Our community is not best served by one single group

Our community is not best served by one single group or organization. [Opinion piece follows 🙂 ]

As an individual it’s important to be skeptical when we have just one single source of learning and direction for our community. If we tie ourselves to a single source (i.e. group, organization, business, scheme) we are tying ourselves to a narrow (and potentially narrowing) point of view.

If we do narrow our focus to a single source we will hinder our knowledge growth and our learning scope. I believe there is another side effect though – the wider community will become more fragmented and distant as we become less tolerant of alternative views…(I have no evidence for this, just observations)

Groups that were once a mouthpiece and meeting ground for the unheard and diverse minorities soon narrow as they find a niche, or attract a tipping point of like minded people – this is natural which is why there is always room for new groups and communities to emerge to fill the gaps.

As groups narrow they will focus on specific areas. Some of these groups will inevitably try to make money by selling services (or information) to survive, some will just tumble along whilst others will seek external funding. Some will disappear. Some that do disappear will leave a gap to be filled, some will not be missed.

We need to be sure to keep our mind open and notice when we start to become focused too narrowly on our learning and our community involvement. It’s not heresy to switch communities or to exist across several seemingly different communities. In fact, I would positively encourage mixing views and opinions together. Our interests and persona’s are elastic, we must try not to resist this.

Look at the standardization schemes. In order to scale (i.e. to make money – assuming you believe this is the primary goal of those behind them) the content must to be filtered down, made consistent and change as infrequently as possible (what a bind it would be to re-print the marketing and other collateral every week to keep up with industry innovation).

In order to embark on such a dramatic process those behind it will seek to own the learning material contained within. They may want to protect it. They may want to ensure they are the only ones offering it. They may tell you that you cannot get this learning elsewhere. (note: some communities do this also)

They are wrong. Some, if not all, of the information is available freely (or at least cheaply) to us, on any device or platform we care to consume it from. Not only that but it may be opinionated (in a good and/or bad way), will naturally be diverse (if we look far enough for it) and is hopefully being shared by people actually doing the work. It will therefore change often. This is good.

And as it’s freely available we could, and probably should, mash it around, mix it up, fine tune it, fix it, extend it, delete it, try it, ignore it and make of it what we need it to be. This will be where the giant leaps in our thinking about testing will come from. From us; the testing community mashing together ideas to see what works, and what doesn’t.

And once we’ve made of it what we want then we could share it so that others can do the same. This will lead us to an evolution (or a revolution) in the way we approach testing.

Instead of small incremental improvements on the standards/norms we might see a major sea change and a dramatic shifting of our craft – I look forward to this day.

I believe the testing community needs more people to seek out diversity in our sources of learning and inspiration.

I also believe we could challenge anyone and anything that suggests a single source of information and direction is the right thing for us. We could seek out the free and open source learning that is available to us. We could challenge the old guard and stale approaches to learning (and teaching) of software testing.

We could create a community of interest if one does not exist. We could seek clarity as to whether someone is protecting a mass of knowledge for the right reasons (and no-one should begrudge anyone making a living from selling what they know) or whether it is to seek conformity and standards of the masses.

But most of all we should try hard not to let ourselves sink in to the sea of conformity and oblivion that is consuming so many people where we simply become a nodding and compliant member of a single source of direction for our community. I know we can do better. Our craft is evolving and we need more people to help gain momentum to nudge it to a diverse future rather than single path of conformity. We can do that.

Shipping Forecast – A Way To Get Things Done

I was chatting to someone at EuroSTAR last week and we got talking about personal productivity.

I shared with her my way of working using a concept I’ve been calling Shipping Forecasts. It’s based around the simple premise that I will be shipping something (a project). It is called a forecast because no amount of planning is a guarantee, so I am forecasting about what is involved in shipping this project.

My view is that projects are simply containers for tasks, and completing the tasks is what’s most important. But these tasks should be viewed in the context of what I’m trying to achieve – i.e. why am I doing this project?

Anything worth shipping will take a significant amount of effort and will need some form of forecasting.

This forecasting could be a quick scribble in a notebook or a full on project plan – a lot depends on your own style and own way of working. I like to visualise my work and list out what I believe needs to be done to complete the project.

By breaking a bigger project in to smaller chunks we can start to see what is truly involved. I also believe that any project that will take more than about 1 month should be broken down in to multiple projects. Each one of those projects should be shippable and feedback should be sought before moving on to the next project.

