Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mental Health 109 - The long grief. Five years on ...

Today was an emotional day.  It's Violet's 40th birthday - but those who've read for a while will know my good friend Violet died 5 years ago.  I've written a lot about my early grief when she died, but with a lot of people around me going through their own journey, I want to move the story forward into the present day a little.

Violet's death at 35 is probably the hardest bombshell I've ever had to deal with.  It was death of someone I loved so very much at an age which to be honest was unfair.

That first week, it was like there was this extreme emotion trapped within me - it felt too big to be kept inside, and like I'd burst at the seems from it.  And yet I remember being so much more angry than sad.  So very angry.

Although no-one was to blame, it just felt she died too soon, and it wasn't fair or right or just.

Not being able to attend the funeral made things that much harder.  I held a brief ceremony myself, but it was difficult.  I didn't have many mutual friends, but I was really lucky to have a lady named Jenny Day who I could talk about her so much with.  And I did talk a lot.  But in a lot of ways I felt like I was going through this myself.

But most of all the grief lingered.  Every night, just going to sleep was a struggle, because your mind always drifted to her.  It felt like all the joy had been sucked out from life.

It was the common bonds of our friendship which were harder to go on alone.  I deleted all my Regina Spektor from my MP3 players, and I stopped watching Doctor Who.  Because these were things I'd shared with her, and now they just brought me such inconsolable pain.

Over Christmas, my son and I listened to the autobiography of Donald Malarkey, one of the famous Easy Company Parachutists.  The thing I most identified with was his tale of grief over losing his best friend, Skip Monk, and how that grief followed him around, never really leaving.

Looking back 5 years on, I'm often surprised how the grief is still there.  It's still very powerful and emotional, and yet it's a gentler grief.  Like feelings of melancholy over anguish.  I'm not a great believer in the afterlife or ghosts, but often it feels like she's just next to me, only slightly out of sight and out of reach.

They say "as long as you remember them, they're not really dead" - but I hate that cliche, although at the same time seeing some truth in it.  If you live your life like Violet lived, you are someone who is nurturing of others, someone who is passionate and makes a difference.  Though Violet has been long gone now, those changes in me that her love and her friendship brought about remain.  That's probably why she always feels so very close, especially when I'm most alone, because I do carry the best bit of her within my heart.

In on odd way, the hardest part of dealing with it is moving on.  You love your departed friend, but you don't want to turn your life into a devotion to her memory that you forget that you're still alive.  When you've lost such a close friend, you're afraid of making new friends, in part because you're worried you're just looking to replace them.  But also, because having lost one friend, you sometimes want to just withdraw into isolation so you never feel that pain again.

Life has been good though, and in my own way I've managed to move on - somehow I've picked up new friends, including best friends which fill some of the hole she left behind.  I still have grief - maybe I'll always have it, but somehow it's a less scary grief - one which seems to be capable of having great beauty concurrently with a gentle sadness.  And I think there will always be a place in my heart for the girl who will always be 35, and where she left her mark ...

She loved the watercolours of John William Waterhouse, and somehow in the haunting story of The Lady Of Shallot, there is something which powerfully resonates with the tale of my Violet.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How I learned to stop worrying, and embrace public speaking ...

When I was at school, public speaking in any form terrified me - and some people find that hard to believe now.

As part of a project, I've recorded a discussion into speaking (well doing is often more effective than just saying), do enjoy, and do let me have feedback if you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Writing a kick-ass defect!

I was asked by a graduate tester about just what should go into a good defect report.  It's a really good question, and to my surprise, something I've never written about, although in a way whether we give defect reports in a written form, or a verbal form, thinking about the information you provide when reporting a defect part of the key role of a tester.  After all, if we're not able to tell someone else, that bug isn't going to go away any time soon!

Obviously, different project will have different defect templates.  However you're bound in your career to find places where you'll find none at all, so thinking about what you need to provide is a valuable skill.

