Sunday, October 28, 2007

StarWest 2007 Recap

Hi everyone!

Janet and I had a good week at StarWest last week, along with 1,300 or so of our fellow software testers. I thought I would pass along a few observations for those of you who didn't make it there.

First, many thanks to SQE for inviting me to speak again this year. And many thanks to those who attended by tutorial on Becoming an Influential Test Team Leader and the track session on Taming the Code Monolith – A Tester's Perspective. I plan to have the narrated slide show posted this week sometime.

The full-day leadership tutorial is always a joy to present because I get to meet so many people from all over the world that want to be the best at leading their team. We had over 100 people in the tutorial, which can be a challenge in terms of exercises, but those went well.

I sometimes wonder why some people do the things they do, but I also realize that you can learn a lot by just observing. Case in point – there was one lady on the very front row that from the outset of the workshop chose to read a magazine. Everyone else was engaged and appeared to be interested.

At the first exercise, she left and didn't return. The interesting thing is that the exercise involved working in small teams and everyone getting a card. Each card had a different action or indicated a role. She must have gotten the card that read “You are the Leader!” because that team started the exercise and learned they had no leader. However, someone in the team stepped up with no prompting and led. I guess I know who the real leader was!

I wasn't offended that she left and I truly hope she found a session that was more to her liking. I just could not help but note the contrast between the people who were engaged and those who just sit back and watch. That's why I give everyone a chance to participate – ask a question, share a tip, debate a point, you name it.

So, if you ever attend one of my leadership workshops be prepared. You may be called upon to lead!

By the way, we also made our own list of major testing challenges. We arrived at 30 of them! Guess what, there were none that were purely technical. Most were human in origin and a few were both human and technical.

As for keynotes, one of my favorites was Dot Graham's and Mark Fewster's (Grove Consultants, UK) keynote address on the “Five Doings of Software Testing”. It's not easy to do a duet keynote and they did it very well. On every “doing” they kept the audience engaged. The five doings are searching, checking, assessing, measuring and sampling.

Another keynote address I really liked was Lee Copeland's “The Nine Forgettings.” It was all about the things it seems we software testers have forgotten in recent years, such as lessons from the early pioneers of our field. (Only a few people could name even three out of seven of the pioneers on the slide.) It was a great session to remind us that we need to keep the foundations in mind. Lee handled an interesting group of questions toward the end on topics ranging from the future of testing to the value of test certifications.

My favorite presentation on SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) was by Brian Bryson of IBM. He used the basic Eclipse framework to build and test a simple web service. He presented some lessons learned by the teams at IBM and was just overall a very informative presentation. By the way, there was a decent sized group in the room and it seems that quite a few people are looking to learn how to test SOA. That's encouraging as I am rolling out my new SOA Testing course in two weeks!

I finally got a chance to attend Julie Gardener's (of Grove Consultants, UK) presentation on classification trees. Julie did a great job and her session brought me up to speed quickly on this technique which I plan to add to my intermediate testing course.

Speaking of the “Grovers”, they all did a great job and I appreciate them making the long trip over. They always share very valuable information in very engaging ways. Lloyd Roden presented his Top Ten Testing Myths and Illusions talk, which is always a great session to get people thinking about testing.

(Thanks to the Grove Players for inviting me to be part of their "A Christmas Carol - Testers Version". That's one of my favorites!)

One final note is on Robert Watkin's presentation on the Top Ten Signs You Need to Improve Your Testing Process. I felt a special sense of appreciation for his presentation since we both hail from Oklahoma City and I was able to give him a little advance feedback. Robert had a good sized group in his session and I liked the way he opened up the session for other people to contribute their experiences. Job well done!

I regret that I didn't see the “Testing on the Toilet” presentation by Bharat Mediratta and Antoine Picard from Google. I heard good things about it.

As I close this posting, my thoughts and prayers are with the people in California who have lost their homes and possessions in the fires which started last week. Last week was brutal weather-wise. Temps were in the high 80s+, winds were very high (clocked at over 100 mph on the mountain tops – I estimate about 60 mph at the hotel) and the smoke was everywhere. In the DFW airport on the way home I saw the interview on Larry King's show with Ken Blanchard, who lost his home in the fires. His attitude and faith are an inspiration to me. His words of wisdom were that his family was safe and that's what mattered most, He told about how his church and Christian friends had rallied around him and the other victims. That's how it should be – the Church being there for people.

Thanks for reading this long and winding post. More to come soon.

Best regards,


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Making the Leap to a Mac

Last week was a very difficult week for me, technically speaking. On Monday morning, about 3 hours before leaving to conduct workshops in Chicago and Indianapolis, my Toshiba notebook would not boot. Actually, I did get it to boot after waiting about 30 minutes.

Thankfully, I managed to burn a CD of all my presentations for the week, but it was with a sense of fear and dread that I powered it down. Long story short is that Windows went bye-bye on me.

You might be thinking, just reinstall Windows, right? No, Toshiba didn't make it that easy. Their “recovery” CD is actually a reformat CD, which formats the hard drive before it reinstalls Windows.

So I found myself in downtown Chicago (with no vehicle) early Monday evening searching for a new notebook. I've had it with this Toshiba. Nothing but problems since I've had it. Even as I type this, I realize that “hey, the cursor doesn't randomly jump four or five lines above where I'm typing.” That's nice. How sad that I had grown to accept such poor quality.

First stop was Staples. At first I was excited because they were having a blow-out sale on notebooks. The bad news was that they were all blown out. The shelves were empty of computers.

Next stop was Office Max Express where they only had pens, paper clips and other office supplies for the office worker in a paper-based emergency.

Finally, I headed up the Magnificent Mile to the Apple Store. Things seemed to be leading me to this choice. I've been thinking about switching to a MacBook for sometime now and I guess this was the right time.

After explaining my situation (er, crisis) to the salesperson, she hooked me up with a sweet little 13” MacBook that is a pleasure to use. The next evening, I got the Parallels application and Windows XP, so I can now run my Windows applications that won't run on a Mac. It looks odd to see the XP desktop on a Mac (desecration, I'm sure some would say), but aside from a procedural bug in Parallels, the whole thing with XP works great. In fact, it seems to run faster than my Toshiba, which isn't much of a surprise.

Another cool thing is the 30 second boot up time. That may not last for long, but for right now it's great.

I am having to get used to the differences in usage, such as the mainly single-click and the no right click (it's ctrl and click). I'm a fast learner, though!

I've been working now for over 2 hours and the batter is still going strong. My Toshiba's battery life was down to around 8 minutes (really). I had bought an external power source just so I could work on the plane.

And then there's the coolness. I've never owned a cool computer (and I'm not talking about not overheating like my Toshiba does on occasion). No longer than 30 minutes after I had bought the MacBook, two people commented that I wouldn't regret buying it. Some expressed envy.

I really don't think I'm going to regret the switch. One week now, and things are still great. No regrets at all - only smooth computing. I'm sure I'll have to work through a few issues along the way, but for now, it's just nice to be able to work on the road with a fast, reliable, usable and , oh a cool, computer.