Agile Testing Days 2015, Day 1

Okay, so let’s start this live blogging thing again. Before I begin I want to say that I miss one person at the conference and that is: Pete Walen. He just belongs here, and I really miss his presence. He was the one who also live blogged the whole event and honestly, I thought that was cool and started doing it as well. So, I’m trying to keep the spirit of Pete here and will give the live blogging a try again.

Yesterday, the speakers dinner was a lot of fun. I see so many familiar faces, it’s great. After the dinner we went back to the bar and it was packed. The atmosphere of this conference is so great; I truly hope that will never change.

Lisa & Janet

The Wild West intro sketch

You can trust these ladies to deliver some kind of funny sketch. They are dressed up as gold diggers from the Wild West. The Super Agile Person comes on stage as well (again: familiar faces all over!). The morale of the story is to collect ‘gold nuggets’, bits of knowledge to take home. They encourage everyone to have fun, talk to new people, and of course: go to the bar!! No problem there.

Huib & Alexandra

Where words fail, music speaks

They start by playing some Star Wars music, of course. I have seen their keynote already in the Netherlands back in February, so I’m curious whether they changed it a lot.

Music is very important to both Huib and Alex. Last year at 4 am in the morning the idea for this talk was born. Great story already 🙂

We have to start singing now, brb.

On to the message of this talk. Music gives you instant feedback. If you’re doing something wrong, you can tell immediately. To improve your skills, you have to practice. You break the hard stuff down into smaller pieces that you can comprehend. Alex gives a very nice demonstration about how you learn a difficult piece on violin.

When you want to improve yourself, you also have to master the basics. In music those basics are the scales. You have to play scales a lot. It’s boring (I know from experience), but it does help to improve your knowledge about playing music.

When you play music, there are probably also hard parts. They aren’t fun to practice, because they might involve notes that are hard to play on your instrument. But that means that you pick those bits out and practice them.

Alex wanted us to close our eyes and she played a tune and wanted us to tell her what we thought or felt when she played that. People said: ‘hobbits’, ‘country’, ‘hills’. The point is that we have a shared understanding of what the music might mean, or how it comes across.

If you play alone, you only have yourself to direct and give feedback, that is easy. If the group goes to 3 to 4 people, it gets harder. In a band however, you need some kind of director, and the group is broken up in sections. In an orchestra, you REALLY need a director. Every section in an orchestra has a principal player, who sort of leads the section.

There’s an odd thing as well: Sessions. A group of people come together and they start playing. There’s barely any organisation involved, people know from memory what they are playing.

During a session people are heavily relying on heuristics: structure, tune, rhythm, to name a few.   

In the end I had to get on stage with my clarinet, which was terrifying and fun at the same time. I realised that a violin and trombone are tuned in C, while my clarinet is tuned in B flat. If we would play the same notes, that would sound pretty weird. Luckily, in the end it was just me playing while the audience sang so no problems there. Was really cool to hear 600 people sing and play the weird blowing thingies (kazoos) that were given away!

Fin Kingma

We are driven people, not job descriptions

Fin is a great guy and it’s really awesome that his talk was chosen on his first try to get in the conference. I want to root for him, he’s really one the most driven people I know!

5 years ago his look on life changed, because he read the book Drive, by Daniel Pink. It’s a great book, I read it too and it is really a life changer! There’s also a 15 minute YouTube clip that explains the essential message, just look it up (for those who hate reading).

Fin wants to take us on a journey on how intrinsic motivation became so important to him. A really bad motivator is to give people money to solve creative problems.

When are you motivated?

Most of our motivation is internalized hopefully, so that YOU decide what is important to you. On the other hand of the spectrum there is externalized, meaning that external factors mainly guide what you do (money, for example). This is happening a lot in our working environment, which is guided by performance reviews to get more money (this is actually a bad thing, it provides people with the wrong kind of motivation).

Another example of a type of motivation is Introjected. That means that other people pressure you to do something, like a sales deal for example. I have to think about the drinking culture, if you don’t want to drink alcohol, people often don’t accept it and try to pressure you to have a drink.

Other levels are ‘Identified’, ‘Integrated’ and finally ‘Intrinsic’.

Fin mentions Simon Sinec, ‘Start with the Why’. Many things we do are coming from somewhere, and it is important to reflect upon WHY you are doing certain stuff.

Next we are hearing about the Reiss profile. You can take a test there about what motivates you.

In everyones personality at the core there is an internal drive, that leads to beliefs, to skills and at the end behavior. At the core level, people don’t change, is what scientists found by experimenting. The internal drives stay the same, even if behavior might change.

Internal drive is always at the root, the core of people’s behavior. Fin invites us to discover our own internal drive. This can be on more than one of the five levels he mentioned earlier.

