May 102012
 
Post-It Note Impression No. 14

Post-It Note Impression No. 14 (Photo credit: Kevin H.)

Should an organization use a physical visualization of workflow (such as a whiteboard and sticky notes) or an electronic one?

Personally, I prefer the physical ones. They tend to be way more visible, easier to have group discussions around, any changes are immediately visible as they occur, and physically moving those cards around releases endorphins.

There are decent reasons for electronic versions, though, especially if your team is distributed. Also, whiteboards don’t do cool automatic calculations and reporting. The main issue is that using an electronic tool can sometimes reduce actual interaction and collaboration, which is something tools should facilitate rather than replace.

Until recently, the best anti-whiteboard argument I’d heard was this:

I don’t like a physical whiteboard because I have to walk all the way over to it whenever I want to know something.

This came from someone who sat about twenty feet away. We’re still considering buying him a spyglass.

This was the reigning champion until I heard the objections, below. Individually, either objection is a solid contender, but when you consider they both came from the same person less than two minutes apart, they become the gold standard for anti-whiteboard objections.  They are:

When people walk by the board too briskly, the sticky notes can come off.

And:

Sometimes, the cards are hard to move if they stick too much.

So, if your office is populated by world-class sprinters or chronic arthritics, you might consider an electronic solution.

Apr 252012
 
LMFAO at the Sunset Strip Music Festival 2009

LMFAO at the Sunset Strip Music Festival 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Original song “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO)

Yeah, yeah
When I iterate
Managers be sayin, “Damn, that’s great!”
Velocity increase
With how often I release, yeah
This is how I roll
I got production in control
When you got a good WIP limit
No reason not to stay in it

Ahhhh – Girl look at that whiteboard
Ahhhh – Girl look at that whiteboard
Ahhhh – Girl look at that whiteboard
Ahhhh – I burn down

Ahhhh – Girl look at that whiteboard
Ahhhh – Girl look at that whiteboard
Ahhhh – Girl look at that whiteboard
Ahhhh – I burn down

When I walk to the board (yeah)
This is what I see (ok)
Work items ranked
By priority
I got my workflow on the board
And I ain’t afraid to show it, show it, show it

I’m agile and I know it

I’m agile and I know it

Apr 102012
 
The content of tweets on Twitter, based on the...

The content of tweets on Twitter, based on the data gathered by Pear Analytics in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This formula has been painstakingly compiled from months of observing how social media gurus are going about things, near as I can tell.

Step 1: Tweet Obvious Generality

@AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: If you want less turnover, make your employees happy to work there.

Step 2: Let some re-tweets roll in.

@SocialMediaGrill: So true! RT @AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: If you want less turnover, make your employees happy to work there.

@SocialMediaGorilla: Absolutely. RT @AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: If you want less turnover, make your employees happy to work there.

@SocialMediaGorillaGrill: Interesting! RT @AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: If you want less turnover, make your employees happy to work there.

Step 3: Blog about it.

@AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: Interesting article: The Best Kept Secret to Reducing Turnover http://chi.ty/chi.ty/bangbang

Step 4: Re-post blog link for the next week.

@AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: In case you missed it: The Best Kept Secret to Reducing Turnover http://chi.ty/chi.ty/bangbang

Step 5: Start LinkedIn group discussion around your blog. Do not actually discuss it.

(1) New Discussion in Big Business Coaches – The Best Kept Secret to Reducing Turnover http://chi.ty/chi.ty/bangbang

Step 6: Start discussion in multiple groups. Do not actually discuss it.

(1) New Discussion in Business Consultants – The Best Kept Secret to Reducing Turnover http://chi.ty/chi.ty/bangbang

(1) New Discussion in Better Business Consultants – The Best Kept Secret to Reducing Turnover http://chi.ty/chi.ty/bangbang

(1) New Discussion in Agile Platypus Fleecer Guild – The Best Kept Secret to Reducing Turnover http://chi.ty/chi.ty/bangbang

Step 7: Repeat.

@AwesomeSocialMediaExpert: Need to organize your presentations? Try using points!

Mar 132012
 
The actual first computer bug, a moth found tr...

Image via Wikipedia

DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! You’ve sent your stuff to QA for testing. What horrors will we find in the wild?

Chicken Little

Known Aliases: Teacup Storm, Spaz

Reported Bug: The e-commerce portion of the site is completely non-functional.

Actual Bug: Someone misspelled the word “shipping” in the second paragraph of the checkout page.

In the story, Chicken Little is a panicky creature who overreacts to very little data. Occasionally, this is also the case with a Chicken Little QA tester, but more often than not, this variety cannot tell the difference between “has an issue” and “unshippable.”

Every little flaw is a show stopper, and this overblown method of reporting defects often obscures what the actual defect is.

The Monarch

Known Aliases: Dalek

Reported Bug: The validation error messages should be a redder shade of red.

Actual Bug: There is no actual bug.

