Let's call the calling-off off

Monday, March 12, 2012 17:09 PM

There's been a fair bit of discussion lately on the test-o-sphere about the status and the future of context-driven testing. I believe Scott Barber has provided the best overview, and I don't have a whole lot to add to the debate, except maybe for this:

Did you know that there is an entire non-profit organization dedicated to context-driven testing? It is the Association for Software Testing, or AST. Here, check out the mission statement:

The Association for Software Testing is dedicated to advancing the understanding of the science and practice of software testing according to Context-Driven principles.
AST is not going away.

The AST also has a professional international conference, the Conference for the Association for Software Testing, or CAST.

CAST is not going away.

AST provides a grant and user group support program, designed to keep context-driven ideas flowing. Over the past four months, we have lent support to a user's group in Hong Kong, a peer workshop in Estonia, another in Calgary, as well as the Grand Rapids Testers User Group.

The Grant Program is not going away; we continue to support events like the Test Coach Camp.

The Folks in the Miagi-Do School of software testing are still going; Weekend Testers is still going strong. If Rosie Sherry shuts down SoftwareTestingClub over this I will eat my hat.

I assure you, I am in no danger of eating said hat; that's just a small listing of the branches, offshoots, and associated groups within the world of context driven.

How do I know? For one thing, it is my pleasure and honor to sit on the board of directors for the Association for Software Testing; I also sit on the leadership team for the Miagi-Do School.

Let me be clear

I am context-driven. I am not going anywhere, and I am not the only person in that position.

See you around.

I'll be here.

Your name in print - in STQA Magazine!

Friday, February 24, 2012 02:01 AM

Each issue in STQA Magazine we have an interview column that features questions from the readers and the greater intarwebs - it's called "Ask the Test Expert."

This next two issues will feature interviews with Perze Ababa, the test manager for iVillage.com (a division of NBC!) and Michael Larsen - show producer of This Week in Software Testing and lead tester for sidereel.

The subjects will (a) test management in a 24/7/365/worldwide/server-farm/crazy environment, and (b) testing and test coaching, influence and leadership, especially in environments where you are the only tester.

Do you have any questions for Perze or Michael? I'd like to hear them.

Forget that, if you could spend a moment or two coming up with a good question, I would personally appreciate it. Some of the best question-askers come back to be interviewed themselves in the magazine or podcast ...

If you'd like to get your question in without fuss, the best format is to include everything we'll need to publish it. That means list the question, name as you would like it to appear, title (optional), company (optional), city, state/province, country. If your company has a publicity policy requiring approval, it's probably best to leave title/company off.

You can email me: matt.heusser@gmail.com (it's okay, I've got a strong spam filter), or just leave a comment here on the blog.

Thank you! Keep on being awesome!

What Matt Is Up To

Friday, February 24, 2012 13:27 PM

It's been a busy couple of months.

Test Coach Camp Heats Up

First off, Test Coach Camp has reached it's a viable number of applicants. It is on.

The most interesting thing I've found about test coach camp is it's structure. Unlike most for-profit conferences, TCC is going to be run at zero-profit. There will be no attendance fee, and the Association for Software Testing (AST) is funding the workshop space, food, and camp space, that means that every person accepted costs the organization money -- at least in the short term.

In the long term, we hope the event will benefit the craft.

As a result, we don't have a need for a big PR push. The people who hear about the event because they are plugged in to the community will be the most likely to add the most value, so there is no need to buy Google AdWords, to place ads on Facebook or Linkedin, or even in test magazines.

Plus, we've just hit critical mass, so it is on.

If you are considering coming to the Conference for the AST in San Jose in July, think you might enjoy test coach camp, and would consider coming in two days early for the event, well, the CFP is still up, and slots are filling.

But there's more.

The Grant Program is Kicking!

It's been a month and a half since we announced the AST Grant Program to support local user's groups. Our internal nick-name for the project was "12 in 2012", because we hoped to support roughly one workshop or user's group per month.

To date, we've supported four groups, including a travel funding to send a facilitator to POST, the Calgary-Based "Perspectives on Software Testing" workshop, to support PEST, the workshop on Context-Driven testing in Estonia, the purchase a subscription to meetup.com for GR-Testers, and to support a Hong Kong area test meetup in March 2012.

That's four grants in a month and a half or so. But we've got plenty of funds. If you want to do a test meetup, user's group, bring in a speaker, whatever, well, that's what the Grant Program is for.

Publications and Podcasting

Meanwhile, I continue to blog weekly for Software Test Professionals, though I did miss January for travel and time off. No worries, we still put up the podcast every single week. (A free registration may be required. Typically, the past four podcasts are free. Before that, you may need to be professional member. The easiest way to be a professional member is to go to the conference!)

Meanwhile, I did manage to get a few articles out - most notably a piece for CIO.com on reconsidering code review, and two articles for Stickyminds.com/TechWell.com, one describing my learning experiences from three years at Socialtext, another is the Boutique Tester:Revisited. The one talks about what's changed in the couple of years since I published the original Boutique Tester article.

I've also been blogging for IT Knowledge Exchange, about one blog post per week. My most recent series is about technology professionals who left the rat race and went independent, including the traditional independent contractor route, the life of the itinerant trainer/consultant, by creating a community website, or, maybe, just maybe, traveling on a boat around the pacific for a year at a time. (I've also done a few short pieces on how internet myths start and consequences of 'dumb' artificial intelligence.)

If you want more articles from Matt and you like the personal side, there should be plenty of new posts for the foreseeable future on my ITKE blog.

As I see it now, this blog is going to become a bit of an aggregator; what Matt is doing and so on. If you'd like something else, let me know.

Hey, speaking of which ...

Upcoming Events and Writing

During out New York City Trip, Pete Walen and I had the opportunity to tour the corporate offices of Etsy.com, which I will be documenting shortly in a profile piece for CIO.com. Look for it!

