Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday at the Oklahoma City Moodle Moot

Today we heard from Martin Dougiamas, the original developer of Moodle and still the leader, who explained where Moodle came from and where it is going. He said something I found interesting that we as testers already know. He admitted that version 1.7 was a bad release and that his lesson learned was not to release a version just to meet a deadline. Amen, brother!

Martin asked “What is the single most powerful technique for online learning?” In the audience we had several good answers, such as collaboration, communication, etc. His answer was “Asking questions.” He said that's when the learning activity increases. I think that's a good thing to remember for either live training or e-learning. In fact, I offer an optional teleconference session for my corporate e-learning clients and may soon expand that to all of my e-learning students.

The idea is to offer people the opportunity to ask questions about what they have learned in the e-learning sessions. If people don't ask me question, then I ask them questions. Sometimes I say outrageous things just to get a debate going!

This has been a very valuable conference. I have learned more in two days of intense questioning and exposure than I have learned in three years of using Moodle! It's the best $99 I've ever spent on training!

I'm excited to say that I am committed to:

1) Getting to the most recent version of Moodle, which will add great value to all of my students,
2) Being more active in the local and international Moodle community,
3) Being a help to others who want to implement Moodle to enhance their students' learning success.

Stay tuned, folks. This is going to be great!

Monday, June 23, 2008

MoodleMoot in Oklahoma City

Today and tomorrow I'm at the Oklahoma City MoodleMoot. "What's a MoodleMoot?", you ask. Well, it's a conference for people who use the Moodle open-source learning management system (LMS) for e-Learning.

I've been a Moodle user/administrator now for over 3 years as this is the LMS we use for all of the e-learning courses at Rice Consulting Services.

Why is it called Moodle? The idea is that you learn by exploring. So, instead of a forced order of learning, you can experience a variety of topics.

So, why am I here instead of doing something billable? There are many reasons:

1) I am practicing what I preach about building personal skills.

2) This is not a software testing conference, so I get to meet all kinds of new people.

3) It's local to me. What a great opportunity!

4) I have a goal for my e-learning offerings to be the very best available in the field of software testing.This is a place I can learn new ideas to incorporate in my e-learning courses for software testing and software quality.

5) My wife likes me to get out of the house once in a awhile! :-)

A few observations from today:
  • A great majority of the people here are educators from the academic community - colleges, high schools, technical schools, etc.I'm one of the minority using Moodle in the corporate world. Some have never used Moodle before and some are experienced Moodle administrators.
  • I'm learning that I've been doing a lot of things right in the design and delivery of my e-learning courses.By the way, the average evaluation overall score is over 8 on a scale of 10 for RCS e-learning courses. (We get rave reviews from people worldwide who have found my e-learning courses to be an effective way to balance work time and training time.) My courses are designed in a modular way to start with, so when I developed the online versions, the flow was easy for students to understand and follow. In my courses, people aren't over whelmed with choices, assignments and other distractions.
  • There is a very robust and deep community around Moodle. That helps a lot when dealing with open source software.In fact, I wish some of the commercial products I use had the level of support that Moodle does.
  • I've picked up all kinds on cool ideas to enhance what we are currently doing with e-learning at RCS. Things, such as closed captioning for videos, building online communities, etc.
  • There are security risks in e-learning, just like in any other application. I knew that already, but sometimes you need to see the uniqueness of the threats.
This is a very "how-to" event. There are many people with notebook computers, like myself, taking notes,trying things, googling, etc.

Now, the BIG chalenge will be to implement all the great ideas!

Have you tried e-learning for software testing? If so, what did you like or not like about it?

If you haven't done so already, drop by my e-learning site and experience a demo. (Just login as a guest.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One Way to Show the Value of Software Testing Training

I'm in London, ON this week presenting my Agile and Exploratory Testing class. London is a cool place. Today, it was literally cool! One of the things I enjoy doing here is browsing through the used bookstores. For some reason, there are several close to each other in the downtown area.

I forgot to mention in my last post that I had a great Father's day. I visited my dad and my sons and family were with me. All was good. What a blessing.

I was having lunch with a friend and client recently. He told me an interesting story that I want to share. Last August I designed and held a special public course that about 30 people from this one organization attended. There were developers, testers, subject matter experts, plus (most importantly) their managers all in one class for two days.

My friend said that the release they were working on at that time had to go through two cycles of beta testing, each costing about $20,000. The second cycle was due to the extra rework of excessive defects.

Their most recent release had significantly higher quality, which allowed the release to be issued with only one cycle of beta testing - roughly a savings of $20,000 over the last release.

