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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Kiwi Software Testers Unite!

Last weekend SoftEd and James Bach hosted the first Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing (KWST) at the SoftEd offices in Wellington. This event is special because of the very specific way it is set up and run (which I’ll discuss below). This particular event was also very special because of all the people who came along (on a Friday and Saturday) and contributed so much to the discussions we had. It definitely felt like the beginning of a conversation about the future of the testing profession, rather than a stand-alone event and we can’t wait to see what happens next! For more on the content of the KWST, read Brian Osman’s blog post.

Everyone!

So what are the rules? Firstly it is by invitation only and has a maximum of 20 participants. This is to ensure a wide range of backgrounds and opinions, but also some shared attributes, so in this case all of the participants were testing managers who would have enough shared experience to understand each other, but enough unique experience to learn from each other. Also keeping a cap on numbers is helpful because the conversations can go on for a long time. Even with the 20 or so people we had, KWST could have easily lasted two weeks rather than two days!

Hard at work!

Secondly the facilitation role is essential (massive thanks to Brian Osman for his heroic efforts there!). This is because everyone who attends KWST can make a presentation or deliver an ‘experience report’ and then a discussion can stem from there involving the whole group. There isn’t always time for everyone to give a presentation, but everyone gets the chance to participate in the discussion and it is not over until everyone is satisfied, which also has the consequence that a typical event will be able to cover no more than two or three topics at the most.

Facilitation cards

To aid the facilitator there are cards which each participant is given. If someone wants to contribute to the current discussion they hold up their yellow ‘same thread’ card. To start a new thread on the same topic they hold up their green ‘new thread’ card. Where they have something of high importance to contribute they hold up their red ‘high priority’ card and finally (perhaps most importantly) if the discussion is going off on a massive tangent anyone can hold up their purple ‘rat hole’ card. There is a fantastic blog post on how to run these events which covers more detail, especially about the role of the facilitator and to be honest if I were to write anymore I’d merely be copying what it said, so if you’re interested please follow this link to read it.

Of course you can also include games, plenty of breaks and delicious food to keep the brain active. For even more info on what was discussed at the event, the best thing to do is read the twitter feed of some of the participants: James Bach, Brian Osman, Aaron Hodder, Farid Vaswani, Oliver Erlewein, Richard Robinson and Nadine Brown or you can do a twitter search for the hashtag #KWST to see all the news! This new event framework has given us lots to think about. If you have any thoughts or ideas you would like to share, please leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you.

See the rest of the photos from the event on flickr

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Testing

 

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Using your brain effectively

Another post from an airplane 🙂

I received a promotional email which intrigued me, and followed the link to download the Synaptic Potential (http://www.synapticpotential.com/) paper titled “How to use your Brain to be more Efficient, Effective and Productive”, I was a bit skeptical (thinking I know this stuff, after all I teach all about it) but discovered the author (Amy Brann) does actually have some very valuable content to share, based on solid neuroscience and brain research.

She presents a three-component model to help understand mental processes and address the questions of “how quick, how good and how much” do we use our brain capacity?

The paper gives a useful discussion of the underlying neuroscience and introduces the prefrontal cortex and Neural Darwinism, then goes on to address the three components of her model. Amy provide concrete tips and ideas on how to change your behavior for each aspect of their model.

1. How Quick?
There are three factors that improve how quickly we think – Monotasking, Minimizing Distractions and Maps.

Monotasking is about focusing on one thing and doing it well. She cites studies and investigations that show how bad multitasking is in terms of actually achieving effective results (“one study showed that visual input dropped by 29% and listening ability dropped by 53%”); this impacts on stress levels and creates “constant and intense mental exhaustion”.
Minimizing Distractions Builds on monotasking and looks at the impact of interruptions on productivity – every interruption takes at least 15 minutes of productivity away from the task you are working on. Even the smallest interruption (noticing the text message that arrived, even if you don’t stop to read it) has a concentration impact. Minimizing distractions requires active management of your personal environment and space.
Maps are the mental models that help to form pathways in the brain and enable us to do things by rote, deep learning. She recommends identifying the cognitive tasks that you need to do regularly and build maps for them.

