • can evaluate code changes on a basic level or w/developer help
    • Can understand database structures/tables 
      • Know the difference between SQL & NoSQL
    • Can create complex database queries +


    Level Five:

    • Can create and maintain a testing framework for any level of the software +
      • Includes things like: mobile, performance, API, contract, database
    • Can coach & review automation script code +
    • Can integrate automated test framework with CI & CD processes +
    • Can configure CI/CD tools for builds and automation +
    • Can create/maintain testing tools + 

    As you can see, many skills require technical knowledge, but there are very few which are marginally technical or require coding knowledge. While there is an emphasis on testers knowing how to code/program (which I would argue that coding and programming are two different things) there are many more skills which testers literally NEED which do not require knowing a software language but do require technical expertise.

    Addendum: As I was thinking about this, there was another list that sprung to mind as things that are technical, but not necessarily require that you know code. Enjoy!

    "No computer is ever going to ask a new, reasonable question. 

    It takes trained people to do that." 

    - Grace Hopper

    Sunday, June 11, 2017

    Shit This Editor Says....

    “I've found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
    ― Don Roff


    I love writing. I love editing. I love helping people sound the absolute best they can in the written word. 

    Writing takes a lot of guts to do. I give people that credit because it's not an easy thing to organize thoughts and then sit down to a keyboard and pour those out in an exact order that informs, invokes thought, and sometimes entertains.

    I give people credit for trying to attempt something that seems to magically happen for some people, and for others, it's a constant struggle. I try not to be a complete asshat when I'm editing someone's work. I also don't complain when someone points out several flaws in my own writing. I appreciate what they are doing to help. Whether it's making me realize I wrote something in a tone which wouldn't be well received or pointing out when key things are missing in my work. 

    In all the time I've written things, I've never gotten upset at someone editing my work unless somehow, in the editing of it, it makes me look really bad. It's only happened a couple of times that I can think of and most of those were situations were early in my career. 

    Here are a few things I learned about writing & editing over the last 20 years. Some of them are pet peeves of mine, so feel free to comment as to why you think otherwise. It would make for a good discussion.

    Tips For Writers:
    • Don't refer to the article in the article; it's not a term paper. I know I'm reading an article. The phrase "In this article.." shouldn't be in an article at all unless I'm actually referring to another article which has something I'm trying to make a point about.
    • Don't use the words "Introduction", "Summary", or "Conclusion" as sub-headers. Again, it's not a term paper. Be more creative than that or get someone to help you work up something clever instead.
    • Be careful of overusing adjectives, especially flowery ones. 
    • Watch for your crutch words and phrases. We have them when we are speaking; we certainly have them when we are writing. If you are starting every other sentence with "So", or "But", or "However", you might have some editing to do.
    • The more complex a topic, the more simple the wording/writing trying to explain the topic should be, if possible. Don't use large words if you can explain the same thing with a small one.
    • Outlines are actually useful. I use them for writing blog posts and articles. Organized thoughts and ideas are better than word vomit you have to edit and reorder later.
    • Sentences starting with "And" or "Because" are usually horrible sentences and need to be rewritten, unless it's someone being quoted or a character speaking. I rarely, if ever, find a good reason to start a sentence with either of these words.
    • Titles and Sub-titles or sub-headers should never, ever, be a question or an exclamation. There are rare occasions where this can work, but if everything is a question, it leaves me thinking you don't know what you are writing about. If you do use this device, limit it to once in an article, otherwise it loses it's meaning.
    • Never write a paragraph of questions. A reader reads an article to get answers to questions. They don't want more questions. Good rule is to have one question in a paragraph and then answer that question within that paragraph and/or additional paragraphs. 
      • The paragraph of questions has it's roots as an advertising gimmick. The more people say 'yes' in their heads, answering the questions, the more they are drawn in. If you are writing an ad, great you can use it, if not, don't abuse the reader. It's mean. 
    • Use bullet points. Readers are drawn to these, especially those that read on mobile devices. If you find yourself writing out a list in paragraph form, it's a good indication those could be turned into a bullet list.
    •  Love your white space. It's a design thing, but it's good for article writing too. Add images or graphics, where you can, to break up the text. If you have long paragraphs, find a way to make those more digestible chunks instead of a solid wall of text on a screen or page.

