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Welcome to Oz

It’s fun to arrive in a new country and get a sense of the culture. This is my first time in Austrailia.
”What do you want, mate?”, said the guy in a kebab bar in Sydney. And he looked me directly in my eyes. That blew a fuse in my brain!
If someone in Denmark looks me in my eyes and say: ”What do you want?”, I know I’m in trouble and should get away quick. But I was in Sydney and the kebab guy was just a helpful Australian. He made me a great kebab with fries, which was just what I needed for my jetlagged body.
Australians are wonderfully helpful… and very direct. A woman asked me if I needed help with my bag when I was walking down stairs. A guy approached me to offer directions for me. ”Thank you”, ”No worries, mate!”
I’m down under, what on earth should I worry about?
I’m here to attend and speak at Let’s Test Oz 2014 taking place in Blue Mountains outside Sydney. What a setting! What a conference! I’ll have to come back to that in a blog post after the conference. For now, I’ll just share my immediate impression of Australian culture.
Words make a difference. Americans love words of latin origin, I think it makes them feel important. They have ”view points” in the landscape. Aussies call things what they are: Lookouts.
Europeans have ”colleagues”. It makes us feel smart. Aussies are ”workmates”.
“Mate” is a funny word. In the animal world, mates are sexual partners. lists ”partner in marriage” as the first of seven definitions of “mate”. The word is of German origin, coming from ”gemate” which just means someone eating on the same table.
A porter in Australia will say ”After you, mate” and look you in the eyes, whereas a porter in the UK will say ”after you, sir” and look down.
Walking down to the Opera House on Sunday morning, I saw the sign in the photo below. Note that the someone changed the text, but even if it hadn’t, I’ve never before seen a public sign telling people what kind of language to use:
”The following is prohibited… Use of obscene or indecent language… Penalties apply”
What if someone takes a megafone and starts shouting obscene and indecent language (it’s ok to use your imagination here) from the coast? Would that be ok? I should try, shouldn’t I? After all, I am a tester.
DSC_0261 (1)
In Denmark, we would never put up such a sign. We’d just silently push people off the wharf and leave them to drown in the water if they don’t talk nicely and behave according to our unwritten rules. Yes, we might be the happiest people in the world, but that’s only because we’re ready to exclude anyone who isn’t.
Is there a flipside? I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve seen and heard enough to notice that testers have the same problems in Australia as in the rest of the world. Also, I’ve been told that organisations are strictly hierachical, according to colonial tradition. Coming from a culture in which organisations are flat and everyone usually has very direct access to managers on all levels, and where colleagues appraise each other for speaking against the manager, that always surprise me.
There may be more to it, however. I’m not sure.
Enough for now. Enjoy Let’s Test Oz if you’re here! I know I do.

News in English Nyheder

I'll be at Let's Test Oz in Sydney in September

DSC_0540AI’ll take a 22 hour flight Copenhagen to Sydney in September, where the fourth Let’s Test conference and the first Let’s Test Oz will be held at a resort in Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Austrailia.

The conference programme was announced a while ago, and it’s pretty awesome. I’ve attended and spoken twice at Let’s Test in Stockholm. I’m sure the Oz-edition will be as fantastic as its Stockholm counterpart.

I haven’t yet decided on my program, but I’m looking forward to Fiona Charles’ keynote by Fiona Charles and her workshop on leadership
But there’s a lot of promising stuff in the programme

I insist that testing is and should be a value adding activity. As testers, we’re not just finding other people’s mistakes; we make a positive contribution to the project with the knowledge we are collecting in our testing.

To do great testing takes clever thinking, and clever thoughts never live in isolation. They’re shared, bounced and developed into great ideas. Let’s Test is an inspirering conference, a place where great ideas develop, and that’s why I like the conference so much.

My own contribution to the programme this year is a session about politics called “All is fair in love and war”. I commit to context driven testing, but testing can be a driver for change as well. I find that a key to do it is to do clever politics on top of the knowledge we have and collect in testing. Some testers have grown to hate politics, but politics can help us, if we use it wisely: With an ethical standpoint, and with a sound vision of what we want to achieve.