In a sense it’s the basics of iterative software development.

I thought I would share with you my Shipping Forecast idea that I use to break down my own projects in to manageable chunks.

Since I’ve started using this technique I’ve been uber productive.

There are times when I get a little lost or don’t feel like producing anything but rarely does a project sink because I didn’t understand it, or couldn’t actually complete it, or didn’t know what was involved in completing it.

A few people have been using the Shipping Forecast for some time now so they have been through a few reviews but there is always room for improvement – don’t expect the templates and the idea to be complete – I’m still hacking it.

An example of the Shipping Forecast
An example of the Shipping Forecast


How to use the Shipping Forecast templates

To start with you’ll need to define a project in the format of

This……(date, time period, month, year, etc) I will be shipping…….. (the end product) So that I can…………….(the reason why you are shipping it)

For example:

This week I will be shipping my new blog hosted on ghost.org So that I can start blogging about my addiction to stationary

If you cannot fill in these sentences then you need to question why you are doing the project.

The project must have a deadline otherwise it will meander on and on. Don’t fall in to the trap of relying on your own enthusiasm and energy. Most projects require hard work and tiresome commitment – a deadline will help. You don’t always have to specify an exact date, but the information you fill in should mean something to you. For example: “This Week” is fine if you know that your weeks finish on Saturday for example.

You should be able to describe what it is you are building at a high level. You must know how to recognise the end result. Is it a product? A website? A new blog post? A new t-shirt design? A new test automation tool? You must also think about how complete you need it to be. Are you shipping the finished item, or just phase/design 1 of it?

Your project should also have a reason why you are doing it. I’ve seen too many project stumble because the project owners didn’t know why they were doing it. Don’t do something because you think you should. Do something because you need to or want to. Why are you bothering to commit to this project?

There are some prompts below the description on the template to help you think about how you will measure your progress, how you will know you are done and whether you are reliant on others. Projects can fail because they rely on other people and these other people didn’t know that.

There is an action section with 20 spaces. If your project takes more than 20 tangible actions that can be marked as complete, then it may be that your project is too large or you have broken the activity down too much.

Some people use this form to work out the 20 activities they need to complete and then break those 20 items down further in another tool, like a To Do list manager. This could work really well but I’ve found that any more than 20 deliverable items to achieve Shipping is just too much. I find it’s better to have more projects and ship each one than try to do too much.

And that’s it. The Shipping Forecast – a tool for helping you work out what you need to do to ship stuff.

Some examples

Here are some examples of Shipping Forecasts that I have done.

Our Garden Project


An example company launch


Updating your CV


My own publishing of the Shipping Forecast template



Here is the PNG (image) of the Shipping Forecast for you to download. I’m working on getting a better quality one created.

Reliance On Colour

One of my major bug bears is the reliance on colour to communicate meaning. As a tester it’s super easy to question any product or communication that relies on colour. Just ask whether meaning will be lost if viewed without colour.

If you have a graph for example where each line is representing a finding or value, and they are each different colours then print the graph in greyscale and see if you can still make sense of the data. Is the key good enough, are the lines slightly different shapes (dot, dashes etc) or do you lose all functional understanding?

Relying on colour to communicate meaning is often a very lazy approach to designing products and it’s something we, as testers, should be acutely aware of and test for.

It’s never right or wrong to use colour to communicate meaning but we should always ask the question; “Will we ever have a circumstance where someone will not see the colour as we have defined it and hence lose the meaning?” Or some other better phrased question.

Here’s a good tool for putting yourself in the shoes of someone with varying magnitudes of colour blindness – http://colororacle.org/

My site under “Normal Vision”

The Social Tester Site - Normal Vision
The Social Tester Site – Normal Vision


My site under “Deuteranopia” vision – it’s a green deficiency and affects about 5% of males

The Social Tester Site - Deuteranopia Vision
The Social Tester Site – Deuteranopia Vision


My site under “Protanopia” vision – this is quite rare.

The Social Tester Site - Protanopia Vision
The Social Tester Site – Protanopia Vision


My site under “Tritanopia” vision – this is very rare.

The Social Tester Site - Tritanopia Vision
The Social Tester Site – Tritanopia Vision


My web site doesn’t rely on any colour to conduct meaning but you could quite easily see how some websites, graphics and explanations could clearly lose their value when viewed by someone with colour blindness.