Prioritizing My Time

Prime-Time-Clock-by-zoutedrop-Creative-CommonsWhile procrastinating my blog post about BBST Foundations course (I’ve been on two of them and will compare them), I thought I could write a bit about how I prioritize my time.

Big Rocks

We all have 24 hours to spend. Every day. The way we use those hours, varies a lot though. A while ago I was listening an Udemy course about time management and it had a part where the presenter filled a glass jar with big rocks and sand. Moral of the story was that we should fill our life with big rocks (things that are important) first and only after that with sand (which represents all the little things). You can find similar video if you just google “big rocks time”.

Big rocks of my life are mainly:

  • Time with family
  • Work
  • Sleep

I think it’s good to open up those a bit.

Time with family

I have a fiancee and 3 years old son. When I get home from work (basically 4pm always), I spend time with them until our son is sleeping. When I say I spend time with them, I truly mean that. I don’t watch TV, use my laptop or play with my phone. When you have 3 years old son, being mentally engaged is important. Same applies to fiancee also.

Exceptions are really rare. I mentioned BBST Foundations courses. All the time I spent on those courses, happened when I was either at work, or when our son was sleeping.

Work

With work I mean working 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. That’s it. I’m quite strict about not doing overtime. Sometimes (like 2-3 times a month) I will be one hour longer at work, but those are rare.

We had a conversation about this last week on our Helsinki Software Development Lunches (we go have a lunch at Helsinki center and discuss about software development – anyone is free to join). There was a developer who said that he has also really strict about 40 hours per week rule. He said that he has been pushed on working overtime, but he has asked the underlying reason for something being really important and urgent. He continued that if there’s a life threatening situation or company is in bankrupt next day – then he can be flexible. How often this is the case though?

Sleep

I need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. This is something I take also quite seriously and plan my activities so that it will be possible to sleep this much. Usually on weekends I will sleep longer, but I feel that 7 hours is enough during the week.

The Little Things

Those big rocks are something that are essential part of my life and will be affected very rarely. Sure, there are situations where I’m not entirely with my family after work. I might be making food, going grocery store or other similar things that needs to be done. Fortunately my son can be part of many of those. Depending on his mood.

As much as I would like to develop myself as a tester, I don’t want to do that by affecting big rocks. This is one of the reasons why majority of my learning happens while I’m at work, driving to work, putting my son to sleep (which requires just physical presence) or at the evening when I have a bit of my own time. I can’t even remember how many videos I’ve listened while driving to work. Videos from BBST to Oredev, Eurostar to TED Talks and Udemy courses to all kinds of Youtube talks. When I put my son to sleep I often read books. A while ago I read Jerry Weinberg’s ‘The Secrets of Consulting’ and ‘Are Your Lights On’.

It’s Not The Distance That Kills

I’ve seen several close people overworking and paying the price for it. Some are not here anymore and others, well there’s not much left of them. I’m also hearing these kind of stories while working and thinking that I’m not going to walk those paths. Because of these reasons, I’m strict about keeping the work hours on a level that will not affect negatively the whole. Work is only one part of the whole. Even though I love what I do and aim to become extremely good at it.

How about you? What are your big rocks?

 

Project Mercury and Death of Testing

After being in the computing business now for more than half a century, one thing worries me more than almost anything else: our lack of a sense of history. (Jerry Weinberg)

I’ve witnessed lately few great blog posts about the role of a tester and where we are going with what we understand as testing.

First Alan Page wrote his post “Death and Testing“. Then Trish Khoo delivered her thoughts in “Forget developers in test, we need testers in development“.

I’d like to share my thoughts about this subject also. That being, where should we be as testers?

Project Mercury

Project_Mercury_-_U.S.Man_in_space

When we’re talking about challenging software development projects, I think putting the first (hu)man on space is pretty high on that list. Project Mercury had this as a goal on the early 1960′s when US and Soviet Union had their space race going on. Jerry Weinberg, among others, had to develop software that would help in taking the astronauts to space and back, alive.

Jerry talked about Project Mercury on This Week in Software Testing podcast, 2010. I totally recommend listening it, as it’s one of the best podcasts I’ve heard (even though you need to register to softwaretestpro.com). I took the liberty and wrote a part of the podcast, especially the part where Jerry talks about Project Mercury:

Because of the complexity and worldwide nature of the system. I (Jerry) decided that we need to have a group of people dedicated to quality, including testing of the system. We created such a group, which is as far as I know, had never been done before.  They lived through the whole project, unlike a lot of testing groups today. They were involved right from the very beginning. So, for example they could comment on whether the software we were building, was in fact testable, by then. Which wasn’t sure at all to just automatically happen.

Because this was, not only first human life system, but it was the first worldwide online system, ever build, and presented many unique problems in testing. That’s how we got into this. It was after that that other people began to realize they needed separate testing groups. But it became different. Our testing group was composed of experienced and talented software developers.

Later on, managers began to see testing groups as a way to hire cheaper people and put them in testing, because they didn’t have to know how to develop software. I’m thinking a lot of managers thought all they needed to do is sit in there on terminal and bang on keys, like monkeys. Of course that’s simply not true, but it’s taken us a long time, for many people in industry to realize, that testing is as professional, a job, as we realized it back, literally half a century ago. And many managers today still don’t understand that.