So, I asked my friend, "Do you think the training was part of that improvement." He answered, "I really do. Mainly because the developers and their manager saw the need for better unit testing and learned ways to perform it."

As you look for ways to measure the value of training in software testing, this is an example of one way to do that. Of course, there were other factors. However, I also think the training was a platform to allow the team to do a better job.

I assure you that the savings exceeded the cost of the event!

If you would like to see similar results, contact me. I would love to discuss the possibilities with you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Catching Up

I've been back from Rome over a week now and I am still trying to catch up with things.

I didn't have a problem with the jet lag. My trick is to get as much sleep as possible going over and not sleep at all until nighttime. Then, coming home, I try to stay awake as long as possible and not sleep until my normal bed time. It worked fine this time.

I've been busy:

1) Preparing for presenting my Agile and Exploratory Testing course this week in London, ON.

2) Getting my ISTQB online course, Foundation Level Course in Software Testing, narration updated. (We were accredited officially last week!)

3) Finishing the writing for the 2nd edition of Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing.

4) Conducting a webinar for the EuroStar conference. It was a real pleasure to be on the call with James Whittaker! I'll have the link for you this week to hear the replay.

5) Tons of misc things - e-mail, etc.

I went to my high school reunion Saturday night. I was in the class of 74 at Chickasha High School, but it was a multi-class reunion, which is a great idea (73 - 78). It was great to see many people from my past, including some of the faculty. It reminded me once again how much these teachers contributed to who I am today. I learned how to communicate and got into radio and video production because of John Foster. I learned about the art and craft of writing by being a slacker in Betty Glasscock's English class. I programmed one of my first computers in Mrs. Wallace's Math Analysis class. It was interesting that when I told people what I do today, many said they weren't surprised.

To complete the journey back in time, I also checked out the open house for the old Washita Theatre in Chickasha where I worked one summer between radio jobs. I also saw many movies there, such as Blazing Saddles, many 007 flicks and Deliverance (about 30 times when I was a doorman). Funny thing - everything looked smaller! It was cool to see it again.

By the way, this is an older picture of the theatre, before renovation.

I hope to have a series of posts this week that are more testing oriented!

Have a great week!


Monday, June 02, 2008

Greetings from Rome!

Greetings from Rome where I am preparing to teach two courses this week: Structured User Acceptance Testing and SOA Testing.

I always like to arrive 2 or 3 days in advance of training overseas just to get adjusted to the time before I start teaching. Plus, in Rome there's always a lot to see and do.
Today (Monday) is a bank holiday here so I'll be exploring around one more day. The past two days I have been walking quite a bit. My plan was to get a 48-hour ticket on one of the open busses that travel around the city. I figured that I could stay awake and yet not get too tired.

Saturday was great. I arrived Rome about 8 a.m., got into the hotel by about 10 a.m. and hopped on the bus at 2:00 p.m. The great thing about these busses is that you can hop on and hop off at key stops and you have access for 48 hours. There's also a recorded narration that is about 30 seconds behind the thing you just passed.

Sunday was not great in terms of the bus service, or lack thereof. It was a classic load issue. Too many people, too few busses. One might think that a useful strategy would be once you get a seat - keep it. However, at various stops they made everyone get off the bus. Then, to get back on the bus was nearly impossible. Unless, of course, they made everyone get off the bus. Mama mia!

So, I took a leisurely stroll from the Termini station to the Circus Maximus (complete with Roman soldiers. I'm not sure what that was all about, but I felt like I was in a time warp.). That took about an hour.

Along the way I saw all kinds of cool things, like the Colosseum and the Forum. It's warm and humid here - a lot like Oklahoma except without the tornadoes. So, I was ready for ANY ride to get me close to the hotel.

I finally got on a bus, but not on the open part. I didn't care. You might say I enjoyed as much as I could stand!

There actually is a point to this story. In teaching about test scripts, I often say they are like bus tours. You go where the bus goes, whether you want to or not. I thought about this analogy a few times the past couple of days. However, one thing that caused me to think about test scripts in a new way is what happens when you have to get back on the bus (script) and can't get back on.

That happens in testing using scripts sometimes. Unless your scripting is well constructed and organized, you may have trouble getting back to the point of getting a reliable test. In other words, it may be hard to test what you have intended to test.

And, sometimes you test so much using scripts you just want to get out and walk. That's what I did on this trip to see the Trevi Fountain. Also, that's where my trouble started, but I'm still glad I took the option to hop off the bus.

When testing software, you may also see the need to hop off the bus to explore things. That's fine as long as hopping off the script doesn't mess up other related tests. I often note the things I want to explore and come back a little later to test them.

Well, it's off for another day of exploring Rome!