Speaking of traveling, I will be at the Agile & Beyond Conference March 10th in Dearborn, Michigan. The event is only a hundred dollars for registration and it's held on a Saturday. If you don't usually go to conferences, and you are in the Midwest ... now's your chance. Later that month I will be the Software Test Professionals Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I'm sure there's more, but if you'll excuse me, I gotta go test ...

Meetup in NYC - Next Week!

Friday, January 20, 2012 16:21 PM

I'll be in New York City Next week; there is a software testers meetup including a dinner sponsored by the Financial Services Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Association for Software Testing (AST).

Gosh, that's a mouthful. I guess the "Financial Services SIG of the AST" reads easier.

Anyway, here's the public announcement.

In other news, the first two grants from the AST Grant Program have gone out, to support sending a moderator to the POST 2012 Workshop in Calgary and the PEST 2 Peer Workshop in Estonia.

Between New York City, Test Coach Camp, CAST, and STPCon, 2012 is starting to look like a busy year.

See you around?

Back from Vacation, Plus More Articles!

Thursday, January 19, 2012 20:45 PM

It's been a little quiet around here at Creative Chaos lately.

Let me tell you a little bit about what's been going on behind the scenes.

First, I just got back from a twelve-day vacation - driving to Galveston, Texas, to take a cruise with the family on Mariner of the Seas. From Galveston to Cozumel Mexico, to Grand Cayman, to Jamaica, then back to Galveston, then another two days in the car back to West Michigan -- all without a laptop, iPad, or wireless connectivity of any kind.

The vacation was great. First of all, Cozumel Mexico has a place called "Paradise Beach." So you can literally walk off the boat, grab a taxi, and say "Take me to Paradise" ... and they will.

Grand Cayman has Paradise Restaurant, but you can walk to that right off the boat; it's about four blocks. No need for a Taxi.

On Jamaica, I bought a Hawaiian Shirt. Don't ask me if that makes it a Jamaican shirt, because I don't know.

Still, while I was away, things kept moving forward. Here are a few of the highlights:

Test Coach Camp Gets Serious!

We've got twenty-four people who have either applied, or been early accepted into Test Coach Camp; the next round of acceptances will be in early February. If you want to go to TCC 2012 in San Jose, now's the time to get your application in.

The Open CAST CFP Process Heats Up!

There are currently 68 pages labelled "proposal" on the CAST 2012 wiki, either track or emerging topics. The track talk deadline has passed, and, as I'm not on the 'classic' program committee, that's about all I know to say -- but you can still submit for emerging topics, a format that will be moderated by Pete Walen and I. If you have questions about ET, feel free to drop us an email or twitter DM - or you can email CAST2012.proposals@gmail.com for a invitation to the CAST wiki.

Articles and Podcasts!

I might not have been around to promote them, but a few articles did come out while I was gone, including the Changing Seasons that explored my learning experiences at Socialtext.

I've also dong a few things in my IT Knowledge Exchange Blog that you might enjoy; both a series on living the independent technologist lifestyle, and a few blog posts about truth, fiction, and science-fiction in technology.

Here are the Posts on Going Independent:

The Jimmy Buffet Life
This Could Be Your Life -- With David Hoppe
Going Independent - With J.B. Rainsberger
On A Boat - With Adam Yuret (Part I)
On A Boat - With Adam Yuret (Part II)

Over the next few weeks there will be a two-part interview with my friend, Corey Haines, who took a journeyman tour and now basically tours full-time, along with possible interviews with Rosie Sherry of SoftwareTestClub and others.

The trends-and-myth posts are a little lighter, but still valuable, include one on Citogenesis -- the process by which myths are created, and a second one examining the logical consequences of Artificial Intelligence, compared to, say, The Singularity.

Plus we have pre-recorded Podcasts, that Michael Larsen has been diligently putting up while I was gone, and as I am about to disappear again, he has offered to fill in during the month of February. (A free registration is required.)

I'm currently working on an article for CIO.com on inspections/code review, a piece for TechWell that reexamines the Boutique Tester, and I'm about to head off to New York City for a small training engagement.


The best news?

There's more to come.

... I told you it would get better

Thursday, December 22, 2011 20:59 PM

The Association for Software Testing recently announced a 2012 Grant Program designed to advance the cause of testing at local user groups and events.

Want to invite a speaker on testing to your local user group - and get some help with providing travel expenses? There's a program for that. What to run a peer workshop but need help with expenses? There's a program for that too.

Maybe you'd just like to ask AST to provide some promotional support and reimburse the cost of drinks and appetizers? You guessed it. AST can do that too.

The program is effective for 2012, but you can apply right now if you have something in mind.

Merry Christmas, everybody -- let's make it a great year.

An Interview on Craft Academy ... and more!

Thursday, December 22, 2011 04:46 AM

The folks at Informit.com recently published my interview with Ken Auer, master instructor at RoleModel Software Craft Academy. We think you'll like it.

Speaking of publishing, I'm in December Issue of the Testing Circus Magazine, on Page 21, Writing about developing greater tester skills.

And there's lots more AST stuff in the hopper.

Keep it here.

It's going to get even better.

The New New Thing

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 01:33 AM

Three weeks ago, I helped break the news that Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2012) would be in San Jose, California, July 16-18, and the CAST 2012 Call for Participation was available on the web.

It gets better.

The weekend before CAST, we're running Test Coach Camp, July 14-15, with an optional dinner on the 13th.

Yes, Test Coach Camp. It's finally a real thing.

We're planning on hosting twenty-five to thirty people, enthusiastic about testing, professional growth, motivation, and coaching. Our call for participants is up right now.

No, you don't have to camp. The event will be at the Wyndham Hotel, San Jose, co-located with CAST. We expect most people will get a hotel room, but we can make arrangements for people who want to stay cheap.

You do not need to attend CAST in order to attend Test Coach Camp -- but we sure hope you'll think about it.