In early 1960′s testing wasn’t yet defined, which meant that Jerry, and others, were not growing up with the same dogmas as we do these days. They didn’t have the mental (or concrete) walls that tend to separate testers from development teams these days. They just tried to come up with a good solution for the challenging problems they were facing. Therefore it was natural for them that few of the team would be putting more focus on testing than the others. Also, it was similarly natural that they were there since the beginning of the project and equally part of the team, as the others.

The fact that they were skillful developers is NOT the point. The fact that they were able to be valuable for their team, IS the point.

Boulding’s Backward Basis

I heard Jerry talking about Project Mercury in the podcast, roughly year ago. That moment was one of the first that led me to learning about Boulding’s Backward Basis (didn’t knew about the name then). When people talk about testers these days, many of them mean people who are working on a separate team or otherwise separated from the development team. Personally I think these people are growing up with dogma.

If you think of it, software development as it is, including testing, is not something that it’s MEANT to be. It’s though something that it’s TURNED OUT to be. Now would be actually a good time to mention Boulding’s Backward Basis (from ‘The Secrets of Consulting’ by Jerry Weinberg):

Things are the way they are because they got that way.

I’ll admit that I’ve not dig deep enough the history of our craft, so I could connect the dots and say what lead to where (besides what Jerry is explaining above). I do know though that the idea about testers being separated from the rest of the team wasn’t common long ago and it is these days. Some people talk about future and evolving, but I think we’re going back to our roots and that’s a good thing.

One dogma to another (and beyond)

I understand testing as a mental activity of questioning, observing, evaluating and in the end, exploring. This will never go away. I hope.

I don’t know if testers being integrated part of the software development team is how it should be. It does sound reasonable for me in the contexts I’ve been. Though, it would be naive to think that this is how it’s MEANT to be. We would just be jumping to a dogma after leaving another.

Keeping in mind that we don’t know what we’re doing (see Future of Programming by Bret Victor), and at the same time putting effort on exceeding our limits. Maybe that will move us toward something better.

Learning From Our Mistakes

Mistakes are often seen as a fruitful way of learning. If you do a Google search for “Learning from our mistakes” – you will get a lot of hits. Quotations, articles, TED talks, blog posts, books, references to Bible and of course… Oprah.

I also thought for a long time that there’s nothing special about learning from our mistakes. We make them, learn from them and don’t repeat them. So what?

Then I saw this talk by Kevlin Henney couple months ago. (The failure part starts around 17:30)

Kevlin referenced to Henry Petroski’s “To Engineer Is Human” book on his talk. Based on this book, he talked about overgeneralization and context of a failure.

Let’s say we make a mistake, learn from it and aim at not making it again. Now, this might lead to the overgeneralization problem.

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit on a hot stove lid again – and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. (Mark Twain)

This was something I discussed briefly with Seriouspony (Kathy Sierra) on Twitter:

Kevlin also argued on his talk that:

When we learn from our mistakes, it’s highly contextual. We learn from our successes far better.

By mentioning the contextuality, he meant that our failures need to be happening in a context of successes. Then specific failures can be noticed. There are examples of this on the talk if you’re more interested.

Learning better from our successes?

Kevlin mentioned earlier that “We learn from our successes far better.” What did he mean?

First of all, he was referring to a study (by Earl Miller, Mark Histed & Anitha Pasupathy) which said (https://web.archive.org/web/20091222020319/http://www.asfct.org/documents/journal/2009-11/Vol1-2-9.pdf):

The assertion that we can learn something from every failure is often heard. This study by Earl Miller and his colleagues Mark Histed and Anitha Pasupathy of the Massa- chusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory tests that notion by looking at the learning process at the level of neurons.

The study shows how brains learn more effectively from success than from failure. The researchers created a unique snapshot of the learning process that shows how single cells change their responses in real time as a result of information about what is the right action and what is the wrong one.

Brain cells keep track of whether recent behaviours were successful or not. When a certain behaviour was successful, cells became more finely tuned to what the animal was learning. After a failure, there was little or no change in the brain – nor was there any improvement in behaviour. This research seems to support SF’s assumption that analysing why something went wrong is unlikely to lead to ideas about how to create a better situation.

I found an article by MIT News (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/successes-0729.html) that opened up the findings of the study much more. You might want to check that out if you’re more interested about this.

Despite the credibility of the study, it’s an interesting idea though. That we would learn better from our successes?

While ago I tweeted:

John Stevenson replied to my tweet:

Cognitive dissonance is a good point as it will help as in noticing when there’s a mismatch between what we have done and how it perhaps should have done, in our opinion.

Mistakes are though a matter of perspective. You’re applying some kind of oracle to the behavior or act that you call a mistake. Can you trust your oracle? Same of course applies to successes. Not being a mistake is also a matter of perspective.

Wrapping up my thoughts

This whole “learning from mistakes and successes” is still an ongoing process. I haven’t came up to any solutions, conclusions or deep realizations about it. But there are thoughts that I’m playing with at the moment:

  • In order to learn from failures, they need to be buried among successes. Being the odd ones that are spotted.
  • If we truly are learning better by doing something we consider successful, then making a mistake, should lead to changing the behavior to something we consider successful and will also prevent making the mistake again.
  • Are you sure that the mistake you made, isn’t something that is a mistake only in a specific and unique context?
  • While there needs to be thinking behind mistakes (why did it happen), there needs to be thinking also behind successes (why did it happen).

