Testing On The Big Screen

I love films, especially new ones I haven’t seen. Even if they turn out to be a waste of some hours (or 4.5 hours in the case of Only God Forgives. It has a run time of 1.5 hours. Yes, I have watched it 3 times)

With the pandemic times, seeing new films didn’t go away, so I hadn’t noticed how much I had missed the cinema until I got to go to them again.

“I have offended you. I am only looking for the Cinematograph. I understand it is a wonder of the civilised world”

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Film)

Sitting on a comfy sofa with table service, a buzzing but calm atmosphere and then you are presented with trailers for new adventures then finally the main event. The lights go down and you are bathed in the glow and glory of a newly woven story.

An introverted person who hates crowds, loud noises and since the pandemic is not 100% sure leaving the house is entirely worth it, I shouldn’t really enjoy the cinema. However, I am transfixed, enchanted and back to being addicted.

This wasn’t of course without testing the water. Our local cinema has always been a disappointment and my favourite ones are all in London, but those are for classic film events. We ventured further out locally to try some different ones with varied success.

Once we’d settled on one, I attempted to sign up for a membership. Here is where I start to break things.

The initial form had interesting required fields. I wasn’t happy with them being mandatory, but filled them in to see if I could progress (after trying to continue without filling them in). The password box was copy pasteable, but the “confirm password” box wasn’t. When I had supplied everything to sign up, I got an error. I decided to try and make a free account as it required less info, but I hit a different error message. This, and all the questions I had about various fields, prompted me to contact them.

I raised all this to the cinema company directly and they answered my questions quickly. They did eventually have to delete my free account for me to be able to sign up to a membership account, but everything is good now so far. They are in the process of updating their site for autumn.

This would probably deter most non-testing people. I find I break mostly everything I interact with. It is all part of my natural tester charm. I possibly only achieve these feats of failure because I’m tuned to do things abnormally.

It is also possible that nothing stops me trying to see new films at the cinema now I can again. Opportunities to explore new stories are woefully finite. The empathy and experience that can be found in film should always been seen as largely as possible.

@meowy24 #alwaysbetesting

Terror, Erebus, Exploration & Testing

I accidentally watched all of “The Terror” series 1 the other weekend (mild spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen this series) and have subsequently been obsessed with the story. I immediately started the book and read the wiki article. I’ve just finished reading Michael Palin’s book on the Erebus. I may have got a bit entranced by this story and by the concept of exploring unknowns. That and it took them 150 years ish to actually find the boats in the ice.

The wild confidence in packing your ship to the brim with supplies for several years and heading out to the unknown to find a new way through for the glory of the empire.

I’ve been on somewhat of an expedition myself having started a new role 2 months ago and working towards absorbing as much as I can and as quickly as I can about our product and system so I can be useful.

It is always difficult to work out which direction to head in first and where to start. The end goal is fairly established like the Terror/Erebus but how to get there, how long it will take and what obstacles, icebergs, knowledge gaps, pride or lead poisoning (might not apply here) along the way might hinder progress.

Terror’s/Erebus’ lead poisoning may be metaphorically akin to impostor syndrome. We are all infected by it at some stage and its constant contamination of our nourishment affects us all differently, but the end result is the same eventually. I mean the end results that impostor syndrome has on us, not that impostor syndrome ends like lead poisoning, hopefully not anyway.

The Terror and the Erebus themselves are good words to attach to dark feelings that are harder to quell when you are starting anew and learning. How do we dwell here in the dark, but find enough light to lead us through?

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.”

Dracula- Bram Stoker

Maps (documentation) can only take you so far and tools or methods you’ve used before may not work in this new uncharted territory. The main failing from crews of the Terror and the Erebus is they didn’t interact with the people who lived where they were trapped, knew the lands and how to hunt in even the harshest of environmental conditions.

If you are on a new adventure, always consider asking your new colleagues or your network for advice, tricks and tips of the trade. Don’t expect a tool or context to apply here cos it applied elsewhere before. Always be absorbing wherever there is opportunity and don’t eat the tinned goods.

Kraken and a pirate ship

@meowy24 #alwaysbetesting

The Net Value

I’ve been playing a bunch of Stardew Valley lately in my downtime. It is severely addictive and dredged up some nostalgic fury in the form of fishing.

