Monday 30 December 2013

The Lada Niva Paradox

So you have a product, or a feature, built as it was designed time ago.

This product of yours, has some known glitches, failures, known bugs or distortion of perceived reality, whatever you want to call it.

And when you try to work on a fix, it happens that you are limited by the original design, and because the product was built this way, the fix you want to do either is not possible or it would create collateral failures that you don't want to add to your product.

I like to call this the Lada Niva Paradox.

The Lada Niva is a 4x4 Off-road car designed and produced by the Russian manufacturer AvtoVAZ. They started producing it in 1979 but you can still get a brand new one as they are still being built somewhere. The product did evolve along this time, the front turning lights changed from round to square, the engine changed from a 1600 with carburettors to a 1500 with fuel injection, the steering went assisted, and the brakes now have ABS... Still no airbag,

But would you buy one? Well, I would not, because I don't need such a car, and there are plenty other models that have better features from my point of view.

Then, why do they still produce it? Because for somebody it is still useful and affordable enough to go and buy one.

But if your product, or feature, still looks like a Lada Niva... instead of waiting for some farmer from Gorodovikovo to come and buy you one, because (you like to think that) it is good enough.
Maybe you should think about why are you still producing Lada Nivas, and how deep is your incapability of evolving the product, and what do you want to do about it.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

6 Rules for a successful Bakery.

This morning, I went to a bakery just around the corner...

...and I got some breakfast to the office.

Just because it's Friday, and just because I like the stuff they produce, let me explain you why I think they do fine in 6 points.

- Making fresh bread is not a industrial process. It could be, it is for Bimbo bread, but they produce +30 kinds of bread and there is no machine that can do that. They don't either buy frozen dough because the quality is below their standards.

- Bread is done by people. In the bread making process there is the manual feel of how the dough is doing, taste to check if more salt is needed and then some automated process, like the heat of the oven that is required for the overall process.

- Balance between technical and commercial departments. They do the bread on a big back room, and then they sell it in a comfy shop. And they got a nice balance on the sizes of both, because they know how they are important for the business.

- Know good practices, search for quality. They travel to conferences and exhibitions to learn about the craft, the lady that runs the business once told me that the best bread is done in Germany, and how she would like to do so many kinds of bread as she has seen there, but since there is no demand, she has to stay to what the local customers want.

- Knowing that there is one kind of bread for one kind of customers. And they want each one of them to find the right kind.

- Be constant, get better, learn to do better. I been into this shop for about 7 years, and observed they have a quite low clerk rotation, I would guess to say that for a staff of 5, I have seen 1 shift every 2 years. low rotations are significant, because people that work there know that they are in better conditions that at other places, and choose to stay.

Now, if you change bread for software you have the talk that +Javier Garzás gave at the VLCTesting 2013, The points of this post came out of his talk, and I just wanted to share a good place I know to buy a croissant.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Cruise control

Last week I saw for the first time the new BMW GS 1250, An engineering masterpiece produced by BMW that looks like this:

I can't tell how it feels like riding, but it must be close to riding a Battle Horse.

I spent some minutes observing the bike, and one of the things that got my attention was that it has a cruise control button.

A cruise control is basically a device that you can set up to a certain speed, and once it's set it does not allow you to ride faster than that.

So, here is the paradox: BMW produced the most powerful boxer engine ever since 1896 and then they also put this little button so you can tell the bike that you really don't want to go faster, because you think that this way you will ride better.

Here in peertransfer we changed from scrum to kanban some time ago, and while this was a powerful change, we still had some trouble when the queues got more stories than we were feeling comfortable, so this week we added our own cruise control.

So we have set a Work In Progress Limitation for each queue, and quite a tight one!, and we will experiment to see how this works, what kind of problems we find and what kind of solutions we are able to come out with. But the idea is to prioritize developing better software, instead of delivering as much as possible.

Fun times, can't wait to tell how this goes.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

QA & Test Conference Bilbao 2013

I went to the QA & Test conference in Bilbao and would like to share my debriefing.

Things that went well.

Met Pradeep, but I won't tell that story again.

Had a great conversation with Derk-Jan de Grood about how to get to international testing conferences, with some small tips for whose I am thankful.

Met Mauri Edo. I am a follower of this fellow tester since some time, and it was really nice to share some talks with him as well as Tony Robles, Luis Miguel Perez, Morten Hougaard and some other great people that attended this conference.

Things that I should do better.

Study the conference brochure, talks and talkers. I woke up, got a tube, flew a plane, a short ride, a cup of coffee and I got to the conference hall, and I realized that the tutorials had already begun, and I had to choose where to go and also, whenever you go to a conference with more than one thing happening at the same time, you need to have a plan BEFORE you choose, or you might feel stupid, as it happened to me. 

As for the talks, try to find some problem that you might have that could be addressed on the talk, be selective and remember to mark at what time and where the talk starts. I lost the beginning of Mauri Edo's talk because of my bad planning.

When looking for talkers, check if they blog, if they tweet and read a bit about what they write about, maybe you find some common topic that could come out if some conversation happens.

Things that I should not do again.

Go without contact cards. Kyungsoo Yang, who came all the way from Korea, was so kind to give me his contact card and I found myself without being able to respond with my own. Somewhere there was an blog post about this, I knew about it, so I knew it could happen, so its time to do something about that.