This is a subject that I’ve thought about here and there for a couple of months now. Hope it will give you something to think about.

The Exploration of The Deep

TheDeep

I haven’t blogged for a while and main reason for that has been Claire Nouvian’s book: “The Deep”. The book contained one specific article by Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover that led me to studying a lot more about deep-sea exploration. That article was called “The Exploration of The Deep”.

Earth’s Largest Living Realm

I knew basically nothing about deep-sea exploration before I started reading Claire Nouvian’s book. Now when I’ve spent time reading it, I realize that oceanographers are our modern-day explorers.

The difference between today’s adventures and those undertaken by Columbus or Livingstone lies in the equipment: submersibles and remote-controlled robots have replaced caravels and slide rules. (Claire Nouvian)

Especially the ones focusing on the depths of our oceans, are often the first ones to visit those places. Interesting fact is that there has been more people on Moon than on the deepest known place of our oceans. According to Wikipedia, there have been 12 men on the Moon. On the other hand there have been 3 people (Jacques Piccard, Don Walsh, James Cameron) on the Challenger Deep, in Mariana Trench.

At 150 m depth, 99% of sunlight has been absorbed by water. Below 1000 m, it’s total, inky blackness for all.

The deep sea was long considered as a lifeless world. British naturalist Edward Forbes declared in 1858, that life could not exist below 300 fathoms (~550 m). This statement was later discredited by Sir Charles Wyville Thomson, who was, according to Wikipedia, chief scientist on Challenger expedition. Challenger expedition laid the foundation to oceanography. Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover described Thomson’s expeditions on the book.

Over four years, Thomson and his colleagues scraped the seafloor with trawls and dredges at depths of up to nearly five miles and recovered more than 4000 new species of marine life. The dredged-up animals were often mangled almost beyond recognition, but they were nevertheless precious specimens that revealed hitherto untold tales about the rich diversity of deep-sea fauna.

There were limits to what could be inferred from these samples; they often provided little insight into the way life on the seafloor looked, or into how the animals might interact with one another. To paraphrase explorer and humanist Théodore Monod, attempting to understand life in the deep sea using dredges is like aliens trying to understand life on Earth by blindly dangling a hook from space and retrieving a cockroach, a t-shirt, and an iPod.

Trawls and dredges allow us to measure the biological diversity found in the deep sea — they are still used today for species counts and other statistics — but they are almost useless for understanding animal behavior in natural settings. To achieve this goal, one needs to observe organisms in their environment. (Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover)

Current estimates about the number of species yet to be discovered from deep sea vary between 10 and 30 million. On the other hand, number of known species populating the planet today, whether terrestrial, aerial, or marine, is estimated at about 1.4 million. This explains why deep sea truly is Earth’s largest living realm.

Crossota sp., a deep red medusa found just off the bottom of the deep sea. Image courtesy of Kevin Raskoff, California State University, Monterey Bay.

Crossota sp., a deep red medusa found just off the bottom of the deep sea. Image courtesy of Kevin Raskoff, California State University, Monterey Bay. Via Flickr, Creative Commons License.

If someone is thinking now what deep sea actually means, according to Wikipedia it is the layer that is on the depth of 1800 m or more.

I mentioned earlier that below 1000 m there is total, inky blackness. This is true and also far from reality. Reason for it being far from reality is bioluminescence. Dr. Edith Widder wrote on the book about bioluminescence.

There are only a few creatures on land that can make light. Fireflies and glowworms are some of the best-known examples, but there are a handful of others such as some earthworms, click beetles, snails, centipedes, and fungi. These, however, are relatively rare and they do not play a significant role in the balance of nature.

By contrast, in the oceans there are so many animals that make light that there are vast regions where as many as 80 to 90% of the animals collected in the nets are bioluminescent. In the ocean bioluminescence is the rule rather than the exception.

Bioluminescence occurs in all the world’s oceans from surface to bottom and from coast to coast. Appreciating how animals use their lights is important to understanding this ecosystem that represents more than 99% of our biosphere. Various light-producing chemicals extracted from different animals have also proved enormously valuable in medical and genetic research. Living lights in the ocean are beautiful, mysterious, useful to humans, and absolutely essential to the animals that possess them. (Dr. Edith Widder)

Photo by NOAA's National Ocean Service via Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Photo by NOAA’s National Ocean Service via Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Majority of deep-sea animals create their own light and that makes bioluminescence the most widely used mode of communication on the planet. Théodore Monod described this (bioluminescent) masterfully on the book.

Two things used to leave Kant awestruck: the star-studded sky above him and the morality within man’s heart. Had our philosopher taken a dive in a bathyscaphe, he no doubt would have added a third ‘wonder to the world’ to his short list: the fairy-like ballet of bioluminescent sparks that dot the abyssal night. (Théodore Monod)

Tools for Exploration

Because of the challenging conditions of deep sea, it took long before first explorers descended into the unvisited depths. In year 1934, deep sea pioneers William Beebe and Otis Barton, reached the depth of 923 m (according to Wikipedia). 26 years later, as mentioned earlier, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh became the first to explore Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench. 0855409They went there with Trieste, bathyscaphe designed by the Swiss professor Auguste Piccard (Jacques’s father). Trieste was a sort of deep-sea elevator that could go up and down, but not horizontally. This limited a lot its ability to explore in the depths. Nevertheless, it was first piece of technology that enabled us to reach the deepest known place on our planet.

