July – Toread

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3 things that motivates us to work

At the intersection of software, technology and people 

What is this?

Things I’ve been reading this week that I’ve found interesting or intriguing. Sharing because I thought you might like them too. Most of the links will revolve at the intersection between software, technology and people – with the occasional testing slant. I aim to update them weekly, with some commentary on my thoughts and findings. Feedback always welcome 😁


📬 Latest post what do testers do next if the risks mitigated by manual testing can be reduced through other means? Is it about moving more towards creating a quality culture and if so what do you need to know?

📝 My notes on Kind and Wicked learning environments and how they affect your ability to pick up skill.

Some more notes on a really interesting idea from Eugen Wei on Invisible asymptote. See July 10th below for more or head over to my notes on the article that pull out some of the bits I found interesting.


31st July

Four-Level Training Evaluation Model some useful ideas on what to look for when trying to get feedback on your training or other presentations. Another question that comes to mind: Is the training for the learners or for you to accomplish/be recognised for something… 🤔


💭 10 signs you’re an over thinker While thinking is obviously a good thing overthinking isn’t. But how do you know when you’re doing the good type of thinking? Simple rule: overthinking is focusing on the problems (by either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future). Good thinking is problem solving by focusing on the solutions and self-reflective thinking is looking at situations from a different perspective and finding new insights. 

3 things that motivates us to work

👷‍♀️  3 things that motivates us to work From Dan Pink’s RSA lecture based on his book Drive. The three things being autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is about being self directed over what and how you do something. Mastery is having the ability to get better at something that challenges us and making a contribution. Purpose is the reason for being or why are we doing the thing we do. The interesting thing is this is about individual motivation to work. Does it still apply when working in teams as we do in software? 


27th July

A model of what could happen if you dropped the ‘In Test’ column…

👷‍♀️ From ‘In Testing’ to ‘In Progress’ columns on team boards: This has a very narrow focus on just dev and test relationship. This model helps illustrate how improving their relationship and getting them to actively collaborate to improve confidence that the code changes work as intended is going to start having an affect on work in progress (WIP). Which as @johncutlefish shows high WIP can lead to a whole host of other problems. The grey lines are what it was previously with the ‘In Testing’ column broken out into it’s own section.

👯‍♂️ Don’t Mock Types You Don’t Own This happens more often then you realise and leads to lots of other problems the main one being you now have to maintain a mock of a service you don’t own or fully understand how it works. Therefore you’re testing against your assumptions of that service you’re mocking. This could lead to a false sense of confidence that everything will work when you go to production. Ideally you want to be using a stub with little to no logic e.g. little to no assumptions and any made are obvious to other developers. Contract and consumer driven contract testing particularly can help here. The other issue is people use the word mock to mean a whole host of other types of Test doubles (fakes, stubs, spies etc) which leads to more confusion so check what they mean when they say mock before assuming you’re talking about the same thing.

🎓 Accountability vs Responsibility This has been really useful when thinking about who is accountable within teams for tasks and who is responsible. I found others (and myself included!) mix these up. Accountability can not be shared and means you are answerable for your actions where as responsibility can be shared and you must respond when someone questions your actions. Having these distinctions can be really helpful in making sure people understand what they are accountable and responsible for. The comments are worth a read too…

20th July

😱 Programming is not a craft from Dan North in 2011 and I have to say I agree with his take even from back then this still stands. I think this really sums it up “Non-programmers don’t care about the aesthetics of software in the same way non-plumbers don’t care about the aesthetics of plumbing – they just want their information in the right place or their hot water to work”. By putting programming at the centre (by treating it as a traditional craft) and not the value you are delivering you risk building what you want and not what users want/need/care/value. Thats not to say the that the code can be shoddy far from it, but just like the plumbing it needs to work but does it need to be gold plated with silver fixings? 

🐦 Learning How to Learn thread from Jez Humble calling out a book: Learning how to learn: A guide for kids and teens. The book aims to help you talk to younger people about how to learn. It covers a really interesting topics called focused and diffuse mode of learning that I hadn’t come across before. There is also a free coursera course by the author on the mental tools of learning covered in the book. 