     Tips For Editors:
    • The Wil Wheaton Rule: Don't be a dick. Editing can be pretty ruthless at times. Work with the writer, not against them.
    • Make useful suggestions. I've seen comments from editors that basically cross a bunch of things out but never explain why or for what reason. People don't improve without feedback, give it to them. 
    • Point writers in a direction. I always make suggestions on how to improve or add to a section in an article if I think it's lacking. Saying it's lacking or confusing without stating why doesn't help the writer fix the problem. If there is a more general problem with the article, tell the writer. This does take time. Be patient with each other.
    • Be nice, but not too nice. Sometimes you have to say something is not good. Sometimes you have to tell a writer that what they've been working on isn't something worth publishing. That's a hard pill to swallow for anyone. It might be the topic, it might be their writing style, whatever it is, if they are willing to keep trying, keep pointing them in the right direction, but also let them know it's OK to not get it the first time around. No one does. I certainly don't. 
    • Have conversations with your writer during the editing process. Don't leave them in the dark. Communication is important. It's hard to do sometimes. Make the effort.

     That's it. That's my current sum total of things I try to do as an editor and a writer. Feel free to comment. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong and why. Or even better, tell me I'm right and why. Keep the conversation going.

    Sunday, May 14, 2017

    Adventures Of A Tester: Brighton, England, UK (Part 3 of 3)

    There was a brief stop-over in London to switch trains and then head farther south. What I didn’t know at the time is that there was a terrorist attack happening not very far from the tube station I was using to switch trains. I managed to get on my train and I was headed out of the city by the time the news reached people on the train and phones started ringing.

    The news mostly sounded like someone had stabbed people. It wasn’t until I reached Brighton that I heard about the full extent of what happened, and after finding a WiFi spot, realizing people were looking for me wondering if I had been in London. It wasn’t until later I realized how lucky I had been to have not been too affected, nor have my travel delayed only by luck of having booked my second leg 30 minutes prior to the incident.

    London and the rest of the UK carried on as if it was only a small interruption to a normal weekday of commuting. It was that difference that made me aware of how scared we are as a culture in America. The threat color/level would have been drilled into the airwaves and we would have had non-stop coverage of the event until something more grotesque came along.Train stations might have been locked down, extra security would have been in place. I saw no evidence of any of this. People refused to be scared out of their routines, but they were talking about it.

    Transition To The Sea Side

    If anyone thinks the hills in Scotland are hard to walk, they should visit Brighton. Those hills by the shore could give the higher elevations a run for their money. I felt like I was either walking up a hill or down another most of the time I was there.

    And I was there to talk my face off. Mostly. I mean, what do you do at a conference? I usually end up hoarse by the end of it from all the talking I do. I love it. I feel like it gave me the much needed boost of ideas and community which has now become a must have for me at least once a year.

    TestBash(es) are addictive. I have been to three now, and I have spoken at 2 of them and volunteered for one. It continues to be one of the best conference series I’ve ever attended. It’s sister conference, European Testing Conference, being the only other conference coming close in comparison, at least for me.

    At Brighton, I spoke to the Thursday workshop day crowd in the afternoon presenter’s slot. I was sure people were going to pass out and I’d have five people left in the audience. I think in my head that’s how I kept myself from getting too freaked out about the full auditorium that suddenly sprung into view at 5p that day.

    Talking with Vernon and Mark, it was a surreal moment for me. I don’t remember the transition of the nervous, unsure me to the speaker on the stage, but somehow it happened. I felt comfortable up there. I think it might have been that I was holding onto the mic like it was the most important thing in the world at that point, but that’s OK. By the end I felt like I had easily talked about all of my points, I missed a few things, but that always happens in a talk you’ve practiced. Some things don’t seem relevant as you are speaking. I haven’t seen the video yet but my hope is that it came off as well as I think it did.