I've written many defect reports, but I've also been a developer who's fixed them.  So I know what's helpful, and what's not.  Something I really encourage new testers to read is a humorous meme of supposed log book communications between pilots and ground crew.  The pilot is vague about the issues, so the ground crew are vague about their resolution back.  Don't let this happen to you!

As with most things - writing a great defect answers some very generic questions of What-How-Why-Where-When!

So let's start the ball rolling - you're using your companies new trial piece of software, and something just doesn't seem right about it.  Let's start defining it ...


In a nutshell, what is the problem?  This should be a real brief summary of what the problem is.

I like to think of it in terms of elevator pitches.  Imagine you've just got into the ground floor elevator with your project manager.  You get off at the 3rd floor, she gets off at the 4th.  And she asks you "hey, I heard you found a defect this morning?".

You have 3 floors, and about 20 seconds to summarise what you've encountered.  This is a real skill in summarising what you've found to a one sentence tag.  But believe me, defects like episodes of Friends are remembered as "the one with the...".

If you have a super and concise "what the problem is" summary, it probably belongs as your title.  That way, anyone reading through your defect system will go "ah".

Hint - when you go to talk to a developer about a defect you've logged, it's best not to quote just the number.  very few people remember bug 666.  That "the one where ..." summary will be the best way you have to job their memory!


Okay - you've summarised the problem.  But how did you cause it to happen?

The how is a way of "repeating your steps".  Ideally with a defect, you'll be able to repeat a series of steps, and repeat the unusual behaviour.

Repeatability of a defect is great.  But sometimes you just can't repeat the behaviour.  What then?  Well that's when you have to use your judgement - often depending on how much of an issue you think it was.  It's always worth talking through with a developer.

This is one of the reasons I like to use a screen recorder when I can, because it records exactly what I did and where the issues happened.  It is alright though to have defects that can't be repeated, but it's best to put on it "I'm not able to repeat".

Oh - and they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so never underestimate the power of a screenshot!


Why is this a problem?  For you to be raising this as an issue you must find there's something you don't like about what you've seen.

Sometimes it's very black and white, "the requirement says the page should display your account details, and instead it displays nothing".  Likewise, if you encountered a blue screen of death, you can be pretty sure that's not "as per design".

But sometimes you might raise a defect because there is something going on which doesn't feel right.  It bugs you (another word we use for defect).

Your description of why will lead you to another description of a defect which is important - it's severity.  Typically in projects there are more defects and oddities than time to fix.  So people tend to focus on the things which are causing the most pain.

Severity is how severe a problem something is.  If you're causing your machine to blue screen regularly, that's pretty severe, and going to impact what you can test.  If you have a spelling mistake, that's less of a problem, and certainly not going to impact your testing too much.  However as it doesn't take much of a spelling mistake to make a swear word (as the test manager who emailed me with a mispelled request for "defect counts" found out).  And although it's true to say we testers live to report these kind of defects, they can actually have a functional impact - if you have a system which generates an automated email which includes a swear word, it's likely some e-mail filters are going to put it in the junk pile!

Generally though - although there are grids and standards for defect severity, I've found you just tend to pick this up through experience.  In truth, if you get everything else right about your defect and leave the severity blank, most people can choose appropriately from the information you've provided.  But experience helps you to find tune this.

Where and When

When it comes to retracing your steps where it happened and when it happened helps.

Where - well just that.  You might have a couple of test environments, so it helps to know that.  If you're on a web application, the kind of browser (and version) usually helps.  And indeed the machine.  All this information goes double for mobile devices of course!

When can be handy too - sometimes it's known for someone to be doing a release to an environment, and forget to tell testing.  Shocking huh - but it does happen.  Or indeed it allows a developer to look through the logs around about that time to see if anything peculiar was going on in the logs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Battle Of The Winshill Rec: And how it affects you as a tester ...

There are many shades of bullying - some so subtle, half the trap is that we don't even recognise or name it as such.