📻  How to make your own luck (podcast) the frame with which you look at world (people, events, things that happen etc) are going to have a big impact on the opportunities that you’re going to find. So what frame are you using when making decisions? The world is a wicked learning environment (slow feedback hard to tell which variable caused the outcome) while poker can be kind learning environment (fast environment, low number of variables, easier to identify mistakes and learning from them) therefore helps you to understand your decision making easier and then possibly translate over to the real world.

You can find more about wicked and kind learning environments from How Falling Behind Can Get You Ahead:
Kind Learning environments  

  • Kind give lots of feedback as you progress which aid deliberate learning 
  • The rule of the system don’t change either so what it is today is the same tomorrow 
  • Golf, chess and poker are such environments 

Wicked learning environments  

  • Mixed levels of feedback as you progress
  • Rules of the system keep changing 
  • I think software engineering maybe a wicked environment

13th July

🤩  Invisible asymptote (AKA The Invisible glass ceiling of testing) Excellent (and long) read from Eugen Wei and a must read for anyone working in product and software development in general. Brilliantly articulates that all products have an invisible glass ceiling and that by recognising your total addressable market it can help you understand when you’re going to hit it and actually do something about it.  

Why should testers care?

This is a great way to understand how your product owners might be thinking (or should be if they are not). In terms of product quality this could be one of the lenses from which you should look at your products to understand what is valuable to product owners. It’s also a great way to start understanding what value your product is potentially bringing to your users and what cohort that it is and isn’t addressing. My notes on the article pull out some of the bits I found interesting.   

In terms of analysis this hits two of the three domains that testers should have a grasp of: business and users. From that angle we can help the third domain (teams) understand how this affects them.

Remember testing doesn’t always look like testing


🔈 How do you handle criticism Getting feedback is by far the best way to get better but not all feedback is equal. You need to filter out the valuable parts from the things that sting the ego. One way to get better at receiving feedback is to rate yourself on how you respond to it. 5 being excellent and 1 being poor. Did you respond positively and thank them (4 out of 5) or did you try and talk them out of their opinion (2 out of 5). This will help you get better at hearing feedback but also more likely to do something about it. 


👩‍💻 Develop your culture like its software Interesting post from 2017 from the ex-engineering manager of The New York times. They used a google doc to make it collaborative and to start iterating on it. Culture is something that either just happens and evolves in a direction out of your control or you try and be deliberate about it. My preference is towards deliberate because then if it starts heading in a direction you don’t want you’re in a position to do something about it. Otherwise you find out when something hits the headlines. At which point its too late to do something…


🏚 Extreme testing Cool video of what IBM do to make sure their mainframes can handle earthquakes. Makes you wonder what type of testing AWS/Asura/GCC do for all their server farms


6th July

👩‍🏫 Professionalism is not enough via Ten things I’ve learned by Milton Glaser 

when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.

🥾  New employee bootcamp really interesting approach to getting people (product owners in this case) up to speed quickly and productive within their work. I really like the concept of “put your own gas mask on first before helping others”  in terms of helping them figure out their own career paths. What would this look like for on boarding new testers in a team? 

🧫 What is culture? I was doing some research on this and it turns out (unsurprisingly) that its not that easy of a question to answer but the Centre for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick (UK) has some really good resources. In particularly this doc which tries to answer that very question in a way that is approachable and can actually help you understand what it is. They break it down into 12 key characteristics but I think this explanation from Spencer-Oatey (2008) does a pretty good job:

“Culture is a fuzzy set of basic assumptions and values, orientations to life, beliefs, policies, procedures and behavioural conventions that are shared by a group of people, and that influence (but do not determine) each member’s behaviour and his/her interpretations of the ‘meaning’ of other people’s behaviour

🤑 What is value? Interesting way of thinking about what value means. In this model there are two focusing areas: revenue and costs. How does something sustain revenue, increase revenue, avoid cost and/or reduce cost. By applying a monetary number to these  you can then discuss them in a way that everyone understands and can hopefully agree on. The other reason for relating this back to a number is having a discussion on what assumptions people are making about those numbers. 

Thanks to Duncan Nisbet for his intriguing blog series on cost of delay Vs cost of poor quality which linked me to the above post. In Duncans post he does a really good job of showing why trying to answer that question is really difficult and is setting up a framework in trying to do just that. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out!

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