    Several people came up to me later and spoke about how they enjoyed the talk. People seemed to be engaged with the ideas of the presentation. One person mentioned that they planned on using some of the things from the talk at work the following week. Another turned their badge upside down to attract attention and have people ask him about his badge, which was an opening to creating a conversation. I had so many wonderful conversations throughout the conference and at the meetups and later at the open-space.

    For those that didn’t get to attend the open-space, you missed a lot of really good discussions. I got to participate in my third podcast for the year called ScreenTesting by Neil and Dan. I had a wonderful conversation led by Mike Talks and Gem Hill on mental health. I came away from the open-space with a larger sense of community, knowing I could reach out and chat with any of the folks who were there and connect with them on topics and discussions. More online friends with faces, rather than just people with screen names or twitter handles, who I’ve chatted with so many times over the last year or so.

    The only mishap through the whole trip was trying to get back to London to catch my flight on Sunday. All worked out in the end thanks to planning, patience and a cabbie that was willing to drive from downtown London Victoria out to my hotel near the airport. It was a small fortune, but I didn’t mind. It was my last night in the UK and riding out in a black cab seemed like the most touristy thing I could possibly do.

    Not much has changed about London in 20 years. The underground smelled the same. The people were as welcoming as ever. Well, actually a lot on the surface has changed, including me. I had a sense of renewed passion for my craft and a closer connection to the community we've all help build. It was an experience I won't forget.

    Special thanks to:
    -Rosie Sherry, for inviting me to speak in Brighton.
    -Vernon and Mark, who shepherded me through my first large speaking engagement.
    -Gem and Mike, for being the awesome, open, and lovely people that they are.
    -Claire Reckless & Heather Reid, for being a super supportive persons through all of my prep for my talk and helping me bunches with the Ministry of Testing writers group.
    -Abby Bangser, for a large dose of support, friendship, and encouragement.
    -The Ministry of Testing Writers Group - you all rock and I thank you for giving me tons of things to read and look forward to every day. I couldn’t me more happy with the progress we’ve made and I’m looking forward to all the progress we will continue to make through the rest of this year.

    FYI - I’ll be at TestBash Philly this year one way or another. Let’s chat and Let’s Laugh. I am already looking forward to seeing so many familiar faces and all the new ones too.

    Adventures Of A Tester: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (Part 2 of 3)

    If you’re not careful, Scotland can sneak up on you.

    I was sitting on the train, writing some, and editing articles when I realized I was pretty dizzy and really tired. I wasn’t sure why. I wasn’t late at all. It was mid-afternoon, the sun was out, the countryside was rich in color and it had just finished raining. My curiosity was peaked.
    I have one of those sports monitors on my phone. It came with it actually. I decided it might be interesting to check my stress, pulse and oxygen levels. I checked my pulse first and found it was indeed at a resting state. Lower than my usual pulse actually. I felt relaxed and even posted about it to friends how incredibly relaxed I felt, until I decided to check my stress levels. The stress meter measures pulse, oxygen and stress factors based on what the sensor in my phone picks up. I realized pretty quickly, while I was less stressed than I normally was, my oxygen levels had dropped pretty significantly. It was to the point of nearly passing out. (Normal is 96-98% SpO2 and mine registered at 79%.) I took a couple of deep breaths and everything shot up to normal levels for me. So much for relaxing euphoria of lacking oxygen. But that’s how Scotland sneaks up on you. You don’t know you are there until it’s literally taking your breath away.

    When the train stopped in Edinburgh, I found myself to be pretty tired and hopped in a cab. I was disoriented at best, and really tired from having traveled all day at worse. I was looking forward to the small room I had rented on the east side of the city within a 30 minute walk of Holyrood Palace (Or Palace of Holyroodhouse - the internet was unhelpful in determining which one was more correct).

    That evening, I seemed to have enough energy to walk about a mile to meet up with a friend for dinner. Many awesome bits of conversations were had over a pub dinner and beers at the Queen's Arms. I went back to my room on a similar cloud of euphoria as earlier, but it was probably due good conversation and alcohol.