More to come.

Oh boy, is there more to come.

CAST 2012 - Dates, CFP is up!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 17:00 PM

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you probably know that CAST 2012 is the Conference for the Association for Software Testing.

What you might not know is the exact date, location, and when is the CFP going to be live?

Good news: The Dates for CAST 2012 are public!

CAST 2012 will be a the Wyndham Hotel in San Jose, California, July 16 to 18.

Better yet, the Call for Participation (CFP) is up and active, and yes, Pete Walen and I will be back to help organize emerging topics again.

It seems that people thought Emerging Topics went well in 2011.

So well, in fact, that the entire submission-entry process for this year is going to use Socialtext.

Even if you don't want to submit a talk, you can register and comment on the talks that are submitted, expressing interest, criticism, both, or something else. :-)

So check it out. It's free to try.

See you in the wiki?

DISCLOSURE: Socialtext is donating the wiki to AST in trade for sponsorship. I, Matt Heusser, am a shareholder in Socialtext corporation. I earned those shares through stock options, as an employee, testing the product for three years. I am proud of what we built, but If you struggle to use the wiki, you can contact me with questions, yes.

Gonna Send Five Copies to my mother!

Monday, November 21, 2011 14:09 PM

My article "Ten Thoughts on Technical Debt", is the cover story for this month's Better Software Magazine.

Want to start with the dessert, then decide if it's worth paying for dinner? Why, you can download the article free off my website.

More to come.

World Quality Month ... and More

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 17:07 PM

After a year of participating in ASQ's Voices of Quality Program, it seems it's about time for me to hang up my hat.

Yes, they did graciously offer to let me renew, but, truth be told, I just don't have a lot of energy for the program, and it looks like ASQ has brought up a new batch of folks who are rarin' to go. I'm happy for them.

By now you probably know how this goes; Paul Borawski, the Executive Director of ASQ, makes a blog post, we offer our commentary, and then Paul uses that for input into future work. This month the overall subject was three-fold -- World Quality Month, "Forty Under 40", and ASQ's newest membership benefit.

I'll start with the dessert first - ASQ's new membership benefit is, Ironically enough, the ability to give away a six-month membership to a colleague who is thinking about membership but hasn't taken the plunge.

So let me say, I think membership in professional associations is a good thing. I also put my money where my mouth is.

I am a regular, dues-paying member of yes, the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the American Society for Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and the Association for Software Testing (AST), where I sit on the board of directors. I am also an expired member of the Agile Alliance. Don't get me wrong - the AA is great, but three at a time is plenty for me, and when I decided to join ASJA, with it's $160/year price tag, I decided to drop something else.

I pay those memberships out-of-pocket, and have for years; I just renewed my ASQ membership. If you'd like to see if ASQ is right for you, drop me an email -- I have a membership to give away! (If you do join, please, please, find a local chapter and some software or industry-appropriate people to hang out with. It might make a huge difference in the quality of your experience; it certainly did for me.)

So there's the dessert.

The Rest of the Stuff

World Quality Month is moving from October to November, in order to comply with World Quality Day, which is in November.

I had no idea those were even things, or, if they are things, who gets to decide them. I actually suspect that it's kind of like "Love Day" on the Simpsons; invented and moved around by the inventors.

In that, I am less than excited.

I do tend to agree with Mr. Borawski that getting more people talking about quality more publicly is probably a good thing -- I just keep getting this nagging feeling, at the back of my neck, that ideas have consequences. When we try to compress some very complex subjects into a single word "quality" - we tend to miss things. And those things can come back later to bite us. (Within the quality movement, we have some people who think quality is fitness for use; others might say it is conformance to process. Still others might say quality is value to some person. That's kind of a big deal.)

Finally, ASQ has created the "Forty Under Forty" project, which seems to me to be next year's batch of "Influential Voices" for ASQ.

I could be critical of the idea, but instead, allow me to tell you what I like about it: The project shows that ASQ is serious about seeking out new and divergent opinions within it's membership, and giving those members a platform to talk about quality, in some depth, with some nuance, for an extended period of time.

It turns out that, in my own way, I've been making a similar request for more divergent discussion throughout this year of being an influential voice.

And it's happening.

That's good.

I was pleased to participate in the 2010-2011 program. Now it's time for a new batch.

This is going to be fun.

A Couple of Announcements

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 23:22 PM

1) I will be presented "Hands of Quick Attacks" on Nov 15th from 5:30 to 7:30-ish in South Bend, Indiana, at the South Bend Software Craftsmanship meetup. Registration is free, and so are the snacks!

2) The October of Software Test & Quality Assurance Magazine is out. The issue is a reflection on the Theme of "How To Reduce the Cost of Software Testing", and, yes, the folks at STP asked me to serve as guest editor. Check it out.

Selena Delesie

Catherine Powell!

Pete Walen!

Michael Larsen!

... and more!

Only the best folks, and it's free.

Like I said, check it out.

Come Work with me?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 16:52 PM

My current primary client is seeking full-time employees to fill programming, test/QA, programmer tech lead, and dev/test manager positions in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Current openings are full-time/salaried, but that may change.

You'd have to move, but relocation expenses may be negotiable.

You'd need to have no legal restrictions from working in the United States.

The office environment is open plan. The people are smart and nice -- these are people I actually want to work with, plus all the tools and techniques you would expect at a high-end agile shop big enough to have career options, not so big that it's silly. (Yes I said agile, mostly to compress into a sentence a half-dozen conflicted ideas. I will say this company is actually doing it, not doing some weird bizarro compromise.)

This year, the developers are offered the chance to attend SCNA; the testers had the option to go to CAST.

My words, of course, are my own, as is my reputation, which I stake that it's a good environment and a real opportunity.

Interested? Drop me an email: matt.heusser@gmail.com.

The General Motors "Culture of Quality"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 02:58 AM

You may recall that in 2011, I am trying something new -- participating in the Influential Voices program of the American Society for Quality.

