Thursday, 13 December 2012

You can submit to EuroStar 2013

Eurostar Conferences have published "The EuroStar 2013 call for submissions". You should answer that call and submit a presentation.
Note: Do not read this as an official EuroStar conference blog post, consider this a communication just between you and me. I form part of the programme committee. So everything I write here comes from my perspective, and since we have a committee, my perspective will receive the balancing influences of Bart Broekman, Rikard Edgren, Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Michael Bolton.
And as part of the programme committee, I feel duty bound to help make the conference one that I want to attend, and to me that means... encouraging you to submit.

But I don't want to see you submit any old rubbish.

I want you to open up your soul, and make it impossible for me to say anything other than "yes" to you when you submit.

Make it so that I vociferously campaign on your behalf to have you attend Eurostar 2013, so that you can tell other people, about the experience that you will write about, in the proposal that you will submit.

How? As follows...

First the obvious, but important.
And then, the secret step: if you want me to back you tenaciously with every ounce of persuasive power that I have.
If they seem daunting, then let me tell you another secret.
    Most people will not do this.
Specifically, they will not talk from the heart about their experiences and lessons they learned

I will write some other posts on the topics of submitting and speaking at conferences because I know that the first few times seem daunting. But for the moment, because I want you to get started right away, since you have to submit by early February, I will say this to you... do not use any of the following excuses:

  •     "I don't have anything to say"
  •     "No-one will be interested in what I have to say"
  •     "Nothing that I say will be original"
  •     "I can't talk in public"
  •     "We don't do anything interesting at work that I can talk about"

I spoke to a lot of people at EuroStar 2012 and asked them if they would submit at 2013 and I heard a lot of the above excuses.

And every single person, when I continued to talk to them, eventually told me a story about their work that I had not heard before. Every single person told me how they had approached a problem in a unique way, and they shared with me what they had learned, and what they would do differently next time, and every single one of them made me laugh.

I have seen a lot of conference talks that did none of the above. But every single person that I spoke to when they originally said that they had nothing to offer, and could not speak at a conference, managed to out-do a lot of conference talks that I have seen over the years.
 I know you have something to offer. You just have to find it.

I covered this somewhat in the talk I gave at EuroStar 2012 - specifically covering this point in the paper, so read the paper (I condensed it to make it a super fast read).

And let the theme help you.

The theme "Questioning Testing" lends itself to reinterpretation so start by reinterpreting the theme and then:
  •     Decide which re-interpretation resonates the most?
  •     What ideas does it inspire?
  •     What experiences does it remind you you have had?
  •     What lessons does it remind you you have learned?
  •     I don't want to say too much here because I don't want to influence you in how you can best interpret it.
One final point, because I want you to get started on your submission now.

I have read a few books on leadership written by ex-military personnel, because I think they know how to lead people. And not one of those books has ever talked to me about "Thought leadership" or "Big Ideas", every single one of those books has said "lead from the front", "lead by example", and "learn from experience".

So when you submit, do that.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Evil Tester's Guide to Technical Testing Webinar

My Webinar for Eurostar 2012 "The Evil Tester's Guide to Technical Testing" generated a lot of questions, so I look forward to answering those in a future blog post.
Eurostar Conferences have made the webinar available on youtube.
I have uploaded the slides to SlideShare, and I pulled out some of the links below, so you have no excuse not to follow them up now.

Evil testers guide to technical testing from eviltester

Links Mentioned:

Technical Testers will find a way:
Tools listed in the bluffer's Guide:
Further Reading:
And I leave the rest up to you. I honestly think that the testing world will add more value when everyone in it augments their testing knowledge with technical knowledge, and management knowledge with Technical Knowledge. 
And you decide, how you do it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Eurostar 2012 Reflections