    The next two days in Scotland were pretty touristy. I walked and shopped and checked out bookstores along with using any available WiFi spot I could grab to answer emails and post on social media. I visited the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and The Britannia, the former royal yacht. All of that was pretty interesting, especially walking to the botanical gardens through older parts of the city.

    At one point on the second day, I took a bus ride out to the suburbs. I only wanted to see the countryside without someone yakking in my ear about this feature or that person or whatever was there. Maybe I should be more interested in the history, but for me, I was interested in what I could notice, what I could enjoy seeing on my own. When the bus reached it’s end point, the driver hopped out for a smoke. I got out too. 

    The driver informed me that this was the end of the line and he was going to turn around. I was OK with that I said. I wanted to ride the bus and see where it took me. His accent was Scots and not the British I had been hearing most of my trip. He had many of the easy manners and phrases that I couldn’t hope to repeat but made me laugh about one thing or another. He was surprised I wanted to ride the bus until the end of the line. I explained that I wasn’t much into tours, that I preferred to pay four quid to take my own tour. He told me it was a good idea. He continued smoking, and we talked about Texas, and then New Zealand where he vacationed the year before with his wife.

    Scotland captured my imagination and I won’t soon forget it or the people I met while I was there. Three days was too short and it only made me want to go back and visit again. I boarded the train and headed to Brighton. My next adventure was the most exciting and scariest yet!

    Sunday, April 16, 2017

    Adventures Of A Tester: Cardiff, Wales, UK (Part 1 of 3)



    - The Welsh and English inscription on the Millennium Building in Cardiff, Wales, UK

     This is a three part series on my recent trip to the UK. Some of it was written during the trip and a lot was written afterwards. I decided not to change the continuity of the writing and publish each part as they were written editing only for spelling or grammar. Enjoy!

    The past two days I’ve spent a lot of time walking around. I like walking. It gives you the sense of a place. I like walking by myself most times because it lets you take things in at your own pace.

    I’m not particularly fond of crowds, or being squeezed into small spaces. I’m not a small person, and that’s part of it. The other part is not feeling like I’m trapped. I’ve never particularly liked that feeling whether it was a manifestation of a mental state or a physical reality.

    I mentioned to a few folks back home that Cardiff seemed a lot like Austin. I was wrong. It has some characteristics, but it’s a wholly different place. Futbol is important here. Very important. Wales vs France was today and there wasn’t any pub with a seat. I walked into one and it was wall-to-wall people, all watching the game. I wanted a beer, but I stopped for a moment and watched everyone watching the match.

    As I watched, people didn’t really speak to each other, they were watching. Focused. There wasn’t any particular action on the screen that seemed to cause this intense focus. Everyone was paying attention to what they were there to see. I equate it to watching a movie. If someone did speak it was quick and quiet. No loud conversations. They were all a mass of one. You could feel the energy and support of their team as they watched. It was impressive to experience it and to realize I was very much the outsider in this experience.

    I had a lot of that kind of experience today. The moment of being the outsider. Not in a bad way really, but in the way of not understanding immediately how something works. I think that tickles me in a lot of ways. There are some ways I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable, much like I mentioned earlier, but this experience of discovery clicks with me. I enjoy the moments when I’ve figured out how to do something people take for granted, like using the self serve at the grocery, paying for a bus fare, or buying a sandwich at a local shop with ingredients I’ve never heard of but don’t mind trying. Even though there isn’t a huge language barrier, and there is a sameness to some things, there are differences as well.

    For an example, people walk like they drive. That sounds strange but I realized I stuck out immediately because I was walking on the right of a sidewalk and when someone would walk towards me, they would also be on the right. A few times of this, and I realized that I should be walking on the left of the sidewalk in the direction I was going. I tried to do this, but often, my pattern of walking on the right came back until I noticed it and corrected.