The Monarch loves the label “defect” instead of “bug,” because he believes that, if his personal opinions about the product aren’t met, this is the same as a defect.  The Monarch loves to log defects about colors, verbiage, where buttons should go – things that have no bearing on whether or not the software is actually working or whether or not any business users / clients agree.

There is no reasoning with a Monarch, and if you ignore the “defect,” it will continue being logged in the hopes that you will eventually be worn down through sheer backlog attrition.

Yoda

Known Aliases: Mufasa, Movie Mentor

Reported Bug: Broken, a screen is.

Actual Bug: Who knows?

Yoda reports defects in aphorisms, riddles, and vague statements. If this were the real Yoda, he would do this out of a desire for your self-improvement. In the QA field, this happens for reasons that can only be described as mean-spirited.

Interacting with bug reports from a Yoda QA tester goes something like this:

Yoda: An error, the screen showed me.

You: What was the error?

Yoda: Remember the error, I do not. Screenshot it, I did not. Write it down, I did not. Trust your feelings.

You: Can you at least tell me what you were doing when the error occurred?

Yoda: Walk your own path, you must.

Working with a Yoda, ironically, leads to a very high incidence rate of turning to the Dark Side.

The Grand Architect

Known Aliases: Monty Haul, Horn o’ Plenty

Reported Bug: Users should get a confirmation email when they check out.

Actual Bug: There is no actual bug.

The Grand Architect cannot differentiate between unmet requirements and new functionality. To make matters worse, they have a seemingly infinite reservoir of new functionality to offer.

The Grand Architect is a very dangerous form of QA tester because many times, their ideas are good ones. The problem isn’t the ideas; the problem is that they get logged as defects to a feature rather than being considered new features that should be sized and prioritized along with everything else in the work log.

This often leads to features never actually making it to production as the development team works overtime to correct “defects” such as the failure to show an animated, spinning head shooting lasers out of its eyes whenever someone buys something.

Nessie

Known Aliases: Singing Frog, Art Bell Guest

Reported Bug: I swear this was broken a minute ago.

Actual Bug: Probably a mental one.

Nessie experiences bugs that cannot be verified by anyone else at any other time, including themselves. They can produce no evidence this bug ever occurred, but they are positive that it happened to them.

Nessies are tricky because, if they are correct, the problem is a circumstantial one that is difficult to track down but absolutely should be fixed. If they are incorrect, days can be wasted as the team attempts to trace what could possibly be causing this problem.

Good QA Testers

Known Aliases: Unicorn, Angela

Reported Bug: When I was on Screen X, I did the following sequence of actions, and it resulted in the following error. Please look at the enclosed screen shot. This happened Monday morning around 9:30 am. I consulted our business users, and they confirmed that this is an edge case that does happen, although it isn’t that common. We should fix it, but it might not be as high a priority as finishing the current feature the team is working on.

Actual Bug: Um, wow. Really? Um, yeah, I guess that is the actual bug.

Good QA testers are rare as hen’s teeth.

Part of this is the fault of developers. Testing practices among developers tend to be so poor that QA testers spend the vast majority of their time making the software just work. Hardly any time is dedicated to testing actual business exceptions, working with end users, coming up with possibilities for new features, assisting in prioritization, etc.

A Good QA Tester can reproduce her sequence of steps to test a feature. A Good QA Tester knows the difference between a requirement not being met and Everything Else She Might Think Of. A Good QA Tester is collaborating her findings with the business users and the people who prioritize the work log. A Good QA Tester is part of the development team, not a completely separate entity who exists outside the team’s boundaries. A Good QA Tester reports an error with as much detail as she can muster and provides as much evidence as possible.

A Good QA Tester has taken ownership of her position. She isn’t just someone who checks off steps of a script and yells when something doesn’t work. She is part of the team. She makes sure the business users are getting everything they asked for. She participates in generating ideas for improvement and helps them work into the team’s normal work flow. She discovers legitimate business exceptions that may not have come up in the original analysis and makes sure they are accounted for. She tries to break the system the way a user might. She can tell the difference between “likely” and “unlikely,” “important” and “unimportant,” and “actual problem” and “my preference.”

If you have the fortune of encountering a Good QA Tester in the wild, cherish the experience.

Mar 012012
 
English: jacket cover of Dominate your market ...

Image via Wikipedia

Twitter has changed the face of social interaction over the Internet and, as a result, is a great platform for trolling.  I haven’t really seen anyone take full advantage of the capabilities of Twitter for trolling, so I can only assume that trolls haven’t truly mapped its full potential.  Either that, or the people I usually follow are older than 15.

To get the ball rolling, here are some ideas you could try:

Conference Baiting

People love to Twitter from conferences.  Wait until you see a conference hashtag come up a few times, then do something like this:

@you: OMG! Giving away free beer in Room 120!  Get down here now! #AwesomeCon2012

It’s probably more fulfilling and credible if you’re actually at the conference and can see who shows up to Room 120, but it also raises the risk.  It’s also a good idea to make sure whatever you’re saying will draw a crowd specific to your conference.  Protip: For tech conferences, I like: “Danica Patrick signing autographs in Room 120! #ConferenceHashtagGoesHere”

Protip 2: Most buildings have a Room 120.