But at Abbott Beyne School, there was nothing subtle about the bullying I encountered as a young teen.  There was a gang who held Winshill in a grip of fear.  When they decided to pick on someone, they'd form a circle around them, and start to beat them up.  You were never attacked by the person in front of you - it was always a punch, a kick or a knee from behind.

Everyone was afraid of the Hawfield gang - but there was something they did to people that was far worse, and stripped them of even more.  They'd walk up to a group, but often just pick on one.   If you weren't the one being picked on, you'd just stand there and do nothing.  Too terrified to intervene even on the behalf of your friend or your brother.  Whether you were being kicked, or just watching, you felt robbed of your self-respect.  Powerless.

And then one day, someone decided they'd had enough.  It was a summer holiday, and everyone knew the gang spent most of the day at the Winshill Recreational Park "the Rec" holding court.  In those pre-cell phone days of the 1980s, the word spread like wildfire - if you'd ever been wronged by the Hawfield gang, be at the Rec at 3pm.

So there we were - me and my brother.  We'd both been caught the wrong side of this gang.  We had no idea if we'd be the only ones.  There were some nerves.  And then we arrived ... and we were far from alone.  In fact it turns out there were crowds at every entrance to the park.  It felt like the battle in Gladiator.

This gang had attacked me and my brother and countless others.  It was an age pre-bullying awareness.  And they'd made us feel weak, like no one cared, like we didn't matter.  Standing in that crowd is one of my brother's favourite memories of childhood.  Standing in that crowd we learned that contrary to what the Hawfield gang had tried to drum into us - we weren't alone, we weren't weak, we did matter.  It was a euphoric moment of clarity.

It was their turn to run - although they didn't get far.  I don't remember actually kicking anyone when they were down ... but I'm pretty sure I helped carry and dump them in the nearby stream.

It was a watershed moment - the gang was broken after that.  Some individual bullying did still go on, but the terror was gone.  And we'd done it ourselves.

There are of course some pretty terrible lessons you can take from this.  Perhaps that the answer to all societies ills is just to form a bigger gang and return to others what you've been dealt with?  Ironically that's just how some gangs start out ...

This weekend we had our companies first Test Camp - it was an amazing experience as testers from several cities within our company managed to share our experiences, network, discuss.  We gave feedback at the end of it, and one comment really blew me away "I no longer feel alone".

That comment took me back to the Battle Of The Winshill Rec.  We may be out of school, but there's a lot of that experience which we're still living out.

  • Peer pressure - hey all your fellow testers are doing scripting and metrics.  You don't want to be the odd one out do you?
  • Intimidation - let's face it, we're having schemes like ISTQB and ISO 29119 imposed on us.  We're called unprofessional if we oppose them.

If you have never read David Greenlees experience you need to.  This was where someone "representing ISTQB" wrote to his CEO over his public objections to the scheme, in an attempt to wreck his career.  Yes, that's the kind of bullying which can go on about having an opinion in testing.  Fortunately David seems to have a CEO who recognised this as the nonsense it was. 

The tyranny within testing is that there are forces and interests which seem to impose schemes and actions.  Some are well meaning but misguided, and others simply that certain parties have "an agenda".

The solution, much like the Battle Of Winshill Rec is that as testers we need to mobilise.  That means YOU, the person reading this post becoming more active in the testing community.  Consider it a challenge.

Back in the September issue of Testing Circus, to celebrate four years of the magazine, I talked about how helpful it had been in my first steps in writing.  But beyond that I laid the gauntlet for others to consider picking up their pen.  Consider writing something for a magazine.  Get active on Twitter.  Find allies online and in real life with whom you can have meaningful conversations about testing.  Sometimes you might not agree - but that's okay!  Try to find common ground where you can, but explore your differences.  That's how you learn!