The ALVIN submersible begins its descent to the bottom. 2006 May 21.
Photographer: Gavin Eppard, WHOI.
Credit: Expedition to the Deep Slope/NOAA/OER.

Trieste inspired others to invent more sophisticated submersibles. Examples of these are AlvinArchimède and Nautile. Submersibles like Alvin, could move freely on the ocean instead of bathyscaphes, which extended our ability to explore the deep sea. Alvin can dive to 4500 m currently, but there are plans to increase the maximum operating depth to approximately 6500 m.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Alvin can remain submerged for 10 hours under normal conditions, although its life support system will allow the sub and its occupants to remain underwater for 72 hours.

10 or 72 hours may sound like a lot, but when you consider the 2 hours that it takes from Alvin to dive to its maximum depth, and another two hours back. You realize that large portion of its time is spent on going up and down. Also, according to NOAA, Alvin and Atlantis (the ship) costs $30.000 per day, which makes it an expensive option. Because of these and few other reasons, many scientists use ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) and lately AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles).

ROVs can remain submerged several days because of the cable powering them from the surface. They provide visibility for explorers by transmitting video in real time. You can also take samples with mechanical arms. One of the most famous ROVs is probably Kaikō, built by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) for exploration of the deep sea. Kaiko was the second vessel that dived into Challenger Deep, since Piccard and Walsh went there on 1960. Unfortunately, Kaiko was lost at sea on 2003.

U.S. Navy photo by Mr. John F. Williams (RELEASED). Via Flickr Creative Commons Search.

U.S. Navy photo by Mr. John F. Williams (RELEASED). Via Flickr Creative Commons Search.

Despite the usefulness of ROVs, there are though disadvantages and perhaps the biggest one is the cable that is required for operating the vehicle. Partly because of this AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) have been, and are being, developed. These could give us the freedom that ROVs lack of. There’s still though long way to go until AUVs replace ROVs on exploring the ocean.

Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover wrote about the usage of technology on the book. This quotation was one of the primary reasons why I became interested of deep-sea exploration.

Since the discovery of hydrothermal vents in 1977, the pace of exploration in the deep sea has steadily increased, fueled by the finding of novel adaptations to extreme environments and by the gain of fundamental insights into how our planet works.

Our increasing ability to access the seafloor with new tools and sensors promotes and enhances exploratory activities. Tethered and untethered robots are now the tools of choice for many of the challenges faced by deep-sea explorers.

Nevertheless, the construction of two new human-occupied submersibles, one Chinese and the other American, underscores the anticipated need for a human presence on the seafloor for the next half century. (Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover)

Current technology promotes and enhances our exploratory activities. This is the reason why technological advances are crucial for deep-sea exploration. It’s good to though remember that even though our exploratory activities are performed with the help of technology, we as a humans are still the ones that decide what to explore and how to interpret the data gained from our explorations.

I actually sent an email to Cindy Lee Van Dover, where I asked about the “anticipated need for a human presence on the seafloor”. I wanted to know more about the benefits of us being down there on the submersible instead of ROVs and AUVs.  She hasn’t replied yet.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Ocean Explorer

When I started searching more information about deep-sea exploration, I quickly found National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Ocean Explorer website. The website is dedicated for providing information on NOAA’s ocean exploration activities, especially those being undertaken via funding from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

It’s amazing how much information you can find from specific explorations. There’s mission plan, science objectives, mission log, photos, videos and introductions of people who are participating the explorations. All these create an interesting story about the explorations for people like me. What thrilled me the most though, was Ask an Explorer section. This gave you the chance of sending an email to Melissa Ryan, who would forward it to explorers. I just had to try this and was highly satisfied with it. I received thoughtful answer in few days.

Question fromAleksis, Finland
You seem to gather a lot of information with technical equipment (data, images, video). How about traditional note taking? Is there a need for taking notes with either pen and paper, or perhaps a laptop? If yes, what kind of notes?

Answer from:Brendan Roark, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University
Yes, we take other types of notes. For example I take notes on my laptop of our position, what the bottom looks like, what organisms are present, technical problems and other important events like the first sighting of a coral during the dive or cruise. We use these notes to write our dive summaries. I also take pen and paper notes on a printed version of our dive map to help me keep track of where we have been.

There is also the IM chat room that logs all of the notes all the scientists make. We use all these notes and data, both the data, images, video and transitional notes to do our daily dive reports and web summaries. We also have pre and post dive meetings via conference phone to discuss and plan past and future dives, so that is also a more traditional form of communication.

I recommend that you explore NOAA Ocean Explorer’s website, if you’re interested any of the things I’ve written so far. For that matter, you might also want to check out their Youtube channel which contains many fascinating videos.

Space: the final frontier… Or is it?