    It amused me to continue to correct which side I walked on. On the one hand, I probably stuck out anyway, but sometimes I would see people’s faces and realize that they had a reaction to me walking on the wrong side. An annoyance of sorts. Me being unaware of the issue looked at faces and wondered what I was doing to cause this annoyance on their face. It became a puzzle to solve.
    Using different words like “Take-away” and “Sit-in”, realizing that cream and whip topping are two different things used the same way and preferring the cream over the whip. Having to share a bathroom toilet with four other folks staying on the same floor is odd, but manageable.

    I’m only slightly out of my comfort zone here. I have to ask folks to repeat things sometimes, but mostly I understand the first time. My requests are understood, even if I sound stupid using terms I think people want to hear like “water closet.”

    Honestly, I have no idea why I said “water closet.” I could have said “bathroom” but the word wouldn’t come out of my mouth for some very odd reason. The lady I asked said, “Toilets are over in the snack area.” “Toilet” would have worked too. I couldn’t think of the right word at that moment. I think there was some part of my brain that wanted to say “baño” but I knew that was wrong too, and toilet sounds brash to my American ears.

    I had a couple of conversations where I was made uncomfortable only in having to explain the political farce going on back home right now.

    The first of the day was a wonderful lady waiting for the same bus as me. She commented on the weather, and I said it was nicer than where I had been. She still thought the weather was “shit” but she could see that snow would be worse. She asked why I was in Cardiff, and I said it was for a vacation. She thought I was crazy, though she did say that she had lived here her whole life and thought the place was “shit” to begin with. She guessed that I liked it because it was quieter, slower than what I was used to.

    When she was younger, she said she used to fly back and forth from New York and import things to sell. She made a lot of money doing this. Items from the states were very popular.

    We started talking about vacations and she was stunned that I was only here for a week. They don’t do short vacations here. Their employers ask them often when they are going on holiday. They can be off work for weeks as long as they have a replacement for their shift. We talked about prejudice coming back in the UK and in America. She said it was always there, but it’s gotten worse. She said even though she’s lived here her whole life people were yelling at her to “go home.” She said they would be disappointed to find out that this is her home. She was on her way to her second job. She asked me where I was going and I said the Millennium building. She said she thought it looked like “shit” but it’s something to see anyway. She told me what stop to get off at and we wished each other a good day. It’s only now that I realized I never asked her for her name, and she never asked for mine. She seemed like an old acquaintance to me, a mother figure of sorts. I still wish I had asked her name.

    I did a few more hours of tourist like things wandering around Cardiff Bay taking pictures and seeing the sights. After walking over five miles ( ~8 km), according to my step counter, I decided I could take a cab back to my room. It wasn’t that far away, but I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t clock another five miles trying to find my way back in the process.

    The cab driver said “hello lovely” as I walked up to his cab. He asked where I wanted to go and I explained the best I could from memory. I got half the street name wrong. But based on the name of the place and my odd directions about Cowbridge and it being near Cardiff Castle, he figured out what I meant.

    Sometimes it’s not a blessing to speak the same language as your taxi driver. He had a lot of questions about health care in the states, taxes, and my pay of all things. He asked about equality and mentioned that he thought it was illegal for a woman to be paid less than a man. I said it is, but people get around it. Employers don’t like people talking about salaries, I said, and they can punish people for talking even though that’s technically illegal too. I said I was lucky with most of my jobs. I don’t think I’ve had those issues for the most part.

    I explained how the US healthcare system works as best I could. I told him that I paid for my own healthcare and what happens if I go to the doctor. He was surprised. He didn’t understand why a rich country would be so against making sure everyone was taken care of. I said I wasn’t sure why either. I would prefer to pay taxes and have a decent health care system for everyone like much of the rest of the world. 

    The conversation also made me realize exactly how much I was paying for health insurance though most of the premium is covered through my employer. I still pay additional amounts for office visits and tests depending on what they are. While my insurance doesn’t require me to have a referral, some physicians require it, so I would have to visit my doctor to get a referral to visit another doctor. This means I have to pay twice to see or get to the one person I think will help me. I didn’t even mention the fact that technically I have several kinds of insurance all dealing with different aspects of the industry. He asked, ‘What about cancer, wouldn’t I be covered?’ I said that I think I would be, but I know people who weren’t. 