2. How Good?
She presents three ways to be more effective in your thinking – Flow, Unstuck and Sleep.

Flow is the mental state when we “feel at one with what we’re doing, immersed, focused, fully consumed and involved”. She explains the chemical balance the brain needs to achieve flow and gives advice on achieving this balance.
Getting Unstuck requires changing the frame – raise above the details and look at the big picture, go for a walk, do something non-stressful and different to allow your mind to jump out of the rut it gets into.
Sleep is vital to effective thinking – she talks about how important it is to get sufficient sleep on a regular basis, and discusses the value of the power-nap, a 20-40 minute sleep during the working day can result in a 40% increase in cognitive function!

3. How much?
The final threesome are Allostatic Load, Challenges and Expectations.

Allostatic Load is related to levels of stress and stress management. She talks about how stress impacts the ability to think and provides advice about healthy body-healthy mind.
Coping with cognitive Challenges requires acknowledging the emotions you feel when faced with challenge and not succumbing to the negative emotional impact.
The final piece is to set high Expectations – goals based on clearly stated high expectations motivate and encourage us and help us keep working towards those goals.

Overall I found the paper an interesting and useful read. I can certainly recognize the three aspects in my own cognitive working. Over the last two weeks I’ve worked on some tasks that have enabled flow, focus and monotasking and the rate of productivity has astounded me.

Being aware of how you think, and taking ownership and control of your cognitive behavior is a great way to improve productivity and satisfaction, whatever you are doing.

Posted by Shane Hastie

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Culture

 

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SoftEd runs a course in Israel for M86 Security

Software Education is delighted to announce that we are delivering our Practices of Agile Teams training course for M86 Security, the global expert in real-time threat protection and the industry’s leading Secure Web Gateway provider. Our chief knowledge engineer Shane Hastie is flying to M86’s R&D centre in Tel Aviv, Israel in July to deliver the Agile course and will then go on to M86’s offices in Orange County (O.C. ) in California to provide some consultancy services, following on from training he delivered to the O.C-based team last year.

This will be the first time that SoftEd has delivered a course in Israel, although we have always had a global reach with courses taking place in the U.K. and U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand. We are proud to see that yet again knowledge from ‘down under’ has such influence across the world! M86 Security are a global organisation and our ability to work with them in Israel, the U.S. and New Zealand is a testament to our dedication to providing our customers with a tailor-made solution for their training requirements. Shane first gave a short Agile tutorial to the M86 Security research and development team in Auckland, which lead to more training for their New Zealand team and then the opportunity to work with the team in O.C., culminating now also with the trip to Israel. Thom Linden, SVP of Global Research and Development at M86 Security said, “To make a successful transition to Agile, training and coaching from experts, who have the right combination of knowledge and effective interaction skills are extremely valuable. SoftEd has achieved great results in mentoring our development teams to adopt practices and tools to successfully apply Agile in our business.”

Shane is looking forward to this trip, which adds to what has been a busy and exciting year for him with not only several training and public speaking engagements but also with his work with the IIBA defining the Agile Extension to the BABOK (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge). He is the only Australasian member of the committee developing BABOK version 3.0. Shane will also be speaking at Agile 2011 in Salt Lake City on 8 – 12 August with Steve Adolph.


M86 Security is the global expert in real-time threat protection and the industry’s leading Secure Web Gateway provider. The company’s appliance, software, and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for Web and email security protect more than 25,000 customers and 26 million users worldwide. M86 products use patented real-time code analysis and behavior-based malware detection technologies as well as threat intelligence from M86 Security Labs to protect networks against new and advanced threats, secure confidential information, and ensure regulatory compliance. The company is based in Orange, California with international headquarters in London and development centers in California, Israel, and New Zealand.

