Code Lochness & Code Frost

These terms I came up with as a joke over the last couple of years in regards to adherence to code lock down and code freeze.  We have all been there and will be there again where something (or many) slip into the release post-lock down.

Back in the day I used to lament and complain and use this as a crutch to state I could not be job successfully.  Now I have to come to see it differently and plan for it and adjust our approaches to accommodate late changes as well as educating others what testing can/cannot do for them. I will to get to more on that later, but first the origins of the names.

Code Lochness:

This I feel is a more appropriate name for what we think of “Code Lock down” in our daily lives. This idea came out during many conversations/venting sessions with a developer friend of mine.

The term Lochness is in reference to the mythical Loch Ness Monster.  Like Code Lock Down, the Loch Ness Monster is claimed to exist by many yet has never been seen. They are both mythical creatures.

Code Frost:

This is a more recent addition to my vernacular. The term “Code Freeze” is misleading and is more of a Frost. Code is not frozen, but generally (hopefully) the stream of new code/features coming in to a release under test slows down to a trickle after Code “Frost” hits.

Lessons Learned in Software Testing – Lesson #162 “There are always late changes”

I recently re-read this lesson and jumped out now as have been thinking about this a lot.

This lesson talks about how often times new software is being built and there hasn’t been something like this built and/or used before. There are many reasons listed that drive late changes.

  • All requirements not known when project kicked off and planning was done.
  • Requirements change through design sessions, UAT, etc. and as the team gains more info/insight into the target and intended use.
  • Differing needs of the various stakeholders.
  • Sometimes the work involved takes much longer than expected it will take.

I have seen this time and time again as well as other needs that drive late changes:

  • A customer escalation that is found in production and needs to be fixed right away. The risk of impacting that customer relationship by doing nothing is often times higher than that of coding the fix and deploying to release for testing.
  • A customer commitment with a high $$$ value and/or good publicity can weigh in and be willing to accept a certain level of risk to meet a deadline and satisfy the customer.
  • Similar to first bullet point, the risk of NOT making the fix/enhancement is far greater than that of getting the code in place, tested and out the door to production.

How to Respond:

  • Expect and plan for late changes. Understand why these changes are coming in late and develop a context driven approach on how you will test these changes in the limited time frame and what tools/techniques you can use to aid in your testing. If you have an hour or two, figure out what are the best tests and approaches to explore and provide the most information possible on the state of the fix and its impact on the feature/release.
  • Educate development and leadership on what they can actually expect testing to be able to cover given time & resource availability. Make sure they understand the risks associated with implementing a late change post lock down/near release.
  • Don’t use it as a crutch to NOT do your very best work & effort.

My job is to explore and provide relevant information to all relative stakeholders and continue to educate them on software testing’s role in the overall quality of a product and clarify what folks can/cannot expect from the testing group. We can assure quality, we cannot guarantee issue releases.  It does not mean we stop trying for that goal and in that hopefully our understanding of the issue is accurate, our strategy to attack this issue is sound and that we give nothing less than 100% to the task at hand.

The long story short is we will most likely see the The Loch Ness Monster before we ever see a true, full code lock down. And you know what? I am okay with that (now).


My Internal Keynote Address

Any conference you attend there is generally a keynote (or two) from an industry expert and/or celebrity that ties into the general theme of said conference. Generally, the attendees leave the keynote both educated as well as enthused to learn more on the topic.

This enthusiasm can be short-lived and dropped by the time you have arrived home from the conference or it can have a long-lasting impact in which the attendee is awakened and continues forward post conference to learn and try to implement the lessons they learned.

This got me to thinking, what if I gave myself my own internal keynote address each day/week. The goal would be to find a way to frame the upcoming day/week to both energize myself to conquer the task at hand as well as to continue my pursuits (both professionally and personally). Whether it be an upcoming meeting with a co-worker, a current project I am responsible for we all have those days that are taxing and hard to generate the same level of excitement.

A lot of how your day goes is heavily dependent on your attitude. Do you want that day to be a good day or a bad day? Are you going to see challenges as a road block or as an opportunity to learn something new? These are just a few examples of conversations or keynote addresses on could give themselves.

I will blog more on various testing ideas, concepts and/or strategies, but wanted to start (or resume) on this topic as well as make the following plan over the upcoming calendar year and thus hope then helps others hold me accountable (and for me to be accountable to myself as well).