Maybe after David Greenlees experience, that would be enough to make you really fearful?  However I will tell you that most companies love to have testers who are passionate about what they do - so long as they are professional, and do not talk openly about customers or those they work with.  I myself always try and anonymise events and data.  Push comes to shove - you can always use a handle/fake name.  Indeed it was because I was originally unsure of my companies reaction to my blogging, that I used the handle of TestSheepNZ over "Mike Talks, Tester For Hire".  But when my company found out - they loved the fact!

That's the way we face our own Battle Of Winshill Rec, and realise we as a community of professionals are not insignificant, have a voice and are a lot more empowered than we might be led to believe.

[But please - no flushing the head of your ISTQB tutor down the toilet ... however tempting]

Friday, March 13, 2015

Death comes for Pratchett

It's with absolute sadness I've just read this morning of the death of Terry Pratchett.

I was introduced to his writing through my brother.  That in itself was a minor miracle, as my brother wasn't really a big reader.  And yet he devoured Terry's books with an eager hunger.

To those who are unfamiliar with his work, it must seem a little odd.  Terry wrote mainly about fantasy - most are set on his Discworld, a flat world which is carried through space on the back of a giant turtle (although some people occasionally believe it to the spherical).

Certainly if you read the books in order, the first few feel more like your standard fantasy romp - with wizards and barbarian warriors.  But the more he wrote, but sharper his satire got, and the more the Discworld seemed to mirror our own culture in subtle ways.

An example of this is the Ankh-Morpork Fire Service which is mentioned several times.  Together with a warning about what happens when you pay people a rate according to the number of fires they put out.  With a reward system based upon "the more that burns, the more you earns", the Fire Service is said to have become filled with arsonists.

Another favourite is the "democracy" of Ankh Morpork which is "one man, one vote".  The dictator known as the Patrician alone is "the man" and he gets the only vote.

Key themes in his book have included

  • Cross cultural integration - many stories are told in the metropolis of Ankh Morpork, where humans are trying to live in relative harmony with dwarves and trolls.  Hint - it's considered suicide to talk into a dwarf bar and ask for a short.
  • Mob thinking - much like our world, people seem ready to follow like sheep pretty much anyone.  Especially if they have a glittering sword.  They're convinced that if a King returns, they'll make everything right.  Here "everything right" extends from sorting out the post office to stopping their husband snoring, according to who you ask.
  • Technology/magic gone amok - although a magical world, there is a certain logic to the Discworld.  As the books have progressed, they've introduced technology such as the Clacks.  Which is a kind of mobile phone technology using semaphore (people stand on street corners with a couple of paddles to send messages).  Often this has an impact on the world, in unexpected ways.

To me then, his writing has really encouraged a level of critical thinking about the world.  Much like the I, Robot series of Isaac Asimov - where there are 3 laws or robotics which can both remain true, but according to context bring out some weird behaviour in robots - I think some of his books are a must read for any tester just to challenge them, and to expand their minds.  Indeed, I have a new graduate on my team who is an avid fan, and not surprisingly they're shaping up to have the makings of a great tester.

Beyond just his writing though - I met him almost 21 years ago at a book signing in Birmingham with my brother.  It was actually quite quiet, and so we got to chat a bit with him.  I always fear meeting people I admire, because you're worried that in person they won't measure up.  But in fact in person he seemed wittier and had more charm about him than I'd imagined.

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2007 it just seemed too cruel.  He was such a sharp mind, and to know he faced losing that vital trait seemed doubly sad.  Having watched Alzheimers "dissolve" the personality of my beloved grandmother, it's a condition I would not wish on anyone or their family.  And yet, he used his remaining years to really champion about the condition, and talk about it in a series of documentaries as a taboo we'd rather not think about until it happens to us or someone we love.

The doom of his body living on whilst his mind had long since departed terrified him.  And he spoke openly about choosing euthanasia before his mind failed like that.