And now the reflection:
  • I loved the testing keynotes – not a single duffer and everyone hit the conference theme ( I hope I can include mine in that statement)
    • Alan Page, fully bearded up – any respectable Alan knows he should present himself thusly, encouraged building a web of ideas and seeking out new knowledge, and now that I have his gamer tag I can see when he beats me on Trials HD
    • Simon Stewart, fully bearded up – as any respectable WebDriver speaker knows he should present himself, gave a good overview of the history of Selenium, with parts I didn’t know before.
    • Mike Kelly, gave a really interesting overview of start-ups and testing therein. Good links to various lean startup style material: leancanvas. (see also DeveloperTown)
    • All of the above talks, and myself included encouraged a focus on value, constantly learning, and bringing in new ideas.
  • I also enjoyed the non-testing keynotes:
    • John Seddon summarised his process using call centre improvement as an example. I have read all of John’s books and can recommend them. I like John’s approach of going back to the source so we don’t get stuck at Womack’s marketing version of lean, instead research back to Deming and Taiichi Ohno.
      • John doesn’t really mention Juran, so I will here – recommended for your on-going management study.
    • Peter Madsen gave a great talk about hobby building submarines and rocket ships, and I took away more weight behind the notion that we just have to get on with the doing and take responsibility for overcoming our obstacles.
  • Esther Gons created a summary visualisation of all the keynotes, with a few other lucky speakers getting the visualisation treatment.
  • I didn’t attend too many track sessions:
    • Alexandra Schladebeck linked World of Warcraft (which I haven’t played, but might now) gave a good overview of Agile using WoW as the illustration and used the entertaining “Leroy Jenkins” video as an illustration of planning and teamwork. Esther Gons provided a visualisation of this talk.
    • Adrian Rapan talked about Security Testing using WebDriver with his source code on Google code
    • Graham Thomas’s track session reminded me that we used to auto-generate applications, we don’t seem to do as much of that anymore
    • Olli-Pekka Puolitaival presented the OSMO model based testing tool and this stood out as something I want to spend time investigating. Open sourced, using Java, simple annotation based. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will.
    • And Fiona Charles’s workshop on Mind-mapping gave me a chance to see how other people approach mind mapping – I wandered around the room to look at the output of the different groups
  • I spent much of the time standing around speaking to people. I met too many people to mention, as you tend to at conferences, some great people from the testing world that I hadn’t really bumped in to before. Consequently I didn’t get as much time as I wanted to speak to people that I have met before, and some people I only waved to in passing.
  • Somehow I missed the cake to celebrate Eurostar’s 20th Birthday.
  • I won’t mention the evening drinking dining and socialising, Eurostar always has a good social environment, this year proved no exception. 

Eurostar 2012 Outputs

I have almost recovered from Eurostar 2012. I expended a lot of effort in the preparation for it, and I think I can count it as investment rather than cost.

I present, herein, the obvious, i.e. I can point at these, outputs:
I still have some follow on actions for Eurostar 2012 and will add more blog posts as they complete.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

'The List' Unconventional Influences - Eurostar 2012

I have written up a model of my "Unconventional Influences" keynote from Eurostar 2012, it has the times when I think I should have mentioned certain things, and it has links to references that I hopefully referred to, at the time when I scheduled the reference.

It may not make sense out of context, but if you attended then this may help you follow up on the sources of my influences.
Slides and Paper have been uploaded to slideshare:

Thursday, 1 November 2012

My WebDriver Training Course goes live

I have released my my new online training course.

You can read the full details on, so the summary is:
  • Course Title: "Selenium 2 WebDriver Basics With Java"
  • 11+ hours of video lectures, and about 5-6 hours of your time to complete the exercises
  • 200+ slides, 4000+ lines of example test code
  • 25% off the $199 price when you buy before November 30th 
  • visit for more details