Three things I got out from the conference.

QA&Test is a nice little conference, where skilful and passionate testers have a opportunity to gather in such a nice city as Bilbao is. Also, sponsors don't have any speaking track, so you don't have this feeling about some marketing dude selling his motorcycle.

Involve in the business. I knew that our product is the sum of the code and the settings, and testing the code is quite what I do, but then there is another layer, how things are set up in production, and I think this is as important to test as many questions about the business might arise from a careful observation. Assisting to some talks confirmed to me this point so now I know I have a path to improve over there.

If you like conferences, submit a proposal for a talk. Because it is a cheap way to go to conferences, and a nice way to share your experience, so simple, so easy.

People to follow on twitter, At the end, I got a bunch of new people to follow, some I had conversations with, some I wish I had time for having some conversations, but hey, time is a limited resource.

I also got some nice pictures that I've shared over here.

Uh, that counts more than three, I guess I got more out of this conference than I expected :)

Saturday 2 November 2013

How I met Pradeep Soundararajan

When my friend +Tirtharaja Dasa and I started testing software, back in 2008, we started by doing what the previous two testers did before us. But since they got fired ( yeah, the same day we became testers ) we soon realized that we needed to do better... if we wanted to keep the job.

So we started researching what software testing was about and at some point we got to Alan Page and James Whittaker, who lead us to Cem Kaner, and then to James Bach and Michael Bolton.
We purchased and read books written by all of them, mainly because our company did have a budget for books and a pool of time to read those books, you know, it was like the Google 20% time, just in another context.

And then, we got to this blog, testertested and started reading the posts, of a tester from somewhere in India, who not only did talk about testing, but he also was telling 'Hey, if I can do this, it only means that you can do this too!". I remember spending nights reading back his posts, looking one more article just before I go to bed.

He was explaining why testers should blog, why they should get better testing skills, better writing skills, why they should have a social media presence, why the world should know about them... and not only talking about it, he was leading the way with his own example... And then, tired of working for other people, he decided to found his own company,

 That was enough for us. We needed to do something, so Tirtha started a blog in spanish and gave me access to write stuff too. This is how this journey started for us.

Some months ago, the people from SQS that are running the QA & Test conference in Bilbao did a competition to win a free ticket. All I had to do was to say why I should win this ticket, and if you have been reading so far, I hope you'll understand my reply:

 And :) they gave me the ticket!

I was amazed, I was going to attend a conference with Pradeep as a speaker, so then I decided to do the walk, and I asked if I could invite him to dinner the only night I knew I was staying in the city, and he accepted!

So we went out for a Beer at the Bar Muga and a nice dinner at the Restaurante Kasko, we talked, we shared stories, we had fun, we spent a great evening!

So that's how I met Pradeep Soundararajan.

I am a software tester, and I like the work I do. I know I can do better and there are lots of things I don't know about, or I don't understand. Some people write books or give talks that help me understand and know better. Some others lead by example, doing things that they think that can be done and explaining about it.

Good testers think that things can be different, and I had the chance of spending one evening with a great tester and a greater person.

Thank you Pradeep, It has been an honor for me.

Thursday 10 October 2013

If it seems easy...

It's been over a year since my wife got her bike driving license and she´s been doing fine using the Vespa for her daily commute. But use a bike to get early to work is not really riding a bike, so this weekend we went out for a ride.

We rented a second Vespa and headed to Dos Aguas, following a twisty road but really fun to ride. Once we got there, my wife told me: ¨You know, It is really a different thing when you are riding by your own. I had to think and decide how fast I wanted to go on every turn, what gear to use and how to line up for the next curve, or it could end really bad!¨

And I think she is right... if you think riding a bike is easy, well, try to do so.

If somebody tells you that testing is easy, then ask them to plan some testing, to perform the test, to understand the results of the test, and to write a test report, and to communicate the test results to the developer and the product manager.

And by the same logic, if you think writing user stories is easy, or writing code, or taking the phone to do support, or doing the accounting stuff, or whatever seems to be easy...

Maybe then, you should try it by yourself and find out how easy it happens to be.

For us two, going for a ride was not an easy thing, but we did it and we had a great experience...


...Just because we tried.

Friday 4 October 2013

Communication skills example from Chase Jarvis

Let me show you a nice example of communication skills.

From some time ago, I am getting myself a photography aficionado, using a Canon 1100D that is helping me understand about ISO, Aperture, Exposure time and Light, I go experimenting here and there, trying to learn a bit. One of the things that also helps is the amount of videos that are available at Youtube, and this time I would like to recommend you one.

It is about a contest, where a famous photographer is given a sub-standard camera made of LEGO  and asked to go and get some pictures.


Chase Jarvis not only gets to do some fine pictures, but you can appreciate how he tests, how he explores the possible options he's got, the way he interacts with the people he is taking pictures to, how he is a servant, humble to understand what people are doing and why, and how he asks them for guidance before he starts shooting pictures, in order to understand the context of what they are doing.

The video is about 20 minutes long, but when I see it I think that it quite explains why you need to have communication skills and how Testers should approach Developers and the rest of the people we work with, after all, we provide a service, and we perform testing as best as we know to help others to deliver or receive the best possible feature.


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