    I know a friend who left the states because her options for treatment were better in Canada. (I realize now, that happened before ACA and I forgot to mention that.) I know there are some people that can’t afford insurance that will cover cancer because it has a higher premium so they go without and hope they don’t get it. (I realized while I was writing this that what I said might not be completely right. I did find a story about insurance exclusions but it’s not the same as I was thinking. This article has more detailed information about exclusions and loopholes, but my version of the facts seem a bit skewed, unfortunately. Or at the very best, not as precise as they could be.)

    I have to admit, I’ve worked in the health industry, and I’ve dealt with different aspects of the industry for the better part of my career as a tester. I know more about medicare and medicaid coverage than I ever wanted to know. I’ve learned about pharmacy practices. I’ve learned about, home health, hospice, dental, and how different insurances cover different things. Yet I feel like we’ve made it all too confusing on purpose. We’ve turned our health system into something like our tax code. Even with all the experience and some knowledge, admit that I’m not a deep expert on our healthcare system. I didn’t mention to him that some people don’t go to the doctor even if they do have health insurance. I have a feeling he would have been surprised. He wished me a good evening and I wished him the same. I didn’t ask his name either. I need to get better at that.

    How This Might Relate To Testing

    Well, it could be a few things.

    I could be the defect in the system, a self-correcting defect, as a person that sticks out from the normal day-to-day. I haven’t heard other Americans in my general walking around which seems unusual to me. Last time I was in London, I couldn’t turn a corner without running into an American either there for school or a vacation. From various conversations, people don’t seem to get many tourists in the winter. Most of the other tourists I have seen with suitcases were large groups of women who were at least UK residents as they spoke with the typical accent.
    I am testing a new “system.” New to me anyway. I’m learning about it. Learning about myself as I go. Learning about the environment, and the habits. Learning about the city, and culture. Working out different kinds of tests to see what happens. Granted, I’m not doing anything completely outrageous, but I did try to walk into a venue without a ticket. I tried to walk into a pub completely unaware of a game that had the whole city at mostly a stand-still. I’ve tried to stay up after 6p and thus far have failed and ended up waking up around midnight local time and staying awake a few more hours. I like milk and sugar in my tea, but I don’t seem to get the exact combination right myself. Spent hours walking through “arcades”, or long halls of shops which have covered walkways, that will start on one street and land you somewhere completely different than you were expecting.

    Personally, I think I might be a little of both. Tomorrow is a travel day. I head to Scotland for a few days. I wonder what it will be like. I have to admit, it’s a place I’ve long held in my imagination. I’m sure it will have a few surprises for me and I’ll be navigating slightly different cultural notions than I have the last few days. Though I’m certain I’ll be faced with explaining US politics no matter what.

    Saturday, March 4, 2017

    Life With Ministry of Testing: Content Doesn't Write Itself

    "I'm all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil." - Truman Capote

    Today, I saw a tweet from the BossBoss, which led me to her post about life at Ministry of Testing. She encouraged others who are involved to jump in and write about life and what it involves.

    Rosie and I met at the 2015 TestBash in New York. I was inspired by a number of speakers there and the fact that Rosie decided it was worth it to "jump the pond" and get TestBash started in the US.

    I hadn't thought how much that one conference would influence where I'm at now in life, but I can say that I was definitely influenced. The TestBash community has been a home for me and my ideas ever since.

    I joined twitter, and then later started a blog. At one point, on one of the slack channels Ministry of Testing has, Rosie called for writers and I was invited to the writer's channel where folks were talking about articles they were trying to publish and who might be able to review them.

    It was Maaret's article that I read through first. I follow her blog already, so this article was like getting a more in-depth blog post. I remember making a ton of suggestions and noting when I agreed with a point, or gave my own experiences as validation for the points she made.