 

  1. Blog on a routine basis. My initial goal is 1 per week and have set a weekly reminder to myself asking “Have you blogged yet this week?” Hopefully more than 1/week and realize that not every blog post has to be a novel. They can be short and to the point as well.
  2. Engage in testing related conversations on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) on a weekly basis.
  3. Continue to read and experiment with new techniques/procedures and work to train my team on these.
  4. Actively participate in the IWST’s (Indianapolis Workshops for Software Testing) and present information as well.
  5. At CAST 2014, develop and sign up to do a Lightning Talk. Also to introduce myself to 10 new people that I don’t know and engage in discussion.

After previous conferences I have come back rolling like a ball on fire, but eventually this fades a bit and fall back to the wayside as real life kicks in and let myself get defeated (or delayed). My goal is to continue on and try to make each week as enlightening and motivating as a week attending a CAST conference does for me. I also strive to help those that work on my team gain the same excitement for their craft as well.

Thanks for reading. I will be working on my takeaways from CAST 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin over the next week.


Making a difference in the world

The world is a crazy, crazy place and seems to be getting crazier all the time.  We want to make a difference the world is so big and the list of areas so long that figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. Often times so overwhelming it prevents us from trying.

In light of the recent Zimmerman trial verdict and sparking the questions of racial profiling, hatred and violence it hit me where I feel I can make the most difference in this world and it is in a very direct way.

I think we all can make this difference and it involves how we raise our children and the lessons we teach them and offer opportunities for them to learn this on their own.  Ignorance and hatred are not something that I believe we are naturally born with, they are planted there in the environment in which a child grows up and what they see, hear and do.  It is such a shame to see someone’s bigotry and vitriol being passed on to their child before they are old enough to know better.

Here are 10 off the top of my head (not in order of importance):

1. Be Kind

2. Be Respectful: Treat everyone with respect until they give you reason not to.

3. Everyone is an individual: Treat and react to everyone as an individual and don’t judge them based on their race, gender and/or sexual orientation. If you have a negative experience with a person don’t let that color your view of an entire race, gender, etc.

4. Embrace your differences: Use them as learning opportunities and opportunities to help others learn as well.

5. Don’t Hate: Hate impacts you more than the target of your hatred. You can dislike and even be mad, but generally the target is not worthy of your hatred.

6. Love to Learn: Embrace education both in formal schooling as well as self education. Find out and learn about topics on your own and don’t depend on just what you read/see in textbooks.

7. Ask questions: If something doesn’t make sense to you, ask a question.  If what someone says to you doesn’t sound/feel right ask the question.

8. No bullying: Whether it is mental or physical, don’t be a bystander while someone else is being bullied. Do not join in on it and call them out on it and intervene if need be.

9. No Comparisons: Don ‘t compare yourself to others. Everyone person and family have their positives as well as their negatives. Appreciate what you have and don’t take it for granted.

10. Don’t be a follower: Be a leader. Don’t join in an activity just because your friends are doing it or “to be cool”.

If anyone has others to add/share please do so in the comments section.


Bittersweet

(One of my favorite pics from this morning)

Today marks a big milestone in our little (or not so little anymore) boy’s life……the first day of kindergarden. On top of that, it was his first time riding the bus to school which has left me with that bittersweet feeling that tends to come with any significant change in one’s life. You are looking forward to that next stage, yet feel a bit of sadness for the stage that you are transitioning from.

Jack has been going to Montessori school for the past couple of years so going to school atmosphere during the day is not new, but riding the bus is. We were unsure how he would handle this change as we have always dropped him off and picked him up from school. We also were not sure how he would handle getting up so early to get to the bus at 7:30 in the morning.  Today he was so excited, got up without issue and was out extra early for the bus.

Today went much smoother and easier than I was expecting. He got to play with all his friends before school and the excitment for the first day of school was definitely in the air.  It will be interesting to see if the second day is met with the same level of excitement and even to compare today to a month from now. My hope is that is excitement continues and that he finds it both a challenging and rewarding environment to be in.

Today is bittersweet because as excited as I am for Jack to grow and be exposed to new things, I also know this means our boy is growing up and fast.  I am very curious to see him develop and where is interests and talents take him and what he is going to be like as an adult. At the same time, a part of me wishes he could stay etched in time at the exact age he is now.  It is our job to help guide and teach our son, but I find that I am continually learning every day from him as well.

These critical moments and milestones in your child’s life are important. Be sure not to miss these and overlook their significance.  I believe these are the moments we will remember and cherish and bring true meaning to our lives. The real world makes this harder at times and can get us to overlook these if we let it. I cannot say that I have always been successful in turning work off and enjoying the moments, but I am cognizant of it and always try to keep doing better as I go.  

There are varying degrees of success and people look at success differently. Yes, work and career are important in terms of being able to provide and support your family, but your family and being there with them is the most important thing (at least to me). 