I have never fished IRL nor do I ever intend to. In my gaming life I have spent a very long time fishing. Whether it’s frantically mauling the controller in Ocarina of Time or fishing up coins, rare mounts and weird lobster pets in World of Warcraft.

I’ve probably spent a mildly terrifying time over my many years of video gaming fishing. I always start off terrible at it. Even with tutorials, fishing in games has a mad learning curve.

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot

Steven Wright

Games like WoW and Stardew have progress levels attached to fishing which requires certain areas you need to fish or once you’ve achieved those levels bonuses unlock to make things easier. You can apply tools like bait and lures. This can help or hinder. I remember in Zelda the sinking lure would catch you the biggest fish in the pond but it was technically cheating, and the fishing shop guy was not amused.

As with most things this made me think about testing. When am I not thinking about testing?

Don’t we each day set up lures, cast out nets, bait traps in hopes of catching a prize? Don’t we learn the new tools and techniques in the hopes of reeling in the better, more costly bugs? We monitor logs on Prod for that little wiggle on the line that could be a portent that a shark, whale or maelstrom beneath the surface?

Sometimes all the training in the world and the tools in the shed don’t matter. Some days it is blind, beautiful luck and those are the best bugs. That one lucky day of fair weather.

Anything you catch regardless of how you caught it is worth it. Whether you’ve been reeling it in for days or fished it up by accident. You added value. Prize catches or an old boot, it makes a difference.

But you aren’t the safety net. You aren’t those tools and processes. They and you aren’t the last barriers of defence before open water.

Thanks for reading!

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Testing Testing 123 Stories

I wrote about goals at the beginning of the year. One of mine this year was to write more. When a fellow tester tweeted about wanting to collate, collaborate and create a book of testing stories I jumped at the chance.

I had until the end of March but I started that weekend. For the first time ever when writing anything, I set out headers and themes for the sections for what I wanted to write. I made some progress and then entirely forgot about it until it was March.

The same week I was made redundant I also got a reminder that my story needed to be in by the 31st of March. Both these deadlines were exceptionally motivating.

In between scattergun applying for any testing job with merit, I also ploughed on with turning my slightly non-existent story into a cautionary API tale of adventure and mischief.

My rather bare-bones WriterP file got moved into a OneNote first. Then, everything was being compiled into GitHub for this project. I hastily knocked up the second .md file of my life and googled various kinds of styling to dress up my story (.md files take unicode emojis, such joy)

Next, I made my first ever pull request to GitHub on to a shared branch and totally merged way before I meant to. So far so failing forward, huh?

I saw other testers had also merged in branches with stories needing reviews and I was all over it like a rash. I realised I was actually getting advanced previews of other testing stories and quickly got addicted to code reviewing their files and applying comments.

Here I need to apologise for anyone who suffered one of my code reviews. I live in an en-GB world where American spellings of British words make me actively twitch. I spent a lot of time over the years checking content that was prone to having Americanisms even though business language at the time was en-GB and have a literal NOPE policy on them. I have a similar furious reaction to Oxford commas. Seem to be specific age group which was taught and & commas don’t live together.

“Who gives a f**k about an Oxford comma?”

I do, Vampire Weekend! I do. Anyone I raised these very specific bugbears to was a total sport, actually listened to me and inspired me. I had power but learnt to be less verbally insular. I have no idea why some developers don’t like doing code reviews. Totally loved it but I am a sucker for process. It was also influenced by the context of the kick-ass book I was lucky enough to be involved in.

This was an awesome extra to an already incredible project. Other testers testing other testing stories. Raising bugs, making suggestions, raging about Oxford commas (only me, I know) and most of all encouraging each other. We had a fantastic Slack group where everyone was super responsive, supportive and happy to help.

Wading through having been a solo tester for 6 months and trying to find direction for my career in the din and the dark, Testing Stories was a beautiful beacon of amazing just at the time I needed it. I am thankful to every tester who is a part of it and we’ve really made something special.

When my own story for reviewed I was so happy to have great feedback and each comment helped me shape it into a shippable work that I’m proud of. I have since had such lovely comments from testers who have read my story.

I’ve yammered on for an age and I haven’t even given you a link to this fabled tome of testing triumph, intrigue, adversity, heroes and villains. Great battles with Poll Tax, Pyramids, Agile, Automation, APIs and Ourselves. These sagas built to inspire, caution, instruct and marvel all. It is a pay-what-you-want system (with a minimum currently) and the proceeds are raising money for this perfectly themed charity.