Ironically one of Terry's most famous characters was that of Death, who appeared in every book of his.  Described as an "anthropomorphic personification", it's a character who has a lot of charm.  He often comes into the real world to try and experience life (and has a horse named Binky), so he can better understand and get rapport with those he ferries to the afterlife.

Sadly, today Terry got to meet the real thing ...

Death trying to cover for the Discworlds Hogfather/Santa Claus - a fellow "anthropomorphic personification"

Sometimes there is that one picture which gets the mood of a story like this - and here it is.  Artist unknown.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Farewell Leonard Nimoy

Growing up can be a grim affair - especially in early 80s England.  The news seemed ever present with tales of flare ups between America and Soviet Russia in the cold war.  And we were obsessed with the question of whether possessing nuclear weapons ourselves as such a small country deterred invasion, or just put us on the frontline of nuclear invasion.

It was something that just seemed to be reinforced in so many lessons at school.  In physics talking about fusion and fission, we were reminded how one modern nuclear weapon would take out most of the country.  In history we studied not only the decision and effect of the bomb at Hiroshima, but the after effect, with the knowledge of how many orders of magnitude more powerful modern weapons had got.  And in English, we were made to watch Threads (a story about nuclear war, and how society would unravel) alongside reading the book Z For Zachariah, a tale about post-nuclear holocaust survival.

Somehow the popular lyric from the Morrissey song "Ask" summed up the mood of many, "if it's not love, then it's the bomb ... that will bring us together".

And then there was Star Trek.  Creator Gene Roddenberry often attributed it's success to it's "optimistic vision of the future".  It was the 23rd Century, and somehow mankind had avoided annihilation and reached for the stars.  It's little wonder then that I found myself wanting to lose myself in this world.

And then there was this guy ...

Life as a young teenager is one of confusion - in my scenario above, a little more so.  To say the I identified with the character of Spock, somehow doesn't do it enough justice.

He was smart, strong (as a boy going through a growth spurt you seem suddenly to get super-strength compared to the puny thing you used to be), seemed to have a haircut given to him this the aid of his mother and a bowl and as the only alien on a ship of humans, always a bit of the outsider.

He was a character who displayed a calm and rational demeanor, finding any show of emotion somewhat vulgar (typical teen boy then).  But beneath it all he had the same emotions as all of us bubbling up, and sometimes in episodes such as The Naked Now, they came to the surface.

He tried to appear that he didn't need friends around him, and yet he had them anyway.

He was then to myself and to many others, a character we found a deep connection with - someone who somehow went through many of the same trials as we on a daily basis.  He even occasionally got into a fight with one of his friends over a woman he fancied (despite claiming to be a pacifist vegetarian) ...

It's quite natural and normal when you have so much affection for a character for that affection to spill out to the person who played them.  Even knowing, that actor and character are not the same person (this is good to know if you ever meet Jack Gleeson at a convention).

For actor Leonard Nimoy, this was a difficult thing - all told his appearance as Spock counted for 3 years of work during the 60s, and 8 films he's since appear in.  To have played a role which brought such instant recognition was both a blessing and a curse.  His first autobiography "I am not Spock" had him trying to distance himself a little from the role, like any person going "look, I can play other roles you know".  With his second book, "I am Spock", he'd found himself embracing how rare it is for actors to have played a part which so touches and grips so many.

I've followed him on Twitter the last couple of years.  He wasn't Spock.  But all the important things we find so important in his character were reflected in him.  A desire for rationality over rash reaction.  A wry wit.  A passion for peace.  And always his posts signed off with LLAP - Live Long And Proper.

The alien character of Spock will always be with us, but there will be a vacuum left by the man who was Leonard Nimoy.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The direct route ... or the interesting one? Managing time and goals, whilst allowing for discovery

Over the summer holidays, I've become increasingly fascinated with how we as individuals plan and spend time.  Putting my families behaviour under the microscope, I've found once I returned to work that we perform similar planning in the office.

