June – Toread



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 😁

29th June

🎓 Why Your Organization Isn’t Learning All It Should In your every day work do you have time to look at the cause of small issues or do you work around them with hacks and fixes? Can you bring them up with other colleges or are they brushed off as trivial or worse are you labelled as a complainer? As detailed in How to learn from failure and Nobody ever gets credit for fixing problems that never happen it’s usually these small preventable problems that build up into big complex problems so having time to get at the 2nd order problems (root causes) is really important. Also research suggests that once you start fixing these issues there is a re-enforcing effect that encourages others to raise problems but also start to address them too, slowly improving the whole system.

🖥  Brief history of Apples OSX If you primary work machine is a Mac then having a basic understanding of its history helps you understand why it works the way it does. If it’s not your main machine then this short history lesson can also help you understand what Apple did that was different to iOS and to some extent Windows. 

🔬 First and second order problem solving From the article: research on problem solving makes a distinction between fixing problems (first-order solutions) and diagnosing and altering root causes to prevent recurrence (second-order solutions).First-order problem solving allows work to continue but does nothing to prevent a similar problem from occurring. Workers exhibit first-order problem solving when they do not expend any more energy on a problem after obtaining the missing input needed to complete a task.Second-order problem solving, in contrast, investigates and seeks to change underlying causes of a problem.

👩‍🏫 XConf Online Usually a free to attend conference held by ThoughtWorks at different locations throughout Europe with one being in Manchester. But COVID means it’s all online so anyone from anywhere can attend this year. It’s usually a multi track conference but this time they’ve just gone with one track with all of the talks coming from ThoughtWorks employees.  

In previous years they’ve never really had any talks on testing but this year they had three covering what a unit is for a mainframe system, testing things in production and mutation testing. The interesting thing was none of these talks where given by testers but developers. Is this a sign of things to come 🤔?

All talks should hopefully be made available soon so I’d highly recommend checking them out. Personally I got a lot out of the Redefining the unit and Your test coverage is a lie (mutation testing) talks for which you can find summaries in my notes.

22nd June

🗞 75 years of US advertising – This will help you create a deeper understanding of the advertising market and how the trends in online businesses and consumer behaviour (think end users) is sifting power from the traditional advertising conglomerates (print/TV/radio) to the online ones (Google, Facebook, Amazon etc). It’s not a simple lift and shift but a decline in business that did mass marketing to business that need targeted advertising. 

🕵️‍♀️ Snopes on white privilege in America – Snopes was something I used a lot when I was in my late teens/twenties to disprove things that used to be flying about on the Wild West of the early internet days. This time they pull part an argument that white privilege doesn’t exist in America. This is a long but worth while read on what white privilege is and how its affected black Americans lives.    

🍏 Apple begins to enforce in-app purchases (IAP) of *any* good – Why should testers care? Understanding the what of this is useful in knowing how it could affect the apps you work on and other apps in the market.

🤖 Ironies of automation The two ironies 

  1. Designers of automation believe that the manual operators are unreliable and sources of problems. Therefore believe that by automating the manual task remove the unreliability. The irony here is that the errors that the designer unintentionally creates in the automation are the major source of unreliability in the process 
  2. Designer who attempt to automate the manual operator away still leaves the manual operator in the process to handle the tasks that couldn’t be automated. The problem here is the tasks left for the manual operator can be quite arbitrary with little thought for how they will actually carry out the task resulting in a new set of issues. 

This is not to say that automation is bad but some of the intention (removing people) may not be for the right reasons (improving the process). I believe if the focus was to improve the process then the risk from the two ironies could be greatly reduced. One of the best ways to achieve this is to actually include the manual operator as part of the improvement process. Essentially have a user centric approach to improving systems.

15th June

🎓 SQ3R learning technique 30s reading time
Not come across this one before but could be useful for helping you recall things you’ve read . I particularly liked attaching meaning to the content and looking at it from different viewpoints .Personally I’ve found I’ve done this unknowingly with some things and it really does help with recall. Plus trying to re-call it again at a later date and applying that knowledge to different situations has helped further embed that information.

🗣 Asking Powerful questions 1 min reading time
The Powerful questions pyramid could be a helpful tool for asking more open questions that get people thinking.

📑 Making job descriptions more accessible 3 mins reading time
Stop reusing job descriptions and start tailoring them to the candidates you want. We’re not doing ourselves any favours by sending out the same old thing every time.

5th June

📰 The Origin of Product Discovery or what is Product Discovery? … true collaborations between engineers, designers and product managers. Not a dictatorship run by a Product Manager.  But what does true collaboration in this context actually mean? Which leads me onto a scales of collaboration…

 ⚖️ Scales of collaboration While thinking about how people and teams collaborate it occurred to me that there must be scale from not at all to full collaboration.  Quick search returned something called the levels of collaboration. This could this be helpful for teams to 1] make them aware how well they are working together and 2] what would they need to improve to able to get better at it. Maybe we should stops saying we need to collaborate more and start saying what that actually means? Which leads me onto some advice…

☀️🧴It was that time of year again (🎂) so what better then some advice: Learn how to learn from those you disagree with, or even offend you. See if you can find the truth in what they believe taken from 68 bits of (someone else’s) unsolicited advice. Need some life advice then this list is a good place to start, there’s a video too. But I think I’ll always remember  Mary Schmich column, Advice, like youth, is probably wasted on the young better know as the lyrics to Baz Luhrmann song Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)

🤔 Long read of the week comes from Joep Schuurkes Nobody ever gets credit for fixing problems that never happen: Creating and sustaining process Improvement. The work harder and work smarter balancing loops in this model do a great job of explains what “work smarter, not harder” actually means. But the reinvestment reinforcing and shortcuts balancing loops really get at what goes wrong with most process improvements initiatives in software organisations: it’s difficult to attribute process improvements to improved performance the way you can with working harder. So we trap ourselves with working ever harder till one day you just can’t do it anymore 🤯

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