Thanks for reading both this and hopefully Testing Stories ❤

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting #TestingStories

The Kintsugi Tester

I had been looking for a new job now for just over two weeks and it is very different to the last time I looked. Previously, I had a role I enjoyed but not at a company I chose to work for. I had as much time as I needed to find something more suited.

This time, with my redundancy, I had a sword of Damocles (or unemployment as is it traditionally know) floating over my head swinging wildly like a pendulum of doubt. That was extremely hard to ignore but I tried to keep my focus on looking for what I want from a role and not just a job.

The testing community really had my back and I got floods of advice, applications to fill in and info on tonnes of roles. They gave me strength, reams of motivation and as always had perfect empathy for my situation. (Thanks guys)

The problem was my career is at a branching point. Testing itself has so many avenues to explore, ways to evolve and tools to tinker with. I had spent time doing automation and working on the more technical parts of my testing ability so I had more roles I could in theory apply for, so I did.

The format of interviewing changed as well. It was Zoom/Google/Teams 6 months ago, but there is more structure now and it feels more polished. Even though every one had the same sort of process, the conversation were completely different. You’d spend time inhaling the company website only to be told it all anyway. Other times the website wasn’t enough you’ll need to know much more. I just ended up extra confused, conflicted and who I was felt diluted like badly made Ribena.

I tried to find myself in the noise. Not only from constant interview prep and responding to recruiters, technical tasks and considering questions to ask potential new employers. I didn’t want to say no to anything in case it was what I was looking for. You think this amount of attention would have imbued me with confidence. Ha! Never underestimate impostor syndrome’s ability to swoop in, steal your lunch and make it complicated.

I was horrifically honest throughout with everyone I spoke to. I’ve had some really great, motivating conversations with recruiters / HR people/ Team Leads and some less so. In house technical recruiters are an amazing idea; the ones I’ve dealt with have been lovely, lovely people and are definitely my new heroes.

The people pleaser / appeasement parts of my personality were on overdrive and I agreed to conversations I didn’t want to be in and applied for companies that weren’t for me. At the beginning of week 2 I felt wrecked, exhausted and stressed beyond belief. Then I got an offer but didn’t even react to it – I was so entrenched in preparing for the next interviews. I wanted to just take it, step off the merry-go-round without thinking but I knew deep down that would be a mistake.

Something shattered in me and I got to the point where I’ve had to ask for more time, to chase people and for people to get back to me by this or that time. I made time to find my voice: reassemble and carve out courage. Amongst the chaos I reached a beautiful point of clarity and calm.

Underneath it all I felt a stronger, more confident creature emerging from the rubble. I did not expect any of what has happened over the last couple of weeks but, retrospectively, it has been a valuable, empowering and enriching experience.

I got 3 offers in total. All distinctive roles with great, unique opportunities and scope for me to be very different kinds of tester. It was an extremely hard decision, as I felt connected to these teams and people I had met and I didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch.

In the end I went with my gut. I joked about dice and I had an extremely elaborate spreadsheet but I chose the one I had the biggest and strongest emotional reaction to. The one that will really challenge me both short and long term. It puts me on the biggest learning curve and I am so ready for that.

Thanks for reading!

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Cor Meum Ex Machina

I struggle with assertive. Not with it being a thing, to be assertive you need to be neutral. It isn’t possible for me to say something without emotion behind it most of the time. This often leads to me saying what I want to say too forcefully, defensively or too nervously.

Over the years I’ve tried to regulate the level of emotion I speak with depending on whom I’m talking to. With members of development or tech I use it less. With consultants/non IT people I have to show more emotion. Every interaction however needs consideration, thought, tact and when I aim to be unfiltered and genuine, this can be exhausting. I found also I end up using less emotion even when talking to myself and they then have a habit of sneaking up and overwhelming me.

As detail focussed humans we notice everything and are often the ones to say something about changes or ask the questions others don’t. That doesn’t mean others haven’t picked up on these details too they just don’t feel the need or feel comfortable enough to say anything most of the time. It seems to be a strength that is often forgotten about, the courage to say or to ask something.