It's interesting, because we tend to just go along with a certain path of behaviour, which like many habits we tend not to be conscious of.  When in January we visited Auckland with my parents it allowed me to take notice of how we spend time and make decisions as a family group.

"The itinerists"

Let's start with a pattern of behaviour my family don't do regarding over-planning.

As a resident in New Zealand, when we take holidays within the country we always find it somewhat easy to tell the tourists.  For me, I tend to call them the "itinerarists".  To be fair, they're visiting the country, and trying to fit the whole experience into 2-3 weeks, which means they're operating under a tight schedule.

So everything is done to an itinerary.  They only have about 48 hours in each location before moving on, so there's no room to hang around.

These people used to stand out like a saw thumb - they typically had a clipboard (it's all iPads now though).  At the Waiotapu geothermal park, they were the ones who as soon as the Lady Knox geyser erupted would be dragging the rest of the family around, going "we're on a schedule ... can't watch this all day".  Tick that box, move on ...

To me, "being on a schedule" always meant that you get to see a lot of things, but you don't really take time to enjoy what you're seeing either.  That's not how we tend to do things.

Aliens Landing!!!

The best way to describe how my family operates is to tell a story of one of our journeys.  This event occured when I was a kid in the 80s, before the days of smartphones or even a tape player was available in the car to keen us entertained.  [Oh the horror - we used to sing folk songs on the way to holiday ...]

We used to travel from where we lived, to my grandparents in Stoke-on-Trent fairly regularly.  It was over an hours drive each way, and often we'd be driving home in the dark.

It was during one such nighttime journey that my mother acted a little panicked.  "We need to go back ... I saw something ... it looked like an alien landing".

If we wanted to get back at a decent hour, we really needed to keep going.  But what the heck ... our family included my father (who was a scientist), my brother and I (who'd both go on to do science at University) and my mum (who pretty much tutored us to be rational-thinkers and engineers).  That makes for a whole car-load of curiosity ... so there was no way we were just going on ahead

It wasn't simply a matter of turning back.  We could see something oddly lit, but way off to the side of us.  That meant trying side road, which sometimes which didn't take us very much nearer.  There was a sense of exhilaration, and even "is this particularly wise?".  But we had to know ... we needed to know ...

What we found was odd indeed, and yes, in the night light it was a strange and alien sight.  But it wasn't of alien origin.  Turns out there was a large JCB plant there which we'd never seen, and someone had built a giant sculpture from JCB parts.

We were impressed - in fact, this became a new route home from my grandparents that we'd often use from then on.

The story really outlines how we function as a family (even now when my folks were over in Auckland with us), and indeed how I love to function within my test team.

We have a broad goal

We're driving home.  Our goal destination is our home.  We had some time constraints on us (we had school the next day).  If for instance we were rushing home for a TV program on that night, we might have listened to my mum's tale and gone "interesting ... but nah".

We're not tied up by the itinerary and goal of getting home, that it's not possible to do some exploration.  But had it gone on for more than half an hour, we'd have probably abandoned it as a wild goose chase.


My mum came right out with "it looks like aliens".  In hindsight today, I don't know if she knew about the place beforehand and manufactured the adventure.  My parents are the kind who'd love to do that to make our lives more interesting, and keep instilled within us our sense of wonder.

My brother and I were always going to be more engaged to a tale of "I thought I saw an alien landing" over "hey kids, I hear there's this really neat sculpture".

However at the time it seemed real.  We trusted to what mum had seen, and even afterwards when we discovered the truth, we didn't mock her going "are you seeing aliens again?".  We understood why something like that would look alien.  Alien was a very apt description of it.

Sometimes you need people around you who you can describe exactly what you think you've seen.  Even if you know it doesn't particularly makes sense at the time.

Decision making as a group

We made the decision to go back as a group.  We all wanted to know more, but we also didn't want to spend all night doing it.