    After I finished, I worried I had over done it. I should have stuck to the grammar and the spelling. The feedback was awesome actually. Maaret and Rosie loved it.

    About the same time Rosie and I started conversations about being a staff writer and what kinds of articles she would like to see on a regular basis. I didn't see a problem with that, I was trying to write more technical articles and continue learning how to craft a message with that article that would be acceptable for the MoT audience.

    Then, September 2016, I was laid off from my job. The company had been bought out, and the new company was pairing down staff. I was already in the interview process for another job when Rosie heard the news and offered me a part time position on the Ministry of Testing staff editing content submissions.

    I've been working with Rosie ever since, helping testers find their voice on the page, working to hone the message they want to deliver, and polish it with the right context and tone.

    It's some of the most fulfilling work I've ever done. I've watched other writers bloom as they work through their first piece and then write their next one, improving each time. I've even been professionally jealous of one or two as I review their articles, wondering how they write their thoughts and put them so perfectly into words.

    It's been five months since I started this journey and I don't regret it. There are times I've wondered if I bit off more than I can chew, but the writers, other MoT staff, and the community keep encouraging me nearly every day. I can't wait to see how the rest of the year will shape up and what content we publish next. Speaking of which, I have to get back to editing.

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Fear Not True Belivers! Testing Heroes Are Out There

    A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
    Read more at:
    “A Hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
    - Christopher Reeve

    This year started off with some tremendous growth for me in my work-life. I have been learning how to consult with clients, getting the hang of new technologies like Docker and Rancher, and even learning more subtle uses of JavaScript for automation.

    All the while, I've been working with wonderful writers through Ministry of Testing, watching each one of their articles come to life and represent them in the best possible way in the community. The writing community itself has taken on a life and I see all the people involved doing amazing things.

    Another contributor to that community, Gem Hill, asked me to be on her podcast. That was a great experience. I realized how much I missed being on the radio and working on a podcast. I contend that I tend to write better than I speak on most occasions and Gem did wonderful editing magic and even managed to get three podcasts out of our conversation. If you are wondering where the third podcast is, it's on Patreon.

    The community is doing so many wonderful things and there are so many of us interconnected that I feel I have more support than ever from these heroes of testing.

    Maaret Pyhäjärvi and her group of dedicated organizers wrapped up another year of the European Testing Conference. Watching the tweets and information pour out of that conference was exciting. I missed being there this year and have set my sights on going next year when it's held in Amsterdam.

    Ministry of Testing: Test Bash is still going strong and ever-widening it's locations. There are, at last count, six conferences happening. Five in Europe and One in the US. Rosie Sherry and Richard Bradshaw along with many other folks who volunteer their energy and time to organizing Test Bashes have my profound respect for all they do to make the community more visible.

    Lisa Crispin and I were scheduled to do a workshop at Agile Testing Days in Boston this year. Because of the political climate in the US right now, it was cancelled. I can understand this decision. I even respect it on some level. For me, I feel it was a missed opportunity to show what diversity at a conference looks like. I saw more women slotted to speak or give workshops at the ATD US conference than other conferences of the same size and scope.

    I know Angie Jones and Ash Colman were also planning to speak. Two women of color who represent the testing community with a fierce dedication to their skills and craft. My hope is that I'll be able to see them speak at Test Bash Philly again or another conference very soon. They are inspiring, thoughtful speakers and I hope if you have a chance to see either one of them speak, you take it.

    It's easy to be negative right now. 2017 hasn't made it easy to be positive with the political climate in the states or around the world. Many of us have been affected in small ways where before we might never have been.

    Our community is getting stronger and it's growing more diverse all the time. There are folks out there working to make it so. My hope is that I am one of them, and in continuing to contribute, I can help that diversity along and our community can be a supporting pillar of what tech communities should do towards reaching for diversity in their communities and their work environments.

    My personal challenge to you reader, is to write about your testing hero. It could be someone you work with or someone you've listened to or read. It could be a group of people in your community or a mentor that led you into your career in the first place. Post it somewhere. Post it here in the comments if you like. Talk about your testing heroes. We need them now more than ever.

