Archive for August, 2011


August 12, 2011

Well, CAST 2011 has shipped.

A few minor bugs, but it looks like the value far outweighed the problems.

James and I wanted it to be THE context-driven event, and it was — speakers from around the world, a tester-themed movie, tester games, a competition, lightning talks, emerging topics, half-day and full-day tutorials, an EdSig with Cem Kaner present on Skype, a live (3D) Weekend Testers Americas session, professional webcasts to the world, debates, panels, open season, facilitation, music, a real-time Skype coaching demo, real-time tweets, live blogs, live LIVE blogs posted as it happened (via and red cards for those who needed to speak NOW.

Notice the pattern? Just enough structure to allow play and exploration.  Function and facilities for people to listen and trade ideas.  We provided the place to play and a rough agenda of what could be discussed, but self-organizing professionals did the rest.

And after the conference, they are still organizing.  Sure, I bet a lot of business cards were exchanged, but there’s still traction on the #CAST2011 Twitter hashtag, there are new blogs, there’s talk about EuroCAST and a Brazil CAST.

I may have been presiding officer, but when the show started, I turned it over to the crowd and rode along. Sure, I spoke a few times to the assembled guests, made announcements and reminders, kicked us off in the morning and kicked us out at night, but it was more like being a maitre d’ — I just seated the guests and they made their own dinner conversation.

I’ll help the AST find a place to stage 2012 (likely here in the Bay Area), but I’ll advise next year’s president to make sure there is the same open space to adapt, improvise, and learn so that professionals can decide for themselves if it was worthy of their time.  Lessons here for software development, for sure. 

Until next time, thanks to my core staff — James (theme, tracks and speakers), Ben Yaroch (marketing and media: website, printing, signage broadcasting), and Paul Holland (facilitation, finances, online registration) — to the amazing Danielle Guenther with Lynnwood Convention Center’s extraordinary staff — to Dawn Haynes for turning the reg desk into a full-fledged command center… to the facilitators who kept conversation moving (Paul, Tim Coulter, Sherry Heinze, Nancy Kelln, Mike Goempel).. to Matt Heusser and Peter Walen who encouraged topics to emerge all day, to Michael Larsen for hosting WTA3D, to all of the speakers who sacrified their time, money and sleep… to Doug, Tim, Dee Ann, Cem, Becky, and Lynn for keeping a presence for AST programs and elections, to the sponsors, board members, and people who wanted to help but were turned down because things were going smoothly…

….but last and best, my thanks to the 200 people who showed up in person (and over 800 unique visitors online) who gave it all a reason.

Putting Things in Context

August 4, 2011

In the movie “The Right Stuff” there’s a scene where character Chuck Yeager is barreling up to the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. 

He’s being shaken to bits from turbulence (transonic speed before 800 mph).  Just when you think the plane will break apart, it breaks the sound barrier (goes supersonic) and all is smooth.

That’s what it’s like to reach the zen of “crazy busy.”  You reach a point where one day you look at your to-do list and everything is Priority 1.  You buffet and shake and are about to implode when you get yet another to-do item to handle.  Then you get another one.  Then, just as you start to fear email, someone walks up to your desk and asks you a question, or worse, reminds you of a commitment you made.  A minute later, you remember you are late for a meeting, and then the phone rings, and then a text message buzzes on your iPhone just as Skype pops up with a request… then, out of nowhere, there is calm. 

It’s a panic-calm as if someone has told you “go to the ocean and put it all into this little cup.”  You can’t do it and you fear failure, but you go to the beach anyway and you see the impossibility of it all and the voice says: “Yes, this was your test. You found your limit. Nice job.”

I am 7 months after my last post here and I’ve been tested and tested and tested and tested and tested.  Sometimes failing, sometimes passing, sometimes the context changes and what used to pass in me now fails, and vice versa.  It’s like being crazy-busy.  You reach a point where you know you are doing the best you can, even though you may forget it 5 minutes later when a new email comes in that tests your abilities.

The tests don’t stop.  And rightly so.  I am made up of a code base to which I am constantly making changes, and with the code that doesn’t change, the Universe seems to provide a test suite of cases with a taxonomy as diverse as James’ Heuristic Test Strategy Model.

The name of Pradeep Soundararajan’s blog is “Tester Tested”.  I’m not sure what he means by it, but I’m assuming he means that to be worth our salt as testers, we have to agree to be scrutinized.

There’s an ocean of things to do as a Quality Director at eBay — as there is with most e-commerce companies.  The site is open 24 x 7, worldwide. At any time there could be a live site issue that affects any type of user Right Now.  I get 200 emails a day.  I am often triple booked and have to choose which meeting I’m going to grace with my presence.  I walk 2.5 miles a day going from building to building talking to people and solving problems.  I come home, spend a few hours with Charlotte, put her to bed, and get right back online — my quiet time to do homework for the next day of classes.

But always always always, there’s me, evaluating myself.  Am I good enough (in this person’s judgment), to accomplish (this task), (at this time)? 

“Good enough” depends on (at least) those three contexts, and I’m embarassed to admit that I have forgotten (more than once) my own advice in Playing the Expert Game.

If you’re looking for those kinds of answers in your testing of software or in yourself, let me say that I’m hoping CAST 2011 starting Monday in Lynnwood, Washington has some answers. It’s a conference dedicated to talking about Context-Driven Testing whether the topic is software or your good-enoughness as a tester.  The speakers there will be tremendous.  They’ll be available and they’ll be willing to be scrutinized unlike most conference speakers.  There will be discussion and debate, competition and collaboration, food and fun.

I’m ready for a bit of a “spring break” from a long semester at eBay to reacquaint me with colleagues I care about and meeting friends I haven’t met yet — those who might have answers I’m looking for.

I tweeted tonight that I have given up my career in testing to learn what I think I *know* about testing. So far, so good.

A colleague tweeted back “Intense is good, otherwise anyone could/would do it.”

That’s a context I was hoping to be reminded of, and I hope not the last for me before it’s time to get back my place by the ocean of all-there-is-to-do.