When we were in Auckland back in January, each day we'd have a rough plan of what we'd want to do.  During the day we'd sometimes find new things we'd want to do which we hadn't known about before.  Did we stick to our plan, or reach a compromise.  We're loose enough with our itinerary that we can swap events over, do new things, or drop some items.  Sometimes one of us got a bit unhappy about that, but then we work to make sure not everything someone wants is being dropped (it's really hard to keep a herd of 5, quite strong-willed individuals happy all the time).

Coming back to the office in 2015 with this experience fresh in my mind, I realise that there are a lot of parallels of this into how I like to operate with my test team.

There are a lot of people who think being a test manager just means creating an itinerary for test scripts.  On Monday we'll do TC01-12, on Tuesday we'll do TC13-24 ...

In fact I've been on projects where that kind of planning has been absolutely demanded.  It's somewhat foolish, as invariably testing uncovers defects, and that means automatically that you're not going to complete what you plan, and before you know it, you end up re-planning every night.  Usually on the basis that "everything will work fine tomorrow".

It gets really tiring, and doesn't really add any value - testing at it's heart is dealing with some factors which are uncertain.  We know for instance we'll encounter some bugs, but we lack the foresight to know exactly where and how those bugs will manifest (I have tried crystal balls and tarot cards, and it's impossible to get that information ahead of time - best I have is guesses based on previous similar project experience).

Another problem I find with this re-planning approach (as with any over-planned itinerary) is that pretty soon, it can be that this tick-list of items to show progress becomes the goal.

With the itinerist on their holiday, soon that daily plan can take over, and we find we dance to the strings of what we've planned.  The funny thing is though when we originally booked the holiday, we probably did so "to see another country, to relax and have fun" ... shame it doesn't say that on our check-list ... no time for fun, we have another event scheduled in 30 minutes.

Most definitions for testing, even those from ISTQB have the aim of testing as not to tick off a list of activities, but to find software bugs.  So, when it comes to planning, I much prefer to split the testing phase into a series of small milestones, or what Johanna Rothman calls inchpebbles.  They are a series of goals to have for your effort.

If you looked at our trip to Auckland, these were our original goals (our inchpebbles),

  • Visit the Auckland War Museum
  • Take a trip up the Sky Tower
  • Take the ferry to Takapuna
  • Check out where the Universities are (my son does University next year, and is considering Auckland)

We ended up expanding the ferry trip to include a harbour tour and a visit to Rangitoto, this was good, but meant we didn't really do as much in Takapuna as planned (but heck, we got to see a lot of the city on that tour).  There were places we planned to go to dinner which we ended up swapping for other places we encountered along the way.

Within a testing framework, you might be testing your new system - you'll find that certain of the tests group together organically and it's possible to umbrella them together.  Looking back that the "back to basics" series of articles, I set a series of inchpebbles for testing for "registration", "login", "account self-management" and "helpdesk support".

I might break this down into a series of timeboxes, giving each a different value according (typically) to the richness of features in each area,

  • registration - 2 days
  • login - 1 day
  • account self-management - 2 days
  • helpdesk support - 3 days
I'll also probably have a pot of time for "general retesting" for any time I'm expecting to lose due to problems in the build, waiting for fixes and retesting defects.

An important part of this model is like any journey it encourages some level of exploration by testers performing the task provided (as with our JCB alien hunt), to detour "if they think they saw something odd", and even try new tests.  If they're working on a one day task, and their additional testing is going to be about 30 minutes, then let's not even discuss this - just do this.

If your testing is going to take half a day or more, then let's discuss this before chasing - what are you intending to do, and much like our car journey, let's make a decision as a group if it's worth the detour.  Let's weigh the risks, and decide between going off track now, or maybe finding time later to run the tests you want to (especially if they're more invasive to the system).

But regardless, when testing, we need to appreciate that sometimes we need to take some of the side roads, and to empower our staff that it's okay to do so.  Our job as testers is to find the unexpected, and sometimes that means the occasional detour ...