The program is pretty simple. Each month, the folks at ASQ put up a blog post which they ask us to respond to. At the end of the month, the Executive Director of ASQ, Paul Borawski, does a summary post, and uses that summary to start the next one. The October blog post is on a culture of quality at General Motors, and mostly consists of a video interview with Terry Woychowski, GM's new Vice President of Global Quality and Launch. (In the software world, I suspect we'd replace "launch" with something like "shipping" or "release management", but i'm honestly not quite sure.)

Terry sums up quality with the phrase "Promise, Personal, Performance." The first P, or promise, means the product needs to do what it claims to do. The second, or personal, implies that individuals will take responsibility for their work, from everything from input (refusing to take in shoddy products), to output (the stuff we give to the next guy.) Finally, the company has a goal for performance, that Terry expresses as "We want to be the quality leader in every segment that we compete in, every market that we sell in."

On it's face, that's a bit of a tall order.

Not only that, but i'm not sure we can say that GM has accomplished it. I mean, this is a company that, two years ago, was on the ropes. It took a government bailout, defaulted on it's bonds, laid off thousands of workers, and forced dealerships to close, some of which had been in the same family for three or four generations.

Fulfilling it's quality promise?


It wanted to talk to an executive about building great products, products that are pleasing and satisfy the end-customer, how about a company that had been long, long over it's turnaround hump, and had been consistently keeping it's promises for at least ten years? Perhaps a company like Apple?

Oh I know, someone is going to shout that I'm a software guy, and go figure that I would suggest Apple.

But Apple is not just a software company; they make computers.


Tablet Computers.

MP3 Players.

Not only does Apple make those things, it is the niche (read: "high end") market leader in each of those categories.

Apple might not make the most in sales by market segment, but they certainly have high margins. Wall Street respects the company enough to make it the number one publicly traded company in the world measured by market capitalization.

And here we are talking about GM.

Thinking about it ... Differently

There certainly are a few 'nuggets' in the GM interview. For example, Mr. Woychowski states that one of GM's measures for quality is the cost of warranty service, which has gone done something like 45%, which, if that is per car per year, seems like a reasonable metric to me.

He also said that he makes an effort, along with other executives, to talk to a dis-satisfied customer every single day. When I compare that to the old GM culture, where the executives rode special glass elevators, parked in a special parking lot, and had security guards in order to make sure that they didn't have to interactive with the mere employees, well, it's refreshing.

There are also a few claims that bug me, like claiming the company can't meet it's goal of creating the best products in each category without quality. This is true, but only in the sense that 1=1 is true; it's restating the same premise with different words, like "we can't be number one in sales unless we sell the most vehicles!" (He also claims that the chevy volt has more complexity in it's radio than the entire Apollo spacecraft project. That's true, but the Apollo Guidance Computer had 2K of RAM. In comparison, a much more powerful computer probably powers your microwave; you can certainly get more powerful, though slightly larger, computers for five dollars at any summer yard sale.)

Another nugget: GM customizes it's vehicles by market. Not just putting the steering wheel on the right in the United Kingdom, but also little things, like designing the interior of American Cars around cupholders, while in Europe they are generally ignored. (Note to self: Europeans don't typically eat in their cars. They are also generally thinner.)

So there's certainly stuff in there to discuss and debate.

Yet I kept coming back to it: why GM? Why not Apple? Sure, you could say, Cars are important, we should have at least one ... except we had a Quality Executive from Ford on a few months ago.

Two car guys and a steel company.

What's going on here?

Focus Matters

Car companies, and, to a lesser extent, the folks in Silicon Valley, talk about engineers. Engineers build stuff. Engineers solve problems. This means that everything can be seen through the lens of Engineering. (My brother in law actually took a course in Financial Engineering when he was at the University of Michigan. I think that was before the Enron scandal. But I digress.)

When I read F@st Company, I am amazed at what I read. Everything in that Magazine comes down to design and designers. I mean everything. Apparently, if things are designed right, they just work ... engineering is for, I dunno. Something else.

If you read Blomberg BusinessWeek, the lens is globalization. Everything is connected; a rise in gas prices here might cause a rise in corn prices over there that could lead to geo-political instability in a third place.

There are similar things in writing circles, where we tend to see everything as writing, and in software test circles, were everything is a risk to be evaluated or managed.

And for ASQ, originally known as the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), the lens is manufacturing of physical devices.

That's okay, and, to some extent, natural.

What GM, what Ford, and what Chrysler do are important for the country, and, for you BusinessWeek Readers, even for the global economy.

I just suspect it's time for us to take a step back and ask: How important?

Should the ASQ be talking to the world leads in auto manufacturing (who are struggling), or the folks in other, related industries who are not?

Final Thought

I learned a small handful of things from the Handbook of Software Quality Assurance in it's 3rd edition. One of my biggest takeaways was the interplay of quality and production.

I am paraphrasing, but, according to the book, the best-run companies (at least, the ones that learned something from the japanese quality revolution) have a CEO who is also visibly the chief quality officer.

That is to say, when you go to quality conferences and events, you see the CEO. When there is a quality problem, the CEO rolls up his sleeves.

Other companies, companies that see the revolution more ... tangentially ... often take a different approach. In these companies the CEO (or Vice President of Ops, or Vice President of Products) might put his arm around a bright, fresh, young engineer, and say something that boils down to this:

"We want some of that quality stuffs. I'm going to empower you to go do that quality stuff. You'll be the chief quality officer. Just don't ask the organization to change anything or bother me; I'm too busy with the busy business of production to be bothered with that quality stuff. But we want it and all that. Good luck."

I may be embellishing a bit.

The point is, the first company, the one where the CEO is Mr. Quality, has a fighting chance. The second one does not. While not all cases are that extreme, companies generally lean toward one or the other.

So here's the deal.