In these times of zoom/teams/hangouts/meetups it is harder to empathise when you are faced with not only a wall of glass between you and your colleagues/friends/family but that wall is also reflecting you back at yourself. The black mirror hasn’t anything helpful to say and is mostly just a distraction stopping you connecting.

As a Tester/QA emotions are an important tool and caring about quality is vital. Empathy is an ability we require to consider all the ways something could be used and to help us examine where it could be broken. We place ourselves in the position of anyone who has touched and will use the product even from before it exists. We try and mimic patterns of behaviour or problem solve where things may not have been contemplated, bombard areas of weakness and exploit previous experience.

I mean most of this tells me I should stop shying away from how I’m feeling about things and shape it into something I can use. Stop testing my heart out and try again once more with feeling.

@Meowy24

…She’s delicate and seems like the mirror but she just makes it all too concise and too clear, that Johanna’s not here The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face…

Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna

Goals: What are your posts made of?

January is always hard work. The list of potential goals to have and resolutions to follow is endless. The new year expects a lot of us and sets us up to fail with its lofty expectations.

I’ve carried around several goals for years; dragging them year to year never really making much headway. Even if I ever did I would just move the goal posts.

I did this recently. I had finally solved a problem in some automation code I’ve been writing. A problem I had been trying to solve on and off for months. It was very much boom fixed and after the briefest celebration I just moved on to the next part which was even more complex. It felt good to finally make progress, but the overall goal was still incomplete and the full sense of achievement wasn’t in focus.

I should really question my long term, lingering goals and their influences. What are the reasons for these goals genuinely? What are they made out of and what is at their core?

It made me think of this picture (which I know is probably fake or whatever)

The more insidious goals feel like this sometimes. Goals that when if you think about it, you aren’t entirely sure why you are doing them and if you will even finally complete them, but they live on regardless. This year is inordinately difficult and even that doesn’t seem to keep them at bay. The posts move, adapt and evolve over the years potentially into something realistic, likely or even liveable.

Achieving these goals or any goal requires that you are motivated by them or at least the concept of the reward they bring. If your goal is too big or out of reach it can dampen your spirits. These type of goals need breaking down to appear more manageable and their final bounty needs to be in view.

This year I wanted to take some of my goals and split them out into smaller more attainable chunks. We do this all the time at work. We take a story/PBI/Item/BUG and if it is too big we break it down into smaller parts. I’ve started an automation board (Trello have a great template for this), a project board which will store my L&D tasks that aren’t automation related and I have a OneNote which have my overall goal with individual stages. I’m applying a Kanban rule to it as well where I can only have 3 parts of my goal in progress at anyone time to stop me getting overwhelmed.

I have only been doing this for a week or so now, but I feel like I am advancing. It has really increased my overall positivity which I didn’t expect. Something else that has helped me realise I am actually accomplishing things is Top3 emails. The company I now work for do this weekly; we all email a mail group 3 triumphs from the past week. It makes me consider my progress a bunch more and look on my progress during the week and in general more favourably.

With having a new job my impostor syndrome is rife, but these processes have helped massively particularly at right now and breaking goals down makes them feel less daunting. In the long run I think it will be beneficial to my wellbeing and ultimately keep me engaged with what I want to implement.

I encourage thinking about your goals, long term not short term and work out why you want to see them through then whack them into a shape that seems easy to stomach and feel good about.

Thanks for reading!

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Groundbreaking

This word stuck in my head while reading Sandi Toksvig’s Almanac mostly because she used it often and rightly so as the book was about women who had achieved the first of something. Some centuries ago and others more recently and as much as I enjoyed reading and learning about these pioneers I haven’t retained any of their names.

If pressed I could probably name a handful of men and women who were the first to achieve something; find a cure, swim the channel, invent electricity. No one is remembered anywhere near as well as they should be or in the case of many who appeared in the book they were actively forgotten as they were women and not worth writing about at the time of their achievements.

After all this effort made I haven’t maintained any of the details, but I am left with the word groundbreaking and its imagery but also a palatable dread of the ground left to break.

“You’re pounding on a fault line”

The Perfect Circle

I guess this is true of how we deal with others achievements in this din. We are constantly connected to platforms that encourage us to boast, beguile and belittle.

I don’t reread as a rule as there is only a finite about of books that can be read in a lifetime but I feel compelled to reread this until I retain more of it. It could be the constant achievement on every page all individually important that causes a cascade diminishment.

What does this have to do with testing?