Twice has Let’s Test refuelled my capabilities as a tester, a test leader, a test manager, and a test analyst. Twice has Let’s Test inspired me and given me new friends and acquaintances. I’m looking forward to my third Let’s Test, this time down under, where I expect to meet some great testers from the southern hemisphere, take time for a good talk, do some testing, have a beer or two, take a walk in nature…

You can register for Let’s Test Oz here.

Blog posts in English

My Let's Test photos

See also the ‘official’ Let’s Test Flickr photostream

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Some Monday pictures

All pmy hotos from Let’s Test are now here.

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Sunday evening pictures from Runö

All my photos from Let’s Test 2013 are now here.

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A few more photos from Runö and Let's Test

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The Next Problem in Black Swan Testing

The pervasive, but intangible nature of Black Swans means that that practical testing with the aim of demonstrating actual problems is probably either not going to give any useful evidence, or so much resources will be spent proving a point, that one might be missing the point itself completely.
This was the fundamental problem I was facing when I finished reading Talebs book and wanted to apply his philosophy into actual testing. I realised that I needed a model, and the Skype incident of december 2010 led me in the right direction.
The model that I’ve come up with is that black swans are system errors. This may not be true in all circumstances, but it’s a good model and it’s helping me come up with solutions to the testing problems.
Unfortunately, treating black swans as system errors also mean that instead seeing Black Swan Testing as a practical testing activity, I’m moving it to a meta level, where the ‘root causes’ are of a more abstract nature and often not directly observable.
In my speach here at Let’s Test yesterday, I introduced three classes of system attributes and suggested that practical testing, with the aim of learning about potential black swan incidents in a system, should focus on these attributes:

  • Complex versus Linear Interactions
  • Tight versus Loose Couplings
  • Barriers

The two first come from the work of sociologist Charles Perrow, in particular his book Normal Accidents, the third on I owe to psychologist James Reason, author of Human Error. I’ll come back to these attributes in later blog posts, but for now you just have to accept them as system attributes that play parts in system errors and Black Swans.
But we’re at a conference with all sorts of things going on: My presentation was well received, the discussions afterwards were great, but Let’s not just talk… let’s do it, Let’s Test.
I think James Lyndsay and I got the idea at about the same time yesterday: Let’s take Black Swan Testing into The Test Lab.
So I did, and it was great. I had a great team of very brave testers, and the mission was clear: Find indications of Black Swans, look for tight couplings, complex interactions, and barriers.
Did we succeed? Not really. But it was loads of fun and we learned a lot!
In particular, I learned that while I think I have a very good idea of what Black Swan Testing is, I need to work on the practical aspects: Making useful charters, coaching and teaching testers efficiently on the subject, reporting… Black Swan testing must be communicated and operationalized.
That’s the next problem, I’m going to address.

The brave team of Black Swan Testers in the Test Lab
My very brave team of Black Swan Testers

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Another great day at Let's Test

Gosh, I’m feeling a bit used… The schedule is really tight here and the party yesterday was great. Lots of input! Plus, I was really focused on my presentation today, I spent a bit extra “cognitive energy” on that ‘output’ process… Here’s what I’ve done today:
6-7: Wake up
7-8: Walk in nature (found some freesbee throwing creatures…)
8-9: Breakfast
9.30: Rob Sabourin keynote (really good!)
11.30-12.30: Presenting Testing in the Black Swan domain
12.30-13-30: Lunch, having very interesting talk with Rob Sabourin and others
13.30-14.30: Curing our Binary Disease with Rikard Edgren (inspiring, we’re all growing older and maturing, I guess)
14.40-15.40: You are a scientist with Christin Wiedemann (I loved it – I’m a scientist too)
15.40-16: Coffee, cookies, smoothies (Runö is such a great venue!)
16-17: Coaching Testers with Anne-Marie Charret (inspiring!)
My presentation was really well received and we had a great discussion afterwards. I love the discussions we are having here! What better place could I have found to first present my ideas about Black Swan testing than here among people who share the passion for testing, trying things, forming hypothesis and learning?
We’ll be doing experiments in the Test Lab tonight at 20, so discussions are’nt over yet. I love it!
Here are a few selected photos from today. I may do a writeup about the day later today or tomorrow. Maybe.