     “My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results... but it is the effort that's heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight.”  ― George R.R. Martin

    Thursday, January 5, 2017

    Spell Check - An Accessibility Story

    “One piece of wisdom a writer quickly learns ~ typos keep you humble.”
    ― E.A. Bucchianeri

    “Mr. Tulliver did not willingly write a letter, and found the relation between spoken and written language, briefly known as spelling, one of the most puzzling things in this puzzling world. Nevertheless, like all fervid writing, the task was done in less time than usual, and if the spelling differed from Mrs. Glegg's,- why, she belonged, like himself, to a generation with whom spelling was a matter of private judgment.”
    ― George Eliot

    I'm sure the Spell Check tool was planned to be more of a convenience rather than an accessibility  tool, but for me, it was a life saver, a teacher, and the best reference tool ever created, besides Google.

    I've always been a pretty rotten speller. I don't remember a time I've ever passed a spelling test with an A or didn't manage to flip letters around as I write. Typewriters were a little easier and a computer, oh boy, AMAZING! The Backspace was the first miracle of modern technology I worshiped, and I haven't stopped since it showed up in my life a very long time ago.

    I've always liked reading. I've always liked writing too. But my brain does funny things to words sometimes. They can jump or move, make my eyes tired, and the more difficult the material I'm trying to learn or write, the harder it gets because I try to concentrate on it even more.

    It's annoying having Dyslexia. I have a very mild form of it. Just enough to make things difficult, but not so hard that I couldn't train myself to write with the correct spelling for things over the years. It has absolutely taken years to learn some words.

    I've managed to learn most of them via Spell Checker.

    The first ones weren't as intuitive as the versions we have now. I can write phonetically and pretty much have the spell checker catch exactly the word I'm trying to get to.

    Back in the day, the internet didn't guess at what you were trying to look for or type (type-a-head and autocomplete didn't exist), so I went with whatever the closest thing was I could generally figure out. In college, I walked around with a pocket dictionary, but I still sucked at spelling. If the word was something I knew, it was easy to look up and get it right. If the word wasn't anywhere near what the sound in my brain was, I became lost in a dictionary that couldn't help me. This was the same for computers and word processing software back then too.

    My brain also has a funny habit of skipping words in a sentence because I see the word in the sentence already. Especially the small words like 'it', 'a', or 'I'. I had to learn over a lot of time to fix this problem. {You'll notice that I've highlighted the words in red. These were originally skipped and then caught on a read-through.}When I'm rushed or distracted, you can tell in my writing. I skip over these words sometimes and others like them.

    Taking Latin in high school made this spelling problem worse, even in my typing. I would add 'ae' or 'e' to the end of many words that didn't need it. I also combined words like "withe" - that's 'with the' just in case you might be wondering. It took a few more years to break the habit of Latin additions in my writing.

    If Spell Check had never been created, I don't think I would be writing now. I honestly don't think I could have been seen as an effective communicator and I probably never would have survived working in the communications field for as long as I did.

    Spell Check has literally opened a whole world to me that might have not been possible if I had been born a few decades earlier. I probably would have still managed to figure out ways to deal with my mild affliction, but it certainly would have taken more time and a tedious amount of attention to accomplish the same thing Spell Check has done for me.

    Here's Where It Ties Into Testing

    If you are out there right now adding or testing accessibility features for an application, thank you. Maybe they didn't understand when they added Spell Check to Word Perfect that it would be a kind of accessibility tool for some of us, but that's what it became to me.

    We need more moments in software that allow those epic leaps forward for everybody. The easier we make it for people to have access to technology in any way we can, the more minds and hearts we can foster and give some of the capability of truly being able to communicate regardless of any limitation.

    So many things could have been so very different without computers, especially for me. I certainly credit my mother with having some amazing foresight to take her tax return and plunk it down on a Tandy SL 1000 and make sure there was a word processing program on it. Who knows where I would be and what I would be doing if it wasn't for her and that Radio Shack computer.