I guess our job is sometimes to pick apart achievement, lay it out into its components and confirm achievement has been realised. We critique, poke and prod achievement. Sometimes we get tools to do this for us that are built to understand what achievement looks like. Who died and made us John Wayne?(Totally paraphrasing from Buffy there)

This makes me think of Judge Dredd. Very black and white sense of right and wrong in a dystopian hellscape. One of my favourite villains from this universe is the Dark Judges from a reality alternate to Dredd’s where they have deemed life is a crime as the only people causing crime are the living. Certainly this achieves a very low crime rate but their conclusion could be labelled as extreme.

“The crime isss life. The sssentenssse isss death !”

Judge Death- 2000AD

Are we as testers diminishing achievement or evolving it? If our job is mostly analysing others achievements how do we break our own ground? Do we even allow time to stop and celebrate what we have managed? It is difficult to be visible at the best of times.

This hasn’t been the year to maintain positivity nor one for achieving much outside of surviving but even that had massive odds this year. We are almost at the end of 2020 and New Year begins the need to set goals, resolutions and the urge to muster up strength to try and be better. I understand the need to draw a line under this year and start anew but allow yourself to examine the accomplishment of surviving even if you don’t feel you really have, shake it up like a snow globe, let it settle and enjoy the lights. (but don’t follow them)

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Unboxing: Be More Grey

This often feels like an affirmation at something like an AA meeting, but I am a manual tester. I always immediately caveat this with ‘…but I’ll have a look’.

It is odd that I feel like I need to leap to my own defence so earnestly but I think ‘Manual Tester’ has a stigma attached to it even by other testers. A stigma that I myself subconsciously hold (thanks, impostor syndrome)

Much like the term ‘Code Monkey’ for developers (great song by Jonathan Coulton, the portal song guy FYI), it seems to suggest a lack of thought, comprehension or ability to handle anything overly technical. You just ‘do the testing’.

“Once you label me, you negate me”

Søren Kierkegaard

My testing has always been pretty grey. I’ve had local builds and DBs, I’ll trawl through repos, read through pull requests and will happily poke an API or 12. I cannot code though. While I can read code pretty well, learning to code has alluded me so far. I start off OK but eventually it always starts to feel very much “draw the rest of the fucking owl”.

How To Draw an Owl | Know Your Meme

This wall I hit with regard to learning to code also stops me from being an automation tester, from getting fully in the box or I guess, which is more frequently becoming a term, being a ‘Full Stack Tester’

“Potential has a shelf life”

Margaret Atwood

I imagine there are testers who refuse to code/automate and probably ones that cannot abide by manual testing. I will continue to want to have a look regardless of my total knowledge.

So much focus on how we do the testing and with what tools and defining the boundaries of the testing strategy. In practice, it is always more about the why, what, who/when for and that stuff is rarely as black and white as it seems.

All this grey matters and thinking outside the box/boxes allows curiosity, empathy and problem-solving to happen. It is in flux as well especially within an agile format and as what we are testing evolves.

Amongst the wiggle room and ambiguity is an opportunity to flourish, explore and adapt. Whatever kind of tester you get labelled as, try and be more grey or wander between the shades and avoid the boxes completely.

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting #iamatester

Wheel Of Fortune

Friday was my last day at Cubiks after just over 7 years. I went into the office for one last time which was extremely weird but I got to see my team for the first time since March and Veni, Vidi, Papi.

As part of leaving I received the “Fabled Cubiks Disc”, a bespoke version of one of Cubiks’ most popular product’s report.

I have coveted this for years and years. They are only created for people who have worked at Cubiks for over 5 years and often just people who worked in IT/IPT. They have been a source of great fun over the years and always were part of a decent send off to whomever was leaving. The IT ones are always traditionally more playful and sarcastic as our wheels in reality were always a tad spikier than consultants ones.

My wheel is a lovely summary of my time at Cubiks, shows the impacts I made (beknown and unbeknown to me) and freezeframe snapshots of sagas from over the years. Plus, it is especially spooky which I think I love the most.

The product output itself was always used as a conversation piece and now I have mine which will be proudly displayed alongside my husbands to remind us of good times at the mad place we used to work.

His and Her PAPI Wheels

Thank you for the Cubiks. Slaters Cuboids, we’ll always have Stockholm.

Stay in touch yeah ❤

@Meowy24