In both the GM interview and the Ford interview, we were redirected to some 'voice' of quality, an advocate for quality in the executive suite.

Who was the chief quality officer at Apple?

You might night have always agreed with him, you might not always like him, but Steve Jobs was certainly the man when it came to quality.

Which brings up an interesting and recurring problem: Groups like ASQ tend to portray quality as a sort of specialization. At the same time, we claim that everyone should be involved in quality.

If the CEO and his managers are all quality officers, what do we need these mysterious quality people for? (It's hard for me to get excited about auditing, checklists, ISO standards, and diagrammed process flows. Is that really who we want to be?)

Now that is a conversation I would be interested in; I think ASQ is position to lead it.

The question is, who should we be having it with?

Dare I suggest the CEO of a company know for innovative, ground-breaking, world-class products? Not a company that turned around last year, but a company with decade of steady growth and success?

It doesn't have to be Apple Computer. It might be 3M, or netflix, or the people at Ideo.

Yes, ASQ, I do think it might be time to think different.

... and five more articles

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 02:48 AM

So far, I've made fifteen posts to my IT blog. In an attempt to keep up, here's the next five, and why, maybe, you might to care:

Was Nicolas Carr Right? Reconsidering the idea that "IT Doesn't Matter"

What's the deal, Amazon? - Where Matt takes a tough, hard look at his Amazon EC2 (Electric Compute Cloud) monthly bill

Another Look at IT Staffing, Part I - Why companies don't "just" staff with full-time employees all the time

Another Look at IT Staffing, Part II - Introducing IS Lite, one of the Momma theories that started all this outsourcing and offshoring mania

Another Look at IT Staffing, Part III - IT support in a Gen-Y world, one where instead of supporting a list of devices, the CEO can walk in with an iPad and say "Make it Work."

Get Y'r Articles - online and free, like you want 'em

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 04:09 AM

I've started a new blog for the folks at IT Knowledge Exchange, mostly about applying systems thinking to general IT.

Unless you follow my twit stream, though, it's doubtful that you have read each and every single post. I thought maybe it was time to fix that.

I don't want to overwhelm you, and I have been blogging since June, so here are the first few posts i've made:

Navigating the Waters - Introducing the new blog

On Cloud Adoption - How to deal with the demand for "cloud stuffs" right now from someone who, well, read a trade magazine on an airplane.

Your First Public Cloud - Part I - How to set up and create a cloud instance on Amazon.com using the free usage tier. (Warning: The walkthrough is a windows server, which could run as much as $2.00 if you aren't paying attention.)

Your First Public Cloud - Part II ... and how to actually use it

Tech Tough Love I - Part I of my interview with Andy Lester on his book, "Land the Tech Job You Love"

Tech Tough Love II - The second part of the interview

Yes, there are plenty more to come, and yes, I do try to send updates by twitter. Just in case you miss them, there's a link to Uncharted Waters, my IT blog, at right in my 'blogroll.'

But hey, don't give up on twitter. I even wrote 29 Testers to Follow On Twitter to get you started!

Tomorrow Through the Past

Saturday, August 27, 2011 18:10 PM

(Continued Apologies to Robert A. Heinlein)

This year, at the Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2011) I was a little sad, but not surprised, to hear so many people say thing like "Gosh, I had never heard of this Context-Driven thing. I've got a lot of reading and catching up to do when I get home."

Actually, that last part -- the lot of reading and catching up to do -- that is kind of encouraging. To be involved in building that next generation of super testers ... that's pretty cool.

It turns out this problem is not unique to software testing.

In the 1980's, when Tom Demarco and Tim Lister wrote PeopleWare, they pointed out that while the typical programmer might have books on programming syntax on their desk, the typical programmer they interviewed had never actually read a book on programming style, method, or methodology.

This month, on the ASQ blog Paul Borawski notes that perhaps thirty percent, or less, of the attendees at a typical American Society for Quality (ASQ) have heard of W. Edwards Deming, the champion of quality. He asks, in essence "Are we forgetting our history?"

Now ASQ is not talking about software test history, but instead the greater history of the Quality Movement -- specifically, quality in manufacturing.

It's kind of a big deal.

Consider, for example, Deming's Seven Deadly diseases of management. I'll quote the first five, using John Hunter's wording:
  1. Lack of constancy of purpose

  2. Emphasis on short term profits (Overreaction to short term variation is harmful to long term success. With such focus on relatively unimportant short term results focus on constancy of purpose is next to impossible.)

  3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating or annual review (see: Performance Without Appraisal: What to do Instead of Performance Appraisals by Peter Scholtes).

  4. Mobility of top management (too much turnover causes numerous problems)

  5. Running a company on visible figures alone (many important factors are "unknown and unknowable." This is an obvious statement that runs counter to what some incorrectly claim Deming taught - that you can only manage what you measure. Deming did not believe this and if fact saw it as a deadly disease of management)
When I worked at a Fortune 500 company, and even mid-sized companies with as few as 400 employees, every single one of these deadly diseases was considered a "best practice."

These practices were institutionalized. For example, one company had a web-based system to perform your annual reviews on. If you did not fill out your forms by a certain date, including your goals, targets, and management-by-objective), you were guaranteed no raise.

This was company wide.

Bear with me here, I'm seeing a trend.

Something Rotten in Quality-Land

You see, something happened after the quality revolution hit Japan, and Detroit had to struggle to keep up. Top management saw value in the Quality movement, but they were too busy with the busy business of production to do anything about it. So, at best, "quality" was delegated to some fresh, young engineer in the rear rank. "You go for it, Joe." they said "you're our quality guy."

At worst, it was shunted to a Vice President, who shunted it to a director, who created a manager of quality, who continued to delegate it until "quality" became the guy who forgot to step backwards.

Or, perhaps, something entirely different happened; quality was re-interpreted as "compliance", and the company created a "quality system" to comply with an ISO standard.