Software Education are internationally recognised for their expertise in software development training. With over 50 different course titles in Business Analysis, System Design, Programming, Software Testing, IT Management and Agile Development, Software Education not only provide access to leading-edge content but also to an unrivalled network of international experts.

Whether through Software Education’s public courses, individually tailored in-house training or our international conferences, STANZ and SDC, you will acquire practical, relevant skills which you can use immediately or work towards certification.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Agile, Courses

 

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Do you believe in magic?

Recently, I had the good fortune of seeing Sonny Rollins in concert. Any one member of Sonny’s band would hold the stage on their own.

Sonny Rollins was the drawcard but the concert was not just about him; the band collectively made it about the music, together as a whole, not any one individual. Obvious solos abound but mini-solos and subtle by-lines ran through the various cuts and all throughout you could see musicians seeing, feeling, expressing in response to the others. Two hours flew by like it was only 20 minutes – no breaks, very little jabber, just pure enjoyment.
Watching them reminded me how we strive to bring together our various operational and project teams.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Huh? I thought you were talking about Sonny Rollins? What does Jazz have to do with teams?”

Watch a good jazz band and you’ll see a team collaborating and sharing the whole. Watch a tight, outstanding, mind-blowing group and you’ll see magic happening and the outcome is on a whole different level.

How do some groups achieve magic? Watch and learn from the greats… you’ll see they LISTEN to each other and their whole blend. The spotlight is SHARED and they aren’t afraid to TRY. Innovation is part of their nature; dare I say habitual. They display emergent behaviour – complex patterns arising from simple interactions.

Jazz is characterised by improvisation, syncopation tied together by regular underlying rhythm(s). As the team lead or manager, we do whatever is needed to help maintain the underlying directional beat while the overall team contributes their various melodies, counter-melodies and rhythms. We don’t insist on keeping the spotlight or insist on being the only one driving the beat, but work alongside those that we lead. And like a jazz group, a well performing team adapts as the situation morphs and different voices emerge.

Magic doesn’t happen often enough and never happens on its own but the magic is there.

I believe in magic.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Culture, Uncategorized

 

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Exploratory Testing is Dead! Long Live Wombat Testing!

During one of my many customer visits last week I was talking to someone who has been a software tester and business analyst for the last six years. We talked about the variety of training courses there are available and the benefits they provide (letting them know that we offer lots of great testing courses at SoftEd of course!).

This customer hasn’t been on any training courses so far in their career but they did attend our STANZ conference in 2008 and it proved to be an informative experience. Without any specific guidance their team at work had come up with their own terminology for what they did, such as “Wombat Testing”. This was the name they gave to the practice of ‘burrowing’ through a system looking for bugs. After attending STANZ they realised that what they did had a ‘proper’ name: Exploratory Testing; and that actually lots of other test teams use it as well and have had great results.

I thought this was interesting for two reasons. Firstly I’ve heard people say ‘I don’t have time for training’ so many times, however when people have been able to go on a course or go to a conference we get an overwhelmingly positive response. This was certainly the case for this particular tester. They were in the middle of a big project when STANZ 2008 was on, and they had to make a case for attending the conference, but because they were successful they not only got to meet other testers with similar war stories but they also acquired new skills to improve their “Wombat Testing”. Secondly I think “Wombat Testing” is a brilliant name – Exploratory Testing is Dead, Long Live Wombat Testing!

(By the way, this is meant to be a story more than a sales pitch but if you do want to know more about STANZ you can visit our website and if you want help making a business case to secure your attendance this year, get in touch with SoftEd!)

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2011 in Courses, Testing

 

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SoftEd and Revolution IT partner up!

Last month Software Education and Revolution IT became partners, which means we can offer our customers the same fantastic software testing and business training courses, now run even more frequently in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland and Wellington.

Software Education have been training providers for over 20 years and we pride ourselves on having excellent trainers. Our testing trainers consistently score top marks from our customers for both their knowledge and teaching ability. For more information on our testing courses have a look on our website and get in touch with us to book a place.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Testing

 

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