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Gooooood morning, Rrrrrrunö!

My head feels a little dizzy, but outside my hotel window, the sun is again shining from a clear blue sky, little birds are singing, and it’s looking to be a wonderful day today. Runö, the conference venue, is a really nice place- and so is Let’s Test! If you’re here, you will know what I mean, if not you just have to believe me: Never have I been with such a friendly and bright bunch of people! I love it!
After the opening keynote yesterday, I went to on my presentation for today. I was almost done, but then the team (that’s me!) decided to refactor everything! Oh dear! But it had too many slides, and they just didn’t work well together, and that’s a showstopper, right?
The good news is that the I got the presentation fixed: The refactoring succeeded! Thanks to friends and colleagues for allowing me to reflect with you on the subject (there’s the friendly thing again!).
The bad news is that I had to skip the tutorial I planned to go to.
I didn’t skip tutorials completely, though, as Iwas very kindly allowed to jump in on Henrik Andersson and Leo Hepis’ tutorial “Now, what’s your plan?”, which started at 3 pm.

I’m sure all the workshops were excellent, but this was really, really cool: During the 3 hours, we got to develop test strategies for our testing team, incorporate really challenging context changes, learn about what context is, and discuss buth our own and other team’s approaches and solutions to the challenges we were put through.

Normally, context is something which is “just there”. As a team member, I’m often not given all the needed knowledge about context, but still I have to relate to it anyway and develop my own test strategies, or when I’m given management responsibilities, the strategy of the whole team. Still, the context is shaping my strategy and it does so in so many ways. And then we have context change: Things aren’t static, right? Although we all prefer working in stable environments, things do often change: Sometimes to the better, sometimes to the worse, sometimes just to something different, but the point is that we cannot disregard context changes, since they affect us whether we want it or not.
How do teams react to context changes? I observed at least four different “reaction modes” within the teams during the workshop:

  • “Ok, what’s this?”: It’s a completely new situation and there are no prejudices or previous context to take into account. This is fun and generally feels good.
  • Resistance, chaos, integration, new status quo – i.e. all of the phases of the Satir Change Model. This can be a difficult process, especially it the team resides in the “chaos” phase for long.
  • Relief: A context change clears everything up, and the project can go from “problem fixing” to “solution mode”. This feels very good too.
  • Panic: The context change is sudden and feels like a bomb had been dropped in the middle of the project and is now threatening to blow everything up: The team panics. Hopefully, the bomb can be defused and the panic can be cleared.

So what is context? A couple of definitions surfaced – I didn’t get them all, but here’s a couple:

  • The variables which significantly influence the task
  • Those aspects of the total environment that seem important/relevant
  • Context is anything that changes my model

What’s your definition?

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Let's Test is underway!

As we approached Arlanda, I noticed something I recognised: I had checked out the conference venue on Google Eearth at home, and here was something that looked familiar:
“Can I get off here, please?”, I asked.
“Sorry no, we’re out of parachutes”, the air hostess replied.
Ok, I could live with that: Esko Arajärvi was flying in from Finland, and thanks to the excellent travelling page of the conference, he had offered me a ride in the car he rented, and he was waiting for me. I love when things go as planned!
Runö is a very beautiful place. “Is this heaven?” Michael Bolton asked in his opening keynote, but then said no, since his family wasn’t here. Good point!

Michael was as good as ever, telling us that while everyone has a desire for certainity, we’re fundamentally incompetent whenever we do something new. Testing is fundamentally about acceptance, acceptance that we’re fallible, incompetent, etc, but we can learn from failure.
Mature people don’t try to get rid of failure, they manage it. So do we. We know that failure is an important part of the process and the trigger for us is to find out what’s wrong and make it better.
In fact, certainty can be damaging, and “a key part of our service is to reduce unwarranted and potentially damaging certanity about the product.”

I’m taking a break now. I’m still working my presentation tomorrow; I work best under pressure, and the pressure is building up! Besides, Michael gave me more good inspiration which I have to process!