There are a lot of benefits to being intrinsically motivated. You are more self aware. Getting to know yourself and what drives you can help you in life. Not just work, just in general.

You will also be more proactive. If you strive to live by what motivates you, you will make sure stuff happens that aligns with your beliefs. This way, you will also be able to be more creative in your thinking. You can also toss out the job description ‘tester’, you will be much more than that! You will just be an awesome individual contributing value to the team.

The agile manifesto also mentions motivation in one of the 12 principles. “Build teams around motivated individuals”. I can really tell you from experience that I once was in a team like that, and we rocked. I also once was in a team where most people didn’t like their job, and barely spoke up, and that was not really motivating at all. In agile contexts, I usually see people striving to do a good job and that’s a great thing to see. For me, having trust and mandate as a team to take decisions is really motivating.

What are the downsides?? If you only strive to ‘enjoy’ yourself you might become too selfish. You should also focus on the social part, to work together with other people. Make the team a better place.

Fin is using a system for himself to measure how he is motivated. He makes a picture diary of his day and rates moments by giving 1 to 5 stars.

He also wrote a personal description about himself. That’s a really awesome thing to do, it really forces you to reflect on your own life and behaviors. Good idea!

Conclusion: successful Agile relies on motivated individuals.

Next I made the mistake of going to a vendor talk. I didn’t realise from the title of the talk it would be a vendor talk. I understand why vendors are needed to make a successful conference, but in general I don’t like the vendor talks because they are too clearly sales-driven. I won’t be blogging about this talk then, because it is not my intention to bash around here in this blog. I try to be positive with a critical note here and there.

Lunch happened next and it was great as always. Alex and Huib were at my table and they looked very happy and relaxed! Huib was still making music with his kazoo (that’s how the weird blowing thingies are called, apparently), so part of me is wondering ‘omg how many talks are going to be disrupted by kazoo sounds’. I’m just glad they didn’t give everyone a vuvuzela. I’m sure I would have ended up strangling some folks…I really hate vuvuzela sounds. Maybe I’ll end up strangling some kazoo players as well; time will tell.

Next keynote is going to be “Testers are Dying”. During the first keynote I already noticed that the main room is PACKED. There are so many attendees that it just doesn’t fit. That is in a sense amazing, and in another one quite annoying. You really have to be on time to fit in a room. Some speakers are very popular, and people have to sit on the floor during those sessions.

The two ladies giving the keynote are from South Africa, a country I know shamefully little about. There is a power shortage in South Africe, it can go out for 3 hours a day. There’s more demand than there is capacity. The ladies claim we need more people with testing capacities.

How does South Africa deal with the power shortage? They want to take us through that process first.

  1. Awareness. Ads on tv and companies are trying to make people aware to use less power, trying to change people’s behavior.
  2. Punishment. People using a lot of power are paying more.
  3. Personal responsibility. Individuals start to feel responsible to take action. Using more efficient light bulbs. Buy solar geysers to make your own power. People even got money back from the power company because they were reducing the load.
  4. Visible impact. People wanted to see how much power they were saving or using less of. So there were personal electricity monitors that people could use in their own home.
  5. Start a movement. There are now a bunch of offices that give power back to the system. They are built with power generators so they don’t need to use more power from the power company (Eskon).

What does all this have to do with testing?

Karen and Sam ask the audience if they are often asked to release without testing. To my dismay, a lot of people raised their hands. wtf moment here

Blame around bugs? Some people also raise their hands. Awful!

Automation is at least one sprint behind…yep, a lot of hands raised.

[raw thoughts: Are we really living in 2015?? At least testers will have a lot of work for the upcoming years if this is the state of software development..]

Awareness: we should be aware of the bugs that are there. How many? Are they important?

Punishments: regression test sprints.  (I really hope people don’t believe this is a plausible solution for the problem).

Responsibility: people stepping up to take action. How can we help to solve this problem. If developers also start testing during the sprint, you will get more testing done.

“Get rid of the test column on the scrum board.” HEAR HEAR. After the development task we need to share what we’ve done. If you make it a ‘test column’ it will encourage the box like thinking that we need to weed out with every fibre of our being. If you have a ‘share column’ you encourage communication in the team and it makes sure that at least 2 pairs of eyes look at it. I think this is a GREAT idea.

“Testing is for a great part not about executing the code, but about the thinking process.” great quote, this is very important to realise. You can add a lot of value apart from just ‘doing the testing’.

Remove barriers: make it fun, try to minimise bugs in your system by being very strict about what you’re going to fix. That will clear the air.