Vanishing Context

The idea behind this troll is to tweet something that elicits a response, then delete the original tweet, making the response look like it came out of nowhere.

@you: Which do you like better as a band name: “Schnitzel” or “Little Boys?”

@otherguy: @you I like Little Boys.

*delete original tweet*

@you: @otherguy Whoa. Didn’t need to know that, dude.

Re-tweeting the response also works well.

The trick is in the timing of the delete (i.e. immediately upon response) and pitching the initial tweet to draw out exactly the kind of response you’re looking for.

@you: I think Hitler had the right idea.

@otherguy: @you I think you’re a racist moron.

*delete original tweet*

@you: @otherguy I don’t know what your problem is with me, Steve, but I’d rather we discussed it privately instead of you choosing this method.

The Ventriloquist

Putting RT in your tweet followed by someone’s Twitter handle is usually all it takes for most Twitter clients to consider it an actual re-tweet.  To the casual observer, you can pretty much make anybody say anything.

@you: RT @KidRock Phil is the best developer lead I know, or my name isn’t Kiiiiiiiiiiid Rock!

@you: RT @GeorgeClooney So sick of being mistaken for Phil everywhere I go.

@you: RT @otherguy I like Little Boys.

I hope this gets your creative juices going.  I think it’s high time Twitter joined the likes of IRC and forums.

Dec 152011
 
Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

According to ancient lore, the Twitter account Horse_eBooks was started by a Russian gentleman who programmed it as a bot to sell horse-related e-books. This account would, eventually, quote snippets from said e-books. These snippets would often be unintentionally hilarious due to their random nature and the fact that tweets can only be 140 characters long.

Horse_eBooks has since expanded its reach with subjects covering virtually anything on the Internet. I admit, this has made it less funny than the early days, but the account has still managed to garner 15,500 followers that enjoy it for a daily dose of surrealism. Roughly every 3 hours, something pops up in the tweet stream from Horse_eBooks that is, more often than not, pretty funny.

Here are some of the more recent ones I’ve enjoyed:

  • ALL POSSIBLE CLAMS
  • Fire At Chicken Plant Sorrow
  • We’ve done hundreds of hours of research to bring you the most delicious and mouth
  • accept spooky objects
  • Father drinks; mother respectable. Fairly educated; at school until 1 1. Met with accident and had to get leg
  • Or, how about this one. Have you ever called one of those so-called
  • I will show you a common household product
  • You’ve heard the sob stories of airline passengers who arrived at their destination
  • Believe me or not, if half of the secrets should not have gone to graves, we human beings would have acquired all the qualities of supper
  • Now, you too can kiss hair
  • Nut Sauce
  • Whatever your motivation for writing a cookbook, the bottom line is writing a cookbook
  • You’re About To Discover A Career Opportunity Where You Will NEVER Be Laid
  • I suffered constipation for over 20 years and was always going to the Chiropractor
  • Suddenly, bauxite was a very good idea
  • You’re About to Learn the Secrets to Throwing
  • You will even find real life examples of women
Dec 092011
 
Nouormand: Noué en Jèrri, Dézembre 2009 Englis...

Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to Keyhole Software submitting yesterday’s “Developer Christmas Songs” post to Reddit, more people have now read that post than the total number of people who have ever listened to anything else I’ve ever said. I have mixed feelings on that last bit, but I do appreciate the Reddit submission on my behalf.

Someone commented on that submission that they’d like to hear more about “The Twelve Days of QA.” Since I’m a huge sell-out, I quit making art for art’s sake and immediately decided to give the public what they wanted.  Here it is:

The Twelve Days of QA

On the first day of QA, my tester gave to me
A graphic she couldn’t see.

On the second day of QA, my tester gave to me
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the third day of QA, my tester gave to me
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the fourth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the fifth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the sixth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the seventh day of QA, my tester gave to me
Seven tests a-failing,
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the eighth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Eight drives a-crashing,
Seven tests a-failing,
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the ninth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Nine page loads hanging,
Eight drives a-crashing,
Seven tests a-failing,
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the tenth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Ten screens a-freezing,
Nine page loads hanging,
Eight drives a-crashing,
Seven tests a-failing,
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the eleventh day of QA, my tester gave to me
Eleven saves deleting,
Ten screens a-freezing,
Nine page loads hanging,
Eight drives a-crashing,
Seven tests a-failing,
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

On the twelfth day of QA, my tester gave to me
Twelve features missing,
Eleven saves deleting,
Ten screens a-freezing,
Nine page loads hanging,
Eight drives a-crashing,
Seven tests a-failing,
Six forms a-bombing,
Five broken links,
Four misspelled words,
Three checklists,
Two 404s,
And a graphic she couldn’t see.

Happy Christmas, devs!