Friday, 31 August 2012

Captcha as a modern EVP

“Clearly robots would try to take over the world and make the entire human race subservient if they could get their evil metallic hands on the kind of software I buy”
The last time I had to test a Captcha I found it very difficult.
  • It killed our automation
  • It made our manual testing really slow
  • We had to tweak it to make it cope with the human ability to reinterpret “garbage in” so it would produce less “garbage out”, which made it less random
  • It was a third party thing which we had very little control over
  • It made registering on the site harder which was exactly what we wanted at a point in the company lifecycle when we were trying to increase the number of people registering on the site.
A win win situation for the technology team and the business team.
Recently, I tried to contact a company to buy their software, and like all companies they only want to answer queries from humans and not robots. Clearly robots would try to take over the world and make the entire human race subservient if they could get their evil metallic hands on the kind of software I buy. So such safeguards are required.
Sadly I, as a human, found that I might actually have some robotic blood somewhere in my lineage as I could not answer the Captcha. Some of it rendered out of the image, some of it (most of it) was a garbled jumble of pixels, that I’m pretty sure a genetic algorithm based pattern recognition system could have handled better than my brain.
For a fun test of your robotic nature, head over to and refresh the page a few times. How many did you get right? How robotic are you?
I had not used the audio part of a Captcha before, so I gave it a try, thinking it might be easier.
Nope, not easier for me.
No one would believe me if I made this stuff up. Lucky I gather evidence…

Warning the above video contains loud and spooky noises. (hmm, I should probably place the warning before the video, oh well, too late now)
And it struck me, that Captcha, when implemented as above, could be used as a supplement for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena).
EVP has been around for a long time, but hit the mainstream consciousness in the movie White Noise.
EVP to the skeptic seems like something where you listen to sound and free associate, and try to identify words. Much like hearing satanic messages when playing records backwards. And humans are really good at this. In fact, we love doing this stuff.
Try it. You love it, you know you do. Go crazy. Indulge yourself. Listen to some backmasking now, or some reverse speech.
We can make meaning out of the most useless and random junk.
So. Morals:
  1. When testing, be wary of this tendency to conjure meaning, where no meaning exists, because no meaning may exist.
  2. Be wary of being wary of this tendency, because meaning may exist.
  3. In short, “when testing, be wary”.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Three Software Testing Books I’d like to read

I have trimmed out a lot of my Software Testing books. And by trimmed, I mean, dumped or traded in on Amazon. I still have a few left, some because I see real value in them, and others because my hoarding instinct overrides my Zen de-cluttering zeal.
Here are 3 books I’d like to read. But they haven’t been written yet.
Apologies to the author’s and artists associated with the books I’ve based these new books on, but my desire for humorous pastiche overrode any concern that the original creative forces might feel insulted.  I picked on you because of your mythic stature in the Software Testing book world, because of the value that I took from you in my early years, and you met my needs.
So my first 3 are:
  • The Art of Software Jesting by Ben Fold Wired
  • The Complete Guide to Software Besting by Phil Betzels
  • “I Object!”, Re-oriented Software Testing: A heretical Approach by Bell Diesel

The Art of Software Jesting

I think we take software testing too seriously. Or rather, we take ourselves too seriously. The danger being that Software Testing becomes a subject pumped up full of its own self importance, filled with pompous pontification.
e.g. "Exploratory testing must not be used as your main process. You must only use it after you have a stable system and have achieved coverage from your scripted tests."
blah de blah de blah, yeah yeah yeah
I don’t see enough evidence that we take ourselves seriously enough to mock ourselves.
Kings and Queens of olden days of yore took themselves pretty seriously, as did everyone else because their life depended on it. And yet they had a Court Jester to keep them balanced and reduce their hyper inflated sense of self importance.
Humour can help effect change, by laughing at yourself for beliefs with small amounts of evidence.
Lighten up.
Projects are a ridiculous place to shouting matches.
I appreciate many people on projects don't appear to have a sense of humour, and don't take it kindly when you try and inject one into the project. But as a weapon to disarm and defuse a situation, it helps.
It helps me not take my approach too seriously. It helps me work with people rather than roles.
Evil Tester was born from a requirement to have a sense of humour and expose the ridiculousness in many of the approaches and attitudes that I had adopted in the past, and other people on projects had adopted.
So if you are really serious about testing - take it seriously enough to laugh at it. And start with yourself, and your processes, don't start with other peoples.
Have you mocked your testing today?