We could debate about the value of ISO-9001 for manufacturing; it certainly has it's proponents. My point is that Deming laid down seven deadly sins of management, and, twenty-odd years later, the top five, if not all of them are common, institutionalized practices in corporate America.

PLUS we have these people who are considered quality professionals, doing ... something ... working within a system that has it's thinking in diametrical opposition to the principles that Deming was proposing.

I know how that goes.

The Bad News

Being the delegated quality guy when management follows a different ideology and wants "that quality stuffs" but isn't willing to change or pay for it, yeah, that's hard. I've been that guy, and it's not much fun.

It's worse, however, to be titled the "quality guy", working in that same system, but ignorant of the craft. Again, we're stuck with at best you might make some small, occasional, modest improvements, at worst quality continues to get a bad name. The most likely case is that your organization will become infected with questionable metrics, unhelpful process documents, and the occasional template.


I see similar issues in my own tiny sub-field of software testing, mostly in the area of test automation.

I have seen organizations implement test automation, expecting test cost to go down ... only to see it actually increase.

This leads me to the maxim "When you automate tests, testing costs go up."

Before I make a wild, unsubstantiated claim like that in public, I wanted to check in with a few people. A discussion with my friend, David Christiansen helped me clarify the statement a bit.

I don't mean to criticize all test automation; I'm very excited about test automation at the developer-level. Even customer-facing tests can be done well -- if you have a tight feedback loop, or have the developers doing the automation, so if they change a GUI field, they also know to change the GUI test.

No, instead I'm talking about a very specific set of circumstances. The term David used was "when the stars align."


* Management sees value in test automation, but the developers are too busy to do the work
* So they delegate the development of the automated GUI tests to a specialist, who does the work after development.
* These tests are designed to run at the press of a button, both exercising the GUI and providing analysis and results.
* The feedback loop between development and test is long; perhaps the tests only run as a suite before release. After weeks of growing differences between the systems, the automated tests with report failures that actually 'just' changes. These differences need to be investigated and
* And the company already has a strong, disciplined testing in place, using an approach that is at least partially exploratory
* And Management expects costs to go down

Under these conditions, I see the cost of testing going up, generally without much increase in velocity (features delivered over time) or defect rate. In most cases, velocity goes down.

That is to say, I see companies paying more for software testing and getting worse results.

But ... why?

Now I don't want to paint with too broad a brush here. People have different reasons for the decisions they make; the best I could do, maybe, would be to provide some generalities; rules of thumb that are often wrong.

Perhaps 'suspicions' would be a better term.

Did you notice the pattern between the ASQ and Software Testing? We have people who were successful doing things a specific way, and have built a worldview around that ideology. They hear about an opportunity to improve, and grab at it ... then re-interpret that opportunity around the existing worldview.

Then they outsource the work, but put constraints upon the work.

"We want that 'quality' stuffs, but don't you dare touch my annual review!"

(Come to think of it, we have a very similar problem in the United States Government. But I digress.)

But how do we fix it?

I'm afraid I don't have a "mary poppins" answer to this one. It's a hard problem, and it's far to easy to say something like "the solution is dialogue and education."

By dialogue, I mean conversation.

Companies that adapt these strategy do so because they believe they will work -- and that may be possible. So when these conversations start, we can get trapped in all kinds of different mistakes. You might say "test automation" and the other person thinks developer-testing, which I'd agree can have a lot of value. Or you might say "costs go up" and deeply offend the other person. Or they might feel insulted or condescended to.

Most importantly, these conversations are best done by invitation.

By reading my blog, you asked for my opinion -- even if you disagree. Yet many times our opinion is not ask; instead, someone in authority is handing out directions.

Responding to that direction with integrity can be a challenge for all of us; I'm working on it too.

I have a number of personal initiatives for 2012, but one of them that is just starting to heat up is "Test Coach Camp", which I hope will produce more concrete guidance on Crucial Test Conversations.

Our industries are young, the pull of popular culture and cliches is strong.

We've got work to do.

Let's get to it.

My Independence Day (Or Something Like It)

Saturday, August 27, 2011 02:00 AM

Friends of the blog have probably noticed that, around May of this year, I went independent.

There wasn't really a big announcement. In April I was hit by a restructure and reduction at Socialtext. Given the market and venture capital environment, the CEO did what he had to do -- I left on good terms.

The timing was pretty good; I immediately called up my editor friends and announced that I had sudden availability, plus I finally had time to get more involved in uTest, catch up on some reading, and, just maybe, see my family a little bit more.

Yes, I also started a job hunt.

After about the second week, I started to realize that I wasn't really looking for a full-time, employee position. Oh, yes, I'd probably take a wonderful position if it came around, but it seemed that every company I was talking to wanted me to move to Florida, or Seattle, or California, and they wanted me to move right now and bet my families future on the hope that the job, or at least the job market in that area, would stick around. There were a few remote positions, but they generally had timing demands and full-time salaried expectations; no one wanted to try a contract relationship first, to see if we might be a good fit.

By the end of the second week, when I called the unemployment hotline, and it asked if I was looking for work as a full-time employee, I realized the answer was 'no', or at least 'not only.'

It was time to make Excelon Development a full-time concern, or at least, it was time for a new kind of experiment.

Four months later, I seem to be makin' it.

At the same time, I've learned a whole new world. I've learned about liability insurance, the self-employment tax, anticipated quarterly tax payments, and more.

One of the more interesting ones, at least in the United States, is the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT.

Essentially, the AMT tax is the minimum tax you can pay off your gross income, no matter what you deduct.

If you are ever considering going into a line of work where you have decent compensation, but also decent expenses -- say travel expenses when consulting -- it's certainly something to think about.

Trying to take lemons and make lemonade, I took that research and published an article on the alternative minimum tax for Adaptu.com.

Please check it out.