When I was perhaps 12 or 13 years old, I used to investigate the craters of Moon with my telescope. Whole space was that large, mainly unexplored, territory that fascinated my mind. I watched movies of astronauts and read books about our Solar System. Needless to say, Star Trek was natural continuum for all those already mentioned.

Now, 18 or 19 years later, I’m genuinely surprised that we know so little about our oceans. More importantly, many of us don’t know that we know so little about them. There are millions of species to be found from our oceans and many of those can teach us valuable things in research (e.g. medical and genetic).

Lately the focus has been calibrated more toward the deepest places of our oceans. News about race to the bottom of the ocean support this. One can think about the motives of the people involved with missions like this, but it reminds people about the ocean and how little we know about it.

Cindy Lee Van Dover started her career on the year (1982) that I came to this world. Among many other achievements she was a pilot-in-command of 48 dives with submersible Alvin. She was the main reason for me ending up writing this blog post and studying about deep-sea exploration. It is appropriate that I’ll end this post to her words.

Man has observed less than 1% of the seafloor; the challenge lies before us. During the twentieth century, the deep sea became accessible. In this twenty-first century, the deep sea will become known. (Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover)

Audio Of Several Let’s Test Sessions Shared

Me and my colleague (Samuli Elomaa@samuliel) recorded a lot of sessions, and keynotes on Let’s Test conference. In total we recorded 11 sessions and 2 keynotes. We recorded them mainly for two reasons.

  1. We wanted to share the recordings with testing community
  2. We wanted to have more material to support our notes

After listening the recordings, we had to drop few. Kristoffer Nordström’s python coding session was not really that helpful, without you seeing what’s happening, when he is coding. Then there were few sessions, that I’ve not yet received permissions for sharing. I’ll add them later if I receive permissions. It’s also good to know, that we cut the conversations with pairs from Tobias Fors’s Systems Thinking For The Rest Of Us. You couldn’t understand the conversation, so we concluded that it’s best to cut it off. Tobias knows about this.

So, in total we are now sharing 8 sessions and 2 keynotes. Regarding keynotes, you can already find the audio from Johanna Rothman’s keynote, here. I will though share that audio file here also. It’s also good to know, that Ilari Henrik Aegerter has already published the video of his talk here. We still thought, that someone might find value in the audio of his talk, and therefore will publish it here also.

My colleague already shared these recordings earlier. If you want to listen them online, you can find them here (downloading requires registration, that is free).

Otherwise, here is the link that leads to a folder that contains the audio of those 8 sessions and 2 keynotes. They are at my Dropbox, where they are easy to download from.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/hts8a69za2r6nco/1EcmTWP9c7?m

I also want to highlight, that I’ve asked a permission for sharing, from all of the presenters. If there is though someone, who feels that we should not share a particular audio recording. Please contact me, either here, or in Twitter (@al3ksis).

In case you want to record yourself in future. Here are few lessons learned, and details about how we recorded:

  • Both of us had Galaxy Note and Smart Voice Recorder application
  • We learned, that when sitting in the front row, you get better audio quality. For example, Zeger van Hese’s, Mark Micallef’s and Dawn Haynes’s sessions are recorded, when I sat in the front row.
  • Ask the permission for recording, before the session starts.
  • Ask the permission for sharing the audio after the session! (It has took a lot of time to individually ask the permissions afterwards)
  • If you take pictures, or tweet with your phone, don’t block the microphone. This is the reason why sometimes the voice is a bit muted in our recordings.

Passion-Driven Community

Roughly a week ago, I participated to my first testing conference. The conference was called Let’s Test and it was held in Runö, Sweden (30 minutes from Stockholm, with a taxi). If you want to know more about it, I suggest you go to their website: http://lets-test.com/

I knew in advance, that the conference would include many of the biggest names of our industry (e.g. James Bach, Michael Bolton, James Lyndsay, Johanna Rothman, Scott Barber, Pradeep Soundararajan, Fiona Charles, Griffin Jones, Julian Harty, Iain McCowatt). There were also a lot of people, that I had discussed with on Twitter, but had never met. In the end, many of these people held sessions, tutorials and keynotes.

If you are interested, I wrote a blog post before conference. There I experimented with Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hat approach to Let’s Test conference (especially the value I would gain out of it – and fear of not gaining value out of it). You can find the blog post here: http://flowoftesting.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/338/

Passion

I think the word passion describes extremely well, why I ended up in Runö with testers around the world. I have a passion for testing, which means, that I constantly seek for ways to evolve as a tester. I’m just guessing here, but I’d assume that people who came up with the idea of Let’s Test (Henrik, Johan and Ola - Ola sadly passed away in October 2012 and I never had the chance to meet him), were also thinking of ways to evolving our craft. What better way of doing, that than gathering many of the experts of our craft and arranging a place with spectacular nature, food and activities. Rest is magic.

It might be my subjective opinion, but I feel, that passion feeds passion. When I talk to people, who are as passionate (or more) as I am, it affects positively to my passion. Interacting with various people who shared my love to testing, left me a smile, that lasted even when I left Runö after the conference.

Who were these people you might ask? I’ll share few, that were special from my perspective

Monday

Seeing the people of our Context-Driven Testing community, started from the airport of Arlanda (unless you count meeting up with my colleague on Helsinki-Vantaa airport). In Arlanda I first met Ru Cindrea, whom we had agreed to share a taxi with. Ru is highly influential Romanian tester at Finland, that is evolving to Test Lab expert (she might already be there actually). I’ve met her few times before, and if there’s someone out there, that I believe can walk the walk, that’s her.