Complete Guide To Software Besting

I think we all know that “Testing is not Besting the Software produced” but if you want a persona to adopt as you test then periodically adopt the “Bester”.
This thinking hat will let you approach testing in a different way than the other hats you wear.
You have to decide your own limits in your software testing approach, so make sure your limits allow you to exceed the the requirements for ‘goodness’, you want to be better than that.

“I Object!”, Re-oriented Software Testing: A Heretical Approach

I think that we have to think heretically. We have to pursue the path that we consider true, treating all dogma as valid grounds for testing and evaluating alternatives.
Testers need to think and act differently, otherwise why would other Software Professionals want you on their project?
We need to make decisions contextually and based on knowledge, not from dogma.
You need to take responsibility for your test approach – and if that choice requires that you fly in the face of fashion and the masses, then I hope you do it.
The more heretics we have, the more we will advance in unexpected ways.

Other Reading Material?

This is based on the Test Bash talk I gave in March 2012. You can read Marcus Gartner’s summary of it here
Perhaps I’d like you to read “Selenium Simplified”, but maybe I’d rather you just bought it… and a few copies for your friends.
But what about you? What testing books would you like to read, that haven’t been written yet?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Q: What is Testing? A: look inside…

What is Testing?
Do you care?
  • Do you want to know because you want to know where the limits of your job start and end?
  • Do you want to know because someone asked you that question and you think you need to give them an answer?
  • Do you want to know because you really like definitions of abstract concepts?
  • Do you want to know because you need to pass an exam and give someone the right answer?
You might have a whole bunch of other questions - most likely you do since I only provided four alternatives to the "What is Testing?" question.
Questions I would rather believe people ask themselves include:
  • What do I do?
  • Why do I do what I do?
  • What do I need to do now?
  • What risks can I think of?
  • How can we find out if this software can ...?
  • I wonder if the software can still do that when ...?
But enough questions. Let me provide a simple answer to the first question "What is Testing?"
I don't think that such a 'thing' as "Testing" exists. Conversationally  a normal person might say something equivalent using the word sequence:
"There is no such thing as testing"
And while that might not help you pass your exam, and fails as a definition, and 'they' probably don't want to hear that answer; it might help you figure out where your job starts and ends.
Regardless, the above answer provides comfort and guidance to me during times of trouble.
If I ever find myself in a mess and think "What is testing?" I can politely answer myself "There is no such thing as testing, figure out a better question to ask". Or "Stop hallucinating, concentrate on what you see happening now, figure out what to do next."
If I had an actual answer, and if I knew what a thing called testing looked like then I fear that I:
  • might never look at the testing thing differently.
  • might think that as a "tester" I couldn't do anything that didn't look like the testing thing.
Over the years I've come to believe that my job involves looking at things and processes and concepts differently.
I want the freedom to make stuff up, the freedom pull in resourceful concepts as required, and the freedom to do what it takes to achieve the identified needs of the projects I work on.
I don't find the question "What Is Testing?" helpful.
  • I care what preconceptions other people might have about my role and their expectations of me and people like me ("Testers").
  • I care about the processes we use to identify, mitigate and make manifest risk.
  • I care about making what we do efficient and effective.
  • I care about agreeing actions and who will take those actions now.
I care about a whole bunch of stuff. And I test, because I care.
I just don't care about questions like "What is Testing?".
Do you?
PS. I think I managed to avoid all mention of reification and e-prime. Did you notice?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Firepath, THE XPath and CSS Locator Addon For Firefox

First I used XPather, then it was FireFinder, and since neither of those seems particularly compatible with the most recent versions of Firefox…
I now use FirePath.
FirePath operates as a Firebug extension and provides a handy “Inspect in FirePath” context menu entry.
FirePath handles XPath, CSS and JQuery selectors.
I don’t have any spare tools extensions in my tool box, so if Firepath dies I’m not sure what I’ll do.
Does anyone have any suggestions to add in the comments?