“Stop doing the hardening/regression sprints”. I’m sooooo glad she said that. Because it’s bullshit. It’s just a very big red sign that you need to automate your regression checks. That you need to test earlier, and make sure it doesn’t delay your software development.

Use Exploratory Testing and do it with your team.

A bit of shameless self promotion here, but my talk tomorrow is going to be about Exploratory Testing with the Team. So if you’re interested to learn more, please come and listen. I would greatly appreciate it.

Visible impact: wrong metrics can hurt behavior change so be very careful here. [or as I always say, read “Thinking Fast and Slow”]. Example of bugs resulting from developer working alone versus developer pairing up with another developer is telling. The sprint where 2 devs paired up resulted in way less bugs than the sprint they worked on their own. Metrics can be really powerful to change behaviors if you use them carefully!! It’s very contextual, so think about this in the context of your own project.

Start a movement: If you solve this for one team, step up and try to scale the solution. Try this out with another team. Teach others. Yep, great advice again!

The more people talk about this, the bigger the movement will become.

Sam offers help for people trying to get a slot at a conference. Great!

What step are you on in these stages? Aware? Punishing others? Taking responsibilities? Removing barriers? Visibly impacting others? Starting a movement? 

I think these are great questions to ask yourself. We are all change agents. A better world starts with YOU!

Temperature is rising, with so many people in the room. WiFi is failing a lot during keynotes. I don’t have metrics but it seems like there are less tweets this year. It’s probably because people are too frustrated to try. 

I really liked this talk; great energy, great nuggets of wisdom from these ladies!

I decided to go to the consensus talks next, because there are 2 people that I know giving a talk. The first up is Lars, with “Applying Asimov’s robot laws on embedded software”. Most awesome title ever?! Lars talked during the last 2 editions of ATD as well, and I always remember his talks!! I remember his talk from 2 years ago about the risks of people not speaking up during meetings. It can lead to big fails. Just google ‘top 25 worst company logos’ to see what I mean.

I love the idea of mixing Asimov with testing. The robot laws are maybe more important than we think!

Law 1: a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

Law 2: a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the 1st law.

Law3: a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the 1st of 2nd law.

Are this future problems or are we facing this right now? Lars edited these laws to fit them to testing. A ‘device’ may not injure a human etc. Do we need a new set of laws?

  1. not kill humans
  2. follow its owner’s ‘orders’
  3. protect ‘valuable’ things
  4. follow others’ orders
  5. protect itself

Examples: locked doors work as emergency exit. Sprinkler system. Screen-lock on phones, but still being able to call 911.

Lars tested industrial doors that weigh 1 ton. They can kill people if the software doesn’t work correctly. So you can immediately tell where his inspiration for this talk comes from! The doors can close on their own if certain conditions arise. If a person is in the way when the doors close…well that’s a tangible risk right there. The sensors have to work properly!

When do you call something a robot though? It doesn’t have to move physically. It is responsive to ‘orders’. It is a complex black box, it can switch between actions. Hard to predict, and that’s when we humans start to believe that the robot ‘can think’.

What are dangerous robots? Robot lawn mowers with rotating blades, elevators, industrial doors.

I can agree with the notion that elevators are freaking scary. When I get in I’m always scared that the doors close right in my face. Same with train entrance ports! I’ve had some times that they shut down when I was walking through them and it really hurt my leg.

Go to YouTube and search ‘person saving dog from elevator’ and be horrified!!

Elevators are scary. Period.

Next up: cars that park themselves. Great right? Or not? ROBOT CARS. Could be really scary. Although, Lars now showed us a movie about how Tesla auto-pilot can break in perilous situations. So, it’s not all bad I guess? However, we now see a movie titled ‘Volvo auto-breaking fail’. I guess I don’t have to explain to you what happened.

Well, after Lars’ talk I am more aware of how scary bugs can be in machinery. Be it cars, lawn mowers, elevators. It’s really scary what can happen. The VW bug pales in comparison to bugs killing people.

If driverless cars really happen: who is responsible when an accident happens?? Can the human still override the robot? Or not? Those are some questions that will become more relevant as time continues.

I personally think that we cannot stop the advance of driverless cars, but some weird shit will happen before the software becomes more stable. I guess we need metrics about how many accidents a driverless car prevents versus how many accidents occur because of a driverless car. Of course, if the mix of driverless cars and human driven cars becomes more common, we will see some interesting (and scary) stuff.

Great talk again by Lars, gives you stuff to think about.

Next up is Nienke, talking about how important being able to work together is, even when you are faced with challenges of distributed scrum.

The origami challenge is great to show people how important communication and working together is. Three pairs of people try to fold an origami figure. One pair: 1 has the spec, 1 has to fold. Second pair: can’t look at each other. Third pair: Both have to use one hand to fold.