We had also agreed to meet Kristoffer Nordström on Arlanda. Kristoffer was also one of the people I knew the most through Twitter. We had agreed to participate to LetsTest Lab with Jari Laakso and Geir Gulbrandsen. Kristoffer currently works as a test developer and he had also helped me earlier (by creating a python script for tailing a log file in Unix). I had not met him before, but his talk on Lean Tribe Gathering 12 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iclr1MZzC-s) gave me the impression, that he’s a passionate tester. After struggling with finding each other, we finally met Kristoffer and took the taxi to Runö. There was funny incident with the navigation software, on the taxi we picked. You can see it from this picture (took by Kristoffer):

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When we arrived to Runö, we were welcomed by Ilari Henrik Aegerter and Huib Schoots (knew both from Twitter, but not met before). Ilari greeted me in Finnish (he’s originally from Finland), which was a surprise. Not because he could speak it, but because he could speak it so well. Ilari is a manager on eBay and lives on Zurich. He has been focusing on observing, for a while now. I became familiar with it, when he held his CAST 2012 talk Observational Proficiency: How Sharpening Your Everyday Awareness Makes You a Better TesterHuib on the other hand is quite a character, whom I knew from Twitter, his blog and recently a talk from TestBash 2.0. He talked about social sciences, and what testers can learn from it. I already knew, that he was a sparkly person. Now, after the conference, my opinion has not changed at all.

I had to rush to first keynote, as I had about 15 minutes, for taking a shower and eating a breakfast. Before James Bach’s keynote, there was an emotional talk from Henrik Andersson. He talked about how Ola had affected a lot the program of the conference, and how several companies (and people) helped with arranging it. You could see, that it was emotionally hard for Henrik, to step into that stage. He did well in those circumstances. Paul Holland continued by introducing James Bach. I knew Paul in some level in advance. I had watched his CAST talk from last year How to Report Test Progress and Paul had also helped me in Skype with an oracle problem I had in my current project. If you were going to drink a beer, and you had to choose one person to drink it with, Paul would probably be that. Extremely approachable and wide knowledge about testing.

James (Bach) on the other hand, was only one from the world wide known experts, that I had met before the conference. I participated to James’s RST course on October 2012. I wrote a blog post then, where I described my impressions about him. So, I knew he from there and Twitter, where we’ve discussed about testing several times. Often I agree with what James is saying, but we also have had disagreements. James has not though run away my questions ever, and that is where he has earned my respect. In Let’s Test, James talked about How Do I Know I’m Context-Driven? I’m not going to summarize the talk here, as you can find details about it in other blog posts. I will say though, that it meant to me a lot when James declared, that I belong to the center of the community (you understand more, if the talk is published later).

After the talk, I met Geir Gulbrandsen and Martin Hynie, . If Markus Gärtner is the only tester in Germany, then Geir Gulbrandsen is the only tester in Norway. He’s a passionate guy, who has for example passed all the AST BBST courses (this is a major achievement), and writes a blog. I know him mainly from Twitter, where we’ve had many valuable discussions about testing. Martin Hynie on the other hand, is an extremely sharp guy from Canada. I initially got to know him on Twitter, but we got more familiar with each other, when he reviewed an article of mine. His review varied from others, as it included e.g. expressing emotions. I talked with him few times on Let’s Test, and I want to say, that you need to pay attention to this guy. He has a lot to say, and it’s worth listening.

Rest of the first day went with James Bach’s tutorial “In-depth look at the art of reporting”. Before the tutorial started, I managed to meet Jari Laakso and Helena Jeret-Mäe. I knew both of them fairly well in advance, from Twitter and Skype. Both of them had also reviewed the article I mentioned earlier. Jari Laakso is a Finnish tester, who is living in Romania. I’ve learned to know, that he has extremely critical mind. We’ve had several conversations where questions just keep flying. I’ve also noticed, that there’s interesting diversity in our thinking, as we often approach things from different angles. Helena Jeret-Mäe comes from Estonia, writes a blog, and has an amazingly wonderful way of thinking. I’ve learned about her thinking in our several conversations. She’s definitely a person, that should share more her thoughts for our community.

During the tutorial I met John Stevenson and Peter Schrijver. I did not knew John Stevenson that well in advance. I only knew him from Twitter and from his brilliant blog posts. He turned out to be a passionate fellow with deep knowledge about telecommunication (and testing of course). Peter on the other hand I know from 5 Blogs and of course from Twitter. I knew, that he is highly involved with DEWT (Dutch Exploratory Workshop in Testing) and just attended PSL course. I got an impression from our discussions during the tutorial, that he has a lot of experience and good ability to describe his approach to testing.

In the evening we participated to LetsTest Lab with Jari Laakso, Geir Gulbrandsen and Kristoffer Nordström. We arrived there though quite late, and struggled with connectivity to a server. Eventually it was quite a catastrophe, as we couldn’t come up with anything useful, to report about. I actually went after the Test Lab (approximately 22pm), to sleep. I had woke up 4 am and slept 4 hours on previous night, which affected a lot to this.