If you tell me what'd like you to read in the area of personal money or small business management, it's all grist for the mill of future articles. (I've been thinking of starting a money management blog, which would give me control, but I don't think I have the energy to sustain it.)

Next on the plate is examining the true cost, and true value, in going back to school at night.

More to come.

CAST 2011 Thoughts

Thursday, August 18, 2011 21:48 PM

I'm in Colorado on vacation, but waiting in a auto shop to get our minivan repaired.

Why are we in Colorado? My family is taking the long way home from the Conference for the Association for Software Testing -- yes -- driving from Seattle, Washington to West Michigan over a couple of weeks. It seems the rocky mountains were a bit much for our transmission ... at least the second time through.

I've been meaning to do a wrap-up post on CAST, and it seemed like a good time.

First off, CAST was amazing. Jon and James Bach did an impressive job attracting some of the best minds around, then created a format to set them free. The highlight for the conference for me was not the few talks I gave, but instead the Test Competition on Monday night. From 6PM to 10PM we self-organized into teams, attacked a piece of software, filed bugs, and, at the end of the night, produced a test report.

As an organizer of the conference (I helped organize the Emerging Topics Track, along with Pete Walen), I was ineligible to win a prize. If I joined a team and competed, that would make my team ineligible for any cash prizes -- and the prizes totalled fourteen hundred dollars. So when the Miagi-Do students formed a team, I tried to stay hands off. I thought I'd hang out with some folks, maybe grab a beverage with Pete Walen.

I'm afraid it did not turn out that way.

Instead, the members of the team -- Ajay Balamurugadas, Michael Larsen, Markus Gaertner, Adam Yuret, Justin Hunter, and Elena Houser -- insisted that they'd rather test with me than win a cash prize.

How do you turn that down?

So I played on the team. Along the way, several people expressed concern; after all, here I was, a conference organizer. Didn't I know the rules? Didn't my team know the rules?

It turns out, we did. We were playing for something else ... for love of the game.

I felt I could not refuse. Our team did well. Markus, Michael, and Elena all have blog posts on it; Adam tells me he has blog post in the works.

The rest of the conference, though, was pretty much a blur.

Oh, in a sense, I accomplished a big personal goal. I was elected to sit on the board of directors for the Association for Software Testing and gave my three talks without having some sort of terrible accident; most people seem to think they were helpful.

In another sense, I'm afraid my CAST experience was a mix of indebtedness and regret.

I feel in debt because of all the work people did on my behalf to make things come out well. While I proposed Emerging Topics and put the framework in place, it was Pete Walen that did the heavy lifting and acted as facilitator. Then there was the audio for my talk, that Ben Yaroch and Tim Coulter put together on no-notice. (Ben found me an audio cord to go from my computer to the project, that I failed to give back. Then I found my presentation was in a different room with different equipment, and Tim, my facilitator, ran and bought me speakers during my talk, before I needed audio. Did I mention that I was on a mac and Jon Bach brought the converter to get the video connection to work?)

Seriously. Amazing.

Then there was Michael Bolton, Jon Bach, Markus, Justin Hunter, Anne-Marie Charrett, Selena Delesie, and a few people from the audience that participated in the "How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing" panel on Tuesday:

If you are noticing the same names again and again, you're on to something. Like I said, in debt. The panel self-organized, the whole thing came off without a hitch, because of the contributions of the panel members and the interaction with the audience.

Regret because of the people I missed. Despite arriving on Sunday at 4:30PM and sticking around until Tuesday at 5:00PM, there just wasn't enough time to catch up with everyone.

I did manage to have a few minutes with Gary Masnica, only because he picked me up at the airport. I got to talk to Griffin Jones a bit, and most of the people above because, well, we had conference business to run. Yet between Selena, Lanette, Lynn Mckee, Anne-Marie, and Pete, I have to admit my conversations were the sort of quick, dash-and-run conference conversations that I am really not a fan of.

I barely got to shake Felipe's hand, I couldn't make Greg McNelly's session and barely got time to poke my head into Markus's. I even missed Gerodie Keitt's testing improv session and didn't really get a chance to talk to him, either.

In other words, if you were disappointed at my participating in CAST, well ... so was I.

I blame Jon and James: They assembled a group of people so awesome that it was not humanly possible for me to catch up with them all. I didn't even mention the keynotes yet, or other conference material ...

I suppose, if the bar for conferences continues to be set this high, that's something I'll just have to get used to.

Still, the good news is we'll get more chances. Many of these folks will be at STPCon, where I'll be staying four days.

Plus there is always 2012, more conferences, and, just maybe, Test Coach Camp.

More to come.

I can't wait!

Quality in the Executive Suite

Wednesday, August 03, 2011 03:00 AM

For this months "View from the Q", the people at the American Society for Quality recorded an after-talk chat with Dr. J.J. Irani of Tata Group, India's single largest company.

Of course, there's the typical stuff I disagree with in the talk, your typical appeals to standards like the Malcolm Baldridge award, and this idea that it's the government's business to reward companies that comply to some sort of standard for performance improvement.

Yet in this case, I think the things that we agree on are more interesting -- or at least worth talking about.

Two points stood out for me, in the second and third video.

In the second video, J.J. claims that in order to have trust, organizations must have aligned values. He goes on to say that Tata will walk away from a bad deal.

In the third, he claims that companies have a sort of obligation to contribute to the communities in which they operate. To use his analogy, you can't have a tree sprouting up in a desert -- so Tata needs to go give back some financial capital periodically. According to J.J., every time they have done this, it has paid dividends. (For example, helping to fund a local school, thus making the pool of qualified applicants larger, making it easier to hire and, since you have the people faster, easier to get things done. That's my words, not his.)

I happen to agree with both of these. Back home in West Michigan, we have a company named Bissel that makes vaccum cleaners. A few years ago, they decided that, in order to survive, they needed to sell the plants, lay off the line workers, and move manufacturing to Mexico. It is ... sad.