A few questions that are on the top of my mind consistently: At the end of my days here, will I be able to say that I was the best husband I could be? was I the best father I could be?  I hope the answer to both of these questions are yes. At the same time, I have to realize that this does not mean I have to be perfect.  At the very least, I hope and plan to be able to say that I gave it my best shot.  What I hope to teach my children is: You may not always win, but as long as you know you tried and did the best you could and you had fun while doing it, you haven’t lost either.


Five Minutes

I recently attended #CAST2011 out in Lynnwood, WA and on the last day attended James Bach’s Context Driven Leadership tutorial.  I was lucky enough to sit at a table with some very talented and smart individuals – Markus Gartner, Phil McNeely and Elena Houser. Coming back from one of the breaks, Markus asked James what he meant by 5 minutes and in what context (as was stated would start in 5 more minutes).   Given the theme of the tutorial and the fact I seem to find many examples when interacting with my son Jack, this sparked a blog idea that you may or may not find interesting and/or relevant.  

We can all agree that 1 minute = 60 seconds correct? and given that, 5 minutes is 300 seconds?  At face value yes, but using 5 minutes with a toddler is completely different. What 5 minutes means depends entirely on the situation and the context it is used. My son’s reaction to the 5 minutes also ranges depending on the situation – is it something he is eagerly waiting for or is it something he wishes to prolong?  This is getting harder as he continually asks questions and now understands that 1 minute = 60 seconds.

In our household, we use a 5 minute countdown for just about everything as this tends to make whatever transition we are about to make much easier for Jack to adapt and react to.  The first thing folks that watch this, will realize is that our “5 minutes” is rarely ever the same amount of time and generally goes well beyond the 300 second definition above.

Scenario #1: Bedtime

When preparing for bed, we do the 5 minute countdown and one of the biggest factors into what this 5 minutes means is “how late of a start did us (the parents) get in starting the countdown. 

  • If we see that Jack is tired or know has had a long day, we may start the countdown earlier and thus the intervals between the minutes is extended and the 5 minutes can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.
  • If we get off schedule, get home late, etc. and get a late start on countdown, the intervals between minutes reduce greatly and generally are through in a max 10-15 minutes (real time).
  • In each case, despite Jack now knowing 60 seconds is 1 minute, he does not keep us honest by counting to 60 for accuracy as he generally wants to prolong nighttime as much as possible so leaves it to us to call it.

Scenario #2: Travelling

It amazes me that kids somehow inherently know how to ask “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?”  When Jack was younger, could say 5-10 minutes or an even more generic answer “in a little while” and that would suffice.  As stated before, he now understands the concept of 1 minute = 60 seconds which has made it a more risky opposition to an accurate time.  the number of times he asks “Are we there yet?” increase/decrease by his level of excitement getting to the destination.

In one case, I stated 5 minutes and he then proceeded to count to 60  5 times. In this one case I happened to get home right as we he was getting to 60 the fifth time. Of course his 60 is debatable to as he counts in different speeds as well.  The only real consequence is when the trip takes longer than stated and then I have to hear about it the rest of the way until we get to where we are going.

But, this is a case where his response to the time is much different. If he is excited or interested in getting somewhere, he is more cognizant of when it will truly be and doing all he can to speed up the process.  So not only do my wife and I behave differently executing the 5 minute countdown, but Jack also responds differently and his level of awareness of the time changes based on the context of the situation.

In conclusion…

This sort of ties into the risk of gaining a shallow agreement with another. Shallow agreement (paraphrasing) as discussed in the tutorial is “the appearance of agreement when you don’t” and generally happens when we seek common ground too quickly. This can easily lead to misunderstanding each other. 

This is especially important when dealing with someone that is very literal (like a 5 year old) who doesn’t get a “figure of speech.” For example, I have a tendency to respond “In a couple of minutes…” and then he responds later “you said it would only be 2 minutes.” My first response is “No I didn’t” but then realized he was using his defnition of the word couple and that couple equals 2 where I am using it as a figure of speech.  It sets the wrong expectation and thus can lead to confusion and/or issue. How many issues are released to production due to individuals thinking they are on the same page, where they really weren’t and overlook a critical piece of the puzzle?

I appreciate and welcome and any and all feedback as I continue my journey and learning of the context driven school of software testing.


Lessons Learned from a 5 year old

This is in honor of my son, Jack, who turned 5 today. If you are in the testing field and you are interested in the world of patterns and perspectives, there is nothing quite like trying to detect those of a curious and creative toddler.