Tuesday

After Johanna Rothman’s Kick-Ass keynote, I headed for Duncan Nisbet’s session “The Typo In Testing – Let’s Taste!”. I knew Duncan a bit in advance from Twitter, where we’ve discussed. My impression was, that he was a passionate guy, who had also attended PSL course. Later I heard, that he had sold his car to get to the course. I think that describes the level of commitment to becoming a better tester. Duncan is also a really laid back guy, so you get along with him easily. That’s valuable attribute for a tester.

My second session was supposed to be Pete Houghton’s “That’s a bit random! Using randomness to help you test“, but I noticed my colleague (Samuli – @samuliel) was there already. We had agreed, that we would record the sessions with voice recorder. So I headed for Dawn Haynes’s session “Talking To Triangles”. Afterwards thinking, I’m glad I did. Dawn turned out to be an interesting person, with a lot of experience from our industry. She works at PerfTestPlus, and is an advocate of performance testing.  At some point she mentioned, that she is like a pit bull sometimes. If there’s uncertainty about something, and she wants to know more about it, she will not stop before receiving answers. I could totally imagine that, as she seemed a person with a lot of courage.

The final session of the day was Tobias Fors’s “Systems Thinking For The Rest Of Us“. Last year I wrote a blog post about Russell Ackoff, whom I respect a lot. Therefore I was really interested of participating on Tobias’s session. I did not know him in advance, but I had seen his talk in Oredev 2011. I thought it was great, and figured, that the session would be good opportunity for discussing about systems thinking. Session itself was extremely interactive, but after it came the exciting part. We discussed with few others about e.g. reasons why systems thinking has not spread more widely. Tobias also pointed me to an article by Ackoff - A BRIEF GUIDE TO INTERACTIVE PLANNING AND IDEALIZED DESIGN. I ended up also meeting Michael Bolton (I think he does not need an introduction. In case you don’t know him, check: http://www.developsense.com/blog/). We discussed (I mainly ended up listening) after that about a model, that was shown during the session. Michael gave some feedback about it and eventually the conversation led to Deep Blue.

During lunches and dinner, I managed to meet also few other people, that I had hoped to meet. These were Iain McCowatt, Simon Morley and Julian Harty. Iain is working for CGI, and lives in Canada. If I remember correctly, he is though from UK. I first got to know Iain through his blog posts about regression testing (Rethinking Regression). I thought they were brilliant. After, that I witnessed how he constantly expressed thoughtful approach to testing, on Twitter. Lately there’s been several fascinating discussions between James Bach, Michael Bolton, Iain McCowatt and Jesse Thomas Alford. There’s also an interesting video, where Iain talks about lessons we can learn from medical professionals and how testers think on “CAST Live”. Those lessons learned from medical professionals, was actually one of the topics we discussed while eating.

Simon Morley was even less familiar, than Iain, to me. I knew him mainly from Twitter (like most of the others). I also knew about his blog, which contained a lot of thoughtful posts about testing. Eventually we had really interesting discussions with Simon, and I found out, that he is a sharp minded tester. One of the topics we talked, was Griffin Jones’s session. It had raised some thoughts in Simon’s mind. Even though I did not participated to it, I found similarities with, what Cem Kaner discussed about in BBST Bug Advocacy course lectures (he talked there about credibility of proof and how it affects lawyers credibility).

I’m not now entirely sure, but I think I met Julian Harty on Tuesday. Anyway, I joined a queue, that led to dinner or lunch. I noticed Julian there and introduced myself. He knew me, because I had made him a question about Six Thinking Hats. I became familiar with Julian, when I found his talk from 2011 Starwest. There he talked how he has applied Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hat’s to problems in his work. I liked a lot the talk, and have seen it several times. I even ended up experimenting with the method, and did a blog post about it (I mentioned it already earlier). We talked with Julian for the whole time we were on the queue. He recommended to me, Ken Hudson’s book, that includes 60 techniques for solving problems. He didn’t mention the name, but I figured out, that it was The Idea Accelerator: How To Solve Problems Faster Using Speed ThinkingI already ordered that one. Other book, that Julian recommended was Sam Kaner’s (Cem Kaner’s brother apparently) Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. Rest of the time, we talked about using the Six Thinking Hats method.

I decided on Tuesday, that I would go again to Test Lab, as I was not satisfied with how Monday went there. We had a team with Jari, Geir and Kristoffer, but I figured out, that they probably wanted to confer instead of Test Lab. I noticed them, that I was going and didn’t want to force them there. On the Test Lab, I formed a team with Michael, who was a Swiss tester with test automation background. There was also third person in our team, who was Daniel (if I remember correctly). Considering, that he spoke Swedish, I figured out he was from Sweden. We ended up testing Mumble. We didn’t have headphones, which restricted our scope quite a bit, as Mumble is an open source voice communication software. It wasn’t that bad though, as there was still a lot to explore. After struggling a bit with note taking, we ended up making our notes to Mindomo. There we could simultaneously add notes about our testing.