Surprisingly, the third pair usually finishes first. Because they can work together!

So how would you do that if part of your team is in another country? Culture is different, words might mean something different. Body language is very important as well!

In Nienke’s case, she worked in a team where 80% of the team was working in India. Challenges? Hard to have ‘interactions over processes and tools’ when people are on another continent. How do you keep scrum events effective? Nienke’s solution was to meet the co-located colleagues by traveling to see them and have a lot of video conferences with good tools so you can look people in the eyes. This does require a good internet connection of course 😉

How does her team keep Scrum events effective? Use online scrum boards as a starter of course! She used Scrumblr. Also important to use a digital backlog. The scrum master has a very important role in distributed scrum teams!

The way people deal with change is quite different across cultures. Dutch people like to discuss and be critical. People from India are more easy going when it comes to accepting change; hierarchy is also more of a thing there.

How do you make sure everyone in the team follows coding standards? Peer reviews can be done regardless of location, but it becomes way more important to document the important take aways.

There are quite a lot of challenges when working in this manner. For me the conclusion is: it is still best to keep one team in one location. It seems to me that you have to put a lot of work and energy towards making this work.

After Nienke’s talk I went back to my room to work on my own slides a little. I want to do some last tweaks for tomorrow morning. Now I’m ready for the keynote from Bryan Beecham!

The Human Refactor Experience

What the F is human refactoring?

Let’s start at the back, cuz hey, why the hell not. Refactoring code is a way to clean up code. In essence you try reduce complexity, make it more maintainable. But why?

Requirements change!

There’s always unknown stuff. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. People who think they know are liars.

We even NEED change.

What is the moment of maximum ignorance? We start a project, and think we can plan everything and decide everything. That brings us to agile “and stuff”.

[for people who aren’t used to programming themselves I want to add from personal experience: try to find out if the developers in your team are refactoring a lot. It’s a good thing. It might bring more risk as first, but if you write unit tests with the code you can improve it. Old code stinks. Coding standards change, and as Bryan said: requirements change]

On to the Human part.

The human who does the refactoring is at the core. Again, it’s not about the technical problems but the people facing those problems.

Time is usually a limiting factor. We have routines, habits. Hard to break through. If you can improve your habits you improve as a person.

We also have our behaviors. Exercise is important. Physical exercise is needed to be mentally healthy as well.

“A 15 minute walk can change your whole life”. If you go out instead of defaulting to lazy behavior you are more inspired to be productive.

Exercise for the brain is also good: use your memory, learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument (yaaa!). Yoga (yaaa, do that every day!)

Sleep is also very important. It’s how the body fixes itself, refactors itself overnight.

EAT!! A lot of stuff in food can be bad for your body though. So eating healthy is important. And please don’t drink Red Bull. And eat mostly plants, above anything else.

[For me this is a no-brainer. I haven’t eaten meat in 10 years, and I try to eat as healthy as possible. The reason why I do this is to be healthy when I grow older. Invest now, reap the rewards later (hopefully)]

Carbohydrates: eating too much sugar is like writing bad code. It is quick burning fuel.

Fat: we eat too much fat…or wait a second. Avocado and eggs are fine. Not really helpful information around fat at this moment, it’s conflicting.

Think one level deeper about what you are eating.

[ughhh this is so important it almost makes me angry that many people don’t realise it]

Water: most people aren’t drinking enough water. You’re probably not drinking enough water. And what is the quality of the water you are drinking?

[personal tip: buy a re-usable bottle that you fill with water. You’ll end up drinking more of it. And it’s better than buying the throw away bottles]

The human code: DNA. 23 pairs of chromosomes. It’s awesome that it works!

Our physical environment: we sit at a desk waaaaay to much. You can change it by getting a desk you can work at standing. Sitting is the new smoking.

Stress is also very bad. Stressing about work…just not good, man. Many people are working crazy hours and I always wonder why. I work 4 days and I think that’s enough. I love my work, but I also love my spare time and making music. Doing all the exercise and eating healthy takes time too!

So, what can we do to our own environment to make it healthier? For me, it would be working while standing. I sit too much. But much of what Bryan said I do. I do yoga everyday, I walk everyday, I drink a lot of water, don’t eat meat, play during work time to refresh my productivity. Good to hear that it’s good to do!

Byran also encourages people to get a coach. The coach can help you to progress as a human, or in your work.

You can do it! Overcome your mental limit. What is your potential? What are you afraid of?

1 thought on “Agile Testing Days 2015, Day 1

  1. Hi Maaike,

    Good work!! My time on the coffeebreaks will be well spent this coming 3 days!
    Some sort of feeling that I’m partly there.

    Enjoy your talk tomorrow!

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