Here is a pic of Jack at his first White Sox game last year:

Perspectives: Everyone has a different perspective in life and that is definitely true for my son Jack. I wish I had time for a ton of examples, but am amazed when we have a similiar experience and/or encounter and I take it a certain way and then days later Jack will bring up that same moment with a completely different take on it. It makes me really think about my perspective.

  • Default: We discussed this in James Bach’s Tutorials at StarWest 2010 and is something that I have been trying to actively work on and remember to not be biased and stuck with my initial thought/reaction to a subject.
  • Historical: Learn from history and past actions and consequences.  When we are in the beer/wine aisle, he will ask if all the beers are mine as I am a beer drinker. When we are buying wine he knows that white wine is for Yia Yia (my mother) and red wine is for Abu (my step father). He knows that he has seen his Nana (my mother in law) drink both so knows either one could be for her. Although I every once in awhile throw off his pattern by having a glass of wine. So be aware of the exceptions to the rule you are working against.
  • User: Thinking from a user’s perspective: I can’t imaging a toy builder or game creator for kids could possibly think of the various ways in which my son “enhances” the game or what he decides to do with the toys he does have. In many ways, it is similiar to the application my team and I are currently responsible for testing. The permutations and ways in which our users can utilize the application is nearly infinite.

Patterns: And when detecting patterns, you learn a lot playing a board game or even a made up game using his matchbox cars and a race track.  They have a tendency to fit and evolve to enhance his chances of winning, but are generally consistent and plays within the set of his own rules that he come up with.

For example, the latest was if your car landed in a certain spot, you would burn in hot lava. But finding the boundaries where the hot lava stopped  and you were safe was very specific in his mind even if it was not to me.

I really just wanted to celebrate my son today, but this topic has been on my mind as i am really digesting and digging in to perspectives and patterns and continuing to drive my own education in the field with the help of others.

Conclusion:

  • Be careful of relying solely on your default perspective and allow yourself to think differently or how someone else might perceive the same problem.
  • Don’t be quick to force a pattern to be there as while it may look like the pattern, you might miss out on the bigger picture.
  • As well, learn from past successes and mistakes, there is always room to improve and learn.  have you seen this problem before? how did you resolve the problem before? what steps can you take to prevent similiar problems in the future?
  • Think of what the users can and may do with the application and not just what the functional spec or any documentation states. There is a great chance they will use your application in ways you never would have imagined.
  • Think like a 5 year old – Don’t constrain yourself by conventional wisdom and how it “should” be.  Obviously that is simple, but don’t let bias and what others tell you how something is, keep you from exploring and finding new ways to do something.

QA and the Long Snapper

Last year  I was watching  a Chicago Bears game. Their long snapper, Pat Mannelly,  made a huge blunder that turned the momentum of the game in their opponents favor. The ball was deep in their own territory and  were in a punting situation.  He made an audible to do a quick fake snap as he thought the other team had 12 men on the field. This would have been a penalty on the defense, but the 12th man got off the field in time and the audible backfired.

The conditions and setting were not right for this chance to be taken. They were deep in their own territory and the penalty would have given them 5 yards and would still be 4th down. The reward did not outweigh the risk in that situation.

After the game , he was surrounded by the media asking him questions about the play and the decision. He stated: (paraphrasing here) “Well I must have not done my job very well if you guys are sitting here talking to me.”  The key point is the long snapper is not a flashy, popular position and they go day in and day out executing their role effectively and quietly with little fanfare.

How many of us in the testing field have run into this same situation when an issue escapes into production and has a noticeable impact on the user?  Generally the first question out of people’s mouths is “How did this not get caught in testing?” Nevermind the 300+ CRs you did find and resolved prior to release to production. You generally do not get the credit for going about and doing your job well, but any slip or escape and it gets magnified.

We know that finding and detecting EVERY bug and touching all possible permutations of the systm is impossible.  In the past, this lack of credit for what we did find and thet magnification of what slipped through was maddening and a very high point of stress.

While I still take it very personally when something we have worked on generates an issue, I also realize that we are not going to find them all. In our testing cycles, we need to weigh the reward vs. risk, being able to question what is the most critical and what we feel is less critical.

This can sometimes lead to a missed defect that we overlooked or underestimated its criticality. These still hurt, but are easier to swallow knowing that the team was diligent, thoughtful and proactive in their efforts. You get up, dust yourself up, and work to resolve the issue and then remember this lesson for next time.

I guess my point or thought is, that if you are now just entering this field, be prepared to NOT get the credit you deserve as well as getting the blame you do NOT deserve from time to time.  Know the situation you are in, educate yourself with the skills to succeed and apply them when it counts in critical situations.