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Mind map by Zeger van Hese’s group on Test Lab (Beside Zeger, there were Ruud Cox, Ilari Henrik Aegerter, Peter Duelen and Levente Balint)

Test Lab was incredible experience. After roughly 1,5 hours of testing, we reported the information we had revealed. Before us, there was people like Zeger van Hese (whose group created that awesome mind map, you see above), Michael Bolton, Richard Robinson and Pradeep Soundararajan, reporting their findings (I think that’s a true mark of an expert, that you can also show, that you can walk the walk). It was almost 11pm on Tuesday evening, and the room was full of people. People were testing, explaining their findings, discussing about testing and learning(!). This is what every testing conference should include! I told about this, at work after I came back. I said I was on testing conference, and colleague (not same company) asked if we tested. I said “Sure.” He said after that, that it was a joke. Then he asked “Did you really test?” Where I replied “Yes. Of course! It’s a testing conference!” After that he asked the name of the conference. I said “Let’s Test!” I think that it fit well into that conversation.

After the Test Lab, I finally had time to talk with Pradeep Soundararajan. As with many others, I think I first heard about him on Twitter, where I’ve followed him. Lately I’ve been also watching a lot of Oredev videos, and I’ve seen several talks by Pradeep. One interesting talk, is for example a talk How I wish users knew how I help them through context driven testing, where he talked about being a context-driven tester, and the obstacles he has faced. I also saw Gojko Adzic’s talk Sleeping With The Enemy from Oredev 2011. There Pradeep and Gojko were discussing quite intensively, and continued the discussion afterwards on whiteboard. We sat down after Test Lab, because I wanted to hear how the whiteboard discussion went. It was a good story, and I was also interested about it, because I’ll go to Gojko’s Specification by Example workshop this Autumn in Helsinki. Based on everything I saw on Let’s Test, Pradeep seems like man with a big heart. He was constantly asking questions on keynotes and sessions, and also showed that he can walk the walk (brilliant test reporting on Test Lab). I look forward seeing him again.

The night was not over for me on Tuesday. I still managed to discuss with two awesome testers. Those were Jean-Paul Varwijk and Henrik Andersson. I knew Jean-Paul before the conference (had not met him face-to-face though). We had a Skype session, where he helped me with finding Session-Based Exploratory Testing approach for HP Quality Center (Sami Söderblom also helped me a lot). I was able to come up with a workable solution after our discussions. Besides that, we’ve discussed several times on Twitter and I’ve also seen his great webinar, where he answered very thoroughly my question in the end. Jean-Paul talked to me about concurrent testing approach, that they are using currently. I’m not going to open up the details here, but I can say, that I really enjoyed the discussion we had.

Henrik Andersson was one of those testers, that I had heard about often, but never actually discussed with. I had the impression, that basically whole community knew him. From the moment we introduced ourselves, I realized this man has a lot of passion inside of him.  I also learned, that he had asked from reception if I had arrived on Monday. Just to check, that I had actually arrived. Amazing.

As I did not knew him that well, I asked about his background. He told about it very thoroughly, and I enjoyed it from the beginning to the end. I have no idea how long we discussed, but the time just flew. It was a good way to end the conversations on Tuesday (or maybe it was Wednesday already). Luckily I was able to meet Henrik again before I left the conference. Looking forward the next time, we’ll meet.

Wednesday

On Wednesday I was still fortunate to meet people, that I had not met earlier (face-to-face).  First one was Ruud Cox from The Netherlands, whom I met at Mark Micallef’s session. We didn’t have much time to talk, but he recommended me the book about sketchnoting. If you’ve been lately on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed the awesome sketchnotes, that Ruud has made. Few examples of those can be found from his blog. I also heard positive words about Ruud from James Bach. I think James talked about it on his tutorial, but not sure. Nevertheless, Ruud is definitely a tester, that people should know of.

Another tester, that impressed me, was Zeger van Hese, from Belgium. I was blown away by Zeger, when I saw the video of his talk at Oredev 2011. He mentioned on Let’s Test, that his voice was a bit gone on the video, because of being sick. I did not know that, when I was watching the video. I think, that the peaceful voice fit perfectly to that specific talk. It’s one of the most memorable talks I’ve seen of testing. We discussed a bit after his great session, and went through some of the things he had talked about during the session. Like The Noteboard, Coffitivity and of course his talk at Oredev. Zeger is definitely a fresh air in our community. He has a unique kind of artful, and scientific approach to testing.

After Scott Barber’s passionate keynote, it was time for goodbyes. There I met most of the people, that I wrote about here, and also managed to throw glass of water over Jean-Paul (I’m still sorry about that ;). People were saying goodbye, but there was no need for it.  We will meet again in some future conference, and continue discussing about testing on Twitter, Skype, blogs and so on.

It’s about people!

You might wonder (those of you, that are still here), why I didn’t talked about the content of the sessions nearly anything. That’s because, that is only a portion of what Let’s Test was. I wanted you to understand, that this conference was full of unique, skillful and passionate testers, from all over the world. The real magic happened, when these people started discussing after being inspired by the sessions.

By Testers for Testers – Because People Matter

I want to thank from the bottom of my heart, all the people who made Let’s Test 2013 possible. The way in which the whole conference was designed, and executed, was like a masterfully played symphony. You could see how well, the value of conferring was understood. Test Lab was also pure awesomeness. Thanks Martin and James.

Rest of you, I’ll see in the future.