It's easy to be critical of Bissel, but let's face it -- Bissel lasted ten years longer than General Motors did in Flint, and twenty years longer than most of the American Textile Industry.

I can understand having to make tough decisions like that, and I don't mean to minimize it.

They tried.

But I keep thinking about that tree trying to grow in the desert.

Something's happening in the American Economy. Something fundamental.

Have you noticed what the economists are saying about a recovery? That it will be twelve to eighteen months, that we'll have growth, but that it will be slow?

Have you noticed that those are the same things they were saying in 2010?

And 2009?

And 2008, when we had the last "crisis?"

It's pretty simple math. Companies keep growing through mergers and acquisitions.

Every time you have a merger, the acquiring company now has two IT department, two HR departments, two legal departments, two data centers, two finance departments ...

When the company merges the departments, it will find duplication. Remove the duplication, have the sales folks share customer lists, cross-sell products, and, boom, mo' money.

The only problem is all the laid off people.

This isn't a cyclical problem. It is a systemic problem.

Getting executives to sit down and talk about trust and long-term consequences might not solve it, but hey, it's a start.

A Town-Hall Announcement -- and some articles, too!

Saturday, July 30, 2011 15:33 PM

As I've mentioned before, I am currently running for a director position in the Association For Software Testing (AST); I also have a bit of news on that front.

First, the AST has posted a Nominations and Elections Page with a biographical sketch of each speaker.

Second, the candidates for the board (except for Dr. Kaner) will be hosting a live, free town-hall style event on twitter Monday, August 1st 2011, from 9:00PM-10:00PM Eastern USA time. Just ask your question on twitter and use the hashtag #ASTElect.

Any reasonable question is fair game. You may target individuals, but we would prefer general questions that anyone may answer.

Come to twitter. Learn about AST, the candidates, maybe make a more informed vote. Maybe even help us understand, frame, and deal with the issues you think are important in our community.

Only one thing is certain: If you don't show up, we won't know what you'd like to see, or what you care about.

In Other News

I've done a bit of publishing lately -- first an article on Responsible Bug Reporting and Triage for SoftwareDevelopmentConnection.com.

At the same time, I've been slowly building a series on the skeptics guide to project management; the first four installments are online now.

Part I: What Project Managers Actually Do
Part II: Winning Agreement
Part III: Critical Chain
Part IV: Evidence-Based Scheduling

I hope you enjoy them.

Vote for Matt!

Monday, July 25, 2011 23:50 PM

Recently the Association for Software Testing (AST) announced it's 2011 slot of candidates for the board of directors. Vote for Matt, get free stuff!

Well, actually ... sorta. I've published a few articles lately that you might be interested in, and they are all here:

* Esther Derby gave a keynote at the second ever Conference for the AST, in 2007. This year Esther is speaking at the Agile Conference on tools for managers, and I recently interviewed her on that subject for SearchSoftwareQuality -- Part I and Part II of her interviews just went public.

* Speaking of SearchSoftwareQuality, they just ran my interview with Jeff Sutherland on his Agile 2011 talk on Scrum in Sales.

* Informit.com continues my series on the Skeptics Guide to Project Management - with Part Two and Part Three. (Missed part one? Here you go.)

* Speaking of InformIT.com, they just ran my interview with Corey Haines


Other news -- if you are coming to CAST 2011 in Seattle, and getting in early Sunday, and don't want to eat dinner alone, well ... do you like Thai food?

The Rebel Alliance is organizing a dinner Sunday night. Drop me an email (matt.heusser@gmail.com) to get on the invite list.

See you in Seattle, and (I sure hope) vote for Matt!

If you want to vote, and not for Matt, please drop me an email and give me a chance to earn your vote.

Look, I'm not a political type. I don't know how to do this stuff.

But that earning your vote stuff? I am completely serious.

Controversies in Software Testing

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:49 AM

My article "Controversies in Software Testing" was published in the July Issue of the Testing Planet.

The issue is available now to anyone with a print subscription; the PDF will be available as a free download later in July.

It's a ground-breaking issue -- the first three articles are written by Markus Gaertner, Michael Larsen, and me, all members of the Miagi-Do School of Software Testing.

I'll be sure to post the free link here when it's up. In the mean time, if you don't subscribe, take a look at the Planet. It's a bit of a lone voice in the UK/European test community, a group that could use some support right now.

I've been busy ... no seriously

Friday, July 08, 2011 00:09 AM

Last month I started a new blog called "Unchartered Waters", for IT Knowledge Insights, on general IT, with a bit of a focus on Software As A Service and Cloud Technologies. Here's my first seven blog entries:

Navigating The Waters
On Cloud Adoption
Your First Public Cloud - Part I
Your First Public Cloud - Part II
Tough Tech Love - I
Tough Tech Love - II
Was Nicholas Carr Right?

In addition to the writing for ITKnowledge Exchange, I've done a bit more:

Tactics for Testing in the Cloud with Catherine Powell. No, you have NOT read that one before, it is not Testing in the Cloud: Considering the Risks and it is also not Software Testing Enters the Cloud.

After that, you've got my personal finance article on The Two Income Trap and Freelancing as Economic Freedom.

Finally, I just published an article with InformIT.com: The Skeptic's Guide to Project Management, Part I.

More to come ... but right now ... I think i'm going to sleep.

CAST 2011 Emerging Topics - Deadline Extension

Sunday, July 17, 2011 16:27 PM

So Pete Walen and I talking yesterday about the CAST 2011 Emerging Topics Track, and it's July 1st Deadline.

We have plenty of proposals already, but we thought "if we gave folks another week, what are the odds that we at least one strong proposal, or feedback that improves the selection process?"

We figured the odds were greater than zero.

So we are extending the deadline to propose for the CAST 2011 Emerging Topics (and the deadline to give feedback) to July 8th, 2011.

If you'd like an invitation to the wiki, email Pete Walen or Matt Heusser with your request.